Sarah POPE
William HALL
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Mary Ann HALL
(1830-After 1881)


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Thomas (Butcher) ORTON


  • Born: 4th June 1853, Thurlton, Norfolk, England 37
  • Marriage: Thomas (Butcher) ORTON on 2 Aug 1875 in Weston-Longville, Norfolk 50
  • Died: 22 Oct 1881, Desford West Junction, near Leicester at age 28 61

bullet  Events

• Clara Minister was born on Saturday 4th June 1853, in Thurlton, Norfolk. During her life, her name was variously thought to be as Clara, and Clare, and Claire. Claire Smallwood's locket has the word "Claire" inscribed on it, as Claire believed she was named in memory of her great grand-mother.

Perhaps this locket was a wedding present from Clara's father, or a birthday present from her husband?

Can you trace the letters?

• At the time of Clara's marriage to Thomas Junior in 1875, she lived at Weston Longville, Norfolk. This is a beautiful church at Weston Longville.

• Clare was 26 years old, and living at Nottingham Road, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicester, at the time of 1881 Census, which was recorded on the 3rd April, 1881.

She lived with her husband Thomas, 28, her two daughters Edith, 5 and Emily, 4. They were helped in their household duties by Emma Roby, a thirteen year old local lass, who had been born in Ashby de la Zouch. Her husband, Thomas, was a Farmer of 124 acres, employing 1 Labourer and 1 Lad.

These houses stand in Nottingham Road today.

• Clare was 26 years old, and living at Nottingham Road, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicester, at the time of 1881 Census, which was recorded on the 3rd April, 1881.

She lived with her husband Thomas, 28, her two daughters Edith, 5 and Emily, 4. They were helped in their household duties by Emma Roby, a thirteen year old local lass, who had been born in Ashby de la Zouch. Her husband, Thomas, was a Farmer of 124 acres, employing 1 Labourer and 1 Lad.

• Claire was unfortunately killed in a train accident which was extensively reported by "The Times" of London. She was only twenty-seven years old.

One of the leading factors to the accident was "a terrible gale", which as reported by The Times, was felt all over England.

Some of the items regarding the fatal weather conditions are reproduced here, as evidence of its ferocity experienced by British residents.

The picture here was taken of the Desford line, at its crossing with the main road.

• The Times - Saturday 15 October 1881

FIRES. - Shortly after 11 o'clock last night a fire broke out at No. 82, Strand, occupied by Mr. Walter Sinclair, a jeweller. The outbreak appears to have originated in the basement, and the flames spread with such rapidity that in a short space of time the entire building was burnt out. Fears were at first entertained that the flames would spread to the adjoining premises - a public-house - more especially as the wind was blowing in that direction; but at an early hour this morning the firemen appeared to have been successful in their exertions to overcome the outbreak. The stock of jewellery is said to have been almost entirely destroyed. A strong force of the Fire Brigade and the Salvage Corps was present, together with some half-dozen steam fire-engines. The fire caused a large crowd to assemble, and for some considerable time the thoroughfare was completely blocked. A destructive fire occurred yesterday at Shapwick, a village near Wimborne. A spark fell from a chimney on to some farm buildings, igniting three large barns and a number of ricks, the property of a farmer named Bartlett. The furious gale blowing at the time carried the fire into the village, and in a short space of time 16 cottages were burnt to the ground, and nearly a hundred people rendered homeless. Little or no furniture was saved. The owner of the property was Mr. Banks, of Kingston Lacy, and most of the building were insured.

• The Times - Monday 17 October 1881
Underground Telegraphs. - TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

Sir,- Will you kindly permit me to suggest through your columns that the Government should as early as possible take steps to obviate for the future the great inconvenience the country has to-day been put to by a practically total suspension of the telegraphic service through the damage to the wires by the gale of wind now raging? The remedy is, of course, underground lines, and if a comparatively poor country like Germany can afford £1,500,000, as she has recently done, for that purpose, surely we can do so. As it is, we are completely at the mercy of any moderately severe gale, and in these days, when business is principally transacted by wire, the loss on the year by several days' suspension (not to speak of cost of repairs) must be enormous and not to be compared with the expense of a subsidiary system of ground lines. If necessary, let an extra charge be made for transmission by such lines; but the present state of things is unworthy our age of progress.
I am yours obediently,
Hull, Oct. 14.

• The Times - Monday 17 October 1881

THE CITY OF ROME. - Our Cork Correspondent, writing on Friday, says:- “The Inman steamer City of Rome, from Liverpool for New York, arrived at Queenstown about 4.30 this evening. She left Liverpool at 3 o'clock the previous day, and in the ordinary course she ought to have arrived at Queenstown in 16 or 17 hours. Her passage down Channel was, however, a boisterous one. About 2 this morning, when off Arklow Light, she encountered the full force of a fierce gale. The seas, which were very heavy, swept the decks, sending the spray over the bridge and funnels. Her speed was moderate, and for a short time she was only driven with sufficient power to keep her head o the sea. The maiden trip of the new vessel has certainly been commenced under circumstances well calculated to test her sea-going qualities. Those who came over in the vessel for the purpose of noting carefully her movements state that the trial was perfectly satisfactory. The engines worked smoothly, she rolled but little, and behaved well. The vessel came to anchor at Queenstown between Carlisle and Camden Forts, and here embarked 59 steerage passengers, which, with the number already on board, made up a total of 1,196 steerage and 238 cabin passengers. The total number of souls, including the crew, was over 1,600. The vessel was detained at Queenstown until 9 o'clock, to have some slight repairs effected in the electric light machine.

• The Times - Monday 17 October 1881

Friday's gale extended to Paris, but was less violent than in the North of France. At Havre two sailors were drowned through leaning over their boat to pick up an oar. At Dieppe the sea was rougher than had been known for years, the jetty and lighthouse being constantly invisible in the waves and spray. At Lille a tree fell on a child three years of age, who is now in a precarious state. Near Roubaix a farmer was killed by a wall falling on him. At Boulogne a lady was killed by a window falling on her. At Calais there had been no such hurricane since 1858. At Rouen the streets were strewn with fragments of roofs and chimneys.

• The Times - Thursday 20 October 1881


Sir,- The “absolute block system” has reduced the number of railway accidents, without question, to a marvelous extent, and it prevails on nearly every railway throughout the kingdom. The essence of the system is that telegraphic communication shall be kept up between signal-box and signal-box all along the line; then trains are passed on from section to section when an intervening space is reported by wire to be clear. It is instructive to think what becomes of all this system in a gale like that of last Friday. Not only is it scattered to the winds in every sense, but as if the unfortunate engine-drivers have not enough to do when they are deprived of the usual signals and have to cross cut timber and boughs of trees as they come upon them without warning, they run an additional risk from the tangles of posts and wires which are blown across the permanent way. What the consequences might be at night were a coil of broken wire to cut the heads of driver and stoker off, or pull them from their engine, is very easy to imagine; and I think a little reflection on the part of the traveling public will gain them over to advocate the necessity for placing telegraph wires along our railroads underground, as the Germans are about to do, instead of overhead.

