by John Clayson
This page is a tribute to Grantham railway staff who, sadly, never returned home after going on duty, and also to railway passengers whose journeys ended unexpectedly and tragically in the Grantham area.
The idea came about through conversations with people who talked about a member of their family, or a workmate, who lost their life on the railway through accident or who died of natural causes while at work. It seemed to me that Tracks through Grantham should help to remember them by gathering their names and briefly recording the circumstances.
The railway can be an unforgiving environment. With just one moment's inattention, or maybe a minor misjudgement, the most experienced person might put at risk their own life and, potentially, the lives of others. Accidents may occur unseen in the dark, or at a remote location where there is no one to raise the alarm or to speedily render First Aid. In the days before modern antibiotics a casualty might appear to be recovering from a survivable injury, only to succumb to infection despite receiving the best care available.
Until relatively recent times an acceptance of corporate responsibility for pro-active safety precautions to protect their employees from injury, or even death, was shunned by railway operators and employers. The railway companies held their employees (often referred to as 'railway servants') primarily responsible for their own personal safety to an extent that today would be regarded as completely unreasonable, to say the very least.
Victims had little recourse to the law. From 1840 there was government regulation of the railways but, until significant trades union influence was brought to bear in the 1890s, railway safety legislation in the UK was driven mainly by a desire to protect the passenger. From a government perspective this approach satisfied the expectation of the voting public (from which, at the time, many railway employees were excluded) and it safeguarded the business interests of the railway companies. It also served to protect the financial interests of the insurance industry, because it was quite common for travellers to purchase cover against death or personal injury in a railway accident. Until 1900 the benefits of railway safety law to railway employees were, usually, indirect.
The long and often tragic list which follows is therefore a counterpoise to a view that would see the main line railway in the Victorian and Edwardian periods as primarily a successful, expanding and in some ways heroic enterprise. For far too many railway employees up and down the country, including in the Grantham area, working on the railway was, sadly, the death of them.
The list begins as early as the 1850s, during the construction of the main line through Grantham. It includes the following:
- Railway staff and passengers who died as a result of accidents on the railway in the Grantham area;
- Railway staff from the Grantham area who died while on duty, in the Grantham area and elsewhere, either as a result of accident or of natural causes .
For the purpose of this part of our project 'the Grantham area' is normally defined as:
- the main line between Stoke signal box and Clensey Lane bridge, north of the former Westborough crossing and signal box;
- the branch from Highdyke to Stainby and Sproxton ;
- the branch to Ambergate Yard;
- the Nottingham line to Belvoir;
- the Woolsthorpe Branch from Belvoir Junction;
- Allington Junction to Honington Junction;
- Barkston East Junction to Barkston North Junction and Barkston South Junction;
- private sidings within the above boundary points into industrial and military premises.
Important sources for the earliest incidents are reports in the local newspaper The Grantham Journal.
National lists of railway accidents being compiled by The Railway Work, Life and Death project are proving to be very helpful.
For incidents within living memory, personal recollections have frequently been the starting point. We have copies of most source material and will gladly share it with anyone who wishes to learn more of the background of a particular incident.
This is very much a 'work in progress'. If you are able to add to our knowledge, including the correction of any errors, and you would like to do so, please get in touch through the Contact Form on our Contact Us or Subscribe page.
10th August 1850
George Pearce, a brickmaker from Buckinghamshire, was working at the GNR brickyard near Peascliffe Tunnel when he slipped while wheeling a barrowful of clay along a plank. He sustained internal injuries which caused his death the following day.
22nd November 1851
Isaac Potter, a tip driver, died after being trampled by a horse and his legs run over by a spoil truck while working in the hours of darkness during the construction of Ponton cutting.
Robert Daniels, a porter, was knocked down by an engine at Ponton station. His death was registered in the third quarter of 1852.
9th December 1852
Joseph Perkins, a ganger resident in Grantham, was run over by the locomotive of a ballast train between Hougham and Claypole.
