Some history on Sutton Coldfield in the county of Warwickshire

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Sutton Coldfield : Holy Trinity Church [c.1907]
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Holy Trinity Church is in the Early English and Late Perpendicular styles, consisting of chancel wiht north and south chapels, nave, aisles, south porch, and an embattled western tower containing 8 bells. The aisles date from 1533. The nave, being in a state of decay, was taken down and rebuilt in 1760, the year in which a fire damaged the interior of the building. The roof was raising in 1874 and a new aisle added five years later. The church is noted for the tomb of John Vesey, also called Harman, Bishop of Exeter for many years. He died in this parish at More Hall in October 1544, aged 103.¹

Sutton Coldfield : Interior of Holy Trinity Church [c.1907]
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An Edwardian view of the interior of Holy Trinity Church. In 1879 the chapels were separated from the chancel by carved oak screens constructed from a portion of the choir fittings of Worcester Cathedral. These had been removed in the previous decade when the Cathedral underwent considerable restoration. The carved stone font inside Holy Trinity was originally sited in the Norman chapel of Over Whitacre, and had been subsequently used as a horse block at an inn in Shustoke. The stained east window seen here was a memorial to the Rev. W. R. Bedford, for 21 years rector of the parish.¹

Sutton Coldfield : Vesey Memorial Gardens [c.1948]
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The Vesey Memorial Gardens, a public improvement scheme aimed at perpetuating the memory the Sutton Coldfield's benefactor, Bishop Vesey, and also of Dr. George Bodington, a Suttonian who was a pioneer in the treatment of consumption, were officially opened on Monday June 5th, 1939, the opening ceremony being performed by the Deputy Mayor. The cost of acquiring the site at the junction of Mill Street and Coleshill Street was £7,221, and the expenditure for demolishing the properties and levelling the ground required further spending of £947. After a dedicatory prayer by the Rector of Sutton Coldfield, the assembly proceeded to the site of a new Sons of Rest shelter, adjoining the gardens, where the Mayor laid the foundation stone. An exhibition of pictures of Sutton Coldfield in bygone days, which was arranged in the Town Hall, aroused considerable interest when the assembly later adjourned there for tea.²

Sutton Coldfield : Miniature Railway at Pat Collins Amusement Park [c.1958]
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Sutton Coldfield : Blackroot Pool [c.1908]
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Sutton Coldfield : Powell's Pool [c.1918]
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Sutton Coldfield : High Street [c.1918]
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Contemporary Photographs

Sutton Coldfield : Coleshill Street [2004]
© Photo taken by author on February 19th, 2004. DO NOT COPY

