1866 – Six die when bridge collapses during construction of Mitcham – Sutton railway

From the South Eastern Gazette, 1st May, 1866, page 6:

Frightful Accident at Sutton, Surrey — Six Men Killed by the Falling of a Bridge.

— A lamentable catastrophe occurred at Sutton on Saturday afternoon. The South Coast Company are constructing a new line of railway, which is ultimately intended to connect the London termini with Portsmouth by a direct route. A portion of this line is known by the name of the Mitcham and Sutton Railway, and after crossing Mitcham-common runs at the back of Carshalton and joins the existing Epsom line on the London side of the Sutton station.

A deep cutting through chalk, about half a mile from the junction, renders a bridge necessary for the public road. The work was here in active progress, and the bridge which fell was constructed by means of leaving a keystone of the native chalk and building the brick work upon the chalk abutments. The bridge was nearly completed, but some weeks since a doubt of its stability was entertained, and reports are current in the neighbourhood that the bridge was condemned, and that workmen had absolutely been discharged by the contractor for refusing to work at it, under apprehension of danger. Notwithstanding this, on Saturday afternoon, at half-past two, six men and a ganger were employed. Three of the six were cutting away the chalk, and three others were scraping the brickwork to make it ready for pointing, from which it appears that there was no intention of pulling down the bridge. At half-past two the whole mass of brickwork gave way and buried six poor fellows. The ganger, John White, escaped. Every effort to get at the buried men was made, but it was nearly two hours before they were extricated.

All six were of course dead, and there is reason to hope that their death was almost simultaneous with their apprehension of danger. On visiting the spot on Sunday morning we found the six poor fellows were lying on the floor of a cottage adjoining, and exhibiting a frightful aspect of violent deaths. One of them had his face and head absolutely torn in halves horizontally; another’s countenance could scarcely be recognised.

The names of the poor fellows are Edward Berry, Chas. Collard, Wm. Cook, Henry Hyder, and Hutchinson ; the sixth was not identified at the time of our visit. The contractor for the line is Mr. Joseph Firbank, of Newport, Monmouth, and the construction of the bridges is underlet to Mr. Henry King, of Lower Norwood.

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