Sunday, 19 January 2014

Windsor Bridge tragedy

An unfortunate workplace tragedy took place in Windsor 140 years ago. The incident occurred when a young boy who was working on the Windsor Bridge inadvertently fell into the river and drowned in 1874. Humphrey Albert Douglass, who was almost ten years old, was employed working on the bridge being built over the Hawkesbury River at Windsor. The boy was “walking along the foot board of one of the large punts, when he fell into the water” on 21 January 1874. Before he could be pulled from the water he unfortunately drowned. Humphrey was the son of James and Mary Douglass.

An inquest was held the following day at the Sir John Young Hotel in Windsor. James Douglas gave the following evidence, which was reported in the newspaper Australian, Windsor, Richmond, & Hawkesbury Advertiser 24 January 1874:

James Douglas stated that he was a carpenter, and the father of the deceased, he saw him last alive on Wednesday morning at 7 o'clock; he was engaged on the Windsor Bridge works; when witness went home to his dinner he heard that his son was drowned, he went to the bridge immediately and was there some time before the body was found; he saw it taken out of the water; the body was dead and was that of his own son; deceased was ten years old.

The verdict “accidentally drowned while at work at the Windsor Bridge” was returned by the Coroner Mr. J. B. Johnston and a jury. The accident was witnessed by another boy who was pulling the punt which was being used for the traffic across the river. Not many people are aware of the tragic death of this young boy, a sad reminder of how fragile life was. Humphrey was buried at St. Matthews Church of England, Windsor.

Windsor Bridge, 1879. Government Printing Office, State Library of NSW

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A dreadful storm in 1847

In 1847, there was one of the most terrific storms that was ever experienced in Windsor. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported on the 8 February 1847 that it was a hailstorm ... black clouds met each other, as if in secret conclave, whilst the horizon became gradually dark as the shades of evening closed up on the fated town of Windsor. The report continued, The storm commenced the lightning flashed exceedingly vivid and the thunder followed, rolling with awful solemnity. Rain, hail and tempest, came in their course ... the hail stones were of an immense size, many of them equalling a hen's egg ... the fury of the storm having ceased, the unfortunate inhabitants felt thankful, and proceeded to examine the state of their houses, which in most instances presented a deplorable appearance.” At 11 o'clock that night the storm recommenced and serious damage was done to various parts of the town.

St Matthew's Church of England, Windsor. Photo: M. Nichols

A number of buildings suffered much damage. At St. Matthew's Church, pictured above, eight large windows (comprising of 480 panes of glass) were completely smashed. Twelve windows at the nearby rectory were also smashed. The Presbyterian Church on the corner of George and Christie Street, lost fifty panes of glass. The Wesleyan Chapel lost 300 panes whilst the Hospital lost 150 panes. Other properties with smashed windows and minor damage included Cross's large building in Windsor's Macquarie Street, Millers' public house, George Freeman's, Dr. Stewart's, T. Byrnes, Mr. Edward's druggist shop.  Mr. Mountford's shop was badly damaged and not only were windows smashed but the glass jars and bottles in the shop windows damaged.

The local glass manufacturer and workmen must have been kept busy replacing all the panes of glass after this disastrous event.