The Grapes of Death

In the spring of 1861 the SAYERS household in Ocean Place, Filey must have been quite lively. William, a 46-year-old fisherman, had conspired with his wife Susannah née CAPPLEMAN, to bring thirteen children into the world and the ten survivors were all still at home. The eldest, William junior, was 24 and the youngest, Robert Edmond, had been baptised just a couple of months before the census was taken. And yet there was still room for 86 year-old widow, Jane Cappleman née WEBSTER, Susannah’s mother – and grandmother of Ann Cappleman, who married one of the contentious William Jenkinsons of an earlier post.

Five years passed and widow Jane was still able to get out and about. But on a December day in Queen Street, her life came to a sudden end.


The hatches still stretch almost the full breadth of the footpath. I photographed them this morning.


Mr ROBINSON, the publican, was Francis, born 1835 in Filey, married to Mary COVERLEY. The couple had just one child in 1865 but three more followed. The birthplace of all four children is given as Sawden (or Sawdon) in Filey Genealogy & Connections, which suggests the family left the town soon after the sad accident. However, when Francis died in 1880 he was buried in St Oswald’s churchyard and is remembered on the headstone of his parents.


He has a place on the FamilySearch Tree but awaits his wife and children.

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.


On the 3rd July 1882 Charles Henry SAWDEN, a bricklayer, suffered a serious accident while taking down scaffolding. The next day it was his mother’s 52nd birthday.

Annie Banks was about twenty when she married Abel SAWDEN, ten years her senior. I haven’t yet determined how many children they had together. So far I have found five in the GRO Online Index, there are seven in Filey Genealogy and Connections and four baptisms (at least) recorded on FamilySearch Tree. You will know by now that the FST System’s plucking of baptismal records from the old IGI is a Make Work Project for anyone who may feel obliged to do some pruning. In twenty minutes or so I found that Abel had six duplicate IDs and Annie five. Abel’s extra one was his own baptism, the shared others his marriage to Annie and the christenings of four of their children – Alfred, Arthur Jabez, Charles Henry and John William. There may be more dupes but this is what you see when you search for Abel on FST.


The eagle eyed among you may already have noticed that I searched for Abel’s birth in 1821 and the one record that strongly matched my search terms confidently gives his baptism in 1819. The Monumental Inscription in St Oswald’s Filey, as recorded by both John & Maisie Crimlisk and the fine team of recorders from East Yorkshire Family History Society give “Also of ABEL SAWDEN born July 17th 1821 died Oct 5th 1895”. What to do?

I must say I’m not keen to don gloves and pick up my secateurs but I may have a go tomorrow – and set the timer to see how long the job takes. There must be a million tasks just like it at FamilySearch and my bet is that “the community” is as enthusiastic as I am to get stuck in.

There will be SAWDON/SAWDEN details to add and perhaps more isolated bits of the family to bring together. It could take hours!

My old LaF post had Charles Henry leaving Filey a single man. A chip off the old brick, he married an Annie over ten years younger than himself. I have found three children so far.

Not to be outdone, after his wife died Abel married another Annie, the daughter of John KING, whitesmith, at All Saints  Scarborough on 13th September 1890. Annie 2 was a spinster of full age and the most compelling evidence I have found so far is that she was about sixty years old. Six months after the marriage the census enumerator called and found Abel and Annie together at Rutland House, Rutland Street – but it was Annie Dinah, Abel’s  26 year old daughter. The pair of them departed for the West Riding a short time afterwards. Dinah married Henry SCOTT in Huddersfield in 1893 and Abel died in Sheffield in 1895. I don’t know what happened to the former Annie KING.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe scene of Today’s Image looked very different this morning. (I’m going to stop adding “previous post” from now on.) No Everyboy radiating joy in the world, just a mizzly sky and the distant placid sea dotted with a few small fishing boats (their twin wheel carriages parked up against the Coble Landing wall).