On Friday 23 October 1891 three little children went out to play. After playing on the gate near the railway bridge, they made their way to the Nene stream at Surney Bridge, just past the railway line. Contemporary newspapers had reported that there had been very heavy rain for days and there was a considerable amount of flooding across the area, which led to the stream being swollen and moving faster than usual.
6 year old Edward George and 3 year old Marian Maud Bloodworth and their friend Charles Hancock, age 5, were playing with “ozier leaves”, perhaps playing ‘pooh sticks’, watching to see whose leaf travelled faster. The Woodland Trust states that the willow osier tree has long thin leaves and the stems are used in basketmaking – a known occupation at the Wharf. The children were very close to the water and Marian slipped, falling into the stream. The fast flowing current carried her into the middle and she started to float towards the deeper water downstream. Edward dashed into the water to rescue her but was knocked off his feet by the current. He managed to get back to the side and cling on to some grass but was washed off. Charles ran home as fast as he could, to find his mother and get help. Several people, including Matthew Thresher of the Boat Inn, came up to the stream to search for Edward and Marian but sadly to no avail. Edward Ashby of Surney Farm found Marian’s body below the second bridge, around half a mile downstream. Edward Bloodworth’s body was found the following morning.
Edward and Marian were the children of Selina Elizabeth Stockton Major and Lewis Bloodworth, and the grandchildren of John Stockton Major and Mary Ann Manning. John was a railway platelayer and lived at Fog Cottages at the Wharf – also known as the Railway Cottages, next to the railway line. The family were originally from Norton, and moved back to Norton after this dreadful tragedy. Selina and her children had come to stay with her parents for a few weeks, from their home in Sussex. Lewis was a head gardener in West Hoathley and went on to become an instructor at the Horticultural College in Hextable, Kent. Sadly Lewis and Selina had already lost one child in infancy, Elizabeth Kate, who was buried at Norton in 1886. Their surviving daughter Florence Louise was only 2 years old, fortunately too young to play with her siblings on this occasion. The little lad that raised the alarm, Charles Henry Hancock, was the son of Charles and Mary who also lived at Fog Cottages, Charles senior was a platelayer and colleague of John Major. The Major family suffered more tragedy in the early part of the twentieth century – Selina’s brother was George, married to Sarah Thresher. They were the parents of Percy, Herbert, and Stanley Major. Perhaps fortunately, both John and Mary Ann had died before the loss of three more of their grandchildren.
An astonishing postscript to this sad tale was reported in the Northampton Mercury:
George Smith of Coalville, on Tuesday, visited the grave, and scattered flowers upon it, of the brave little boy of seven, Edward George Bloodworth, who lost his life at Buckby Wharf a week or two ago in courageously and heroically twice attempting to save his little sister from being drowned in the brook near the canal. The circumstances connected with it are very touching. Only a Sunday or two previously the little boy, who was on a visit to his grandmother’s from Sussex, asked Mr Smith of Coalville, at the usual Sunday morning’s service of the George Smith of Coalville Band of Love, to “allow him to join the Band of Love.” Mr Smith consented, and initiated him. After the kiss on the left hand and the left-handed shake, the little brothers and sisters sang “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” right through, most heartily, in which the dear little boy joined. On the fatal morning before he and his sister and the little boy Hancock took their stroll, he sang to his grandmother the hymn again, “Safe in the arms of Jesus,” and as he tripped over the door step and out of the wicket gate, he said, with a smile upon his sweet face, “Grandmother, I shall be safe in the arms of Jesus to-day,” and so it has turned out, Two sweet little lambs now lie in Norton churchyard, with many beautiful wreaths and flowers, to tell the sorrowful tale.Northampton Mercury 1891 6 November
(George Smith of Coalville was a Primitive Methodist minister and very well known in the area for his work with ensuring safe conditions for canal children. The Band of Love was a Sunday School group for children and met regularly at the Wharf. His story will be told in a later post.)
- Northampton Daily Reporter 1891 Sat 24 October
- Northampton Mercury 1891 Fri 30 October
- Northampton Mercury 1891 Fri 6 November