Sublime Sites

Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill

Railway accident

Church Brow, Kirkby Lonsdale, refuse of a railway accident
Photograph by David Hill, taken 21 March 2016, 16.09 GMT
“..falling trunks had crashed through the iron grating in all directions, and left it in already rusty and unseemly rags, like the last refuse of a railroad accident, beaten down among the dead leaves..”
Ruskin was particularly antipathetic to the railway. In letter 35 (November 1873) of ‘Fors Clavigera’, he reprinted from the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ a monthly list of the ‘slaughter by rail’ in accidents for the single month of September 1873, an average of more than one per day. Although he did use the train, he pined for the old horse-drawn days, and on this visit to Kirkby Lonsdale was travelling in a carriage and hiring post-horses at various places en route. It was still just about possible, but in decline, so consequently more expensive. On this occasion he was acting in revulsion to the Shipton accident on Great Western Railway of 24 December 1874: ‘a carriage wheel broke, and the train was driven over an embankment; thirty-four deaths ensued, and about seventy passengers were injured.’
This photograph was taken at the bottom of the ‘Radical Steps’ that lead down to the river from Church Brow. It is distinct spot to that described by Ruskin, but there is now no sign now of the Ladies’ Well or its wrecked railings.

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Published on March 29, 2016 at 1732 × 1092 in Kirkby Lonsdale: What Ruskin really said.