Your obedient servant,
Twywell, Thrapston, Oct. 17.

• The Times - Friday 21 October 1881 - DISASTERS AT SEA.

The gale which swept the shores of the English coast on the 13th and 14th inst. have been particularly productive of shipping disasters. In one day as many as 108 vessels were posted on the Wreck and Casualty Book at Lloyd's, principally the result of the late gale. This, although one of the heaviest records of the kind, by no means exhausts the list of disasters that must have occurred. It is utterly impossible at the present to estimate with any degree of certitude the amount of loss of life and property, as many vessels that were in that gale will probably never be heard of except as "missing vessels".

It was reported last night from Newcastle-on-Tyne that another gale was blowing from the south-east, with a heavy sea. Laden screw colliers, bound to London and other places, were detained in the harbour. Intelligence has been received that the steamer Unsworth, bound from Sunderland from Hamburg, has foundered, but that her crew has been picked up and were safe. The Tabor, one of the quickest screw colliers, bound for London with coals, has become overdue. Great fears were entertained with regard to her safety.

Yesterday morning information was received at Newhaven which leaves no doubt as to the fate of the fishing boat Robinas. The boat was observed on Friday by the lighthouse keepers on May Island endeavouring to make for the island, but it suddenly disappeared, and was never seen again. The crew consisted of four men, one of whom leaves a widow with five children, and another, a widower, has left nine children.

Yesterday, at a meeting held at the Council-chambers, Edinburgh, it was intimated that subscriptions had been received for the relief of the sufferers by the storm amounting to £1,440, and it was resolved that a sum of £500 should be at once given to necessitous cases.

• The Times - Monday 24 October 1881 - FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE MIDLAND RAILWAY

On Saturday the station-master at the Midland Railway Station at Leicester received a telegram from Desford that a serious accident had occured to the Burton and Leicester express, and requesting the attendance of several medical men at once. The break-down gang were speedily mustered, and a special train proceeded with Dr Johnston, Dr Mutch, and Mr Douglass, surgeon; to the scene of the distaste.

On the receipt of the news at Leicester there was the greatest excitement, many people being a the station awaiting the arrival of their friends, it being Leicester market-day. On its becoming known that there were several passengers killed, the suspense became painful in the extreme, there naturally being the greatest anxiety to ascertain the names of the killed and wounded.

On proceeding to the spot our Correspondent found that the express, which was due to reach Leicester at 9.20, had at 9.4 been completely wrecked near the West Desford signal-box by running into a siding where a mineral train was standing. This siding is known as the weighing siding, where the coal trains are weighed, and it runs parallel with the old single-line branch of the Midland Railway to the West-bridge at Leicester. It is here that the Leicester and Burton line joins the old Leicester and Swannington line, the first bit of railway constructed south of Liverpool, and the first part of the now extensive Midland Railway system.

The express was made up as follows:- A powerful engine, No. 101A, a guard's van filled with milk cans, a composite bogey carriage, a third-class bogey carriage, two ordinary carriages, and a rear guard's van. All went well with the express till reaching Desford.

• Fortunately, owing to the miserably wet morning, fewer passengers than usual joined the train at Ashby-de-la-Zouch and at Coalville. Between Coalville and Desford there is an exceedingly steep descent - the steepest in fact, by far in the district - and just t the bottom of this incline is Desford, which is consequently always passed at a high rate of speed.

The point of collision is a quarter of a mile nearer Leicester ; therefore, there was time to develop speed, and the train could not have been running at less than 40 miles an hour.

Just before the approach of the express a long and heavy mineral train was shunted on to the weighing siding to allow the express to pass; but, strange to say, the points which had been opened to admit the coal train were never closed again, the signals being clear, the driver, John Whitfield, had not the slightest warning whatever of what was about to happen. There was a sudden jerk caused by the engine taking the turn into the siding at such a great speed, and in a moment, there was a terrible crash, which filled the signalman and the few others who beheld it with dismay.

The engine, with its enormous momentum, leaped from the rails, crashed through the guard's van of the mineral train, and cleared its way in terrible fashion through six heavily-laden coal wagons, shattering them to splinters, and finally, with a frightful roaring of steam, rolled over on its side across the main lines.

The crashing of the timbers of the carriages struck terror into the passengers, and the groans of the dying and the injured which followed told how disastrous the collision had been. The engine tender dashed one way and the engine the other; the front guard's van was reduced to atoms, only the wheels being left. Fortunately, the two strongly-built bogey carriages were in the front part of the train, or the results must have been even more disastrous.

• As it was, they were torn from their bogeys, and rearing up on their ends, telescoped one into another. The officials were completely upset and knew not for a time what to do. Soon, however, after the first excitement subsided, help to the injured was given, the doors of the carriages being broken open with hatchets and hammers.

The guard of the mineral train had a wonderful escape. Hearing the express approaching he put his head out of the window "just to see her pass." In an instant he saw the fatal mistake, leaped from his van, and just escaped. He was one of the first to render help, and found the driver and the fireman lying on the ground with the boiling water flowing over their legs from the ending. The un-injured passengers and the officials worked hard in extricating the injured, and very soon four passengers, fearfully mangled, were got out of the wreck and laid on boards and cushions till the arrival of medical aid.

In one first-class compartment, when an entrance was effected, two ladies, Mrs. Whetstone, in the prime of life, and a young lady named Miss Wainwright who was on a visit from Yorkshire, were found dead, and the sad spectacle moved all present. Their bodies were removed with care to a house near, and thence to the railway station at Desford.

Shortly afterwards another female passenger, Mrs. Orton, wife of Mr. Orton, fishmonger, Coalville, was found dying, and she expired as she was got out of the debris. This passenger intended travelling to Leicester by an earlier train, but being a little late she missed it and came to an untimely end in the illfated train.

On the arrival of the doctors it was found that two or three of the injured were in a very critical condition. They were removed as speedily as possible in a special train to Leicester Station, and thence to the infirmary.

• The following is a list of the killed and injured:-

Killed. - Mrs. Whetstone, De Montfort-square, Leicester; Miss Wainwright (from Yorkshire) guest of the above; Mrs. Orton, Coalville.

