David A. Kennedy, PhD
26 July 2020
ANECDOTAL MEMORIES: DOORS INTO THE PAST. A GIMPSE INTO THE EARLY YEARS OF THE LONDON & SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY FROM A KINGSTON UPON THAMES AND SURBITON PERSPECTIVE,
BY AUDREY C. GILES, 2020
Audrey Giles’ new book evolved from the research of a family anecdote about a railway accident in 1904 in which her grandfather, George Spencer, was seriously injured. She soon discovered that he was the rear passenger guard on the London & South Western Railway’s 9.32 pm Kingston to Waterloo train. At Clapham Junction, in dense fog, it was hit by the 9.30 pm Windsor to Waterloo train which was following it on the same track. He received no pay when recovering from his injury but when he eventually returned to work he received £10 from his employer for expenses incurred when he was on sick leave. It was equivalent to just over six weeks wages. Part of the family anecdote was that he used the £10 to open a savings account to which he contributed regularly and in time he stopped worrying about the possibility of admission to the Workhouse, a frequent concern of workers at the time. Soon it became obvious to Dr. Giles, who has a background in personnel administration, that she had started an investigation into the early development of what is currently referred to as the management of “human resources”. Moreover, it became clear to her that during the nineteenth century while the numbers of passengers and employees killed in train accidents, the main focus of official investigations, was relatively low, the numbers of employees killed or injured in accidents involving the running or movement of railway vehicles, e.g., in shunting sheds, was remarkably high. Indeed, among Victorian industrial workers only coal miners had a higher rate of death and injury.
It was against this background that the book was written. In Audrey Giles’ own words “this glimpse into the early years of the London & South Western Railway is a story of the slow and painful journey towards improvement in workplace safety and accident compensation.”
The book has 160 pages and eighteen chapters. It is fully illustrated with 66 figures, notes, bibliography, an index and an appendix with details of 2 railway people who lived in Kingston and Surbiton between 1830-1912. The book is published privately by the author and can be obtained from her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the reference “Anecdotal Memories”. It is being sold in support of the Princess Alice Hospice, Esher, for £15.
This is a very well researched book that is likely to be of particular interest to residents of Kingston upon Thames and Surbiton as well as railway historians, social historians and historians of the development of occupational health and safety.