Albert Edwin Stevens

Author: G Soper
Date published: 19/04/2022

Albert Edwin Stevens (1863 – 1916)


Albert Edwin Stevens was born on 18 December 1863 in Boxford, the son of George and Emma, nee Appleton, Stevens. He was baptized on 7 February 1864 at St Andrew’s in Boxford. In the 1871 census Albert was living with his parents and brothers William aged 10 and Thomas aged 4 and sisters Sarah aged 2 and Emily aged 4 months in Boxford. His father George was recorded as an agricultural labourer.


Ten years later in the 1881 census Albert was recorded as a boarder in Winterbourne and he was working as a carter. Then on 30 January 1882 Albert enrolled in the third battalion of the Berkshire Regiment. He was recorded as a farm labourer living in Leckhampstead, his last employer was Mr Marston of Leckhampstead, although he was out of work when he enrolled. Unfortunately, his service records have not survived so no further details are known about his army service but he left after a very short period.


After leaving the Army Albert started working for the Great Western Railway in April 1882 as a porter based in Reading. He remained with the GWR for the rest of his life. He moved from Reading to Staines in February 1895 taking up the position of goods porter. Then in May 1900 he was promoted to foreman at Uxbridge. Eight years later in May 1908 he transferred to Oxford still as a goods porter. His final move in March 1910 was to Newbury where he was goods foreman.


Albert married Clara Matilda Gibbs in 1884 in Reading. Clara was born in 1865 in Winterbourne, near Newbury (where Albert was living in 1881).


In the 1891 census Albert and Clara with daughters Eva aged 3 and Lillian May aged 1 were living at 38 Mason Street in Reading, Albert was recorded as a porter on GWR. Lilian died in 1896 aged six. Then in the 1901 census Albert and Clara with children Eva aged 13, Ella Louisa aged 9, Edwin George aged 7 and Ruby May aged 1 along with Clara’s father William Gibbs were living at 11 Whitehall Road in Hillingdon.  


Albert and Clara had moved back to Newbury by the time of the 1911 census and were living at 2 Higham Villas in Stanley Road with daughters Ella Louisa aged 19 and Ruby May Gibbs aged 11 along with a boarder. Albert was recorded as a GWR foreman while Ella was a draper’s assistant millinery.


Albert died on 22 September 1916 after an accident while he was working and he was buried at Newtown Road Cemetery on 26 September 1916. He was living at 53 Stanley Road at the time of his death.


An inquest was held into the death of Albert and the following report appeared in Reading Mercury of 30 September 1916.


The dangers attendant on shunting work in connection with railway goods traffic were exemplified by an occurrence in the goods yard at Newbury on the afternoon of Thursday, the 14th inst., when the yard foreman in an endeavour to stop a moving truck, either slipped or was knocked down, and sustained injuries which resulted in his death at the hospital on Friday last week. The deceased’s name was Albert Edwyn Stevens, and he lived in Stanley Road. He was 54 years of age, and had been in the employ of the G.W.R. for 34 years, coming to Newbury from Oxford some 10 years ago.

An inquest took place on Monday afternoon at the Municipal Buildings, before Mr. Stanley V. Pinniger, the acting Borough Coroner, and a jury, of whom Mr. Harry Brown was foreman. The jury assembled at the hospital, to view the body, afterwards proceeding to the Municipal Buildings.

Mr. G. K. North the station master, was present: and Chief Inspector Pike and Locomotive Inspector John Webb from Paddington, also attended. Mr. J. Dobson, J.P., organiser of the National Union of Railwaymen, was present in the interests of the deceased, who was a member of that body.

Evidence of identification was given by Albert Wise, a carpenter and joiner, living at Earley Rise, Reading, who stated that the deceased was his brother-in-law, and 54 years of age.

Frederick George Manning, a goods guard in the service of the G.W.R. Company, living at Reading, stated that on the afternoon of Thursday, September 14th, at half-past three, they were commencing in the Newbury Yard. Deceased unhooked the tail portion of the goods train which witness had charge of, and told him to look out for his van. Witness did this, and then went into the van to put things straight for his departure, which would have been about ten minutes to four. When walking down by the train, he saw the deceased come through the wagons, which were stationary. The next siding was full up and somewhat obscured his view, so he could not see what actually happened, but he noticed the deceased roll under one of the wagons, the rear wheels pinching his right ankle. Witness went to his assistance, and after putting him in a safer place, told the driver of the engine not to move. The wagon which ran over the deceased had been detached from the train, and was running slowly down the siding. He was unable to say what caused deceased to fall. There was a slight fall in the gradient of the siding. Deceased came through from one side of the line to the other, with the idea of applying the brake, and probably stumbled, with the shunting pole in his hand.

In reply to Mr. Dobson, the witness said the line was so constructed in the goods yard that trucks might run away, and deceased was trying to prevent this happening.

Arthur James Collins, a goods porter at Newbury Station, stated that he was assisting in the yard at the time of the accident, when he saw a truck running on its own accord in No. 6 siding, and also saw the deceased between it and another truck, which was stationary. He also saw the deceased fall, with his shunting pole in his hand, the wheels of the truck passing over his right foot. He could not say what caused deceased to fall. The running truck collided with the stationary one.

Dr. E. G. B. Adams deposed that he saw the deceased soon after he was brought into the District Hospital. He had a wound on the cheek and mouth on the right side, and his right foot was crushed and lacerated, the bone of the big toe being badly smashed. Deceased never did well while in the hospital, although the face wound healed up. The foot became gangrenous but deceased was not in a condition to stand an amputation. Death was due to heart failure caused by septic absorption from the gangrenous foot. He expired between six and seven o’clock on the previous Friday evening. Deceased was conscious, but had a great difficulty in speaking owing to his damaged mouth. In reply to Mr. Dobson, witness said it was impossible to say what had caused the wound in the face.

The jury desired further information as to the nature of the incline in the sidings at the goods yard, the foreman saying they regarded it as a somewhat unwise proceeding for trucks to run down. Mr. North, the station manager, giving evidence, said that in each of the sidings there was a very slight gradient, the most pronounced being in No.6 siding, where the loose truck was. It was the duty of the deceased to brake any wagon if there was fear of its running out. He agreed that there was risk in any shunting work, which would probably be lessened if sidings were level.

Replying to Mr. Dobson, Mr. North said he was not an engineer, and was not prepared to say whether it would be better for the sidings to run in the opposite direction to which they now did. There were one or two sidings from which trucks would run out.

Chief Inspector Pike said that it was the invariable practice to make these sidings as near as dead level as possible, but there were some cases in which this could not be done.

After deliberating in private, the jury returned a verdict that death was accidental under the circumstances given in evidence by Dr. Adams. They added a suggestion to the railway company that the goods yard should be re-graded as far as possible, to make it safer for future working.


Clara remained in Newbury for a few more years, she was recorded in the electoral register in Stanley Road in 1919. Her daughter Ruby May married Ernest Godwin Hardings on 24 April 1919 at St John the Evangelist in Newbury. Clara along with her daughters Ella and Ruby emigrated to Canada in 1919 arriving at Halifax in Nova Scotia on 1 December with their destination being Winnipeg.


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