Sam Cleverley – An Accidental Death

Thinking about our newest family member – the adorable cat Sam, it got me thinking about the other Sam Cleverley’s in my husband’s tree (there are several!) and I settled upon his three times great grandfather Samuel Cleverley who was born in 1822 in Waltham Abbey in Essex – right on the border with Hertfordshire and Middlesex.

Samuel was the son of William Cleverley and Catherine Madewell and first appeared on the 1841 census at Monkhams Hall, Waltham Holy Cross as a Servant. Samuel was still working there in 1851 where his occupation was more clearly defined as a Groom. As a groom Samuel would have been responsible for the stabling and general maintenance of the estates horses. Monkhams Hall was owned by the Colvin family and is apparently one of the highest properties in Essex and it is said that on a clear day you can see Canary Wharf in London. One of the flats in Monkham’s Hall was apparently a clandestine meeting place for King Edward VIII and Mrs Wallis Simpson in 1936 – as it was the home of his equerry. It certainly seems like a very impressive place from this aerial photograph from 1938.


By 1852 Samuel had married Amelia Pizzey in Stepney, London. They both gave their residence as 16 Elder Street. According to Charles Booth’s map of London, Elder Street was mainly middle class and well to do. He described the street as comprising of several large red brick Queen Anne buildings with ornamented porches, populated by workshops, farriers and Jews.


Elder Street is to the left of the main Commercial Road near the dotted line above the ‘St Mary Spitals’ label. (Image from

By 1861 Samuel and his wife had moved to Cheshunt, Hertfordshire where many other Cleverley relatives had also settled. His occupation had now changed to Railway Porter. He and Amelia lived at Waltham Lane with their three children, Samuel James born 1853, George born 1857 and William John born 1861. By 1871 they were living at 13 Albert Road in Cheshunt and he was still a Railway Porter. Sadly Samuel did not make it to appear in the 1881 census as he was killed on 29th March 1878 while at work.

I searched the Hertfordshire Names Online site – a great part of the Hertfordshire Records Office where you can order copies of documents including records of surviving inquests – one of which was Samuel’s.

While I was with my best friend Dom in France some years ago, I was sat outside in the sunshine transcribing the record – which in parts was hard to read but I tried my best:

Inquisition on the body of Samuel Cleverley at Cheshunt, 1st April 1878

Verdict – Accidental Death

Hertfordshire to wit – an inquisition indented, taken for our Sovereign Lady the Queen, at the house known by the sign of the Moulders Arms in the parish of Cheshunt of Hertford on the first day of April in the 41st year of the reign of Our Sovereign Lady Victoria, and in the year of our Lord 1878. By the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen Defender of the Faith, before Thomas Joseph Sworder, Gentleman, one of the Coroners of the said Lady the Queen, for the said county. On view on the body of Samuel Cleverley now here lying dead, upon the oaths of the several persons whose names are hereunder written, and seals affixed, good and lawful men of the said county, duly chosen, and who being here duly sworn and charged to inquire for our said Lady the Queen, when, how and by what means the said Samuel Cleverley came to his death, do upon their oaths say, that the said Samuel Cleverley late of the parish of Cheshunt in the said county, Railway Shunter and being of the age of 55 years or thereabouts, on the day of the 29th day of March in the year aforesaid, at the parish aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, accidentally casually by misfortune was killed at the Waltham Station on the Great Eastern Railway while shunting trucks. In witness whereof as well the said Coroner as the Foreman and the said Jurors and the rest of his fellows have to this inquisition set their hands and seals the day, year and place first above written.

Thomas Sworder – Coroner

 C Pengelly                          Joseph Edwards                     Richard Nix

C J? Benedict                     R Adams?                                  Geo Wyatt

J Phillips                             Joseph Augustus Baker       J W Parker

H Townsend                       Edward Slater                       Richard Shone

George Hall                        John Mather

Hertfordshire to wit – Information of witnesses severally taken and acknowledged on behalf of our Sovereign Lady The Queen, touching the death of Samuel Cleverley at the house known by the sign of the Moulders Arms in the parish of Cheshunt in the said county on Monday the first day of April 1878 before Thomas Joseph Sworder, Gentleman, one of her Majesty’s Coroners for the said county on view of the body of the said person and there lying dead.

Samuel James Cleverley of 13 Albert Road, Waltham New Town in the County of Hertford, Gun Maker, on his oath saith – ‘Identifies the body as that of my father Samuel Cleverley. He lived at 13 Albert Road Waltham New Town. He was a Shunter in the employ of the Great Eastern Railways Company. He was 55 years of age. I saw him last about 9:30pm on Thursday the 20th of March. He was in his usual health; he went off truck before I saw him in the morning. I heard of the accident about 9:40am. I found deceased guy in a shed amidst the station quite dead. I was informed that he was caught between the buffers of some trucks he was shunting. I think he was fit to do the work he did. He had complained of late hours, but not of the danger. The hours were about 7am to 9pm. He was not the Hosekeeper. He attended to the couplings fastening the trucks. He did limp on account of corns? He had been doing the work for 4 or 5 years past. I can’t say that of his death was an accident as I was not there. I have not learned of any negligence on anyone’s part.’

