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.