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Railwaymen’s Graves Set for Restoration

railway graves smThe Bromsgrove Society has pledged £1,000 towards the cost of restoring the historic gravestones in St. John's churchyard of the two young men killed in a railway accident in 1840.

The accident – caused by a locomotive named Surprise exploding – occurred at the town's Railway Station on Monday 11th November 1840. The men were Thomas Scaife, a banking engine driver and Joseph Rutherford, a fitter in the Bromsgrove Depot Workshops and Engine House.

The gravestones, which carry poignant verse, were paid for by public subscription in the wake of the tragedy and were erected sometime in 1842.

It is perhaps remarkable that the gravestones have survived at all given relentless natural erosion and attempts by vandals to destroy them. The graves are thought to have escaped vandalism throughout their first century but times changed one night in March 1951. The discovery of a dastardly night-time attack on the monuments was made early the next morning when a twelve years old local boy, John Deakin, was walking in the churchyard. The lad was horrified to discover Scaife's grave lying flat on the grass, broken in two, and ran to tell his father who called the police. A further attack came in the 1980s when Rutherford's gravestone was broken and local stonemason Sam Bright carried out repairs on a labour of love basis.

As injurious as vandalism has been, it is relentless erosion by the elements that has brought the graves to the point where major restoration by specialist conservation stonemasons is urgently needed. Some 30 years ago the stones were repainted but the need now is for the epitaphs and the images of locomotives, at the head of each stone, to be re-crafted in a specialist studio.

The work is expected to cost in the region of £12,000. A restoration group sitting under the church's Fabric Committee has secured valuable pledges towards this sum but the project is still around £5,000 short. Chairman Alastair Moseley is anxious to hear from anyone who may have any funding ideas or suggestions. Alastair can be contacted on 01527 870048.

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