Sunday, 11 March 2018

Train Accident

On Saturday 3rd January 1885, 62 year-old blacksmith Francis Clay left home at 6:30am as he did most days. As a blacksmith he would tour the local farms to perform required tasks on site. He travelled on foot, always using a stick, and carried his tools with him to earn the money to support his wife, Emma, and their seven children - aged 17 right down to the youngest babe in arms. The next they heard was an hour later when a knock at the door told them Francis Clay was dead.

Hademore Crossing has only been provided with a bridge to cross the tracks in the 21st century, prior to that a level crossing sufficed for more than a century. At about 7am that morning the two signalmen, having manually set the gates to allow the train to pass, were conversing as the 6:20 from Stafford to Rugby passed them at about 45mph. As it did so they heard a thump and went to investigate and soon after a policeman was summoned.

At the inquest the three men revealed the gruesome evidence they uncovered that morning. The bloodied post at one side of the gate led them to the discovery of a body. The flesh had been removed from one hand, clothing thrown up and over the head. When they removed the blood-soaked clothing to identify the individual the discovered part of the face and head missing, with blood and brains smothered all over the top of the post. The remainder of the head was found on the other side of the gate lying on the road. Suspecting the identity of the man they continued to search along the line and, 60 yards away, they found the toolbox which confirmed his identity.

By the time of the inquest his wife had removed much of the evidence from the post at the side of the track. It seems Francis had attempted to cross after the gates were closed. This was not unusual, the signalman would often allow foot passengers across when the train was not in sight. On this morning they had not seen him, although there was plenty of light despite the early hour.

A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded.

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