Injured. - Charlotte Williamson, aged 59, Whitwick, both legs broken; John Whitfield, 34, Burton-on-Trent, engine driver, seriously scalded on both legs; Frederick Astill, 37, foreman coppersmith, Burton-on-Trent, compound fracture of the left leg, which was afterwards amputated; Allen Ford, 34, colliery engine driver, Berry-hill, Packington, fracture (compound) of the left leg; George Thirlby, 45, cattle dealer, Whitwick, compound fracture of left leg and injury to the head; Mr Kirby, Coalville, contusion on the head; J. Jones, Coalville, injury to the head; William Barratt, guard, badly bruised and shaken; William Cholerton, 27, stoker, Burton, scalded and legs and thighs; serious case.

In addition to the above many of the passengers received a very severe shaking and were bruised and cut, but they were able to proceed to their homes for medical treatment. On examination it was found that the three who were killed had their necks broken, in all probability by being dashed forward with great violence.

With regard to the cause of the accident it ought to be explained that, although there was evidently the greatest carelessness on the part of the signalman, the points were being worked on a different system to that usually adopted. Here, as at almost all important parts of the line, the points are "interlocking" - that is, when the points of the siding are open the signals stand at danger, and it is impossible to alter the signals until the points have been closed.

During the great storm, however, of Friday week the semaphore or home signal was blown down, and since then the points have necessarily been out of gear and worked by hand signals. The signalman, Thomas Butler, after opening the points of the siding to allow the mineral train to shunt, began to converse with the shunter, forgetting he had failed to close the points. Butler failed to discover his fatal mistake until he saw the express dash at full speed into the siding. It is against the rules for anyone, save an inspector or superior officer to enter a signal box, but Butler complains that his box was not kept sufficiently private. On discovering what had happened, Butler suffered great agony of mind. He was, of course, at once suspended.

• News of the disaster was at once telegraphed to the head officials of the company at Derby, and special trains immediately conveyed them to the spot. They included Mr. Johnson, chief engineer to the company; Mr. Campion, assistant engineer; Mr. Loveday, chief traffic inspector, Mr. Jones, assistant locomotive superintendent; Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Driver, district inspectors.

Mr. J. Jones, elastic web manufacturer, and Mr. A. White, who travelled together in a first-class compartment of a bogey carriage, gave the following account of the disaster:-

"We travel by this train almost every morning, and we noticed that 'Jack' was driving. All went well till we reached the bottom of the incline at Desford, when there was a sudden and violent jerk. Mr. White shouted 'We're gone.' and in a moment there was a terrible crash, and we heard the carriages smashing to pieces. We were thrown violently against one another, and Mr. Jones struck his forehead badly against the end of the carriage, which shook and stunned him.

As soon as we recovered ourselves we got out of the carriage, and found the greatest confusion everywhere. The steam was blowing from the engine to such an extent that we could not see, and all were greatly excited. We helped to break open the carriage doors and to remove the dead and the injured. Mr. White went and got some brandy for the injured, and Mr. Jones went into the signal-box.

The signalman complained that his box was not kept private, and he admitted that he was talking to one of the company's servants when the accident occurred, and that he had not noticed that the points of the siding were open. He was in a terrible state of mind; he could not rest; it was painful to see him.

The station-master, after telegraphing to Leicester, seemed greatly confused and at a loss what to do; but it was little wonder, the wrecked train, the removal of the dead and injured, being a fearful sight. We could only have travelled about 150 or 200 yards after striking the points when the collision occurred. We do not think the brake was applied. There was only a hand brake, which was of no use, as we were travelling between 40 and 50 miles an hour."

At a late hour last night all the sufferers, with the exception of the driver of the train, were reported to be as well as could be expected. The driver is in an extremely critical state. Mrs. Whetstone was 30 years of age, and has left three children, one aged 11 weeks. The line has been cleared, and the engine brought on to Leicester.

The inquest will be opened today.

• The Times - Tuesday 25 October 1881

The coroner's inquest on the bodies of the three passengers killed in the collision of the Midland Railway at Desford was opened yesterday afternoon, before Mr. Harrison, coroner, at Desford. Many of the officials of the company were present, including Mr. Noble, general manager of the company. Mr. Beale, solicitor, represented the company.

THE CORONER, addressing the jury, briefly stated the facts. It appeared from the information furnished to him that the accident took place in this way:- The express train from Coalville to Leicester - which does not stop between Coalville and Leicester - on Saturday morning, in consequence of one of the points being out of place, instead of running along the main line and so proceeding in safety to Leicester, was thrown into a siding in which there was already standing a goods train. The driver of the express would have no knowledge of this and no means of preventing what occurred. The trains came into collision, and three ladies, whose deaths they were about to investigate, were killed almost instantaneously. The jury would be distressed to hear that others were lying at Leicester Infirmary whose lives were in a state of uncertainty. He had examined the place, and he thought when the jury saw the locality they would find that it presented no features of difficulty whatever. They would see the siding and how it was left. The jury would see how the accident happened - that it occurred, in fact, in consequence of the points not being properly placed. They would have to consider whose duty it was to place the points properly, and if there had been criminal neglect of duty the jury would send whoever was to blame to answer for his behaviour elsewhere.

The jury viewed the bodies and afterwards visited the scene of the disaster.

Mrs Whetstone's body was identified by her brother-in-law. She was 36 years of age. He also identified Miss Wainwright's body. She was 25 years of age, and lived at the Abnals, Mt Pleasant, Leeds. Mrs. Orton's body was identified by her husband. She was 27 years of age.

• James Knowles, goods guard, Burton-on-Trent, said he was guard of the mineral train which came into collision with the express on Saturday morning. They arrived at Desford, and were drawn into the siding at the West Junction at 8 49 a.m. The train had been in the siding about 20 minutes before the accident. He saw the express coming into the siding, and seeing that a collision was inevitable he jumped from his van just in time to escape. The engine of the express struck his van, and five of the coal wagons and his van were smashed. Several of the carriages of the passenger train were broken up. The points of the siding were facing points, and there were no other facing points on the line between Leicester and Burton which run into a siding. He knew of no other facing points, except at junctions.

By the CORONER. - I could not say how fast the express train was traveling. The engine was reversed when I saw it. The speed would be about 30 miles an hour.

William Henry French, locomotive foreman for Leicester district, said he found the express train wrecked, and also the rear portion of the mineral train.

By the Foreman. - I do not know of any facing points running into sidings. Trains run at great speed down this line. The speed from Bagworth to Desford is sometimes as much as 50 miles an hour with passenger trains.

Do you think it safe to run over facing points into a siding at such as speed as that? - Well, this is the first disaster that has occurred, but I think it would have been better had there not been these express trains run over these points. I think it would have been better had the facing points not been there.

Do you think the passenger trains' course faster from Bagworth to Desford than is safe? - Well, they travel at a high speed.

Mr Beale. - We can give you the exact speed by those who have computed it.

By the Foreman. - Do the trains ever exceed 50 miles and hour? - Well, when I have been in the trains the speed has never been so great as to cause me any uneasiness. The semaphore which was blown down, which governed the siding, did not appear to have been properly fixed in the ground. It was not deep enough.