4th December 1852
In the early hours of 4th December Richard Fox, a railway labourer of Little Gonerby, and two other men were knocked down by an engine proceeding 'wrong line' at the northern approach to Grantham station. Richard Fox died on 10th December.
18th February 1853
William Appleby was buried by a fall of earth and clay while clearing a landslip in Spittlegate Cutting.
Edward Musson of Horncastle, a shunter, was struck by a train at Grantham.
4th March 1858
Thomas Tompkins from Somerby in Leicestershire, a labourer for a contractor to the Great Northern Railway, was struck by a train inside Stoke Tunnel while walking through with others after they had finished work.
19th October 1858
William Warby, a GNR Mineral Guard, fell onto the line from his brake van at the rear of a coal train at Jericho (i.e. Barkston) Junction. He was run over by a goods train which was approaching his van in order to attach, so that the two trains could proceed together through Peascliffe Tunnel.
12th March 1859
George Stephenson of Grantham, a platelayer, was run over by a train near the bridge over the Barrowby Stream.
13th September 1862
William Greenwood, a locomotive fireman, was run over at Barkston Crossing while attempting to attach his engine to the rear of a preceding train which had become disabled.
Edward Kemp, a cattle dealer, fell into the coal drops at Grantham station during the hours of darkness.
25th July 1868
William Collins of Grantham, a carriage cleaner, was run over during shunting at Grantham station.
10th November 1869
Joseph Harding, a guard from Doncaster, was crushed between a locomotive and a wagon during a conflicting shunting movement in a siding at Grantham.
19th January 1873
Henry Parker, a goods guard thought to be from Nottingham, died of natural causes at Grantham station.
23rd May 1873
Thomas Robinson of Grantham, a driver, was struck by a shunting locomotive in the goods yard at Grantham. In The Grantham Journal of 24th May 1873 (page 8) it was reported that: 'Some years ago Robinson … ran a special between London and York in about three hours and a half, on the occasion of a fire in Newcastle - said to be the fastest journey on record.'
18th September 1873
William Layton of Grantham, a driver, died of natural causes while on duty in Grantham station yard.
10th January 1874
Arthur Casburn of Peterborough, a railway fireman, and passenger Henry (John) Crawford, a joiner from Derby, died when two trains collided in fog at Barkston Junction (later Barkston South Junction).
4th February 1876
William Burton, a railway labourer, was run over by an express train while walking on the line south of Great Ponton station.
23rd/24th March 1877
The body of foreman platelayer John Dewy was found on the line near Belvoir signal box in the early hours of Sunday 24th March. The inquest concluded that he had been struck by a train. Though Dewy's accident occurred outside his normal hours of employment, he was authorised to be on the railway at any time without being considered a trespasser.
7th December 1877
George James Frederick Russell of Grantham, a brakesman, died in the wreckage of a derailment at Barkston Junction (later Barkston South Junction).
29th November 1878
James Henry Barber of Grantham, a shunter, was struck and knocked down by the buffer of a moving wagon at Grantham station.
20th June 1878
George Lemon, a foreman bricklayer of Helpston, near Peterborough, was struck by a train inside Peascliffe Tunnel.
27th March 1882
Joseph Bellamy, Grantham stationmaster, caught a cold while on duty which developed into bronchitis. Other complications ensued and he died on 1st April. He was 41 years of age and left a widow and seven children.
13th August 1885
Charles Downing, a driver of Nottingham, having been struck by a locomotive, received an injury to his foot which required its amputation; he died on 16th August from an infection.
21st May 1886
Joseph D. Winter, a blacksmith of Grantham, was run over by a train near the north end of the Nottingham platform while attending to a fault with the down side water column.
12th March 1887
Eli Addlesee, a driver of New Somerby, Grantham was struck and run over by moving wagons near Grantham South signal box.
6th August 1891
Harry George Cross of Peterborough, a bricklayer's labourer employed by the GNR, was run over by a train while working inside Stoke Tunnel.
7th September 1891
John Spaul of Grantham was assisting a boilersmith with repairs at Grantham Loco when he was crushed between locomotives during shunting.
