Boardhill Moor Steam Wagon Accident (1916)

The Boardhill Moor[1] steam wagon accident took place on 4 July 1916 and killed all three occupants of the wagon.


On the evening of Tuesday 4 July 1916, a steam motor wagon driven by Ernest Jarvis (aged 20)[2] was travelling from Manchester to Sheffield along the road between Woodhead and Penistone (formerly the Doncaster and Salter's Brook Turnpike Road and now the A628). With Jarvis was steersman Fred Hughes (38)[3] and haulage contractor Robert Hookham (51)[4] who was the owner of the seven ton wagon which had been manufactured by Messrs. Foden Ltd. of Sandback, Cheshire. Earlier in the day, the wagon had been loaded with around four tons of machinery at the Westinghouse Works, Trafford Park, Manchester, destined for an annealing furnace in Sheffield.

At around 8pm, Joseph Goldthorpe Turner, the landlord of the Dog & Partridge Inn, was out shepherding when he heard a loud "knocking noise" and looked up. Around 250 yards away, he saw the steam wagon "coming down the hill at a great speed". The vehicle was almost certainly running out of control without brakes. Fearing for his life, Turner backed away from the road as the wagon careered past him. Around 20 yards beyond him, the wagon swerved, smashed into a stone wall, and flipped over.

Turner ran the scene but initially was unable to see much due to the steam that had escaped from the wrecked engine. He eventually saw Jarvis's foot under the debris and pulled him clear. Blood poured from the dying man's mouth and nose, and Turner later recalled that "he just gasped and lifted his chin, that's all". Turner ran back to inn to raise the alarm before returning to the crash site. As she was the only person there, Turner's wife sought assistance from the nearby Flouch Inn.

Turner soon found the bodies of the other two men, also trapped under machinery. With the aid of a metal bar, the heavy machinery was lifted but it was obvious that both Hughes and Hookham had been killed instantly. John Chapman of Carlecotes Hall drove to Thurlstone to collect Dr. F.A. Beattie[5], who certified that the three men were deceased and "beyond human aid".[6]

The inquest was held by county coroner Mr. P.P. Maitland[7] at the Dog & Partridge Inn on Thursday 6 July. Despite nearly four hours of witness testimony, it became increasingly clear that there was no single obvious cause for the accident. All three men had been experienced hauliers and would have been familiar with the route.

The most likely suggestion was that the wagon would have had to accelerate hard to climb the hill and that Jarvis had then failed to decelerate enough when reaching the top. The wagon then gained too much speed at the top of the hill and, combined with the extra momentum from the descent, it was travelling too fast for the brakes to be effective. It may have been that the men were hoping that the out-of-control wagon might have slowed down when the road eventually levelled out.

Dr. Beattie reported that Hookham had died from a fractured spine, Hughes from a crushed thigh and abdomen, whilst Jarvis had been badly scalded and died from a crushed chest.

In summing up, the coroner noted that there had been conflicting evidence relating to the back axle brake, but it would be up to the jury to say if there had been any negligence that could be attributed to an individual. The jury recorded a verdict of "death by misadventure".[8]

All three men were buried at Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield, on Saturday 8 July. A memorial service was held the following Sunday at Emmanuel Church, Attercliffe.

Fred Hughes' widow placed the following "In Memoriam" notice in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph in July 1918:

HUGHES. — In loving memory of Fred, the dearly beloved husband of Eliza Hughes, who was accidentally killed on Boardhill Moors, July 4th, 1916. Into Thy hand, O Lord.


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From a study of photographs taken at the crash site, it would seem the accident occurred slightly to the west of the Dog & Partridge Inn, near a gate that led to Snow Road. This was near the foot of the hill and was also the first sizeable bend in the road.

Notes and References

  1. Also known as Bord Hill.
  2. Jarvis resided at Owlerton.
  3. Hughes resided at Reuben Street, Sheffield.
  4. Hookham resided at Attercliffe Road, Sheffield.
  5. Frederick Alexander Beattie was born in 1877 in Southsea, Hamshire. He married Maud Florence Denby on 28 June 1901 at Lewisham.
  6. Yorkshire Post (06/Jul/1916).
  7. Born 1851 in London, Pelham Page Maitland had moved to Yorkshire to work as a solicitor by 1881. He married Edith Mary Burland in 1882. By 1891, he was working as a coroner and solicitor, and was residing Stanley cum Wrenthorpe, Wakefield. By 1911, they have moved to Sandal Magna, Wakefield. He died on 5 December 1918 in Leeds, aged 67.
  8. For a detailed report on the inquest, see Sheffield Daily Telegraph (07/Jul/1916).

Boardhill Moor Steam Wagon Accident (1916)


Accidental deaths | Accidents | Road accidents
This page was last modified on 12 August 2018 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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