Railway Navvies of the SVR

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Railway Navvies portrayed in the film God's Wonderful Railway

The canals of Britain were known as Inland Navigations and the labourers and tradesmen who built them became known as "Navvies". As canal building turned to railway building in the 19th century, the name stuck and the Railway Navvies, and their exploits, became almost part of British folklore. By 1850 a quarter of a million workers (more than the combined manpower of the Army and Navy) had constructed more than 3,000 miles of railway line across Britain.

Navvies and their families would travel long distances to find work, often tramping on foot. They lived and worked in terrible conditions, often for years at a time. While some would take lodgings in the area, many lived in rough timber or turf huts alongside the bridges, tunnels and cuttings that they built. Despite this they achieved amazing feats of engineering using little more than gunpowder, picks and shovels.

Around 900 navvies were used to build the Severn Valley Railway.[note 1] They were mostly recruited from those who had previously worked on the Oxford Worcester and Wolverhampton and Worcester and Hereford Railways, although Henry Orlando Bridgeman made a special visit to Liverpool in May 1959 to enlarge the labour force[1][note 2]

1861 Census


The 1861 Census listed 741 men as working on the construction of the railway in Shropshire, in which over three quarters of the original Severn Valley Railway lay. Of these, 206 came from Shropshire, 170 from Ireland, 98 from Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Warwickshire, 53 from East Midland counties, 189 from elsewhere in England, 21 from Wales and 4 from Scotland.[2]

Their ages ranged from under 15 (7) to over 60 (14), with most (416) aged between 20 and 34. 442 were unmarried, 258 married, 20 were widowers and the other 21 unknown.[2]

245 were listed as 'head of household', 313 as lodging in other people’s homes, 123 in inns and lodging houses and 60 in 'temporary or makeshift accommodation' which could have included turf and mud huts, caves and old lime kilns.[2].

The 1861 census population tables attribute the increase of the population of Shineton, near Wenlock Edge,[3], Highley[4] and Upper Arley,[5] as being due to temporary workers employed on the railway.

Worcestershire and Staffordshire

The southern end of the Severn Valley Railway mainly lay in Worcestershire, although at the time it was built Arley was in Staffordshire. 126 persons may be identified in the census as being likely to have been involved in the construction of the railway at the time, based on their proximity to the railway and their type of employment, variously described as 'Railway Labourer', 'Railway Excavator', 'Carpenter on Railway’ or 'Railway Contractor or foreman'. Of these, 37 came from Worcestershire, 30 from the surrounding shires (Salop, Staffs, Warwicks, Herefords), 44 from elsewhere in England, 4 from Ireland, 4 from Scotland, France and Spain and 7 unknown. Their ages ranged from under 20 (15, of which the youngest was aged 11) to over 60 (2, of whom the oldest was 67) with most (81) being aged between 20 and 39.

40 were resident at Wribbenhall, 39 at Arley, 12 at Bewdley/Ribbesford, 12 at Stourport/Mitton, 5 at Hartlebury and 18 in the Kidderminster area. 55 were married with family present. 62 were in lodgings, including 13 recorded as lodging in Railway Huts. There were 7 'Railway Huts' recorded with the address 'Railway Station Arley, Pound Green' These were probably adjacent to the line between the station and Victoria Bridge. Each of the Huts were run by a ‘head’ being an experienced Railway Labourer with a wife and up to 4 children living there as well. They were from Devon, Ireland Hereford and Bedfordshire. 21 navvies were present in the huts with 19 wives and children. Two of the huts had only 2 persons present probably reflecting the run down of the works at this late stage in construction[6].

Newspaper reports

Other than the 1861 Census, very little evidence remains of the men who were employed in building the Severn Valley Railway apart from newspaper reports, which unfortunately focus almost entirely on either accidents or court appearances.


