top of page

1923 - 100 Years Ago

NEW 30/04/23 Rail Crash 100 Years Ago Click HERE



The results of the 1923 General Election in the UK. What would be the result if we had another one tomorrow?

The general election of 1923 was fought on the issue of free trade versus protectionism. The Conservatives, led by Stanley Baldwin, won the most seats, but Labour, led by Ramsay MacDonald, and H. H. Asquith's reunited Liberal Party gained enough seats to produce a hung parliament. MacDonald formed the first ever Labour government with informal support from the Liberals. Rather than trying to bring the Liberals back into government, Asquith's motivation for permitting Labour to enter power was that he hoped they would prove to be incompetent and quickly lose support. Being a minority, MacDonald's government only lasted ten months and another general election was held in October 1924, resulting in a Conservative landslide led by Stanley Baldwin. What will happen here in 2024, or will there be a snap election this year?

In Stoke, polling started eight am in the School (no village hall then), and continued until nine pm, this being an hour longer than at previous polls. A Mr. Crump sat as the returning-officer. The Taunton Courier reported: "Fortunately, it proved a fine day, with  cold, dry air, which was a great boon after the recent heavy rains. Colonel Gault arrived for a short time soon after nine a.m. and Mr. & Mrs. Hope Simpson came between four and five p.m., and had cup of tea in the village. A good number of cars and vehicles were busy throughout the day taking electors to and from the polling station. Things were brisk after the day's work was over, but quietness and good temper prevailed." It seems that both candidates toured the whole constituency during the day.


Sir John Hope Simpson (pictured here) won the seat for the Liberals but was defeated in the 1924 election, when even Lloyd George's fortunes could not prop up the Liberal Party.

Local Election

District Council elections were held in the same year, and according to the newspaper report it was a very 'gentlemanly' contest: "Election Day. An election to the District Council took place on Monday, April 23rd, in the National School-room, to fill the vacancy caused the death Mr. H. M. Hembrow [Holly Farm]. The candidates were:—Mr. Edmund Boobyer, Lees Farm, willow' merchant; and Mr. Reginald Garland, of Curload Farm, farmer. The contest was fought with keen interest and on no party lines. Conservatives, Liberals, Nonconformists, and Churchmen giving their vote irrespective of religious or political differences. Nine cars were busy taking electors to the poll, both sides conveying each others supporters. From the beginning it was the most friendly contest ever fought in Stoke Gregory. The poll was declared about nine o’clock the same evening, the result being as follows;—Boobyer, 295; Garland, 161; majority for Boobyer, 134. After the result was made known both candidates thanked their supporters, Mr. Boobyer congratulating Mr. Garland on the plucky fight he had put up."

"STOKE ST. GREGORY. After Many Years—A remarkable story of a dream that led to the recovery of a purse of money lost 18 years ago comes from Stoke St. Gregory. and is related by a well known farmer, Mr Frank Hembrow. Hunthan Farm. Eighteen years ago, when a boy going to school, Mr. Hembrow lost a purse containing four silver coins (a half-crown, two florins, and a shilling), also a half-penny, ten farthings, and locket. A few days ago he commenced clean out ditch by the roadside, but had no thought of looking for his long-lost purse. That night, however, he was strangely reminded of it in dream. He dreamt that would find his purse in the ditch the next day. Upon starting work the following morning he was very curious to see if the dream would come true, and decided to look at every shovelful of mud removed from the ditch. Upon turning up the second shovelful he saw something embedded in the mud, and carefully removing it found it was the lost purse - the leather rotted, it is true, but still containing every coin and the locket as on the day it disappeared. The contents, in fact, appeared very little the worse for the 18 years interment. The story of the dream and the discovery is a fruitful topic of discussion among the country folk of the district, many of whom have a strong belief in omens."



Back in 1905, Frank Hembrow lost his purse on his way to school. Why he should have had so much money in it (today's equivalent of nearly £60!)? This is the story of how he found it 18 years later, as reported in the Taunton Courier.


A Rail Crash at Wick


Crossing the railway at Wick on the way from Stathe to Langport. If you look up the track to the left you will se the site of  the first rail collision on our section of line since the opening in 1906. It was in 1923 - 100 years ago this month. 