17th March 1892
Tom Simpson, a platelayer, was hit by an express train near Stoke signal box.
8th April 1892
John Huckerby, an elderly passenger of Granby, Nottinghamshire, was struck by a train when using the sleeper crossing at the south end of the platforms.
5th July 1892
James Greasley, a fireman of Doncaster, struck Belton Lane Bridge soon after leaving the south end of Peascliffe tunnel.
16th January 1893
Henry Upton, a railway labourer of Great Gonerby, fell under a train at Spittlegate cutting, south of Grantham.
19th November 1893
John James Peacock, a platelayer of Grantham, was struck by a locomotive while clearing snow from points near Grantham South signal box. His wife had died a month before and they left a family of 10.
5th April 1895
John Pearson, a telegraph linesman who lived in Grantham, was supervising repair work at Hatfield when he was hit by a train while crossing the line.
20th March 1896
James Goode, a platelayer of Peterborough, was working with a track relaying gang near Little Ponton when he failed to stand clear of an approaching Grantham to Peterborough train.
17th March 1898
John A. Scholey, a point holder of Bardney, near Lincoln, was riding on a locomotive footstep during shunting. He stumbled on stepping off, was hit by a carriage and fell under the train.
31st August 1898
Richard Hillyer of Grantham, a driver, was injured in a collision between two locomotives near Grantham North signal box. He died of his injuries on 2nd September.
7th September 1898
Arthur Kirk, a labourer at Grantham Gas Works, was crushed against the retort house door at the gas works by a moving coal wagon. He died from his injuries on 10th September.
26th November 1898
John William Frisby, a shunter, was struck by a train on the Up Main line south of Grantham station.
19th January 1901
Richard James Huggins, a horse shunter of Grantham, was hit and run over by a train which was being shunted into the Nottingham platform.
2nd March 1903
Woodbridge Leonard Watson, a bridge erector aged 18 of Manchester, was working on the reconstruction of Springfield Road bridge when he was struck by a train while crossing the main lines.
9th November 1904
George Bertie, a fireman from Doncaster, struck his head on bridge No. 276 near Westborough probably while retrieving, in darkness, a fire iron from the locomotive's tender. He died early the following day.
19th September 1906
A high speed derailment and subsequent fires in the wreckage of the gaslit wooden bodied carriages claimed the lives of 15 persons, 12 of whom died at the scene:
The Locomotive Crew:
- Frederick (Fred) William Fleetwood of Doncaster, the driver
- Ralph Talbot of Acton, London, the fireman, who was a premium apprentice at Doncaster Locomotive Works
A Post Office Employee:
- Charles Edwin Elson of London, a mail van attendant
- James Miller of Rochester, Kent
- Roland Philipson of Tynemouth, Northumberland
- Jessie Briggs of Nottingham
- Sgt. John Robertson, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) of Hamilton, Lanarkshire
- Ivy Winifred M. Robertson aged 9 years, daughter of Sgt. Robertson
- Edward (Teddy) Edwin Robertson aged 15 months, son of Sgt. Robertson
- Albert Henry Kimpton of Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire
- Georgina Florence Baguley of Doncaster
- Rachel MacDonald of Aberdeen
Two passengers died of their injuries several weeks later:
- James Willam McGregor of Glasgow (on 18th October)
- Alfred Ernest Bagnall of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex (on 19th October)
Another passenger died of an infection soon after returning home:
- Peggy Robertson aged 3 years, daughter of Sgt. Robertson (on 10th November)
There is more about this accident in our section on people and incidents in the history of Grantham North signal box and in our page The Grantham High Speed Accident of September 1906: the passenger casualties.
4th October 1910
Thomas Stanton Pizer of Grantham, a Shunter, suffered serious injury to his hands and arms in a shunting accident during the hours of darkness in the west (Down side) goods yard. He died from septic poisoning on 27th October.
25th November 1911
John E. Docking, a goods guard of Netherfield, Notts, was struck by a train near Grantham Yard signal box.
