Lush, Mary ; Corbin, Emily ; Chandler, Lilian ; Waters, Mr

Breamore Railway Disaster         1884 June 7th

Since this was a major incident, involving 5 deaths and 41 injuries, there are a number of press reports, many of which involve much extraneous detail. I must therefore compile my report by extracting relevant passages, including from the descriptive first full-page report, and the two inquests. I produce as separate pages the Press Report of the initial accident, the inquest on Dent, The Board of Trade inquiry and report, and the Breamore inquest.

The inquest for Mr Dent was held at Salisbury Infirmary where he died, and before the other cases; and many of the railway staff gave their technical evidence here. Similar testimony was taken from the same staff for the Board of Trade investigation, which I also include, along with a press report of its findings. The inquest on the four deceased at Breamore was held last of all – with the Board of Trade report to draw on; though – to the chagrin of the jury – none of the other evidence from the Dent inquest.


Mrs Lush, Godshill, Fordingbridge, age 57.

Mrs G Corbin, Ringwood, age 30.

Miss Chandler, Fordingbridge, age 14.

Mr Waters, Toyd Farm, Rockbourne, age 25.

Mr Mathew Dent, 2 Chalfont Villas, Bournemouth.


Mr Tom Sutton, farmer, Hurdcott, near Salisbury, leg slightly injured.

Mr Hillier, bookseller, Fisherton, shaken, bruise on left temple and right leg.

Mr Thomas Brown, 7, Mount-view villas, Mount-view road, Crouch-hill, London, shaken.

Mr Stanford, farmer, Cranborne, serious.

Mr J Good, Bradford, Wimborne, chest injured.

Miss Elwas, Edmondsham, Wimborne, shaken severely.

Miss Elizabeth and Miss Emily Gale, Dean-hill cottage, Critchell, Cranborne, severely shaken and bruised.

Miss Fawcett, Churchfields, Salisbury, severely shaken and bruised.

Miss Jane Dennis, North-street, Wilton, shaken and bruised.

ADMITTED to the Salisbury Infirmary

Mr Frank Brown, Idmiston, near Salisbury, injured.

Mr Robert C Allen, The Parade, Poole, head and chest serious injury.

Mrs Rebecca Gonge, Eastney, Portsmouth, cut face and head slightly.

Mr James Butcher, Edmund House, Bournemouth, lacerated arm slightly.

Mr Samuel Pennell, Wyndham Park, Salisbury, cut face and bruised.

Mr Tom Scamell, Burton, Christchurch, leg slightly injured.

John Durham, sailor, Christchurch, right hand severely injured.




Tuesday, June 3rd, 1884, is a day which in future must have a prominent position, prominent because of the disaster associated with it, in the annals of the London and South Western Railway Company.

On that day one of the most terrible railway accidents that has ever happened in connection with the line, and certainly the most terrible that has ever happened in the neighbourhood of Salisbury, occurred. In the words of a prominent official of the company : “It was the worst smash he ever saw.” In the words of another: “It equalled, nay was worse than, Egham.” Locally, it far surpassed in point of damage and loss of life the Skew-Bridge Disaster; and it has at once interrupted with dreadful and mournful prominence the notoriety which the line in and around Salisbury had obtained for immunity from accidents of a serious character.

The first note of ill reached the city shortly before five o’clock in the evening, and was to the effect that a train proceeding to Wimborne had, just beyond the bridge which crosses the Avon below Downton, fallen over the embankment to the great loss of danger and life. The train was timed to leave Salisbury at 4.31; but it was not actually despatched, according to the officials, until 4.38. It being Market-day in Salisbury it was well-occupied by passengers.

It was composed of two guard’s vans, one being near the engine, and the other at the rear of the train, and six composite carriages, and was what is technically known as a block train. A pilot engine was also attached, not, however, for the purpose of making up for the lost time, but for helping to bring back the large excursionists from Bournemouth.

To paraphrase : A number of passengers remarked at the great speed the train carried on the 17 minute journey from Salisbury to Downton.

After leaving Downton the line proceeds at a considerable gradient until Breamore is reached. This would naturally induce greater speed; and again the passengers – at least it is said – could scarcely retain their seats because of the great oscillation of the carriages. The bridge which spans the Avon and beneath which the river runs with great depth and swift flow was passed in safety. But about 250 yards further on the carriages appeared to jump, the passengers were forced from one side of the compartment to the other, there was a loud resonant crash, and it was evident to the uninjured that a most serious accident had occurred.

The scene at the time is ill-described in these words. It was a shocking sight. Along the side of the line runs what may best be described as a ditch, but which is really a tributary of the Avon, half filled with weed and muck. Into this one carriage had literally been plunged; it seemed half-embedded in it, but really the collapse and smash caused its diminished size. This was the fatal carriage, crushed and smashed to such an extent that it a wonder that a single occupant escaped alive.

The two middle-carriages of the train may be said to have been completely smashed, while from a third one of the sides had been taken completely off.

It seems that the two middle-carriages left the rails first and ran along the sleepers, ripping them up as they went, and eventually the coupling link between the carriages (now with the others following), and the engines gave way, the engines running on for another 300 yards still on the line.

Please now refer to the following pages

The Inquest of Mr Mathew Dent

The Board of Trade Inquiry

The Breamore Inquest


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