The Hexthorpe Rail Accident

On Friday 16th September, 1887, Doncaster and the surrounding area was teeming with crowds, all hoping to witness the winner of the Doncaster Cup, a race that had been established as far back as 1766.  At 11am, the Midland train left Sheffield and by 12.15, it had arrived at the special ticket platform at Hexthorpe.

While the tickets were being collected, another train was fast approaching, travelling at what was estimated as 35-40 m.p.h. On seeing the train in front of him, the driver of the Liverpool, Manchester and Hull express, applied the brake and put his train into reverse. It was too late, however, and soon ploughed into the rear of the stationary train.

The Hexthorpe Rail Disaster, 16th Se.ptember 1887

The Hexthorpe Rail Disaster, 16th September 1887

The rear carriage was completely smashed and another carriage was shattered by the engine of the express. The sound of steam escaping from the engine was mixed with the screams of the injured and dying. Chaos ensued as people tried to escape the carriages and, within an hour, fifty people had been removed from the train and were being treated on the platform by doctors and surgeons from the neighbouring towns. It was decided that most of the injured should be sent to Doncaster Infirmary and carriages were soon being used to transport the more seriously injured.

Within four hours, twenty three bodies had been recovered from the wreckage – an arduous task as, due to the nature of the accident, the bodies were packed tightly together and needed to be removed with saws and hatchets. Traumatised survivors witnessed body parts rolling onto the bank as the carriages were taken apart.

One of the injured was John Goldsmith, the second husband of Lydia Atkin (nee Hollingsworth). John, the landlord of the Royal Oak in Cemetery Road, Sheffield, had a compound fracture of one leg and a simple fracture of the other and was taken to Doncaster Infirmary with the rest of the injured. He remained in hospital until December 15th when he was moved back home, accompanied by a police inspector and two constables.

All Saints, Ecclesall, Sheffield.

All Saints, Ecclesall, Sheffield.

Goldsmith appeared to be recovering well and was attended to by Doctors Barber, Jackson and Dyson. He took a turn for the worse, however, and at 9.45pm on Tuesday 6th March 1888, he died at home as a direct result of his injuries, making the number of fatalities from the accident rise to 26. He was buried six days later at All Saints Church, Ecclesall, Sheffield.