Christmas In Huddersfield

I recently picked up a selection of Huddersfield Christmas cards off eBay, although sadly there’s no information as to whom they were sent to. The cards were all sent to Jessie Louise Pyrah (c.1884-1957) or her parents, and she passed them down to her daughter Elaine A. Potts.

A photograph believed to be of Jessie and her daughter.

As you can see, they were all pre-printed for the sender so there was no need for them to write anything by hand. Tsk tsk, those lazy Victorians and Edwardians, eh!


Christmas Card [2a]

Christmas Card [2b]

Mr and Mrs Thomas Mellor
Christmas Greetings and Best Wishes
for the Coming Year.

Fartown Lodge,
Christmas, 1895.


Christmas Card [3a]

Christmas Card [3b]

hearty Good Wishes
for a
Bright and happy Xmas.

Gertie Swallow.

Grenville House,
Birkby, Huddersfield.
Xmas 1902

This was probably Gertrude Swallow, born circa 1884, the daughter of commercial traveller Joseph Swallow and his wife Louisa. The 1901 Census gives the family living at 110 Birkby Hall Road.


Christmas Card [4a]

Christmas Card [4b]

To wish you a joyous Christmas
and a bright and happy New Year.

May Culley.

Bradford Road,

Christmas, 1902.

May was the teenage daughter of master tailor Emerson Culley of 128 Bradford Road.


Christmas Card [5a]

Christmas Card [5b]

Xmas, 1905

With every turn of Fortune’s busy wheel
some good be-tide you.

May this Christmas
bring you joy and the
New Year
every Happiness
Mr. & Mrs. Sanderson.

Bank House,
Market Place,

This was bank caretaker Richard and Mary A. Sanderson.


Christmas Card [7a]

Christmas Card [7b]

May every breeze be laden with the fragrance of friendship

Hearty Christmas
Greetings &
all Good Wishes for 1908.

Mr. & Mrs. W. P. MacGirr.


This was William Peter MacGirr and his wife Fanny. He was listed in the 1901 Census as a “master wool and cotton dyer” and a “commercial traveller” in the 1911 Census.


Christmas Card [1a]

Christmas Card [1b]

Not the gift, but the giving.

Christmas greetings
and every Good Wish
for your Health
and Happiness throughout
the Coming Year.

E. J. Siddon (Chairman) & Eli Whitwam (Vice-Chairman)

Union Offices,


Christmas Card [6a]

Christmas Card [6b]

If time has tarnished friendship’s chain,
Let memory gild its liknks again.

That you and yours may enjoy years of
Unclouded Happiness
is the Sincere Wish and Christmas Greeting of
Mr. and Mrs. Holroyd.

Brook House,
Kings Mill Lane,

After writing this blog post, I managed to persuade the eBay seller to sell me the remainder of a shoebox full of items that belonged to Jessie and Elaine. I’ll gradually get them scanned and added to Flickr, but the box contains maybe a hundred more Christmas cards!

Huddersfield Corporation Passenger Transport Department Souvenir Brochure (1968)

In the early 1880s, Huddersfield had become the first town to own its own municipal transport system, with a fleet of steam-powered tramcars. By the early 1900s, many of the routes had been converted from steam to electricity and these, in turn, were eventually replaced by electric trolleybuses.

a trolleybus outside Woolworths, New Street (1955)
a trolleybus outside Woolworths, New Street, circa 1955

By the early-1960s, the costs of maintaining the infrastructure of overhead wires and the fleet of trolleybuses were becoming too high. At a lengthy Council meeting in October 1962, a decision was taken to phase out the trolleybuses and replace them with motor buses.1 Over the next few years, the trolleybus fleet was gradually withdrawn.

Huddersfield Corporation were acutely aware that this was the end of an era, and the week beginning 7 July 1968 was publicised as the “Last Trolleybus Week”, with souvenir tickets and brochures produced to mark the occasion.


Exactly 47 years ago today, on the afternoon of Saturday 13 July 1968, the final electric trolleybus services ran.

local dignitaries commemorate the end of an era (© Huddersfield Examiner)
local dignitaries commemorate the end of an era (© Huddersfield Examiner)

Further Reading

  • The Tramways of Huddersfield (1959) by Roy Brook
  • “Passenger Transport in Huddersfield” by Roy Brook in Huddersfield: A Most Handsome Town (1992) edited by E.A.Hilary Haigh

Souvenir Brochure

The following is a transcription of the souvenir brochure published to mark the occasion, which rather optimistically predicted the citizens of Huddersfield might soon be riding around on battery powered public transport…


The County Borough of Huddersfield, in 1879, promoted a Parliamentary Bill for power to construct tramways and the Act was passed in 1880, giving the Corporation such powers.

Construction commenced in 1881 and the track was laid on several routes within the County Borough boundary. During last century it was customary in this country for a Corporation to lay the tram track in its area, but lease the working of the lines to a company. In the case of Huddersfield, difficulty was experienced in persuading companies to lease the working of the laid tracks. Because of this, the Corporation decided to apply for powers to operate the tramways system themselves and these powers were granted under the Huddersfield Improvement Act of 1882. On Thursday, 11th January, 1883, the first tramway route operated by the Corporation was opened from Lockwood, through the town centre, to Fartown, using steam locomotives and trailer cars. Thus Huddersfield became the first County Borough in the country to operate its own Tramways.

Towards the end of the century development in the use of electric power as applied to tramways had progressed so much that the Corporation decided to explore the possibility of converting the steam tramways to electric traction.

It is hoped that this brochure will be useful to those interested as a detailed history of electrified transport in Huddersfield by Tramcars and Trolleybuses.


The extension of the Tramways into outer districts raised the question of additional rolling stock, and the Tramways Committee, following a report prepared in September, 1898, by the Manager, dealing with the suggested electrification of the Lindley and Outlane routes, decided not to purchase any more steam engines and cars, but to give consideration to the proposal to convert the whole system to electric traction.

On the 25th February, 1899, the Corporation adopted this proposal, and the application to the Board of Trade to borrow the sum of £47,780 for the electrification of the system being successful, the work was put in hand at once and completed by 1902.

The contractors for equipping the Outlane and Lindley route were Greenwood and Batley of Leeds, and for the Longwood and Crosland Moor routes, R.W. Blackwell and Co., the remainder being constructed by the Corporation’s own staff.

The first electric car was put into service on the Lindley route on the 14th February, 1901, and on the same date electric cars commenced on the Outlane and the Lindley via Edgerton and Holly Bank Road routes.

The first 25 electric tramcars were built by G. F. Milnes & Company of Hadley. They were the open-top type, seating 24 inside on stuffed longitudinal seats trimmed with crimson velvet, and 29 on the upper deck. All were originally mounted on Brill Maximum Traction Bogies, but as it was found that bogie cars were unsuitable for Huddersfield routes they were converted to four-wheelers by 1910; this change over effected a considerable saving in current consumed.

Opening dates of other routes (by electricity) are as follows:-

Crosland Moor18th February, 1901
Linthwaite and Slaithwaite (Star Hotel)18th February, 1901
Longwood and Paddock25th February, 1901
Waterloo15th May, 1902
Newsome Road15th May, 1902
Fartown via Bradford Road19th May, 1902
Sheepridge21st May, 1902
Birkby10th June, 1902
Almondbury17th June, 1902
Honley17th June, 1902
Bradley (steam discontinued 2nd June)13th July, 1902

The total cost amounted to only £101 more than the total of the accepted tenders, which was £72,458.

The last steam trams in regular service ran to Almond bury and Honley on the 17th June, 1902, but three cars were used on the 21st June, 1902, in connection with traffic to Fartown Sports.

There were now 29½ miles of route (32.63 track miles) open for traffic within the Borough, and an Act of 1900 authorised a further 3½ route miles inside the Borough and 19½ outside.

The foundation stone for a new tram depot and generating station in St. Thomas’s Road, on a site originally intended by the Corporation as a Sanitary Depot, was laid on the 13th February, 1900.

In April, 1901, the Corporation decided to give three months’ trial to the proposal of charging the same fare inside the cars as outside; hitherto, the outside passengers had been allowed to travel at a cheaper rate. Sunday services, as the result of a poll of the ratepayers, were put into operation on the 9th June, 1901, whilst in January, 1902, the pre-printed ticket system was introduced on the electric lines only and later adopted over the entire system.

In 1903 the rolling stock had increased to 70 tramcars by the purchase of 44 new and one second-hand rebuilt from the British Electric Car Co., Ltd.

During 1907 the permanent way was reconstructed from single line to double line on the Lockwood, Moldgreen and Birkby sections, and negotiations were completed with the Linthwaite Urban District Council for the purchase of the Linthwaite tramway track, subject to the Tramways Committee agreeing to relay the track with double lines.


One of the unique features of the Huddersfield tramway service was the carriage of coal in specially designed trucks, the scheme being started in September, 1904, following an agreement made in December, 1902, with Martin, Sons & Co., Ltd., of Wellington Mills, Oakes, to carry all their coal requirements from Hillhouse railway sidings — a distance of three miles from the mills. This method of handling coal, which was carried out for a considerable number of years (being abandoned when the track was removed on the conversion to trolleybus operation) proved very satisfactory. The difference in level between the railway sidings and the street allowed the railway wagons to discharge the coal into chutes from which the coal trucks were easily loaded; the 10 ton capacity of these trucks could be filled in three minutes. The coal was discharged at each side of the truck or from the bottom through hoppers into the boiler houses of the three mills concerned. Approximately ten thousand tons of coal were conveyed annually when this service was in operation.


In 1913, Parliamentary powers were obtained for further extensions of the tramways, including those from the Borough Boundary to West Vale.

The extension was carried out in two stages, Birchencliffe to Elland Town Hall, approximately 1½ miles, which was opened for traffic on the 14th January, 1914, and from Ell and Town Hall to West Vale, another mile, on the 30th May, the same year. The extension to West Vale was the means of linking up with the Halifax Corporation’s transport system.

The Slaithwaite (Star Hotel) to Marsden (Peel Street) extension was inspected by a representative of the Board of Trade on the 1st October, 1914, and was opened for traffic two days later. The distance from Huddersfield town centre to the Marsden terminus at Peel Street is 7·22 miles and the route to Marsden was the longest tram route put into service.

In July, 1914, the Town Council approved the Tramway Committee’s minute, relating to the carriage of dogs in the upper saloon of the trams, provided the dog was carried on the passenger’s knees and payment was made at the full passenger rate.

In 1915, the Corporation introduced Route numbers, when all trams were fitted with opal glass plates on which the route number was shown by metal stencils.

During the 1914-18 war, female labour was engaged on the trams and in the depots for the first time. In all, 211 conductresses and 45 car cleaners were employed. A silver and enamelled brooch was presented to every woman with two or more years’ service. Sixty women were recipients of this souvenir.

In January, 1920, the Corporation successfully promoted a Bill in Parliament empowering them, inter alia, to construct a tramway extension to Brighouse via Rastrick. The Huddersfield Corporation (General Powers) Act of 1920 also authorised Motor Omnibuses on certain specified routes outside the Borough, and also on any other road subject to the consent of the Ministry of Transport and the West Riding County Council, sanction being obtained to operate inside the Borough and taking such reasonable fares and charges for the conveyance of passengers therein as may be approved by the Board of Trade under the Huddersfield Corporation Act of 1913.

The Brighouse tramway extension, three-quarters of a mile of which was laid on sleepers through the fields between Netheroyd Hill Road and Bradley Lane, was opened for traffic on 12th March, 1923. This important extension, which was the last to be constructed by the Corporation, formed a direct connecting link of tramways between Huddersfield and Bradford.

On completion of the Brighouse extension, the route mileage of the tramways was 38½ the track mileage being 62½. The Corporation at this time owned 132 tramcars, and of these, 66, each with a seating capacity of 58, were supplied by G. F. Milnes & Co. and the British Electric Car Company. The remainder of the cars were of the vestibule type — later adopted as standard — seating 62 and 64 passengers, and were built by English Electric Co., Ltd. A large number of the older type cars were converted by the Department’s staff to the standard type. Eight further doubledeck vestibule type tramcars, of up-to-date design, were obtained from the English Electric Co., Ltd. , in 1931. These were the last tramcars purchased and were sold to Sunderland Corporation in 1938.

The fares and stages were on the zone system, being revised on 1st January, 1924, on the basis of 1d. per mile, the stages being arranged numerically at approximately half-a-mile distance. A minimum fare of 1d. entitled the passengers to travel two stages. In the endeavour to compete with increasing motor omnibus traffic operating on the “return fare” system, a 3d. maximum fare was instituted in November, 1927, on the trams between the Town
Centre and any tram terminus.


In 1931 it became apparent that the tramway system, track and most of the rolling stock was approaching the end of its useful life, and would within a few years have to be renewed completely, or replaced by some other form of transport. One of the worst sections of track was that from Wakefield Road to Almondbury, approximately 11 miles in length, and the necessity for an early renewal of this route gave an opportunity to experiment with a service of trolleybuses between Byram Street (near the Town Centre) and the tramway terminus at Almondbury. The tram service on the Almondbury route was gradually abandoned during the early part of 1933, and a temporary service of motorbuses was run via Almondbury Old Bank while Somerset Road was closed to traffic during track removal and highway reconstruction.

The trolleybus service commenced over the newly constructed highway in Somerset Road on the 4th December, 1933. Six doubledeck trolleybuses of four different makes were used so that experience could be obtained as to the best type of vehicle.

After initial “teething troubles” the results on this route were encouraging.

Early in 1933 it became obvious that the tram track to Outlane and Lindley, via Trinity Street and Westbourne Road, needed early attention, and it was found that the Ministry of Transport would not authorise the renewal of a double track tram route unless a clear margin of 9′ on either side of the tram track was available for ordinary road traffic. The existing width of part of Trinity Street made this impossible, and the estimated cost of the dual work of widening Trinity Street and relaying the tram track was so very much in excess of the cost of conversion to trolleybuses that it was finally decided trolleybuses should be introduced on the Lindley, Out1ane and Waterloo routes. Accordingly authority was obtained under the Public Works Facilities Scheme and the trolleybus operation on these routes began on the 11th November, 1934.

24 double-deck trolleybuses with Karrier chassis and both Metro-Vick and English Electric electrical equipment were obtained for these services. Following further experience on the Almondbury, Outlane, Lindley and Waterloo trolleybus routes, the Passenger Transport Committee decided that the rest of the Corporation tram routes should be converted to trolleybus operation, and powers were obtained under the Huddersfield Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Act of 1936 for this purpose.

In order to deal with the building developments and in some cases to find a more suitable turning point, the trolleybus routes were extended for short di stances beyond the old tram termini as follows:—

NewsomeChurch to Newsome, Caldercliffe Road.
Crosland MoorDryclough Road to Crosland Hill Road.
MarsdenPeel Street to Fall Lane.
BrighouseCommercial Street to Bone gate Road.

and an additional route was run from Woodhouse Church down Woodhouse Hill joining the existing routes at Fartown Bar. The conversion of these routes began on the 2nd May, 1937, and completed as follows:—

Trolley BusesMotor Buses
Crosland Hill3rd Oct. 19376th July 1964
Birkby7th Nov. 19376th July 1964
Marsdenl0th April 193831st Jan. 1963
Sheepridge ex-Brackenhall —6-3-4919th June 193814th July 1966
Bradley ex-Keldregate —2-4-5619th June 193813th July 1967
Longwood1st Jan. 193913th July 1967
Lockwood Church12th Jan. 1939*14th July 1966
19th Jan. 1939†
West Vale28th May 19399th Nov. 1961
Brighouse30th June 19409th July 1955
Riddings6th March 194914th July 1966
Fixby30th June 194015th July 1965
Newsome2nd May 193714th July 1966
Almondbury4th Dec. 193315th July 1965
Outlane, Lindley & Waterloo11th Nov. 193413th July 1968
* temporary   † permanently

The tram route to Honley was not converted to trolleybus operation for two reasons:—

  1. The tram terminus at Honley was some little distance from the centre of the township, and the bulk of Hanley traffic was carried by motor omnibuses over the tramway route.
  2. The railway arch at Lockwood viaduct was too low to allow for double-deck trolleybuses, plus the overhead equipment, and the cost of lowering the road beneath that bridge was found to be prohibitive.

Accordingly the trolleybuses on this tram route were terminated at Lockwood Church. The roadway has since been altered allowing normal double-deck vehicles.

In order to relieve congestion along Northgate, Viaduct Street was equipped for trolleybus operation and open for traffic on the 21st January, 1954, and the Bradford Road routes were permanently diverted along that thoroughfare, although the overhead equipment was retained for emergency purposes.

Again to relieve congestion in New Street and John William Street, the powers under the Act of 1936 which authorised a trolleybus diversion from Manchester Road, via Outcote Bank, Manchester Street and Market Street, were exercised in 1947. The incoming vehicles from the Marsden, Crosland Hill and Longwood routes were diverted on the 9th November, 1947.

On the 17th July, 1940, a provisional order (under powers, conveyed in the original Act of 1936) was obtained authorising an extension from Woodhouse Church to Riddings Road and an extension from Ash Brow Road along Bradley Boulevard, these extensions being opened on the 6th March, 1949.

Powers authorising further extensions of the following routes were obtained but not exercised:—

Balmoral AvenueFrom Blackmoorfoot Road.
RiddingsInto new estate at Keldregate.
Black Horse, DaltonFrom Moldgreen via Long Lane.

The depot at Longroyd Bridge, which was formerly used as a tramway generating station taken over by the Electrical Department in 1917, was entirely reconstructed in 1937, and was capable of housing all the 116 trolleybuses owned by the Corporation. An administrative block was built over the Colne River.

On the 9th July, 1955, the Brighouse Trolley Bus Service was discontinued and operated to Fixby (Borough Boundary) only. The West Vale Trolley Bus Service was discontinued on the 8th November, 1961, and the Marsden service was discontinued upon delivery of buses in 1962.

Children of three and under 15 years travel at half the adult fare.

No workmen’s return fares issued.

Free travel on production of passes is granted to blind persons, legless and severely disabled ex-servicemen and to old people of 70 years and over (during certain hours and with resident qualification in the Borough), whilst those between 65 and 70 may travel half-fare under specified conditions.

