Clayton, John

Clayton, John        1883 December 1st         Milford

Shocking Accident at the Milford Goods Station

On Monday a shocking accident occurred at the Milford Goods-station (Salisbury), which resulted in the death of a sapper named John Clayton – a man who during the last five years had been engaged in connection with the telegraph service of the Salisbury post-office. He was engaged in unloading a truck of poles – designed for the new line of wires to be laid in connection with the projected sixpenny telegrams from London to Exeter; and had hired two men to help him. One of these men fancying the work a little too much for him skulked off in the temporary absence of Clayton. He, however, proceeded with the work. One pole was got off all right; but in endeavouring to lift off the second, the heavy end slipped over, and the thin end – over which he was standing, having a leg on either side – hoisted him into the air, and he fell heavily to the ground on his head. He uttered not a word; but it was seen that he had received injuries that would result in death. He was conveyed in a spring van to the Salisbury Infirmary; drawing his last breath at the door of that institution. He was a native of Bury in Lancashire, and was fortunately unmarried. During his residence in Salisbury he had been of quiet demeanour – respectable, attentive to his duties and respected of his fellows. He resided in the Old-Gaol ground.

The inquest was held at the Infirmary on Tuesday morning, before Mr G Smith (city coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr H Vincent was foreman). Lieut Arthur Henry Bagnold, Royal Engineers, superintendent engineer of the South-Western sub-division of the Post-Office telegraph service, watched the proceedings on behalf of the War Department and post-office; Mr Toomer, post-master, Salisbury, represented the local postal authorities; and Mr Knight, station-master at Milford, represented the South western Railway Company.

The first witness called was George Henry Andrews, carman, in the employ of Messrs Goddard and Co., coal merchants. He stated that he was in his employer’s coal yard at the Milford Goods-station between 11 and 12 on the previous day, when he saw the deceased about 70 yards distance unloading these poles, working on top of the truck. He came to him and borrowed two levers. In taking off the first pole he used the lever. He with another man who was helping him then started to get the second pole off. Clayton was at the time working at the butt end of the poles, and had managed to get his end off, but there being a difficulty in getting the thin end off he ran along the top of the poles to his companion. Whilst there the thick end of the pole “canted” off the truck, and the deceased was caught by the other end between the legs and thrown into the air, falling to the ground on his head. He immediately went to his assistance. He with others picked him up; and he was then removed to the Infirmary.

By a juror : I should think the poles were 4 or 5cwt each, and about 30 feet long.

A juror : Do you think that two men could manage these poles? I should say so. The difficulty here was in getting the thin end of the pole over a large butt end near which it was reclining.

Frederick Earle, of Gigant-street, laborer, who was assisting Clayton (having been employed by him) at the time of the accident, said that both of them at the time of the accident were working at the thin end of the pole. The large end of the pole slipped and the deceased who was standing with the thin end of the pole between his legs, was hoisted into the air quite three feet, turning over and falling on his head. Assistance was at once procured, and he then ran for a doctor, fortunately espying Dr Lee within a few yards of the station. He saw Clayton within five minutes of the accident. Dr Lee directed him to be sent to the Infirmary.

A juror : When the pole “canted” did it fall off the truck and strike the man? It fell off the truck but I don’t think it struck the man in falling.

Another juror : Do you think they were properly loaded? Oh, yes.

Lieut Bagnold : I should like to ask, sir, if Clayton obtained any other help, and if so what became of that laborer?

Witness : Clayton hired another man at the same time as he hired me, and then on seeing the poles and during Clayton’s absence, he said he thought the poles were too much for him and left. He asked me if I were going to stop; and I told him that I had promised to remain and should.

Lieut Bagnold : What time were you engaged? At a quarter to eleven.

Lieut Bagnold : I only ask that to show that Clayton endeavoured to obtain other aid – seeing how heavy the load was, and, that that man failing, in his zeal he tried to do the work.

Mr Smith : Had the deceased power to employ what labor he thought proper?

Lieut Bagnold : Yes.

A juror to witness : Was the work just then more than you could do? Well, it was as much as we could do, and we ought to have had help.

The juror : Ought the railway company to provide men in unloading when they are needed?

Mr Supt Mathews : I have inquired about that and find that they are not under any liability.

Mr Supt Mathews stated that he had visited the scene of the accident. He measured the height of the poles from the ground and found the distance to be 8ft 4in.; so that if – as one of the witnesses had stated – Clayton was thrown 3ft into the air, he fell 11ft 4in. He had found his age to be 37. He enlisted in the engineers on the 15th of May, 1867, giving his occupation as a gas-fitter. He had 13s 3d in silver and 5d in coppers in his pocket after his death. The poles were altogether on three trucks, which were numbered respectively 3308, 4319 and 136. The man fell some distance from the truck, so that he did not think the pole struck him after he fell.

Mr Sidney Ellis, who is acting as house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that when he saw the deceased he was dead. The cause of death was concussion of the brain followed by syncope. There were no bones broken excepting the fractured skull.

Lieutenant Bagnold deposed that Clayton was in the company to which he belonged. It was the duty of the deceased to see to the unloading of all telegraph stores arriving at Salisbury. The deceased had power to engage any assistance he thought proper. The man was first engaged by the Post-office on the 27th of July, 1878, and had been so employed ever since – having been the greater part of that period stationed at Salisbury. The work on which he was engaged was generally the work of four men. He was a man of very good character – and was in the possession of two good conduct badges at the time of his death. It appeared to him that the cause of death was the error in judgment in not waiting for more assistance, which was probably occasioned by his zeal.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”

Mr Toomer, before the inquest was concluded, remarked that during the five years that the man had been connected with the Salisbury Post-office he had found him most steady, most industrious, and admirable in his general conduct.


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