William Carlisle, district traffic inspector, said, - I know the siding where the collision took place, and am fully acquainted with the working of the signals. I examined the siding and the points, and thre is no doubt the collision occurred through the points being improperly placed, which threw the passenger train from the main line into the siding. The men employed at the signal-box in question were on duty for 12 hours continuously at a shift.

• By the Foreman. - As these points were fitted it was perfectly safe to travel over facing points at 40 miles an hour. If the points had been right the train running at 50 miles an hour would have been perfectly safe. It a stone got in between the points the signalman would know by the lever that something was wrong, and he would protect the line by danger signals. On Friday, the 14th of October, I heard that the semaphore had been blown down, and, as traffic inspector, it was my duty to see that proper measures were taken for temporary signaling pending the erection of the semaphore. I came to Leicester on the same night, and found that the station-master had made temporary arrangements for hand-signalling. He put a flagman on the line to repeat the instructions of the signalman at the box. If the semaphore had remained standing this accident could not have happened, as the points to the siding could not be opened unless the signal was against the main line train. The semaphore had stood from five to six years, and was erected satisfactorily. It was supported by guy wire ropes, fastened to pieces of wood. They had been in the ground six years. They were not and ought not to have been rotten.

By a Juror. - Do you think that the semaphore ought to have been replaced much sooner at a very dangerous part of the line like this? - Well, there was so much to do. There were 70 or 80 such semaphores blown down.

James Grimes, platelayer, said, - I was placed to give the hand-signals at the points where the semaphore was blown down, and acted under the instructions of Butler, the signalman in the box. I was on duty at the place on Saturday last, and saw the collision. Just as the express approached, I had a white flag signal from Butler, the signalman. A white flat, meant “all right,” and that the train was to pass along the main line. I showed the white flag to the driver of the express train as it approached, and he came on at full speed. I was watching for the approaching train, and did not see that the points were opened.

By the Foreman.- Semaphores were usually fixed deep in the ground, but the one in question was only a foot in the ground.
The inquiry was then adjourned for a fortnight.

Major Marindin, Board of Trade Inspector, opened an inquiry on the spot. The signalman was called, and admitted the fatal mistake which he made in leaving the points open. The inquiry, which was in private, was adjourned.

On inquiring late last night at the Leicester Infirmary, our correspondent was informed that, although six cases were very critical, with the exception of one, all were going on as favourably as could be expected. Whitfield, the driver, was extremely ill, and it was thought could not possibly live through the night.

• The Times - Tuesday 25 October 1881 - RAILWAY PASSENGERS' PROTECTION ASSOCIATION -

A preliminary meeting to consider the expediency of forming this association was held yesterday. A number of gentlemen interested attended, and a long discussion took place. Ultimately the meeting was adjourned to Tuesday November 1, and we are asked to state that full information may be had on application to Captain George Verney, the Cedars, Esher, Surrey; or to Mr Francis K. Menton, St Stephen's Club, S.W.

• The Times - Wednesday 26 October 1881

A foreman coppersmith who was injured in the Desford railway collision died suddenly last night in the Leicester Infirmary.

• The Times - Friday 28 October 1881

It is interesting to note the following Contents Index which appeared daily in the London Times, including, of course, a report on the Railway Accident at Desford.



1. BIRTHS, Marriages, Deaths - ADVERTISEMENTS (Persons Wanted, Donations Acknowledged, Property Lost, Notices, Public Schools, Appointments, Elementary Education Acts, Charities, Amusements, Miscellaneous).

2. ADVERTISEMENTS - (Shipping, Horses, Carriages, Educational, Books, Trade Notices.


4. IRELAND - Naval and Military Intelligence - University Intelligence - The Mails - Election Intelligence - Letters to the Editor (An Antidote for Snake Poison : A New Regulation : The Burials Bill in Guernsey : Smoke in Manufacturing Districts : School Board Elections) - Paragraphs

5. MONEY MARKET - Bank of England - Share List - Railway and other Companies - State of Trade - Foreign Commerical Intelligence - Corn, Cattle, and Produce Markets, &c. - Letters to the Editor (The Railway Accident at Desford : Hall-marking Foreign-made Watch-cases) - Paragraphs.

6. THE HAYMARKET THEATRE - Letters to the Editor (English Composers and Musicians) - ADVERTISEMENTS (Booksellers' Special Column, Charities, Loans, Notices, Theatres).

7. LEADING ARTICLES (Contental Affairs : Mr. Gladstone at Knownley : Church Work in East London : Prison Labour) - Court Circular - Obituary - Paragraphs.

8. PARLIAMENT OUT OF SESSION - Letter to the Editor (Mr. Chamberlain on Ireland).

9. EGYPT - Sporting Intelligence (Newmarket Houghton Meeting, ... ) - Weather Reports - Latest Shipping Intelligence - The Assizes - Letters to the Editor (The Panama, Canal ; The Water Supply of London ; Sale of Nonconformist Pastorates) Paragraphs

10. LAW REPORT (Courtof Bankruptcy : Middlesex and Surry Sessions - Police - Law Notices - Letters to the Editor (A Floating Telegraph Station ; Mr. Green and Ritual Prosecutions ; Electric Wires and Gas Mains) - ADVERTISEMENTS (Contracts, Publications, Trade Notices).

11. ADVERTISEMENTS (Public Companies, Situations, Partherships, Money, Trade Notices).

12. ADVERTISEMENTS (Trade Notices, Want Places, Sales by Auction). "


Sir, - I had occasion to be at Desford yesterday, and the cause of the recent accident was quite plain, without any need of taking into account the blowing over of the semaphore. The main line rails communicate directly with the siding, and the marvel is that an accident there has been so long delayed. It is frightful to think what risks we run, if, besides ordinary sources of danger, such facing points such as those at Desford are common on railway lines. How can the railway inspectors overlook such an invitation to accident and destruction?

Your obedient servant

Oxford, Oct. 25.

• The Times - Saturday 29 October 1881 - THE RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT DESFORD.

John Whitfield, the driver of the Midland express which was wrecked at Desford, died at the Leicester Infirmary yesterday. This makes the fifth death, and several persons are still in a very critical condition.

• The Times - Tuesday 1 November 1881

THE DESFORD RAILWAY ACCIDENT. - An inquest was held last evening on the body of Whitfield, the driver of the express, which came into collision with a mineral train at Desford, on Saturday week. After formal evidence the inquest was adjourned to Thursday, November 10.

