Songs from the Age of Steam

The Falling Of Nine Arches And Fifteen Lives Lost At Ashton, April 19th 1845

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Construction of the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway began in 1837. The Ashton to Stalybridge branch, which had been part of the original plan was deferred due to lack of finances. Despite the collapse of the viaduct in April 1845, the line was completed and opened in December. Some sources say that 17 men were killed. It is likely that the song was printed within days of the accident and the discrepancy in numbers may be due to two men dying of their injuries after the accident.


Both old and young with feeling hears, one moment now attend

Of a melancholy accident, as true as e’er was penn’d

Near Ashton town in forty-five, April the nineteenth day

When fifteen workmen lost their lives on the Ashton Branch railway


Pity these poor workmen pray

Who were kill’d on the Ashton Branch Railway


The ground being low new arches raised to join the goodly line

Like structures of modern times appear’d grand and sublime

But looks were all, no strength could be, or why this accident

Caused such grief, heart-rending pangs, their friend’s death to lament

Soon after three o’clock, that fatal afternoon it was

A crack in third arch appear’d, which fatal prov’d, alas!

The work gave way, nine arches fell, most awful to relate

When numbers on that fatal day, met their untimely fate


Like thunder’s roar, the crash it made, struck terror and dismay

The people ran for to assist, their efforts were in vain

Grim death had claimed them for his own, ‘twas awful for to see

So many in one movement, sent into eternity


The ruins as they cleared away, it was a shocking sight

Each moment to the gazer’s eye, fresh terror brought to light

Arms, legs and thighs to pieces smashed, men in their health and bloom

Their dinners got but on that night, met with a living tomb


To see the grief and anguish, it is awful to relate

Children, fathers, wives, husbands, who that day had met their fate

Fifteen are dead, great numbers wounded or sorely mangled

In a moment’s time call’d to account before the bar of God

Have mercy Lord on their poor souls, have mercy Lord we pray

That fatal day fifteen poor souls were quickly called away

To face their God, let’s hope their souls for ever now are blest,

Where toil and labour ever cease, the weary are at rest


Grim death may come, none knows the time, ‘tis best to watch and pray

Lest like those poor workmen killed on the Ashton railway

Such sights before we never saw, great anguish and distress

Left widows their loss to deplore, and children fatherless.


 Music  No tune Given    Comments on music         
Publisher Author Composer Performer    
Harkness of Preston Unknown Unknown Uknown    
Earliest Date of Origination 1845 The year of the disaster Latest Date of Origination 1845 Probably within days of the disaster (see notes above




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