The conveyance of parcels on vehicles was discontinued on the 30th November, 1953.

The total route mileage operated was 35.968.

It is felt that the foregoing concise history of the development of the electrified operation of tramways and trolleybuses by the Huddersfield Corporation will have been of interest to those who, during the last 67 years, have taken advantage of this form of public transport. It can be said that this marks the end of an era, so far as electrified transport as it is known today is concerned. The tramcar, which in its day fulfilled an extremely useful purpose within the limits of its track. The trolleybus, a silent smooth-running vehicle, but also with limitations according to the overhead system.

It is significant that the end of electrified transport, as described in this brochure, coincides with the Centenary Celebrations of the incorporation of the County Borough of Huddersfield. Another 15 years of operation will have to pass before the Corporation’s public transport system can achieve such a distinction.

What will the next decade bring forth? We live in a world of change where mechanical and electrical developments are taking place with amazing rapidity.

Could it be that in the course of time, developments in electric batteries or fuel cells will once more bring to our towns and cities a form of public transport which is as silent and smooth as the trolleybus but without the limitations of circumscribed distance and mobility.







The 1883 Tramcar Tragedy – Part 3: The Inquest

This is the last in a three part series of blog posts about the tramcar accident of 3 July 1883 which killed seven people. The first part described the accident, the second details those involved, and this final part documents the inquest.

melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)
melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)

To do justice to the full inquest and all the press coverage would fill a small book, so this blog post will just be a (very lengthy!) day-by-day summary of events. However, the original articles are all linked to, so you can delve deeper into the inquest if you want to and a all the articles I found during research can be browsed here.

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t the only tragedy that day which made the newspapers, as the capsizing of the SS Daphne had happened in Glasgow only a few hours before, resulting in the deaths of over 120 people. More locally, 2 children had been trampled to death in Sheffield the day before the tramcar accident and, the day after, near the village of Silkstone, 26 children drowned in the Huskar Pit Disaster.

the Huskar Pit Disaster monument (© Steve Fareham)
the Huskar Pit Disaster monument (© Steve Fareham)

Tuesday 3 July 1883

The Lindley tramcar crash on Railway Street likely happened around 2:55pm.

By around 3:05pm the engine and car had been moved into St. George’s Square and the injured had been carried into nearby premises whilst they were attended to by Dr. Erson, local chemist Mr. Cuthbert and trained first-aider Duke Fox, amongst others. A steady stream of horse-drawn cabs ferried the majority of the passengers involved in crash to the Huddersfield Infirmary.

Due to the crowd of sightseers who perhaps knew nothing of the crash but were drawn to the spectacle of the shattered tramcar standing outside the railway station, it was driven down Northumberland Street to the tram shed on the junction of Lord Street (roughly where the Post Office is located today). By that evening, the engine was placed under a round-the-clock police guard with strict instructions that no-one was to go near the engine “under any pretence”.

Infant Annie Moore was dead by the time she reached the Huddersfield Infirmary, and probably died at the crash site. Her father, Fred Moore, died around 8pm. David Bertenshaw Taylor died about 20 minutes later. Isabella Woodhouse had died around 5pm, a couple of hours after the accident. Sarah Clegg was partly conscious when admitted to the Infirmary and died at around 7:45pm. According the Infirmary’s House Surgeon, all five had died as a result of the head injuries they received in the crash.

Councillor Armitage Haigh, the Chairman of the Tramways Committee, arrived at the Northumberland tram shed around 3:30pm and the engine was already there, as was the driver, Thomas Roscoe. Apparently briefed that the automatic braking system appeared not to have averted the accident, he questioned Roscoe as to whether or not he had disabled it. Roscoe’s answer would not be revealed publicly until the final day of the inquest and conspiracy theorists might want to ponder if the Tramways Committee initially considered suppressing the information. As we shall see, the behaviour of the Huddersfield Corporation officials, including the Mayor, left a little to be desired under the circumstances.

The Lindley tramcar route was soon running again, as it was Market Day in Huddersfield and a large number of Lindley residents would be heading home, many perhaps oblivious to the accident. Reportedly, a Lookwood tramcar ran the Lindley route that evening.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, a stream of concerned relatives arrived at the Infirmary, anxious for news of their loved ones.

David Bertenshaw Taylor’s wife, Ellen, arrived sometime around 8:30pm and was told her husband had just died. She collapsed in shock and was conveyed by friends back to her house. The Chronicle speculated that she “could not realise to anything like the full extent the direful news which had been just communicated to her.”

line engraving of Huddersfield Infirmary by J. Shury (1831)
line engraving of Huddersfield Infirmary by J. Shury (1831)

In what was seen by some as highly disrespectful act, the planned concert by the Lindley Brass Band in St. George’s Square, just a stone’s throw the crash site, went ahead that evening. The bandmaster, Joe Kaye, later wrote to the Chronicle to explain that they had no idea of the severity of the accident and would have cancelled the concert out of respect had they been made aware. Almost certainly, the band members would have known some of the injured and dead.

During the evening, Councillor Haigh convened an emergency meeting of the Tramways Committee in private. We can only speculate as to what was discussed at the meeting, but possibly Haigh repeated what driver Roscoe had told him and they then considered what their options would be depending on the various verdicts the jury might reach.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: The Lindley Tramcar Overturned, Five Deaths“.

ink drawing of the area where the crash occurred which appeared in the Illustrated London News (1883)
ink drawing of the area where the crash occurred from the Illustrated London News (1883)

Wednesday 4 July 1883

According to the Chronicle, passenger numbers were down on the tramcars that morning, although that simply might reflect that this was a normal day rather than the busy Market Day.

The stream of visitors to the Infirmary continued and included Councillor Haigh, Mr. R.S. Dugdale (Borough Surveyor and Engineer), and the Rev. J.W. Town (Vicar of Lindley). By now, Mr. Wilkinson, a representative of the engine manufacturer was in Huddersfield and also visited the injured.

Over in Salford, the Town Council met that morning and a question was asked if Alderman Harwood (Chairman of the Salford Tramways Committee) was aware of what had happened in Huddersfield. Perhaps Harwood guessed, but he correctly responded that he hoped it would be a warning to all of how important it was to ensure engines had proper brake power at all times.

With five people dead, an inquest was a necessity to establish if the deaths had been accidental or, if not, were any persons directly responsible for the deaths and should therefore face a charge of manslaughter. These days, of course, this would be a role for the police and Crown Prosecution Service, but in the 1880s the decision was left to a jury who considered the facts and reached their verdict.

During the afternoon, the inquest was convened under the District Country Coroner, 52-year-old William Barstow of Halifax. A jury was sworn in and comprised of the following individuals (indicative ages are shown in parentheses):

  1. David Brown (41) of Chapel Street
    founder of David Brown Engineering Limited in 1860
  2. John Burnley (45) of King Street
    linen draper and former Liberal Party candidate
  3. Thornton Cliffe (38) of Colne Road
    mechanical engineer and owner of an engine works
  4. George William Crosland (40) of New North Road
    iron merchant of Fixby
  5. John Crowther (54) of Greenhead Road
  6. James Drake (48) of New North Road
    woollen cloth merchants and member of the Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce
  7. Edward Dyson (41) of New Street
    linen draper
  8. Fred Eastwood of New North Road
    director of the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Banking Company
  9. Allen Jackson (55) of John William Street
    painter and gilder, and local councillor in the 1870s
  10. Benjamin Jowett (58) of West Parade
  11. George Moxon (51) of Trinity Street
    coal merchant
  12. Mr. Radcliffe
    presumably Joseph Radcliffe (40), stone merchant of South Crosland
  13. Charles Henry Riley (37) of Henry Street
    joiner and builder, and member of the Board of Guardians
  14. Battye Royston (58) of East Parade
    co-founder of Kenworthy, Royston and Crossley Machine Works
  15. Eli Whitwam (37) of Alfred Street
    mechanical and consulting engineer

As well as the members of the jury, a number of individuals with a vested interest in the inquest were present on most (if not all) days, including:

  • Mr. G.L. Batley, representing the Huddersfield Corporation
  • John Eddison, vice-chairman of the Leeds Tramway Company
  • Councillor Armitage Haigh, the Chairman of the Huddersfield Tramways Committee
  • Mr. Wilkinson of Wigan, owner of the company who manufactured the engine
  • John Ward, the Chief Constable

The Coroner, Mr. Barstow, began by saying:

Before you proceed to view the bodies, I have in the first place to express my sincere sorrow and regret at the very unfortunate occurrence that has been the means of your being called here this afternoon, and I am sure you also regret this terrible calamity, the like of which, I should think, has never occurred, certainly in Huddersfield, and probably not in any other town in the kingdom. It is a most lamentable calamity, by which no less than five people lost their lives, and more than 20 people are more or less injured. Now, I am sure you wish to devote every attention you can to the cause which may have been the means of bringing about this sad occurrence. Your great attention is necessary for many reasons, and one is that the enquiry will assume a moat important character, not only from the number of persons killed and injured, but also from the fact that tramways are now being so much used in many parts of the kingdom, and I am sorry to say there have been accidents more or less since the institution of such means of locomotion. It is very desirable in the public interest and public safety that accidents of this nature should be thoroughly investigated, so as to prevent, if possible, any similar calamities in the future. All that can be done today is to take evidence of identification, and then have the enquiry adjourned to a future day. Now, I am not bound by law to inform any Government department of this matter, but I felt it my duty to give notice to the Board of Trade in order that the Board may, it they think fit, send down some person to be present at the enquiry. If they do so, no doubt it would be of great assistance to many on the jury.

By alerting the Board of Trade, Barstow was ensuring that, if the crash had been caused due a technical failure, this would be properly examined so that the lessons could be learned. The representative of the Board of Trade would need to decide if his inquest could be merged with Barstow’s, or if it needed to be held separately.

A short discussion then took place as to when the jury should view the engine in the shed on Northumberland Street and what, if anything, they would be able to learn from just looking at it. It was also debated as to whether or not Mr. Wilkinson should be allowed to accompany the jury members, in case he sought to influence them. At this point, Mr. Wilkinson firmly placed his foot in his mouth by stating that:

It is just a question of erroneous statements getting about, and I want to point out technical matters which the jury may not understand. There are scores of things about that engine that the most practical engineers in Huddersfield would not understand.

Mr. Radcliffe firmly rebuked him by reminding him that there were “plenty of good engineers on this jury” including, of course, David Brown! Radcliffe was also of the opinion that, if they didn’t go to view the engine that day, it might result in negative gossip amongst the townsfolk.

The jury then travelled to the Infirmary where they viewed the bodies and took statements from those who had formally identified the five dead passengers. In each case, they tried to ascertain if the deceased had been in good health prior to the accident, in order to be sure the crash had been the primary cause of death.

By now, it had been ascertained that the representative of the Board of Trade was planning to arrive the following Wednesday and the Coroner suggested that they should formally adjourn until then, subject to any of the injured dying before then. This seemed likely, as the House Surgeon had told them that two of the injured were “almost certain” to die.

At around 4pm, the jurors were still waiting for cabs to arrive to take them to view the engine and Barstow was busy signing burial certificates so that the five bodies could be released to relatives. Assistant House Surgeon, Mr. Prentice, came in and informed them that Mary Shaw had died a few minutes previously at around 3:50pm. A decision was then made to take evidence from Mary’s sister, Sarah Ann Pearson, and for her to formally identify the deceased.

Following this, and in the absence of Mr. Wilkinson, a juror said:

I want to know why Huddersfield engineers can’t understand this tram engine. I should like to know what sort of tram engine it is that no one understands it. If it an engine of that sort they had better take it back!

Assured that the Coroner had the power to ensure anyone who tried to interfere with the inquest would be removed, the inquest adjourned and the jury members travelled to the shed to view the engine and car.

At around 6pm, a Lindley tramcar departed St. George’s Square and the engine came off the rails just after the crash site. The driver placed sand on the rails to help with traction and used a crowbar to ease the engine back onto the track. It must have been a sobering few minutes for the passengers.

At around 8pm, Rowland Hall finally passed away. He had been terribly injured after being flung from the upper-deck of the tramcar into an iron lamppost and there had been no hope of recovery.

A journalist from the Chronicle enquired that evening into the condition of the other injured and was told that there had been little change. He was also told that three were still in a critical condition: Alice Brook, Joseph Halstead and Mary Ann Moore (who had lost her husband and infant daughter).

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: Latest Particulars, Two More Deaths“.

Thursday 5 July 1883

The death the previous evening of Rowland Hall necessitated that the inquest be reconvened and a meeting took place on Thursday afternoon, presumably at the Infirmary. Two jury members, Burnley and Eastwood, were absent due to the short notice.

The only witness called was Hall’s son-in-law, monument sculptor Charles Richard Garner, who stated that he had visited Hall four times at the Infirmary before he died. He reported that Hall had occasionally regained some semblance of consciousness but had not said anything that would be relevant to the inquest.

It was now known that the representative of the Board of Trade, Major General Hutchinson, would now be arriving later on that afternoon1 and a discussion took place as to whether they should meet with him. It was decided to reconvene at the Town Hall in order to find out if Hutchinson intended to order a separate inquest, as that might impact on their own inquiry’s ability to complete their work. They then viewed Rowland Hall’s body.

Later on that afternoon, the jurors met again in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, where they were eventually joined by others including the Mayor, Alderman Walker (who had assisted at the crash site), Councillor A. Haigh, Dr. Erson (who had been on the fateful tramcar), and Mr. Wilkinson with a solicitor (Mr. Ellis) now representing his firm.

The Coroner then joined them, accompanied by Major General Hutchinson, and announced they had reached a decision that Hutchinson would hold a separate inquest but that he would endeavour to “make his report as speedily as possible” so that the jurors could use it to aid them in their own deliberations. Hutchinson would also provide independent and impartial assistance to the jury members.

Barstow also stated it unlikely that the engine would re-enter service until both inquests had been completed. Rather tactlessly, the Mayor then tried to insist that, if the engine was found to be in working order, it should be allowed to go back into service — “it seems a pity to keep it idle all the time”. Juror Mr. Drake wisely stated that the “public are exceedingly alive to this matter, and for their sakes I think we should almost prefer that the engine did not work until after the termination of this inquiry.”

It was then decided that the engineers on the jury should accompany Major General Hutchinson on his inspection of the engine. The solicitor Ellis insisted that he and Mr. Wilkinson should be allowed to go with them, and this was agreed. Before they adjourned, the Mayor one again raised his desire to have the engine back in service as quickly as possible.

At the tram shed, Hutchinson requested that the engine’s boiler be primed. He then briefly left to begin his own inquiry by interviewing Thomas Laxton (Huddersfield Tramway Superintendent) as well as the driver and conductor of the tramcar. Upon his return to the shed, an attempt to move the engine was made but then abandoned as it was felt there was something mechanically wrong with it.

During all of this, the jury had deliberated with the Coroner and come to the decision to appoint an engineer of their own choice who would assist Hutchinson’s inquiry and write a separate report. This was to be Mr. Middleton Pratt, an engineer residing in Fixby.2

The inquest then adjourned for a week, giving Hutchinson time to make progress on his report.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: Another Inquest“.

Saturday 7 July 1883

The formal opening of the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition took place, with the Duke of Somerset in attendance.

The Chronicle reported:

Although the lamentable catastrophe which occurred here in the early part of the week has thrown quite a gloom over the town, yet hearty efforts were put forth yesterday to make today’s proceedings in connection with the opening of the Exhibition a great success. The small display of bunting, which a few days ago appeared scattered here and there, had much increased, and Westgate, St. George’s Square, the Market Place, and other portions of the town presented quite a gay appearance.

the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1883
the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1883

Tuesday 10 July 1883

The two engineers selected by Major General Hutchinson and the inquest jury — Arthur G. Evans of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company and Mr. Middleton Pratt — commenced their testing of the engine. It should be remembered that Hutchinson had previously attempted to run the engine to test it on 5 July but this had been abandoned. Observing their tests were Mr. Wilkinson, of the company who manufactured the engine, and “the superintendent”, who was presumably Thomas Laxton.

Evans and Pratt took the engine out on a test run as far as Fartown. They immediately experienced problems on the incline from the tram shed down onto North Gate — the driver took the corner onto North Gate so quickly that the automatic breaking system engaged itself. It was at Fartown they discovered the right-hand piston was “smashed to bits”. The engine was then returned to the shed on Northumberland Street.

Wednesday 11 July 1883

During the afternoon, Evans and Pratt, accompanied by Pratt’s colleague Joseph Hepworth, dismantled the failed piston and made a more detailed examination of the engine. They found small fragments of the piston in the exhaust box.

With hindsight, they should have done this detailed examination before the run to Fartown the previous day, as it was now impossible to say what state the piston had been in at the time of accident and how much further disintegration had happened during their test run.

Both engineers then wrote up separate reports, which were presented at the final day of the inquest.

A further set of tests, using Engine No.3 and Car No.4 on the Lindley line, were conducted under the supervision of Middleton Pratt early on 21 July. The newspaper reports don’t reveal why these took place or who instigated them, but they involved testing tramcar braking under a number of different scenarios. As Pratt was selected by the inquest jury, perhaps he carried out the tests at their request, or perhaps the Tramways Committee requested them?

Thursday 12 July 1883

The inquest resumed on Thursday morning and took place in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall. By now, Roscoe, the engine driver, had legal representation (Barker, Sons, and Yeoman who where based in the Estate Buildings near where the crash occurred) and other solicitors where in attendance representing the bereaved and injured.

The day was taken up with witness statements and the Coroner announced that it was the jury’s wish for witnesses not to remain in the room, except for when they were giving evidence. This provoked a certain amount of discussion and it was agreed that “the scientific witnesses, the maker of the engine, and the engine driver” could remain throughout.

Margaret Miller testified that she travelled on the tramcar between Marsh and near Greenhead Road and noticed nothing unusual. She claimed that when she alighted, the tram had come to a full stop. She wasn’t able to say if the brakes of the car were applied or not.

