Two killed when Preston stagecoach overturned at bend in road

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at the dangers of public transport in the days of stagecoaches...

Stagecoach days of the 1820s were fraught with danger
Stagecoach days of the 1820s were fraught with danger

The fully laden ‘North Star’ stagecoach left Preston at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on the second Friday of August 1827, heading for Manchester

The journey was proceeding well until a sudden turn in the road approaching the toll-gate at Brindle. The coach driver was travelling at a fast speed and on reaching the bend the coach overturned. The coach was dragged a few yards after it fell, and the driver and a young woman who had been sat upon the roof were seriously injured. Whilst a number of passengers inside the coach were not only shaken but received injuries of a severe nature.

A messenger was immediately sent to Preston to inform Mr. Clough, one of the stage coach proprietors, of the accident and he lost not a moment in proceeding with surgeon Mr. Lodge to render assistance. Also Mr. Garth of the Old Bull Inn hastened to the scene in a chaise accompanied by surgeon Mr. Stocks.

The dreadful scene that awaited them needed all the surgical skills of the two medical men. The young woman had been removed to the toll-house, along with the coachman Bell, whose thigh was broken.

The surgeons found the young woman in a pitiful state, her leg had been trapped beneath the iron railing on the top of the coach and had been severely lacerated. The surgeons decided it was necessary to amputate the leg and carried out the operation immediately.

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts she died within an hour of the operation. She was a servant girl in the employ of Mr. Clayton, a boot and shoe maker, of Sugar Lane in Manchester.

She had been travelling back to Manchester with Mrs. Clayton who herself had suffered a broken collar bone and had been sent on to Blackburn in a hastily arranged coach for treatment.

She was accompanied on that journey by a servant girl employed by Mr. Holden of the Boars Head in the Manchester, who had been much shaken in the incident, along with a mother and child who had suffered bumps and bruises.

Mr. Ball who was in a dreadful state also need the surgeon’s attention, besides his broken thigh he had also suffered a broken arm and leg and received an eye injury that threatened his sight. His bones were carefully set by the surgeons before he was able to be conveyed to hospital.

Following news of the servant girl’s death an inquest was hastily arranged for the following day before the Preston coroner Richard Palmer. The surgeons related details of the girl’s operation and subsequent death. It was stated that Mr. Ball was in a critical state and the court heard that he was a partner in the ‘North Star’ coach business and kept the Cheshire Tavern in Manchester. A couple of witnesses who had travelled on the fateful journey testified that Mr. Ball had been driving at the time at a furious rate.

The inquest jury after their deliberations brought in a verdict of ‘ Manslaughter’ against the coach driver. However, by the next day he was beyond mortal account as he expired in a Manchester hospital.

It seems that stage coach travel was not without its perils as on the following Sunday the ‘New Times’ coach running from Liverpool to Lancaster, was upset whilst descending the hill at Penwortham Woods, and several passengers were severely injured, especially a coachman named Wardle.