  • 1859 "FALL OF EARTH.-William Bennet, a labourer working on the Severn Valley Railway, near Sambourne, was on Saturday severely injured by a fall of earth. He is going on favourably under the care of Dr. Montgomery."[7] The incident bears comparison with the accident suffered by the young Robbie in the first series of God's Wonderful Railway.
  • 1859 "RAILWAY ACCIDENT.—CORONER'S INQUEST.-On Monday, the 26th September an inquest was held at the Town Hall, in Bridgnorth, before W. D. Butte, Esq. Coroner, and a respectable jury, on the body of Benjamin Downes, a young man in the employ of Mr. James Wallace, sub-contractor for the making of the Severn Valley Railway, in this town, and who came by his death in the following awfully-sudden manner : —The deceased's duty was to hook and unhook the trucks proceeding up the cutting of the railway making on the Eardington and Oldbury road and he was observed hanging on one of the waggons whilst they were running at a very rapid speed, when his foot, projecting out, must have struck some obstacle, which caused him to fall across the rail, when the train of waggons passed over his neck and chest, killing him instantaneously. Mr. Wallace, Edward Bache, and a boy named Brown were examined and gave evidence, when, under the direction of the coroner, the jury returned a verdict of accidental death."[8]
  • 1859 "ACCIDENT IN THE RAILWAY TUNNEL- -On Thursday, an accident occurred in this tunnel to one of Mr. Hassall's gangers, named James Windy, by a slip of the rock, whilst he was engaged in mining. He was severely injured across the legs, sustaining very severe cuts; but fortunately no bones were broken. Mr. Mathias was quickly in attendance, and we are glad to state that the poor fellow is progressing favourably."[9]
  • 1860 "INQUEST,—On Monday, an inquest was held at the Board Room, Atcham Union Workhouse, before Corbet Davies, Esq., deputy coroner for the Ford District, on view of the body of a youth named James Painting, who had met with his death from injuries received by some railway waggons passing over his body. James Halbert said : I live in one of the huts on the Severn Valley Railway in the parish of Berrington ; I am in the employ of John Combes, a contracter :I am a driver, I know the deceased; on Monday, the 2nd of January, he was breaking a wagon in the turn out ; there were four waggons coupled together in motion at the time ; he put the scotch in the first waggon (the two fore wheels) and pulled at it the force of the waggons threw out the scotch, and he fell to the ground sideways across the rail, he fell on the left side ; three waggons went over him ; they went over one arm and two legs ; if he had put the scotch in the last waggon the accident would not have happened, he was alive when picked up.—By a Juror : I consider the work very dangerous, it is a common practice to have boys in the turn out, I lost my arm by that I work twelve years ago."[10]
  • 1860 On 23 January a labourer at Mount Pleasant Tunnel lost an eye and part of his nose when a large piece of timber fell on him.[11]
  • 1860 "ACCIDENT IN THE TUNNEL.--On Monday, an accident of the most serious nature occurred to Mr. Cruppar, the contractor for the brickwork in the tunnel. The unfortunate man was engaged on the scaffolding, when he accidentally fell to the ground, his head coming is contact with the metals, and we are most sorry say that he sustained very severe injuries on the head, as also on the back. Medical assistance was at once procured."[12]
  • 1860 "BRIDGNORTH - RAILWAY ACCIDENT IN THE TUNNEL. — On Thursday morning last a lamentable occurrence took place in the tunnel of the Severn Valley Railway, now being constructed in the new town. It appears that whilst Samuel Burton, a navvie, was busily engaged in excavating part of the rock at a place where it had recently been blasted, a large mass of the rock gave way and fell with considerable force on the back of the unfortunate fellow, who, thus prostrated, suffered from a dislocation of the spine and the fracture of several ribs. He was at once conveyed to his residence in the Cart Way, where medical assistance was immediately afforded him, but we regret to state with little effect, as the man is gradually sinking and his friends despair of his recovery from the serious injuries he has experienced."[13]
  • 1860 "STOURPORT - MISHAP ON THE LINE,—On Thursday last the works on the Severn Valley Railway, near this town, were somewhat retarded by the giving way of a temporary wooden bridge, it appears that the trucks laden with soil were passing over when it gave way, and five trucks were precipitated into the road, and also the man, who fortunately escaped without injury. The works are progressing very favourably."[14]
  • 1860 "FALLING IN OF A RAILWAY TUNNEL.-An accident; which, had it taken place an hour sooner, would have imperilled the lives of 17 human beings, has occurred on the SEVERN Valley Railway, a new line is course of construction from Shrewsbury to Stourport. Close to Bridgnorth, an extensive tunnel is in course of excavation, which will partially run under the town. Above the entrance, and for some distance into the tunnel, there was a thickness of some 30 or 40 feet of soil, in which a number of large trees were rooted. The usual props and supports had been used to keep up this mass while the brickwork was being executed. Sixteen men were employed in the tunnel, and these had only left work about an hour when the superincumbent mass fell in, chocking up the tunnel with earth, rock, and trees, for a distance of 50 feet. It is expected that this accident will somewhat retard the opening of the line, which was fixed for next May."[15]