George North, a butcher of Lindley, testified that he saw the tramcar go past and that he believed the car’s brakes were applied as the wheels were skidding (“I thought if it had been night there would have been a lot of sparks”). He recognised several of the passengers on the upper-deck, including Rowland Hall and Benjamin Brook. He saw the tramcar slow down near South Street and he thought two people alighted. Curiously, he denied that the tramcar had stopped where Margaret Miller had claimed she had alighted.

Dr. W.R. Erson was called next and he gave a detailed account of the journey from Lindley. He stated that from Marsh onwards, he felt that the tramcar was “going at a speed which I considered unsafe” and that he had said as much to those around him. He stated that he had kept a close eye on the driver and, close to New North Street when the tramcar had noticeably picked up speed, he felt sure that the driver had lost control — he was able to identify now that the lever he’d seen Roscoe pull was to reverse the engine, but it appeared to move without resistance and that this had seemingly surprised the driver.

At this point, he stated that got up and calmly (so as not to “create a panic”) walked to the back of the car where he noticed Alfred Crosland near to the brake handle but could see no sign of the conductor. By now, the tramcar was “going at a very rapid rate” and he took the opportunity to jump off the rear platform and “with difficulty retained my feet”. As the tramcar passed St. George’s Street, which was only a short distance from the corner the tramcar overturned on, he saw Joseph Wilson jump off. However, if didn’t see Alfred Crosland jump off. The tramcar passed out of his sight around the corner onto Railway Street and he heard the crash. Running around the corner, he saw passengers lying on the ground and began assisting the injured.

Although Dr. Erson recalled Margaret Miller alighting, he did not notice anyone getting off near South Street, which implies the men seen by George North jumped off when they realised the driver wasn’t going to slow down for them to get off.

The inquest then adjourned for lunch.

Alfred Crosland then gave evidence. He had boarded in Marsh and remained stood near the back of the lower-deck of the car throughout the journey, near to the brake handle. He stated that the tramcar had sped up alarmingly (“a frightful speed”) as they entered West Parade and that he saw Joseph Wilson, Wright Firth, and Dr. Erson jump off.

Crosland then went on to describe how he had grabbed the brake after the car began to wobble from side to side, causing some of the passengers to scream. He thought he did this as they passed the Crown Hotel — which was situated on the junction with Upper Head Row where West Parade became West Gate. He turned the brake several times to the right, but felt no decrease in speed. It was here that he jumped off himself, grazing his knees and elbows.

It seems there was then some discussion about whether or not Crosland had released the brake, rather than applying it, but Major General Hutchinson stated that “it was impossible for the witness to turn the brake the wrong way […] because there is a catch at the bottom which would prevent [it]”. If the jury were to return a verdict of manslaughter, they would need to be sure that Crosland hadn’t unwittingly contributed to the crash by releasing the car’s brake.

The next witness was John Henry Sterry, a wholesale clothier whose shop was on the corner of Westgate and Railway Street. From his vantage point on the first floor, looking up Westgate, he feared the tramcar might jump the rails and plough into his shop. He saw the tramcar take the corner, the car tip to the right onto its side wheels (“for 15 or 20 yards”) and then tumble over. He ran outside and took part in giving aid to the injured, bringing some of them into his shop.

Sterry estimated he had seen previous tramcars take the corner at six to eight miles an hour (which would be almost twice the speed it had been designed for) and that the fatal tramcar was travelling “not less than 16 miles an hour”. He could not say if the brakes were being applied, but felt that they probably weren’t.

John Rowe testified that he had been walking along Railway Street on the opposite side to Mr. Sterry’s shop when he “heard the bell of the tram-engine ringing very fast”. He witnessed the tramcar take the corner and the car topple, throwing passengers onto the ground. After giving aid, he spoke to the driver and conductor, saying “I thought you would have had break power enough to have stopped [the tramcar] anywhere” and was left with the impression that the car’s brakes had not been applied as when it was moved into St. George’s Square, he could see the car’s wheels rotating and saw no-one release the brake.

Despite the Chief Constable saying that he had four more witnesses, the inquest was adjourned until the following day, when the crucial scientific evidence would be presented.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: The Adjourned Inquest“.

Friday 13 July 1883

The fourth day of the inquest began with a witness statement by Joseph Theophilus Green, stationmaster of Huddersfield Railway Station. He had been standing lower down Railway Street, saw the tramcar take the corner and the car topple, and estimated the time of the crash as being 2:56pm. In his opinion — based on 20 years of working on the railways — the tramcar had been travelling at around 11 miles per hour coming around the corner and that neither the engine brakes or the car brake were being applied. Like Mr. Sterry, he too had seen tramcars coming down Westgate at around 8 miles per hour, which he regarded as “too fast”.

When he reached the crash site, he was in time to hear someone ask the driver, “Whatever have you been doing?” Roscoe had pointed to one of the cylinders and said it was “out of order”, which gave Green the impression a piston had failed and so “the engine would be less under the control of the driver”.

The tramcar conductor, Henry Sawyer, then gave his evidence after being cautioned by the coroner — if the jury decided that Sawyer’s actions had contributed in any way to the crash, the evidence could be used in court.

Sawyer’s testimony rambled slightly, and was interrupted by a break for lunch, but it can be distilled down to the following:

  • He had only recently started in the job of conductor had only been given basic verbal instructions on what to do and “had not [been given] any directions as to where to collect the fares, when to apply the brakes, nor how to perform my duties”. Nor was he told that he should enforce strict limit of 34 passengers on the tramcar (16 on the lower-deck and 18 on the upper-deck), but had been told not to allow anyone to sit on the steps between the decks.
  • He had seen the driver Roscoe come out of the Fleece Inn in Lindley before they departed.
  • He was of the habit of applying the car brake on the latter section of the route, likely as they passed Greenhead Park, and stated that he had done so on the day of the accident — this then accounted for George North being of the opinion the wheels were skidding when he saw the tramcar pass by him. He did not touch, or go near, the brakes after that.
  • As they approached the South Street junction, he rang his bell as he saw passengers wanted to get off (these would be the two men seen alighting by George North) but the driver did not slow the engine. Sawyer was of the opinion the engine had in fact begun to speed up.
  • Following the accident, he was on the car when it was moved down to the shed on Northumberland Street. He stated that he applied the car brake, “but notwithstanding that I could not stop [the car] at the depot. At [that] time there were only two people in the car — a constable and myself.”
  • He had previously noticed that the automatic braking system would engage when they were making the trip from Huddersfield up to Lindley, but had never noticed it on the downhill trip back to Huddersfield. This implies that Roscoe was in the habit of disabling it.

The jury then tried to get to the bottom of whether or not tramway crews were issued with formal written rules and instructions for their job. Sawyer stated that he’d been given a set of instructions on the Monday after the accident by Albert Clough (a clerk in the tramways department), which he’d passed on to the solicitor representing the Taylor family. It emerged that these had been issued in October 1881 under the previous Mayor (Alderman Thomas Denham) and had not been previously circulated to tramcar employees as the Committee were currently considering their own set of instructions which were still in draft.

Reading between the lines, one is left with the impression that the Tramways Committee, which met in private on the evening of the day of the accident, were seeking to limit their potential liability. Aware that staff were working without any formal guidelines whatsoever, it would seem that Clough was instructed to give Sawyer the 1881 set, which was the only ones they had which had been signed off by a Mayor. The current Mayor and Mr. Batley, the Town Clerk, seemed to be unaware this had happened, and stated it was a mystery to them both how Sawyer had ended up with them.

The superintendent of the tramways, Thomas Laxton, then gave evidence. He described how the engine had undergone test runs prior to entering service. During these, it was noticed that the piston heads seemed to be thumping against the cylinder covers and he had instructed a fitter from the engine company to make suitable adjustments. He attended a further test run on 8 June and was happy that the issue with the pistons had been resolved. The engine went into service the following day.

Laxton then contradicted some of the earlier evidence by stating that all drivers and conductors were issued with written instructions.

After the accident, he had gone to the tram shed to see the engine and stated that he had caught Roscoe attempting to change the settings of the valves which operated the automatic brakes. He then examined the values and found one was fully closed and the other partially closed. Curiously, Laxton made no mention of Roscoe admitting verbally that he had disabled the automatic brakes. He had, however, suspected some of the drivers of doing so and had previously made attempts to catch them red-handed (or rather, closed-valved).

Laxton then went on to state that he had raised various concerns about the safety of the engines and the Lindley route to both the engine manufacturer and the Borough Surveyor, Mr. Dugdale. In particular, that the engines should be fitted with an independent braking system, separate to the steam-powered one, and that the corner where the crash occurred was unsafe due to the low cant of the rails — in fact Laxton stated that he’d plumbed that corner whilst on a tramcar and found the car leaned outwards, rather than inwards. He claimed that Mr. Dugdale had told him to “mind his own business”.

At this point in the proceedings, Major General Hutchinson had to leave and, as he was not able to return to Huddersfield until the following Friday, the Coroner adjourned the inquest for a full week.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Laxton’s evidence, which implied that officials (particularly Dugdale) had been warned about the safety of the line, caused a stir in the press.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: The Adjourned Inquest“.

Saturday 21 July 1883

Prior to final day of the inquest into the deaths of the seven passengers starting, a series of early morning tests were carried out on the Lindley route under Pratt’s supervision (possibly with Evans and others in attendance, but possibly not). These used a different engine (No. 3) and car to the one that crashed and were designed to test how the brakes operated under a variety of scenarios:

  1. The first run was down Trinity Street and the driver attempted to run the engine as fast as possible. The automatic braking system engaged and the driver then attempted to bring the tramcar to a full stop, which he succeeded in doing after about 30 yards.
  2. In the second test run, steam was shut off from the engine (presumably to the steam-powered breaks) and the driver attempted to stop the tramcar by throwing the engine into reverse. This resulted in the tramcar (presumably sliding somewhat down the incline) at around 3 miles an hour.
  3. The third test involved “holding the reversing lever against the automatic action” which resulted in the engine running out of control.3
  4. The fourth was “the automatic action, only without applying any of the breaks”, which brought the tramcar to a slow crawl.
  5. The firth test was carried out at the junction with Greenhead Road and the driver was able to stop the tramcar after 25 yards purely by reversing the engine.
  6. The sixth test, which would likely have alarmed anyone passing by, involved running at full speed down West Parade so that the automatic brakes applied themselves. This was a repeat of the first test, but on a more severe gradient.
  7. As a final test, with the tramcar standing still, Pratt applied the car brake and “asked the driver to put his steam break on the car as forcibly as possible”. This seems to have been done to test if the driver applying his brakes would cause the car brake handle to release — it didn’t.

With these tests completed, the final day of the inquest began. The long list of attendees reported in the Chronicle indicates that the Council Chambers would likely have been full.

Middleton Pratt began by verbally giving his written report, his conclusions and his recommendations:

As requested, with Mr. Evans I inspected the No. 2 engine, at the engine shed, on July l0th, the engine that met with the accident. Joseph Hepworth, a fitter in my employ, attended to do the necessary work. Firstly, the slide valve of the right-hand cylinder was found to have moved on its spindle (when the engine was at top centre the port was about wide open). Secondly, after the adjustment of the slide valve the engine was run to Fartown and back. Its work was such that it was decided to have the cylinder lids up. On this being done the right-hand piston was found smashed to bits and the piston rod bent. Thirdly, the governor and automatic brakes were tried on the run to Fartown three or four times, and found to act fairly well at about 8 1/2 miles per hour. It occurring to me that the valve spindle would probably be required at the enquiry, I attended at the engine shed on the afternoon of the 11th inst., with my man, Joseph Hepworth. We then removed the valve spindle of the right-hand engine, so that it could be produced at the inquest if called for. It also occurred to me to examine the inside of the exhaust box connected with the damaged engine. I there found a considerable number of bits of the broken piston which had been carried out of the cylinder by the exhaust and deposited in the exhaust box. That is my report on the facts. The opinion I formed on the foregoing — It must be borne in mind that the automatic brake can be shut off by the driver by valves on the steam pipes connections, thus rendering the thing useless. I am of opinion that the automatic brake was shut off (or inoperative from other causes, which would amount to the same thing), the driver relying on reversing his engine and the car brakes to control the speed. The piston having smashed, or the slide valve becoming deranged, or both, when the driver found the speed too high and reversed the engine it would be unable to answer him, as one cylinder was quite useless, and the other not sufficient to control the engine by itself, leaving the car out of the question. That one cylinder when reversed cannot control the engine on such an incline as the bottom of Northumberland Street, which is one in 22.8, was proved on the trial run to Fartown on the 10th. Descending Northumberland Street from the depot, the speed accelerated, and the engine went round the curve into Northgate at a speed sufficient to bring the automatic brake on. On landing in Northgate, the driver, on being spoken to by Mr. Evans as to why he came round the curve at that speed, replied, “I could not hold her.” I personally saw him try to do that with his reversing lever. It is evident the engine being in this state when the accident happened that in descending Westgate the car would have to assist in pulling the engine up, and I am very doubtful, in the absence of actual experiment, whether the car brakes if on were powerful enough for the car alone, without having the engine dragging in addition. Suggestions for prevention :— A powerful screw hand brake, to he fitted to each engine; the governor and all connections, and the automatic brake, to be constructed so as to be outside the control of the driver ; the pistons and side valve connections to be constructed in a more substantial and generally approved manner. The slide valve of the steam car brake is attached in the same manner as the engine slide valve. This also ought to be fitted in a more positive manner, and the car hand brake to have a spring to the catch.

In his opinion, it would not normally be possible to break a piston simply by going too fast and that the automatic braking system in itself was sufficient to have reduced the speed of a tramcar so that the accident would not have happened, even if the car brakes had not been applied. He also believed that, had the second piston not failed, the driver would have been able to control the engine purely with the reversing lever.

Mr. Ellis, the solicitor for the engine manufacturer, then questioned Pratt further and the engineer repeated his conviction that the action of the automatic braking system would have been sufficient to have averted the accident. However, he was critical of the choice of materials used for the pistons — to his mind, cast iron should have been used instead of the cheaper phosphor-bronze (an alloy of copper and tin).

Due to the damage, he wasn’t able to give a definite reason as to why the piston failed, but was of the opinion the failure had occurred at the top of piston (which presumably raised the possibility it was damaged during the initial running tests of which Thomas Laxton has spoken of, in which the piston ends were thumping against the cylinder heads).

Finally, he gave his opinion that had the engine been fitted with an independent screw brake, the driver would have been able to bring the engine under control on the day of the accident.

Dr. James Richardson, House Surgeon at the Huddersfield Infirmary, was then called and he described the causes of death for each of the seven victims, which had included a post mortem examination of at least four.

  1. Annie Moore — Was dead on arrival at the Infirmary. Severely bruised on the head and face, but no fractures. Post-mortem revealed a “quantity of effused blood on the inside of the scalp pressing on the brain”.
  2. Isabella Woodhouse — Died at 5pm on 3 July. Was unconscious until her death. Two inch long wound on back of head. No post-mortem examination took place, but likely cause of death of “severe brain injuries”.
  3. Sarah Clegg — Died at 7:45pm on 3 July. Partially conscious when admitted. Post-mortem examination revealed “extensive fracture at the base of skull”, “severe lacerations of the brain”, and “a good deal of effused blood pressing on the brain”.
  4. Fred Moore — Died at 8pm on 3 July. Was unconscious until his death. Post-mortem examination revealed fracture at base of skull, multiple lacerations to the brain and a “quantity of effused blood pressing on the brain”.
  5. David Bertenshaw Taylor — Died at 8:20pm on 3 July. Was unconscious until his death, which was caused by fracture at the base of skull and severe injury to the brain.
  6. Mary Shaw — Died around 4pm on 4 July. Was unconscious until her death. 5 inch long scalp wound. No specific cause of death was given.
  7. Rowland Hall — Died around 7:30pm on 4 July. Partially conscious when admitted. Large wound “on the forehead over right eye” with “depressed fracture of the frontal bone connected with wound” and multiple fractured ribs (sustained when he was thrown against an iron lamppost). Immediate cause of death being “injury to the brain”.

Passenger William Herbert Sykes then gave evidence. He had been travelling on the upper-deck and was able to say that all the seats were occupied and at least 4 passengers were stood up just prior to the accident.

The inquest then broke for luncheon.

