With acknowledgement to R Benton (May 2014)
A fatality occurred in 1841 at one of the gravity worked inclines on the Crich Mineral Railway. Contemporary newspapers agree that it happened on a Wednesday but they appear to differ as to the precise date. Most of them state that it occurred in April 1841, but the publication “The Crich Mineral Railways” by Dowie tells us that it took place on the actual opening day in March of that year.
The accident was covered by several newspapers of the day. Here is one of the more detailed and graphic reports -
DERBY MERCURY WEDNESDAY 14 APRIL 1841
ACCIDENT AT CRICH RAILWAY
On Wednesday last, an unfortunate and fatal accident occurred at the Crich Railway (connecting Mr. Stephenson’s lime works with the North Midland line), by which one of the men was deprived of life, and another sustained some injury, while one happily escaped. The accident happened thus - The inclined planes are so constructed that the descending train draws the ascending one up by means of a rope. In opening out of one of the inclines three men were by way of caution placed upon the waggons to manage the breaks, where one only is intended; the ascending train took the wrong line at the meetings, and one of the breaksmen seeing the waggons were about to meet, became alarmed and leaped off, pulling another with him, who fortunately escaped with only a few bruises, but the one who jumped off had his thigh so severely crushed, that he died in about four hours and a half after. Had the man remained on the train no incident would in all probability have happened, as the breaks might have been put on, and there would have been sufficient time to have stopped the waggons before the collision took place. Mr. Campbell, the foreman of the works, was the breaksman alluded to as having been pulled off. The other breaksman did not receive the slightest injury. The name of the sufferer is William Else. Mr. Stephenson* himself witnessed the accident, and with his usual promptitude and benevolence dispatched a messenger for medical assistance, and remained constantly with the man until his death, which took place four hours and a half after the incident. Mr. Mackarsie, surgeon, of Ashover, promptly attended and found that the waggons had passed over the sufferer’s leg and thigh, causing the knee joint to be laid open, the thigh fractured, and the muscles torn from the bone, part of the abdominal muscles being laid bare. Stimuli were freely given, but re-action could not be affected, and the man gradually sank. On the following day an inquest was held on the body of the deceased before Mr. Whiston, Jun. Coroner, when the facts before stated were proved, and there not appearing any blame whatever to any person except the deceased, the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.”
*It is not made clear here if this was George Stephenson, or his son, Robert. If the accident did indeed occur on the opening day, it is possible that either or both of them witnessed this terrible accident.
(George Stephenson was born at Wylam on 9 June 1781 and died at Tapton House, Chesterfield, on 12 August 1848. Robert Stephenson was born at Willington Quay near North Shields on 16 October 1803. He died in London on 12 October 1859.)
The quarry and the associated narrow gauge railway suffered further incidents from time to time, some of which appear below
DERBYSHIRE TIMES AND CHESTERFIELD HERALD – SATURDAY 24 JULY 1858
Crich – On the night of Monday, the 13th instant, between the hours of 10 and 12, at intervals, a most extraordinary noise, like that of distant thunder, which literally appeared to shake the earth for a considerable distance, was heard and felt in this neighbourhood; when it was ascertained from whence it proceeded immense crowds thronged to the place. The Clay Cross Company’s limestone works was situated at the base of the large mountain called the Cliff; where it was discovered that a fissure had been rent in the face of the quarry and from 10 to 12,000 tons of limestone sent shivering down in all directions. There is an immense peak separated by the fissure from the face of the rock; it stands in a very tottering and precarious position. Had the labourers employed by the company been at work, the probability is, they would have sustained loss of life or limb.
A grand social occasion referred to as a “GRAND RURAL AND MUSICAL FETE” took place at Crich Cliff on 22nd August 1859 special trains were arranged to bring attendees to the event. It must have been an arduous walk up the hill from Whatstandwell Bridge Station.
DERBY MERCURY – WEDNESDAY 17 AUGUST 1859 –
GRAND RURAL AND MUSICAL FETE, AT CRICH CLIFF
On MONDAY, August 22, a SPECIAL TRAIN will leave DERBY, DUFFIELD, and BELPER for WHATSTANDWELL .[BRIDGE]
Fares there and back and Times of Starting :-
Stations a.m. Covered carriages
Derby .. .. .. 9.30) 1s. 0d.
Duffield .. .. .. 9.45) 1s. 0d.
Belper .. .. .. 9.52 8d.
