Mind that ice!

'Elements of Skateing. Making the most of a passing friend, in a case of emergency!', 1805. Artist: James Gillray

The following salient warning comes from Birmingham Daily Gazette, January 30th, 1865

Street Accidents – If our readers had an opportunity of inspecting the books at the hospitals, it would teach them caution in walking through the streets during the continuance of the present frosty weather. On the out-patient books there are long lists of what are comparatively minor casualties, but which every one would be anxious to avoid. Broken arms are numerous, and there are some more serious cases too. On Saturday, a man named Hemming, a brassfounder of Cottage Lane, was admitted to the General Hospital with a compound fracture of the leg. A child of eight years of age named Chace, living in Rickard Street was admitted with a fractured leg.  An old woman of 65 years of age named Jane Hyde of Old Cross Street was admitted with an external fracture of the “external malleolus”. At about ten o’clock, a man named Cottrill, of Railway Terrace, Soho Wharf Gib Heath was carried in by his comrades, he having fallen on a “slide” and broken his knee. He was told what was amiss, and must remain in hospital, but he flatly refused to do so. The surgeon remonstrated and told him that the consequence of his obstinacy might be serious, but he persisted in his resolution. His comrades refused to take him away, as the surgeons wished him to remain, but this made no difference to him. He declared he would go home, even if he had to crawl on his hands and knees. The firmness of his purpose was that the poor fellow had a wife at home, and he would not alarm her by staying away, nor allow anyone but himself to tell her what had happened to him. At the Queen’s Hospital also, a great number of fractures and other casualties were attended to. 

There was a further story, in the same edition of the Gazette, of another icy-tumble:

Accident by the frost – In Friday’s Gazette we mentioned the fact that Mr. David Kendrick, ironmaster of Wolverhampton, while passing through the St. Philip’s Church-yard, fell down and fractured his right leg.  A gentleman who saw the occurrence lifted him in his arms and, while carrying him to a cab, also stumbled on a slide and fell, the result being that Mr. Kendrick’s leg was fractured a second time. He was instantly removed to the General Hospital, where his injuries received every attention. 

The danger of ice was a well recognised issue in nineteenth-century Birmingham. The making of ‘slides’, by young people skidding about on the ice, was considered a particular nuisance. Bye-laws issued in 1841 expressly forbade  ‘deliberate’ sliding upon ice or snow in any street or thoroughfare ‘to the common danger of passengers’. The throwing of snowballs in the street was also legislated against, and all could incur a fine of up to £5

The full list of bye-laws issued by Birmingham Town Council in 1841 can be found in the original minute books, ref. BCC 1/AA/1/1/1 at Library of Birmingham, Archives, Heritage and Photograpy. Local newspapers from the nineteenth century are also available there, free of charge to view an by subscription via British Newspaper Archives


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