21st November 1913
Thomas Henry Meredith, a platelayer of Grantham, was struck and run over by a train at the south end of Grantham station.
20th March 1914
Platelayer Charles Bembridge of Great Ponton was knocked down by a goods train near Stoke signal box.
6th January 1915
Passenger Sgt. Joseph Rushforth, a miner and reservist in the Durham Light Infantry, fell from a train at Little Ponton; he died the following morning.
24th January 1916
Harry Woodhead, a carriage fitter of Grantham, was crushed between carriages in the carriage sidings while carrying out repairs to a steam heating pipe.
30th October 1916
Bertie William Wise aged 17 of South Witham was working on the construction of Stainby cutting on the High Dyke Branch when he slipped and was run over by a loaded truck.
2nd September 1917
John Thomas Perkins, a platelayer of High Dyke Cottage, was knocked down by an engine near the north entrance of Stoke Tunnel.
20th September 1917
Private Andy Chenwith, a soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps travelling home on leave, appeared to have fallen from a northbound passenger train south of Peascliffe Tunnel.
19th September 1918
John Wortley, a timber carter of Haconby near Bourne, was working with a horse in the west (down side) sidings when he was knocked down and run over by a wagon of coal.
27th July 1920
George Ivan Wood, a locomotive cleaner and spare fireman, was crushed between two locomotives while cleaning at Grantham Loco (engine shed).
4th July 1928
William Ryder Rawding of Grantham, an ash filler at the Loco, was knocked down and run over by a locomotive in the Loco yard and he died of his injuries on 6th July.
14th July 1928
William Earnest Moreton, a sub-ganger of Gonerby Hill Foot, was struck by a train near the North Parade bridge at Grantham while inspecting the line.
12th January 1934
John Thomas Crick , employed by the LNER as a gas fitter's labourer, was struck by a locomotive when crossing the line at Grantham station. He was carrying an item which obscured his view. He died of his injuries on 16th January.
28th January 1935
Thomas William Hoyes of Gelston was the driver of a baker's van which was struck by a train between Barkston East Junction and Honington while using a gated level crossing worked by a crossing keeper.
19th January 1936
At about 6.15am two locomotives were travelling north at speed through the darkness of a bitterly cold winter's night. In Belton Cutting, on the approach to Barkston, they collided with the rear of a stationary ballast train. A brake van at the rear of the ballast train was completely destroyed in the collision. Twelve permanent way men were in the van. Five of the men died at the scene, a further three passed away in hospital soon afterwards, and the four who survived all received serious injuries.
All the casualties were married men from the Grantham area and several had young families. This accident at Barkston therefore had a much more profound and lasting effect on the town, and especially on its railway community, than the better known high speed mail train derailment of September 1906 at Grantham in which no local people were casualties.
The following men lost their lives at the scene:
- Arthur Harris, sub-ganger, of Wharf Road, Grantham
- Charles William Cooper, platelayer, of Springfield Road, Grantham
- William Hughes, platelayer, of New Street, Grantham
- Arthur Barnett of Great Gonerby
- John William Hunt, platelayer, of Stamford Street, Grantham
These men passed away in hospital:
- Augustine 'Gus' William Jeffery Watson, head timekeeping clerk at Grantham 'Loco', of Springfield Road, Grantham (19th January)
- Maurice Avery, platelayer, of Great Gonerby (21st January)
- George William Bonner, foreman platelayer, of Stamford Street, Grantham (22nd January)
Below is a photograph of the scene some hours after the accident:
and there's a recording of a radio programme about the accident here. See also an extract from coverage in The Grantham Journal at the head of this page.
16th January 1939
Platelayer Thomas Bullimore of Grantham was struck by a train in Peascliffe Tunnel.