In the afternoon, Arthur G. Evans of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company read his report:

I have the honour to report for your information that in accordance with your request I have made a careful investigation into the causes which led to the recent most lamentable tramcar accident at Huddersfield. The circumstances are briefly these :— On July 3rd the 2:30 p.m. car from Lindley to Huddersfield, worked by engine No. 2, seems to have travelled all right and to have been under perfect control until it arrived in the neighbourhood of South Street, some 360 yards from the spot where the accident occurred. At this point, where the line is on a falling gradient of one in 18, the conductor signalled the driver to pull up to allow a passenger to alight, but this the latter failed to do, and the engine and car appear to have run down the street at a constantly accelerating speed, and the efforts of the conductor and driver to arrest its progress had no effect, the consequences being that on the curve turning from Westgate

in Railway Street the car upset with the fatal results reported. The car is provided with a brake which can be worked by the guard by hand or by the driver by means of a steam cylinder on the engine. The engine is provided with automatic governor or speed regulator, the object of which is to check the speed of the engine and to keep it within safe and controllable limits. The governor is brought into play at a speed not greater than 10 miles an hour, and its effect is to reverse the engine and actuate a steam brake on the engine wheels. There is no independent brake on the engine wheels under the control of the driver, the operation of stopping the car and engine being ordinarily effected by means of the brake on the car and the reversing of the engine by the driver. The automatic governor is provided with stopcocks, which in their working and normal position should be open for the passage of steam and secured with a chain and padlock. On Thursday last I made an inspection of the car and found the brake in good working order. The engine was next looked over, and it was subsequently steamed and an attempt made to run it out on the roads for trial, but owing to a defect in the machinery, it was found necessary to put back into the shed and abandon further investigation for the day. As arranged, I met Mr. Mlddleton Pratt yesterday, and a very careful and searching examination of the engine was made. We first directed our attention to the slide valves of the engine, the right hand one of which was found displaced, and after that was made right steam was got up, and we took a run as far as Fartown. The engine was run up to its maximum speed several times to test the governor, and it was found to act perfectly well at a speed of from eight to nine miles an hour, but the retardation when the governor was in action was not at all what it should have been. In consequence of this, and the fact that the engine did not work satisfactorily in other respects, we decided to return to the shed and make a further examination. We next turned our attention to the pistons, the left hand one of which we found in good order, but the right hand one was entirely destroyed, the metal being broken up into small pieces, and the piston rod loose. The result of our investigations was to show that in consequence of the failure of the right hand piston the engine was deprived of one half of its retarding force when reversed, and the amount of other available brake power was not sufficient to stop the engine and car under the circumstances. The slide valve was probably moved out of its proper position subsequently to and in consequence of the failure of the piston, and in my opinion it had no bearing on the accident. The cause of the failure of the piston is difficult to assign in consequence of its being so completely destroyed, but I may state that there is nothing peculiar in its construction or any apparent defect to account for it; but I think it possible that the set screw used for the purpose of holding the two halves of the piston together worked loose and got between the piston and cover, thus causing the former on its upwards stroke to receive a violent blow which fractured it. I should further mention that one of the steam brake cylinders had the small release cock missing, which would somewhat detract from the efficiency of the engine brake. From the above circumstances I am of opinion that in descending the incline in West Parade the right hand piston of the engine broke either at the time the engine and car became unmanageable or at some point higher up the street ; that the speed of the engine was such that, though the car brake was applied and in good working order, and the engine reversed, it could not be controlled, and the engine entered the curve so fast that the car overturned. I think that had the piston not broken the speed would have been reduced to such a point that the curve would have been traversed in safety even if the engine and car had not been stopped altogether, and I am further strongly of opinion that had the automatic governor worked, the speed would not have reached the point it appears to have done, but would have been checked by the steam brake on the engine and the reversing of the machinery, even though crippled to the extent of one-half by the failure of the piston, and the result would have been that the velocity of the car would not have been sufficient to have overturned it. I am not prepared to say why the governor did not act, but the stop cooks do not appear to have been locked up, and from the working of the governor since I should say that that they were closed at the time of the accident and rendered the governor inoperative. I further think that the driver showed a want of resource in not opening the sand box valves with which his engine ia provided, the effect of which would have been most beneficial in helping to retard the car. I think it highly desirable that tramway engines should be fitted with brakes on the engine wheels capable of being applied by the driver independently of reversing the engine ; and also that the governor steam stop valves should be out of the control of all persons except those immediately responsible for their maintenance and good order. Every assistance was afforded me in making the investigations both by the superintendents of the tramways and by Mr. Wilkinson, the maker of the engine.

After some follow-on questions, the Borough Surveyor, Mr. Dugdale, was called to give evidence. Presumably aware of the stir Laxton’s evidence had created the week before, he was quick to point out that, although he had been responsible for the laying out of the track, including the curve where the accident happened, he had inherited the tramway plans from his predecessor.

He then went on to strenuously deny that Mr. Laxton had ever raised concerns to him about the cant of the track on that corner, or that he then told him to “mind his own business” except in relation to a discussion of the curve leading to the tram shed. Mr. Laxton’s solicitor, Mr. D.F.E. Sykes then pressed him on this topic, which seemed to fluster Mr. Dugdale, who gave a series of evasive (and at times slightly surreal) answers as to what was Laxton’s business to report and what wasn’t.

Then it is no part of his [i.e. Laxton’s] business to study the curves?
— Certainly not.
Well, whose business is it if it is not the business of the superintendent of the tramways?
— It is the business of the engineer [i.e. Dugdale] laying down the lines.
Then is the superintendent to know nothing at all about the curves?
— It is no part of his business.
You did not like his mentioning to you about the line in the shed?
— I did not consider it proper.
You did not consider it part of his duty at all to say what he said?
— No, I don’t think so.
But what was he to do?
— Report it to the [Tramways] Committee if he liked.
But why not to you?
— He could report it to me if he liked.
But if he found them out of order?
— I say he might do what he pleased.
But would it be proper to report it to you?
— He could please himself.
But I want to know what he was to do?
— He could please himself.
But was it part of your business to receive such reports?
— That is my business.
Will you please tell us what is your business?
— No, I shall not, because it is my business.
Well, at any rate you considered it no part of his business?
— No.
What was he to do, was he to hold to his tongue?
— He could please himself.

Annie Crosland of 30 West Parade was then called to give evidence. She stated that she heard the tramcar approaching and went to her door. As the tramcar passed by, she heard a loud “crack” coming from the engine, after which the tramcar appeared to speed up. The unstated implication was that this was the sound of the piston failing.

At this point in the proceedings it is worth considering the position of Huddersfield Corporation’s Tramways Commission. The town was the first local authority to implement their own tramcar system and it was important that it be seen to be a success. In meetings and on the letters pages of the local newspapers, concerns had been raised that the hilly terrain was unsuitable for powered tramcars — the first major test of the Fartown to Lockwood line in 1882 had come to an embarrassing stop half way up Chapel Hill, although, in fairness, someone had accidentally left the car brake on!

In the private meeting held by the Commission on the evening of the accident, when it was apparently known the engine driver had run the ill-fated service with the emergency brakes disabled, they surely must have discussed what they could do in terms of damage limitation, particularly if the finger of blame was pointed at the Corporation. Would they be blamed for not ensuring the tramway crews were properly trained? Would they be blamed for not ensuring the corner where the crashed happened was built to a safer specification? Where the engines they had spent so much money on not fit for purpose as they didn’t have an independent brake system? Would the public lose confidence in the tramway system that was only a few months old?

Surely also on their minds was the formal opening of the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, which took place four days after the accident. It was anticipated that the exhibition would draw thousands of visitors to Huddersfield.

We can only speculate what, if anything, kept the Chairman of the Commission, Councillor Armitage Haigh, awake at night. However, on what was expected to be the final day of the inquest, the finger of blame was now pointing towards a rogue driver who disobeyed strict verbal orders and a mechanical failure which could be blamed on the engine manufacturer. Perhaps this, along with Mr. Dugdale’s earlier poor performance, is what prompted him to approach the foreman of the jury, perhaps during the lunch break, to tell him what Roscoe had said to him on the evening of the accident.

With Annie Crosland’s testimony completed, the jury expressed an “earnest wish” that Councillor Haigh be called as a witness, as they wished to ask him a “very important” question regarding the driver, Roscoe. This appears to have been against procedure, presumably as the Coroner was not aware in advance, and a short deliberation took place with the Town Clerk before the Councillor. According to the Chronicle, Haigh said:

About half an hour after the accident, as soon as we could get down to the shed, I asked Roscoe, the driver, about the valves. Alderman Henry Hirst, Laxton, the superintendent, and Roscoe were present. I asked Roscoe if he had shut the valves which applied steam to the automatic brake, I don’t remember Laxton asking anything. Roscoe evaded the question for a time and then acknowledged that he had closed one valve. Then I asked him again if he had closed the other, and he said he had partially closed it. I asked the question, and Mr. Laxton did not, in my hearing, ask any question relating to the valves, or either of them.

The solicitors present then pushed Haigh with further questions, trying to ascertain the exact wording Roscoe used, although the Councillor seemed to be a little unsure. Haigh also stated that he had previously given this information to Mr. Wilkinson, the representative of the company who manufactured the engine, who was of the opinion that the accident would not have occurred if the automatic brakes were working, even taking into account the failed piston.

If Haigh was telling the truth, it seems odd that Laxton didn’t mention that Roscoe had verbally admitted to disabling the automatic braking system when he gave his testimony and that Haigh seemingly left it until the last possible moment to present this vital information to the jury. The disabling of the braking system seems to have been picked up on very early in the investigation — apparently by Laxton, if no-one else — as a few newspapers reported the engine’s manufacturer claiming that the accident had been caused entirely by the driver and that there were no mechanical problems with the engine.

At the risk of appearing cynical, did Haigh seize a last-minute opportunity to pin the entire blame on Roscoe? Perhaps, after the crash, Haigh had instigated a background check into the engine driver and discovered that Roscoe had already spent time in prison.4

At this point, Major General Hutchinson intimated that he would have to leave. The jury had no questions for Hutchinson and he was thanked for the work he had done on behalf of the Board of Trade.

With no further questions to be asked, the Chronicle summarised the Coroner’s final advice to the jury:

The Coroner, addressing the jury, said they had arrived at last at that point in the enquiry when it would be necessary for them to consider what their verdict should be. Before doing this he should like to draw their attention to one or two special points to which he thought they would have to give their careful consideration in giving their verdict. A great and important question arose, viz., from what cause or circumstance did the tramcar fall over ? and secondly, was it an accidental occurrence or was any person criminally responsible for the deaths of the deceased persons or any of them ? He then detailed the circumstances attending the fatal journey of the tramcar, as detailed by the witnesses, in the course of which he said that much had, no doubt, been said outside that Court of the conduct of Mr. Alfred Crosland on the journey just before the disaster, but he thought they must really come to this conclusion, that whatever Mr. Crosland did to the brake had no effect either in increasing or reducing the speed, and did not in any way contribute to the catastrophe. In their deliberations they would have to consider the cause of the engine becoming out of the control of the driver, as it undoubtedly did somewhere on the journey, and whether the speed exceeded nine miles an hour, and if so why did not the automatic brake come into action. If their opinion was that the speed did exceed that which he had stated, the reason why the automatic brake did not act might be explained by the very important and startling evidence given as to the closing wholly of one of the valves, and partially of the other through which the steam passed to work the brake. The Coroner then said that they should not bring in a verdict of criminal responsibility for a more error of judgement, a slight neglect of duty, or any little mishap that might happen, but they would have to be satisfied that there was a very substantial amount of gross negligence before putting a man on his trial for what would virtually be manslaughter. They would have to return one of three verdicts, either that the disaster was a purely accidental occurrence, without any blame whatever to anybody ; or secondly, that it was an accidental occurrence with blame attaching to someone, but such blame does not amount to criminal negligence ; or thirdly, a verdict of manslaughter against any person or persons they might think responsible. Another thing they might devote their attention to might be whether it was a proper thing that the terminus of an important tram route should be a public-house, and also whether they thought it desirable that an independent brake should be applied to tramway locomotives. He was sure from the attention they had given to the whole of the voluminous evidence that had been adduced that their verdict would not be given without having their most earnest attention and consideration.

The jury then retired for around three hours before returning with their verdict and recommendations:

(1) We find that the deceased persons, Isabella Woodhouse and others, came to their death from the falling over of the tramcar when running at an excessive speed, consequent upon the driver having lost control of his engine through the breaking of one of the pistons, thereby preventing him from effectively applying the reversing motion.

(2) That we severely censure the driver for having, in disobedience to orders, closed one entirely, and the other partly, of the valves, admitting steam into the automatic brake, thereby preventing any chance it might otherwise have had of coming into action.

(3) We recommend that there should be an independent hand screw brake on each engine — and also some means adopted for more securely preventing any tampering with the automatic brake.

(4) Believing that it is both consistent with the public convenience and necessary for the public safety, we recommend that the town terminus of both the Lindley and Edgerton tram-services shall be upon a double line of rails in Temple Street, thus avoiding their converging at a sharp angle and at the foot of steep gradients upon the single line of rails now laid down there — an arrangement in our judgement fraught with certain and serious disaster in the future. By this means the dangers attending both the sharp curve into Railway Street, where the late accident took place, and also the one in the Square would be avoided.

(5) We regard with much satisfaction the proved and manifest increased caution and decreased speed with which the existing tram services have been conducted since the recent catastrophe, and we desire to record our decided conviction that in a town like Huddersfield, where the gradients are severe, the curves sharp, and the streets in many places narrow and often crowded, it will be found impossible to continue a higher maximum rate of speed than that of eight miles an hour with that security which is absolutely necessary, not alone for the safety of the tram service, but for that of the ordinary street traffic itself.

(6) Fully sharing as we do the deep and widespread feeling of regret at this most deplorable calamity, we cannot separate without tendering our sincere sympathy to the relatives of the unfortunate deceased, as also our best wishes for the speedy and satisfactory recovery of the surviving sufferers.

With the verdict given, Roscoe would not stand trial for manslaughter. He continued to work an engine driver or operator for the rest of his life, although presumably not on the tramways of Huddersfield. By 1891, he was a locomotive driver living in Fartown and in 1901, the year he died, he was operating a stationary engine and living in Mirfield.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident at Huddersfield: Conclusion of the Inquest, The Verdict“.


As for the jury’s recommendations, according to Roy Brook, the only change made by the Tramways Committee was that all Edgerton and Lindley tramcars had to come to a full stop on West Gate in order for all passengers to alight. The empty tramcar would then proceed around the corner onto Railway Street and into St. George’s Square to pick up passengers for the return journey.5

However, contemporary newspaper reports to indicate that the Town Council did approve independent brakes to be fitted to all engines and that resolved that all engines should be adapted so that the automatic brakes would engage at 8 miles per hour. Wilkinsons of Wigan also reportedly offered to “affix to each engine an instrument which would effecutally prevent the driver from tampering with or closing the valves admitting steam to the automatic brakes.”6

In other ways, safety rules were more strictly enforced on the tramways of Huddersfield, as evidenced from a Borough Police Court article from the end of August in which conductor Henry Sawyer remonstrated with a passenger on the upper deck of the car who refused to sit down.

The Town Council also voted to transfer a sum of 50 guineas to the Huddersfield Infirmary “in consideration of the efficient services of the medical and nursing staff on the occasion of the accident”.

It seems the relatives of the seven who died were awarded some compensation, but an 1886 article implies it wasn’t much. Benjamin Clegg, whose wife Sarah died in the accident, seems to have harboured a grudge against a magistrate named Walker, who presumably was the one who decided how much Clegg received. On 8 August 1886, a drunken Clegg was apprehended after he threw stones through the windows of Walker’s house and then threatened to shoot the magistrate.7

The only other fatal steam tramcar incident occurred on 3 June 1891 when the boiler of Engine No.9 exploded whilst it was standing in the Longroyd Bridge passing loop. A young man named John Thomas Hirst, who was training to become a driver, had been accompanying the engine’s driver, Arthur Skyes, and both were found badly injured. Hirst died within minutes.8 The car had separated from the engine and rolled back towards Huddersfield but was brought to a halt by the conductor applying his brake.

The force of the explosion shattered windows in the vicinity and at least one residential property was set alight by a hot piece of shrapnel. Reportedly, a total of 14 peoples were injured. The jury at the inquest recorded a verdict of “accidental death” after being advised that a manslaughter prosecution was unlikely to succeed. Locally, it was felt much of the blame rested with the Corporation but it would be over 100 years before businesses and corporations could be tried for that crime.

Worthy of note is that, once again, Mr. Middleton Pratt was appointed as the independent expert witness by the jury.

Newspaper Articles

The accident and inquest were reported widely and a select of articles can be browsed online.

The Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) article “Sad Catastrophe at Huddersfield“, though lengthy, contained a number of factual errors. In general, the Huddersfield Chronicle‘s coverage is the most in-depth and likely the most reliable, especially in respect of correctly naming the people involved.

Summary of Coverage by the Huddersfield Chronicle

For reference, here’s a brief description of what was covered by the local newspaper, along with links to scans of the article. Please note that the Saturday edition usually included reprints of articles published during the week.

Tuesday 3 July 1883

  • The newspaper had already gone to press by the time of the accident, no there as no coverage.

Wednesday 4 July 1883

Thursday 5 July 1883

Friday 6 July 1883

Saturday 7 July 1883

Tuesday 10 July 1883

Friday 13 July 1883

Saturday 14 July 1883

Monday 16 July 1883

Tuesday 17 July 1883

Monday 23 July 1883

  • The Fearful Tramcar Accident at Huddersfield: Conclusion of the Inquest, The Verdictfinal day of the inquest into the deaths, statements by the two engineers tasked with examining the engine, statement by surgeon James Richardson into the causes of the seven deaths, further eyewitness statements, contentious statements by the Borough Surveyor (Richard Dugdale), damning testimony by Councillor Armitage Haigh that the engine driver (Thomas Roscoe) admitted to disabling the automatic braking system, departure of Major General Hutchinson, final summing up, jury deliberations and their findings, and formal ending of the inquest

Tuesday 24 July 1883

Saturday 28 July 1883

30 July 1883

Saturday 4 August 1883

The 1883 Tramcar Tragedy – Part 2: The People

This is the second in a three part series of blog posts about the tramcar accident of 3 July 1883 which killed seven people. The first part described the accident, this part details those involved, and the final part documents the inquest.

melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)
melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)

The following list is compiled from the various newspaper reports of the accident and provides details of the passengers and crew of the tramcar, as well as those who involved with aiding the injured at the crash site and those who took part in the subsequent inquest.

The Tramcar Crew

Thomas Roscoe (Engine Driver)

As Roscoe was suspected of being involved with causing the crash, he did not give evidence at the inquest. If the inquest jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Roscoe, then any evidence he had provided at the inquest could be used against him at the subsequent trial.

He was born Thomas Ruscoe1 around 1844 in Doncaster, possibly in Thorne or Kirk Bramwith. He was an illegitimate child2 possibly born to Hannah Ruscoe.3

He was almost certainly the Thomas Ruscoe (aged 18) who was tried at York Assizes in December 1862 and found guilty of committing an act of bestiality at Womersley, near Doncaster. He was given a sentence of ten year’s penal servitude.

He married widow Ruth Ann Knight (born in Halifax) at St John, Huddersfield, on 14 June 1879, where his name was written as “Thomas Ruscoe”. His occupation was given as “labourer” but by the time of the 1881 Census he was a “traction engine driver”, living on Folly Road in Fartown, so did have some experience prior to becoming a tramcar engine driver.

Intriguingly, the Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) reported that “the driver is said to have had twenty years’ experience upon locomotives of different makes”. This is patently untrue but it raises the possibility that Roscoe lied about his past when applying for the job.

He appears as “engine driver (locomotive)” living at 19 Folly, Netheroyd Hill, Fartown, in the 1891 Census. By 1901, he was living in Mirfield and working as a 56-year-old “stationary engine man”, meaning he operated a static steam engine, the like of which might be found in a factory or used to operate the life machinery in a coal mine.

He likely died shortly after the 1901 Census was taken, aged 56, and was buried in Mirfield on 4 October 1901. His widow continued to live in Mirfield and died in 1918, aged 69.

