On Monday 9th April 1787 many Campden people thought there had been an earthquake because of the loud noise and shaking. However, rushing out, they saw that a house had been greatly damaged and that the body of a man was about a hundred yards away.
It was discovered that he was a relative of the people who lived in the house and with whom he had a disagreement. They were probably not at home – perhaps out at work, for the time of the explosion is unknown. They were all unharmed in any case.
The parish register shows that on 18th April 1787, 59 year old Thomas Hulls Miles of Aston was buried in Blockley. The record adds that he was “a lunatic blown up by gunpowder at Campden”. It seemed likely that Miles had determined to end the family dispute by blowing them up. He gained access to their house and had brought in a large amount of gunpowder. It is believed that he took it up to the attic. Somehow his planned detonation went wrong for the explosives went off while he was still there and his body was thrown quite a distance. The damage to the roof of the house was probably considerable but the outer stonework remained reasonably intact. The interior was presumably in need of a great deal of repair.
The incident was reported far and wide: the Bury and Norwich Post (25 April 1787) reported:
On Monday morning last, about nine o’clock, the town of Campden, in Gloucestershire, was alarmed by a violent shock, which was at first thought to be an earthquake, but which afterwards appeared to arise from an explosion of gunpowder at one Mr. Miles’s, a grocer in that town, whose father had designedly, in consequence of a disagreement between himself and his family, and with a view to destroy himself, set fire to a quantity of gunpowder in the garret of his son’s house, which destroyed everything in the house, leaving a mere shell. The misguided perpetrator was blown above 100yards, but no person was killed except himself.
Reports also appeared in the the Stamford Mercury (20 April 1787), the Hampshire Chronicle (23 April 1787), Saunders News Letter (25 April 1787), the Chelmsford Chronicle (27 April 1787) and the Oxford Journal (5 March 1791).
Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to discover which house – thought to be in the High Street – was involved.