The Chattington Family (and a tragic event)

Sometimes I spend so long looking at photographs such as these, that I feel I actually know the people looking back at me. They become so familiar that I weave stories in my head, reasons as to why they might be smiling or frowning for instance. In the case of the Chattington family, the images are mostly holiday snaps taken at the beach, sitting by a caravan or in a park, and they almost all involve brother and sister Raymond and Rita Chattington.

Only a small number of the photographs are named but the rest can be easily identified. And there are other documents too: a baby weight card for ‘Raymond Chattington’ dated July 1947, a charming drawing of circus figures signed ‘RAYMOND’, and notes from Rita to her parents. Each of these, and many more, have been lovingly collected and saved for posterity.

a note signed by Rita

Research led me to Raymond Chattington 1945 and Rita Chattington 1953, both born in Camberwell, London, and sadly now both deceased. Their parents were George Chattington and Jessie Frances Verge. I have come across several Chattington family trees on Ancestry and hope to share all of the photographs with relatives in the future. Fingers crossed.

However, as a slight aside, while conducting my research I came across a tragic event that happened in 1921, involving Raymond and Rita’s uncle, James Chattington:

Newspaper headline: fall from train window

In spite of his sweetheart’s desperate effort to save him James Joseph Kiddell, 22, of Alice-street, Bermondsey, who fell through the window of a Brighton-to-London excursion train, met with a shocking death on Sunday.

Kiddell, who was a docker, had been spending the day at Brighton with his sweetheart, Miss Dowsett, of Coxson-place, Bermondsey, and his brother-in-law Mr. James Chattington. On the homeward journey finding all the third-class compartments full, the three entered a first-class compartment, with several others.

Most of the passengers alighted at East Croydon, leaving only three women and a man in the compartment, with Kiddell, Miss Dowsett, and Chattington.

“Just after we left East Croydon Station”, said Miss Dowsett to a ‘Daily News’ representative, “Jim stood up with his back to the carriage door and began to eat an apple.

“I looked away for a second and then I heard a noise and, glancing round, I saw Jim overbalance and fall out of the window. His foot became entangled in the window strap, or he would have gone at once.”

The above excerpt is taken from the Daily News (London), dated Tuesday 23 August 1921, and goes on to describe how Mr. Chattington (brother of George Chattington and husband of Kiddell’s sister) clutched the foot of James Kiddell in an effort to save him. The communication cord was pulled but nothing happened. In fact, the train continued through several stations before finally stopping, but by then it was far too late.

An inquest was held, and a witness recalled that Kiddell had attempted to sit on the open window bar, bending forwards into the carriage while doing so. There were questions around the functioning of the communication cord, since the train had been slow to stop (though the guard stated he had “stopped the train with discretion”). The railway company defended the actions of the guard and driver, and the jury returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’.

It is impossible to imagine the trauma caused by this tragedy, and the detailed newspaper reports of the time are all too vivid.

So to end this post on a happier note, here is a charming little photograph of Rita as a young girl. She has a shy smile on her face and a pretty alice band in her hair. Possibly taken for a special occasion, her parents obviously loved the photograph since on the back is written ‘reorder 4 extra copies’. I wonder if anyone out there still has a copy?


3 thoughts on “The Chattington Family (and a tragic event)

  1. What an awful story about falling out of the train window! Not to blame the victim, but it seems to me that he must have been (foolishly) sitting in the window rather than standing in front of it, unless the windows were really badly designed. Reminds me of when I was in England with my family in the summer of 2007. It rained constantly and many train tracks got washed out. Train service was cancelled for several days. When we finally got our train from York to London it was overcrowded and we had to perch in the luggage area between the cars. It didn’t seem safe, but unlike Jim, we made it to the end of the journey!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, and did see it mentioned in the articles that Mr. Kiddell had ‘needed air’. I have the impression that the carriage/compartment was initially crowded and probably hot. A door on the outside of each compartment doesn’t seem like the safest design, thank goodness that’s not the case anymore… though it’s not unusual for the area between modern carriages to be crowded too, as you found out on your trip! Happy New Year to you, and thank you for following my little blog 😊.

      Liked by 2 people

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