The Platt Family

(A fatal explosion which resulted in a long, if not the longest, serving charwoman and pregnancy)

(originally published in Journal 59, April 2014, of the NLRHS)
[John and Elizabeth Platt, and children William, Daniel and Alice]

  John Platt was born in Finchley on the 21 September 1827, son of William, a labourer, and Jane Platt. On the 17 February 1851 he married Elizabeth Mitcham in Spitalfields. At the time he was a baker but within four years had become a fireman. As the family were living in Bow it could be assumed that he was with the NLR. By October 1859 he was an engine driver living in St Pancras. Unfortunately on Monday 7 October 1867 the stationary engine in Highbury Coal Depot, of which he was the driver, exploded killing him and wrecking the engine house. The verdict of the coroner’s jury was “accidental death.” The normal confusion in matters historical NLR applies. With two exceptions his name is shown is shown as John. The two exceptions, the 1851 census return and the Illustrated London News report, refer to him as Charles. John’s widow, Elizabeth, was born about 1830, daughter of Emanuel, labourer, and Sarah Mitcham, in St Mary’s, Staines. When she was widowed she was left with, according to the NLR Board, “eight children and near her confinement.” The General Manager was authorised to assist her and was given fifty pounds; ten pounds of which was set aside for funeral expenses. She was also given a job as a charwomen, a post she held for thirty-four years, resigning as Haggerston station’s charwoman, where she had been earning fifteen shillings a week, in October 1901. The board rewarded her long service with a gratuity of ten pounds. In the 1911 Census she is listed as a patient, as opposed to an inmate, in the City of London Union Workhouse and Infirmary in Clapton. She died in 1915, aged 85. The child born shortly after John Platt’s death, was a son, Charles Frederick. Of their other children, two, William and Daniel, worked for the NLR and one, Alice, was daddy’s little afterthought. William was born on 14 May 1852 in Camden Town and after school tried pork butchery (1871 Census), working as a foreman, railway engine cleaners (1881 Census), and immediately before starting with the NLR was a builder’s labourer. His railway career began on 19 July 1882 as a porter at Shoreditch. After about nine months he was promoted to a Broad Street shunter on tweny-one shillings a week. In October 1884, he sprained his ankle whilst on duty and was off work on half pay for three weeks. In mid-1889 he was again off work, this time due to sickness. It must have been of debilitating nature as when returned he was employed as a ticket collector at Old Ford, with a shilling a week drop in pay. Ticket collector’s jobs were often used to keep railwayman whose fitness was reduced to the extent they could no longer cary out their duties but were still able to continue working in more sedentary employment. He was only at Old Ford until the October when he died, leaving a widow, Emma, whom he married in August 1884, and a son, Stephen, who was under a year old. Emma returned to her old work as a domestic servant. Fortunately she found a place where she was allowed to have her young son with her: with a widow as cook. The fact that her sister, Amelia, was also there as a housemaid may have had something to do with it (1891 Census). Daniel Thomas was born on 22 April 1855 in Bow. He was baptised a month later and it is on his baptismal certificate that his father is shown as a fireman. After leaving school he was a tool carrier on a railway (1871 Census). Ten years later (1881 Census) he was an attendant at the Grove Hall Lunatic Asylum, Fairfield Road, Bow. Two months later, on 3 June, he followed in his brother’s footsteps, and became a NLR porter on eighteen shillings week. He did this for over five years and then, on 30 October 1886, resigned. In early 1882 he had married Louisa Isabella Wagner, who was born in Berne. They subsequently emigrated to Australia, where she died in in 1934 and he died in February 1941. We now come to Alice, who, as far as the author is aware, had nothing to do with the NLR. On the 11 December 1892 she married Jonathan Reid in St Philip’s Church, Dalston, and, as far as is known, they lived happily ever after. The church marriage register shows her father as John Platt, engine driver, and her age as 22. So perhaps daddy’s little afterthought should be daddy’s little afterlife.

Peter Bloomfield

After note. Details of Alice’s early life are vague and, to a certain extent, contradictory: even my intrepid researchers, Margaret Foote and Mandy Bloomfield, could not come up with anything. She first appears in the 1881 Census with her age shown as eight, her relationship shown as as a daughter of Elizabeth, immediately below Charles who was born shortly after his father’s death. In the 1891 Census Alice is the only person Elizabeth had still living with her and her age is shown as twenty. No record of her birth has been found. Presumably a case of naughty Elizabeth. After Alice’s marriage her husband set up his own company, Jonathan Reid & Co, a tin plate works in Cubitt Town.


RAIL 529/21, 17 Oct 1867, Board Min 714. Death of John Platt. RAIL 529/31, 17 Oct 1901 Board Min 6030. Retirement of his widow. RAIL 529/50 28 Jun 1881, Loco Com Min 4462. RAIL 529/51, 1 Aug 1882, Loco Com Min Min 4844. RAIL 529/52 4 Nov 1884, Loco Com Min 5645. RAIL 529/52 2 Dec 1884, Loco Com Min 5685. RAIL 529/53 2 Nov 1886, Loco Com Min 6359. RAIL 529/54 5 Jun 1889, Loco Com Min 7341. RAIL 529/54 3 Jul 1889, Loco Com Min 7373. RAIL 529/54 30 Oct 1889, Loco Com Min 7482. RAIL 529/61, 31 Oct 1901, Loco Com Min 11533.Staff registers: RAIL 529/133/696 Folio 175. RAIL 529/134/209 Folio 64. RAIL 529/134/659 Folio 225.Illustrated London News, 12 Oct 1867, p395 For Daniel Platt, family details on ‘ancestry.’ 1902 Post Office Directory, 1902, Tin Plate Workers. Page 157.
London Metropolitan Archives: Kensal Green, St John The Evangelist, P87/JNE2, Item 013, p239. Finchley St Mary, DRO/032/A/01, Item 006, p112. Staines St Mary, DL/DRO/BT/058, Item 026, p151. Parish of St Pancras, P90/PAN1, Item 031, p172. Kensington St Barnabas, P84/BAN, Item 002, p81. Saint Mary, Spital Square, P93/MRY2, Item 005, p247.1851 Census [HO 107/1497, f291, p67]. 1861 Census [RG 9/122, f80, p3]. 1871 Census [RG 10/570, f110, p20]. 1881 Census [RG 11/1718, f 40, p43]. 1881 Census [RG 11/493, f90, p2]. 1891 Census [RG 12/25, f97, p14]. 1891 Census [RG 12/193, f50, p27.]. 1901 Census [RG 13/227, f18, p27]. 1901 Census [RG 13/358, f24, p39]. 1911 Census [RG 14/1105]. 1911 Census [RG 14/1742].