• The Times - Wednesday 2 November 1881


This association, suggested by Mr. F. K. Munton in the columns of The Times, has now been definitely formed. More than 30 gentlemen yesterday handed in their names as members, and as it was stated that applications were daily arriving, it was resolved to postpone selecting the committee until the first 100 members were enrolled. The subscription has been fixed a half a guinea per annum. Forms of application for membership may be obtained from Captain George Verney, the Cedars, Esher, hon. sec. pro tem.

• The Times, Tuesday 8 November 1881


The adjourned inquest on the bodies of three of the five passengers killed in the accident on the Midland Railway at Desford was held at Desford yesterday. Major Marindin, the Board of Trade Inspector, was present. Mr. Beale appeared on behalf of the company; Mr. Owston represented Butler, the pointsman; and Mr. Jesson represented the friends of one of the killed. Mr. Needham, superintendent of the line; Mr. Johnson, locomotive superintendent; Mr. Loveday, chief traffic inspector, and other officials of the company were present.

Samuel Newbury, platelayer, said it was usual to place semaphores in the ground about 4 ½ ft. The one blown down was too short, and was not buried in the ground at all.

Mr. Loveday, chief traffic inspector of the Midland Railway, produced the train record books kept at Bagworth and Desford stations. The express train in question, according to the books, passed Bagworth station signal-box at 9 1 a.m., and the signalman at Desford received the “line clear” signal at 9 6, showing that the train had passed Desford station. Witness calculated that the rate of speed would be about 4 miles an hour.

By the jury. - This was a perfectly safe speed if the line was clear. He knew no reason why the train should not pass over the facing-points safely if the points were right.

By Major Marindin. - The station clocks are supposed to be corrected every morning at 10. He accounted for the discrepancies in the time on the record books in two ways. In the first place, there might have been a difference of a minute between the clocks. Secondly, the signalmen do not book the odd records, so that one man might book the time at 9 1, and another at 9 2. No special notice regarding the change in the signalling arrangements was issued to the drivers. To the best of witness's belief no authority had been given to foremen shunters to use the signal-boxes for the purpose of making up their books.

By Mr. Jesson. - There were facing-points on the Midland and all other railways at other places than junctions, and they were not unsafe. The gradient between Bagworth and Desford varied, but the line fell about 221ft, giving an average gradient of 1 in 102.

• Major Marindin said he should have passed the points subject to signaling arrangements, because the avoided the fouling of the junction with the Westbridge line. If the driver had kept a sharp look-out, he probably would have seen the points perhaps 50 yards before he got to them. There was evidence to show that he reversed his engine, and that before the collision the fireman was seen at his tender brake; but there was no evidence to show where he first saw the danger. Major Marindin would prefer to assume that the driver saw it before he got to the points. Had he had 50 yards more to go, he might nearly have stopped his train. If he waited til he got into the points, he would not have been able to stop the train, but he would have retarded it so much as to have prevented the fatal telescoping, and there would have been no fatal results.

Mr. Loveday, in further answer to the foreman, said he believed that if the express train had been fitted with a continuous brake the force of the collision would have been much reduced. He considered it was better to have continuous brakes, and the Midland Company were daily adding them to their expresses.

James Bennett, platelayer, said he was in the signal-box with Butler when the collision occurred. This was against the rules, but he went to take shelter from the rain. People sometimes went into the box to do writing.

Mr. Paul Price, chief of the signal department, said 57 signals were blown down and 31 damaged by the gale.

Mr. Albert Archer, one of the passengers, said: - After the accident, I went into the signal-box. I asked Butler how on earth he came to turn us into the siding, and he said, “I forgot to replace the points after turning the coal train into the siding.” Noticing his timebook, I told Butler it seemed that a long time had passed between passing the coal train into the siding and the arrival of the passenger train, and that it was a long time for the points to remain open ; and he answered, “I am very sorry; I had been in conversation with some one in the box, and the box has not been kept strictly private.”

Walter Barrett, guard, admitted, in answer to the fore-man, that on August 12, when a side rod of the engine broke, it took half a mile to pull up with the hand brake at this particular spot.

Police-constable Cox spoke to examining the points and finding them open after the collision. Butler said, “It's a bad job; I'm sorry for the poor creatures that are killed.”

• The CORONER summed up, and

The jury returned the following verdict: - “The jury find a verdict of 'Manslaughter' against Thomas Butler. They also find that the semaphore signal that was displaced by the storm was 5ft. too short, and that it was improperly and insecurely erected. They also find that sufficient vigilance was not shown in re-erecting the semaphore. On both these points they consider the responsible officials are deserving of censure. The jury are also of the opinion that if the express had been fitted with a continuous brake the accident would have been avoided, or much mitigated, and they consider that all trains should be fitted up with continuous brakes. The jury express the opinion that it is desirable to do away with facing-points into sidings wherever possible.”

The CORONER. - I entirely agree with you in your verdict; it is the only one that could have been given under the circumstances.

Butler was then committed for trial for manslaughter on the coroner's warrant, bail being allowed. Immediately afterwards he was arrested by Police Superintendent Chapman, and conveyed to Hinckley, where he will be brought before a magistrate on Tuesday.

• The Times, Tuesday 8 November 1881

The coroner's inquest on the bodies of the passengers killed in the railway accident on the Midland Railway, at Desford, a fortnight ago, has ended in a verdict of manslaughter against the signalman, BUTLER. The accident was one of the most disastrous and painful which have taken place for some time. An express train from Burton to Leicester was traveling past Desford at a rate of about 40 to 60 miles an hour. A mineral train happened at the time to be drawn up in a siding. The points were facing points. Unfortunately, they were left open, and when the express came to the junction, instead of passing along the main line, it rushed into the siding and dashed against the mineral train. The disaster was terrible. Both trains were wrecked; five passengers were killed; and the engine-driver did not long survive. There was little mystery about the cause of the accident. The points had been opened to admit the mineral train; and, from the strange forgetfulness on his part, the signalman had failed to close them. Even this culpable neglect would not, in ordinary circumstances, have produced the disaster. The points at Desford Junction, in their normal state, inter-lock, and the driver of the express would have seen the signal standing at danger when the sidings were open. But the great gale of last month had blown down the semaphore; the points were out of order; and hand signals were in use. Thus, the signalman's blunder, which in ordinary circumstances might have done no harm, brought about a grave disaster.

• The public will read some passages in the evidence given at the inquest with anything but satisfaction. It is plain that things were managed somewhat loosely at Desford Junction. The signal-box, which ought to be kept clear of loungers, was evidently a popular resort when it happened to rain. The shunters seem to have frequented the box; and the signalman himself appears to have thought it was quite consonant with his duties to chat freely while at work with his fellow-servants. All who travel by rail place their lives in the hands of such officials as BUTLER, and it would raise in most of us painful apprehensions if we suspected that many of them treated their trust in the light spirit which seems to have been in fashion at Desford. BUTLER will be put upon his trial, and will have to answer in a court of justice for the lives apparently lost by his gross carelessness. If he be found guilty, he will no doubt be punished in a way which will serve as a warning to other careless railway officials. But the real lesson inculcated by this accident would be quite missed if matters were to end with the punishment of an unimportant servant. It is to be observed that the express was fitted merely with a hand brake. There was evidence to show that the driver reversed his engine and sought to stop the train. With the feeble appliances at his disposal, this was out of the question. Had the train, however, been provided with powerful continuous brakes, the result might have been very different.

