A tragedy on Oxford Street

James Burtenshaw was driving his cart, laden with hay, along Oxford Street in the early autumn of 1889. At the same time a small girl pushed a child in a ‘bassinette perambulator’ along the pavement.


It was about half past five in the afternoon and Burtenshaw hardly noticed the girl or saw the pram slip off the kerb. The girl was unable to control the pram and it tumbled over spilling an eighteen-month old baby into the street.

Burtenshaw sat atop his cart but his view of the street was obscured and he didn’t see young Frederick Harold Wright fall under the wheels of his vehicle. The cart passed over the boy, crushing his chest and killing him at once.

The boy’s mother was ill – one’s presumes this is why he was out with a neighbour or perhaps his sister. The family resided in Berners Street in Fitzrovia, just close by to the busy shopping street where the girl was walking the pram. Frederick’s father was away on holiday on the Ilse of Wight, his homecoming was now going to be a very sad affair.

The magistrate ordered that there should be an inquest but he said no blame attached to the cart driver. Burtenshaw was bound on his own recognizances to give evidence before the coroner but the whole episode was a tragic accident, not a crime.

[From The Standard, Thursday, September 05, 1889]

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