The Mystery of Robert Snarr

In my limited experience as a taphophile, it is unusual to find someone remembered on a headstone who isn’t family. Perhaps there are thousands of such people “out there”, but how many have had their story told by a great writer?

Robert SNARR died this day in 1849 and at the end of the following year, Charles Dickens published an article, The Sea-side Churchyards, in Household Words. You can read it in full at Dickens Journals Online but here is Robert’s Story:-

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What was the great man doing in Filey? I met someone at the grave by chance a year or so ago and the stranger told me that Dickens had a brother who lived not far away, in Malton. I don’t know if this is true.

The tragedy would have been fresh in the minds of local people and I suspect Dickens would have had no difficulty finding sources for the story. The reported exchange between Robert and “mother “ is such that  Dickens must surely have spoken with Mary Cammish (née SUGGIT). Other details should perhaps be challenged because they are at variance with contemporary local newspaper accounts. Robert may not have been an engineer and he may not have been journeying to Northumberland to start a new life.

What is certainly untrue is the assertion that Robert’s bloody corpse was brought back half an hour after his last words to Mary. It takes little more than five minutes to walk from the churchyard to Filey Railway Station so he could have thrown himself under the first train passing through, thus giving the Dickens version some veracity. However, Robert’s life ended near Seamer, a rail journey via Scarborough of about twelve miles.

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Why did Robert act foolishly?

I imagine he left his beloved’s grave in great distress.When he caught the train to Scarborough his intention may have been to return home to York and the bosom of his birth family, and to continue his career in the architect’s office. With the balance of his mind disturbed, maybe an idea came to him as he watched the telegraph poles zip past the carriage window. He was the seventh of ten children born to William and Elizabeth (née BLADES), aged 69 and 65 at the time of his death. I think he made his extinction look like an accident, hoping to lessen his family’s grief. The inquest jury and coroner did not, it seems, consider suicide.

We’ll never know his final thoughts, but the fact that he is with Elizabeth for eternity is wonderfully romantic.

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Also ROBERT SNARR of York, who departed this life March 12th, 1849 aged 31 years.

On FamilySearch Tree:-  Robert, Elizabeth, Charles. (Beware the bogus Dickens pedigree.)

Sudden Death in a Railway Train

The Scarborough Mercury reported on the 4th December 1885:-

On Monday morning a man named Edward Creaser (76) master tailor, Filey, died in the train while journeying from that place to Scarborough. It appears that the deceased left Filey about 8-30 that morning in the train for Scarborough. On arriving at Cayton the deceased got out with a friend to walk up and down for a while. As he seemed ill the stationmaster was communicated with, and he at once sent the train on to Scarborough, so that the man might have medical assistance. However before the train arrived at Seamer, it was found that the man was dead. It is stated that the deceased has been for some time subject to heart disease. He has been a member and officer of the Primitive Methodist Church at Filey for a long period.

Edward’s age at the various censuses suggests he was born in 1811 or 1812, in Ruston Parva. He found his wife in Filey, marrying Elizabeth NEWTON at St Oswald’s in 1836. Their first 7 children were born in Flamborough, the next in Muston and the last in Filey, in 1855. Edward was still tailoring, and training an apprentice, at the 1881 census, when he gave his age as 69. His son George, then 34, had followed his father into the trade, and daughter Ellen worked as a machinist. Later, in 1902, she is listed in a Directory as a tailor in White’s Yard, off Queen Street.

Four of the Creaser children died in infancy and only two seem to have married, George unhappily to Jane BODDY, Esther more productively with a Norfolk incomer, James HOLMAN, though four of their six children had died before 1911.

In the thirty years or so that Edward resided in Filey, he didn’t rock any boats. The brief account of his death may have been the first time his name appeared in the paper, outside of advertisements for his business.

I have been unable to trace any of his forebears with certainty but, with all those children he had generated a dozen identities, and Elizabeth a like number, on the FamilySearch Tree. Most of this (snowy) morning was spent transforming this… –

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…to this…

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I hope some Creaser descendants will find the pedigree, check my effort and extend it fore and aft.

Accidents and Alcohol

StationApproachFiley1_8mOn this day in 1869, a passenger train from Hull was approaching Filey about 3 pm. The driver was “in the habit of running down the incline from Hunmanby at considerable speed” and,  a second or two after passing under the Donkey Bridge, he noticed the signal protecting the station was set at danger. (The signal may have been in the same place as the one you can see in the photo, but distances given in the accident investigation report suggest it was a hundred yards or so further on.) At the bridge, he had shut off steam and whistled for the tender and guard’s brakes to be applied, and as he passed the signal he reversed steam and set the sand pipes going, slowing the train from 40 to ten miles per hour. He hit a stationary coal train on the downline just south of the station with quite a thump, throwing a couple of coal wagons off the track. Thankfully, none of the passenger carriages derailed. (Of the 150 people aboard, fifteen would complain of injuries.) The driver was not in a fit state to be questioned immediately, possibly because he was inebriated rather than hurt. A month later the Report stated, “This man appears to have been drinking since1st January 1870, and has now been dismissed from the service of the company.”

