On the evening of Saturday September 30, 1865, an inquest was held at the Lion Inn, Holywell, Evershot, Dorset before Mr. H. Lock, deputy coroner,into the death of William Phillips, a Great Western Railway under guard who had died the previous evening following an accident on the line about a mile and a quarter from Evershot station.
William Phillips from Swindon, Wiltshire together with Thomas Kilby, the head guard, was ‘working’ the down goods train. The train was behind time and heavily laden when it left Yeovil, (or Yetminster, depending on the account), at about 11 o’clock on Friday night. When the train was about a mile and a quarter from Evershot station one of the driving rods broke. This necessitated splitting the train in two, the head guard going on with the first portion and leaving William in charge of the remainder.
The engine, after getting the first portion to Evershot, returned for the other trucks, and upon approaching the tail end of the train the driver saw the lamp signalling “all right”. Deceased should have connected the engine, but finding he did not do so the engine-driver jumped down and found the deceased lying in a senseless state between the rails with his head near the tender wheel. He was quickly got into one of the vans, and taken to the Lion Inn, and medical aid sent for. Dr. John Clapcott, with P.C. Hare, quickly arrived, but on examination he was found to be dead, the collarbone having been driven into the lungs, causing a fatal hemmorrhage.
The impression of the driver and stoker was that the deceased sat down between the rails just in front of the carriages and fell asleep, and the coupling chain struck him on the side of his head which led to his death. This theory was disputed by Dr Clapcott. Saving a slight abrasion he could discover no marks on the head, but the left shoulder was smashed and driven in, producing hemorrhage. His opinion was that he was struck while standing. It is supposed that the deceased must have placed the lamp which signalled “all right,” and then leaned against the buffer, waiting for the engine from Evershot, and, whilst there, fallen asleep, and continued so until the engine came up and caught him between the buffers.
William Phillips was from Swindon, and about 30 years of age, he left a pregnant widow with two children. The jury, of which Mr. William. Kellaway was foreman, returned a verdict of Accidental Death. The inquest was reported in the Dorset County Chronicle, Thursday October 5, 1865 and the Western Gazette, Friday October 6, 1865.