  • 1860 "SEVERN VALLEY RAILWAY.—The rain has greatly impeded the works on this line. A few days ago, part of a high stone wall, forming a facing to an embankment adjoining the viaduct over the turnpike road at Wribbenhall, fell; two men fell along with it, but fortunately no one was hurt."[16]
  • 1861 On 9 January 1861 in a cutting south of Mount Pleasant Tunnel, a navvy named Jessie Bishop was killed when a blast hurled rocks at his head. The ganger was instructed to ensure that men were withdrawn to a safe distance before blasting.[17][11]
  • 1861 "BROSELEY - SAD ACCIDENT TO A NAVVIE AT THE ROVING.— On Sunday tool last distressing cries were heard at some distance from this unfrequented part of the valley, but without those hearing them being able to distinguish the direction in which they came, or the exact locality from which they proceeded. As they continued for some hours— from about twelve o’clock till three or four – Mr. Jackson, of Sutton Wood on the opposite side of the river, got up with his two sons, and, called a man Oliver to assist, procured a boat and crossed the Severn, thinking that some brother keeper had been left half dead by poachers. After some considerable time they came upon the object of their search — a man with his leg broken in two places from a fall on the side of the hill and weltering in a pool of blood. It appeared that, having been to Broseley for his provisions and having probably got more drink than was good for him, he had fallen in descending the hill side. He was taken to some temporary huts on the line, and medical assistance was sent for."[18]
  • 1861 On 9 March a navvy was injured in the cutting south of Victoria Bridge when a 20lb clod of earth fell on him from a height of 20-40ft. He was taken to Bewdley in a fishing boat and 'immediately placed under the care of Dr Webster'. A few days later a navvy was almost killed in a cutting at Arley when three wagon loads of earth fell on him.[11]
  • 1861 "TARBET’S DINGLE - ACCIDENT UPON THE SEVERN VALLEY RAILWAY.—On Saturday morning last a man employed on these works, where there is a considerable slope, had his thigh broken by a fall of earth. He was carried, we believe, to Bridgnorth Infirmary."[19]
  • 1861 "IRONBRIDGE - FATAL ACCIDENT.—On Friday last a boy named Evans, son of Thomas Evans, of the Little Ferry, near Benthall Edge, met with his death under the following circumstances :—Deceased, who was a boy eight or nine years old, had got upon a truck on the Severn Valley Railway, loaded with limestone, and which tips on its side. It appears that he lay upon the board which lifts up and down upon a hinge, and his weight overbalancing the carriage he turned the load over upon himself. When extricated from under it he was quite dead and much mutilated."[20]
  • 1861 "ACCIDENT ON THE SEVERN VALLEY RAILWAY.—On Wednesday Richard Jones, a navvy, while getting into one of the empty trucks at Hamptons Load, fell under the wheels, which passed over his right foot, and so injured his toes that he had to submit to amputation."[20]
  • 1862 "FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE SEVERN VALLEY RAILWAY. — An accident, which terminated fatally to one of the workmen on the Severn Valley Railway, a man named John Grosby, occurred on Tuesday. Near to the Buildwas station a siding is being constructed; and, in order to expedite the work, night relays of men are employed. About half-put three o’clock on the morning of the day named an engine passed down the line from Shrewsbury. It was stopped at the Buildwas station for a supply of water, and whilst there the discovery was made that one of the labourers had been run over. He was found close to the rails, with both his legs cut off. The engine was backed, and the poor fellow was placed thereon, and conveyed to the Bridgnorth Infirmary, where he expired about seven o’clock. The unfortunate man has left a widow and two children to mourn his untimely end. An inquest was held on view of the remains at the Squirrel Inn, Bridgnorth, before W. D. Bette, Esq., coroner, and a verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned."[21]
  • 1875 "SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE KIDDERMINSTER AND BEWDLEY LOOP LINE.-A serious accident occurred on Wednesday morning on the line in course of construction between Kidderminster and Bewdley. The contractors. Messrs. Dickenson and Crockett, have a large staff of men engaged on the works, the heaviest part of which comprises the cutting of a tunnel through the sandstone ridge to the west of the Stourport Road. The hardness of the rock necessitates its being blasted, and on Wednesday seven men were engaged in this work, when a charge they had put in failed to explode. It was determined to put in a fresh charge, and whilst the men were proceeding to do this it is supposed that a spark from the iron tools striking the rock caused the original charge to take fire. The explosion of the gunpowder blew six of the men some distance from the spot, and when their comrades ran to them they were found to be badly hurt. Two, whose injuries were most severe, were removed to the Kidderminster Infirmary, and the other four men were taken to their lodgings. One of the men has lost his eyesight by the accident. It is stated that all the men are strangers to Kidderminster."[22]
