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William Muir and the World's first Railway death

Nestling at an angle in Brockley cemetery lies the peeling headstone of the Scottish born engineer and inventor William Muir (1806-1888) who achieved an enviable reputation as a leading manufacturer of machine tools and lathes, helping to erect the Britannia works in Manchester as William Muir & Co. This at a time of massive Victorian industrial expansion that merited the city the appellation the 'workshop of the world'.  He was noted as being an enlightened and solicitous employer, who supplied machinery to the royal gun factory at Woolwich and also to Enfield, for the manufacture of sights for rifles, took out numerous patents and exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Muir was a strong temperance advocate, which was manifested in a curious way in a patent he took out in 1865, which consisted in constructing 'the fronts of public-houses and other houses of entertainment, where men and women mix indiscriminately, of plate-glass, to enable persons outside to see those within,' while 'to impede as far as possible the entrance of females wearing steel crinolines', ,the entrances were made very narrow!

He married in 1832 Eliza Wellbank Dickinson of Drypool, Hull, by whom he had five sons, most of whom became engineers. She died 5 Jan. 1882. Muir died aged 82 years on the 15 June 1888 whilst living at Brockley road, and as noted he was buried in Brockley cemetery.

nEngineer and inventor William Muir (1806-1888)
Muir family grave in Brockley cemetery

One of his sons , remembered on the headstone, was John Wellbank Muir who met his unfortunate demise (scalded to death) in Paraguay in 1863 whilst working on behalf of his father's business for the Paraguyan dictator Francisco Lopez .

Another son Andrew Muir , helped to develop the Velocipede ( boneshaker ) bicycle in the 1860's.

But the one outstanding historic event which caught my attention when researching his life was that William Muir was present at the opening of the world's first inter-city railway between Manchester and Liverpool in September 1830 (The Liverpool and Manchester Railway). An event marred by the tragic death of the first passenger to die in a railway accident. The event is briefly described below:

On September 15th, 1830 the MP for Liverpool and former Cabinet minister, William Huskisson (who had been present at the Storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789), alighted from his carriage on the steam locomotive Northumbrian and became the first person ever to die in a railway accident. Huskisson was attending the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool railway, along with a number of other dignitaries, and while his train was stopped for water, Huskisson decided to go to greet the Duke of Wellington, who was riding in another part of the train. As he clambered up into the duke’s carriage Huskisson lost his balance and fell into the path of Stephenson’s Rocket, which was proceeding down the adjacent track. It ran over Huskisson’s leg causing severe bleeding and he was placed back on the Northumbrian and driven by George Stephenson himself, to hospital in Eccles, where he died later that day.

Death of English MP William Huskisson, run down by George Stephenson's locomotive "Rocket" on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 1830. The day the first railway to carry goods and passengers was inaugurated was memorable as also the day Huskisson became the first to die in a rail accident. Original artwork from Look and Learn no. 678 (11 January 1975).

For a fuller account of this historic day Simon Garfield's very readable 2003 book' The Last Journey of William Huskisson' is recommended.

There is a very moving and fulsome obituary of William Muir composed by Robert Wilson Smiles , brother of Samuel , author of the best selling book, Self-Help published in 1859 which more than a century later, Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to give as a gift to every schoolchild in Britain!  (Robert Wilson Smiles d.1890 is also buried in Brockley cemetery-Samuel d.1904 is buried in Brompton cemetery )

Brief Memoir of the late William Muir by Robert Smiles - Graces Guide

Serjeant Thomas Charles Joslin: a Soldier of the Great War.

The Grave of Thomas Charles Joslin lies a short walk from the entrance to Brockley Cemetery along a shady side path. 

1881 -Thomas Charles Joslin was born in Holborn, London, on the 12th July 1881 to parents Thomas Joslin, a Gold Refiner by trade and his Mother Ellen Joslin nee Dawe. 

1903 - Thomas enrolled as a private in the Victoria & St George's Rifles. Volunteer battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

1909 - Thomas married Beatrice Blanch Block (Beatie) on the 31st July at St Dunstan in the West, in the City of London. His occupation was a Publisher's assistant. 

Beatrice Blanch Joslin

1913 – The birth of their only child Irene Beatrice Joslin known as Reni, whilst living at Waller Road New Cross

WW1 – at the start of hostilities Thomas enlisted at St Pauls Church Yard,  Deptford, joining Kitchener's New Army. He was assigned to the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (D.C.L.I.) under command of the 43RD Brigade in the (Light) Division. 

The Battalion trained at Aldershot. By November 1914 they were at Witley, moving back to Aldershot in February 1915, initially without arms of any kind however the recruits were judged to be ready by May 1915.

The battalion landed at Boulogne on the 22nd of May 1915, the move to the fighting was delayed by lack of ammunition.

