Blackhurst the News — The Driving of Carrier’s Drays

Montran-Barber-Blackhurst Line
Transcription & Comments by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“In the News” is my reporting of newspapers articles and obituaries regarding ancestors and other relatives I am researching. The information found in newspapers often raises more questions and research areas but invariably provides fresh texture to understanding an ancestor’s life.

Today’s article reports an event in the life of my 4th great-grandfather, Stephen Blackhurst (c.1777-1847). The article is from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England), dated 13 March 1847, Page 3, Column 3 reportsThe Driving of Carriers’ Drays.”

[Transcription by Don Taylor]

The Driving of Carrier’s Drays.

On Tuesday, an inquest was held at the Infirmary, on
view of the body of Mr. Stephen Blackhurst, of Chapel street, Bridgehouses, shoemaker, aged 70. The deceased was the father of Mr. John Blackhurst, whose name is familiar to our readers. It appeared from the evidence of two youths, named John Goddard and Thos. Wadsworth, that on the previous Wednesday night, a little after eight o’clock, they were standing in Love street, when they saw
a man coming round the comer from Love lane. A carrier’s cart was coming in the direction from Spring street, the driver being in front with the reins in his hand, and the horse trotting sharply. The cart turned the comer into Love lane very quickly, and the shaft came in contact with the man, (the deceased,) who appeared to be upon the cause-
way, and knocked him down into the road, the right wheel of the cart passing over him. The cart went on without stopping, and the two youths ran to the man’s assistance. He appeared quite sensible, and in answer to the question whether he was hurt, replied that the cart Lad run over his body, and his leg was broken. Wadsworth, with the assistance of another person, carried him to the Blue Pig, in Spring street, from whence he was immediately removed in a cab to the Infirmary. Goddard ran after the cart, which belonged to Messrs. Newcombe, Chaplin, Home,
and Co., and called to the driver, Thomas Ellis, that he had run over a man and broke his leg. Ellis, without pulling up, replied that he had not seen any man and had not time to stop. Goddard continued running after the cart, and urged upon the man that he ought to stop and look after the person he had run over. He took no notice, and Goddard continued running after him down tire Wicker. When near the Railway station, Ellis urged his horse to increased speed, passed two cabs and another dray, and
Goddard being unable to keep up, lost sight of him. The corner where the accident occurred, it appeared, was very
dark, the causeway and the lane also being very narrow.
Both the witnesses were of opinion, that the occurrence
was purely an accident, and that the driver did not see the
deceased. They, however, spoke with equal distinctness to
the fact of his going at an improper speed, the horse
trotting sharply round the comer, the wheel of the cart
passing close to the edge of the causeway, and only just
avoiding a post, which is placed at the comer… .Mr. Law,
the house surgeon, described the injuries received as a
fracture of the right leg, and an extensive wound in the
thigh. Two days after his admission, there was also ex-
tensive discolouration of the lower part of the abdomen.
He died on Monday, from the great shock which the system
had sustained from the injuries received. He stated to
Mr. Law, that it was entirely an accident, but the driver
was going at too rapid a rate when it occurred, and went
on without taking any notice when called to… .Thomas
Ellis, the driver of the cart, made a voluntary statement,
after the usual caution, to the effect that it was very dark,
and he did not see any man as he turned the corner, or
know at the time that any person was injured; that his
horse was not trotting as stated, but going at a walking
pace. He saw two youths in Love street, as he turned
into Love lane. He admitted that one of them ran after
him half-way on the lane, and said he had run over a man,
and he replied that he had not seen one. The lad asked
him to go back, but he did not, as he thought the whole story
was an hoax. The comer is a dangerous one. He denied that
his horse trotted at all, and said he had a load weighing
near a ton in the cart at the time. He was riding on the
proper side of the cart and had the reins in his hand       
Mr. U. Peace, agent for Messrs. Newcombe, Chaplin,
Home, and Co., stated that Ellis had been in their employ
about nine months. For many years previous to that, he
was in the service of Mrs. Lister. He was a very steady
and sober man. In answer to some remarks of the Coroner,
as to the improper speed at which the carriers’ carts fre-
quently were driven at night, he explained that the gates at
the Railway station were closed every night at half-past
eight, and whatever goods were not in by that time had to
remain a whole day before they were sent away. Many of
the manufacturers and merchants would tell the porters
that they must drive it as late as possible, perhaps tenminutes or a quarter-past eight before they called for packages. Perhaps there might be three or four such every night, some a very wide distance from each other. They (the carriers) must oblige their customers, and were compelled to do tins or lose their custom. The consequence was, that
the men must trot their horses from these places

