Double Tragedy on the Railway


In the 1881 census the Martins were to be found at 6 Town Cottages, Epsom (in the High Street): they were Charles Edward (29), railway porter, his wife Mary Ann (25), Mary (5), Lilly (4), Charles Henry (2) and George (5 months); another child, Rose, was born later in 1881.

Epsom LSWR Station c1880
Epsom LSWR Station c1880
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

By 1883 Charles Edward was head porter at the Epsom station of the London and South Western Railway, where he had worked for seven years.

On the evening of 8 May 1883 Charles was supervising shunting of a goods train and, as the siding was on a curve, he had to stand on the main down line. There was a notice at each end of the station imposing a 10 mph speed limit because the platform was at the end of this curve; additionally drivers were required to sound their whistle twice on approaching. It was said that these rules were frequently ignored and they were ignored that evening. The Brighton Company's Portsmouth express then appeared, travelling at a speed estimated to be between 25 and 40 mph, no whistle was heard, and Charles was knocked down with fatal consequences. The inquest returned a verdict of accidental death with contributory negligence by Charles, the station management responsible for the shunting facilities and the Brighton Company. There had been a similar fatality on 29 August 1882 when Charles's predecessor, William Gorey, standing on the up line, stepped on to the down line to avoid the up Portsmouth express and was then killed by the down Portsmouth express; all that the railway management seems to have done to prevent a recurrence was to re-paint the speed limit boards.

Since there was no insurance or pension, a local Committee was set up and raised 172 to be paid to Mrs Martin in weekly instalments until it ran out; the station master, Thomas Lawes, collected more than half of this amount, presumably from friends and railway staff.

In 1891 Mary Ann was living at 15 Clayton Road, off East Street, purporting to be married to jockey William Henry Baverstock (although the wedding did not take place until 1897); Charles Junior was still at home and there were two new Baverstock children.

Late on the evening of Saturday 10 November 1894 young Charles, who worked as a potman, was found unconscious on the platform of Epsom Town station, with his feet cut off. He died in Epsom Cottage hospital on the following Monday. It was found that he had been run over by a train and had crawled 180 yards without his feet in an attempt to get help. An irresponsible newspaper at the time reported wrongly that his father had committed suicide and also labelled the death of Charles Junior a suicide, even though the inquest had not yet been held. I cannot currently find an inquest report on Charles Junior but I surmise that he was taking a shortcut across the railway line (Epsom Town station was located in Upper High Street) from his work to Clayton Road.

Epsom, Upper High Street, London & Brighton South Coast Railways c1900.
Epsom, Upper High Street, London & Brighton South Coast Railways c1900.
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

Linda Jackson ©2014


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