St Helens omnibus accident 1867

The Liverpool Mercury, September 9th 1867



A dreadful omnibus accident occurred on Saturday last, shortly after 7pm, whereby one man lost his life and seven were injured, the scene of the accident was at the bottom of Combshop Brow, which has been the scene of many such accidents, but, none so dreadful a character as this. The hill is very steep and is on the turnpike road running from Liverpool and Prescot to St Helens. It is a hill of short length and at its foot it branches to the right into Liverpool Rd, and runs nearly straight into Westfield St. Previous to coming to the hill when proceeding from Liverpool and Prescot, the road is nearly level for a distance of more than a mile.

From information by our reporter who was at the scene of the catastrophe it appears that the accident occurred to a number of employees of Mr Jesse VARLEY, Ironfounder, St Helens. It was the annual trip of the workmen and they had been to New Brighton. They proceeded by bus to Liverpool, and after spending a very pleasant day at New Brighton, started on their return journey from Liverpool to St Helens about 9 o’clock, they were about 30 in number, and conveyed in a bus belonging to Mr MARSH of the Van Tromp Inn, St Helens. The driver was William POVEY who is one of the injured, who has for a long time past borne the character of a careful driver, and is well known in the town. All proceeded very comfortably on the journey until arriving at the toll-bar at Eccleston, which is situate about three-quarters of a mile from the scene of the accident, when one of the horses became very restive, and was noticed by foot passengers on the road. On going down the hill, which is very steep, the horses appear to have overcome the control of the driver, and dashed down it at great speed. The driver attempted to turn them into Liverpool Rd, but on arriving at the bottom of the hill the left hind wheel gave way from the sudden turn, the spokes fell out and the bus was immediately overturned. A fearful scene ensued. The passengers who were travelling outside were dashed to the ground with great violence, and nearly all of them sustained injuries. The rapid progress of the bus down the hill was noticed by persons in houses at the foot, and as the place was well known as the scene of previous accidents, fears of an impending disaster were entertained by the people hearing the noise.

Immediately after the accident occurred aid was rendered to the sufferers by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. They were at once removed to Mr WHITTLE’S [the Feathers Inn] close by, and medical aid was sent for without delay, Dr’s MC NICOLL, LYON and R. A. GASKELL, and Dr RICKETT’S assistant, were speedily in attendance on the injured to render all the aid in their power. The wounds were of a dreadful character, chiefly to the heads of the sufferers. One poor man named Charles MORRIS who lived in Brook St, St Helens, died shortly after the accident, he had received injuries to his head. His skull from above his eyes to the base was completely fractured. The sufferings of some were intense, and their groans and piercing cries heart rendering, as the doctors set their broken limbs. One poor man had both his legs broken and one of the boys had his ankle laid open with a cut and his arm broken. Another sufferer had his jaw smashed and his lip cut open, and one of the bones was forced into his throat.

The names of the sufferers were, William MAKIN, of Appleton St, Peasley Cross, nr St Helens, Henry WINSTANLEY of Peasley Cross, nr St Helens, James SWIFT of Parr St, Parr, St Helens, James PROCTER, of Westfield St, St Helens, foreman of the foundry, William SCARRY, of Victoria St, Gerrards Bridge, St Helens, Richard ATHERTON, of Langtree St, Parr, St Helens, Mr William VARLEY, son of the late Jesse VARLEY, and William POVEY driver of the bus who lives in Market St, St Helens, all of the above are men with the exception of SCARRY who is 11yrs of age and ATHERTON who is 13yrs if age.

The passengers on the inside of the bus escaped without serious injury, except, fright and the shock.

The scene of the accident was very shortly afterwards, crowded by willing and sympathetic friends who rendered all the aid they could in removing and allaying the pangs of the injured. A body of the County Police was in attendance immediately under the superintendence of Superintendent LEDISM ? and Sergeants MYERS and RAWLINSON and rendered able assistance in the conveyance of the wounded and keeping order in the crowd which collected. The sufferers were conveyed to their homes after the medical men had set the broken bones and bandaged their wounds.


Another of the sufferers died at his home yesterday morning, his name was William MAKIN, an engineer, 26yrs of age. The doctors reported yesterday that most of the sufferers were progressing favourably, but that fears were felt as to the result in some of the cases.

The bus was very much smashed, but, the horses escaped unhurt. It is not known whether blame can be attached to anyone, but, a searching inquiry will be made by the coroner at the inquest.

The Liverpool Mercury, September 10th 1867


The accident has caused great excitement in St Helens, as usual at such times, many erroneous reports are in circulation, and it was generally believed yesterday that another of the injured men Henry WINSTANLEY was dead, this, we are happy to state is not true, and at a late hour yesterday the reports of the medical men, who are most assiduous in their attention on the sufferers, were most favourable.

The case of the youth named ATHERTON is the worst, fears are entertained that he will not recover.

Full list of the sufferers and their injuries :-


Charles MORRIS, Brook St, St Helens, fractured skull, died shortly after the accident, leaves a wife and five children.

William MAKIN, Appleton St, Peasley Cross, nr St Helens, engineer, aged 26, died shortly after being conveyed home on Saturday night, fractured skull and internal injuries, leaves a wife and one child.


Henry WINSTANLEY of Peasley Cross, nr St Helens, both legs broken, one severely

James SWIFT of Parr St, Parr, St Helens, broken jaw and other injuries to the head.

James PROCTER, of Westfield St, St Helens, cut face and injuries to the head.

William SCARRY, of Victoria St, Gerrards Bridge, St Helens, severe scalp wound and injuries to the head.

Richard ATHERTON, of Langtree St, Parr, St Helens, left arm broken, right ankle dislocated, cut and bruised face.

William POVEY driver of the bus who lives in Market St, St Helens, cut head, ankle severely sprained.

Mr William VARLEY, one of the proprietors of the foundry, from which the excursion went, sprained ankle from the concussion on alighting on the ground on jis feet, he having jumped from the bus.

James OWEN, of Green St, St Helens, cut on right arm and concussion.

John MURRAY, of Greenbank, St Helens, dislocated elbow.

The inquest will opened today.


Copyright 2002 / To date