William Huskisson (1770-1830), the local Member of Parliament and President of the Board of Trade from 1823 (and briefly Secretary of the Colonies, 1827-28) was a railway enthusiast and proponent of developing Britain's fledgling railway system. At the opening ceremonies for the inauguration of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, he stayed too long on the track admiring the scene, and was mowed down by one of engineer George Stevenson's 1839 "Rocket" locomotives travelling an estimated 36 miles per hour. — PVA

From the Creevey Papers. Letter from Thomas Creevey to Miss Ord.

Bangor, 19 September 1830

Jack Calcraft has been at the opening of the Liverpool rail road, and was an eye witness of Huskisson's horrible death. About nine or ten of the passengers in the Duke's car had got out to look about them, whilst the car stopt. Calcraft was one, Huskisson another, Esterhazy, Bill Holmes, Birch and others. When the other locomotive was seen coming up to pass them, there was a general shout from those within the Duke's car to those without it, to get in. Both Holmes and Birch were unable to get up in time, but they stuck fast to its sides, and the other engine did not touch them. Esterhazy being light, was pulled in by force. Huskisson was feeble in his legs, and appears to have lost his head, as he did his life. Calcraft tells me that Huskisson's long confinement in St George's Chapel at the king's funeral brought on a complaint that Taylor is so afraid of, and that made some severe surgical operation necessary, the effect of which had been, according to what he told Calcraft, to paralyse, as it were one leg and thigh. This, no doubt, must have increased, if it did not create, his danger and [caused him to] lose his life. He had written to say his health would not let him come, and his arrival was unexpected. Calcraft saw the meeting between him and the Duke, and saw them shake hands a very short time before Huskisson's death. The latter event must be followed by important political consequences. The Canning faction has lost its corner stone and the Duke's government one of its most formidable opponents. Huskisson, too, once out of the way, Palmerston, Melbourne, the Grants & Co. may make it up with the Beau [Wellington].

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Created 20 February 2000

Last modified 12 January 2020