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Young Railway Porter’s Life Extinguished

With next week’s new data release, this post from guest author Susan Fabbro is timely. Susan was good enough to put it together for us some time ago, after a chance meeting at a conference – and after we were able to help uncover some more information about a railway staff accident in her family history. That accident – to Rowland Winn – features in our new dataset. Susan’s research takes us beyond that, however, as we see the last impact of the accident.

Our thanks to Susan for sharing her family’s story and for researching Rowland Winn’s life. We’re always keen to hear more about the people found in our database, so please get in touch if you can share any further detail. You can contact us here.


Rowland James Winn (1909 – 1931)

Pencil drawing of Rowland Winn (circa 1930).

Grandma often reminisced that prior to her marriage to my grandad, she had a boyfriend who had been killed in a railway accident. It was only after coming across photos in an old album of them, taken together with his younger sister before that tragic day, that it struck me how their expressions conveyed such carefree moments and affection.

Photos of Robert Winn and Violet Day (right), 1930/1.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Esbester from the Railway Work, Life & Death project (RWLD) at the RQG (Register of Qualified Genealogists) conference held at the National Railway Museum in York, when I mentioned this story and how I would be interested to know what happened to cause Rowland’s untimely demise. I knew very little of Rowland other than his name and age at the time of his death; information which was sourced from a photo of his memorial inscription in my Grandma’s album. The only other clue I had was a photo of Rowland with colleagues, posing on a station platform, holding the sign for Kenyon. Nonetheless, RWLD project team member Peter Thorpe at the National Railway Museum, kindly obliged me by providing a copy of the accident report which had been published for the Minister of Transport, and which features in the project’s forthcoming data release.

Extract from Ordnance Survey map, illustrating Kenyon Junction station in Lancashire, 1945.
(Reproduced under Creative Common License from Vision of Britain) [Source 1].
Death by Misadventure: 19 November 1931

The unfortunate accident took place at Kenyon Junction, near Culcheth in Lancashire, which served both the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and the Kenyon and Leigh Junction Railway. The report was submitted by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway company [source 2].

Posed accident prevention photograph about a similar issue, around the use of barrow crossings, taken from an LMS booklet of 1924

On the morning of 19 November 1931, upon the arrival of a down passenger train towards Liverpool at the main line platform just before 8.30 a.m., Rowland and his fellow porter, C. W. Whitfield, assisted their foreman, Herbert Aldred to transfer two milk churns from the rear van to a platform barrow, which they then wheeled to the Liverpool end of the platform, where they waited at the top of the ramp for the train to depart. A dense fog prevailed and Aldred stated that he went to the main line crossing to listen for any rail traffic which may be approaching on the up line before returning to assist his porters to push the barrow across the tracks. They passed over the down track but just as they were about the clear the up track, an express parcel train travelling at about 40 miles per hour from Holyhead to Manchester, crashed into the barrow, killing Rowland instantly and causing minor injuries to Whitfield. Miraculously, although he was at the back of the barrow in the four-foot way beside Rowland, Aldred escaped unhurt.

The report went on to state that it was a comparatively safe crossing under normal conditions when on a clear day, as rail traffic in both directions could be seen approaching from at least three quarters of a mile. However, in fog it became highly dangerous, demanding extreme caution. The report concluded that the men attempted to cross the lines almost immediately after the departure of the down train, the sound of which would have drowned out the whistle announcing the approaching up train, despite the fact that Aldred allegedly checked in advance. Consequently, it was determined that Aldred failed to exercise due care given the atmospheric conditions at the time and was held fully responsible for accident [source 3]. According to a newspaper article in the Liverpool Echo, the inquest ruled that unlike other stations, there was no continuous warning bell sounded at Kenyon Junction until trains had cleared the section during fog [source 4]. A verdict of “death by misadventure” was returned by the jury with the coroner asserting all employers had a duty of taking appropriate precautions in order to protect their employees.

Family History Conundrum

I was interested to know more about Rowland’s family and I was particularly curious to know how Grandma came to know him, given that she lived in County Durham and he in Lancashire. I ascertained from my father that she worked as a nanny for a Major BENNETT’s family in Bolton, Lancashire from about 1931 for several years. However, that still seemed a bit of a long shot without an introduction, given that Rowland must have lived in the vicinity of Kenyon Junction. I was sure I had come across the surname WINN in a branch of our own family tree which had been long neglected, so I decided to undertake some genealogy research to determine whether there might be any connection.

The Lancashire Connection

Firstly, I investigated Rowland’s family using available online resources of civil and parish records, census records and railway employment records. His name was variably spelt Roland or Rowland and he was named after his father. To avoid any confusion, I will hereafter refer to them as Rowland senior and Rowland junior.

Rowland James WINN (Top) and colleagues at Kenyon junction station.