Henry Sawyer (Conductor)

Henry Sawyer was born around 1850 in Wakefield. He married Emma Wright in 1872 and they raised a family of at least nine children.

During the 1870s, he worked as a cab driver in Huddersfield.

On Saturday 15 November 1873, Sawyer had been driving a horse-pulled cab which ran over 70-year-old widow Hannah Cartwright. Mrs. Cartwright had been attempting to cross a busy junction on West Parade when, according to witnesses, she stepped out of the way of a butcher’s cart and into the horse pulling Sawyer’s cab. She was knocked to the floor and the front wheel of the cab passed over her body before Sawyer was able to stop the cab. Dr. William Robinson attended her and reported multiple injuries at the inquest, none of which individually were serious enough to kill her. However, he believed a combination of the injuries and the patient’s age led to her dying on the Thursday after the accident. The Jury recorded a verdict of “accidental death” and that no blame could be attributed to Sawyer, as he had been driving at a slow pace.

By the time of the 1881 Census, he was living at 18 Towning Row in Huddersfield.

He became a tramcar conductor in June 1883, around the time of the opening of the Lindley route. He gave evidence at the inquest into the tramcar accident which inferred he’d received little formal training for the role, but the inquest jury attached no blame to his actions on the day of the accident.

Following the inquest, Sawyer continued to work for a while as a conductor on the Lindley route before taking a job as a “railway teamer” (1891 Census), which likely meant he drove a heavy cart pulled by more than one horse, presumably delivering large items which arrived at the railway station.

In June 1896, he was described in a court case as being a “teamer [of] Market Place”. Saywer had been drinking and had lost control of his horse and cart, after the horse had been spooked by a passing tramcar and (according to Sawyer) he had been thrown from his seat — the tramcar driver suspected Sawyer had simply fallen off drunk. Sawyer was fined 5 shillings plus costs.4

He was again in front of the magistrates in September 1896 for failing to ensure one of his children regularly attended school.5

On the evening of Thursday 1 September 1898, Sawyer was making his way home when he suddenly collapsed in the street and died. The Yorkshire Evening Post described him as being “a driver in the employ of the Queen Hotel Carriage Company”.6

The Passengers

For reference, this list is of the people known to have travelled on the ill-fated tramcar and further details are provided in subsequent sections below.

It was initially claimed that the conductor had said there were 42 people on the tramcar, although he later revised that figure downwards. However, a total of at least 47 people can be identified from the various newspaper reports, although a few alighted before the tramcar lost control and a couple are somewhat dubious.

If known, their exact or approximate age is given in parentheses. Those who died are marked and those whose presence on the tramcar may be doubted are shown in italics. The 11 passengers who are known to have been on the upper-deck are marked ▲ whilst the 13 on the lower-deck are marked ▼

  1. Mrs. Atkinson (?)
  2. Jane Hannah Barlow (25)
  3. Sarah Bates (40)
  4. Emma Beaumont (30), travelling with her son George and her niece, Alice Brook
  5. George Beaumont (8 weeks), son of Emma Beaumont
  6. Alice Brook (17), travelling with her aunt Emma Beaumont and cousin George
  7. Benjamin Brook (?) ▲
  8. Sarah Clegg (42) ▲
  9. Thomas Clegg (50)
  10. Alfred Crosland (41) ▼
  11. Polly Crowe — very likely Mary Jane Crow (13)
  12. William Henry Dean (31?) ▲
  13. Helena Drayton (30) ▼
  14. Master Drayton (?), unnamed son of Helena Drayton and either John Drayton (6), Ernest Drayton (5) or Percy Drayton (3) ▼
  15. Edwin Dyson (41?) ▼
  16. Mrs. Emmanuel Dyson — probably Ellen Kitchingham (30)
  17. Mr. Joe Dyson (25?)
  18. Mrs. Joe Dyson — probably Eliza Dyson (22)
  19. Dr. William Robert Erson (36) ▼
  20. Elizabeth Firth (41), wife of Wright Firth ▼
  21. Wright Firth (42), husband of Elizabeth Firth ▼
  22. Rowland Hall (60) ▲†
  23. Joseph Halstead (21)
  24. Annie Hanson (12), sister of Harriet
  25. Harriet Hanson (14), sister of Annie
  26. Mrs. Hepworth (?)
  27. Mrs. Dick Hepworth — most likely Betsy Hannah Hepworth (28)
  28. Mrs. Lister Kaye — possibly Hannah Kaye (41)
  29. Emily Liversidge (26) ▼
  30. ? Liversidge (9 weeks), unnamed baby of Emily Liversidge ▼
  31. Richard Marsden (50?)
  32. Margaret Miller (?) ▼
  33. Annie Moore (5 months), daughter of Fred and Mary Ann ▲
  34. Fred Moore (28) ▲
  35. Mary Ann (“Polly”) Moore (25) ▲
  36. Jane Peckett (44) ▼
  37. Helena Adelaide Peckett (6), daughter of Jane Peckett ▼
  38. James Roberts (34)
  39. John Shaw (46?)
  40. Mary Shaw (52) ▲†
  41. Mrs. Thomas Shaw (53 or 54)
  42. Amos Sykes (17)
  43. William Herbert Sykes (21?) ▲
  44. David Bertenshaw Taylor (45)
  45. Joseph Wilson (?) ▼
  46. Joseph Wimpenny (36) ▲
  47. Isabella Woodhouse (66) ▲

Witness testimony from George North implies that Mr. Joe Dyson was also aboard but alighted with another gentleman (possibly Ben Brook) somewhere around the junction of South Street and West Parade. As other witnesses give the name “Mr. Dyson”, it is uncertain if they’re referring to Joe Dyson or Edwin Dyson.

The Passengers: Fatalities

Within a few hours of the accident, five people were dead:

Sarah Clegg

Initially described as being around 30 and from Lindley.

Sarah was actually born around 1841 in Horbury and was aged 42 when she died. She was marred to “horehound beer manufacturer”7 Benjamin Clegg and the 1881 Census list them living at 21 Birchencliffe, Lindley cum Quarmby, with 3 young children: Jane (aged 11), Norman (3) and a baby named John. By 1883, the family was living on Lidgett Lane, Lindley.

At the inquest, Benjamin stated that he’d visited his wife twice in the Infirmary, but that she died after his second visit at 5:30pm on the day of accident. He also stated that his wife was accompanied by Mrs. Bates (listed below) but when they boarded the tramcar, Sarah said that she wanted to sit on the upper-deck and Mrs. Bates decided to remain below — a decision which likely saved her life.

Sarah Clegg was buried on 6 July at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Lindley.8

Following the death of his wife, Benjamin received some compensation, but grew bitter that it was so small. He appears to have blamed a magistrate named Walker for this, and in August 1886 was apprehended drunk whilst near Walker’s house, after having throw stones through the window. During his arrest, he apparently claimed he’d like to shoot Walker dead. Benjamin died in 1913, aged 70.

David Bertenshaw Taylor9

Named as a rug manufacturer from Outlane, aged 45, he was unconscious with a serious head injury when admitted to the Infirmary and soon died.

David Bertenshaw Taylor was born around 1838 and he married Ellen Worthington (born Luddenden) in Halifax in 1865. At the time of the 1881 Census they were living at Lower Hirst, Longwood, with their 5 children: Lily E. (aged 14), Thomas (11), Albert Edward (9), David Bernard (7) and Charles Henry (6).

It seems likely Ellen was the woman described by the Huddersfield Chronicle as arriving at the Infirmary only to be told her husband had just died. She immediately collapsed in shock and had to be helped home.

At the inquest, she stated that her husband had left the family home at around 2pm to go to Huddersfield Market. As she had not seen her husband’s body, due to her collapse at the Infirmary, she formally identified it during the first day of the inquest.

His probate record notes that he left an estate worth £37 10s. to his widow. Ellen appears to have moved to Oldham where she worked as a grocer on the High Street.

Fred Moore and infant daughter Annie Moore

Fred was named as a 28-year-old cotton spinner of East Street, Lindley, and Annie was his five-month-old daughter.

Fred Moore was born around 1855 in Lindley and he married local woman Mary Ann10, who was badly injured in the accident. At the time of the 1881 Census, they were living at 38 Brian Street, Lindley cum Quarmby, with a 1-year-old son, George.

At the time of the accident, the family was living on East Street in Lindley and Fred was working as a “factory operative”.

At the inquest, his father Ben identified the two bodies as Mary Ann was still recovering in the Infirmary.

It seems very likely he was buried on 4 July, although the church record makes no mention of daughter Annie being buried with him. His probate record records an estate worth £25.

Isabella Woodhouse

Named as a 65-year-old of Temple Street, Lindley.

Isabella (née Wood) was the wife of cloth worker Abraham Woodhouse and they had married in 1842. At the time of the 1881 Census they were living at 14 Temple Street, Lindley cum Quarmby, with three of their children: William (aged 32), Betsy (30), Annie (24).

At the inquest, Isabella’s daughter Annie identified the body and stated that her mother had been accompanied by Mrs. Atkinson, who was injured in the accident.

Isabella was 66 years old at the time of the accident. Abraham died a year after his wife in 1884, aged 69.

By the following day, two more of the passengers died of their injuries:

Rowland Hall

A manufacturer from Lindley who was sitting on the top deck. He was reported to be in a very serious condition with a large scalp wound and was unconscious when admitted to the Infirmary, having been thrown off the upper-deck of the tramcar onto an iron lamppost. Initial newspaper reports stated that he was not expected to live long.

Charles Richard Green, of Reinwood Road, Lindley, attended the inquest to formally identify Hall’s body. He had been at the Infirmary and visited Hall four times before he died.

Rowland Hall was born in 1823, the son of Joseph and Mary Hall, and was baptised on 30 March at the Salendine Nook Meeting House in Lindley. He possibly married his wife Ann on 27 July 1845 at Manchester Cathedral (if so, her maiden name was Williamson).

The 1881 Census lists the family as living at “Portlands” on New Hey Road, with Rowland’s occupation given as “mill owner”. Four children were listed: Mary H. (aged 28), Clara Ann (21), Frances E. (15) and Albert Edward (9).

His probate record lists his estate as being worth just over £181 15s.

Mary Shaw

Resident of Thornhill Street, Lindley, she was admitted with a head wound and lacerated face. Although not reported as being seriously injured, she later died.

She was likely born Mary Hannah Greaves in Lindley around 1830 and she married widower shoe maker Jonathan Shaw of Lindley in late 1871. Jonathan had three sons from a previous marriage.

At the inquest, her sister, Sarah Ann Pearson, stated that she’d been with Mary when she passed away at the Infirmary at around 3:50pm on 4 July and that Mary had not spoken since being admitted.

The Passengers: Injured

The following were involved in the accident and their reported injuries are given:11

Mrs. Atkinson

Not listed by the Chronicle amongst the injured, but was named as being involved in the accident on the first day of the inquest by Annie Woodhouse. Mrs. Atkinson had accompanied Isabella Woodhouse, who was killed.

No other details are known about her, although we could perhaps assume she was of a similar age to 66-year-old Isabella.

Jane Hannah Barlow

Born around 1858 and a resident of Birkby, she worked as a cotton doffer. Her injuries were not stated.

She likely did not marry and died in 1909, aged 51. She was buried 31 July 1909 at St Thomas in Bradley.

Sarah Bates (née Gledhill)
Sarah Bates (from Ancestry)

A resident of Lindley and named as the wife of Solomon Bates. Her injuries were not stated.

At the inquest, it was heard that she was accompanying Sarah Clegg, but decided to remain on the lower-deck rather than sit on the upper-deck with her companion. Sarah Clegg died of her injuries at the Infirmary.

Born Sarah Gledhill in Birchencliffe around 1844, she married John Edwin Hirst in April 1861 but he later died. As a widow, she married widower stonemason Solomon Bates on 3 August 1878 at the parish church in Birchencliffe. She had children from both of her marriages.

She later married publican William Crook sometime around 1906 and died in 1921, aged 77.

Emma Beaumont (née Schofield) and baby son George Beaumont

Named as residents of Holly Bank Road, Lindley, Emma had head injuries. Her eight-week-old son, George, also suffered a head injury.

Emma Schofield was born around 1853, the daughter of John Schofield, and she married weaver John Beaumont on Christmas Eve 1875 at St. Stephen in Lindley. At the time of the 1881 Census, they were living at 17 Holly Bank Road with three children: Edwin (aged 4), Arthur (2) and newly-born daughter Ida. By 1891, they had had three further children.

Emma was the aunt of Alice Brook, listed below, and it is highly likely they were travelling together on the tramcar.

Her son, George, died before his first birthday and was buried at St. Stephen, Lindley, on 8 March 1884. Without knowing further details, it is possible that he never fully recovered from his head injury and died an early death 8 months after the accident.

Emma died a widow in 1921, aged 69. She was buried at All Hallows, Almondbury, on 4 March 1921.

Alice Brook

A resident of Lindley, admitted with large wounds on the temple and a fractured right thigh. She was one of three patients that were reported on the first day of the inquest to be the most danger of dying, along with Joseph Halstead and Mary Ann Moore.

She was 17-year-old Alice Brook, daughter of “mill time keeper” Charles Brook of Dearne Fold, Lindley.

The 1881 Census lists Susannah Schofield (aged 31) as a boarder with the family and she was the sister of Emma Beaumont (née Schofield). Their sister Edith (also known as “Ada”) married Charles Brook in September 1863. Their father, John Schofield, died in April 1873. When Emma married in December 1875, Charles is named as her father (he was in fact her brother-in-law!), so presumably it was Charles who gave Emma away.

Therefore, given the family links, we can assume that Alice was travelling with her Aunt Emma (Beaumont) on the tramcar.

Alice married stonemason Albert Rowley in June 1889 at the parish church in Lindley and they then lived with her father, Charles until at least 1901. She likely died in 1942, aged 77.

Benjamin Brook

In giving evidence to the inquest, George North, a butcher of Lindley, testified that he saw several people that he recognised on the upper-deck of the car, including “Ben Brook”. This was corroborated by the testimony of William Herbert Sykes.

It hasn’t been possibly to positively identify who “Ben Brook” was but he appears not to have been a relative of Alice Brook.

Thomas Clegg

Not initially listed amongst the injured, he was included in a list published by the Huddersfield Chronicle on Saturday 7 July. Described as being from Birchencliffe, he was sat next to Rowland Hall. As the car tumbled, he grabbed a tight hold of the handrail which, he believed, saved him from being throw through a shop window. Despite suffering injuries, including back pain, he walked away from the accident and caught a cab home.

He was most likely farmer Thomas Clegg, born around 1833 and residing on Burn Road, Birchencliffe, at the time of the 1891 Census with his wife Ann and five children.

“Polly Crowe”

Named as daughter of dyer John Crowe of Lindley. She escaped with cuts and bruises and was able go straight home in a cab.

There are no genealogical records for “Polly Crowe”, so we must assume “Polly” was her nickname and she was in fact Mary Jane Crow, daughter of Lindley wood dyer John Richard Crow and his wife Eliza (née Senior),12 who was born 28 March 1870 and baptised at All Saints, Paddock, on 16 February 1876.

I could find no further information about what happened to Mary Jane after the tramcar accident.

William Henry Dean

Resident of Lindley. Reportedly suffered internal injuries but was able to return home to recover, where he later complained of back pains. He was attended to by Dr. Porritt.

This was wholesale chemist William Henry Dean of Holly Bank Road, Lindley. He was born around 1843 in Lindley and married Ann ?. They had a least four children, some of whom worked with him as chemist assistants.

In a statement printed in the Huddersfield Chronicle (05/Jul/1883), Dean said that he’d been on the upper-deck and had complained to the conductor about the overcrowding on the tramcar and the speed at which they’d been travelling — apparently the conductor swore and told him to “mind his own business”.

Helena Drayton and unnamed son

Named as Mrs. Drayton, resident at the Bay Horse Inn in Lindley. She received cuts on her hands and a bruise on her right shoulder during the accident.

In one newspaper report, it was stated that she had a young son with her, but his name was not given. The 1881 Census lists three sons and their ages at the time of the accident were: John (6), Ernest (5) and Percy (3).

Also known as “Lena”, Helena Rigby was born 29 March 1853 in Huddersfield, the daughter of John and Mary Rigby. She married inn keeper William Drayton at the parish church in Huddersfield on 9 August 1875, and they raised a family of six children.

The couple initially lived at the Bay Horse Inn in Lindley. As some point after the tramcar accident, but before the 1891 Census, they had moved the Boot & Shoe Inn on New Street in central Huddersfield. In later life, they lived on Greenhead Road and Helena died there in December 1918, aged 65.

Mrs. Emmanuel Dyson

Was allowed to return to her home in Lindley Moor.

This was most likely Ellen Kitchingham who was born around 1855, the daughter of cloth miller John Kitchingman and his wife Elizabeth. She was living on Wellington Street, Lindley, around the time of the accident. She married cloth finisher Emmanuel Dyson in December 1883 at the High Street Chapel in Huddersfield, so it was a little premature of the newspapers to name her as being “Mrs. Dyson” at the time of the accident! She probably died in 1924, aged 70.

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Dyson

Mrs. Joe Dyson also allowed to return to her home in Lindley Moor.

The was probably Eliza Dyson, wife of trainee stonemason Joseph Dyson, who were living at 51 Baker Street, Lindley cum Quarmby, at the time of the 1881 Census.

Witness George North, who gave testimony at the inquest, said he thought he saw Joe Dyson alighting the tramcar near to South Street. If so, then it seems Eliza’s husband accompanied her but got off as the tramcar entered West Parade. If this is the case, then it implies he had no concerns at that time over the speed of the tramcar and may not have even have been aware that it crashed shortly afterwards.

Elizabeth Firth

Mrs. Wright Firth was named by Dr. Erson as a passenger on the lower deck. Born Elizabeth Coupland around 1842 in Stainland, she had married widower Wright Firth in 1879. Her husband was named as one of those who jumped off the tramcar before the crash.

Wright Firth

A resident of Lindley. Injuries were not stated. Alfred Crosland testified that Firth had jumped off the tramcar just before Dr. Erson did. Given that Firth’s wife was also a passenger, his actions seem rather unheroic!

