1842: A forensic Inquest into Haywards Heath's first rail accident ...

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Sussex Advertiser - Tuesday 13 December 1842



Dr. Carpue, whose servants it will be remembered were killed, and who was himself much injured by the accident which occurred in October, 1841, near Hayward's Heath, had brought an action for damages against the Company, and the case was tried on Thursday last, in the Court of Queen's Bench, before Lord Denman and a special jury.

The Court of Queen's Bench

The Attorney-General, Mr. Hayes, and Mr. Wakeford Attree, appeared for the plaintiff; and the Solicitor-General, Mr. Thesiger, and Mr. Swann for the defendants.

Mr. Attree opened the pleadings. This was an action to recover from the defendants compensation for an injury inflicted on the plaintiff through the negligence of their servants. The defendants pleaded not guilty by statute, and they traversed the want of care and skill imputed by the declaration.

The Attorney-General having stated the facts of the case to the jury, the following evidence was called:

Baron Lionel de Rothschild: I was a passenger the train on the 2nd of October, 1841. I do not remember the hour of leaving London. I know the spot, called the Copyhold cutting, where the overthrow took place. Just before then we were going very fast. The train stopped suddenly. The carriage in which I was seated was nearly the last. The shock there was not very great. When the train stopped I got out and walked to the fore part of the train. I then saw the persons who had been injured. I saw the two servants under the wheels, and Mr. Carpue between the two wheels. I assisted in picking him up. I was before then personally acquainted with him. One of the carriages was thrown on the bank. There were two engines fastened in front; one was nearly broken to pieces. I did not notice the engines much. Two of the men were on the engines. I saw Mr. Carpue picked up. I do not think he recognised me.

Cross-examined: I had travelled on this railroad a few days before. I do not know how long it had been opened to this spot. [It was stated that it opened in July]. Mr. Carpue was, I believe, one of the second class carriages. They are open carriages. He said that it was a satisfaction to him to have been in the same carriage with them. He made that observation afterwards. I do not know how near the carriage was to the engine. He was under the carriage, but it was not resting on him. I do not remember when I went down on the former occasion whether we had two engines. This was a long train. I had been in one of the first carriages, and not liking to be so near the engine, asked to be put into another carriage. I was told that that could not be, unless a fresh carriage was put on. Some time afterwards a fresh carriage was put on, and I was told I might go into it, which I did. I have known the plaintiff some time. I think that he is about 60 years of age.

Re-examined: I do not think that there was any tender between the engine and the carriage.

Mr. Seymour Hatham: I am an insurance broker. I was in the same carriage with Baron Rothschild. We were going pretty fast just before the accident. After the accident I noticed both the engines were broken. One on the left and the other on the right side. first saw Mr. Carpue when he was taken away. He appeared very ill. I had travelled on railways almost every week.

Cross-examined: I cannot form a good notion of the speed. I noticed to Baron Rothschild that there was ab undulating motion like that which I had observed on the Birmingham railroad just before an accident happened. I think it was minutes before the accident happened, about two or three, or perhaps four miles, I cannot tell the time exactly, for after making the observation I dropped into a dose. I did not anticipate any serious accident, else I would not have gone on the rail, nor gone to sleep perhaps. I had not before been on the line. I had seen Mr. Carpue at Baron Rothschild's countinghouse. When I saw plaintiff in the carriage he was reclining. I think I said " I hope you are not severely hurt." He bowed to me, but when I spoke to him sometime afterwards he did not recollect my having spoken to him.

Re-examined: I have travelled faster on the Great Western Railway. I think we were going at the rate of thirty miles an hour. The concussion was very severe. A man's head opposite me pitched into my face, and my nose bled very much, and I had a black eye for some days.

Professor Peter Barlow: I am first master at Woolwich in the mathematical department. I have been much employed by the government respecting railways since 1836. I was then appointed one of the commissioners on the Irish railroads. I have since then been employed by the Lords of the Treasury and the Board of Trade, I have had occasion to make reports to the government respecting railways. I was sent by the government to go to this railway. I went on the 5th of October. I made my inspection on the Friday after the accident. I went to the spot pointed out to me as the spot where the accident occurred.

Mr. Thesiger objected that this was not evidence. The spot must be identified.

Lord Denman agreed with the objection.

The witness continued: The spot examined looked like a spot where an accident had happened ; a part of the phlange of a rail was cut by the phlange of the wheel, and there were many bent rails lying about.

The Attorney-General: By what was that occasioned ?

Thesiger objected: Such speculative questions were not to be put to any witness, however scientific.

Lord Denman: He finds things such as you had left them, and he finds certain appearances. I think he may state his opinion how they were occasioned.