Second Battle of Ypres the division took part in the Action of Hooge on the 30th July 1915 in which it had the misfortune to be the first to be attacked by flamethrower, More than 750 soldiers lost their lives over the course of two days in the conflict. While most of the casualties in Hooge were attributed to direct fire from conventional weapons, it is worth noting that it was the use of flamethrowers that flushed them out into the open. 

1916 -   He was promoted to Serjeant.

The Somme – the Division took part if the capture of Trones Wood between the 8-14 July 1916.

The Aftermath – August 1916 a letter to Miss Reni Joslin (daughter), Shardeloes Road, New Cross, London; post marked Army Post Office 23 Aug 16, “I have been admitted into - 12 General Hospital Rouen,  on the 19th night wounded a GSW through shoulder, fractured arm, shrapnel in Leg and am going on well, letter follows at earliest opportunity, British Expeditionary Force signed Daddy” 23rd August 1916.

November 1916, Death in the sub district of South St Pancras, London on the 28th November 1916 at University College Hospital, Thomas Charles Joslin aged 35 years of Shardeloes Deptford, Sergeant 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, (advertisement Canvasser) cause of death 1, gunshot wounds received on active service, 2, Septicaemia, certified by T.B. Johnston MB, informant Beatrice Joslin Widow of Deceased, Shardeloes Road Deptford, Registered 30 November 1916.

Thomas Charles Joslin, is remembered on the WW1 War Memorial at St Catherine’s Church, Hatcham, Pepys Road, New Cross

Thomas Charles Joslin, Buried in Brockley Cemetery, Plot no S.14 with his wife Beatrice her brothers William Waugh Block and Frederick George Block and sister Eliza Ann Block aged 3.

Thomas Charles Joslin is just one of the many who lost their lives during conflict, who are buried or remembered in Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, We Will Remember Them.

Put together by Phill Barnes-Warden, FoBLC Member, with grateful help from Roger Purcell, a member of the Joslin Family.

The de Carvalho Brothers from Brazil who faced the firing Squad

Aside one of the inner pathways in Ladywell cemetery lies a cruciform shaped headstone. One of those remembered on one side of the headstone had an illustrious history as a naval architect and inventor, before becoming a political prisoner who died in broken spirits whilst living exile in London in 1898. His last recorded address was on Algernon road, Ladywell. His name was Trajano Augusto de Carvalho 'Chief Constructor of the Brazilian Navy', whose death it was said brought sorrow to many English homes. Born in 1830 in Brazil, he quickly established himself as a pioneering engineer in battleship construction, who conceived and patented a design called the 'Trajano careen' to ships hull which greatly aided the speed, cargo capacity and fuel savings in the building of the Brazilian Navy. The first of the ships, a corvette, received the name Trajano by the suggestion of the last Emperor of Brazil Don Pedro II in homage of the inventor. He spent many years in Europe inspecting the construction of battleships which he designed for the Brazilian Navy (some used in the bloody conflict with Paraguay in the 1860's) and was good friends with Sir Nathaniel Barnaby who was Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy.

Trajano de Carvalho (undated)

On the obverse side of the headstone, the names of two of his sons Alvaro (aged 28) and Arthur (aged 26) are inscribed who died together on the 17th May 1894 at Desterro, Santa Catharina (on the Atlantic coast of Brazil) and as noted below are a poignant reminder of the savage reprisals that were visited on those who took part in the Brazilian Naval revolt –known as the ‘ Revoltas da Armada’ which broke out in Rio de Janeiro in 1893 against President Marshal Floriano Peixoto ‘ The Iron Marshal’.

Family headstone in Ladywell cemetery

According to the Rio News (April 16 th 1895) Captain Trajano de Cravalho, the well known constructor, has returned from Europe, arriving here on the steamer, RMS Thames on the 9th. Captain Trajano is one of those who have suffered most from the ferocious tyranny of the ex-dictator. Arrested on the 16th February 1894, he was kept in prison without trial, undergoing the bad treatment that was given to all the political prisoners, until the 6th September. Of his three sons who took part in the revolution, two were captured and barbarously shot in Santa Catharina and the third still suffers from a wound which he received in one of the engagements in this port. The latter has returned to Europe with his father.*

Maybe Arthur and Eduardo are featured in this photograph which dates from the armed revolt of 1894?

The Jornal do Comércio of Rio de Janeiro, in its edition of May 8, 1895, published the article entitled "Episodes of the civil war", with the report of an eyewitness, crew member of the battleship Aquidaban, describing some of the shootings that took place in Fortaleza of Santa Cruz de Anhatomirim, in April 1894, in the end of the Armada Revolt and the Federalist Revolution.