  • 1876 "ACCIDENT AT HOLLOWAY'S THEATRE.—An accident occurred at this theatre, on Saturday evening, to a navvy named Yates. He went to the Theatre to witness the play, and when going to his seat, his foot slipped, and he fell upon his leg, which was broken. He was subsequently admitted to the Kidderminster Infirmary where the broken limb was successfully set. Yates Was engaged on the line, and met with an accident some weeks since, when he had the misfortune to break the same limb."[23]
  • 1876 "FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE LOOP LINE.—A serious accident occurred on the loop line now being constructed between Kidderminster and Bewdley on Wednesday night, resulting in the death of two men and the serious injury of two others. About sixteen men were engaged on the night turn at the Bewdley end of the tunnel which is being driven, and suddenly a large mass of earth fell. A number of men were knocked down, but those only slightly covered with soil soon crawled out. Unfortunately, four of the men were deeply buried in the earth, and though vigorous steps were taken to reach them, it was two hours before they were all found. Henry Phillips and Matthew Jones, said to be Staffordshire men, were dead; and Michael Greenall, and a fourth man, whose name we could not learn, were severely hurt. The deceased were both married men and leave families. Mr. David Corbet was soon on the spot, and attended to the two injured men, who were conveyed to Wribbenhall, where they remain in a precarious state."[24]
  • 1876 "ACCIDENT ON THE NEW LOOP LINE.—One Of the men, named Abel Cooper, residing at Wribbenhall, who are engaged in constructing the new loop line between Bewdley and Kidderminster met with a serious accident on Monday evening whilst at work in the tunnel. A truck used for carrying away the soil was running along the metals, and came in contact with Cooper, who was knocked down, and the wheel went over one of his legs, causing an extensive laceration. Mr. C. Webster, surgeon, Bewdley, was summoned to attend the man, and although the latter is going on as well as could be expected, he will be confined to the house fur a considerable period. The accident occurred not far from where two men were buried alive three weeks ago."[25]
  • 1876 "FATAL ACCIDENTS IN KIDDERMINSTER. Yesterday morning, shortly after eleven o'clock a shocking accident happened on the loop-line now in course of construction, between Bewdley and Kidderminster. About 80 men were engaged on the Kidderminster side of the tunnel, excavating the earth, and while four men were standing upon some rock about 9 feet from the metals, shovelling earth into the waggons, a portion of the rock weighing about 15 tons suddenly slipped. It is said that there was a " fault" in the rock, and the moment it slipped a volume of water rushed from the fissure. One of the men, named John Pritchard, living at Sutton Common, jumped to the ground, and the whole of the rock fell upon him, completely entombing his body. The other men were more fortunate. They slipped with the rock, and none were seriously injured; although one of them was buried up to his shoulders. Strange to say, the uninjured men showed no ready disposition to extricate Pritchard, regarding his case as hopeless. Mr. Dickinson and one of his foremen named Swager, set to work, and in about half an hour were able to bring out the body, which was then quite dead. The man had fallen headlong and his feet were fond first. The body was removed to an adjoining public house, when an inquest will be held. Mr. W. Cowen and Mr. D. Corbel were soon on the spot and rendered all the assistance possible. The injured men were taken to the Infirmary."[26]
  • 1876 "ANOTHER ACCIDENT ON THE LOOP LINE.—On Monday another accident occurred in the tunnel on the Loop line between Bewdley and Kidderminster. The engines were engaged as usual in removing the soil, rock, &co., from the line, when by some mischance a man named Philip Stanley, stoker to one of the engines, got between that and a truck, receiving serious internal injuries. He was removed to the Infirmary where he lies."[27]
  • 1877 "TERRIBLE GUNPOWDER EXPLOSION NEAR KIDDERMINSTER - TWO MEN FRIGHTFULLY INJURED. An explosion occurred at mid-day, on the line now in course of construction, between Kidderminster and Bewdley. Two men were blasting rock near the tunnel, when a portion of the fuse fell into a gunpowder barrel, and a tremendous report was heard. Both men were hurled a considerable distance by the force of the explosion, and when found among the debris were frightfully injured about the upper part of their bodies. It seems almost impossible for them to live."[28]

