Robert Langton Pearson was a resident of Hampton Gay from the late 1860s we believe, he lived in the manor half of the house and leased the paper mill in the village. He was born approx 1819 in Lancashire. His father was in the paper making industry and Pearson spent his working life in the same trade.
We know very little about him, what we do know is mainly from his time at Hampton Gay.
His lease on the mill was for 21 years, he and his men were working the day of the train crash in 1874. He immediately stopped production at the mill and ordered his men to assist with the survivors of the train wreck.
Pearson opened up a room in the mill for the bodies of the unfortunate souls who did not survive, to lie in.
To assist the survivors of the crash, Pearson along with other locals opened up their houses to take them in, providing them with blankets, food and drink.
Later on when the inquest was in progress, Pearson had put in claims for the above mentioned supplies plus rugs, wine and spirits, along with pulp destroyed in the mills rag engines, damaged pipes plus loss of business/interest and men's wages including his own!
The mill lay empty for about a week and this caused damage to the equipment because of the frost and freezing weather conditions.
Pearson responded to a letter in the Oxford Times that suggested he said he had only been left the clothes in which he wore on that sad fateful night. He said "that he wasn't quite left in only the clothes he was wearing".
He went on to say about the damage to mill equipment by the enforced stoppage and that he and his men helped wash the bodies of the dead and arranged them for identification.
Pearson said "The consequence is that now we are all more or less unnerved, two are at home ill and the rest do not care to remain on the premises; and I do wonder at it, for I feel myself thoroughly unnerved and require a change of scene now the excite is over. Time I hope will restore us all and wear it away, but the difficulty in our case is being on the spot; everything we see constantly brings to our memories vividly the sad event of Christmas Eve."
It was later suggested by 'Justitia' in the papers, that the help Pearson gave was considerably over-estimated and that there were others who had helped more. His letter also tells us the bodies of the dead were huddled up in an unsuitable building in the mill.
The bodies were moved the next day to a larger room, this would have been done by Pearson's men according to his letter stating his men were dealing with the dead.
In April 1875 RLP wrote to the Pall Mall Gazette stating: "A paragraph appearing in a recent publication to the effect that the GWR Co have paid me a sum of compensation for the services I rendered them after the accident on Christmas Eve, is utterly without foundation. In justice to myself I beg to say that up to the present time I have not received any intimation from the company of either thanks or compensation."
While researching we found a book called 'Lectures, Addresses' - Unknown Author.
Pearson was probably living in Oxford at the time this was written.
He is mentioned in this book and is described as being in his seventies, "A typical English gentleman with grey eyes, a full thick beard and bald with a silver fringe."
He had never married and suffered with Palsy so struggled to write at times, he spent his days in the Oxford libraries and attended services at the Cathedral and lived a leisurely life.
It also says that he he returned to the manor house at the Hampton Gay after the fire and wandered through the debris moaning with great sadness over the loss of his belongings, but we do know that the manor house half at the time of the fire was occupied by the New brothers.
Pearson died at 83 yrs old in 1902, he had been living in Edith Road in Oxford in lodgings. He was buried at Botley cemetery off Botley Road on April 1st 1902. We have tried to find his grave but it looks like he does not have a headstone.
Timeline for Robert Langton Pearson:
1819 - Born in The Abbey, Whalley, Lancashire
1841 - Paper Manufacturer at King Street, Blackburn. Census says he is 20 yrs old. Unable to confirm this definitely as no middle names or initials were written on the Census but he was the only one found in Blackburn.
1851 - Lodging in Branthwaite in Cumberland, unmarried. Census says he is 31 yrs old. Living in the same building as Isabella Simon, Innkeeper 59 yrs old, Martha Simon 31 and Elenor Simon 22.
Pearson and his brother George 22 yrs old both paper manufacturers.
1853 - Reported in the London Gazette 2nd September. Says partnership of Pearson and his business partner James Holden of Branthwaite paper manufacturers dissolved. Pearson still living in Branthwaite at this time.
1861 - Birch? St Ardwick, Manchester - boarder. 40 yrs old.
1867 - London Gazette January 8th reports Pearson late of Withington Manchester and late prisoner for debt in Lancaster prison after being declared bankrupt on December 19th 1866 was required to surrender
himself to David Cato Macrae, Esq, a registrar of the court of bankruptcy at Manchester to meet with creditors on the 25th January 18. Found on page 7 bankruptcy notices.
January 9th - The Morning Post - Under Bankrupts - Pearson of Whithington Near Manchester , paper January 25th at 11am.
1871 - Census shows Pearson at Camarra House in Reading, visitor - unmarried old. Paper Manufacturer
1875 - Census shows Pearson at Hampton Gay, head of house - unmarried. 59 yrs old - Paper Manufacturer.
Employing 5 men, 1 boy, 3 girls.
October 16th Jacksons Oxford Journal - Petty Sessions, Bullingdon division- held at County Hall on October 9th -
Robert Fletcher of Hampton Gay, labourer was charged with assaulting Pearson on September 13th. Mr Swerse appeared forthe complainant and Mr Berridge of Bicester for the defendant.
Fletcher was bound over in the sum of 20s to keep the peace for 6 months.
Fire at Hampton Gay Mill - November 5th. The mill was destroyed by fire, reports tell us that Pearson stopped his men from putting out the fire and was criticized for this.
1882 - February 25th - The Leeds Mercury (from the London Gazette) reports under Liquidations by arrangement - Robert Langton Pearson, Hampton Gay, paper manufacturer.