Among those shot were the French engineers Buette and Müller; field marshal Manoel de Almeida Gama Lobo d'Eça (Barão de Batovi) and his son Alfredo da Gama d'Eça; brothers and first lieutenants Álvaro Augusto de Carvalho and Artur Augusto de Carvalho (sons of the naval engineer, honorary first lieutenant Trajano Augusto de Carvalho); Lieutenant Colonel Sérgio Tertuliano Castelo Branco; the major physician Dr. Alfredo de Paula Freitas; captain-of-the-sea-and-war Frederico Guilherme de Lorena and his two nephews, first lieutenant Delfino de Lorena and the aspiring navy officer (or navy guard) Pedro de Lorena, the judge Francisco Vieira Caldas, among other officers of the National Guard and Army not named.

The city of Desterro was renamed Florianopolis in 1893 after Marshal Peixoto, known as the 'Iron Marshall' due to his ruthless leadership.

According to the Paris Correspondent of the London Times (September 13th 1894) - REPORTED WHOLESALE EXECUTIONS IN BRAZIL - Lieutenants Arthur and Alvaro were amongst 68 Brazilians executed (by firing squad) on the morning of the 25 th April at the fortress of Santa Cruz, Santa Catharina, according to the orders of Marshal Floriano Peixoto without even the semblance of a trial, after having been arrested on the 21st April.

Trajano de Carvalho's obituary: The Rio News 

* The Passage of Humaitá." A shell burst illuminates the night scene ( c.1868).By the Brazilian admiral and watercolourist Trajano Augusto de Carvalho, 1876–1942. The third son of Trajano de Carvalho.

Sir John Simon, (10 October 1816 – 23 July 1904) health reformer and chief medical officer

Sir John was a surgeon and public health reformer whose work to improve the hygiene of city life helped establish modern standards of public health service.  In an article for the South London Press, FoBLC historian Mike Guilfoyle has written about his story and its relevance to our current Covid crisis, you can read it here.   

Lithograph of John Simon by Charles Baugniet (1848)

The Sensational Trapeze Artist Adelaide Macarte

A short distance from the entrance to Brockley cemetery aside a shady side path lies an imposing family headstone, topped with its ethereal angelic figure, on which the name Adelaide Macarte is inscribed. Although the lettering has faded the curious passerby can read on the inscription that Adelaide or Addie as she was also known, died in far away Callicoon, New York State ( USA) at the early age of twenty nine from pleurisy and was then laid to rest in this cemetery in August 1908.  So who was this remarkable diminutive acrobat, five feet one, who with her sisters, Julia and Cecilia, (her two other siblings were named Harriet and Blanche) helped to captivate audiences and gained international acclaim for so many years among the 'Olympians of the Saw Dust Circle' both here and abroad with daredevil feats on the trapeze, on horseback and the circus high wire?

Cecilia, Julia and Adelaide Macarte c.1906.
The Macarte sisters (left to right) Cecilia, Julia and Adelaide c.1906.

Adelaide was born into a dynasty of famous circus performers, with the Macarthy family name already well established in the annals of acrobatic and circus lore. Her grandmother was the world renowned bare back performer Madame Macarte of the Ginnett circus family and her Lambeth born father Henry Macarthy (the name Macarte was used as a stage name by the sisters and an earlier generation of female performers from the wider family) worked as a circus acrobat from an early age and died in 1924. He is buried alongside his daughters, Adelaide, Julia and Cecilia. Her mother Regina hailed from an Hungarian ballet milieu. She died in Berlin in 1892.

After many years performing in this country the sisters, who also participated in off-stage charitable causes helping distressed  Music Hall artistes, travelled extensively across the USA . The American newspaper clipping below is from 1899 and offers the reader a wonderful contemporary snapshot of how the Macarte sisters were admiringly viewed as much in demand Vaudeville artists, Addie is described in the post as the sister who does 'all the talking'! Although holding the slack wire in your teeth , whilst one of the sisters walks the tight rope must have demanded truly amazonian strength! Not only was she a nimble gymnast like her sisters, indeed she had begun on the arduous road to becoming a top circus and Music Hall performer at the tender age of four, but she played the piano with some verve and was noted as being a keen linguist.

Source: St Louis Post-Dispatch ( 1899)

Following Adelaide's death in 1908,  sisters Julia and Cecilia continued performing arenic novelties, now with a replacement artiste called Rosie Foote, travelling to Australia in 1912 and touring South Africa in 1916.  Julia died in 1958 and Cecilia (Carter) died in 1965. On both their burial records their occupation is given as retired Variety Artistes. Let's hope that The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America, who have restored other headstones linked to circus and music hall performers in the cemeteries, will at some future point be able to bring the Macarte headstone back to its pristine theatrical splendour. Or better still maybe a remake of the 1956 Carol Reed film ' Trapeze' this time with the three main acrobats, being called of course the The Macarte Sisters, now played by modern day olympians of the Saw Dust Circle!

The final resting place of the Vaudeville artiste Adelaide Macarte lies in the family grave in Brockley cemetery ( photo : courtesy of Find a Grave)