Sunday, 12 August 2018

Stafford Storm

June 19th 1861 and, in true British summer tradition, a huge thunderstorm raged over and around Stafford. At Aston Hall a "very valuable" horse belonging to Mr Lindop was, as the local press termed it, "killed by the electric fluid". The horse had been left out to graze in the field and, when the owners went to check on their animal, found the creature to be "complete jelly from the violence of the shock".


Note the press took pains to point out the owner was insured against such losses and the Norwich Union Fire Office promptly reimbursed him for his loss".

Sunday, 5 August 2018

And Finally

Two words which have become the traditional introduction to that offbeat item at the end of the news. It is harmless, probably fun, and sadly sometimes involves water-skiing dogs. But this is not a modern phenomenon, for on April 3rd 1871 the Staffordshire Sentinel produced this gem - although in 1871 it was considered a very serious bit of reporting.

To the delight of Mr George Bridgwood of the Green, Stafford came the discovery of a mushroom some 12.1/2 inches in circumference. It was very well developed and grew in a spot not sheltered from the weather and growing in the asparagus beds.


You couldn't make it up - unlike the words 'mushroom' and 'asparagus', the etymology of neither word has ever been understood.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Bad Career Move

December 1864 and at the Glascote coalmine in Tamworth tragedy strikes. A former policeman, now working in the mine, is killed when a single lump of coal fell 450 feet and hit the poor man so hard it resulted in his death.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Burglary

November 1867 and in Stafford the delightfully named Constable Feavearyear is out on his nightly patrol when, in the distance, he hears the sound of a police whistle and rushes to the scene. He is somewhat perturbed to discover a reported burglary, an incident reported by none other than Mrs Feavearyear. While friends attempt to calm the distraught woman, a thorough search is made but the thieves were not apprehended, nothing could be found missing, and no damage nor sign of entry.


Eventually Mrs Feavearyear had recovered sufficiently to be questioned as to why the alarm had been raised. It transpired she had spotted thieves in the neighbouring property - the police station.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Train Crash

August 8th 1861 and near the canal bridge at Slade Heath the driver of a locomotive shut off steam as they approached Four Ashes. As they slowed the driver felt his engine riding roughly and thought they had broken an axle. Moments later the engine and tender left the track and came down the embankment, bringing with it tons of earth which buried stoker Richard Barnwell to the waist. Luckily the engine, which toppled over on to its right side, missed him by inches. Furthermore, another miraculous stroke of luck saw driver James Harrison thrown clear of the footplate and the remainder of the train, the coaches and passengers, remained on the line.


The driver went to retrieve the lamp and sent two men, including coroner Mr Collins, ahead to stop the mail train from Scotland at the station and prevent a crash. Meanwhile he and men from Standeford Mill, who had come to offer assistance, set about releasing the trapped stoker and convey him quickly to the infirmary. His injuries were severe and both legs had to be amputated, he had been scalded, with bruising and lacerations. Three weeks later, while seemingly on the road to recovery, he died.

At the subsequent inquest the coroner heard how two large pieces of timber, over twelve feet in length and three feet wide, showed wheel marks and splintering and revealed they were the cause of the crash. Evidence from the railway company told how this timber had been part of a load coming from Wolverhampton earlier that afternoon. As usual, they had been tied to the truck with an empty truck behind to catch any which worked loose.

The coroner suggested such practice was completely inadequate and an urgent review necessary.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Dog Problem

It is May 1861 and in the town of Stafford a large dog, the property of a Mr Bostock, leaps out and grabs at the nose of a passing horse crossing the railway bridge in Rickerscote Lane. Unfortunately the horse is pulling a trap driven by Mr Price of Gaol Square, he having hired the vehicle from a Mr Bishop. Worse still, Mr Price had his wife's sister and her child as passengers.


The horse, somewhat understandably, plunged and reared for some thirty yards before it finally managed to free itself from the jaws of the offending canine. It continued on, still kicking and thrashing violently, resulting in the occupants of the trap being thrown out. While the woman and her child escaped with a few bruises, Mr Price landed on his head.


The next report on the incident spoke of how Mr Price was still in hospital and had yet to speak adding that the horse was probably going to be shot. Nothing could be traced regarding any prosecution of Mr Bostock or of the fate of his mutt.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Insane Inclines

In 1857 Lord Shaftesbury published his supplemental report on the state of workhouses in England and Wales. Figures showed the number of 'insane, idiotic and imbecile inmates' at the various workhouses in Staffordshire numbered 239, of which 89 were male. In the county town of Stafford 7 males and 12 females were considered insane, this out of a total of 7,555 in England and Wales.


It was stated these numbers were not spread evenly throughout England and Wales, remote rural locations would have a much higher percentage than those in more populous localities. Furthermore, this was particularly true in the hilly parts of the country.


It seems altitude was considered a factor in 19th century insanity.