• MR. LOVEDAY, the chief traffic inspector of the Midland Railway, admitted that the force of the collision would have been much reduced had the train been thus equipped, and, according to the view of MAJOR MARINDIN, the representative of the Board of Trade, the fatal telescoping of the carriages would have been prevented. In short, there would have been an accident, and much rolling-stock would have been destroyed; but it is questionable whether any lives would have been lost had adequate brake power been applied when the express swerved into the siding. It is satisfactory to know that the Coroner's jury have taken due note of this testimony, and that while returning, as was inevitable, a verdict of manslaughter against the signalman, they appended a rider to the effect that “if the express had been fitted with a continuous brake the accident would have been avoided, or much mitigated, and they consider that all trains should be fitted with continuous brakes.”

• It is to be hoped that this special finding will not be forgotten, and that juries will have the good sense to express a like judgment in similar circumstances.

Public opinion, speaking in this manner, will, perhaps, affect that which Royal Commissions and the moral suasion of the Board of Trade have failed to accomplish. It is disheartening to think that accidents of this sort should be still possible, and that, in spite of all that has been done to press upon railway companies the expediency of providing their trains with the best known means of stopping them, so many companies should be in default.

The Royal Commission which inquired into railway accidents in 1877, made excellent recommendations with respect to the use of a continuous brake. The Board of Trade issued a circular with a view to give effect to these suggestions of the Commissioners. But a great number of companies have paid no need either to the Commissioners or the Board of Trade.

According to returns up to December last year only 15 out of the 90 companies of the United Kingdom had complied with the official suggestions, and of these several had yielded only illusory compliance.

When LORD DE LA WARE brought the matter before the House of Lords last session only about eleven per cent. of the rolling stock of the railways was provided with proper continuous brakes which satisfied the Board of Trade requirements.

Many carriages have either non-automatic continuous brakes or sectional brakes. Notwithstanding all that had been done in Parliament and the Press to bring the subject before the public, and notwithstanding the recurrence of accidents which gave fresh point to the demand for improvements, it appeared, according to the returns up to last December, that only about one-third of the existing carriages had any brakes at all, and that only about one-third of that third possessed brakes which even appeared to satisfy the suggestions of the Board of Trade.

Some of the companies which have shown no lack of zeal in endeavouring to provide for the safety of their passengers have not been well advised as to the right course to take. That department has urged the use of continuous automatic brakes, so that any part of a train which is detached from the rest may be stopped without the intervention of any one. This advice has, however, been in some instances disregarded, and several companies have sought, not with much success, to obtain a satisfactory brake constructed upon different principles from those which have been officially recommended.

It is high time that the question should enter a new stage. There is no lack of knowledge or experience. If the competitive trials of the various systems which took place in 1877 were not sufficiently searching, the body of evidence which has since accumulated ought to be decisive. The verdict of the coroner's jury with respect to the Desford accident expresses a general sentiment; and we hope that in a short time practical effect will be given to a reform which has been always advocated in these columns, and which has become imperative in the present conditions of railway traveling. It is a great and intolerable anachronism that express trains, fitted only with hand brakes, should pass over points at a rate of 50 miles an hour.

• By Major Marindin. - If the signal cabin were now being rearranged as regards interlocking, the distant signal would have to be preceded by one or other of the home signals, unless two distant signals were provided. In this way the distant signal would be interlocked with the points, which was not now the case. Had this inter-locking been provided, the signalman could not have lowered his distant signal without pulling over the lever working the main line signal for the signal of the loop; and if he had tried to pull over the main line home signal lever, he could have done so without closing the siding points.

By Mr. Jesson. - I am not prepared to say how soon the train could have been pulled up with the hand brake; but if the continuous brake had been fitted it could have been pulled up in a much shorter distance.

By the CORONER. - The mineral train passed into the siding at 8 52, and the first signal for the passenger train was received at 9 1. The "train on line" signal was received at 9 4, and the train passed into the siding. Thomas Butlin, the pointsman, made the entries in the book. He told me so on the morning of the accident.

By Mr. Beale. - I am told the men did go into the signal-box to do their writing. That is against the company's regulations. Eighty signal-posts were blown down during the gale. It was considered important to get all the signals put up again where the traffic was heaviest. There are many parts of the line where the traffic is heavier than at Desford.

The Foreman. - Would the Board of Trade have passed the points if the line had been constructed now?

Mr. Loveday. - In the presence of a representative of the Board of Trade, I do not think I ought to be called upon to answer that question.

• The BoT Accident Reports in the National Railway Museum of York confirm that Mrs Orton of Coalville was killed on the 22nd of October 1881 when the 8.25 express from Burton to Leicester ran into the back of a coal train at Desford West Junction, near Leicester. Two other female and one male passengers were also killed.

Major Francis Marindin, in his report dated 9th November 1881, blamed the "carelessness and disobedience" of the signalman, handsignalling being in force after signals were blown down in a gale.

• The Times - Wednesday 9 November 1881


At Hinckley yesterday, Thomas Butler, 37, the pointsman at the siding near Desford, where the accident took place, was brought before the magistrates charged with the manslaughter of Alice Martha Whetstone, of De Montfort-square, Leicester, Kate Marion Wainwright, of Pontefract, and Clara Orton, of Coalville. No evidence was taken, the case being formally adjourned until the 18th inst. The prisoner was admitted to bail. Butler has been stationed at Desford for about six months, previous to which he was for 12 years in the employ of the Midland Railway Company at Ashby de la Zouch.

• The Times - Friday 11 November 1881

THE DESFORD ACCIDENT. - The coroner's inquiry as to the deaths of Frederick Astle, of Burton, and John Whitfield, engine-driver, who died at Leicester Infirmary from injuries received in the recent railway collision, was held at Leicester yesterday. The evidence given was the same as before the county jury. A verdict of “Manslaughter” against Butler, the pointsman, was returned, with an expression of opinion that the semaphore was not replaced within a reasonable time after being blown down, and that the accident might have been avoided or the damage lessened had the express been fitted with a continuous brake. Butler was committed for trial for manslaughter on the coroner's warrant.