to the station to get there in time…..The Coroner said,
this could be no excuse for placing the lives of persons in
danger…. Mr. Peace admitted the great extent of the evil
complained, and said his only surprise was, when he
saw the manner in which the carts were trotted down the
Wicker, that a great many more accidents did not occur ..
The Coroner, in summing up the evidence, laid down the
law as applicable to the case, that any driver of a vehicle
occasioning the death of any individual, if he had not used
due care and circumspection, was guilty of manslaughter.
The greatest possible care could perhaps not strictly be
expected, but a person seeking to avail himself of the
excuse that he had used proper care, ought at least to shew
that he took as much care as persons under similar cir-
cumstances usually do. It often happened, that with carts
it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pull up on
the instant; the greater therefore was the caution required;
and a driver going at an unusual speed, causing the death
of another as he had stated, was held to be guilty of man-
slaughter. He in strong language condemned the exceed-
ingly improper speed at which the carriers’ carts were
frequently driven at nights, through the streets, and more
particularly down the Wicker and the approaches to the
railway stations. He also expressed his indignation at the
want of the common feeling of humanity shewn by Ellis,
in not stopping, as he was in duty bound, after being
informed of the accident. It was for the Jury to say from
the evidence, whether they thought the occurrence was
purely an accident, or whether the having driven at an im-
proper rate round so dangerous and dark a corner, the
driver was guilty of manslaughter….. Some conversation
followed among the Jury, and considerable difference of
opinion appeared to exist, as to the possibility of the de-
ceased being upon the edge of the causeway at the time
the accident happened.. .Mr. Blackhurst asked permission
to repeat a conversation he had with his father before his
death, in respect to the accident. He expressed with con-
siderable feeling, that deeply as he deplored the death of
his father, he could not in justice to the driver, but state
his father’s explanation of the manner in which the accident
occurred. He (deceased) was returning from St. George’s
church, and after calling at two places in Westbar, in the
expectation of meeting with him (Mr. Blackhurst,) had
gone down Workhouse lane on his way home. He passed
along Love street, and was crossing the end of Love lane,
when the cart came up and knocked him down; the horse
trod upon his leg and broke it, and the wheel of the cart
passed over his body. His father was remarkable for great
presence of mind at all times, and repeated to him three
times in the presence of others, “I believe it was an acci-
dent, but the man was driving too fast.” It would appear
that he was crossing the road, and not on the causeway as
the witnesses had stated. He must, however, state that the
reason which Ellis alleged of thinking it a hoax when the
lad called to him to stop, appeared to have been an inven-
tion of his, for when he (Mr. Blackhurst) went three days
after the accident with a policeman to the railway station,
he made no mention of it until after a good deal of con-
versation…. Mr. Law said the deceased had given precisely
the same account of the accident to him which he gave to
his son…. Wadsworth and Goddard were re called, and
explained that they had not observed the deceased until
the horse was close upon him, and then he appeared to be
upon the edge of the causeway, or close to it…. The Jury
returned a verdict of Accidental Death. They however,
strongly condemned the want of feeling shewn by the driver,
in not stopping when told of the accident. They also ex-
pressed their hope that the drivers of carriers’ drays and
carts, going to the railway stations, would not drive at the
rapid rate which they were so so much in the habit of
doing… .Ellis was, at the close of the enquiry, called into
the room, and the terms of the verdict were communicated
to him. He was cautioned by the Coroner that he had
had a very narrow escape of being sent to York for man-
slaughter, and that escape was entirely owing to impartial
and conscientious feeling shewn by the relatives of the
deceased… The Jury, after having requested the coroner to
make a representation to the Lighting Committee, that a
lamp ought to be placed at the corner where the accident
happened, separated.. ..We are glad to learn that Mr. Peace,
agent of Messrs. Newcombe and Co., has spontaneously
communicated to the friends of the deceased, the willing-
ness of the company to defray the expenses of the funeral.

What I Learned

  • The accident occurred on 3 March at the corner of Love Lane and Spring Street (“previous Wednesday night.”)
  • Inquest into Stephen Blackhurst’s death was held on 9 March. (“last Tuesday”)
  • The cart’s right wheel ran over Stephen, and the horse stepped on and broke his leg.
  • The driver was Thomas Ellis, a driver for Messrs. Newcombe, Chaplin, Horne, & Co. He was going fast to get to the Railway station before it closed its gates.
  • Stephen Blackhurst believed it was an accident, but the driver was driving too fast.”
  • The verdict was “Accidental Death.”
  • Messr. Newcombe and Co. would defray the expenses of the funeral.

Further Research

  • John Blackhurst in Newspapers – “The deceased was the father of Mr. John Blackhurst, whose name is familiar to our readers.”
  • St. George’s Church – The deceased was returning from St. George’s Church. (He was likely a member.)
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