It transpired that Rowland senior was employed by the London & North Western Railway company in Pennington, Lancashire in early 1901 [source 5]. He initially worked as a porter and subsequently progressed to become a signalman by the time of his son’s baptism in 1909 [source 6]. I was unable to find any employment records for Rowland junior. From the 1911 census record entry I discovered that the young family were living in Leigh, close to Kenyon Junction and that Rowland senior was born in Garsdale, Yorkshire in 1880 [source 7]. Rowland junior had an older sister, Doris. A younger sister Edith was born three years later [source 8].

Rowland junior’s mother was Martha HINDLEY from Leigh in Lancashire [source 9]. An 1891 census record entry for her family advised that her father was a railway booking clerk and that she had a younger brother Arthur, who also happened to be listed in the railway employment coaching department records with Rowland senior in 1901 [source 10]. Perhaps this was how his parents were introduced.

The Yorkshire Connection

Rowland senior was born in 1880 [source 11], the eldest of three sons, to Marmaduke WINN, a farm labourer, and his wife Mary HARPER, in Garsdale, Yorkshire [source 12]. This was in the vicinity of another well-known railway station, Hawes Junction, serving the Midland Railway’s Settle and Carlisle line.

Both Marmaduke and Mary were born in 1856 to neighbouring farming families in the Garsdale district. From the 1861 census records [source 13], and civil marriage index, I established that Marmaduke’s parents were Richard WINN and Isabella ALLEN whilst Mary’s were Rowland HARPER and Ann HAYGARTH [source 14]. This explains from whence the name Rowland was subsequently passed down the WINN generations. 

In each of the censuses 1891, 1901 and 1911, Marmaduke was recorded living in the Sedbergh district, Yorkshire [source 15]. Electoral registers listed him between 1899 and 1920 at various addresses in the area, including “Weaver’s Yard” [source 16]. I recalled that Grandma often mentioned a Sedbergh family connection and so I felt confident I was on the right track to establishing the link with her beau, Rowland junior.

The Durham Connection

Grandma Violet DAY was born in 1915 in Horden, a coal mining community in County Durham [source 17]. She had a young aunt on her maternal side, Elizabeth RUTTER [source 18] who was only 15 years her senior and whom in 1922 married a certain Richard WINN, a builder and farmer from Sedbergh, Yorkshire [source 19]. I have not yet been able to establish quite how a young woman from a mining village in north east England was courted by a young builder from the north west but it was another step forward to Rowland James.

This Richard WINN was born in 1896 to Richard WINN and Margaret LEIGHTON [source 20]. By researching Richard senior using census records, I subsequently found his baptism record to discover that his parents happened to be none other than Richard WINN and Isabella ALLEN [source 21].

Consequently, despite the considerable gap in age, Marmaduke WINN (1856 – 1925) and Richard WINN (1873 – 1918) were brothers, being the eldest and youngest sons of Richard and Isabella.

Descendant Chart for Richard WINN (1825-1890), illustrating the relationships of brothers Marmaduke and Richard WINN and highlighting Elizabeth RUTTER as the connection to Rowland James WINN.

Their respective sons, Rowland, the father of Rowland James and Richard, who married Grandma’s aunt, were first cousins.

To further confirm the relationship, Marmaduke died in 1925 whilst he was living with his son Rowland and family in Culcheth, Lancashire [source 22]. His probate recorded that his usual address was “Weaver’s Yard” in Sedbergh and administration was awarded to Richard WINN, builder and, as we now know, his nephew. 

During the course of this research, it was clear that the WINN family had well established links in both Yorkshire and Lancashire counties. It is likely but not certain that Grandma was introduced to Rowland junior through family connections when she went to work in Bolton, Lancashire. Solving the riddle certainly satisfied my curiosity whilst at the same time commemorating a life needlessly lost on the railway. Thank you to Railway Work, Life & Death for providing the impetus. 

Susan Fabbro (M.A., P.G. Dip., Genealogical Studies.) 

Susan is a family historian and qualified genealogist. She is a member of the Register of Qualified Genealogists. 

