Tag Archives: mail coach

More about Thomas KINGHORN’s “dreadful accident”

9 Sep

Long time readers of my blog might remember me writing about my 4x great grandfather Thomas KINGHORN and the accident he was involved in whilst working as a guard on the mail coaches.

I haven’t given up on the idea of finding out more about Thomas KINGHORN and the accident. Ideally I would like to be able to find out where the accident occurred so that one day I will be able to go and visit the spot where my 4x great-grandfather nearly lost his life.

Having recently joined the Surrey library service I have been able to take advantage of free access to the 19th Century British Library Newspaper Collection. I had previously found a brief mention of the “dreadful accident” in The Times newspaper and it seems the story was widely reported across the country.

The source of the various different articles appears to have been a report from Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland which was possibly first published in the Carlisle Journal, which is not part of the collection, but it does appear to have been reprinted, possibly in full, in the Caledonian Mercury.

The report in the Caledonian Mercury (published in Edinburgh, Scotland) on the 29th October 1808 contains much useful additional information, naming several of the key figures involved in the rescue who are not mentioned in any of the other reports as far I am aware.

MOFFAT, Oct. 26.-We had yesterday a most dreadful storm of wind and rain, and the rivers in the neighbourhood came down in torrents, such as have never been seen by the oldest people here. Among other damage occasioned by it, we are sorry to state that a shocking accident has happened to the mail coach from Glasgow to Carlisle. At the bridge over the river Avon, about nine miles from this, at Howcleuch, betwixt nine and ten o’clock last night, the coach had just got about half way over, when the bridge gave way in the middle of the arch, and the coach, passengers, horses, &c. were instantly precipitated in the river, a fall of about 30 feet. There were four inside and two outside passengers. The two outside passengers, and two of the horses were killed upon the spot, and the other passengers made a miraculous escape with their lives; though we are sorry to say they were all very considerably hurt. The coachman and guard were also much hurt; the former had his arm broken, and was otherwise much bruised, and the guard received a severe contusion on the head.

The other coach from Carlisle to Glasgow, was narrowly prevented from falling into the same precipice. It was coming up just about the time the accident happened, and, from the darkness of the night, and the rate the coach necessarily goes at, must inevitably have gone into the river, at the same breach in the arch, had not one of the passengers who escaped given the alarm.
"By the exertion of the coachman and guard of the other coach, the passengers who survived (a lady and three gentlemen) with the coachman and guard, who had fallen into the precipice, were enabled to extricate themselves from the dreadful situation into which they were thrown, and conducted to a place of safety till other assistance was afforded them.

Much praise is due to Mr Rae, the postmaster here, one of the proprietors of the coach, for his exertions and assistance on the occasion. Immediately, on hearing of the accident, he set out, in the middle of the night, with several of his servants and others, in two post chaises, and gave every possible assistance to the passengers, &c. and, by this means, we are happy to say, the London mail and other valuable articles in the coach have been saved.

Mr Clapperton, surgeon, is also entitled to much praise for his ready assistance upon this occasion; and the exertions of John Giddes, one of Mr Rae’s servants, are particularly deserving of notice, who, at the risk of his life, went down into the river with a rope fastened to his body, and saved the life of the lady (one of the passengers) and some of the mail bags, which must otherwise have been carried down the stream.

The coach and harness are completely destroyed. Mr Rae has loft two valuable horses by the accident, and the other two are severely hurt and bruised.

The bodies of the two passengers who were killed, have been found, and have been brought here this morning; they are Mr William Brand, merchant in Ecclefechan, and Mr Lund, of the house of Lund & Toulmin, of Bond-street, London."

As you can see there is much information contained in this report that I need to follow up. Did Mr Rae (the postmaster) or Mr Clapperton (the surgeon) keep a diary? Were any of the rescuers recognised for their bravery?Where were the two victims buried? Were their deaths reported elsewhere?

Then of course there are further questions, such as what were the names of the four passengers that survived? When was the bridge rebuilt and was it’s re-opening reported? and most importantly where exactly was the bridge?

LONDON: Exploring the British Postal Museum and Archive collections

14 Jun
The British Postal Museum and Archive

The British Postal Museum and Archive

I think I have fallen in love with the British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA). I have long had a fascination with the Post Office (and at one stage nearly had a job as a postman) and like many small boys I had a small stamp collection (no doubt encouraged by my father) but that didn’t last long.

Whereas the London Metropolitan Archives appeared to me to be a very sterile and functional place, the BPMA was just the opposite, very welcoming and the walls were adorned with artwork from their collection, which made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

The only drawback to this was that there were so many distractions, I have said before that I am too easily distracted, and here I was sitting in a room with full of distractions. Even the corridor to the toilets was lined with posters and artwork, just as well I wasn’t desperate to go!

The display of stamps designed by David Gentleman next to microfilm reader I was on was particularly distracting, the designs seemed so familiar, although looking online many of these were issued before I was born, so I probably never saw them in use, but just in albums after the event.

Being interested in railways the one set I do remember quite vividly was the 150th anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway issued in 1980. I don’t think I ever had a complete set, but as a young boy I was fascinated by how they all linked together and you could make up a train as long or short as you could find the stamps for!

Anyway I digress, back to the matter in hand, Thomas KINGHORN the mail guard. Disappointingly I was unable to find any reference to him, which didn’t really surprise me. I know very little about his service, other than the fact he was gave his occupation as a mail guard between 1803 and 1817, and he died in 1833 age 52. I do not know whether he was still employed as a mail guard in 1833 or where he was employed, was it Moffat or Carlisle?

My visit was more about getting a feel for the records available, and trying my luck just in case he was mentioned. I will probably need to carry out a more time consuming and thorough search of some of the records if I am going to stand a chance of learning any more.

