William Huskisson – England’s First Railroad Fatality

William Huskisson PC (11 March 1770 – 15 September 1830) was a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool. He is best known today, however, as the world’s first widely reported railway casualty –  he was run over by George Stephenson’s locomotive engine Rocket.

Huskisson entered the cabinet in April 1822 when Lord Liverpool appointed him as President of the Board of Trade. The following year Huskisson became MP for Liverpool. Huskisson worked closely with the merchants from the city and soon developed a reputation as the leading representative of mercantile interests in Parliament. This was reflected in the drafting and passing of several new bills that related to trade, including the Merchant Vessels’ Apprenticeship Act and the Registration of Ships Act. Huskisson also took measures towards a policy of free trade. He reduced duties on cotton, sugar, glass, paper, bottles, copper, zinc and lead.

Although Huskisson admitted in debate that he was having doubts about duties on corn, he advocated a delay in their repeal. He finally introduced new measures to reform the Corn Laws in 1826 but the bill was abandoned after the opposition of the Duke of Wellington and other leading Tories in the House of Lords.

When the Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister in 1828, Huskisson refused to serve under him and resigned from office. Huskisson became unpopular with some members of the Tory Party when he made a speech in the House of Commons claiming that Wellington had forced him to leave the government.

 

Two years later, both the Duke of Wellington and Huskisson were among the celebrities invited to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. At 10.40 a.m. on September 15, 1830, eight locomotives drawing carriages designed after the fashion of stage coaches, and containing 732 people, left the mouth of the Great Tunnel at Liverpool to go to Manchester, the thirty mile route being lined with fully half a million people. On the north line was a gorgeous, circus-like carriage whose principal occupant was the Duke of Wellington. In front of it was a carriage containing a band. The other seven trains were on the south line. At Eccles, seventeen miles from Liverpool, it was planned that the procession should stop for the engines to take in water, and the printed programme specially requested that guests should not leave their carriages.

However, several members of the Duke’s party stepped onto the trackside and Huskisson went forward to greet the Duke. As Huskisson was exiting his car, the locomotive Rocket approached on the parallel track. It appeared afterwards that the driver shut off steam when he saw people on the line. Prince Esterhazy and others managed to jump into the Duke’s carriage. Mr. Huskisson dashed forward in order to go in front of the carriages on the south line, only to find his way barred by a steep bank. “Get in, get in,” shouted the Duke. Huskisson opened a carriage door just as the Rocket came along and struck it, forcing Huskisson off balance and under its wheels. His leg was horrifically mangled. Unfortunately, Mrs. Huskisson was a witness to the accident, as was the Duke’s intimate friend, Mrs. Arbuthnot, who was with him on the journey.

The wounded Huskisson was taken by a train (driven by George Stephenson himself) with Dr. Brandreth, who had been fetched from the rear of the procession, his wife, and others to Eccles, where he died at 9 p.m. Understandably, the Duke was devastated and it was only through vigorous persuasion by many people that he continued on to Manchester as planned, lest he disappoint the crowds there awaiting his arrival. The Duke was not to travel by train again until 1843, when he accompanied Queen Victoria on the London and South Western.

Thomas Creevey wrote to Miss Ord:

Bangor, 19 September 1830

Jack Calcraft has been at the opening of the Liverpool rail road, and was an eye witness of Huskisson’s horrible death. About nine or ten of the passengers in the Duke’s car had got out to look about them, whilst the car stopt [sic]. Calcraft was one, Huskisson another, Esterhazy, Bill Holmes, Birch and others. When the other locomotive was seen coming up to pass them, there was a general shout from those within the Duke’s car to those without it, to get in. Both Holmes and Birch were unable to get up in time, but they stuck fast to its sides, and the other engine did not touch them. Esterhazy being light, was pulled in by force. Huskisson was feeble in his legs, and appears to have lost his head, as he did his life. Calcraft tells me that Huskisson’s long confinement in St George’s Chapel at the king’s funeral brought on a complaint that Taylor is so afraid of, and that made some severe surgical operation necessary, the effect of which had been, according to what he told Calcraft, to paralyse, as it were one leg and thigh. This, no doubt, must have increased, if it did not create, his danger and [caused him to] lose his life. He had written to say his health would not let him come, and his arrival was unexpected. Calcraft saw the meeting between him and the Duke, and saw them shake hands a very short time before Huskisson’s death. The latter event must be followed by important political consequences. The Canning faction has lost its corner stone and the Duke’s government one of its most formidable opponents. Huskisson, too, once out of the way, Palmerston, Melbourne, the Grants and Co. may make it up with the Beau [Wellington].

 

Oddly, Huskisson had been accident-prone his whole life and had in the past broken his arm three separate times – by falling from his horse, from his carriage and
from his bed.

 

This statue to Huskisson stands in Pimlico Gardens, London. The artist is John Gibson, a descendant of William’s half-brother, Thomas Huskisson.

The Death of Wellington – Long Live the Duke

An image of the arms of the Dukes of Wellington, shamelessly stolen from author Lesley-Anne McLeod‘s blog.
Thanks, Lesley-Anne!

