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The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster 1874 (Hardback)

Heroes, Victims, Survivors

Local History British History Transport Trains and Railways 19th Century

By Phyllida Scrivens
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526764027
Published: 30th September 2021

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The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster of 1874 is the third title from Norwich writer and biographer Phyllida Scrivens, who lives less than half a mile from the site of the fatal collision.

At Norwich Station on 10 September 1874, a momentary misunderstanding between the Night Inspector and young Telegraph Clerk resulted in an inevitable head-on collision. The residents of the picturesque riverside village of Thorpe-Next-Norwich were shocked by a ‘deafening peal of thunder’, sending them running through the driving rain towards a scene of destruction. Surgeons were summoned from the city, as the dead, dying and injured were taken to a near-by inn and boatyard. Every class of Victorian society was travelling that night, including ex-soldiers, landowners, clergymen, doctors, seamstresses, saddlers, domestic servants and a beautiful heiress.

For many months local and national newspapers followed the story, publishing details of subsequent deaths, manslaughter trial and outcomes of record-breaking compensation claims. The Board of Trade Inquiry concluded that it was ‘the most serious collision between trains meeting one another on a single line of rails […] that has yet been experienced in this country.’

Using extensive research, non-fiction narrative, informed speculation and dramatised events, Phyllida Scrivens pays tribute to the 28 men, women and children who died, revealing the personal stories behind the names, hitherto only recorded as a list.

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 Phyllida Scrivens

About Phyllida Scrivens

Phyllida Scrivens lives with husband Victor in Thorpe St Andrew, just outside the city of Norwich, overlooking the picturesque River Yare. In 2016 she achieved a life-long ambition when her first biography Escaping Hitler, was published by Pen and Sword Books, followed by Skyhorse Publications of New York in 2017. Her second book, a group biography entitled The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923-2017, won the Best Biography Prize at the East Anglian Book Awards in November 2018. She is a popular public speaker, giving talks on her work throughout Norfolk and beyond.


Phyllida studied for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction with Biography from the University of East Anglia, graduating in 2014.

Illustrated talk: The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster of 1874: Heroes, Victims, Survivors

16th September 2021

This Illustrated Talk from Norwich Writer, Biographer and Public Speaker Phyllida Scrivens, is based on her new biographical take on The Great Thorpe Railway Disaster 1874, a Victorian railway collision, well known in Norwich and beyond, during Heritage Open Days in Norwich. The main site is free to explore but the talk must be pre-booked. Booking opens: 9 August 2021, 10:00 and closes 15 September 2021, 15:00.


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