Railway Disaster

Researching and archiving the history of Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe Civil Parish
Contact : historygroup@leekwoottonandguyscliffe.org.uk

Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe History: Railway Disaster

The coming of the railway revolutionised the transport of goods and people at a time of great industrial expansion. There was a vast railway construction programme throughout the country and in 1842 the London and Birmingham Railway Company proposed a single-track line from Leamington Spa to Coventry. This was to have a station at Leamington, later known as Milverton Station. Both Earl Clarendon and Lord Leigh opposed the plan along with many other prominent landowners; however, the line was finally completed in 1844. It included several bridges and a vast viaduct over the River Avon between Old Milverton and Hill Wootton. Land in the hamlet was purchased from Lord Leigh who agreed to receive payment in instalments for twenty-two acres of land, initially valued at £6,656 5s 6d. When recorded payments stopped in 1848 he had received over £1,200 in interest and a balance of £2,584 2s 0d was still owing.

On 11 June 1861 tragedy struck when the railway bridge over the crossroads between Leek Wootton and Hill Wootton collapsed, killing the driver and fireman of a locomotive hauling empty coal wagons to Victoria Colliery. Apparently the bridge was something of a local curiosity as it swayed and rumbled as trains passed over and local youngsters gave it the nickname of ‘Crackley’. When the inevitable happened and the unstable bridge collapsed, the tender jack-knifed, crushing George Rowley and John Wade. It took several hours to remove the bodies, which were taken to The Anchor Inn at Leek Wootton where the inquest began later that day. A fractured bolthole from earlier repairs to one of the girders was held to be responsible.

Extracted from ‘Leek Wootton and its Hamlets