Children under Three years of age, free; above three and under twelve, half fares. The tickets are not transferable.
The Special Train will leave Whatstandwell in returning at 8.30 p.m. the same day, and the tickets will be available for return by this train only. For particulars of Musical Fete see bills. W.L. NEWCOMBE, General Manager, Derby August 1859.
On the same day the DERBY MERCURY also publicised details of the actual event –
“ON MONDAY August 22. For which occasion the SUTTON-IN-ASHFIELD BRASS BAND, and Celebrated GLEE-SINGERS are engaged; also, the CHESTERFIELD and BRAMPTON BRASS BAND, the DRUM and FIFE BAND of the FIRST DERBY MILITIA, and Mr. REDGATES NOTTINGHAM QUADRILLE BAND.
Tickets of admission to the ground 6d. each”
On Wednesday 24 August 1859 a report in the same newspaper appeared after the event –
RURAL FETE ON CRICH CLIFF
A rural fete was held on Crich Cliff on Monday last, and we are glad to say was well patronised, upwards of 5,000 people being present. The place selected was the far-famed cliff known as the highest point in the southern division of the Peak range, situated at an altitude of 955 feet above the sea level, and affording a view of the surrounding country both grand and extensive. Though the day was remarkably fine, yet, on account of the heat, a haze pervaded the atmosphere, and limited the extent of the view. Notwithstanding this, however, now and then a glimpse of distant objects was obtained; while nearer points, such as Hardwick hall, Bolsover Castle, Clay Cross, Alferton, Codnor Park Monument, the hills around Belper, Wirksworth, the home of Florence Nightingale, Dethick, Tansley, Winfield Manor, &c, could be very distinctly observed. The gentry and tradespeople of the district cordially sympathised with the promoters of the fete, and upon the ground we noticed, amongst others, F. Hurt, Esq., and family, P Habbersty, Esq., E.Wass Esq., W.E. Nightingale Esq., M. Jessop., Esq, J. Outram, Esq.
The proceeds realised from parties paying for ascending the stand will be handed over for the benefit of the poor of the parish of Crich, and we have little doubt but that a handsome sum will thus be realized. The gentlemen, whom we must individually notice as responsible for the fete in question, are Mr. R.W. Smith and Mr. J.W. Lee to whom every credit is due for the very excellent manner in which the affair was managed. Great pains had been taken by them that everything connected with the fete should be done to the general satisfaction, and we feel bound to say that, as far as they are concerned, they did their duty.
A number of excellent bands were specially engaged for the day. The Chesterfield and Brampton Brass Band ably performed a variety of musical selections, such as polkas, quadrilles, waltzes, gallops, and operatic pieces, and a feeling of general pleasure was evinced at the excellence of the performance. The celebrated Sutton in Ashfield Brass Band and Glee Singers, under the conductorship of Mr. Scott, gave the utmost satisfaction by an excellent performance of quadrilles, waltzes, polkas, Swiss airs with variations and obligatos, operatic selections, and country dances, and contributed very materially to the general amusement of all parties. Nor must we by any means forget to mention the exhilarating strains of the Quadrille Band of Mr. Redgate, from Nottingham, and the Drum and Fife Band of the First Derbyshire Militia, under the conductorship of Corporal Thrutchley, both of which contributed very much to the general pleasure of the public. Neither must we omit to notice the performance of the glees of the Sutton Singers, for as soon as it was known that their performance was to take place a general rush was made to hear them, nor everyone was well pleased with the manner in which they performed their part. The comic glee, “Old Woman, will you go a shearing” took amazingly, and “The Stammerers,” by Dr. Harrington, was received with vehement applause. A few comic songs were also given by them with good effect. In short, everything that could be done to increase the amusement of the public was done in a first rate manner, and a variety of games were heartily enjoyed.
Special trains from Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby, and other places, brought in large accessions of visitors, who were set down at Whatstandwell Bridge, an easy and accessible distance from the general rendezvous. The same trains also took back their living cargoes doubtless heartily pleased with the pleasures of the day.
The number of booths for refreshment, &c., were about twenty, all of which were under the management of Mr. R. Smith, of Crich, and the general arrangement of all these were such as to reflect the highest credit upon Mr. Smith and his assistants. Tea and other refreshments in great variety were admirably served out, and at a very reasonable charge. The tea apparatus of the Leicester Temperance Society was put into operation, and in an efficient manner promoted the general comfort. With respect to the police arrangements, which were under the able superintendence of Deputy Chief Constable Mr. W.G. Moran, assisted by Superintendent Burton, of the Matlock district, and a numerous staff of the county constabulary, not a single hitch in the whole proceedings took place, though a number of the light fingered gentry from Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham, and other places were present. Such, however, found the place too warm for them, and thought it prudent to make their exit.