He was born around 1841 and worked as a power loom tuner in Lindley. After his first wife, Jane Bottom, died in 1877, he married Elizabeth Coupland in 1879. He had at least seven children from both marriages and died in 1911, aged 70.

Joseph Halstead

A stonemason from Birchencliffe. Suffered a fractured forearm and a suspected fracture of the skull and was reported to be “very ill”, but was conscious at the Infirmary. He was one of three patients that were reported on the first day of the inquest to be the most danger of dying, along with Alice Brook and Mary Ann Moore. The Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) went even further and reported his case as being “hopeless”.

He was born around 1862 in Birchencliffe, the son of Mary A. Halstead, who was a widow at the time of the 1881 Census. At that time, they were living at 1 Rock Road, Lindley. It seems likely he died aged 28 and was buried at St. Stephen, Lindley, on 3 January 1890.

Annie Hanson and Harriet Hanson

Sisters aged 12 and 14 respectively, and named as the daughters of Mrs. Hanson of Holly Bank Road, were found unconscious on the pavement in front of Mr. Sterry’s shop but were later allowed home.

The sisters appear in the 1891 Census as visitors at the home of widow Emma Kenworthy (aged 42) of 13 Eleanor Street, Fartown, Huddersfield. Both are listed as “living on their own means”, meaning they were able to live without working.

Mrs. Hepworth

Suffered facial injuries but was allowed to return to her home in Lindley. Due to the commonality of the surname, no further details could be found.

The Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) reported that she was carrying a baby who escaped injury, but this may have been a mix-up with Emily Liversidge by the newspaper.

She was listed by the Chronicle as well as the other Mrs. Hepworth, detailed next, but had different injuries. However, there is the possibility that the newspaper made an error and there was only one Mrs. Hepworth on the tramcar.

Mrs. Dick Hepworth

Named as the wife of Dick Hepworth of Lindley. Admitted with a wound on the right side of her head, and slight cuts to her hands.

She was likely Betsy Hannah Hepworth, born around 1855 and the wife of stonemason Richard Hepworth. The 1881 Census gives them living at 49 East Street, Lindley, with a daughter named Edith Annie. After the tramcar accident, they had one more daughter, Marion Eveline. Richard later became a sexton and died in 1906. Betsy Hannah died in 1941, aged 86.

Mrs. Lister Kaye

Was allowed to return to her home on Lidget Street, but was still in shock.

She was possibly Hannah Kaye, wife of worsted weaver Lister Kaye, who were living with their five children at 170 New Hey Road, Lindley, at the time of the 1881 Census.

Emily Liversidge and unknown child

Wife of Milnsbridge plumber Thompson Liversedge, admitted suffering primarily from shock. She was holding a nine-week-old baby in her arms who “miraculously escaped without a scratch”.

The Leeds Times reported that the baby had been “buried under the mass of passengers inside the car, but was afterwards drawn through the window of the car unhurt.”

Emily Gratton was born around 1867 in Sheffield, the daughter of Henry and Allathea Gratton. She married Thompson (possibly Thomson) Liversidge in 1882.

The identity of the baby she was holding is uncertain, as the 1891 Census only lists two daughters who were both born after the tramcar accident, which implies the baby died between 1883 and 1891. Emily herself died aged 31 and was buried at All Hallows, Almondbury, on 25 March 1897.

Margaret Miller

Named as a resident of Glen View, Edgerton, she boarded the tramcar at Marsh and alighted before the Greenhead Road turnoff on Trinity Street, as she “wished to call upon [surgeon] Mr. Irving.”

She appeared at the inquest and stated that there was no apparent alarm amongst the passengers during the time she was on the tramcar.

Richard Marsden

A stone merchant from Elland Edge, described as being “dreadfully lacerated about the face”. Drifting in and out of consciousness, his injuries were regarded as being serious.

He was most probably farmer and quarry owner Richard Marsden who was born around 1833, and is listed in the 1881 Census as residing at Upper Edge, Elland, with his wife Sarah and four children.

Mary Ann (“Polly”) Moore

Wife of Fred and mother of Annie, both of whom died, she was admitted with severe head injuries. She was one of three patients that were reported on the first day of the inquest to be the most danger of dying, along with Joseph Halstead and Alice Brook.

She was confined to the Infirmary throughout the inquest, so would not have attended the funeral of her husband which appears to have taken place the day after the accident.

Born Mary Ann Hirst around 1858, she was the daughter of Lindley twine manufacturer Abraham Hirst and his wife Elizabeth.

Mary Ann died on 18 December 1891, aged 34, and was buried alongside her husband. As in indication of the compensation she received after the accident, her husband had left her an estate worth £25 but she died leaving an estate worth a considerable £1,282 18s.13.

In a bizarre footnote, Mary Ann’s probate was administered by her younger brother, rope-maker David Henry Hirst of Lindley. Hirst also acted as a probate to the estate of farmer Samuel Waterhouse of Lindley, who had made out his will in September 1886 in favour of Hirst. When Waterhouse died in May 1892, leaving his property and land to Hirst, one of Waterhouse’s nephews, Glasgow dentist Aquila Waterhouse, later visited Hirst on 18 July and threatened him with gun, demanding a quarter of the Samuel Waterhouse’s property. Perhaps to scare Hirst, he fired towards Hirst’s legs but missed. The two struggled and Hirst managed to take the revolver whilst Waterhouse ran away.

Three days later, at around 6:30am in the morning, David Henry Hirst apparently committed suicide by cutting his own throat. At the subsequent inquest, it was claimed the pressure of running his own business and the issues around his inheritance from Samuel Waterhouse drove him to the act — however, newspaper reports claimed that the police had sensational evidence which provided another motive for the suicide (although this was seemingly never revealed!). Aquila Waterhouse then wrote threatening letters to Hirst’s mother stating that he would not be cheated out of his birthright, which resulted in him being arrested again (he was previously acquitted over the firing of the gun). Some of Samuel Waterhouse’s property was later put up for auction in August 1892 and again in April 1893.

Jane Peckett and daughter Helena Adelaide Peckett

Named as the wife of Frederick Peckett, a local woollen manufacturer, she sustained a head injury and a broken rib but was allowed to return home with her six-year-old daughter. Both were patients of Dr. Erson.

The Leeds Times (07/Jun/1883) managed to get her name wrong, but reported her as saying “she tried to get [off] but there was a crowd of women in the doorway, so that it was impossible to leave the car, and she then tried to protect her girl”.

Jane Gelder was likely born around 1838 and married Frederick Peckett in 1858. She died at some point between the 1891 and 1901 Censuses.

Daughter Helena Adelaide Peckett was born around 1878. She married Walter Charles Mead in 1908 and died on 24 November 1946 in Huddersfield, aged 69.

James Roberts

A tanner from Quarmby, he received fractures to his ribs and right foot.

He was born around 1849, the son of local farmer George Roberts and his wife Harriet. He married Emma Binns in 1878 and they raised five children. He likely died in 1929, aged 80.

John Shaw

A manufacturer from Beaston Hill, Stainland, and residing in Barkisland, he received severe bruising to the head and was reported as “still very ill”.

In a statement given by Alfred Crosland to the Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Jul/1883), he said that John Shaw’s head was “very badly cut” and that Mr. Harrison had helped him to the Temperance Hotel where he “kindly supplied all that was necessary for his comfort until he could be taken to the Infirmary.”

He was likely the John Shaw born around 1837 who is listed in the 1881 Census as being the son of James and Ann Shaw and working as a “woollen manufacturer”.

Mrs. Thomas Shaw

A grocer’s wife of Luck Lane, Marsh. Escaped with minor bruises and was placed under the car of Dr. Porritt.

There were two Thomas Shaw’s living on Luck Lane in the 1881 Census, both with links to the grocery trade, so the passenger was one of the following:

  • Ann Shaw (aged 53) of 1 & 2 Luck Lane, wife of a grocer and corn dealer.
  • Abagail Shaw (aged 54) of 16 Luck Lane, wife of a woollen warehouseman & grocer, who died in 1896, aged 68.

Amos Sykes

Named as a teenage cotton piecer from Lindley, he was reported to have regained conciousness and was doing well. He was called to give evidence on the final day of the enquiry and reported that he’d travelled on the upper-deck.

He was born around 1866, the son of woollen spinner James Sykes and his wife Frances (née Crow). The 1881 Census lists the family living at 127 Acre Street, Lindley cum Quarmby.

Amos married Betsy Wilkinson in 1885 and they had a total of 11 children, 2 of whom had died by the time of the 1911 Census when the family was living at 25 Lowergate, Longwood. He died 22 June 1934, aged 68. Betsy died in 1943.

Mr C. Sykes

The Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) reported on the accident and named a “Mr. C. Sykes of Marsh” as being one of the passengers who jumped out of the car prior to the crash. This is very likely an error on their part and they meant William Herbert Sykes.

Joseph Wimpenny

Resident of Cowrakes, Lindley. Not seriously injured, despite being (according to William Henry Dean) on the upper-deck of the tramcar.

Joseph Wimpenny as born around 1847 in Holmfirth and worked as a general contractor. He married Mary Hinchliffe on 23 Jul 1870 and they had at least six children. He died in 1908, aged 60.

The Other Passengers

The following were known to have travelled on the ill-fated tramcar and either alighted (or jumped off) prior to the accident or were not listed as those admitted to the Infirmary, so were able to walk away from the accident:

Alfred Crosland

Alfred Crosland gave evidence at the inquest that he stood at the rear of the car and, when it was apparent the engine was running too fast and the conductor was not to be seen, he attempted to apply the brake of the car but to no avail. He was recorded as being the last person to jump off the tramcar before it crashed.

He was almost certainly stonemason Alfred Crosland, born around 1842 in Lindley. He appears to have worked for a while as a miner in his teenage years before marrying Ann Shaw in 1873.

The 1881 Census listed him living with his wife and father-in-law at 36 Quarmby Road, Lindley. By 1901, he was working as a stone dresser and living at 42 Quarmy Road.

He died aged 63 and was buried in Lindley on 14 January 1905 alongside his wife, who had passed away in September 1901.

Edwin Dyson

The only detail given for Dyson is that he was from “Westfield”, which presumably refers to an area of Skelmanthorpe. Therefore, he was very likely the Edwin Dyson who was born around 1842 in Emley and who married either Mary Firth or Ann Bellamy in 1862. At the time of the 1881 Census, they were living on Dale Hill, Skelmanthorpe, Huddersfield, and he was working as a weaver. They had at least seven children.

By 1901, aged 59, he was specialising in hand weaving mohair. He died in 1907, aged 65.

Dr. William Robert Erson

Born in Ireland around 1847, Dr. Erson was a physician and surgeon based in Lindley. The 1881 Census gives him living unmarried at 36 Albert Street.

He served on the Huddersfield Board of Guardians between 1881 and 1885. He later immigrated to New Zealand aboard the Tainui, which departed London on 12 June 1890, bound for Wellington, New Zealand.

William Herbert Sykes

Named as a farmer of Lindley when he gave evidence at the inquest. Despite being on the upper-deck of the tramcar when it toppled over, he seemingly walked away relatively unscathed.

The Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) seems of have incorrectly reported him as being “Mr. C. Sykes of Marsh”.

There were at least four people named “William Sykes” linked to the farm or diary trades residing in Lindley at the time of the 1881 Census, but it seems mostly likely this was the William H. Sykes who was a 19-year-old son of farmer William Sykes (born around 1825 in Saddleworth) who owned 12 acres of land. By 1901, he had married a woman named Sarah and was living as a farmer at Cop Riding, Moorside, Stainland, with seven children.

Joseph Wilson

Named in the Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Jul/1883) as a passenger who jumped off the back of the car after Dr. Erson. He stated that the speed was such that he hit the road and tumbled forwards for several yards, ripping his clothes and sustaining bruises.

The First Aiders

The following were named as people who helped in the aftermath of the accident and excludes the passengers already named (such as Dr. Erson) who gave aid. Some of them also appeared as witnesses at the inquest.

Mr. Bower

Described as a member of the Huddersfield School Board, he gave a vivid description of the accident to the Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Jul/1883). He stated he was stood with woodstapler Mr. Halstead on Railway Street, near the West Gate end, when he saw the tramcar approaching rapidly. He bolted to the right whilst Mr. Halstead ran to his left. His lengthy and detailed description of the injured implies that he gave aid and helped with moving the wounded.

Presumably this was Mr. J.H. Bower who served on the School Board until resigning on 3 May 1884, following a move to London.

Ralph Cuthbert

According to the Huddersfield Chronicle (05/Jul/1883), a Mr. W.H. Middlemost who saw the crash sent a messenger to Mr. Cuthbert, a nearby “chemist and druggist”. Cuthbert immediately grabbed an armful of “lint, bandages and other requisites for the dressing of wounds” and rushed to the site — “This timely supply of surgical appliances was very valuable.”

Ralph Cuthbert was born in Huddersfield in 1846, the son of James Ralph and Mary Cuthbert. By aged 24, he was a chemist. He had opened his dispensary at on West Parade in the late 1860s14 and was still there at the time of 1911 Census, aged 64. He died in 1917, aged 70.

Ralph Cuthbert Ltd continued to be a familiar sight in Huddersfield until at least the end of the 1960s.

Alderman Thomas Denham

Alderman Denham is perhaps best-known for his tireless campaign to make Greenhead Park a public space from 1869 onwards. A plaque in the park commemorates his efforts, which led to it becoming a public park in 1884.

Born around 1819 in Lindley, he worked as a draper and eventually became the Mayor of Huddersfield from 1880 to 1881. He died on 28 October 1892.

Duke Fox

Duke was a trained member of the St. John’s Ambulance Society and provided valuable assistance to Dr. Erson in tending the wounded and dressing their wounds.

He was born around 1850 and worked as a shoddy manufacturer. This process involved the recovery and recycling of waste wool into yarn, and the finished product, whilst cheaper than normal yarn, tended to be of a lower quality. Nowadays, the word “shoddy” has come to mean anything of a lower quality in general.

He married Mary Hodges in 1877 and in later life became a local magistrate.

He died in December 1909, aged 59, leaving a considerable estate worth over £33,00015, including Marlborough House. His wife, Mary, had died in 1907.

Councillor Hanson

This was likely Councillor Benjamin Hanson, who was known for hosting an annual “Treat to the Poor”, usually at the Methodist church in Paddock.

He was born around 1819 and worked as a woollen manufacturer. He married Harriet Milnes in 1857 and had at least 8 children. He died in 1894, aged 75.

Mr. Harrison

Named as the “of the Temperance Hotel” by the Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Jul/1883), he apparently helped some of the injured to the hotel, including John Shaw, where they were treated until they could be taken to the Infirmary.

Mr. Matthewman

Described in the Huddersfield Chronicle (05/Jul/1883) as a sculptor of Occupation Road, Moldgreen, he was near the corner of West Gate and Railway Street and witnessed the crash. He ran to give aid and gave a graphic description of the scene — one woman was partially trapped under the overturned car and another “had her legs partly through the windows at the side.” He went on to say, “The scene was a terrible one, the injured groaning and screaming, and pools of blood lying in the road.”

Mr. W. Raynor

Mr. W. Raynor (of South Street) made a statement reported in the Huddersfield Chronicle (05/Jul/1883) that he was walking from the railway station (presumably along St. George’s Street) and got on to West Gate in time to see tramcar approaching. He called out to caution other pedestrians to get out of the way and then ran down to Railway Street in time to see the car topple and Rowland Hall being flung against a lamppost. He was one of the first on the scene and helped pull Fred Moore free “out of the tangled mess” before running to fetch more help.

John Rowe

Named as being retired, he gave testimony at the inquest on 12 July. After helping out, he spoke to both the driver and the conductor, and watched the engine and car being moved down to Northumberland Street.

Rowe was born around 1824, the son of tailor George Rowe. He worked as an iron moulder and married Mary Ann Reed on 22 September 1845 at St John the Baptist, Halifax. At the time of the 1881 Census he was retired and living with his wife at 115 Hebble Terrace, Bradford Road. He died in 1903, aged 80.

John Henry Sterry

A wholesale clothier whose shop was on the corner of West Gate and Railway Street. He saw the tram prior to it taking the corner and then witnessed it topple. He ran out to provide aid and helped bring some of the injured into his shop.

Sterry was born in Gloucester in 1847 and initially worked as an outfitter there before moving to Huddersfield prior to the 1881 Census. He became involved in local politics in the 1890s.

Mr. J.H. Stuttard

Described as a painter and decorator of Ramsden Street, he stood talking to someone outside the Cherry Tree Hotel and witnessed the tramcar speeding down West Gate. He gave aid to Rowland Hall and then fetched water for Hall to drink. Stuttard attempted to hail a cab in order to get Hall to the Infirmary, but the first cab driver “refused to take him and drove away”. He also spoke to a “young man from Lindley” who had been sat next to Hall. After a while, Stuttard began to feel faint and “was compelled to leave the scene”.

John Henry Stuttard was born around 1836 in Huddersfield. He married Lydia Schofield in 1862 and he died 1907, aged 72. He became involved with the Huddersfield Board of Guardians from the 1880s onwards.

Alderman Walker

This was presumably Alderman Alfred Walker, the former Mayor of Huddersfield (1878-1880). He was born around 1838 and worked as a woollen manufacturer. He died in 1909, aged 71.

The Witnesses

Many of the witnesses rushed to provide help and their names are given in the previous section. The following are those who gave statements to the press or at the inquest but weren’t specifically mentioned as providing aid (although they may well have done).

Joseph Theophilus Green

Stationmaster of Huddersfield Railway Station. He gave evidence on Friday 13 July 1883 and was of the belief that the tramcar’s brakes were not applied at the time of the crash.

Born around 1843 in Cheshire, he married Frances Elizabeth Hibbert in 1868 at Huddersfield and they raised a family of 4 children. He died in 1902, aged 60. He was stationmaster at Huddersfield from at least the late 1870s until his death, and was likely the stationmaster at Stocksmoor prior to that.

Mr. Harpin

Reported by the Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Jul/1883) to be a stone merchant of Thurstonland, he was standing on the corner of Westgate and Railway Street and “had a narrow escape of being injured by the falling car”.