Court appearances and other

  • 1859 "LABOURERS STRIKING.-A short distance from Sambourne, upon the Severn Valley Railway line, there is a deep and long cutting of sandstone, which the men have great difficulty in getting on with. On Tuesday last, their master, a sub-contractor, informed them that he should require them to fill 15 trucks per day instead of 14, their usual number; but they immediately left, taking with them their tools, and have gone in quest of employment elsewhere."[29]
  • 1859 "A RAILWAY DEFAULTER.—On Friday last, one of the gangers named David Deer, employed upon the Severn Valley Railway, at Upper Areley, absconded, taking with him the whole of the wages due to about twelve or fifteen of the men for a fortnight's labour, leaving the poor fellows and their families completely destitute."[30]
  • 1859 "VIOLENT OUTRAGE AND ASSAULT BY A RAILWAY CONTRACTOR James Wallace, in the employ of the directors of the Severn Valley Railway Company, was brought up in custody charged with committing an outrageous assault and seriously wounding William Beddow, one of the workmen on the railway. The complainant, who had his head enveloped and bound up in clothes, appeared at the magistrates office on Monday morning, at eleven o'clock, and with difficulty gave his deposition before Aldermen Deighton, Nock, and Richards, who heard the case to the following effect :— Complainant went about nine this morning to the workshop of the company and demanded his wages due for three days and quarter work ; the prisoner Wallace refused to pay him till the regular pay day (Friday) : words ensued about it, when complainant was knocked down by Wallace by a blow on the face ; he did not know what with, but he lay senseless for full a quarter of an hour before he was able to rise ; he was seriously injured about the head, and had to get a surgeon's assistance. Mr. Wallace attempted to prove that the complainant had used threatening words to him, and challenged him to fight, but failed on the cross-examination. A surgeon's certificate was put in to show the wounded man was in a most precarious state, and, notwithstanding the urgent plea of Wallace to take bail, the magistrates decided upon committing him to gaol to be brought up at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning for re-examination. The event has caused considerable stir in the town and its environs."[31]
  • 1859 "NOVEL USE OF THE TUNNEL OR THE NEW TOWN IN UPROAR.--On Monday, the 26th September, the neighbourhood of this locality was thrown into the utmost excitement by the discovery, rather mal-a-propos of the amours of a son of Vulcan, a married man, with three children, with a damsel well known for her piping-hot qualities at the court of Venus, who, although not favouring the temple of Hymen and his vows, has most prodigally, in times past, favoured her native town with three fine specimens of juvenile vitality. Be this as it may, on the night in question, the blacksmith, who is employed on the new Severn Valley Railway making here, met the nymph by appointment, which, in a short time, was carried to the ears of his deserted wife, who at once, with a troop of her friends, started off to the rescue of her faithless spouse, no doubt with threats loud and deep. The offending parties were come upon in the crisis of fate, and flight was the order of the day, and, after a running chase, the loving couple took shelter from pursuit at the mouth of the new tunnel which they entered like Dido and Eneas, crouching up at the extent of its furthest end till terms of capitulation were granted them, when they surrendered. At night, at a later period, the New Town was brilliantly illuminated, and the frail pair were at full length burnt in effigy by the indignant populace, at a bonfire made expressly for the occasion."[32]
  • 1859 "CHARGE OF STEALING A SPADE.-At the County Police-court on Saturday, before Mr. Corbett, John Owen, labourer on the Severn Valley Railway, was charged with stealing a spade, the property of Thomas Jones, a fellow workman, living at Factory-yard, Coleham. The spade was deposited in the tool-shed, and missed on Friday evening. The prosecutor proceeded at once to give information to the police, and on walking up the Wyle-cop, Shrewsbury, he espied the stolen article at the door of a marine store dealer's shop, ticketed for sale, 1.s. 6d. The case was remanded to the Condover petty sessions on Friday (this day)."[33]