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Related Newspaper Articles

"At the Warwick Assizes, on Saturday, before the Lord Chief Justice, George Simister, engine driver, was indicted for the manslaughter of Olive Mary Brown, at Sutton Coldfield, on April 12th last. The case arose out of a railway collision which, it was alleged, was caused by culpable negligence on the part of prisoner, who pleaded not guilty. Mr. Hugo Young and Mr. Parfitt prosecuted, and Mr. Wilde and Mr. Orme defended. His Lordship pointed out that the depositions before him were almost illegible. The labour of going through depositions of that kind and spelling out every word was very great. Mr. Hugo Young said it had suggested itself to him that depositions should be copied. His Lordship said he had very little to complain of in this district. These depositions were in a very elegant hand, but almost illegible. The evidence for the prosecution was that prisoner ignored the signals against him on approaching with his train to Sutton Coldfield station on the night of April 12th. As a result, his train collided with an engine coming out of the station, and the carriage in which Miss Brown was riding was telescoped. On the carriage being examined, the woman was found with her head buried in the cushion of one of the seats; she was dead, and her death was said by Dr. Gerald, of Sutton Coldfield, to be due to suffocation. There was no serious injury of the body. The train from Sutton was due out of the station at 9.35, and the train for Birmingham was due in at 9.38. The train left Sutton Station out of a bay, and had to travel about 30 yards along the down line, and then cross on to the up line. The danger signals were against the train from Birmingham which prisoner was driving, and he should have brought his engine to a standstill close to what was known as the home signal. Had this been done the outcoming train would have passed in safety, but prisoner failed to atop until he had got sixty-seven yards beyond the point where the Sutton train crossed the line, and his engine came into collision with that of the outcoming train. Prisoner, it was said, had been 27 years in the employ of the company, had for 17 years been an engine driver, and was careful and competent. During that time there had been no complaint against him for passing a signal. Evidence was given by officials of the company as to the operation of the signals, and the duty of drivers, as shown by the company's rules. The distance in which trains travelling at various rates could be pulled up were given, and it was pointed out that when the rails were in a greasy condition the train could not be pulled up under double the distance. The Erdington Station was the last stopping place before Sutton Coldfield, and here the signalman should have warned the driver that the home signal was against him, and the rules also provided for a second warning by a red light at the distance signal, which was situate a thousand yards ahead of the home signal. In cross-examination, it was admitted by the witnesses that there was no light in the distance signal. The driver also received no warning from the signalman at the Erdington Station, and counsel for the defence contended that in these circumstances he was called upon to form a judgment under exceptional conditions when passing the distance signal. The prosecution, however, contended that when he passed the distance signal he should have at once reduced his speed, and have proceeded slowly to the home signal, which on no account must he pass. The signalman at Erdington, Charles Smith, admitted that he gave no verbal warning to the prisoner at his box; he received warnings from Sutton Station that the line was clear but the station blocked, which telegrams were given in order that he might warn the driver of the down train. According to rule, this witness argued, he was not obliged to give the driver a verbal warning, as the starting signals were against the driver. His Lordship asked this witness if there was any rule which removed the necessity for witness to give the driver warning. Witness said there were rules for the guidance of the driver as to the signals. Mr. Hugo Young said he accepted the plea that prisoner should have had two warnings - a verbal warning by the signalman at Erdington and by a light at the distance signal. Fred Johnson, stoker on the engine driven by prisoner, said that he did not see the distance signal. Prisoner said to him, "I believe we have passed the distance signal, though we have seen no light." He immediately applied the brakes, and the train, which had been travelling at about 25 miles an hour, was reduced to a speed of 14 miles. The brakes were kept on for a few seconds, and then released. Witness saw the home signal about 100 yards off it, and both the engine and vacuum brakes were immediately applied and the engine was reversed. For the defence, prisoner went into the box, and said he had taken the train in question three times in two years. He knew the road well. As he received no warning at Erdington he thought the road was clear to Sutton, though he knew he must stop at the home signal. The starting signal was not on long enough to be a warning to him, and there was no light on the distance signal. He was 100 yards past the distance signal when he thought he had passed it. He applied the brakes, but as he did not know exactly where he was he released the train. He first saw the home signal when he passed the bridge, 367 yards from that signal. he was then going 25 miles an hour, and generally he would have been able to pull the train up. On account of the greasy state of the rails, caused by a hoar frost, witness could not pull the train up in time to prevent it colliding with an outcoming train. Replying to Mr. Hugo Young, prisoner admitted that the signalman at Erdington could not have given him more warning than that conveyed by the fact that the starting signal was against him. When he found that he had passed the distance signal he ought to have reduced the speed of his train to such a degree that he could have stopped it in a few yards. He admitted that he made a mistake in taking the brakes off. Mr. Hugo Young, in addressing the Jury, said the criminal negligence of which prisoner was guilty was that when he knew he was within 900 yards of the home signal, at which he knew he had to stop, he took the brakes off and allowed his train to go at an increased speed, with the result that when he saw the home signal he could not pull up. Mr. Wilde, for the defence, said there was no doubt that the prisoner made a mistake, but what the Jury had to be convinced of was that it was gross, reckless, and culpable negligence. He asked the Jury to be merciful, and to say that considering all circumstances and the unfair difficulties he had to contend with, this was a case of homicide by misadventure, for which no one grieved more than the prisoner, and that it did not amount to manslaughter. His Lordship, in summing up, said that there was no doubt that prisoner was guilty of the act which caused the accident, but the Jury must be satisfied that he was guilty of real, culpable negligence. The real point was whether there was an unfortunate error, or substantial negligence on the part of prisoner. He confessed that in one or two points the case had been pressed rather hardly against the prisoner. The Jury should endeavour in their minds to put themselves in the position of the man, who had to act in certain circumstances, and then to say whether they thought he had been guilty of culpable negligence. He quite agreed, and it had been fairly put by Mr. Young, that prisoner not having received a warning at Erdington was no excuse for him running past the home signal, but he thought prisoner was entitled to say he had no reason for exercising the greatest possible caution beyond the caution he should always exercise in not running beyond the signal. He had a right, in not getting a warning at Erdington, to assume that the outcoming train had gone by the crossing. This did not in any way justify him running past the home signal, but it entitled him to say, "I did not think there was any special danger from that train, as I thought it had passed by the crossing." When he became aware that he had passed the distance signal, he pulled up and slackened speed, and then occurred the act upon which it was relied to find him guilty of manslaughter - he took his brake off and recovered his speed. He [his Lordship] thought they should bear in mind the prisoner's answer, "I did not know where I was; I had not seen the distance signal, and was running down a decline. It was not until we ran under the bridge, 367 yards off, that I saw the home signal." Then he put on his brakes and reversed the engine and did his best to pull up his train, but owing to the greasy condition of the rails he could not pull up more quickly. The Jury, after a brief consultation, found the prisoner not guilty, and he was discharged."
"The Sutton Coldfield Railway Accident"
Kenilworth Advertiser : December 13th 1902 Page 6

George Simister was born at Grindle near Ryton in Shropshire. He had worked his way up to become a train driver. Employed by the London and North Western Railway, he worked out of the Bushbury Depot. Following this incident he was dismissed from the company. He later found employment working as a locomotive driver for the West Cannock Colliery.


References
1. "Kelly's Directory of Warwickshire 1912" London High Holburn : Kelly's Directory Limited; Page 275.
2. "Memorial Gardens At Sutton Coldfield" : Tamworth Herald; June 10th, 1939. Page 9.


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