logo Burngreave Messenger Issue 33 - August 2003.

Poor John put his head on the line!
by Albert Jackson

The Sheffield & Rotherham Railway Co. opened the first station at the bottom of Spital Hill/Saville Street in 1838.

This was the original Midland Station, followed in 1870 by the present station. Between these dates the Woodhead line connected Manchester with Sheffield, first to Bridgehouses in 1845 then via the Wicker Arches to Victoria Station in 1851.

The interim years also saw one of the most terrible disasters in the City’s history – the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864, when the platforms at Savile Street were submerged after the almost complete Dale Dyke Dam at Loxley burst, cascading over 690 million gallons of water onto Sheffield and beyond. The official loss of life was declared as 250 (including 40 children), although many more are thought to have perished .

As the railway networks grew, the Midland station was linked to Bridgehouses by a tunnel, 300 yards long, to enable goods trains to access both lines. The incline of the tunnel was immense, engines had to reverse as far back along the line as Sutherland Street in order to build up enough steam for loaded trains to climb up through the tunnel. Likewise in reverse, a brake wagon had to be attached to the end of the train to control its descent. Disaster occurred for the Kidd family here, the gravestone at the chapel at Hillsborough Barracks relates…

This stone is erected
in memory of John Kidd,
who lost his life at the end
of the enclined tunnel on
the midland line at Sheffield,
December 8th 1846, aged 29 years.

Here Lieth the body of John Kidd,
In eternal realms his soul is hid;
A railway engine did him kill,
And crushed his poor head so ill.

Poor John was a pointsman at the station, he was uncoupling a wagon from the tender when his head was caught between the buffers.

At the inquest held in the Hall Carr Hotel the next morning, the jury concluded that although not his job to uncouple the wagons, only the deceased was to blame and returned a verdict of accidental death. The Railway Company offered to pay the funeral expenses.


John Kidd's gravestone.