  • 1859 "STEALING RABBITS.—Joseph Smith and Peter Young, two navvies, were charged with stealing two tame rabbits, on Sunday night last, the property of Mr. George FowlerHenry Fowler, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Midland Railway 1909-1923, and of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1923-1933. There being no evidence against Smith, he was discharged. Young, when asked if he had anything to say, replied, "he had a good deal, but if he could not do a person any good, he would do them no harm." He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to fourteen days' hard labour.-Joseph Smith, the man charged with stealing the rabbits in the foregoing case, was charged with stealing a quantity of timber, and horse rug and various sacks, the property of Mr. Thomas Brassey, contractor for the Severn Valley Railway. Inspector Stanton stated that on searching Smith's house he found this property. Smith had nothing to say in his defence, but pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to one month's hard labour."[34]
  • 1860 "STEALING A WHEELBARROW.—Yesterday, at the Borough Police-court, Richard Jones, a labourer, was charged with stealing a wheelbarrow, the property of Messrs. Brassey and Field, and which belonged to the works of the Severn Valley Railway, and was of the value of 10s. The prisoner was brought up on remand. —On Wednesday last police-constable Cheshire was on duty in the Circus, when the prisoner accosted him, and charged some one with stealing a barrow belonging to him. The police-officer had previously observed a barrow, which he imagined belonged to Mr. Gordon, and ultimately discovered it. The prisoner claimed the barrow as his own, but it was proved that it belonged to the Severn Valley Railway, by James Thomas, an employee, who identified it from the fact that it was made of sapling oak, and the handle, which had split, was fastened with a nail in a peculiar manner. Prisoner, on being once interrogated about the barrow coming into his possession, said the policeman wanted to know too much; another time he professed to have found it in Meole brook, and latterly maintained that it belonged to Mr. Wace, lawyer.—He was committed to the sessions for trial."[35]
  • 1860 "BOROUGH PETTY SESSION, Monday.-Before R. O. Backhouse, Esq., Mayor, T. W. Wylde Browne, T. Smith, and T. Colley. Esqrs. —Forgery: James Turner, a navvy employed on the Severn Valley Railway under Mr James Wallis, sub-contractor, was charged with uttering a forged cheque for 3s, with the name of W. Wallis attached thereto. The said cheque was passed by prisoner to Mrs. Smith, of the Crown and Cushion public-house, in this town, on the 28th ult. for which he received goods to that amount. Suspicion was attached to the prisoner, in consequence of many forged cheques of a similar nature being in circulation, and he not coming to claim his wages on the Friday night, information was given to Chief constable Cole, who traced the prisoner to Wenlock, and took him into custody the following morning in a lodging-house, and conveyed him to the Bridgnorth lock-up. The prisoner admitted uttering a similar forged cheque, but not the one produced against him, and the bench fully committed him to take his trial at the ensuing assizes."[36]
  • 1860 "APPREHENSION OF A NIGHT POACHER.—It may perhaps be in the recollection of some of our readers that at the March Assizes last year, George Massey, " a navvy," who had been working on the Severn Valley Railway, near Stourport, was convicted and sentenced to nine months' hard labour for poaching in Shrawley Wood, on the 15th of the previous January, when one of the gamekeepers of the late T. B. Vernon Esq., of Hanbury Hall, was shot at and severely wounded. Two of Massey's fellow-labourers on the railway were implicated in the offence, both of whom absconded, and notwithstanding that attempts were made at the time both by the usual notice in the Hue and Cry[note 3], and the offer of a reward by Mr. Vernon to find them out, they escaped detection. One of them, named John Smith, alias Baylis, alias - "Hard Head," has been lately employed at the tunnel on the Worcester and Hereford railway, near Malvern. Police-superintendent Phillips, of the Worcester division having received information, went to the tunnel, where he apprehended him. The prisoner denied his knowledge of the matter but made no resistance. He was brought to Worcester, and taken before H. B. Tymbs, Esq., when be was remanded, to go before the justices of the Hundred House Division."[37]