4th September 1939
William Dennis, a lengthman of Grantham, was struck by a train inside Peascliffe Tunnel. He was with a group of men who were travelling to carry out track repairs inside the tunnel. They were in a brake van at the rear of a works train which had stopped in the tunnel, when another train was heard approaching from behind. At the inquest into William's death it was said that he appeared to become anxious, perhaps fearing a repeat of the fatal rear-end collision involving a works train at Barkston three years before (see above). William had survived the Barkston accident and he'd been a bearer at the funeral of one of its victims. He and two other men descended from the brake van and he was struck as the train passed on the other line.
14th February 1940
George Cooper, a joiner at Ruston & Hornsby's engineering works in Grantham, was crushed between two wagons during shunting at the factory.
2nd March 1940
Walter Everton of Grantham, a platelayer, was struck by a train near Grantham North signal box.
4th December 1940
Between late 1940 and 1942 Grantham regularly received attention from the Luftwaffe, mainly because of the British Manufacture and Research Company (BMARCo) works - known locally as 'Marco's' - on Springfield Road, near the Loco. The factory made 20mm cannon for the RAF's Hurricane and Spitfire fighters.
On 3rd December 1940 during a daylight low-level bombing attack an enemy aircraft was engaged by the BMARCo factory defence guns. The plane was hit, damaged and driven off. One of its bombs landed in the Down Goods Yard, but it failed to detonate. Lt. John Ernest Gilkes aged 32 of Leamington Spa, serving with the 3rd Bomb Disposal Company, Royal Engineers, was killed the following day when the bomb exploded while he was attempting to make it safe.
There is more in our page on Grantham's railways during World War 2 and on the Royal Engineers' Association Bomb Disposal Branch memorial pages.
Late January 1941
Blanche Arthur of Swayfield was helping her husband, a baker, with his delivery round in very thick fog. She was knocked down by a locomotive and brake van while opening the gates at Park Farm Lane level crossing near Colsterworth on the High Dyke branch.
28th April 1941
At about 3.15pm a King's Cross to Newcastle train departed from Grantham, having changed locomotives there. On the footplate of Heaton (Newcastle) based V2 locomotive No.4779 (later No.808 and finally No.60808) were Grantham driver Ernest (Ernie) Smith and his fireman. The last three vehicles in the train were two open third class coaches followed by a full brake. The open thirds were occupied by a party of about 100 boys returning, following the Easter holiday, to Ampleforth College, a Roman Catholic boarding school in North Yorkshire.
Shortly after passing Hougham the communication cord was pulled, and driver Smith stopped the train as it approached Westborough signal box, between Hougham and Claypole. The second last coach was on fire and the flames quickly spread forward and back. The last three coaches became completely burned out. Six of the boys were unable to escape and perished. Seven were taken to hospital. The inquest and enquiry determined that the cause of the fire was lighted matches which some of the boys admitted they had been throwing about the carriage.
The first two casualties listed below were sons of Hubert Pierlot, the Belgian Prime Minister, who was in London leading the Belgian Government in exile. A third son was among the injured.
- Jean Pierlot, aged 15
- Louis Pierlot, aged 17
- Ian Claude Emmett of Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire, aged 13
- Oswald Peter Joseph May of Chelsea, London, aged 17
- Richard Kennelly of Worthing, Sussex, aged 18
- Winthrop Park Fullman of East Molesey, Surrey, aged 16
25th October 1941
Arthur K. Parker of Grantham, a Loader in the Goods Department at the station, was crushed against a wall in the goods yard, near the weighbridge, by a motor lorry.
10th September 1942
Thomas Booth of Grantham, a goods guard, was struck by a locomotive at Great Ponton and died in hospital the following day. Two of his sons, Joseph (Joe) and Walter, were railwaymen at Grantham.
24th January 1944
John Bone, a shunt-horse driver of Grantham, was moving two wagons away from the goods shed towards some other wagons at night. The horse became startled by steam blowing off from a nearby locomotive, causing it to bolt. John was caught by the tail chain, part of the towing tackle, throwing him into the gap between the two sets of wagons as they came together. He died from his injuries on 2nd February.
There is more in our page on Grantham's railways during World War 2.