George North

Named as a butcher of Lindley, he gave evidence on 12 July 1883. He stated he saw the tramcar go past and that the car’s brakes were applied. He recognised several people on the upper-deck and saw the tramcar slow down near South Street to let two people off, one of whom might have been Eliza Dyson’s husband, Joeseph.

North Sager North was born around 1849 and married Louisa Berry in 1872. They were living at 16 George Street, Lindley, at the time of the 1881 Census with their

The Inquest

The inquest was attended by many people and officials. The following are those primarily involved or who gave evidence and have not been previously listed. Their capacity is given in parentheses.

Councillor Armitage Haigh (Chairman of the Tramways Committee)

Arrived about half an hour after the accident occurred and went to the shed where the engine had been moved to. Together with Laxton and Alderman Henry Hirst, he had questioned the engine driver, Roscoe, about the state of the engine. On the final day of the inquest, he reported that Roscoe had admitted he had closed one of steam valves, and half closed the other, to essentially disable the engine’s automatic braking system.

Mr. W. Barstow (Coroner)

William Barstow was born around 1831 in Halifax, where he appears to have lived most (if not all) of his life. He is listed in the 1881 Census as the “Coroner for the County of York” and was living with his elderly mother, Eliza. He didn’t marry until later in life and died in 1901, aged 70.

Richard Swarbrick Dugdale (Borough Engineer and Surveyor)

Dugdale inherited the plans from the tramway network from his predecessor and oversaw the construction of the network. At the inquest, he admitted lowering the elevation of the outer rail on the corner where the crash occurred from the original specification. His evidence clashed with that of Thomas Laxton, who had claimed he had reported a number of concerns to Dugdale prior to the accident — Dugdale repeatedly told the inquiry that those concerns were none of Laxton’s business.

He was born around 1849 in Blackburn, Lancashire. He later moved to Sculcoates, near Hull, where he died in 1903, aged 54.

Arthur G. Evans (Engineer)

A superintendent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Alongside Middleton Pratt, he took part in the technical examination of the engine and provided a separate report.

Major General Hutchinson (Inspector for the Board of Trade)

Hutchinson led a separate parallel inquiry which investigated the technical reasons for the crash.

Charles Scrope Hutchinson was born in August 1826 and obtained a commission with the Royal Engineers. From 1867 he was the Inspector of Railways for the Board of Trade. Perhaps not his finest moment, he inspected the Tay Bridge in February 1878 and declared that he “regarded as satisfactory” — it collapsed in high winds in December 1879 as a train was crossing it, killing all on board.

He died in 1929.

Thomas Frederic Laxton (Huddersfield Tramway Superintendent)

Laxton gave damning evidence at the inquest (some of which was flatly denied by others) which painted a picture of rule breaking by drivers and the failure of management (particularly Dugdale) to take steps to prevent the accident.

Be was born around 1858 in Peterborough and in later life moved back there, where he worked as a locomotive engineer. He didn’t marry and died in 1930, aged 71.

Middleton Pratt (Engineer)

Pratt, a mechanical engineer from Fixby, was appointed by the jury to be an independent engineer who examined the engine alongside Arthur Evans. He provided an independent report to Evans.

He was born 15 April 1839 and married Antoinette Faigle in 1888. He was declared bankrupt in April 1891 and later retired to Dorset where he died April in 1925, aged 86.

Dr. James Nowell Richardson (Surgeon)

Richardson was the senior house surgeon at the Huddersfield Infirmary. On the first day of the inquest, he correctly predicted that two more of the passengers would die. He attended the final day of the inquest to report on the causes of death for the seven individuals who died.

Richardson was born 8 July 1857 in Leeds and studied at the Durham University. By the time of the 1911 Census, he was a G.P. living in Ilkley.

William Wilkinson (Engineer)

As owner of William Wilkinson & Co., Wgian, and manufacturer of the engine involved in the crash, his reputation was at risk. Wilkinson’s had been chosen to supply the engines as their new vertical boiler design could provide more steam-power, which was seen as a requirement on the hilly streets around Huddersfield. He was accompanied at the inquest by this solicitor, Mr. Ellis.

The 1883 Tramcar Tragedy – Part 1: The Accident

This otherwise unassuming stretch of Railway Street will be familiar to anyone who lives in Huddersfield but it was the scene of the town’s worst tramcar accident, just over 130 years ago…

Tramcars in Huddersfield

On Thursday 11 January 1883, Huddersfield became the first local authority in England to own and operate its own tramcar service. According to Discovering Old Huddersfield, the first service left “Fartown Bar for the terminus at Lockwood Bar travelling via Bradford Road, Northumberland Street, John William Street, Buxton Road and Chapel Hill.”

According to one newspaper report, the initial service ran from 9am with services from Fartown leaving on the hour, and setting off back from Lockwood on the half hour. The only accident reported on the very first day of operation was when a horse was spooked by tramcar and backed its cart into a lamppost, knocking it over.1

The tramcar network would eventually expand to reach out to many of the outlying districts, including routes to Crosland Moor, Honley, Longwood, Marsden, and even Brighouse and Elland.

In those early days, the services were nearly all steam-powered tramcars, with a small number of horse-driven trams used in the busy town centre, where it was felt the faster steam ones might be more dangerous to pedestrians.

The steam-powered tramcars comprised a single passenger carriage (referred to as the “car”) pulled along the rails by a small steam engine, as evidenced by this photograph a Berry Brow tramcar.


Very occasionally, a single engine would pull two cars, but this tended not to happen on the hilly streets of Huddersfield.

Some of the early cars were open-topped, which can hardly have been pleasant with the soot and smoke blowing into the passenger’s faces! For this reason, the upper-deck fare was initially 1 old pence, compared to the 2 old pence charged for travelling in the enclosed lower-deck.

At the start of the 1900s, steps were made to begin electrifying some of the routes and, by the 1930s, the rails were pulled up and electric trolleybuses started to replace the tramcars.


During the era of the steam tramcars, there were only two fatal accidents and we’ll look in-depth at the first — and most serious — in a three-part blog post.

However, before we look into the full details of the accident itself, it’s probably worth explaining a little more about how the steam tramcars of that era operated:

  • The engine could be put into forward or reverse and the driver could control the speed.
  • The braking system for the engine was steam-powered, with two valves that controlled the amount of steam passing through to the brakes. If these values were partially closed, the braking effect would be lessened, and if the valves were fully closed, the brakes would not operate at all.
  • As well as using the steam-powered brakes, a driver could slow the tramcar by either throwing the engine into reverse or by getting the conductor to apply the brake at the rear of the car. Although there was, at that time, no apparent consensus on the correct way to bring a tramcar to a halt to allow passengers to board and disembark, reportedly the most common method was a combination of putting the engine into reverse and applying the car brake, which required a degree of coordination between the driver and conductor, usually achieved via the ringing of a bell by the driver.
  • To limit the risk of an engine running out of control, they were fitted with an automatic braking system, approved by the Board of Trade. Should the speed exceed a set limit (about 9 miles per hour), this system would kick in, applying the steam-powered brakes and throwing the engine into reverse. The purpose of this system wasn’t necessarily to bring the tramcar to an immediate halt, but to slow the speed down to well below the limit. However, as noted above, the effect of the steam-powered brakes could be lessened by the closing of the relevant valves, thus making it possible for a driver to effectively disable the automatic braking system.
  • The conductor’s brake in the car wouldn’t be enough in itself to stop a tramcar going downhill if the engine was pulling forward — the car’s wheels would just skid along the metal rails — but it would likely help to slow the tramcar down.
  • Some engines were fitted with a separate independent braking system, which didn’t require steam. Unfortunately the engines initially purchased by the Huddersfield Corporation didn’t have this safety feature.

The Tramcar Tragedy of July 1883

The tramcar route from Lindley descended down an incline towards Huddersfield along Trinity Street, passing by the eastern edge of Greenhead Park, then along West Parade and West Gate (where it merged with the line to Edgerton), before turning sharp-left into Railway Street to enter the terminus loop in St. George’s Square, in front of the railway station.

The section running down West Gate and West Parade can be seen in this 1905 postcard and a photograph from the mid-1930s, from the trolleybus era:



The latter section of the route is shown in green on this 1890 map, with the corner into Railway Street shown in red.


Normally on a tight bend, the track would be laid so that the outer rail was raised much higher than the inner rail, to make the tramcar to lean into the corner. This difference in height was known then as the “superelevation” but these days tends to be called the “cant” of the track. In the case of the bend into Railway Street, the outer track was raised slightly, but not very much as there were concerns that a more elevated outer rail would impede other users of the road. According to the testimony of the Borough Surveyor, the cant of the track was calculated to allow for a loaded tramcar to take this particular corner safely at a speed of 4 miles per hour.

Since the line had opened in June 1883, concerns were raised that the tramcars were “in the habit of travelling at a high rate of speed”. It was reported that “the conductor had been spoken to about the danger attending such recklessness”.

On Tuesday 3 July 1883, the 2:30pm tramcar from Lindley departed around 5 minutes late for Huddersfield. The car was an open-top and it was being pulled by the Huddersfield Corporation’s Engine No.2, built by Wilkinson and Sons of Wigan.

The conductor was Henry Sawyer. Sawyer had previously worked for a local omnibus company, but had only recently begun his current job on the Lindley tramcar route in mid-June. He would later state that he had only received basic verbal training for his new job, and was left to figure out for himself when he should be collecting fares and when he should be manning the tramcar brake on the route. As the inquest would later hear, the formal book of rules and regulations for the Huddersfield tramcar operators was still at a draft stage, awaiting further discussion by the relevant Huddersfield Corporation committee.

The driver of the engine was Thomas Roscoe. According to Sawyer, Roscoe had been in the Fleece Inn, Lindley, prior to the start of the journey, although there was no evidence presented that Roscoe was intoxicated or incapable of operating the engine. However, the tramway superintendent, Thomas Frederick Laxton, had been keeping a close eye on the Roscoe as he was strongly of the opinion that some of the drivers were bypassing the automatic brake system by closing the connecting steam valves and Laxton hoped to catch one of them red-handed.

Before the tramcar set off, Roscoe had very likely nearly closed both values to disable the automatic braking system so that he could drive faster than 9 mph without the automatic braking system slowing him down. Perhaps he was concious that the tramcar was setting off late and wished to make up time, but his decision would ultimately cost the lives of seven people.

Tuesday was Market Day in Huddersfield and a large number of people were making their way to and from the town centre. Within a few stops, the tramcar was so full — it was later reported around 40 people were on the tramcar — that some passengers elected to sit on the steps between the upper and lower-decks, whilst others stood on the rear platform and on the upper-deck. The conductor reportedly shouted to the driver, “don’t stop again”, meaning not to pick up any more people until they reached Huddersfield, which drew a remark of “If we don’t [ever] stop again, I wonder where we’ll get to?!” from one passengers.

At the inquest, Sawyer would state that he’d usual applied the tramcar brake once they started descending Trinity Street, knowing that the remainder route was steeper. At least one witness (Lindley butcher George North) would corroborate this, stating that as the tramcar past him on the stretch of road next to Greenhead Park, he could see the wheels locked and skidding — “I thought that if it had been night there would have been a lot of sparks.” Prior to passing this witness, the tramcar had slowed to let off Margaret Miller, although most witnesses stated it did not come to a full stop.

The driver soon picked up speed again. One of the passengers, Lindley surgeon Dr. W.R. Erson, grew concerned that they were going too fast and voiced his fears to fellow passengers that one day there’d be an accident.

As the tramcar approached the bottom of Trinity Street, at least one passenger rang the bell to request the tram to stop. Witnesses differed on whether or not the tramcar actually slowed down but the passengers who wanted to alight apparently chose to jump off whilst the vehicle was still in motion. What everyone agreed on was that the tramcar certainly didn’t stop.

At the junction of Trinity Street and West Parade, the line curved to the left and, according to some witnesses, one side of the speeding tramcar lifted clear of the rails by several inches on the curve before righting itself again. West Parade and West Gate were the steepest part of the line with a gradient of 1 in 17 and it was now imperative that the driver now slowed the engine, especially given the sharp curve ahead onto Railway Street.

Dr. Erson had been keeping a close eye on the driver and noticed that he’d raised a lever and had apparently expected it to slow the engine — at the inquest, this was described as the means by which the driver could throw the engine into reverse. Unbeknown to Roscoe, a crucial piston had failed at some point in their journey and the lever now effectively did nothing. He frantically rang his bell to alert Sawyer to apply the brakes in the car, but the conductor was apparently unable to get to the brake.

At the inquest, it would be contentious as to what state the car brake was in as the tramcar ran down West Parade into West Gate, with Sawyer telling the press that he was of the opinion a passenger must have tampered with it. However, later tests showed that the car brakes alone would not be sufficient to slow the tramcar down, even if fully applied.

On the lower-deck, people were now standing up in alarm at the speed they were going. Dr. Erson, apparently calmly as so not to panic his fellow passengers, had made his way to the rear of the tramcar, as he was convinced the driver had no control whatsoever over the engine.

By now, most of the passengers had realised that their speed was continuing to increase unabated and some took the opportunity to jump off from the rear of the tramcar, including Dr. Erson.

Alfred Crosland of Oakes had got on when the tramcar was nearly full and had stood at the rear by the car brake for most of the journey — he would state that he saw no-one go near the brake. The sight of passengers jumping off behind him, coupled with the frantic ringing of the bell and the lack of a conductor, prompted him to seize the brake himself and he turned it, expecting to hear and feel the application of the brakes. However, he felt nothing. He later claimed that if he had felt anything, he would have valiantly remained at the brake — instead he took his chances and was named as the last person to jump off the rear of the car.

Of those who did jump off, some managed to stay upright, but most lost their footing and tumbled down the road, sustaining minor cuts, grazes and bruises. Dr. Erson had quickly regained his feet and, after checking that some of the others who’d jumped off weren’t badly injured, he ran down West Gate after the tramcar, perhaps fearing his medical skills would be much needed in a few moments.2

In the lower-deck, Emily Liversidge was cradling her nine-week-old baby and cried out, “My child! My child! How must I save my child?”. Mrs. Drayton, who was sat near to her, told her to “wrap it in your shawl”, which Emily did. Mrs. Drayton then took a tight hold of her own son, who was accompanying her.

On the upper deck, the passengers included Sarah Clegg, Mary Shaw, retired mill-owner Roland Hall, farmer William Herbert Sykes, 60-year-old Isabella Woodhouse and a young couple with their five-month-old daughter.

With the left-hand curve onto Railway Street now in sight, panic was gripping the remaining passengers and eyewitnesses claimed that some of those on the upper-deck were stood up. Other stated that the women (and some of the men) on both decks were screaming.

The engine took the corner onto Railway Street at a speed which was estimated to have been somewhere between 10 to 16 miles per hour3 and stayed on the rails due to its weight and low centre of gravity, but the more top-heavy car behind again tipped over to its right at an alarming angle, with the left-hand wheels well clear of the track.

According to witnesses, the car remained at this angle for a few seconds before finally toppling over and snapping the chain between the engine and car.

melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)
melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)

With the car on its side, the engine finally stopped abruptly after a few feet, coming to rest next to the Estate Building, some 20 or so yards down Railway Street.

Those on the upper-deck were thrown forwards and sideways onto the pavement — in a neat line, according to one bystander. Rowland Hall, a retired manufacturer and mill owner, was flung bodily into an iron lamppost, sustaining injuries that would prove fatal. Young Annie Moore lay dying or dead on the pavement.

Those on the lower-deck were hurled around inside the car and Emily Liversedge’s baby lay buried until a pile of passengers. As the car had hit the ground, the left-hand side windows shattered above the passengers, showering them with shards of glass.

One witness described the crash site as resembling at miniature battlefield, strewn with casualties. Many of the passengers had suffered head injuries, whilst some were lucky to walk away with bruises and cuts.

Within moments of the crash, numerous bystanders had rushed to give their aid. Some helped move the injured away from the crash site and into the Estate Building. Others went to the fallen car, where they saw one woman on the road with her legs trapped underneath, and another woman’s legs sticking out of one of the broken windows. Fearing that there might be others trapped underneath who needed help, a crowd quickly heaved the car upright.

One of the first to reach the scene was Duke Fox, a highly successful shoddy manufacturer of Dewsbury. As a trained member of the St. John’s Ambulance Society, he proved invaluable in assisting Dr. Erson to provide aid to the injured and dying. Word quickly spread and others with medical training arrived on the scene. Local chemists grabbed armfuls of bandages and rushed to give help. The most seriously injured were soon placed in cabs and conveyed to the Huddersfield Infirmary.

Among the others who helped were Aldermen Walker and Denham, Councillor Hanson, and Mr. Harrison of the Temperance Hotel4, who took some of the less badly injured there to await transport to the Infirmary.

Once the car had been cleared of those inside, the driver Roscoe slowly advanced the engine and smashed car into St. George’s Square. Both were then taken down the Corporation’s tramcar shed where orders were eventually given to the police to guard the engine.

A reporter from the Huddersfield Chronicle was soon at the Infirmary and reported:

The scene was, indeed, one of the saddest possible to conceive. The groans of the injured, the ghastly appearance of many of them, and the sight of so much human suffering was enough to unnerve the stoutest hearts.

In the next blog post, we’ll look in more depth at those involved with the accident, including the seven passengers who died. A final post will recount the details of the inquest and the jury’s decision as to whether or not any one individual was criminally responsible for the deaths of the seven passengers.

Sources and Further Reading

The Grove Inn


Anyone who knows me will know The Grove Inn is my favourite pub in Huddersfield, so I thought I’d have a rummage through the newspaper archives to see what I could find!

It looks like the pub, which is situated on the corner of Spring Grove Street and Merton Street (as shown on the 1906 map below), sprang into existence sometime around 1850 — an auction in August 1857 described it as comprising of the end three of seven “newly-erected” properties.

An article from December 1852 implies that Sir John William Ramsden (after whom John William Street in named) had just unveiled the plans for laying out Spring Grove Street and Swallow Street, which means the properties were probably built in 1853. Various reports from the meetings of the Improvement Commissioners state that work on completing the street continued well into 1854.

