Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wolverton's First Railway Casualty?

The London and Birmingham Railway opened through Wolverton for the first time on September 18th 1838. A day later an unfortunate man by the name of Francis Wilson whose body was found beside the line on the 19th, not even 24 hours after the line was opened.

The Bucks Herald reported on the inquest held on September 20th.
On the 20th. inst., at Wolverton, on view the body of Francis Wilson, who was found about 5 o'clock in the morning of the 19th instant, on the railroad near to the Wolverton Station - he was alive, but insensible. It appeared that the deceased had been drinking, and was returning home between 10 and 11 o'clock, when it is supposed he attempted to cross the railway, being the nearest way to his lodgings, and in so doing, was knocked down by the engine of the eleven o'clock down mail. His skull was most extensively fractured and a portion of the brain had escaped, and he died a few hours afterwards. Verdict accordingly. The Coroner severely reprimanded the policemen on duty, as it was evident they had not been so attentive to their duty as they ought to have been, or the poor man would have been prevented from going on the railroad, or at least discovered sooner.
These sorts of accidents were not, tragically, uncommon in those early days. There was a complete lack of awareness of this new machinery, and it appears that the engine driver was probably unaware of the impact at the moment it happened, even though the engine was probably travelling at no more than 30 miles an hour. I wonder too where he had been drinking. There were no pubs at Wolverton Station at that time - the nearest would be The New Inn at Bradwell and the forerunner of The Galleon at Old Wolverton.

As another reminder about how serious risks to health and safety used to be, the same coroner had to pronounce a verdict on this truly shocking incident.
On the 14th inst, at Hillsden, on view the body of Phillis Mansell, aged 6 years, who on being left alone by her mother for a few minutes, attempted to take a tea kettle off the fire, and in so doing, he clothes caught fire. Medical assistance was called in, but she died the same day. Verdict - accidental death.

1 comment:

Terry said...

I have been to a few Road traffic incidents where there has been "fractured skulls and part of the brain had escaped" not very pleasant at all and all were at relatively low speed. The human form can be very resilient and at the same time very fragile.