The Short Life of Charlie Beall

Today’s post is the research of James Crouch, of Banstead Historical Society. James has contributed to this blog on a few occasions before, and his writing is a treat; beautifully bringing to life the individuals pictured in our plates. Thanks to James for sharing the story of Master C Beall with us today.

Charlie Beall

Charlie Beall, December 1907

Betchworth Butcher, William Beall, and his young family came to Burgh Heath in the 1830’s to open a Butcher’s shop on the Green, near the Sheepshearer’s Arms (now demolished). Business was good and his son, Charles Beall,  later had a large new house and shop built on the eastern side of the Brighton Road, opposite Reigate Road, just to the left (north) of where the Burgh Heath War Memorial Hall is today. The house was later demolished and Maybury Close has since been built on the site.

After his Father’s death, Charles Beall expanded the family’s business interests into property and was one of the key figures in the development of Burgh Heath and Banstead in the late 19th Century, having had something like 60 houses built, including the whole of the south side of Oatlands Road (the northern side is a later development), most of the early houses in Diceland Road and many of the houses in Pound Road, as well as Beall’s Cottages, which used to stand on the Green. Charles retired to Sutton in the 1890s, living at Glebelands, in Cedar Road, with his second wife, Eleanor, and their daughter, Hilda Eleanor (who is very probably the “Miss Beall” in two Past On Glass photographs).

Miss Beall

Thought to be Hilda Beall

Charles enjoyed nearly two decades of retirement before his death in 1912 and during his later years, he served as a member of the Banstead Parish Council and as a councillor on and later leader of Epsom Rural District Council.

His son, Herbert, carried on the family Butcher’s business in Burgh Heath. Herbert was also a member of the Banstead Parish Council, like his father before him, and was one of the committee responsible for building St Mary’s, Burgh Heath, in the 1900s. It is his only child, Charlie, who is pictured in this photograph, taken by Knights-Whittome.

Charles George “Charlie” Beall was born to Herbert and Lilian Beall (nee Gutteridge) in February or March 1899 and baptised at All Saints, Banstead, on 26th March. The photograph was taken circa December 1907, when Charlie would have been eight years old. He was probably just about to go off to prep school. He seems to have attended Hurst Leigh School, Southampton, and probably its earlier incarnation, Handel College.

His parents sold their business to a Sutton butcher, Hawtrey Goldfinch (there is a Mrs Goldfinch in the PoG collection which might possibly relate to this family), who had a shop at 4 High Street, Sutton, and they moved down to Langley Cottage, in Fawley, by Southampton Water, presumably to be with Charlie, who had become a marine engineer when he left school in 1913-14. Goldfinch traded as Beall & Goldfinch and kept the name of the Burgh Heath shop as it was, so the Beall name survived in Burgh Heath into at leats the 1920’s.


Mrs Goldfinch

The Bealls stayed in Fawley throughout the war and then, on 5th January 1920, Herbert, Lilian and Charlie left Manchester aboard the Manchester Division, sailing first class for St John, New Brunswick, Canada. They had a “rough and slow passage” and arrived on the 23rd. Herbert was carrying just $250 in cash but had already bought a ranch outside Vancouver, on the west coast, and the Bealls were to make a new life for themselves, farming.

They were to travel cross-country by railway aboard sleeper trains on the Canadian Pacific Railway via Winnipeg. The No.1 Canadian Pacific Express for Vancouver was a large train, full of immigrants heading west, and was split into two separately-hauled sections; the Bealls travelled in the first one.

Sunday 25th January, the Bealls’ second full day in Canada, dawned cold. The train left Ottawa, 470 miles from St John, early that morning. By 11am the train had already covered over 200 miles along the Ottawa River valley but the engine pulling the first section was struggling in temperatures of 15 degrees below zero and after rounding a curve, it stalled, unable to raise steam in the cold, and the train came to a halt near the town of Corbeil, eight miles east of North Bay, Ontario. The brakeman jumped down and walked back along the track, placing detonators on the line twenty telegraph poles behind the train to warn the approaching No.2 section that danger lay ahead. A blast on the train’s whistle was sounded to recall him and he started walking back.



C.P.R. railway locomotive 2860  (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

No.2 Section had been delayed and was running fast, trying to make up time. The fireman was busy shovelling coal and the noise drowned out the crack of the detonators as the train ran over them. The brakeman had nearly reached the back of No.1 Section when he realised that No.2 Section was not going to stop. He turned around and ran towards them waving his flag. They didn’t see him. The second section rounded the curve at between 35 and 40 miles per hour, the engine’s huge boiler obscuring the driver’s view until it was too late. They saw the stalled No.1 Section when they were just a car length away. It was too late to jump. The driver shut off steam and jammed on the emergency brakes. It was the last thing he remembered when he came to.

No.1 Section’s crew stood trackside by their stalled train, some of the passengers looking out of the windows at the approaching train with interest. A brakeman and porter stood on the rear platform of the observation car and watched the train coming. Suddenly, they realised it was not going to stop. The brakeman jumped, the porter turned around and entered the car.

Inside the train, Herbert was in the smoking car while 19-year-old Charlie sat chatting with his mother in a Pullman car when No.2 Section smashed into them, ploughing its way through the rear three carriages of No.1 Section before turning over. Witnesses spoke of two impacts. With the first hit, Charlie threw his arms around his mother’s neck and said “Oh! Mum” and then the second hit threw him through the side of the train and the carriage rolled over on top of him.

Herbert was hit in the back of the head and cut. When he regained consciousness, he found himself in the corridor of a carriage with a dead man and another with a smashed hand. Learning that Charlie was missing, he searched for him as fellow passengers frantically ran up and down the length of the train seeking news of their loved ones; “I tried hard to find my dear boy, but was nearly frozen, it being 20 degrees below zero.” Charlie was eventually found, dead, under the Pullman car. Remarkably, Lilian was untouched.

It was more than two hours before the injured could be rescued. A scrap of cloth protruding from under the edge of a door lying in the snow, which people had been walking over, led the rescuers to an unconscious woman underneath it. A lady lay trapped under the enormous weight of the fender of the overturned engine of No.2 Section until someone had the bright idea of digging her out instead of trying to lift the engine off her.

There were at least nine people killed and thirteen injured seriously enough in the crash to require hospital treatment. All of the dead were from the rear cars of No.1 Section. They included a couple and their young child, two young boys and their mother, a doctor, the porter who had been at the rear of the train and Charlie.

The Bealls wired Lilian’s brother, Sidney, who had emigrated to Canada before them, and he came 300 miles to meet them. They returned with him to bury Charlie at St Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. Herbert wrote home to England: “We buried the poor boy in the English Cemetery, Victoria Lawn, and some of the young friends of Mrs. Beall’s brother carried him to his resting place. Mrs. Beall is bearing up wonderfully.

Herbert and Lilian didn’t turn back. They went on to instead, to their new life, and made a success of their ranch. Both later died in Canada.


2 thoughts on “The Short Life of Charlie Beall

  1. What an unfortunate event! I was in suspense throughout the whole story. That is so sad that such a tragedy happened to them. On a very cold day, too! Great writing, even if I was hoping for a better outcome. I love reading about what you all found on each person.


    • Thanks Kelsee – James is a brilliant researcher – this is a wonderfully written piece.
      Really appreciate your comments…its a privilege to be researching these plates, but always made more rewarding knowing that someone is following our efforts!


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