Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Blood on the tracks

You think getting to work on National Express's joke of a railway is murder? Hackney was - somewhat inevitably - the location for Britain's first train killing, in 1864, the gory details of which are detailed in a fascinating new book.

Historian Kate Colquhoun has picked through archives recently released after 100 years spent gathering dust in the Kew archives to write 'Mr Briggs' Hat'. It unpicks how the murder of Thomas Briggs, late of 5 Clapton Square, came to scandalise the whole of Victorian society.

It's a rollicking story, involving his body being thrown from a first-class compartment of a North London Railway train onto the tracks somewhere between Bow and Hackney Wick; a societal fear of foreigners (the suspect, later convicted and sentenced to death, was German); and class war. In those days, carriages were not adjoining, so the first class compartment was a sanctuary inaccessible to the hoi polloi.

So affronted by the murder and its implications, the Daily Telegraph asked: "If we can be murdered thus, we may be slain in our pew at church or assassinated at our dinner table." Or, today's equivalent, shot randomly outside a Turkish social and sports club.

A coda. If you're wondering about where the railway in question ran before it was decommissioned in 1922, click here for more - much, much more.

No comments:

Post a Comment