Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Chesterfield Canal Tradegy

The Chesterfield canal is a 46 mile long navigable channel from the Derbyshire town of Chesterfield to the River Trent, passing through Staveley, Shireoaks, Worksop and Retford. The sections between West Stockwith junction on the Trent and Kiveton Park near Rotherham and from Staveley to just short of Chesterfield are navigable. The 10 miles from Norwood tunnel to Staveley are disused. 

Carrying on with the theme of the canals in the past. Ninty eight years ago, the Daily Mirror newspaper on the 29th November 1915 carried a report of a real tragedy on the Chesterfield Canal. There had been bitterly cold weather for many days and the canal was frozen. It was so cold that people could walk out on the ice.  It was a fatal attraction for several youngster.

The tragedy happened on a section of the Chesterfield canal that was already out of use as a commercial waterway at the time. The canal closure was due in no small part to the collapse of the Norwood tunnel which happened in 1907.

The report said 
"A terrible ice fatality involving the deaths of six young persons occurred on the Chesterfield and Stockwith Canal at Churchtown, Killamarsh, near Chesterfield, yesterday afternoon. 
The names of the victims are:- Fred Northridge (17), Harry Milner (18), Annie Sedgewick (12), Mary Elizabeth Watson (6), Alice Read (21), Mary Ann Ramskill (18)

The canal, which is not now in use for traffic, has been frozen over for some days, and in certain parts large numbers of children have indulged in sliding and skating. Yesterday there was a larger number than usual on the ice, and the numbers apparently proved more than the ice could bear, for suddenly the six young people mentioned disappeared below the surface, the depth of water at this place being stated to be about nine feet.

Miss Nellie Foster, Churchtown, Killamarsh, stated that she was in a field by the side of the canal near Church Lane at 2.45 yesterday afternoon and noticed two young women and two young men arm in arm walking or sliding on the ice. Suddenly there was an ominous cracking, followed by screams and the four young people were struggling in the water.

Miss Foster screamed for help, and a young man, Wilfred Sargeson, Miner, long lane, Killamarsh, who was a short distance away ran to the canal bank at the point where the accident had taken place. He promptly got on the ice to render assistance, and succeeded in grasping one of the young men, but the ice gave way and he dropped into the water. 
Two other men, named Watts and Jones, were by this time on the scene, and they were able to rescue Sargeson. In an exhausted condition Sargeson was taken home, and it was found necessary to call in Dr. Saunders, of Wales. Meanwhile none of the persons in the water was visible, but Police-constable Tinder was summoned and at once commenced dragging operations. Other persons also searched the canal with drags and within an hour six bodies were recovered. 
Dr Adams of Killamarsh, was present during the operations, but could only pronounce life extinct as the bodies were brought to the bank. The fatalities all took place at one part of the canal within a radius of three or four yards. The bodies were removed to the houses of relatives or friends to await the inquest. The Two young women from Chesterfield were on a visit to friends at Killamarsh, Miss Reid, was engaged to be married to Tom Northridge, brother of one the victims, and the banns were read out for the second time at Killamarsh church yesterday. "

The inquest into the accident was held on the afternoon of Tuesday 30th November 1915, at the Congregational School, Killamarsh.  It was stated "There was a stream running into the Canal near the spot where the ice gave way, and it is thought this fact coupled with the weight of a group of people at one particular place explained the cause of the ice giving way.  It appeared that the victims were sliding on the ice in a kind of procession, Harry Milner linked arm in arm with Mary Ann Ramskill, and one of the two young women from Chesterfield taking the lead. Miss Ramskill was visiting Killamarsh with a friend, Alice Reid who came second in line.  Behind them holding a part of their clothing came Annie Sedgewick and little Mary Watson.  The sliders were all laughing and joking when Harry Milner slipped and fell heavily in a sitting position.  The other members of the party tripped over him and their combined weight proved more than the ice could bear, and all six disappeared into the water, their screams being described as agonising. There were a number of children on other parts of the ice and they at once got to the Canal bank."


  1. Chris Trotman (Black Swan)19 December 2013 at 13:57

    How old is your iPod and which model? I just discovered by accident that the original 1st Generation Nano model is being replaced, free of charge, because of a potential overheating problem. The risk is greater the older the device gets.

  2. Hi Chris.

    Mine is an old one so I will go and check. Thanks for the heads up. Saying that I have just purchased the latest nano as a gift to me. £90 in the manic Friday sales.

    Best wishes for Christmas and the new year...



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