Mr. Smith deserves a warm commendation for his enterprise and management, and the public will no doubt thank him for another opportunity of joining in a rural fete at Crich Cliff.
DERBYSHIRE TIMES AND CHESTERFIELD HERALD – SATURDAY 10 OCTOBER 1868
MELANCHOLY AND FATAL ACCIDENT –
On Tuesday an inquest was held on the body of a married man, named Richard Frost, who met with his death on Monday, whilst engaged at one of the Clay Cross Company’s limestone quarries, underneath Crich Cliff. An immense block of stone, which overhung the cliff where a number of men were working, gave way and fell upon Frost, hurling him headlong to the bottom of the quarry. He received most severe injuries, his legs being broken, and his head and body frightfully mutilated, and he shortly afterwards died. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.”
DERBY MERCURY – Wednesday 4 February 1880
ACCIDENT AT CRICH QUARRIES
On Saturday a youth named George Bollington, aged 16, was admitted to the Derby Infirmary, suffering from a crushed ankle and broken thigh of the left leg. It appears that he was riding upon a waggon on the incline of Crich quarries when he jumped off, and got crushed between a piece of rock and the waggon.
DERBYSHIRE TIMES AND CHESTERFIELD HERALD – 8 July 1882
GREAT LANDSLIP ON CRICH CLIFF
(From our own correspondent). On Thursday afternoon last, Crich was in a great state of excitement, owing to a large portion of the cliff giving way, which has been worked extensively by the Clay Cross Company for many years. Cliff Wood House, the residence of Mrs Luke Alsop, with a great portion of her valuable furniture, together with three cottages became a total wreck. As the slip became so rapid, Mrs Alsop was able to remove only a small portion of her furniture. Fortunately no lives were lost. The turnpike road from Crich to Cromford is diverted in consequence, and the land is still on the move, being thronged with visitors anxious to get a view of the wonderful sight.
Another account says :- The alarm was given to Mrs Alsop, who resided in a house on the side of the cliff. The inmates made their escape, and Mrs Alsop went for her brother, Mr Stone, solicitor, of Wirksworth. He was soon at the place, and began to take inventory of the goods, but quickly had to make good his escape, and stand at a distance to see the house carried quite across the road and completely overturned. The other houses a little further along the road, and on the opposite side, were completely wrecked in a little while, and about seven o’clock the walls of another gave way and the roof fell in. Fortunately everyone had time to escape. The turnpike road was lifted out of its place, and carried several yards into the adjoining fields. The quarry made a way for the traffic through the meadows. It is supposed that hundreds of thousands of tons have fallen. Crowds of people soon made for the scene.
NOTE There were subsequent investigations carried out regarding this landslip resulting in further press reports. A full account of this incident has been given in the Tramway Museum Society Journal Vol.46, No.198, April 2007.
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE GUARDIAN – FRIDAY MARCH 16 1883
FATAL QUARRY ACCIDENT AT CRICH
Mr W.H. Whiston, coroner, held an inquest at Crich on Thursday evening touching the death of Anthony Bowmer, a lad, 14 years of age, who was killed whilst working in Crich Quarry on Wednesday. It appeared that the lad and his brother and father were working together. The two sons were standing on a stone drilling a hole, when the stone on which they were standing, and which weighed about two tons, slipped down a few yards. The brothers jumped off, but the deceased was carried down with it, and by some means got under it. He was found lying on his stomach, with the stone resting upon his shoulders and body, and when the stone was removed he was quite dead. A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned.
DERBY DAILY TELEGRAPH – 15 JUNE 1885
On Friday, as a man named Thomas Bowmer was ramming a shot at the Cliff Quarry, Crich, it exploded, and caused serious injury to Bowmer. He raised his right arm to protect his face, and a hole was blown through his arm. He was conveyed to his home and was attended by Dr. Dunn. On Saturday his condition was regarded as critical.
