The William IV Gate and a melancholy event, 1852. Part II: Monday

As St. Swithin’s day approaches on the 15th we continue with the second part of our tragic true weather story from February 1852. Catch up with yesterday’s instalment if you missed it.

At the end of the first instalment, Bill was desperately tying to find help after the gate fell off its broken hinge, fortunately he came across a duty policeman and enlisted his assistance. The two men managed to push the gate back into position and closed the second gate against it. With the bolts shut, the gates were safe for the Sunday night.

On Monday morning of the 9th February 1852, Bill Snow surveyed the scene of The William IV Gate and considered his next move.

The William IV Gate
The William IV Gate

At 8.30 he reported the event to Lewis Slight, Clerk to the Town Commissioners – a man of considerable reputation. It was Slight who, almost single-handedly, and against much opposition had been responsible for the purchase of the Royal Pavilion only two years before for the bargain sum of £50,000.

Mr Slight listened to Bill with patience, and once he had established that Bill himself had not been injured, he reassured him that it had simply been an accident, was not his fault and that he should report the matter to the Surveyor’s office.

Finding no one at their desk, Bill returned to his Lodge, and with the morning fine and calm, he was able to open both the gates as usual, although the broken gate hung at an awkward angle, leaning against the wall. About ten minutes past ten, Bill was visited by Tom Oddy, an assistant in the Surveyor’s office. He had seen Mr Slight and heard about the broken hinge and been told to get it fixed immediately.

He and Bill examined the gate, and though he had no sense of imminent danger, said that he would issue an order from his office straight away.  At 10,30, using his official counter-foiled order book, he sent off an order to John Packham & Sons, iron-founders of Western Road to ‘Take off gate North Lodge of Pavilion, repair hinge and re-hang the same’. He gave this to a messenger, David Taylor, and told him to tell Mr Packham to get the job done immediately. But although the order was received, the verbal, urgent message was not.

By this time the Surveyor Richard Stickney had been told of the events surrounding the gate and seeing that an order for repair had been made, decided not to get involved. Later, he was to regret this, thinking that he should perhaps have given instructions that the gate was to be removed and leant against the wall, and that in hindsight, the hinges should have been made of wrought iron and not cast.

Meanwhile, Lewis Slight bumped into the contractor John Packham who told him that the order for repair had been received, but that nothing yet had been done and that his man was busy on Tuesday, but would attend on Wednesday. Whatever Lewis Slight thought of this delay, it was of little value to Bill Snow, who by the end of the day was faced with the difficult job of once more closing the gates.

He approached the Pavilion and asked Mr Edwards who was in charge of a group of workmen if they could lend a hand. Bob Newnham, a bricklayer together with another three workmen went over to help. With the aid of a lever they managed to get the gate into position. They placed wood underneath the gate to help support its weight, and a six-foot length of deal against it and jammed the end into the ground. Though Bill was happier with the gate now secured more safely he regretted that no one had come to repair the gate on that day.

Read the final instalment of the story tomorrow when Bill’s regrets turn to horror…

 

John Cooper, Volunteer & Training Manager

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