What I did learn was a wealth of information concerning the mail coach service as well as reading some of the notices and instructions issued to mail guards. Some of this information has been quoted elsewhere, but it was good to see the originals or at least microfilms of the originals.

Despite not actually coming away with anything I could add to my family tree, it was a really worthwhile visit. It was a wonderful environment to study in, with helpful, efficient and friendly staff.

I didn’t come away totally empty handed, as well as a couple of photocopies I also bought a copy of a book they had on sale, Royal Mail Coaches – An Illustrated History by Frederick Wilkinson. It contains lots of useful information, drawn from some the very records I was looking at, and unlike many of the other books I have seen on the subject, all the information has source references as well. I can’t wait to sit down and spend some time reading that.

Stepping outside the archive I had a tricky decision to make, how on earth was I going to get back to Victoria railway station with an Underground network in disarray?

Thinking about KINGHORN migration

28 May

I said in yesterday’s post that I needed to find some new avenues to explore on my research projects, so in an attempt to breathe new life into my floundering Thomas KINGHORN research (my 3x great grandfather), I have turned my thoughts to migration.

Thomas KINGHORN (4x great grandfather) and his wife Margaret had (to my knowledge) six children. It appears that at least half of these moved to London (including my 3x great grandfather) in the first half of the nineteenth century. This raises lots questions which I would like to explore further.

  • Which of the six children actually migrated and which stayed in Carlisle?
  • When did they migrate? Did they all move at the same time?
  • Where did they settle in London? What influenced that choice?
  • What was the reason they left Carlisle? Was it to find work? To live with other family members? Was it for better living conditions?
  • How would they have travelled down south? Did they use the mail coach?
  • Why did they chose London? Why not Glasgow, Edinburgh or any other northern city?

Some of these are obviously going to be easier to answer than others (the who, when and where), but hopefully once I have established these facts I can see if any patterns emerge and if any conclusions can be drawn from the data.

Even if I can’t answer all the questions, it is going to help me build up a picture of the family as a whole, which will ultimately help my understanding of the lives of both of my Thomas KINGHORNs.

Finding some details on Thomas and Margaret KINGHORN

24 May

Before my visit to the London Family History Centre (LFHC) on Saturday, I had very little hard information on Thomas KINGHORN, my 4x great grandfather. I knew he married Margaret SEWELL in Carlisle on the 5th May 1803 and they had six children between then and 1817. He worked as a guard on a mail coach, and was involved in an accident in 1808, when he narrowly escaped death. I also knew from his son’s marriage certificate that he had died before 1850.

What I really wanted to find out at the LFHC was when he died and how old he was when he died, so I could work out roughly when he was born. I had identified two possible short cuts to this information:

  1. A list of monumental inscriptions for the parish church of St Cuthbert, Carlisle, where he was married and his children subsequently baptised.
  2. An index to wills and administrations from 1800 to 1858 for the Diocese of Carlisle.

Unfortunately the only copy of the first one I knew of locally was at the Society of Genealogist’s library across the city, not at the LFHC, so that was a complete non-starter.

The second one was available on microfilm at the LFHC, but unfortunately there were no entries for Thomas or Margaret KINGHORN, in fact there were no KINGHORNs at all.

The only option left was to take the long route and search through the burial records in the bishops transcript’s for the parish of St Cuthbert’s, Carlisle, Cumberland. Starting in 1817 when their youngest child was baptised I went through year by year.

I finally found Thomas KINGHORN in 1833, except his name was spelt KINGHORNE (close enough for me), he was buried on the 4th May. His age was given as 52 years, which means he was born around 1781. His abode was given as Crosby Street. Compared to what I knew before that one record has probably doubled my knowledge of Thomas KINGHORN in one hit.

I continued to see if the were any other KINGHORN burials but there weren’t until the 15th May 1850 when, his wife Margaret was buried, she was aged 73 years and her address was South Street. So Margaret was around four years older than Thomas being born around 1777.

Although it seems likely that these two are my 4x great grandparents there is nothing that conclusively says they are. The lack of a will (or wills) doesn’t help, but perhaps a monumental inscription will at least show if they were buried together.

I already had the GRO death index entry for Margaret, so I need to order the death certificate and see if that holds any further information, like the fact that she was the widow of Thomas KINGHORN.

I can also now plan to visit the British Library Newspaper Library and check the Carlisle newspapers around those dates, and see if either of them got a mention. If Thomas died in the course of his duty as mail guard then that would be sure to be mentioned, but I doubt I will be that lucky.

Also I now have some more details to take with me to the British Postal Museum and Archive, to see if they have anything that might shed light on his service.

So lots more avenues to explore now, and a couple of streets to visit when I finally get up Carlisle.

The Science Museum Mail Coach

24 May

The Science Museum is like a giant treasure chest, full of a range of exhibitions for almost all ages and interests, and best of all you can get free admission to most of it!

I had never imagined that I would be visiting the Science Museum in the course of my family history research, but when I learnt they had a mail coach on display I knew I had to go and have a look.

The Science Museum Mail Coach

The Science Museum Mail Coach

Everything I learn about the mail coach service reinforces my belief that the mail guards were quite remarkable men. Viewing the mail coach was no exception, it convinces me even more that I should be proud of Thomas KINGHORN and his choice of occupation.

Looking at the guard’s seat on the back of the coach it seems so fragile (and looks so uncomfortable), as if it would snap off at the slightest knock. It is hard enough for me to imagine how one would get up there, let alone stay up there once the coach started bouncing along the road. Then throw in the freezing cold wind and rain and you must surely have one of the most challenging jobs at that time.

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