The witness continued: The appearances were obviously the result of great violence. I could not tell from the appearances whether they were occasioned a speed of twenty miles an hour; from my experience I believe that in no other way but by great violence could the phlange have been cut. I saw the two drivers. I was told by Rastrick that they were so.

It was objected that without better identifying these persons the witness could not say any thing about them. The objection was held.

Witness continued: The soil in the spot which I examined was very bad. The place is about 36 miles from London. It is in a descent from London. The lines ascend six miles from Horley, and then a descent for six miles towards Hayward’s heath station. The rails were very strong rails. They were about the heaviest used. There were men at work upon the drains.

Cross-examined: I have not much practical knowledge, so far making lines of railroads. I have gone over some thousands of miles of railways. I have not taken gradients in person. Surveyors are employed for that. It is a necessary care to keep the drains open. I was on the line before I went to inspect it; not with the directors, but by the next public train afterwards. I observed by the side of the cut that what ought to be water flowing down by the side was a thick mixture of sand and mud and water. The upper soil at the place of the accident was not sandstone. I think it would have required a very great power to produce the effect I saw on the rails, I should imagine that it was the first engine which produced the mischief.

Re-examined: At the place where the accident happened there is a deep cutting.

By juror: The sleepers were on the proper sand ballast, and not on the wet soil.

By the Chief Justice: It was the sub-soil which had given way. could only judge of the nature of the sub-soil from the opening of the drains, and from the stuff I saw running in them.

Mr. W. Lucas: I am a brewer. I was in the train on the occasion in question. Just before the accident happened I thought the speed was great, and observed that there was an oscillating motion. I drew up the window after the accident. I got out and observed the soil the cutting. It was a sandy soil. It is about a mile and a half on this side of the Hayward heath station. I observed the sides of the cutting. There was much wet at the sides. The road was wet two or three inches deep. I could not tell whether the water was running or standing water. The train went faster than usual just before the accident.

Cross-examined: The day before (Friday the 1st of October) had been very wet. The rain lay on the sides of the road very much. The carriage I was in was at some distance from the engine. My wife had just observed that it was not pleasant.

Lieutenant-General Sir T. Smith: I was Inspector-General of Railroads. On level lines and on ascending gradients I see no danger in having two engines, if both are a head. If a train required more than one engine two might be placed in front, but it would be preferable to divide the train, and start them one after the other, with an interval of fifteen minutes. I inspected the line before the opening, and, generally speaking, thought the line in good order. I did not examine the soil under the ballast at this part of the road, but I inclined to think that it was sand rock.

Cross-examined: My inspection was official. I went over the whole line attentively and carefully. I thought in many respects that the line had been admirably done. A line newly opened requires much more care than an old one in its use. I call a new line one that has been open six weeks or two months, but sometimes it may be considered for a much longer time; that depends on the soil. The ballast here was light. I think it was lying on sand rock. I think that the ballast on which the sleepers were lying was sand rock. I do not think two engines with one train a safe practice. The trains had better be divided. Fifteen minutes between each would make them safe even at night. In case of accident to one, a guard could be sent back to stop the coming train. Two engines are frequently put on, sometimes three, and sometimes four. It has been very much the practice on all railroads to put on two or more engines; but on some, as the Birmingham and Gloucester, they take off one of the engines on descending gradient. Shutting out the steam from the back engine would be less dangerous than allowing the two to run on together. Shutting it off from the first engine would be dangerous. The gradients on the Birmingham and Gloucester are more severe than on the Brighton.

Re-examined: The ruling gradient in the Brighton is 1 in 264. The Great Western is a flat line, with the exception of the Box tunnel. You may see higher velocities on a flat line than on another with greater safety. I have gone sixty miles an hour on the Great Western. In my report to Lord Ripon, I said that I had specially called the attention of the company to that point, but I now inclined to think that that was erroneous.

By Lord Denman: What was seen the drain might or might not be a test of the sub soil.

Mr. Attree: I a surgeon practising at Brighton. I know the plaintiff. On the 2nd of October, I was called to attend the plaintiff. At first I was apprehensive of great danger; his countenance was blanched, his lips livid, and his pulse intermitting. There was much compression of the body, the chest chiefly, and I was fearful of internal haemorrhage. He was suffering dreadful pain, He was extremely anxious to make Mrs. Carpue and his daughters believe that he was not hurt, but the effort was dreadful. I treated him as I should do a person with a fractured limb. He was incapable of motion for eight or ten days. For the first four or five days I saw him four or five times a-day. I then considered him in a great state of danger. He did not begin to get better till ten days afterwards. He was still, however, in a bad state. When he left Brighton he was not cured. Up to the time of the accident he was quite capable of practising as a surgeon. He is not as capable now. I should not call him in myself. That on account of the effects of the accident. I do not think he is ever likely to follow his profession again.