  • 1860 "BROSELEY - CLEVER CAPTURE.-Some few weeks back, John Fewtrill was convicted at the Petty Session, for having been trespassing in pursuit of game upon the land of Lord Forester, he was sentenced to fine or a imprisonment. The fine not having been paid, he made himself scarce for a time. Lately, he has returned, and found safer employment on the Severn Valley Railway. A warrant had been issued for his apprehension, and placed in the hand of that active police constable, Jones. This latter made his apearance at the cutting at which his quarry was employed, in the character of a mere spectator. While thus engaged, Fewtrill, perhaps thinking that the presence of the officer boded no good to him, bolted towards the river, apparently with the intention or placing the river between him and his pursuer. On reaching the bank he changed his purpose, and ran at a rattling pace down the towing-path, tumbling rather than jumping over the gate ; but Police-constable Jones was not less swift of foot, Alter a gallant chase, the foot of the policeman touched the heel of Fewtrill; who went down at his length under the policeman. To secure the quarry, the handcuffs were soon put In requisition, and he was marched off to Broseley. Later in the evening the fine and costs were paid—some 20s, odd."[38]
  • 1860 "MAGISTRATES COURT, TUESDAY:- Charge of Stealing Eight Sovereigns : James Bradshaw, a decent looking man, who said he came from Manchester last week, and was engaged upon the Severn Valley Railway, was charged with stealing eight sovereigns, but no good evidence being adduced he was discharged."[39]
  • 1860 "BRIDGNORTH - COUNTY SESSIONS A working man on the Severn Valley Railway was charged with stealing timber, the property of his employers, on the evening of Friday last. He was committed to Shrewsbury gaol for seven days."[40]
  • 1861 "A DRUNKEN Navvy. —On Saturday, before W. W. Browne, Esq. and Alderman Nock, Richard Cleyton was brought up, charged with drunkenness, and fined 10s. and costs, or 14 days in default. Committed."[20]
  • 1861 "Robbery by a Navvy : William Bache, working on the railway, was charged with stealing a bundle of clothing, the property of Henry Williams, also a navvy, containing two pairs of moleskin trowsers, waistcoat, shirt, smockfrock, two handkerchiefs, pair of boots, tin can, razor and strop, and other articles. The facts of the case were most singular, as given by the evidence of the companion of Williams, one Jesse Law, who deposed that himself and Williams had come up from Bewdley to Bridgnorth, where they had been working on the railway. They arrived on the evening of Saturday last and went to the Tumbling Sailors publichouse. After partaking of some ale there, Law, taking up Williams' bundle in mistake for his own, went out and put up at the Star publichouse, where, soon after he went in, he deposited the bundle under the kitchen screen and fell fast asleep. It appeared that prisoner and another navvy named Thomas Hunt, were drinking at the Star at that time, and at 12 o'clock, the time for closing the house, they went out and the landlord, David James, saw one of them take up the bundle from under the screen and carry it away with him; Law being then asleep, and going to remain in the house. The missing property was traced on the Sunday evening into the prisoner's possession, who had it at his lodgings, at John Bache's, Listley street, where the police took possession of the bundle, and charged him with the robbery. John Bache, tailor, of Listley street, deposed to prisoner lodging at his house. On the Saturday night he came in about a quarter past twelve and brought the bundle, as now produced in court, with him. When asked whose bundle it was, he said it belonged to a man working on the railway, and he gave it to him to keep as he was going off. Prisoner had told him (witness) he had been working up at Coalport, and witness understood he had had the bundle from there. The evidence of David James, Chief-constable Cole, and Police-constable John Instone, corroborated the above evidence. Prisoner made a long rambling defence as to his going from the Star publichouse to Yates's, the Prince of Wales beershop, on the Saturday night, and meeting with a navvy running, who gave him the bundle to keep, saying his wife was after him and he wanted to get out of the road; and he said he would call for his bundle on the Monday. On being told that the bench had made up their mind to send him to Shrewsbury gaol for trial, he at once succumbed, and begged their Honours to adjudicate on it at once, and pleaded guilty to the charge. The Mayor said the case was clear against him, and in hopes that it would be a warning to him for the future, they would deal as leniently as they could, and sentenced him to six weeks' imprisonment in Shrewsbury gaol and kept to hard labour."[41]


