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TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Pimlico Gardens and Huskisson
A lovely park with a statue with a horrible history.
Location: Chelsea Embankment, Pimlico
Description: Pimlico Gardens are a council managed set of beautiful cultured gardens along the north bank of the River Thames between Chelsea and Westminster.
The gardens are a popular spot for joggers, dog walkers and local corporate party planners because of the marvellous river views and the pleasant plane trees and pleasing sculptures.
The most prominent statue is of William Huskisson (17701830), a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool.
He is, unfortunately for him, renowned for being the world's first widely reported railway casualty - he was run over by George Stephenson's pioneering locomotive engine Rocket!
Huskisson was a railway enthusiast, and was fascinated by the developing British railway system and in 1830 he attended the opening ceremony of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The ceremony consisted of a procession of Stephenson's Rockets each drawing carriages full of dignitaries including the Duke of Wellington.
One of the spectators, Lady Wilton decsribed the fateful event like this An engine on the other line, which was parading up and down merely to show its speed, was seen coming down upon [the dignateries] like lightening. The most active of those in peril sprang back into their seats; Lord Wilton saved his life only by rushing behind the Duke's carriage, and Count Matuscenitz had but just leaped into it, with the engine all but touching his heels as he did so; while poor Mr. Huskisson, less active from the effects of age and ill-health, bewildered, too, by the frantic cries of 'Stop the engine! Clear the track!' that resounded on all sides, completely lost his head, looked helplessly to the right and left, and was instantaneously prostrated by the fatal machine, which dashed down like a thunderbolt upon him, and passed over his leg, smashing and mangling it in the most horrible way.
Strangely the statue doesnt mention this, simply depicting Huskisson bizarrely as a Roman in a toga. The sculptor was John Gibson, a descendant of William's half-brother, Thomas Huskisson.