Samuel James Cleverley

William May of Waltham Lane in the County of Hertford, Hoseman on the Great Eastern Railway, on his oath saith – ‘I knew Samuel Cleverley. I had worked with (him) about 5 or 6 years. He was Shunter at Waltham Station and I Hoseman. The duty was to unhook the hose from the trucks and move ? at the hoses head. On Friday last I saw Cleverley at 7:15am. We went truck about 7:40am pulling some filled? trucks out the shed. We had been at work about 15 minutes and had pulled two in and had another one outside. We went back to fetch in and as we were here pulling it down just before he got to the other two he unhooked and threw the chain out. After he had thrown the chain out I heard uttering? but I turned my head around and saw deceased between the buffers. Deceased was under my orders. He had not pulled the two first trucks far enough ? about a trucks length and half a trucks length. He wanted to get those up the end and he did not get them up the first time. The last truck was not coming up fast and he did not try to hit the two up with the last one. It came an ordinary pace. On one side of the rail there is a platform on the off-side. He had not got out of the shed when the accident happened. The hose had to get out on the left hand side. We were drawing down the line. Directly I saw he had shunted. I said I was about a truck length from the other trucks. I said it before the hose left the line. I gave Cleverley plenty of time to get clear. Cleverley had been at this work for at least 6 years. It had been 25 for the company. He was very bad on his feet. He did the work very well, very carefully. He was standing on his feet between his buffers. The buffers caught him fair in front. One was a spring buffer, the other was not. He could not get away more length as I had to get the hoses clear. It was past outside the shed against the crane? As soon as the trucks collided, I Morley and two others went and picked him up. He was dead. We carried him into shed by the stations and a doctor was sent for. There was nothing inferior in the trucks in the permanent way but the weather was bad during and the metals were all slipping. I saw the trucks returned and deceased fell towards the shed. He fell straight up the metal. It was a perfect accident.’

William May

George Morley of Marsh Lane, Waltham Cross in the County of Hertford, Carman, on his oath saith – ‘I work at Waltham Cross Station. On Friday last I saw Cleverley working with last witness, shunting. They had taken two trucks into the shed and went after another. I saw them ? at an ordinary pace. I saw deceased throw the chains out and as he was trying to get out, the truck caught him by the buffers. The spring buffer truck ran such? and deceased fell down. I saw it all. I didn’t think there was any negligence and that it was quite an accident.’

G. Morley

William Samuel Mavor of Waltham Cross in the County of Hertford, MRCS, on his oath saith –

‘I was called in at half past eight Friday morning. I saw deceased in a shed by the station, he was quite dead. He had all his ribs broken, there was an external bruise, there was a swelling on one side. These were injuries which might have been caused in the way described. They were sufficient to cause death, which must have been instantaneous. He ? the ? ?. As far as I know he was an able bodied man. I have learned that he had corns? underneath his feet that would have made him lame.’

William S Mavor

Charles Samuel Black of Waltham Station, Station Master, on his oath saith –

‘The deceased has been in the employ of the company 25 years. He was doing the same duty when I came. He was a fair average of the men who shunted. I don’t consider that there was more danger than if he had been a younger man. He was fit for the job. I did not see the accident. I think he was coming out. He might have stood between the buffers safely.’

C S Black

The inquest papers were very revealing, not just in terms of the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death but also little details about his life – that he had worked for the Great Eastern Railway Company for 25 years – the last six of those being involved in the shunting side of the railway work. I learnt that he worked very long hours from 7am to 9pm! It also spoke of his feet being bad – it makes you wonder why a man whose feet were bad – and almost lame, would still be working shunting heavy carriages? But in those days I don’t suppose you had much choice other than to work or not work if you were under a pensionable age. It also showed me that Albert Road was considered to be in Waltham New Town – which is actually Waltham Cross.


The Moulders Arms – where Samuel’s inquest was held. It was commonplace for inquests to take place in a local pub. (Image from

Samuel was buried at Cheshunt Cemetery on 4th April 1878. His wife remained at 13 Albert Road until her death in 1894 and she was buried with him on 12th Oct 1894.

I do not think Albert Road still exists today. From the description given on the 1911 enumerators book for that area, all but one of the roads listed are no longer there. The only surviving one is Station Road and this is a short distance away from the M25 and the River Lea. There are some housing estates around there so it may be that the roads have been replaced over time. Waltham Station where Samuel worked and died was opened by the Northern & Eastern Railway on 15th September 1840. Originally called Waltham and later renamed to Waltham Cross, it was on a site to the north of the road between Waltham Cross and Waltham Abbey. In 1885 the station was relocated to the current site where it remains today and in the 2012 London Olympics this (along with Cheshunt) was the main station for the Broxbourne whitewater canoe and kayak slalom.

I had started researching my husbands tree for him before we started seeing each other. I recall having typed up some details about Samuel’s inquest and had printed out the details for him to look through. We were sat on the bus as he was looking through it and started to laugh – I had only gone and written that Samuel had been caught in the ‘buggers’ and not the ‘buffers’! A good lesson for checking your spelling!


4 thoughts on “Sam Cleverley – An Accidental Death

  1. lol yep – my husband read the title of this post and I said to him ‘That’s the caught in the buggers one’. Ahh right – he says. 🙂

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