WALKED TO DEATH

SHEFFIELD CHILDREN's TERRIBLE FATE

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported the following case in the summer of 1915

Three happy Sheffield youngsters, each four years old - two of them engrossed with the care of their deaf and dumb companion - ran blithely across the road, hand in hand, at dusk last evening to suddenly find themselves in the course of  a city-bound tramcar at the corner of Gower street and Ellesmere Road. Before the children had been seen by the driver the car had caught them, and it was not brought to standstill until it had advanced a further thirty or forty yards. One of the terrified trio was knocked clear of the car but the fate of her little companions could only be a matter of conjecture until the car could be lifted from the track. A crowd quickly collected and by a united effort the heavy car was lifted sufficiently to permit both of the children to be extracted. The terribly crushed body of one was taken into a neighbouring shop, and another less seriously injured, also received attention locally, and the sufferers were then conveyed to the Sheffield Infirmary and the Royal Hospital

At the latter institution it was found that one of the victims - Doris Trotter of 43 Bressingham Road - had already succumbed to terrible injuries. Marjorie Ibbotson of 23 Bressingham Road was found to be bruised all over the body, and suffering from concussion. The third, Winifred Hart (deaf and dumb) of 3 Grimethorpe Road - who had been knocked clear of the car by the impact - was taken to the Royal Hospital and was found to be less seriously injured though badly bruised and suffering from shock.

The driver of the car is Mr Harold Windle of 54 Holmton Road, Woodseats, Sheffield.

On September 21 the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported on the inquest into the death of young Doris Trotter:

TRAMCAR FATALITY – CHILDREN DASH IN FRONT OF CAR
The Sheffield tramcar fatality which occurred in Ellesmere Road last Friday and resulted in the instantaneous death of a child of four, Doris Trotter, and severe injuries to her two companions, was the subject of a Coroner’s inquest yesterday. The jury’s pronouncement at the end of the two hours was ‘Accidental Death’, and the driver was exonerated from all blame. Mr J. J. Baldwin Young (deputy Coroner) presided over the proceedings. Mr E. B. Gibson (deputy Town Clerk) appeared for the Corporation, and Inspector James for the police. Mr J. E. Wing represented the relatives.

Charles John Trotter, butcher, the father of the deceased, said that his child went out to play after tea last Friday with her little friends. About 6.30 witness, while going back to work, noticed a crowd in the Ellesmere Road. He went to see what had happened, and in a neighbouring shop found the dead body of his child. James Tinker, 64,
Burngeave Road, Sheffield, said the three children were crossing the road from the left-hand side of Ellesmere Road, going from the city. He told them not to cross the road in front of a car going from the city, and they waited till it had passed, and then crossed the road immediately.
Witness thought that the children’s attention had been taken up with that car, and they did not see the other car coming down hill to the city. ‘The driver could not have possibly stopped to avoid the children,’ added Mr Tinker.
Ethel Wallace, 25, Ellesmere Road, thought the car was going at an ordinary speed, and the accident could not be helped. Ann Grocock, of Ellesmere Road, said that at Clun Street the driver should have been steadying to pull up at Gower Street, but instead he appeared not to be doing so.

Mr Gibson: ‘If he had been steadying up, could he have avoided the children?’

Witness: ‘No, I don’t think he could.’

The driver of the car, Harold Windle, of 54, Helmton Road, Woodseats, said he was driving his car from Petre Street to Nether Edge. He had stopped at Buckingham Street, 30 yards above Clun Street. The stops were close together in Ellesmere Road. Proceeding to the next stop at Gower Street, he was just by Clun Street when he first saw the children, who were then between the opposite track and the gutter on the other side of the track. He watched them and they were perfectly still. Then as he got near to them, four yards from them, they made a sudden dart in front of him as he was commencing to slow down.

The Coroner: ‘Doris Trotter was under the lifeguard. The lifeguard ought to have acted.’

Mr Windle: ‘It should, and I can’t account for it not doing so.’

Windle said he had been a driver for nine weeks and on the Petre Street route for four weeks. He was perfectly familiar with the route, and was going about six or seven miles an hour.

The Coroner: ‘You know there are a number of children about in Ellesmere Road?’

Mr Windle: ‘Yes, and especially by the scene of the accident.’

Witness said that he was ringing his bell all the way from Buckingham Street, because it was a rule to do so when they were passing a car in the opposite direction.

Chief Inspector H. Shorland said the car’s brakes were in thorough working order when he tested them after the accident.

The Coroner: ‘Can you explain why the lifeguard did not act?’

Chief Inspector Shorland: ‘Yes, the girl entered under the car sideways and not front on, and so the apparatus failed to act.’

‘I am told the car skidded. Can you explain that?’ asked Mr Gibson.

‘Yes, in his excitement the driver must have jammed on the electric brake too hard, with the result that the wheels locked.’

Inspector Shorland also stated that it was not the custom to carry ‘jacks’ on the car. Jacks were kept at various points on the routes and the nearest one to the scene of the accident was at the Wicker Arches.

Mr Wing: ‘Then the raising of a car depends on the labour available?’

‘Yes.’

Mr Wing: ‘If the driver had put sand on the tracks before he applied the electric brake the car might have stopped in its own length.’

The Coroner: ‘Even that would not have saved the child’s life. The driver had but small chance to avoid the children.’

Mr Gibson, on behalf of the Corporation, expressed sympathy with the parents of the deceased. The Tramways Committee took every possible precaution to prevent loss of life. Every case like this one made them consider whether anything further could be done to improve the precautions. Only a few days ago they were considering the question of the lifeguards. If they was a possibility of obtaining a better type they would avail themselves of it, but the one at present in use was at the moment the best that could be secured. 

The ‘lifeguard’ mentioned several times during the inquest was a device at the front of the tramcar designed to prevent people being dragged under the wheels. It usually comprised horizontal bars, which, if contacted by a large object, activated a ‘scoop’ mechanism that dropped down to catch the object before it went under the tram. It only functioned, however, if the object struck the front of the tram and, as explained at the inquest, poor Doris Trotter entered the gap between the road and the underside of the tramcar from the side.

The road layout around the junctions of Gower Street, Ellesmere Road and Bressingham Road is virtually unchanged since 1915, though few buildings from that time remain.

Notes

Births Jun 1911 TROTTER Doris M Sheffield Volume 9c Page 612

Deaths Sep 1915 TROTTER Doris M Age 4 Sheffield Volume9c Page72

Births Sep 1911 IBBOTSON Marjorie Spowart Sheffield Volume 9c Page 1171

Births Dec 1910 HART Winifred A Sheffield 9c 588

Doris's Burial Record

TROTTER, Doris Marjorie (dau of C.J. Trotter, age 4).
Died at 43 Bressingham Rd; Buried on September 22, 1915 in Consecrated ground;
Grave Number 21, Section X4 of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Officiating Minister Duncan Grant, Removed from Pitsmoor Parish.

TROTTER, John Charles (Labourer, age 67).
Died at 43 Bressingham Rd; Buried on October 9, 1946 in Consecrated ground;
Grave Number 21, Section X4 of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Officiating Minister, Alan T Dale: Removed from Sheffield Parish.

TROTTER, Matilda (46 Balmain Road Widow, age 84).
Died at City General Hosp; Buried on December 29, 1965 in Consecrated ground;
Grave Number 21, Section X4 of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.

TROTTER, Matilda (Widow, age 84).
Died at City General Hospital; Buried on January 5, 1966 in Consecrated ground;
Grave Number 21, Section X4 of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Removed from Sheffield Parish.

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This page was last updated on 21/01/15 14:31