• The Times, Saturday 12 November 1881


Sir, - Your forcible article on the recent frightful catastrophe - I cannot call it accident - at Desford Junction seems to be to suggest a doubt whether the verdict of the coroner's jury did not amount to one of manslaughter against the directors of the Midland Railway. Manslaughter is thus defined in the text-books - “Where a man, by culpable neglect of a duty imposed on him, is the cause of the death of another.” Now, the coroner's jury found that “if the express had been fitted with a continuous brake the accident would have been avoided, or much mitigated, and they consider that all trains should be fitted with continuous brakes;” and, further, the official representative of the Board of Trade asserted positively that had the train been thus equipped the fatal telescoping of the carriages would have been prevented. Here then, I submit, you have all the characteristics of the crime of involuntary manslaughter. It is the undoubted duty of the railway directors to take all reasonable care for the safety of their passengers; it can hardly be denied that to neglect a precaution strongly imposed on them by a Royal Commission four years ago, and since urgently recommended to them by the Board of Trade, is not a culpable, and, as I venture to think, most culpable, neglect of that duty; and the finding of the jury and the testimony of Major Marindin both attribute the fearful loss of life that ensued to that very cause. That the pointsman, Butler, should suffer for his contributory neglect, should it be proved against him, is no doubt just and proper; but why the other parties implicated by the findings of the jury should escape scot-free I confess I for one am at a loss to understand. Much suasion has hitherto proved, as you point out, quite ineffectual in indicating to railway directors their obvious duty both to the public and to their unfortunate shareholders, who are heavy sufferers by these appalling so-called accidents. Allow me, as an humble member of both bodies, to suggest that the time has arrived for the adoption of stronger and sterner remedies.

Your faithful servant


Russborough, Bleadington, Nov. 10.

• Death Details: The Times - RPPA Letter, 19 Nov 1881, Desford. 90 The Times, Saturday 19 November 1881 - RAILWAY PASSENGERS' PROTECTION ASSOCIATION - TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir - Referring to the correspondence on Brighton “reserved” carriages, will you permit me the opportunity of saying that since the last report in The Times on the progress of this association, the number of members has nearly doubled and the list is being added to daily, and that if the writers of the above letters will communicate with me or Captain George Verner (Esher, Surrey), the honorary secretary, we shall be glad of a conference?

I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
St Stephen's Club, S.W., Nov. 18.

• This peculiar advertisement appeared in The Times on 25 November 1881, only one month following the dreadful Desford accident.

ENGLISH MECHANIC and WORLD of SCIENCE. Published every Friday. Price 2d. Oldest, best, and cheapest popular Journal of Science and Mechanics purlished. Read all the world over, its contributors are the leading scientists and practical mechanicians in every country where the English language is read or spoken, and its range of subjects is as wide as its circulation. No subject it too simple, no problem too abstruse for the courtesy and skill of its countless contributors, and the mass of information gathered together weekly in its columns is as remarkable for its variaty as for its accuracy and great value. No. 570 (published this week) contains articles on:

Ivory Photograph or Mirror Stand
Some American Lathe Chucks
Improvements of Faure's Secondary Battery
Astronomical Notes for December
The Great Coment of 1881
Optical Figures in Crystals
The Meteorological Society
Bath Microscopical Society
Scientific News
Order of Brightness of Stars - Astronomy for Octogenarians -
Satellites of Saturn - Jupiter - Mars
Astronomical - Encke's Ring on Saturn on the 9th November - Lunar Physics
Star-gazing - Stellar Variation - Determining Stellar Magnitudes - Star-gazing - A Visit to Harvard University
Double Object-glasses - Microscope Object-glasses - Tricycles
Bicycles - Hughes' New Oil Light - Speculum Working
Paint for Bottoms of Iron Ships - Tricycles - Spiral Apparates - Medical Relies - The Desford Junction Accident - Statical Problem or Funicular Polygon
Replies to Queries
Unanswered Queries
Answers to Corespondents

Annual Subscription, post free, 11s. : single copies, post free, 2 ½d.
E.J. Kisblewhite, 31, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden, W.C., and all Newsmen.

• The Times, Thursday 8 December 1881

THE DESFORD RAILWAY ACCIDENT - Major Marindin, R.E., in his report to the Board of Trade concerning the collision which occurred at Desford Junction, on the Midland Railway, on October 22, says that the evidence leaves no doubt as to the manner in which the disaster was brought about. It will be remembered that the signal post commanding the points leading into a siding had been blown down in the great storm of the 14th of October, and that the signalman, Thomas Butler, who was working the temporary hand signals, carelessly left the facing points of the siding open, whereby an express train, going at the rate of some 50 miles an hour, was allowed to run into the rear of a coal train standing on the siding. While ascribing the accident and consequent loss of life in the first instance to the carelessness of Butler, Major Marindin goes on to say that in his opinion the company did not display sufficient promptitude in restoring the damaged signal, and expresses a further opinion that the rule at present in force for supplying such temporary defects is inadequate for the purpose. He urges upon the company to lose no time in issuing some regulations to insure the safe working of the traffic when signals are out of order, and to expedite the fitting of continuous brakes to all their passenger engines and passenger stocks. In conclusion, he says, “It is worthy of remark that three of the most fatal accidents which have recently occurred - viz., the Nine Elms accident, on the London and South-Western Railway, on the 11th of September, 1880, in which seven persons were killed and 45 injured; the Penilee accident, on the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway, on the 8th of September, 1880, in which five persons were killed and 41 injured; and this accident at Desford, in which, out of a small number in the train, five persons were killed and seven injured - have been caused by almost inexplicable mistakes on the part of signalmen; and this fact shows that railway companies cannot be too careful to impress upon the signalmen in their employ that block telegraph working and the interlocking of points and signals are, after all, only aids to safe working, and that it is just as necessary for them now to exercise the greatest care and vigilance in the performance of their duties as it was before they had the benefit of these appliances; but further than this, it points to the necessity for the adoption of some additional safeguard to prevent, if possible, the occurrence of such mistakes as those which caused not only the accidents which I have quoted, but many other less serious ones. All of these three fatal accidents might have been prevented by the use, in some form or other, of one of the inventions which exist for interlocking the electrical instruments working the block telegraph with the levers mechanically working the points and signals; and I have very little doubt that, if railway companies will give this question their careful consideration, it will lead to very considerable reduction in the number of preventable accidents on railways.”


Captain George H. Verney, secretary pro tem. of this society, writes from the Junior United Service Club, December 19 : - “At a recent well-attended meeting of the influential supporters of this association, the principal regulations were formulated, and if the steady progress in the number of the subscribers continues, we shall hold a public meeting immediately after the holidays.”

• Clara's death certificate, issued on the 23rd December 1881, states cause of death as "Feloniously slain by Thomas Butler".

• The Times - Wednesday 25 January 1882


There were ten causes for trial here and nine prisoners,
five from the borough and four from the county.

