Whittington, George 1886 December 25th
On Saturday afternoon an inquest was held at the Council Chamber by Mr George Smith, the city coroner, touching the death of George Frederick Whittington, the lad who was killed on the previous day at Mr Bowles’ hay and corn stores, Brown-street. Mr S Parker was appointed foreman of the jury. Major Beadon, Inspector of Factories, was present at the inquiry, also Mr Bowles.
William David Wilkes, medical practitioner, said on Friday afternoon about 25 minutes to three he was asked to go to Mr Bowles’ stores and he drove there at once. He saw the deceased laid on his back on the floor of one of the stores, in an insensible condition, breathing very heavily and in a dying state. His death took place about ten minutes afterwards. A little blood was issuing from his mouth and he was bleeding from a wound over the right wrist. There was also a severe bruise on the left side of the forehead, and a similar one over the right side of the face. Witness found deceased’s neck dislocated, but no other bones in the body were broken. Death was due to the injuries received; the immediate cause being dislocation of the neck.
Henry Whittington, brother of the deceased, said that he was in the employ of Mr Bowles. On Friday afternoon, between two and three, he was sweeping up the corn on the floor. His brother was with him. Deceased was not in Mr Bowles’ employ, but came to the stores when he had spare time. His brother, whilst witness’s back was turned, said, “I’m going up round.” The shafting was in motion, but a crushing machine was not, and the strap was hanging loosely over the axle. Hearing a thumping noise witness turned round and saw his brother jammed between the shafting and the ceiling, entangled in the belting. Witness went immediately to the foreman, who was crossing the yard, and then stopped the engine. The foreman extricated the deceased from his position.
By Major Beadon : His brother’s arm was on the shafting and the strap wound round it.
Henry Rideout, Brown-street, foreman for Mr Bowles, said that about a quarter to three on Friday afternoon he was in the yard when the last witness came to him from the griddling-room. The strap when not in use was hung on a nail to keep it wide of the shafting. He went with Henry Whittington into the griddling-room and there found deceased with one arm round the shafting and one of his legs through a small hole in the partition where the shafting went into the next room. Deceased had evidently been drawn towards the ceiling by the strap. He cut the strap to release deceased, and with the assistance of Henry got the boy down. John Whittington, another brother, went for Dr Wilkes.
By Major Beadon : There was until quite recently a nail above the shafting on which to hang the strap and on the morning of the accident Mr Bowles called his attention to its absence. He did not know the nail was out until Mr Bowles told him.
By the Foreman : He put a nail half-way down the partition to keep the strap off the shafting.
Major Beadon said that as a matter of fact the last nail spoken of by witness was of little or no use without the one above the shafting.
John Whittington, who said he did odd jobs for Mr Bowles, stated that he was at work in the chaff-cutting room on Friday afternoon. He heard his brother Henry call out that his younger brother was dead. Witness immediately proceeded to reverse the shafting, and then ran for Dr Wilkes. Before the deceased went into the griddling room he was with witness, and plagued him with two or three long straws, and when witness turned round deceased went to the other room. In about ten minutes afterwards witness heard a knocking noise and thought that the machine had fallen down until he heard Henry shout out for help.
Major William Hammett Beadon, Inspector of factories, said that on Friday he was in Salisbury and hearing of the accident he went to Mr Bowles’ stores. He received certain statements from the workmen as to the manner in which the boy was killed. Witness found the strap, which had very properly been replaced, on the shaft. Having heard the statement of the witnesses he was of opinion that deceased had been playing with the strap and thus came by his death. Accidents from a similar cause, or from persons being caught by the belt when passing without playing, when the strap was allowed to rest on a revolving shaft, were unfortunately very familiar to them. He never saw a belt so placed without pointing out the great danger which existed and explained that it might easily be prevented by the use of a catch-hook, placed close alongside the pulley on which the belt dropped when thrown out of gear. By those means contact of the belt with the shaft is impossible. Perhaps he should mention that although Mr Bowles was under the factory Act, witness did not know of the premises.
The Coroner observed that he believed Mr Bowles was about to remove to other premises.
Major Beadon said that Mr Bowles had so informed him and he (witness) should give him instructions respecting the prevention of such accidents. As he had not warned Mr Bowles previously about the machinery he did not think that gentleman was morally responsible, for he had evidently noticed that there was a danger and had ordered the nail to be put up to keep the strap clear of the shafting.
John Whittington, waiter, father of the deceased, said he lived at 5, Rose Villas, the Friary. His son was ten years of age, and up to about three weeks before his death went to school. He had stayed at home because he was unwell.
The Coroner, in summing up, said the evidence tended to show that the accident arose from no other cause probably than the boy’s own fault. Everything pointed to the fact that deceased was accidentally killed, and that no one was to blame in the matter.
The jury returned a verdict of “accidentally killed.”