3rd February 1944
Harry Shardlow of Grantham, a fireman on a Scotch express, struck a bridge at Woolmer Green, Hertfordshire, while fixing an anti-glare sheet between the locomotive's cab and its tender. Anti-glare (or 'blackout') sheets were used during wartime to reduce the visibility of the glare from the locomotive's fire to enemy aircraft. They were fastened into place by the fireman at dusk.
There is more in our page on Grantham's railways during World War 2.
31st May 1944
Driver Percy Amos Meade of Grantham was crushed between a locomotive and the coaling plant in the locomotive yard. He was attempting to climb aboard the locomotive, No.2581 Neil Gow, which had started to run away in the loco yard due to defective regulator and brakes.
There is more in our page on Grantham's railways during World War 2.
8th August 1944
Edward Kew, a porter, died of natural causes at Grantham station.
25th October 1954
Lewin Soons, a signalman of Great Gonerby, died of natural causes while working in Barrowby Road signal box. He had been on duty at Barrowby Road box on the morning of 19th January 1936 when the tragic accident near Barkston took place (see above) and he gave evidence at the Enquiry.
27th December 1956
George W. I. Walker, a railway lorry driver aged 66 who was was officially retired but had continued to work, died of natural causes soon after arrival at the weighbridge office. He had worked on the railway at Grantham since 1913.
5th October 1961
Peter John Baxter from Grantham and Filip Janczarek, a Pole living in Peterborough, both permanent way lengthmen, were working on the Up Main line when they were struck by a train at High Dyke, near the entrance to Stoke Tunnel. Peter had been on the railway for only three weeks.
3rd September 1962
Ivan Kenneth Gadsby, a young railway fireman from Derby, was crushed between a locomotive and the coaling plant in the locomotive yard.
25th January 1963
George H. Ward, a driver of Grantham, was killed along with driver Cyril Roberts of Lincoln when the railcar (diesel multiple unit train) they were driving collided with a locomotive at Bracebridge Gas Sidings in Lincoln. As a young locomotive cleaner George had been a witness to a fatal accident involving fellow cleaner George Wood which occurred on 27th July 1920 at the Loco (see above).
14th January 1964
Grantham driver George Taylor died of natural causes while on the footplate of a diesel locomotive at Peterborough.
6th March 1972
Guard Frank Mapletoft fell from a train heading for Nottingham while attending to a carriage door between Gonerby Tunnel and Allington Junction.
22nd December 1972
Driver William Richard (Billy) Bell of Grantham died of natural causes while on the footplate of a diesel locomotive at Grantham station.
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4 thoughts on “Accidents: A Grantham Railway Memorial”
I am most grateful to you for this historic tribute to those who have lost their lives in train accidents in the area of Grantham. My husband's first cousin, Peter May, was killed in the fire on the Ampleforth school train on 28 April 1941 which happened to be his father's 56th birthday. His 14-year-old brother, Ralph May, survived the fire. He went into the army. His mother was killed in January 1945 when a V2 struck the Royal Hospital Chelsea where his father was a Captain of Invalids. Ralph May was greatly affected by both these tragedies but was a courageous person. He died in 2012.
Thank you very much for your comment and for sharing with us how Peter’s brother, Ralph, was affected by being involved in the accident himself. The legacy such tragedies leave with survivors and witnesses, for the remainder of their lives, is sometimes not fully appreciated when we read historical accounts.
With best wishes,
Albert Kimpton [a victim of the high speed derailment of 19th September 1906] has a very attractive memorial in Great Shelford churchyard, with a carved angel standing 7 or 8 feet high with a bowed head. I attended the school next door in the 1970s, and it was rumoured that if you looked into the angel's face its eyes flashed. It was a common to dare somebody to go "over the wall" into the churchyard and look at the angel's face ... but hardly anyone ever had the courage to do so.
Thank you for telling us about Albert's memorial, Jeremy. Following up your lead I discovered a photograph here. There has been so much written, even quite recently, about the cause of the accident, and I've felt that the victims' stories have become overlooked. So thank you for getting in touch about this most personal connection with the Grantham accident of 1906.