    The Langport Herald reported on the incident in its issue of 28th April 2023

GOODS TRAIN RUNS INTO RAIL MOTOR -- PASSENGERS INJURED. MAIN LINE BLOCKED FOR MANY HOURS. An alarming railway collision occurred on Wednesday evening on the G.W.R. main line to the West of England, on the section from Taunton to Castle Cary, the actual scene of the accident being near Wick Bridge, about half a mile from the Curry Rivel Junction signal box, Langport. From information gathered by our representatives, it appears that the rail motor train which leaves Taunton at 7.50 p.m. had proceeded on its journey all right until after leaving Athelney at 8. 11 p.m. It was due at Langport East at 8.22 p.m., when about half a mile from the junction signal box the driver of the engine attached to the rail motor was alarmed to see approaching him on the up line, a heavy goods train. The rail motor driver immediately shut off steam, and blew his danger whistle, reversed the engine, and put on his brakes, and succeeded in bringing the train practically to a standstill on the Langport side of Wick Bridge. The driver and fireman then jumped from their engine, and the guard also jumped out, and fortunately escaped injury, with the exception of a few bruises.

THE COLLISION The goods train, however, crashed head-on into the engine of the rail motor, when going, it is alleged, about 20 miles an hour. The force of the impact was such that the small engine of the rail motor was wrecked and both engines being locked together, the rail-motor was carried back 130 yards. The rail motor, itself, was considerably damaged in front, the buffers being driven in. and some of the plate glass windows smashed to atoms. The heavy goods engine was also considerably damaged. Two of the coal trucks were derailed and badly smashed.

THE INJURED. Immediately the trains had come to a standstill information was given with all speed to the stationmasters at Langport West and Athelney, and breakdown gangs were quickly on the spot. The rail motor, fortunately, had kept to the metals, but the shock of the collision violently threw the 14 passengers from their seats, and six or seven of them sustained injuries. Mr. G. Gale, of Upton, Long Sutton, received a blow on the head and injured his hip. The most seriously injured, however, was Miss M. Holland, of Melbury, Somerton, who was badly cut on the head, and sustained concussion of the brain. She had to be attended by Dr. R. P. Hosford, of Langport, who took her to Somerton in his car. She was still in a dazed condition on Thursday afternoon. The passengers were taken back to Athelney by another goods train, and transferred to the Yeovil branch train which is due at Langport West at 9.34 p.m. This train was run via Langport East to Castle Cary and Yeovil, the four passengers for Martock being conveyed from Langport to the former town by motorcar.

MAIN LINE BLOCKED FOR HOURS. . . The work of clearing away the wrecked engine and rail motor commenced about 9 p.m. and proceeded all night, but it was not until about 7 a.m. on Thursday morning that the up line was finally clear, all traffic in the meantime having to proceed by the down line, being worked through by means of single line working.

THE CAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT. The train which collided with the rail motor was a special heavy freight train from Swindon : laden with coal. It proceeded as far as Curry Rivel junction signal box all right, and there was shunted back on the Langport West up line, to allow another train to pass. Afterwards, for some unknown reason, it passed out from the junction signal box on the up line, the fact apparently being un-noticed, and just before the collision occurred the goods train was 'getting into its stride.’ The commendable presence of mind of the driver of the rail motor engine, and the fact that the rail motor was of the "auto-train" type, with separate engine in front, instead of the self-contained type, undoubtedly prevented far more serious results.

EVIDENCE OF PASSENGERS. Interviewed by a "Herald" representative on Thursday evening, Mrs. T. H. Duckworth, of Hill Head, Somerton, stated that her husband, who is 76 years of age, was still suffering very much from shock and bruises, accentuated by the fact that Mr. Duckworth suffers from a weak heart, and she herself still felt the effects, especially after the long journey they had had from Manchester. Mrs. Duckworth said she had no idea that anything was wrong until the collision occurred, but her husband had informed her that he heard the danger whistle being blown and knew, from previous experience, that there was going to be a smash. Mrs. Duckworth added that when the impact occurred everyone was violently thrown out of their seats, windows were smashed and consternation reigned. Only one of the doors could be opened to allow the passengers to get out, owing to the damage to the front part of the rail motor. The passengers were taken back to Athelney by another goods train, and brought on by the Yeovil branch train which arrived at Somerton about 11 p.m.  Mr. G Gale, another of the injured stated: the first he heard was the danger whistle and he realised that something was wrong, but before one could say "Jack Robinson" he was thrown down. When he got outside, he was dazed with the shock and asked what had happened, and his wife informed him that a collision had taken place and all the passengers had been thrown down. He helped with the removal of the wreckage until 3 a.m. Other passengers stated they did not hear anything until the accident actually occurred. Much excitement has naturally been caused in the district, no such accident having occurred since the opening of the Castle Cary - Taunton Great Western main line in 1906.

BACK  to Main Stoke St Gregory History Pages 

BACK  to Years of History Index

bottom of page