Cross-examined: He is about seventy-two years of age. I understood that up to that time he was practising. He practised as consulting surgeon. The injury he suffered was internal. It is impossible to say what. I feared the heart or the lungs were injured. No other person attended him. I do not know whether he was then a surgeon of any of the hospitals. He was confined to his bed for a fortnight. He stayed six weeks at Brighton.

Re-examined: The effect of the accident has been to shake the whole nervous system. He is incapable of attending his profession.

By the Judge: The heart, the lungs, and the viscera are not injured. The injury might arise from fright. The consequence will not pass away.

Mr Simpson: I am a surgeon, residing in Bedford-street, Bedford-square. I have known the plaintiff for twenty-two years. I have seen him since his return from Brighton. When I first saw him he was much affected. He was not in a state to do more than sit in the parlour in a large chair, and I think he ought to have been in bed. I should be very sorry to call him in now. Before the accident he was in a state to continue his practice; since the accident he has sent me patients to perform operations on which he thought he was not in a state to perform himself.

Cross-examined: I have seen him repeatedly in the interval between his return and yesterday. Up to the time of the accident he was practising as a surgeon.

Lord Denman: He had received very severe contusions.

Mr John Beaufort: I know the plaintiff. I had attended his family. It was on my advice that his family went to Brighton. He was an active man before the accident; his nerves are now shattered, and he is incapable of performing any medical operation. At his time of life I do not expect him to recover.

The Solicitor-General then addressed the Court for the defendants. He contended that it was altogether an erroneous opinion to suppose that no accident of this kind could happen without negligence on the part of the company. On the best possibly regulated railways accidents would happen, and he purposed to show that every possible care and precaution had been taken, that the railway had not been opened until after it had been surveyed by a Government officer, and reported of most favourably by him, and that the engine drivers were sober, and possessed carefulness and skill. The following witnesses were then called :—

Thomas Kitchen: I am a guard in the service of the defendants. I was a guard on duty at the time of this accident. The train was a first class train. There were 12 carriages from Horley. We had two engines; the first a four-wheel, the second a six-wheel engine. The drivers were Goldsmith and Jackson. The four-wheel engine had most steam on when we entered the cutting. l am not sure whether the six-wheel engine had any steam on then. The train was then going at from 23 to 25 miles an hour. The drivers were perfectly sober. I was hurt by the accident. I have been in the service four years and a half guard of a railway train. I have been in the service of the Great Western, and in the Northern and Eastern Railway Companies.

Cross-examined: There were upwards of twelve carriages. The head guard at the station takes the account of the carriages. I am not the head guard. On getting to Horley we left the engine that had brought us thither, and took two fresh ones; When we arrived at the top of the gradient we did not take off one of the engines. We had no order to do so. Mr. Carpue was in a carriage called a composite, which was the next to the engine. The ladies were in a third carriage. The first class carriages were behind the composite, and then a horse box. The luggage was on the top of the carriages. We had no luggage truck. At the time of the accident occurring I was taken insensible, and heard nothing said by any one as to the cause of the accident.

Re-examined: I was laid up from the 2nd of October till May, before I could take any regular duty. I was standing the farther end of the composite carriage. Policemen and plate layers are the road for the purpose of giving notice of danger. I did not observe any signal from any body. There was more steam on the first engine than the second. I think there was very little, if any, on the other.

Arthur George Arthur: I was the under guard. I was on the last carriage when the accident occurred. A short time before the accident I felt the speed decreased. I stood prepared to apply break. I saw no signal. I found the speed decreased when we were about half a mile from the place of the accident. At the distance I was I could not distinguish one engine from another. I felt a jerk, not sufficient to do any injury, and then the two engines went off the rail. I am quite sure that half mile from the place of the accident I had observed the speed of the train to decease. The carriages were going at about twenty two miles an hour.

Cross-examined: I do not know that we were late. We had not used more than the ordinary velocity to make up for the lateness. We were about eleven miles from Horley at the time of the accident. We had not in any part of the road exceeded the speed of twenty-eight miles hour. Four persons were killed. I do not know how many were seriously injured.

Re-examined: I have been on the railway ever since it opened. The train was not at the time going quicker than ordinary.

