An inquest was held at the Unicorn Hotel in Stow on Monday, 1887, into the death of Walter Pierce Colston, aged 27.
Walter was a millwright, employed at Bliss Mill in Chipping Norton. Three days earlier, on Friday evening, he had been asked to repair a steam-pipe at the mill.
He had been in the process of walking on top of the pipe from one boiler to another, when he had slipped. He was unable to grab hold of anything, as he had a hammer and chisel in his hands, and so fell nearly four feet onto another steam-pipe.
Luckily, there were other workers around, and they had been ablet o get Walter to his house and into bed. A local doctor, Dr Hutchinson, was called to visit the unlucky man, and on examination, found his bladder to be full of blood.
In a rare example of a paternal Victorian employer, William Bliss, the mill owner, had asked for everything possible to be done to help Walter, and this had even included sending for a doctor from the Charing Cross Hospital in London.
But it emerged that Walter had ruptured both his kidneys and bladder, and after hours of pain, he died of peritonitis, leaving his young wife a widow.
The coroner’s jury found that Walter had died “from injuries accidentally received” – his death a result of the lack of health and safety awareness in nineteenth-century mills, and of a certain daring attitude.
Taken from a report of the coroner’s inquest in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 26 March 1887.