St Albans hotel fireworks ‘sounded like Buncefield’

Sopwell House Hotel

Sopwell House Hotel - Credit: Archant

A series of loud bangs heard across St Albans and into Harpenden on Monday night led local people to fear that a Buncefield-type explosion had happened on their doorsteps.

The explosions turned out to be an extra-loud fireworks display at Sopwell House Hotel in St Albans but many of those who heard the noise were unaware of where it had come from and feared that there had been another explosion like the one that rocked the county when the fuel depot in Hemel Hempstead went up in 2005.

And they were critical of the hotel not just for the noise of the fireworks but the lateness of the hour when a work day followed and the effect on domestic animals and livestock.

The loud booms at around 10.40pm were heard across St Albans and as far away as Kinsbourne Green in Harpenden.

One resident, Tracey Fitzgerald, of Manston Way in St Albans, said: “They went on for a good 10 minutes and got louder and louder and louder. I got out of bed and the dog was going ballistic. We didn’t know if it was fireworks or an explosion.”

She said that she looked out of the window to see flashes of colour in the sky and many of her neighbours were looking out as well. Although the hotel had since apologised to local people who had complained, she added: “If they do it once, they could do it again.”

Penny Carr, who lives in Marshalwick, described the noise as “incredibly loud and it was as though there was something wrong”.

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She went on: “When it first happened, I thought it was Buncefield again. I have friends down in Cottonmill and they were talking about their windows rattling. Technically I think it was just on the right side of legal.”

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, described the noise as ‘truly frightening’ and said: “It was colossal explosions all the way. So loud that when it started I thought it could not possibly be fireworks and that possibly a freight train had derailed a little way down the track and that chemicals or gas canisters were exploding. I went outside and it was like witnessing a First World War bombardment.”

He questioned the impact on the sheep and cattle that are grazed around the hotel – a point which was raised by a resident of Tavistock Close, St Albans, whose house was shaken by the volume.

She said: “There were five or six booms as when Buncefield exploded. With what is going on in the world at the moment, it was really, really frightening.”

Her cat, which she has just got from the RSPCA, was so terrified that it hid under the bed for the rest of the night and she feared the impact on the grazing cattle nearby.

She added: “It was like a cannon going off and was just horrendous. I was just bracing myself for the next bang and I was frightened.”

In a statement yesterday, Sopwell House apologised on behalf of the bride and groom who held their wedding reception there, for the six-minute firework display during the evening.

It went on: “Sopwell House makes every effort to accommodate the wishes of our event organisers whilst considering our local residents and whilst we normally have no adverse feedback from fireworks displays held at the hotel (approximately just six per year), it seems the fireworks used on Monday evening were louder than usual.

“Naturally we have given this feedback to the company that supplied the fireworks on this occasion who were not Sopwell House’s own regular company.

The statement concluded: “Once again please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience and in response to resident requests, Sopwell House are more than happy to give advance notice of any future firework plans using our social media pages.”