The passenger train had been running late so there was even less of an excuse for the station staff to have allowed the coal train to remain in its dangerous position.  The station master claimed to have given instructions for its removal well ahead of the expected arrival of the Hull train; the underlings, somewhat feebly, claimed not to have received said instructions. The danger should have been clear to everyone.

The Report doesn’t name names but the culpable station master was Charles MILNER, born in Huddersfield in 1807. He married in Gloucestershire and moved several times thereafter with his growing family. The first two children were born in Cheltenham, and the next three in Yorkshire at Sinderby, Pickering, and Starbeck.

Charles not only kept his job in Filey after the accident but his only son, Charles George, was stationmaster at Seamer in 1873 when they were both up before the court for “refusing to pay poor rates”. (The case was dismissed on a technicality.)

Eight years later the census finds the father retired in West Parade, Filey, with wife Mary and single daughter Jemima, aged 26. Charles George left it late to marry. He was 39 when he hitched his wagon to 25-year-old Asenath GREENHELD,  in Scarborough. Nine months or so later their only child, Bertha Frances, was born. Charles George left the railway company but not the rails. He worked as a salesman for a book publisher. The 1881 census catches him in an Exeter lodging house with a motley crew of wanderers, commercial travelers in hardware, “stuff goods”, fancy stationery – with a Clerk in Holy Orders to keep them honest, for a while at least.

Charles senior died in April 1886 and the following year Charles George moved his small family to Eastbourne in Sussex, where he bought a coal merchant’s business.  A few days before Christmas 1889 he went out for the evening on his own. At the Gildredge Hotel he had a whiskey, or maybe it was a gin, and ordered a joint of beef. He talked about “strikes and business” with a man who would give evidence at the coroner’s inquest.

When I went away I left him in the smoking-room talking to Mr. Turton and to little Mr. Moore who used to be coachman at Compton-place. I never saw deceased in a public house before. I was surprised to see him there. I think he was quite sober.

The jury found that the death was purely accidental, and “not brought about by intoxication”.

Two young men about town witnessed Charles Milner the younger’s death. One of them, Mr. G. BRADFORD said:-

I live at 9 Susan’s –road. Gilbert said to me, “Hallo! Here is one copped it already.” He then halloaed out, “Hallo! Old man, don’t attempt that. You can’t do it.” He said that because he saw deceased was close to the steps. Deceased made a grab at the pillar post to steady himself in going down or to save himself from falling. He fell at once. I went for the police, leaving Gilbert with deceased.

Charles had not fallen far but his neck was broken and he died before Dr. J.H. EWART arrived at the scene. He told the inquest that there was no evidence that Charles had imbibed a “great quantity” of alcohol.

One of the Jury, a Mr. COOMBER, suspected foul play and refused to sign the inquisition but it seems the verdict of accidental death was readily accepted by the people of the town

Great sympathy is felt for deceased’s family. The unanimous testimony of his friends is that he was a man of extremely temperate habits…

Old man? Charles George was 54 when he died. Had he made it to 65 he could have played a proud father role in the audience when the Eastbourne Philharmonic performed Sir Frederick Bridge’s “grand setting of Rudyard Kiplings patriotic ode” The Flag of England. Bertha Frances Milner was one of the sopranos in the choir.

Sources: North Eastern Railway accident report; Poor rates case, Driffield Times 31 May 1873, ‘Fatal Accident to an Eastbourne Coal Merchant’, Eastbourne Gazette, 25 December 1889, ‘The Flag of England’ Concert¸Eastbourne Gazette, 14 February 1900.

I have made a start connecting disparate MILNERs on the FamilySearch Tree.

Coincidences

John KILLINGBECK was baptized this day 1813 in Carlton by Snaith. He was the sixth child of Thomas and Leah née BRITAIN and the paternal line for several generations seems to have stayed within a small area south of Selby containing the hamlets and villages of Birkin, Camblesforth, Cawood, Drax, and Ryther.

By the age of 24 though, John had forsaken his Killingbeck heartland,  marrying Jane GOFTON in Filey and raising four children. Ellen, the twin of their youngest, George, survived for just a month, a loss that may have prompted them to move further up the coast for a while. At the 1851 census, John was working as a brickmaker in Whitby. Ten years later the parents were back in Filey but living alone at 19 Church Street. Their daughter Nancy had died in 1856 and the boys, Robert and George had gone to London to seek their fortunes. (I’m not sure yet what happened to firstborn Elizabeth.)