End Notes:
[source 1] – Ordnance Survey. (1945) Manchester. Sheet 101. Ordnance Survey of Great Britain New Popular Edition. In: A Vision of Britain of Britain Through Time. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. History of Kenyon, in Warrington and Lancashire. Map and description. : accessed 17 May 2020.
[source 2] – Ministry of Transport (Great Britain). 1932. Reports to the Ministry of Transport by the Inspecting Officers, Assistant Inspecting Officers, and Sub-Inspecting Officers of Railways of Inquiries into Accidents which occurred during the three months ending 31 December 1931. London: HMSO. Appendix B, pp. 24-25.
[source 3] – Ibid
[source 4]  ‘Porter Struck By Express Train’, Liverpool Echo, 20 November 1931, p. 16, c. British Newspaper Archive Collection in FindMyPast, attributed to Trinity Mirror. (accessed 17 May 2020).
[source 5] Railway Employment Records (UK). WINN, Rowland. 29 Jan 1901. London & North Western Railway Coaching Department, Pennington Station. Collection: UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1956. (accessed 15 May 2020).
[source 6] Baptisms (PR) England. Lowton St Mary, Lancashire. 7 February 1909. WINN, Roland James. Collection: Wigan, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1911. (accessed 15 May 2020).
[source 7] Census. 1911. England. Leigh, Lancashire. RG: 14. RD: 460. ED: 21. PN: 23229. Census Returns of England & Wales, 1911. (accessed 15 May 2020).
[source 8] Births index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Leigh, [Lancashire]. 4th Q 1914. WINN, Edith M. Vol. 8c. p. 562. (accessed 15 May 2020).
[source 9] Op. cit. 1911 Census.
[source 10] Census. 1891. England. Widnes, Lancashire. RG: 12/3014/22. p. 38. Collection: Census Returns of England & Wales, 1891. (accessed 15 May 2020); Railway Employment Records (UK). HINDLEY, Arthur. June 1901. London & North Western Railway Coaching Department, Pennington Station. Collection: UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1956. (accessed 15 May 2020).
[source 11] Births index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Sedbergh, [Yorkshire, West Riding]. 3rd Q., 1880. WINN, Rowland. Vol. 9a. p. 3. Collection: England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915. (accessed 15 May 2020).
[source 12]Census. 1881. England. Walton on Hill, West Derby, Lancashire. RG: 11. ED: 8. PN: 3687/119. p. 22. (accessed 16 May 2020); Census. 1891. England. Garsdale, Sedbergh, Yorkshire West Riding. RG: 12. ED: 3. PN: 3490/18. p. 1. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 13] Census. 1861. England. Garsdale, Yorkshire West Riding. RG: 9/3175/5. ED: 1. SN: 17. p. 3. Census Returns of England & Wales, 1861. (accessed 16 May 2020); Census. 1861. England. Garsdale, Yorkshire West Riding. RG: 9/3175/18. ED: 2. SN: 25. p. 5. Census Returns of England & Wales, 1861. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 14] Marriages index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Sedbergh, [Yorkshire West Riding]. 3rd Q., 1851. WINN, Richard and ALLEN, Isabella. Vol. 23. p. 587. Collection: England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915. (accessed 16 May 2020); Marriages index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Sedbergh, [Yorkshire West Riding]. 3rd Q., 1849. HARPER, Rowland and HAYGARTH, Ann. Vol. 23. p. 509. Collection: England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 15] Op. cit. 1891 Census, Garsdale; Census. 1901. England. Soolbank, Sedbergh, Yorkshire West Riding. RG: 13/4017/45. ED: 3. SN: 103. p. 17. Census Returns of England & Wales, 1901. (accessed 16 May 2020); Census. 1911. England. Sedbergh, Yorkshire West Riding. [mis-transcribed as ALLEN]. RG: 14/25705. RD: 483. ED: 3. Census Returns of England & Wales, 1911. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 16] Electoral Register. Skipton, West Yorkshire. WINN, Marmaduke. 1920. Weaver’s Yard, Sedbergh. KEI:11/4; SKIP:16/1; SKIP:15/5; KEI:12/1. West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-192. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 17] Births index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Easington, [County Durham]. 4th Q., 1915. DAY, Violet. Vol. 10a. p. 783. (accessed 17 May 2020).
[source 18] – birth index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Sunderland, [County Durham]. 2nd Q., 1900. RUTTER, Elizabeth Jane. Vol. 10a. p. 614. (accessed 17 May 2020).
[source 19] Marriages index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Easington, [County Durham]. 2nd Q., 1922. WINN, Richard and RUTTER, Elizabeth. Vol. 10a p. 937. Collection: England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 20] Census. 1911. England. Sedbergh, Yorkshire West Riding. RG: 14/25703. RD: 483. ED: 1. Census Returns of England & Wales, 1911. (accessed 16 May 2020); Marriages index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Sedbergh, [Yorkshire West Riding]. 4th Q., 1896. WINN, Richard and LEIGHTON Margaret Nelson. Vol. 9a. p. 9. Collection: England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915. (accessed 16 May 2020); Births index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Sedbergh, [Yorkshire, West Riding]. 4th Q., 1896. WINN, Richard. Vol. 9a. p. 1. Collection: England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915. (accessed 16 May 2020).
[source 21] Baptisms (PR) England. Westmorland. 24 August 1873. WINN, Richard. Source film no.1657403. [Transcription]. Collection: England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. (accessed 17 May 2020).
[source 22] – Testamentary records. England. 15 January 1926. WINN, Marmaduke. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. p. 440. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. (accessed 17 May 2020).


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