On 14 September 1852 Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS died both quite suddenly and peacefully at his rooms at Walmer Castle, Kent. It is hardly necessary for me to take up further room on this blog in extolling the myriad virtues, accomplishments and glories attached to the first Duke. There are a wealth of stories about his funeral, the largest ever held in London until that held for Princess Diana, in books, on the web, etc. Rather, I thought it might be interesting instead to turn our attention on this day to the man who became the second Duke upon his father’s death.

Lt.-General Arthur Richard Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington KG PC (3 February 1807 – 13 August 1884), was the eldest son of the 1st Duke of Wellington and Kitty Pakenham. In 1853 he was made a Privy Councillor and a Knight of the Garter in 1858 and in 1863 he inherited the Irish title of Earl of Mornington from his cousin. In 1839 he had married Lady Elizabeth Hay, but they had no children, so at his death he was succeeded in his titles by his nephew, Henry.

Arthur was 45 years of age when his father died and while the Duke had been proud of both Arthur and his younger son, Charles, they never enjoyed what might be remotely called a warm family bond. The 2nd Duke was known to have said that his father often treated himself and his younger brother as “duffers.” There are many anecdotes that back up this fact, but I’ll use the following as being illustrative of the coolness between father and son(s).  When the 2nd Duke was still Lord Douro, he was in the Rifle Brigade and stationed at Dover, in which neighborhood his father also resided, at Walmer Castle, as Lord of the Cinque Ports. It was the Duke’s habit to invite all the officers quartered in the town to dinner at the Castle. On one particular occassion, the Duke invited every officer on the spot, with the exception of his son, prompting him to send his father the following note: “The Marquis of Douro presents his compliments to F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., and would be glad to know why, alone among the officers of his regiment, he has not been invited to dinner at Walmer Castle.” The Duke replied by return of post: “F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., presents his compliments to the Marquis of Douro, and begs to inform him that the reason why he was never invited to dine at Walmer Castle is that he never called there.”


Elizabeth, 2nd Duchess of Wellington (1820-1904) was born Lady Elizabeth Hay, a daughter of the eighth  Marquess of Tweeddale. One of her brothers was the ornithologist Viscount Walden, and another the Admiral of the Fleet Lord John Hay. She married Lord Douro in 1839 and was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria in 1861 by the Liberal Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and continued in that rôle until 1868, serving through the governments of Lord Russell, Lord Derby and Benjamin Disraeli. She was again Mistress of the Robes in Disraeli’s second government, 1874 to 1880. Her husband died on 13 August 1884, and the Dowager Duchess survived him for exactly twenty years to the day, dying at Bearhill Park, Walton-on-Thames on 13 August 1904.

The second Duke of Wellington used to say to his old schoolfellow, the publisher Mr. John Murray : “I cannot write my father’s life, but I can at least see that the material is there for a biographer some day.” Accordingly, with praiseworthy diligence, he set to work and edited fourteen volumes of supplementary military despatches, and eight volumes of civil correspondence, bringing it down to the year 1832. Here, then, are thirty-four volumes, each containing, on an average, about six hundred and fifty closely printed pages—truly he were a bold man who should claim to have extracted all that is of moment from such a vast storehouse.

ln October 1882 the Duke was having trouble with his eyesight and wrote: “l avail myself of another hand kindly placed at my disposal, as l am not yet permitted to read or write. l dare say,  you will remember my sight was very indifferent when you were at Stratfield Saye. lt went on from bad to worse, until at last it became absolutely necessary that l should undergo an operation which I did a few days ago with perfect success.” The operation involved the removal of one eye, but the Duke retained his sense of humour throughout. Afterwards, the surgeon who performed the operation mentioned to the Duke that the eye would be preserved and kept for study. The Duke suggested that this might present a good opportunity for the doctor to make some extra money – by betting people that they couldn’t guess the distance between the Duke of Wellington’s eyes.

After Wellington’s death, the 2nd Duke of Wellington allowed the public to visit the principle apartments of Apsely House from 1853 onwards on written application. He made some alterations but the main rooms remained substantially intact until the 7th Duke of Wellington presented the house to the nation in 1947.

The 2nd Duke of Wellington uttered what are amongst the most poignant words in history when, upon realizing that he would soon be succeeding his illustrious father to the title, he was said to have remarked, “Imagine what it will be when the Duke of Wellington is announced, and only I walk in the room.”

THE 2020 TOWN & COUNTRY HOUSE TOUR

A mix of town and country, this tour includes a blend of residences  from London townhouses to grand stately homes in an array of styles, complete with glorious gardens and each one filled with fabulous furnishings and artwork from various eras. Your nights have been left free to enjoy London as you wish – attend the theatre, explore the museums or indulge in a bit of shopping.

During the days, we’ll be visiting Kenwood House, Apsley House, Hertford House (housing the Wallace Collection), Syon Park, Sir John Soanes’s House, Osterley Park, Leighton House and Waddesdon Manor, above.

Click photo for complete tour itinerary and details.