The first three landlords were likely as follows…

  • James Denison
    Born around 1828 in Leeds, son of “beerhouse keeper” Benjamin Denison and his wife Mary. Was working as a “journeyman tailor” at the time of the 1851 Census and living with his parents on Spring Street, Huddersfield. Married Sarah Dixon in late 1852 in Leeds. Listed as an “innkeeper and tailor” living on Swallow Street West in 1861 Census. Died 29 July 1870. The 1871 Census lists widow Sarah Dennison as a “retired innkeeper” living on South Street, Huddersfield, so possibly she briefly ran the pub after the death of her husband?
  • John Hellawell
    Born around 1837 (possibly in Leeds?), son of cloth miller William Hellawell. Worked as a cloth miller. Married widow Sarah Davison (aged 33), daughter of farmer John Middleton, on 17 March 1873 at St. Peter, Leeds. Died 9 June 1877.
  • Sarah Hellawell
    Born Sarah Middleton around 1839 in Pontefract, and married to John Hellawell. 1881 Census, widow innkeeper of Grove Inn, 43/45/47 Spring Grove, with children Florence M. (aged 12) and Thomas A. (aged 10). Probably the “Sarah Ann Hellawell” who died 1897 aged 58.

Although I couldn’t find anything to confirm this, it is possible that James Denison’s father, Benjamin, was the landlord before he took over. If that’s true, then possibly Benjamin was the first landlord of The Grove Inn.


Newspaper Articles

Assuming that the pub didn’t change its name in the late 1880s, there are surprisingly few articles in the archives from the period 1850 to 1900, although there can’t be many pubs in Huddersfield that have been linked to acts of cannibalism!

Unless otherwise stated, the articles are from the Huddersfield Chronicle.

1 July 1854

Huddersfield Police Court.

Offence Against the Beerhouse Act.

James Denison, keeper of the Grove Inn, Wood Street, was charged with allowing persons to drink ale in his house on Sunday afternoon, the 25th ult., during the hours of divine service. The officer on duty saw three young men drink two glasses of ale in defendant’s house, at a little after 3 o’clock. It appeared that the parties had been admitted during a heavy storm or rain. Ordered to pay expenses, 6s.

12 May 1855

Huddersfield Police Court.

A Licensed House in Danger.

James Denison, landlord of the Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street, was summoned for permitting unlawful games in his house on the 1st inst. At a quarter to eleven on the night in question Police Constable Ramsden found four men, one of whom was the defendant, playing cards in a small room adjoining the bar. The cards were produced [in court]. Fined 10s. and costs.

Leeds Mercury 12 January 1856

Leeds Mercury 12 January 1856

15 August 1857

Sales by Auction.

Lot 1. All those seven newly-erected, substantial, and well-finished MESSUAGES or DWELLING-HOUSES, three of them being now occupied in one, and licensed as an inn, and known by the name or sign of the Grove Inn, with the Yard and Out Offices behind the same, comprising an area of 664 superficial square yards, more or less, situate in Swallow Street and Spring Grove Street, in Huddersfield, in the county of York, held under a lease from Sir J.W. Ramsden for 60 years, from 29th September, 1852, at the yearly rent of £8 6s., with the right of renewal on payment of certain fines, and now in the several occupations of Mr. James. Denison, Mr. William Butler, Mr. John Wood, Mrs. Booth, and Mr. Eastwood, or their undertenants.

12 August 1865

Magistrates in Petty Sessions.

Cannibalism. Biting a Man’s Lip.

John Edwin Eagland, said to be a tall, powerful man, and described as a clogger, of Lindley, was charged with unlawfully assaulting Richard Linton, a man of low stature, labourer, Lowerhead Row. Complainant stated that, on Monday evening he was at the Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street. He and others were talking about a cricket match, when the defendant introduced the subject of jumping. He (Linton) replied that they wanted nothing to do with jumping, and told the defendant to hold his noise. Eagland then said he would kick the complainant out of the place ; and the latter exclaimed that he could not do it. Presently complainant went out, and was followed by defendant, who seized him, and bit a piece out of his lip. The severed lip had had to be sewed, and the complainant had since the assault been unable to follow his occupation. A young man was called to give corroborative evidence. He deposed that the defendant took the complainant by the coat, pulled him down, got his head under his arm, and then bit him. If he had bit half an inch more he would have had all the lip in his mouth. The defendant did not attend in court. The Chairman said the Bench considered this very brutal assault had been fully proved, and they should fine him £2 ; the complainant would be allowed 15s. for the loss of his week’s work ; and the surgeon’s bill 7s. 6d. ; total £3 10s. 6d., or two month’s imprisonment.

John Eagland had previously been found guilty of assaulting Thomas Golden at Thomas Whiteley’s beerhouse, Lindley, in October 1864. In May 1870, he was acquitted of stealing a box of cigars from the Harmonium Inn, Lindley.

25 April 1868

A Novel Political Gathering.

Prior to the polling at the recent election, it was arranged by a number of the supporters of both Mr. Sleigh and Mr. Leatham, that whichever of the candidates might be returned as member for the borough, a dinner should take place at the house of Mr. James Denison, the Grove Inn. In accordance with the arrangement, the feast took place on Tuesday night. About 40 persons partook of the excellent fare. The chair was occupied by Mr. G. Sykes, and the vice by Mr. James Hall. The usual loyal toasts having been given, Mr. Hall proposed the health of “The borough representative, Mr. E.A. Leatham, M.P.,” which was responded to by Mr. F. Curzon. The Chairman then proposed “The unsuccessful candidate, Mr. W. Campbell Sleigh.” Mr. S. Binns responded. The chairman proposed “The Huddersfield Working Men’s Conservative Association,” which was replied to by Mr. T. Nicholls. The chairman next gave “The Huddersfield Liberal Association,” which was acknowledged by Mr. W.K. Croft. Other toasts followed, and addresses were delivered by Messrs. Hall, J.W. Mellor, S. Binns, and others.

18 June 1870



On Tuesday afternoon a child, belonging to Edward Heys, chemist, in the employ of Mr. Herbert Sugden, Woodsome Lees, was rather seriously hurt. It seems that the child was playing in the road, near the Spring Grove Tavern, and suddenly ran from behind a large stone at the junction of Storrs Hall Lane with the turnpike road. At the same moment a gig, proceeding in the direction of Huddersfield, passed. The child ran against the iron step of the vehicle, was knocked down, and the wheel grazed its head and face severely. The child was taken home, and attended by Mr. Lockwood, surgeon.

The child survived, as there are no deaths recorded for that (or similar) surname, but may have died the following year. Edward’s daughters are listed in the 1871 Census as Sarah Elizabeth (aged 8), Annie (aged 5) and Hannah Jane (aged 1). Annie was baptised 20 May 1866 and died towards the end of 1871, aged 6. Edward died in late 1885, aged 45, and was buried at All Hallows, Almondbury, on 5 December.

30 July 1870


On the 29th inst., aged 40, James Denison, Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street. Friends will please accept this intimation.

Probate Register 1870

Effects under £200. 21 October. Letters of Administration (with the will annexed) of the Personal estate and effects of James Denison late of the “Grove” Inn Spring Grove Street Huddersfield in the County of York. Innkeeper deceased who died 29 July 1870 at the “Grove” Inn aforesaid were granted at Wakefield to Sarah Denison of the “Grove” Inn aforesaid, Widow of the Relict of the said Deceased she having been first sworn.

22 March 1873


On the 17th inst., at Leeds Parish Church, Mr. John Hellawell, to Mrs. Sarah Davison, Grove Inn, Huddersfield.

17 October 1873

HC 17 October 1873

7 November 1876

The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that John Hellawell of The Grove Inn had been granted a licence for music.

11 June 1877

Local and District News.

Sudden Death in the Spring Grove Street.

On Saturday morning last, Mr. John Hellawell, of the Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street, Huddersfield, was engaged in his usual duties, he complained to his wife of being unwell. She accordingly advised him to retire to his bed and rest for some time, while she sent for a medical gentleman, who was immediately in attendance, but notwithstanding that all that medical skill could devise was done for him, he expired in a few minutes. The cause of death was apoplexy.

16 June 1877


On the 9th inst., aged 40 years, Mr. John Hellawell, Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street. Friends will please accept this intimation.

Probate Register 1877

Effects under £600. 6 July. The Will of John Hellawell late of Huddersfield in the County of York, Innkeeper who died 9 June 1877 at Huddersfield, was proved at Wakefield by Sarah Hellawell of Huddersfield Widow the Relict and George Martin of Manchester Road Huddersfield Grocer the Executors.

7 October 1880

Borough Police Court

A Disorderly Customer.

Henry Sissons, plumber, Spring Grove Street, pleaded guilty to being disorderly and refusing to quit the Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street, and with assaulting Sarah Hellawell, the landlady. It appeared that the defendant went to the house on the 4th instant, with a woman, and had some drink. Shortly after, another woman came in, with whom defendant had some words. Mrs. Hellawell said he must not make a disturbance, and asked him to leave, and he not only refused to do so but struck her in the mouth and caused it to bleed. She had to call in Police Constables Townend and Cundle to turn defendant out. Defendant was fined 5s. and costs for refusing to quit, and 20s. and costs for the assault, which the Bench said was a very cowardly one.

2 March 1886

Borough Police Court

A Painful Case.

Edgar Kaye, tailor, Spring Grove Street, was charged on remand with stealing a quantity of cloth, the property of Samuel Taylor, of Buxton Road ; and his mother, Annie Elizabeth Kaye, was charged with receiving the cloth well knowing it to have been stolen. Mr. W. Armitage appeared for the defence. The case was partly gone into on Friday, and additional evidence was now called. From what was stated by the witnesses, it appeared that the prisoner Edgar had for some time been in the employment of the prosecutor, his duty being to give out work and to receive it from the different workpeople when completed. A quantity of cloth, to the value of £4, which was produced, was the property of the prosecutor. The prisoner Edgar disposed of two pieces of cloth to Mrs. Lucas, telling her he was selling them for his master. He also attempted to dispose of another piece by means of a lad named Fred Lucas, but Mr. Field, pawnbroker, to whom the cloth was offered, detained it, and handed it over to the police. When charged with the offence by Police Constable Tunnacliffe at the police office, the prisoner Edgar admitted the charge. On Wednesday morning last Mrs. Kaye went to Mr. Field’s shop, and saw Fred Brook, assistant, with reference to the cloth which had been detained, and said, “The cloth is all right. We gave him permission to sell it. His father bought it from his uncle John at Birkby.” On the 10th ult., when James Mitchell, greengrocer, Summer Street, Lockwood, was going round with his vegetables, Mrs. Kaye called him in, and showed him a piece of cloth, telling him that her husband was a traveller, and had brought that cloth for her to sell. She wanted 11s. for it, and agreed to take it half in money and half in vegetables. On those conditions be bought it, and subsequently pawned it with Mr. Briggs, of Folly Hall. Samuel Whiteley, bookkeeper to the prosecutor, identified the cloth produced as Mr. Taylor’s by the private mark it bore. Sarah Hellawell, widow, who keeps the Grove Inn, Spring Grove Street, bought some cloth from Mrs. Kaye on January 20th for 10s. She told her that her husband had got it for her son, but it was too dark a pattern for him, and therefore it was quite a bargain. Mr. Armitage felt a great difficulty as to the course he should pursue, for the evidence was unanswerable. Mr. Kaye was a man of the highest respectability, and to him the matter came like a thunder-clap. After the evidence he advised his clients to plead guilty, and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. In answer to the formal charge both pleaded guilty. The Magistrates retired for a short time, and upon their return the Mayor said that both be and his brother Justices had every sympathy with Mr. Kaye, but they were there to administer justice. There was no other way of dealing with the matter than by sending the lad to Wakefield for two months and the mother for one month. The Chief Constable said he was only doing justice to Mr. Kaye to say that during all his enquiries be had not heard anything which would lead him to believe that the father had any knowledge of the matter, and he was quite satisfied that Mr. Kaye did not know anything of what was going on, and that his character was as irreproachable in this matter as it had been in all other matters. With respect to Mr. Field he felt that it was his duty to call the attention of the Bench to the prompt way in which be acted in the matter when the cloth was offered to him in pawn by someone who he thought was not likely to have right dealings with it. If all other people would act in a similar way they would have fewer of such miserable scenes as they had in the court that morning, and a far less number of thieves.

Some Random Photos









St. Paul, Armitage Bridge

Nestled in a curve of the River Holme, St. Paul’s is the local church for the village of Armitage Bridge and is a grade II listed building.



Consecrated in 1848, the bulk of the £6,350 cost was provided by Brooke family who established the mill which still bears their name and dominates the village. The mill is now home to North Light Gallery and to a variety of businesses, including the North Lights Film Studio — chances are you’ll have watched at least one of their productions.

The first recorded baptism at the church was Sarah Wood (born 23/Sep/1847), daughter of gardener Thomas Wood and his wife Catherine, who was baptised on 7 May 1848. The baptism was performed by the Reverend Henry Windsor. On the same day, Rev. Windsor also performed the first burial service — 5-year-old Hannah Dawson Bramwell, daughter of tailor William Dawson Bramwell and his wife Sarah.

The first marriage occurred on 13 November 1848 and was between Mary Ann Brook (daughter of warper George) and weaver John Heppenstall (son of weaver William).

Sadly the church was badly damaged by an arsonist in February 1987 but thankfully was rebuilt due to the determination of the congregation. The church rededicated in 1990 and later underwent further restoration.


I’ve mentioned the death of 11-year-old James Beaver in a previous blog post, but I’ve now had chance to visit his grave.

Just to recap, James was employed during the construction of the Meltham Branch Line and was involved in an accident at the southern end of the Butternab Tunnel on Thursday 16 January 1868. Apparently he tampered with one of the waggons loaded with debris and it began to move. James fell under it and one of the wheels rolled over his arm, crushing it.

The Chronicle initially reported on the incident saying that although the boy’s arm had been amputated at the shoulder, he was recovering well at Huddersfield Infirmary.1 Sadly, however, he died on Sunday 26 January.

His family couldn’t afford a headstone, so he was buried in an unmarked plot in the graveyard on 30 January 1868.2

I’m extremely grateful to the Reverend Stephen Gott and to church administrator Bruce Greenwood for their assistance in pinpointing where James was laid to rest. His plot is roughly in the middle of this photograph and situated near the south western corner of the graveyard:


The war memorial for Armitage Bridge is situated close to the church and lists the following names:

1914-1918 — W. Armitage, H. Armitage, E. Avery, J.W. Adamson, N. Bradley, H. Booth, F. Bray, L. Bray, H. Brown, A. Berry, H. Beaumont, E. Beaumont, H. Bradshaw, F.T. Crowe, W.J. Crossley, F. Cartwright, D. Cartwright, A. Copley, A. Crosland, E. Dakin, A. Dodson, N. France, F. France, W. Haigh, J.S. Haigh, P. Hallas, H. Heap, C. Hamer, H. Hargreaves, C. Jenkinson, J.H. Jagger, E.R. Knapton, J. Kerfoot, J.W. Kaye, J. Kirk, C.L. Langrick, A. Lindley, H. Lister, H. Maud, W. Mallinson, R. Morrison, H. Oldham, G.W. Pounder, H. Pollard, E. Robinson, J. Stocks, W. Shells, C.T. Sykes, R. Sykes, L. Shaw, E. Shaw, W. Shaw, F. Shaw, W. Sunderland, A. Stinton, J. Sallis, H. Sanderson, L. Shore, A. Stanley, A.C. Tong, J.S. Taylor, N. Taylor, P. Thornton, L. Walker, S. Wilkinson, L. Wilcock, J. Wimpenny, S. Wimpenny, G. Walshaw, and N. Waring.

1939-1945 — R. Dyson, H. Fox, J. Hewitt, A. Lockwood, J. Lockwood, J. Sykes, E. Taylor, and F.R.Woodcock.


If you are interested in researching those who lost their lives in the First World War, Margaret Stansfield spent 30 years meticulously researching this and her work was recently published posthumously: Huddersfield’s Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014).

Sgt. John Sykes was killed when the Wellington bomber (serial W5667) he was in crashed at Grant’s Farm, Old Leake Commonside, Lincolnshire, during a training flight.



Further Reading


Yorkshire Post (23/Apr/1941) – Three Killed by Collision

Three Killed by Collision

Huddersfield, Tuesday

A third death took place tonight as a result of a collision which occurred this morning on the Huddersfield-Meltham road between a Huddersfield Corporation double-deck bus and a small car.

Eric Walker (30), of Norman Avenue, Elland, and George Simpson (40). of Saxon Street, Halifax, were killed instantly, and Sidney Charlton (35), of Fanny Moor Crescent, Lower houses, died tonight in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. J. Hill (30), of Yew Green Avenue, Lockwood, who is suffering from multiple injuries, was stated at the Infirmary tonight to be dangerously ill.

The four men were travelling in a car to their work at David Brown Tractors, Ltd., Meltham Mills. The collision occurred between Netherton Bar House and the bend leading to Healey House Station. The front of the bus was damaged and the car was wrecked.

Yorkshire Evening Post (09/Jun/1926) – Jumped On a Moving ‘Bus



Very little further insight was thrown, at a Huddersfield inquest today, on the death of Philip Hogg (23), a draughtsman, of Beaumont Street, Netherton.

Hogg was fatally injured while attempted to board a moving motor ‘bus.

Alexander Hogg, the father, said his son told him in the infirmary that he was attempting to get on a motor ‘bus proceeding from Netherton to Huddersfield, and the ‘bus, instead of slowing down, was speeded up. He got hold of the rail, but could not get a foothold, and had to let go.

Dr. Hopkins said the man died form fractures of the pelvis, shock and haemorrhage. He told witness he was trying to board the ‘bus and lost hold. That was all he remembered.

Frank Firth, of Marsh, conductor of the ‘bus, which belongs to the Huddersfield Corporation, said it was full on leaving Netherton, and he gave the driver the signal to run straight through to town.

Two hundred yards down the road, someone said they had seen a man lying in the road. He stopped the ‘bus, but was then told that the man had got up again, and the ‘bus went on. At the time there was no suggestion that the ‘bus was responsible for the accident.

The jury, in returning a verdict of “Accidental death,” recommended that the Corporation should devise means of notifying intending passengers when ‘buses are full.