James Copley: I was in the service of the defendants on the day in question. My duty is to look after the men, and keep the roads clear. My station was in the Copyhold cutting. It was my duty to make signals. I hold my right hand out in a straight line from my body, if all is right, or hold it upright, if they are to slacken. There had been a good deal of wet three or four days before. I had held my hand upright to each train for three or four days before on this part of the line. I did the same then. On that day the trains were travelling at the same rate as before. That was in consequence of the wet. The six-wheel engine put all its steam off; and I think the four-wheel engine slackened the steam. I was not aware of the accident; it occurred after the train had passed me. I am not now in the service of the defendants. I left them in the latter end of last June. The soil of the cutting is clay and sand rock. The sleepers are laid on the sand rock.

Cross-examined: I was then a labouring man. I was employed with others in getting sand rock. There had been a great deal of wet. We cleared the cryp as soon as we could. We had been at that three or four days. The rain had got down the cryp. We had had very heavy rain on the Friday morning. The rain might have got among the sleepers, that would make the road less firm ; that was what we were guarding against. On the Friday and Saturday we were endeavouring to get the wet away. I had ten men working. No mischief had been done to the road.

Mr. John Hardy, M.P. for Bradford: I was a passenger by this train on Saturday, the 2nd of October. I was in the close part of the composite carriage, that from which the servants were killed. I was nearer the engine than they. They were in the hind part of the carriage. I was sitting with my back towards the engine, on the centre seat. The first thing I observed was a great shock, and then I heard a dreadful screaming, and the carriage was thrown across the road, and part up the hill. I had been grumbling all the way about our arriving at Brighton at the time stated. Just before the accident I was still complaining. That was the eleventh time within six weeks of my going on that line. I have been much used to travelling on railways. We were going at from 23 to 25 miles an hour. My son-in-law, Mr. Wood, was with me.

Cross-examined: They were rather behind time, eight or ten minutes. I do not know that I had made complaints to the servants of the company. I had been grumbling all the way to my son-in-law and my fellow passengers. The carriage in the centre was like a gentleman's carriage. The two outsides were open. Mr. Carpue and his two servants were in the outside part, farther from the engine than I was. There would have been less danger if there had been two or three trucks between the engine and me. I think that carriage trucks should be in the front of the passengers' carriages. I endeavoured to effect that purpose by act of Parliament, as you (Sir F. Pollock) know. If there had been this done no lives would have been lost.

Re-examined: I do not think that the speed had increased. It is difficult to make distinction between twenty-three and twenty-six miles hour. There was great difference of opinion on my proposition about the trucks.

Mr. John Wood: I am son-in-law of last witness. I was a fellow traveller with him on this occasion. I consider that the carriages were not going unusually quick just before the accident happened. Mr. Hardy had made the remark just before that we were going slowly, and should be behind time. I think there had been a diminution of speed. I have travelled a great deal by railways. I should suppose we were going at about twenty-five miles an hour.

Charles Goldsmith: I was in the service of the company. I was engine driver. I had been in the service six or seven months. I had been in the service of the Birmingham and Southampton companies. I am still in the service of defendants. I was employed as driver on this day. I joined the train at Horley. I drove the first engine. Jackson drove the other. We travelled from 23 to 25 miles an hour. I cannot say exactly for a mile or two. We were not travelling any improper speed. Jackson shut off the steam just before the accident That was about a mile and a quarter from the place of the accident. I shut off the greater part of the steam from the first engine. I had not gone over that part of the railway the same day nor the day before. I know Copley. I observed him on that day. I saw the signal he made. I did not slacken my speed more on seeing the signal than what had done before. The train was then going at a less rate than before. I was very much hurt. My engine was the first off the rail. I was insensible. I was ill for some time afterwards.

Cross examined: For about five weeks. I first went out in about three weeks after the accident. I had been for six seven months in the service of the railway. I was first engaged as fireman, to put coke on the fire. I had not been a driver more than about a month or five weeks. As a fireman I received 24s a week. As driver I got two guineas. It was not less than a month, but more than a month, that I had been a driver. I think we had not been going at more than 30 miles hour before accident. I have said that we were going 30 miles hour, but not above thirty. That was correct. I had slackened speed about two miles before the accident. The place of the accident is about five miles from the place where the gradient begins. I had only been coming down the gradient at 30 miles. I mean that we were not coming down at all at the rate of 30 miles. We could not get up our speed in two miles. We went up to the top of the ascent at 20 miles an hour. We had been going at 30 miles hour for two miles. When I saw the signal to slacken I did not slacken any the more. We were not going at 25 miles an hour. At the time of the accident it was under 24 miles. I cannot tell to a mile or two. A little before the accident I perceived rocking. As soon as I felt it it was over. I am not an ordinary driver of a passengers’ train. I never was so. This was a pilot engine. I have never changed my situation since the accident. I was 22 last May. I became a fireman on the Birmingham line about four years ago. Since the accident I have driven the engine of the ballast train. Perhaps for eight months. During that time I was not employed on the passengers' train. I do not consider that a change. I got the same wages. This is not the only accident that has happened to me.