DERBYSHIRE TIMES – WEDNESDAY 31 MAY 1890
ACCIDENT AT CRICH QUARRY
John Piggin was at work at the Cliff Quarry, Crich, which belongs to the Clay Cross Company, on Saturday morning, when in the course of his duty he had to climb the face of the rock. He had reached a distance of about 30 feet when he slipped and fell on the rocks below. The injured man was removed home, where he received the attention of Dr Macdonald, of Crich. It was found that he was suffering from a compound fracture of the right forearm, and there were cuts and bruises about the head and body.
DERBY DAILY TELEGRAPH – FRIDAY 14 JULY 1893
FRIGHTFUL DEATH OF A CRICH QUARRYMAN
Whilst at work at the limestone quarries of the Clay Cross Company, at Crich, on Tuesday, Eli Baines, aged 27 years, a wagoner, met with a frightful death. He was riding on the first of eight wagons laden with stone, which were going to the kilns at Ambergate by the railway laid for the purpose. When about to enter what is known as the Tors Tunnel he jumped off, and began to whip the horses. A boy was driving, and Barnes’s duty was to attend to the brakes. Suddenly the lad heard a noise, and, looking round, saw Barnes was lying on one of the rails, and the trucks passing over his body. In all six trucks ran over the unfortunate man, each being laden with three tons of stone. His legs, arms, neck, and back were broken, the hands cut off, and the intestines dragged out. In fact, the body was literally smashed to a pulp, and death must have been instantaneous. Miss Ellsworth, a nurse, and Dr. Macdonald were called, and the remains taken to the Rising Sun Inn, Crich, by some workmen. The inquest was held on Wednesday, before Mr. W. Harvey Whiston. Several witnesses gave evidence in accordance with the above facts, and a verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.
DERBYSHIRE TIMES AND CHESTERFIELD HERALD – SATURDAY 8 JANUARY 1898
THE CRICH QUARRY FATALITY
Mr John Close, Coroner for Derby, held an inquest at the Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon, touching the death of a quarryman named Thos. Oliver, who died in Derby Infirmary on Friday evening last. Deceased was 70 years of age, and was employed in the Crich Cliff Quarry. His duties were to carry ammunition to the men employed in the blasting quarters, and he was in the habit of carrying from 6lb to 10lb of explosives in a leather bag, strapped upon his back. Deceased was in the habit of waiting till the engines and waggons came up, and moving the points for the driver. This was not his duty, and he was often warned against doing it. On Friday last, about one o’clock, a man named Joseph Smith was in charge of an engine and six trucks. Smith had uncoupled the engine and sent it along another line. Deceased was just ahead on the line the trucks were on, and putting the points right. He shouted that all was right, and waved his hand. Smith jumped on the third wagon and passed the deceased, but in some way the deceased got under the remaining wagons. Smith could not say how he managed to do it, for there was no one else anywhere near. Deceased told his foreman that he blamed no one, but did not say how the accident happened. The jury returned an open verdict, there being no direct evidence to show how the deceased got under the wheels, and added a rider recommending the use of levers for the points in future.
DERBY DAILY TELEGRAPH – MONDAY 11 APRIL 1910
ACCIDENT THAT COULD NOT HAVE BEEN FORESEEN
At Crich on Saturday an inquest was held on Thomas Colman, 42, quarryman, of Chadwick Nick, Crich, who received fatal injuries while at work in the Cliff Quarries, Crich, the previous day. Mr. A.E. Hewitt, Government inspector of mines and quarries for the district, was present and Mr. Scorah represented the Clay Cross Company, the owners of the quarry. George Wragg, a quarryman, spoke to a shot having been fired, which resulted in a fracture of a piece of rock at the rear of a stone (the) deceased, was attempting to dislodge. It was the fall of the stone at the back of the one he was pulling down that caused the accident, and as it came away it brought the deceased with it. He fell about 18 ft, and one of the dislodged stones rolled on his head. The foreman said they regarded the accident as one which could not have been avoided. A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned.
DERBY DAILY TELEGRAPH 9 NOVEMBER 1934
QUARRY TRAGEDY. CRICH MAN ALMOST BURIED IN A FALL OF STONE
Maurice Heappy (24), of North View, The Common, Crich, suffered fatal injuries while working at the Clay Cross Company’s Cliff Quarry, Crich, yesterday.
He was struck by a fall of stone and almost buried. After being extricated by workmates he was taken to the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary with injuries to the head and both legs. He died at 10.30 p.m.Mr. Heappy, who was single, was the son of Mrs. Heappy and the late Mr. R. Heappy, of Crich.
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