Thomas Butler was charged with manslaughter of Clara Orton at Newton Unthank, on October 22 last.

Mr. Ewins Bennet prosecuted ; Mr. Simms Reeve and Mr. Toller defended the prisoner.

On the morning of the day in question the prisoner was employed as signalman at Desford Station on the Midland Railway, between Burton and Leicester. A mineral train arrived at Desford Station at 8.49 a.m., and was shunted into a siding to allow the express from Burton to Leicester to pass. The points which passed the train into the siding are facing points, and the prisoner, instead of closing them, left them open. In consequence the express, which followed the mineral train at an interval of 12 minutes, ran into the siding; the coal-wagons were scattered in all directions, and two of the carriages of the express “telescoped”, five passengers in all were killed. It appeared that up to and until the 14th of October the facing points of the semaphore home-signal were worked by an inter-locking apparatus, so that the points could not be opened unless the semaphore stood at danger; the storm of October 14 had, however, blown over the post of the semaphore, which had not yet been put in thorough working order. This semaphore was protected by a man with a hand flag under the orders of the signalman, who had signified by exhibiting a white flag that the road was clear for a passing train. The express was travelling at 60 miles an hour a the time it entered the siding, and was not fitted with continuous brakes, so that the driver had little or no opportunity to diminish the speed of his train.

Mr. REEVE, in his address to the jury, contended that the prisoner had been guilty of forgetfulness only, and that this did not constitute willful and criminal negligence.

The learned JUDGE told the jury that they ought to find the prisoner guilty if, having regard to his position, they were of opinion that by exercise of reasonable care and caution on his part the accident might have been avoided.

The jury, after a long consultation, returned a verdict of Not guilty. The prisoner was also charged with having caused the death of four other persons, but the facts being the same no evidence was offered, and he was discharged.

• The Times, Thursday 20 July 1882 - THIRLBY v. THE MIDLAND RAILWAY COMPANY

This was another action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in the collision which occurred on the defendants' railway at Desford on October 22 last.

Mr. Mullor, Q.C., and Mr. Graham appeared for the plaintiff; Mr. Lawrance, Q.C., and Mr. Carter for the defendants.

The plaintiff was a cattle-dealer residing at Greenhill, new Whitwick. At the time of the accident he was riding in a third-class compartment near to the engine, and when the collision occurred he was jerked violently from his seat, the carriage was smashed, and he was buried in the debris. When rescued it was found that he had sustained a compound fracture of the right leg, and he was also severely cut about the head, the temporal artery being severed. He was conveyed to the infirmary at Leicester, where he remained until January 17. It was found necessary to remove a piece of the shin bone, thus rendering the right leg rather shorter than the left. The fractured bones had united, but imperfectly, and it was the opinion of the medical men who were called on behalf of the plaintiff that it was doubtful whether there would ever be complete ossification. The plaintiff had been in the habit of attending different fairs and markets in his business of cattle-dealer, from which he had made about £200 a year. He would not be able to resume his business as long as his leg remained in its present condition.

No witnesses were called for the defendants.

The jury returned a verdict for £1,088 damages.

• The Times, Tuesday 12 September 1882


Sir, - My letters, which you were good enough to print in The Times of the 26th ult. and the 4th inst., have brought me so many communications, some enclosing voluntary subscriptions, that I venture to trespass on your indulgence and ask leave to announce that the honorary secretary and treasurer is Captain George H. Verney, the Cedars, Esher, Surrey, to whom all letters connected with the Association should be addressed.

I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
95a. Queen Victoria-street. Sept. 11.

• Clara's locket has been handed down to her name sake, Claire Smallwood.

• Sir Francis Marindin's obituary appeared in The Times on Tuesday 24th April 1900.


Sir Francis Marindin.

Colonel Sir Francis Arthur Marindin, K.C.M.G., R.E. (Retired), Senior Inspecting Officer of Railways, Board of Trade, who died on Saturday at 3, Hans-crescent, S.W., was born at Weymouth on May 1, 1838. He was the second son of the late Rev. S. Marindin, of Chesterton, Shropshire, and of Isabella, daughter of Andrew Wedderburn Colville, of Ochiltree, Craigflower, Fife. He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and entered the Royal Engineers in 1854. From 1860 to 1863 he was A.D.C. and Private Secretary to Sir William Stevenson, Governor of Mauritius, during which period he was also employed on special duty in Madagascar. From 1866 to 1868 he was Adjutant at the Chatham School of Military Engineering, and in 1869 was appointed Brigade-Major. In 1872 he obtained his majority, and, after vacating his Staff appointment at Chatham in 1874, he joined the Board of Trade in 1877 as an Inspecting Officer of Railways. In 1879 he retired from the Royal Engineers as a Major, but later renewed his association with the Army as an honorary colonel in the Engineer and Railway Volunteer Staff Corps, which is entirely composed of high officials connected with railway affairs and administration.

• As an inspecting officer of railways it fell to Sir Francis Marindin, in the earlier days ofhis connexion with the Board of Trade, to examine the permanent way, bridges, stations, and signals of many new railways and branch lines, and subsequently to hold inquiries on a number of accidents. In 1891 one of these enquiries revealed an iniquitous system of overworking railway employes, a goods guard having been crushed to death beetween the buffers of two wagons while in a state of physical collapse after being on duty for over 22 hours at a stretch. Major Marindin's strongly-worded report on this incident led to the appointment of a Select Committee of the House of Commons and to a notable improvement in the conditions under which railway servants were worked. Again, after the terrible Thirsk accident of November 2, 1892, Major Marindin declared most forcibly that it was the duty of all railway companies to adopt some combination of mechanical and electrical appliance which would make such an accident impossible unless the driver deliberately ran past fixed signals. He also urged the engagement of relief signalmen, and the importance of housing the men near their work. By this repeated plain-speaking, coupled with a complete mastery of his subject and great discriminating capacity Major Marindin originated several most important railway reforms, besides keeping the lines throughout the country continually aware that the office at 8, Richmond-terrace, Whitehall, was not likely to allow irregularities to remain long unnoticed.

In 1887 Major Marindin, having rendered important services in connexion with the Egyptian State Railways, was made a C.M.G., adn in 1897, on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee, was promoted to the Knighthood of the Order. Sir Francis Marindin married, in 1860, a daughter of Sir William Stevenson, K.C.B., on whose personal staff he served three years in Mauritius.


Clara married Thomas (Butcher) ORTON, son of Thomas (Farmer/Carpenter) ORTON and Frances PILKINGTON, on 2 Aug 1875 in Weston-Longville, Norfolk.50 (Thomas (Butcher) ORTON was born on 3 Apr 1851-2 Apr 1852 in Wood Street, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicester 53, christened on an unknown date in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicester, England 54 and died on 29 Sep 1896 in Cairns, Queensland 55.)

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