Miles, William

Miles, William         1888 January 28th             Codford

The Shocking Occurrence near Codford

The coroner for this district (Mr F T Sylvester) held an inquest at the waiting room at Codford Station, on Saturday morning, on the body of William Miles, a pensioner and laborer, of Corton, who, as reported in our last issue, was run over by the train on the previous Thursday afternoon. Mr William Dear was chosen foreman of the jury.

James Miles, aged nineteen, son of the deceased, was the first witness called. He deposed to living with his father at Corton. He said that his father enjoyed good health ; and witness was not aware that he was subject to fits. On Thursday afternoon his father was in his usual health when he left home about two o’clock to go to Mr Chadwick’s surgery at Codford, to fetch some medicine for Mrs Doughty, of Corton. Witness did not know which way he went to Codford, but believed he went by way of the line. Going down the line would save about half a mile. He was accustomed to go down the line. He went out for a walk most mornings, and frequently went down the line. Witness was not aware that anyone had ever prevented him from doing so. Witness expected his father home from Codford on the afternoon in question about four o’clock. His father was sober when he started from home, and witness considered him as being in his right mind. He was generally a sober man, and he had never seen him the worse for liquor. He had complained of having pain in his hips, but never remembered his having a fit. Nothing had occurred at home that would cause the deceased to be depressed in spirits. His father was of a cheerful disposition, and appeared to be more cheerful than usual on the day in question. Witness had never known him threaten to do himself any harm. His father had been in the army for twenty-one years, he having belonged to the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. He identified the body as that of his father.

Frank Potticary, gardener, of Codford, stated that he saw the deceased walking up the line on Thursday afternoon, about ten minutes past four. Deceased was about 100 yards from the Codford signal box when he saw him, and was walking on the footpath in the direction of Upton Lovell crossing. Deceased had a fancy basket in his hand and some bottles in his pocket. He spoke to witness and asked him how he was getting on. Witness put the same question to deceased and the latter replied “Rough.” Deceased staggered a little in his walking but whether or not that was from the influence of drink witness did not know. Deceased gave him the impression that he was under the influence of drink, and witness thought that when he said he was getting on “rough” he did so because he had a little beer. Witness did not think that he was incapacitated from taking care of himself. He did not fall about. If deceased had kept to the path any passing train would not have hurt him.

James Miles, re-called, stated, in answer to the coroner, that his father had been receiving a pension of ten pence per day from the army. Deceased’s sight was good, and although a little deaf he could hear what anyone said to him.

Frederick Williams, driver on the GWR, of Bristol, was the next witness. He deposed to being in charge of the passenger train on Thursday afternoon due at Codford at 4.16. The train was just six minutes late, and he was travelling at the rate of between thirty and thirty five miles an hour between Heytesbury and Codford stations. He had the automatic back and brake in use, which was attached to the whole of the train. He could pull up the train from 200 to 250 yards. He saw nothing on the line after he left Heytesbury until just after he had passed the Upton Lovell crossing, when he observed something. He did not recognise the object until taking the second glance, when he saw it was a human form. He was then within seventy or eighty yards of it, and it was impossible for him to pull up before coming into collision with it. Deceased was in a crouching position, being on his knees, with his head between his hands, and his breast over the railway. Witness immediately blew whistles, and as deceased never moved, he at once applied the brakes – both the back one and the brake on the tender, but was unable to pull up until after he had passed over the body. As soon as the train was brought to a standstill, he went back and found that life was extinct. Witness had been a driver for the GWR Company for 14 years, and had frequently seen persons walking on the footpath opposite the line.

Fireman James Mason corroborated the evidence of the last witness.

Gouldsworth Beer, porter of Codford, deposed to seeing the deceased on the afternoon in question shortly before four o’clock, passing the Goods Station, going in the direction of Corton. He believed deceased got on the line at the level crossing. Deceased walked a little stooping, but he did not give witness the impression that he was under the influence of drink.

District Inspector Forester here explained that the officers had no instructions to prevent persons from walking on the line.

The witness Beer, continuing, said that the driver of the train informed him that he had run over a man. Witness having procured some tar sheets and a trolley, proceeded down the line in company with a packer. They first came upon the head and shoulders of deceased, and a little further on they picked up the legs and the other parts of the body. The remains were placed in a tar sheet and brought to the Goods station.

Charles Kent, signalman at Upton Lovell crossing, said on Thursday afternoon he heard the whistle of the train blown, and also saw the train stopped. He went down the line to see what was the matter, and found that the deceased man had been run over.

W H Chadwick surgeon, of Codford, said he had examined the remains of deceased, and found a fracture of the skull, the neck broken, and a scalp wound on the forehead, both arms were also broken at the elbow, and there were other injuries, the whole of which were such as were likely to be caused by being run over by the train. He had seen the deceased before, but was not present when he came to his surgery on Thursday.

PC Hillier, stationed at Codford, said he had made inquiries relative to the quantity of drink the deceased had had. The landlady at the Royal Oak, at Corton, told him that on the morning of Thursday he had two 1½d worth, and a glass out of a quart for dinner. He also called on his way to Codford at the George Inn and purchased 1½d worth, and on his return had another 1½d worth. Witness had searched deceased after death and found 1½d on him, an old red handkerchief and two bottles smashed.

The coroner summed up the evidence, and advised the jury, as there was no evidence to show how deceased came on the metals, to return an open verdict of “Found dead,” which was accordingly done.

The remains of the deceased were interred in the graveyard at Heytesbury parish church on Saturday afternoon, the ceremony being performed by the Rev W J Swayne.


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