William Warner

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Date published: 12/01/2015
© Berkshire Chronicle

WILLIAM WARNER


FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE WASH-ROAD SANDPITS, NEWBURY. PITS, NEWBURY. 

 

An inquest was held on Friday, the 20th inst., before Joseph Bunny, Esq., M.D., the borough coroner, and a jury of whom Mr. W. Freeman was foreman, touching the death of the young manWilliam Warner, who was buried in the sand on the previous afternoon, at the Wash Common. The accident is very melancholy one, and seems to have occurred through the natural looseness of the soil. 

 

The deceased is young man twenty years of age. The jury proceeded to the house of the father of the deceased, in Northbrook-lane, where the body lay. The Coroner viewed it, and found the deceased had evidently died of suffocation, and that there was no fracture of the limbs apparent.

 

Henry Nichols (the first witness called) deposed that he resided in Cheap-street, and was engaged at the pits digging sand on Thursday. He was in the employ of Mr. Elliott, builder. He was on the top of the pit on the outside; Wm. Warner was at the bottom of it, and George Timothy Adnams was on the second scaffold; this was about 3.15 p.m. The pit was situated on the east side of the Wash-road. While witness was at work the side of the pit gave way, and he was partially buried under it himself. The depth of the pit was about 17 feet, but he did not know what depth of sand the deceased was covered with. The other side of the pit the depth was over 30 feet.

 

Adnams was covered over, and witness could only see the top of his cap. Witness did his best to extricate himself after which he removed the gravel from the head of Adnams in order that he might be able to breathe. The only assistance he could get at first was from Mr. Long; they succeeded in getting out Warner. Adnams was extricated first, but he was in his perilous position for about half hour. Witness was present when Adnams was released, and he appeared sensible, but he was not in attendance when Warner was found.

 

The next witness was George Timothy Adnams, who was also engaged at the pits at the time. Witness was in such pain that he was unable to stand to give his evidence. He stated that he lodged at the Royal Exchange, and that he was bricklayer's labourer. He was in the pit working at the time and had been so all day. He should think it was a little after three when the accident occurred. The former witness and the deceased were also with him. In an instant the south side of the pit gave way covering himself and the deceased. Witness was 12 feet down from the top of the pit, and Warner was two feet below him. The gravel covered him with the exception of his head. Henry Nichols, after clearing away the sand from witness's mouth, went for further assistance. He had great difficulty in breathing from the weight of sand on his chest. Before he was entirely got out it was about three quarters of an hour.

 

He was still suffering severely from the bruises which he had received, but he had no bones broken. He had been employed in the same way for years, and had never known such accident before. When he went into the pit he did not see the least danger at all. Could not in any way have prevented the accident.

 

By the Foreman: The top the pit did not hang over, but was bevelled down.

 

By the Coroner : It was five feet from the bottom where he was standing. Had the pit been less deep he thought the accident might have occurred through the looseness of the soil.

 

By Mr. Long, senr.: He was actually digging a new pit by the side of old one.

 

By the Coroner: It was not altogether a safe place to work in.

 

Mr. Thomas Long, cutler, stated that about five minutes to three he was returning from Woodhay, when he was informed by Adnams that they had had a "rare slip'' in the sand pit. The deceased and Nichols were just entering the pit at the time. He told them they ought to be careful as some of the ground there was shaky. He then left, and after dinner Nichols came to his residence in great haste to give information that two men were buried in the pit. He requested help, and witness went immediately and saw Adnams' head just above the sand. He spoke to him and asked where the other man was? He answered "below." He could not see anything of the deceased, and he directly took a shovel and began to extricate Adnams. Half an hour elapsed before he could be got out. Before they extricated Adnams they got to the head of the deceased, but found that he had ceased breathe. There were two feet of earth on the head of the deceased, and when witness found he was dead he said "Now we must try to get this man (Adnams) out.” Almost as fast they dug the sand fell in again. The weight of the loads of sand shovelled out on the top forced down the new ground below, and it was his opinion that that was the cause of the accident. He had for long time considered that the pit was unsafe, and they ran a risk of being buried themselves whilst digging out Adnams and the deceased.

 

Mr. Elliott here sketched a plan of the pit, to define the position of the men when the accident occurred. Mr. Long then continued his evidence, and said that a quantity of clay had to be removed before they could release the men. The pit belonged to Mr. Chatteris.

 

Mr. Godfrey, a juryman, informed the Coroner that his brother was in a lunatic asylum maimed for life from injuries he had received in a pit at the Wash Common.

 

Mr. Elliott said the constant trampling of Nicholls upon the edge helped to make the sand give way. Mr. Bursey, surgeon, was sent for by Mr. Long, and came to the pit.

 

The Coroner noticed that deceased probably expired after five minutes had elapsed.

 

Witness continued: There were 23 or 24 loads at the top of the south side of the pit.

 

The Coroner said the death of the poor young man had been by accident, and it laid with the jury to consider whether they thought sufficient care had been taken to guard against such an occurrence. There was no doubt that after the accident every exertion was used to extricate the men.

 

By a Juryman to Mr. Elliott: We had not the slightest idea that the pit was unsafe. The new soil was always loose.

 

The Coroner asked whether there would have been any danger if they had not gone so low?

 

Mr. Elliott replied that he left the work to Adnams, who had had considerable experience.

 

The Coroner said it appeared to him that a life may have been spared if they had avoided going to so great a depth, and had the sand removed, instead of leaving so much on the top.

 

Mr. Elliott said he sent a third person in order that the sand might be removed quicker, and he was aware there had been slip before. Warner had said to his mother that had a great mind to ask him (Mr. Elliott) for another job; he was not told that. They had gone much deeper in other parts of the pit.

 

The Coroner said they must not dig so as to endanger life.

 

After deliberating, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death," and expressed their opinion that after the "slip" took place, and after Mr. Long's statement, more care should have been exercised to avoid a second one. 

 
 
 

Berkshire Chronicle - Saturday 28 September 1867


 *The sandpit was originally dug to provide surface for the ‘Andover, Newbury & Chilton Pond Turnpike Trust’ road.  It is now Ladwell Close!  

Dave Stubbs

 
“Ladwell Close:  Most of the development lies in disused gravel pits, described as ‘old gravel pits’ in 1910.  Ten years earlier gravel was apparently being extracted only at the northern end of the site.  There was also sand in these pits - David Smallridge, a keen bird watcher, recently recalled that he used to observe sand martins nesting in the steep sides of the pits."

From "Newbury,  Road by Road" by Roy Tubb

 

Sources:Berkshire Chronicle - Saturday 28 September 1867: Dave Stubbs: Roy Tubb "Newbury, Road by Road"

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