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Huntingdon commemorates Abbots Ripton rail disaster of 1876 in which 13 people died

Today’s unveiling ceremony was organised by Huntingdon Town Council

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A commemorative board to mark the Abbots Ripton rail disaster of January 21, 1876, where 13 passengers died, was unveiled today in Huntingdon. Six train crew members and 53 passengers were injured in the crash when a passenger train, at full speed, hit a coal train which was being shunted into the Abbots Ripton siding.

Three of the victims are buried in Priory Road cemetery where the interpretation board is positioned.

An investigator’s report into the crash reported that “the down-main-line having become obstructed by the debris from this first collision, the Leeds-and-York express passenger-train, 5.30 p.m. from London, after passing Huntingdon at 6.59 pm came into collision first with the tender and afterwards with certain damaged carriages of the Scotch-express-train”.
Among the injured were the engine-driver, fireman, and head-guard of the Scotch express-train, and the engine-driver and fireman and front guard of the Leeds-express train, were also injured.

Today’s unveiling ceremony was organized by Huntingdon Town Council who said it “served as a moment of reflection and remembrance for the community”.

A commemorative board to mark the Abbotts Ripton rail disaster of January 21, 1876, where 13 passengers died, was unveiled today in Huntingdon.

A commemorative board to mark the Abbots Ripton rail disaster of January 21, 1876, where 13 passengers died, was unveiled today in Huntingdon.

The newly installed interpretation board was unveiled by Cllr Phil Pearce, Mayor of Huntingdon, and Charles Saunders, who recently restored the grave of victim Dion William Boucicault.

Prayers of remembrance were led by the mayor’s chaplain, Rev Jon Randell, adjacent to the Boucicault grave, with a closing prayer being held adjacent to the graves of Miss M and Miss E Burdon Sanderson, who also died in the accident.

Railways Archive image of the Abbotts Ripton rail disaster

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Railways Archive image of the Abbots Ripton rail disasterThe event attracted local residents, history enthusiasts and Huntingdon Town councillors, all joining together to pay respects to the past and to underscore the importance of historical preservation.

“We gather today to honour the lives lost in the Abbots Ripton Rail Disaster,” said Cllr Phil Pearce, Mayor of Huntingdon. “This interpretation board serves as a lasting tribute, recounting the events of that historic day, and paying tribute to the individuals who perished.

“May this space become a site of reflection and remembrance, ensuring the memory of the disaster lives on for generations to come.”

There are plans for further commemorations to mark the 150th anniversary of the disaster in 2026.

For those interested in exploring the heritage of Priory Road Cemetery, including details on notable figures and Commonwealth War Graves, please visit the heritage page on the Huntingdon Crematorium Website. A link can be found here: https://huntingdoncrematorium.co.uk/heritage-page

A link to the Railways Archive can be found here:

https://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/eventimages.php?eventID=47&imageID=478

 

 

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