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Researcher reveals details of Grantham rail crash in 1906

A Grantham-based researcher has discussed some of her interesting findings about the town, including the Grantham rail crash of 1906.

Sixty-eight-year-old Chris Baxter has been researching and archiving information about the Grantham area for around half a century.

Originally from Grantham, she briefly moved to Cornwall for a few years in the 1970s where she joined Barclays Bank, but was eventually transferred back to Grantham where she has remained ever since.

Chris Baxter has been researching the area for 25 years (40404695)
Chris Baxter has been researching the area for 25 years (40404695)

Chris also worked at Thompsons solicitors, but her real passion was for archiving, which she discovered around 25 years ago while doing a course on family history at college.

She reveals how she got into the hobby and the interestings findings that she has made since.

How did you get into researching?

A picture of the Grantham Rail Crash from the Journal in 1906. (40404698)
A picture of the Grantham Rail Crash from the Journal in 1906. (40404698)

Well I started about 25 years ago. I did a course at college on family history and while we were doing it this lady joined us who was starting a family history group, so I was one of the founding members, so I learned how to do research through that.

I did a lot of my family history but when my children were at St Anne’s school, which was a few years ago because they’re in their 30s now.

I was on the PTA and we were going to do a local history exhibition in one of the school’s rooms, so I found quite a bit about the school and then of course I got a bit carried away and did a whole thing about it.

What have you discovered about St Anne’s School?

Four Grantham boys perched on the south side of Harlaxton Road (40404692)
Four Grantham boys perched on the south side of Harlaxton Road (40404692)

It took about five years to do the St Anne’s School research, because I used to have Wednesdays off and I used to go to the library every week in the morning and get the Journals of the time, which took quite a while but I enjoyed doing it.

It used to be on St Anne’s Street but it’s now on Harrowby Road.

There was all this land around St Anne’s owned by the Earl of Harrowby, given to him by one of the kings a few hundred years before, for some work that he’d done, and all this land was passed down through his family.

When the school was due to be built he actually donated the land on which is was to be built. The earl was supposed to be laying the foundation stone but he had the flu, so the vicar’s wife at the time did the ceremony.

The interesting thing was, they were talking about building a new school back in the 40s after the war because there was a bombing on Stuart Street during the war and some children were killed and the school was damaged, but it didn’t get done until 1973.

When the land was donated, it had to be used for education, if it wasn’t it had to be returned to the Earl of Harrowby. There is actually still a nursery on the site.

Also, someone sent his grandfather’s attendance card and I noticed from that he was one of the first pupils at the school, John Chesterton it was, and I found out a bit about him.

I found out all about the headteachers and how long they were all there.

The Grantham Rail crash is something of a local mystery, could you tell me more?

The passenger train came originally from Kings Cross and stopped at Peterborough where they actually put on another carriage which contained a coffin. I was trying to find out who was in the coffin but I couldn’t manage it.

Then it was supposed to stop at Grantham but for some reason it just carried on, didn’t even brake and it de-railed on Harlaxton Road bridge. Some carriages went over the side and it was in the evening in September, right in the heart of Grantham.

It’s always been a bit of a mystery as to why it crashed because the driver, Fred Fleetwood, it was his regular route, he did it every night.

They think it was something to do with when they put the extra carriage on at Peterborough

Nobody from Grantham was killed, it was all people who were passing through. I’ve found out all about them as well, where they were all going.

One of the passengers, Georgina Baggeley, was the only one who was buried in Grantham. It’s just so fascinating.

If you read the booklet that was done about the crash, it’s very good and I got a lot of information from it but they didn’t really go into the victims much. It was more interested in the engines.

One man slept through the whole thing on the train, he had to be shaken awake.

The packages that were being mailed were returned to people with the contents intact, including a bowl of goldfish which was found. A bit of water had spilled but the fish were alive.

Have any of your discoveries ever surprised or shocked you?

Not shocked but you know, it’s amazing what you find out really when you go through it all. There’s just so much!

Are you researching anything new at the moment?

I haven’t done anything for quite a while now. I’m trying to get back into my family history, because I’ve done a load about it. My maiden name is Heathershaw and I’ve found out quite a bit about my great-great-great-grandfather.

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