In 1871 John and Jane were living in Chapel Street, Filey. In 1881 Jane was a widow of 65 giving her occupation as ’needlewoman’. The enumerator would find her living alone at No.3 Chapel Street at the next two censuses.

John was killed by an express train on 31st March 1880, while crossing the railway line in Filey.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother report describes John as a “hale and hearty man” and said he was going over an occupation crossing. There is at least one of those in the town still but where John met his end there is now a metal fence, six feet or so high and spiked, with a warning that trespass will bring a £1,000 fine. I think “Victoria Gardens” may refer to the area of land now occupied by allotments and imagine John may have been heading home after doing some gardening. Today, that route would take him past Carlton Road. Whether or not that short street of houses existed back then it is a coincidence of sorts – the only benign one I can offer.

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On the 21st May 1881, the Scarborough Mercury reported a “Sad Occurrence”.

On Thursday, the 12 inst., a telegram was received at Filey, stating that Mr. Robert Killingbeck, son of Mr. John Killingbeck, who was killed on the railway a little over a year ago in Filey, had committed suicide by cutting his throat. His friends know of no reason prompting him to commit the rash act.

Robert left behind, in Kensington, London, a wife and three children aged 11, 7 and three. I was sure I’d find a newspaper report of his suicide but several combinations of search terms yielded nothing – until this appeared:-

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(In the original  paper these two snippets were not juxtaposed.)

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In September 1905, about two months before her 90th birthday, Jane KILLINGBECK stepped off the pavement in Mitford Street was knocked down by a horse-drawn cart. She died the following day from shock and concussion to the brain. The coroner recorded her death as accidental; no blame was attached to the cartman, Thomas Edward STEVENSON – not the Charles Edward SIMPSON of the following report.

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The reference to “the level crossing at Filey” is misleading if it calls to mind the present day Muston Road crossing. The 1880 reports clearly state that John was killed a quarter of a mile from the Station.

Another newspaper report records the fact that Jane was taken after the accident to her son George’s house in Station Road. The wanderer had returned and was with his mother when she died. A small mercy.

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John and Jane’s headstone has lost some of the inscription. Here is the Crimlisk’s attempt from the 1970s:-

In Affectionate Remembrance of JOHN KILLINGBECK who was killed

by an express train at Filey March the 31st 1880 aged 68 years

(eroded section)

who died        1902  aged 89 years.

Jane’s date of death should be 19th September 1905. She was buried on the 22nd.

The KILLINGBECKs of the West Riding have an extensive pedigree on FST going back to the 16th century, while Kath’s FG&C brings the family into the Twentieth.

Love & Grief

Robert SNARR’s betrothed, Elizabeth CAMMISH, died this day 1848 of consumption. For six months or so he often visited her grave in St Oswald’s churchyard. On the 12th March 1849 he said farewell to his lost love and spoke for the last time with her mother, Mary. Charles Dickens has left an account of this bitter-sweet encounter and I wrote about it in Romance and Railways.

I was much affected by the story and sought more information about Robert. The son of William Snarr and Elizabeth Blades, he followed his father’s trade as a bricklayer. In 1841 brothers William and Thomas were also bricklayers, George a butcher, and the youngest two, James and Henry were apprenticed to a cooper and a glass cutter. There were two sisters. They lived in York, hard by the Minster.

Robert was born in Appleton Roebuck in 1817 and was, therefore, about ten years older than his beloved. Dickens wrote that Robert “continued to regard [Elizabeth’s] parents as his own” but her father, Robert, had died five years earlier, in 1844. If the courtship had been a long one it must have begun when Elizabeth was sixteen or so.

That Robert Snarr was devastated by her death is not in question. Dickens gives us a sense of foreboding and then delivers his bloody corpse. But he says the body was brought from the railway line within half an hour of speaking to Mary Cammish – a clear case of artistic license – and the reference to Robert quitting Filey for an engagement in Northumberland may not have been true at all.

It appears the poor man walked to Filey station, traveled to Scarborough and there boarded the York train. If his intention was to say goodbye to his family before heading north it would appear he changed his plans.  Approaching Seamer station he did something puzzling and his life ended violently in the blink of an eye. The coroner’s inquest decided it was an “accidental death”. I’m not so sure.

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Robert Snarr’s body was brought back to Filey and he was laid to rest beside Elizabeth on the 16th March.

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The bizarre nature of his death seems to have delayed registration until the third quarter of the year.  (1849 Sep Q Scarborough Volume 24 Page 418.)

FamilySearch Tree Robert SNARR, Elizabeth

The CAMMISH pedigree is more extensive on Filey Genealogy & Connections but Kath has Elizabeth reaching a significantly greater age. If you choose to roam the Cammish byways you may soon find familiar names from a recent post – Elizabeth is the 4th cousin three times removed of Ruth Charlotte PRUDAMES; common ancestors John CAMMISH and “Mrs. John CAMMISH”.