  1. Nabarro (1971) gives around 900. Chris Haynes' research gives around 976 persons on the 1861 census, at a date most of the earthworks had finished. It is therefore likely a higher number were employed for probably the two years of 1859 and 1860
  2. Nabarro reports Bridgeman made a special visit to Liverpool in May 1959 to enlarge the labour force. Bridgeman was, however, employed by John Fowler working for the SVR Company and Thomas Brassey was responsible for recruiting workers. Bridgman may have met the contractors in Liverpool to discuss progress on recruitment.
  3. 'Hue and Cry' was a publication which later became the 'Police Gazette'. Police Gazette on Wikipedia

See also


  1. Nabarro (1971) p. 34.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Marshall (1989) pp. 46-47.
  3. Census of England and Wales for the year 1861 : population tables, on archive.org
  4. Census of England and Wales for the year 1861 : population tables, on archive.org
  5. Census of England and Wales for the year 1861 : population tables, on archive.org
  6. Review of the 1861 census by Chris Haynes
  7. Worcestershire Chronicle - Wednesday 2 February 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  8. Eddowes's Journal, and General Advertiser for Shropshire, and the Principality of Wales - Wednesday 05 October 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  9. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Friday 2 December 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  10. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Friday 13 January 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Berrow's Worcester Journal, reported in Marshall (1989) p. 47.
  12. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Wednesday 21 March 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  13. Eddowes's Journal, and General Advertiser for Shropshire, and the Principality of Wales - Wednesday 18 April 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  14. Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 14 May 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  15. Nottingham Journal - Tuesday 27 November 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  16. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Friday 28 December 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  17. Nabarro (1971) p. 36.
  18. Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal 6 February 1861, via Broseley Local History Society 1861 transcriptions
  19. Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal 29 May 1861, via Broseley Local History Society
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal 25 September 1861, via Broseley Local History Society
  21. Shrewsbury Chronicle 17th January 1862, reported in Broseley Papers
  22. Worcester Journal - Saturday 18 September 1875, on the British Newspaper Archive
  23. Worcester Journal - Saturday 11 March 1876, on the British Newspaper Archive
  24. Kidderminster Times and Advertiser for Bewdley & Stourport - Saturday 18 March 1876, on the British Newspaper Archive
  25. Worcester Journal - Saturday 08 April 1876, on the British Newspaper Archive
  26. Kidderminster Times and Advertiser for Bewdley & Stourport - Saturday 16 September 1876, on the British Newspaper Archive
  27. Kidderminster Times and Advertiser for Bewdley & Stourport - Saturday 23 September 1876, on the British Newspaper Archive
  28. Worcester Journal - Saturday 24 February 1877, on the British Newspaper Archive
  29. Worcestershire Chronicle - Wednesday 26 January 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  30. Worcester Journal - Saturday 16 July 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  31. Eddowes's Journal, and General Advertiser for Shropshire, and the Principality of Wales - Wednesday 31 August 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  32. Eddowes's Journal, and General Advertiser for Shropshire, and the Principality of Wales - Wednesday 5 October 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  33. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Friday 4 November 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  34. Worcestershire Chronicle - Wednesday 16 November 1859, on the British Newspaper Archive
  35. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Wednesday 15 February 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  36. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Friday 9 March 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  37. Worcestershire Chronicle - Wednesday 25 April 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  38. Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 20 August 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  39. Eddowes's Journal, and General Advertiser for Shropshire, and the Principality of Wales - Wednesday 05 September 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  40. Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser - Wednesday 12 December 1860, on the British Newspaper Archive
  41. Shrewsbury Chronicle - Friday 17 May 1861, on the British Newspaper Archive