w1 Language Paper 2 – Recollections of a Girlhood, 1879

The following extract from Frances Anne Kemble’s memoir Recollections of a Girlhood, first published in 1879, gives an eyewitness account of an accident that marred the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway on 15th September 1830.

liverpool-history-l1-liverpool manchester railway-1830“The engine had stopped to take in a supply of water, and several of the gentlemen in the directors’ carriage had jumped out to look about them. Lord Wilton, Count Batthyany, Count Matuscenitz, and Mr. Huskisson among the rest were standing talking in the middle of the road, when an engine on the other line, which was parading up and down merely to show its speed, was seen coming down upon them like lightning.

The most active of those in peril sprang back into their seats; Lord Wilton saved his life only by rushing behind the Duke’s carriage, and Count Matuscenitz had but just leaped into it, with the engine all but touching his heels as he did so; while poor Mr. Huskisson, less active from the effects of age and ill-health, bewildered, too, by the frantic cries of ‘Stop the engine! Clear the track!’ that resounded on all sides, completely lost his head, looked helplessly to the right and left, and was instantaneously prostrated by the fatal Fanny-Kemble-Image-Cropped-2-146nw6hmachine, which dashed down like a thunderbolt upon him, and passed over his leg, smashing and mangling it in the most horrible way. (Lady Wilton said she distinctly heard the crushing of the bone.)

So terrible was the effect of the appalling accident that, except that ghastly ‘crushing’ and poor Mrs. Huskisson’s piercing shriek, not a sound was heard or a word uttered among the immediate spectators of the catastrophe.”


prostrated laid face down