MEET THE NINOTCHKA BAND

 

When I was in Bath a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to come across a violin player named Nik, who was busking outside of the Pump Room, playing a mean fiddle. Sandra Mettler and I sat on a bench, listening, for quite some time. I bought a CD off Nik and, once I’d returned home, I did a Google search and discovered that Nik is one half of the Ninotchka Band. As they describe themselves, “Ninotchka is a Gypsy, Klezmer and Irish folk duo from deepest darkest Somerset. In their performances, Nik Jovčić-Sas and Sydney Bull, take wild Gypsy dances and lighting fast Irish jigs and mix it all together with a signature infectious punk energy that has audiences stomping and hollering throughout the night. First discovered playing on the streets of Bath, they’ve now played a host of different venues and festivals including Avalon at Glastonbury 2017.”

I thought you might like to meet Ninotchka, as well, as their music is thoroughly stirring and unique. Click above to watch their video and find their CD here.

THE HORSE GUARDS OPEN HOUSE DAY

In light of our recent post on Sefton, we’re re-running this post on our visit to the Horseguards from a few years ago. 
One of the places Victoria and I were most anxious to visit on Open Houses Day in London was Horseguards. As you all know, neither Victoria nor I are strangers to Horseguards, but Open Houses Day presented a unique opportunity for us to finally see the Duke of Wellington’s office and desk, both of which are pretty much untouched since the Duke’s departure, though still used by the commanders through the years.
As you can see by the photos below, it was glorious day, so Victoria and I decided to walk to Horseguards from Trafalgar Square.

Approaching Horse Guards:  Big Ben in the Distance.

 

 Upon arrival at Horse Guards, we found that there was a bit of line to get in. Normally, we would have grumbled at the wait, but heck, when one is treated to a review and change of guards during the wait one would be an idiot to complain.

The Life Guards above, and the Blues and Royals below.

As it turned out Horse Guards was overwhelmed by the number of people who had turned out for tours of the building, so a young soldier in fatigues was handed a few sheets of historical notes and told to have at it. Thus, our tour began.

One of our first stops was the Cock pit, located below the stables.

Once our group was assembled within the confined space, our guide read from his notes, telling us about the history of cock fighting at Horse Guards – and how Wellington had allowed it to continue while serving as Commander in Chief of the Army.
“Ridiculous. Wellington would never have countenanced such a thing!” Had I just said that aloud? Apparently I had.
Our guide looked down at the notes in his hand. “But it says so right here,” he protested valiantly.
“I don’t doubt it. However I’m telling you that it’s rubbish. The Duke served as Commander in Chief of the Army from 1842 to 1852. Cock fighting had been banned in England well before that time (Cruelty to Animals Act 1835) and Wellington would not have flaunted the law, nor allowed his men to do so.”
Victoria laid a calming hand upon my arm. Oh, Lud, I thought, I have become that old woman. You know, the one who goes about correcting strangers and sticking her nose in where it don’t belong.

Eventually, we made our way upstairs.

Stairs to the first floor
Looking above
In the Floor, above: Seven Joined in One, referring to seven regiments of Household Division —
The Life Guards, Blues and Royals, Welsh Guards, Grenadier Guards, Scots Guards, Coldstream Guards, Irish Guards.
 Each regiment has its own ceremonial drum.
And then, before our very eyes was the entrance to the
Duke of Wellington’s office, wherein lies his desk.
Portrait of Queen Charlotte
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
 View from the Duke’s office of the forecourt and Whitehall
Once we were all in the room, our guide read from his notes and told us, “And above the door is a bust of Lord Palmerston.”
“Palmerston? That’s the Duke of Wellington,” Victoria said aloud.
“Look,” said our guide, turning his notes so that Victoria could see them, “it says Lord Palmerston.”
“I see that,” Victoria agreed, ” but I can assure you that it’s Wellington. She looked at me, “Isn’t it?”
I had decided not to say anything else on the subject after my outburst in the cock pit. After all, the majority of the people in the room with us wouldn’t know Wellington from Churchill if push came to shove. Nevermind Palmerston. Put on the spot now, I had to admit, in front of many pairs of staring eyes, that the bust was indeed that of Wellington. We moved on.
The dividing line between the parishes of St. Martin in the Fields and St. Margaret’s Westminster passes through the Horse Guards Building.
The Duke’s office fireplace, above.
 In the Duke’s Office, above and below, our fellow attendees
 The office window overlooking the parade grounds.
And last, but certainly not least, the Duke’s desk.
You can find a complete history of this desk and its origins in this article by retired Major Ian Mattison on the Waterloo 200 website. 
The plaque reads, “This table was habitually used by Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington K.G. during his tenure as Commander in Chief 1842-52. It was restored to this room by Field Marshal The Duke of Connaught, Inspector General of the Forces 1904.”
In the background, a portrait of George III
At the end of the tour, we left by a set of backstairs –

which provided a unique perspective of one of the guards on duty.

If you’d like to see Horseguards for yourself, along with many other historic sites, do think about joining one of our upcoming, London based tours. Kristine always does a Regency London walk during these tours, chock full of visits to historic sites – tour details here.