Re-examined: The other accident was the Croydon railway running info the ballast engine. That was investigated before the justices. The cause of the accident was that a signal light was misplaced. When I first went on the railway I was employed in the engine shops. A fireman is the assistant of the driver. He is always on the engine. I was sent from the Brighton Railway to assist in getting away the land of the slip on the Croydon Railway, because they wanted men there. That was why I was put on the ballast train.

Mr William Needham: I am a builder. I saw the train on the day in question; I saw it as it passed the viaduct before reached the Copyhold-cutting. It was travelling at about twenty-five miles hour: it was not travelling unusually quick.

Cross-examined: I was about one-third of mile from the viaduct; I had a full view of the train for about a mile and a half as it went along.

James Jackson: I was a driver in the service of the Brighton Railway Company. I was an engine-driver. I had been employed on other roads. On this day I joined the train at Horley. I drove the six-wheel engine. I shut off the whole of the steam about mile and half before the accident happened, and I had very little on before. I had lessened the quantity of steam on the top of the incline. After I had shut my steam off the work was done by the pilot engine entirely. That was driven by Goldsmith. The greatest speed at the time of the accident happened was 22 or 23 miles an hour.

Cross-examined: I have been driver about five years.

Mr. Statham: I am resident engineer of the Brighton company. It is part of my duty to in constant attendance to see that every thing is going on rightly. The descent here is twenty feet a mile, or what is called 1 in 264. That is not a severe gradient. There is no greater gradient till you come Croydon, where there is at one point a gradient of 1 in a hundred. We come up from Horley, then make this descent, and then ascend again. I have been ten years on a railway, There is no danger in coming down a descent of 1 in 264, at 25 miles an hour. On the Grand Junction Railway they go faster. On the morning of Saturday, the 2nd of October, I drove up with Jackson.

I saw by the engine the state of the road; it was in good order. I cannot conceive such a thing as raising the sleepers by wet. I had known this cutting. The soil is principally rock; the bottom is all rock. There is a clay above the rock. Two feet are excavated. The rails and sleepers are put on the solid rock. Broken rock put with the clay for the purposes of drainage. I observed the place on the morning after the accident. The rails were damaged by the engine getting off the road; the drains were in perfect order. No damage was done to the rails by the wet. I heard of the accident on the same day, and was on the spot four hours afterwards, but it was too dark for me to see anything then.

Cross examined: An engine had got off the road the day before, on the new part which had been opened but a few days. I was there about half an hour after it got off. I cannot say positively what that accident was owing to. It was in the tunnel. They were ballasting in the tunnel, and stones were lying about. I suppose that they must have left a stone on the rails and that turned the carriage off. They were ballasting the Saturday. On the Saturday morning I went to London. I returned a few hours after the accident. The railway had been repaired when I got there. Mr. Hall is the district engineer under me. He gave the directions for the repairs. It is my business to appoint and dismiss engine-drivers under the sanction of the directors. I recommended Goldsmith. I do not know his age. I do not know that he stated himself this day to be one year older than he is.

Re-examined: We lent him to the Croydon Railway, we had too many drivers. He is a very steady driver. I recommended him on account of his good character and skill. I do not know how to train a driver except by bringing him up as a fireman. The road was put into order and used directly after the accident, and is used now.

Mr. Matthew Hall: l am assistant-engineer. I saw the accident ; I was in the cutting at the time ; I was going through inspecting the works; I had examined the state of the road that morning; I found it in good order; there had not been any raising of the rails; the rails were afterwards injured by the engine coming off the rail; I ordered the rails to be put in order; that was done immediately.

Cross-examined: No other damage was done to the road ; the wrecks were all cleared away in about three hours; we set to work repairing the road about four o'clock, and finished it in about an hour and a half; perhaps a dozen men were at work. I think there were four bent rails taken; they were bent, I do not know how, for they were injured; they must have had great force to injure them in that way; the work was over about five o'clock; if there were people working during the night, it must have been for other things besides repairing the rails; men were put in the cutting during the night; they were put there to watch. I acted in conjunction with Mr. Maude; he was a district resident engineer. Some men were there at 8 o'clock when I left; they were there for curiosity; there had been men employed in clearing the drains, but whether more or less than before I do not know.

The Attorney-General having replied, the Learned Judge summed up, and the Jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff - Damages - £250.