Abstract Thermal decomposition of the sodium salts of benzocyclobutenone tosylhydrazone and 2-methylbenzocyclobutenone tosylhydrazone in benzene affords 9a,10-dihydrobenz[α]azulene 4 and trans-10-methyl-9a, 10-dihydrobenz[α]azulene 3, respectively. A mechanism involving initially the addition of the carbene benzocyclobutenylidene, or its 2- Me derivative, to the benzene ring is postulated. A proposed intermediate in the reaction, spiro [benzocyclobutene 1,7' cyclohepta-1',3',5'-triene] 12 has been synthesised, and shown to give rise to 4 under the reaction conditions. The rate of rearrangement of 12 → 4 has been measured, and the activation energy determined: E a = 125.9 ± O.8 KJmol −1 and A = 1.38 × lO 14sec −1. The mechanism for the rearrangement must involve ring opening of the benzocyclobutene moiety of 12 to give an o- xylylene intermediate which is postulated to possess considerable diradical character. At 71.8 °, this ring opening is 2.7 × 10 6 times faster than the ring opening of the parent benzocyclobutene molecule. The decomposition of the sodium salt of 2-(7' -cyclohepta-1',3',5' trienyl)benzaldehyde tosylhydrazone has also been investigated and is shown to yield 4a,10-dihydrobenz[α]azulene, 9,10-dihydrobenz[α]azulene and 8,9-benzotricyclo [18.104.22.168 2.10]deca-3,5,8-triene. A mechanism involving intramolecular 1,3-dipolar addition of a diazo grouping to a cycloheptatriene Π-bond, followed by decomposition of the resulting pyrazoline intermediate, is proposed.