Katherine Delicia Woodforde 1878-1904

The tragic story of my great aunt Katherine is difficult to recount but it is an important part of the family's history. 

She was the youngest child of the Revd Alexander John Woodforde and Elizabeth Woodforde nee Laishley.   She was born on 6th April 1878 in Bridport, Dorset and baptised at Shepton Montague in Somerset where her father was the officiating minister.

Katherine had three brothers and three sisters, the youngest being Margaret who was two years her senior.

On Tuesday 13th September 1904, Katherine's body was found on the tracks of the railway line near Puxton and Worle station at a point known as Hick's Crossing.  It was clear she had been struck by a train.  At this time, the family were living in Locking where her father was the rector.

Katherine in 1899
Katherine in 1899

Katherine had been seen riding her bicycle nearby along the road towards Hewish which was then the main route by road to Bristol from Weston-super-Mare.  She had been seen dismounting.  It would appear that Katherine then walked the half mile from the road to the railway line.  She was twenty-six years old.

The line is the main line from Taunton to Bristol on what was then the Bristol and Exeter Railway, and the station is about one mile north of the junction where the loop line serving Weston-super-Mare rejoins the main line, approximately three miles from Locking.

At the inquest, reported in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, her father said that she had been very ill in the spring from Influenza and had since been the subject of 'terrible fits of despondency' which he considered to be 'hysteria'.  Whilst staying at Ilfracombe in June, presumably whilst recuperating,  she had sat out on the rocks and caught a chill, which is when the fits of despondency set in.

He stated that his daughter had never threatened to take her own life.  There had been no family quarrels and he knew of nothing that had upset her.

The coroner ruled that the evidence pointed to the fact that Katherine went onto the track 'with the express purpose of taking her life'.   The jury returned a verdict of 'suicide during temporary insanity'.

Her mother had died in 1885 when Katherine was seven.   Her father married Agnes Collett in 1886.  At the time of the 1901 census, she was working in Bettws, Glamorgan, as governess in the household of one Edward F. Lynch-Blosse.

Katherine was buried in the family grave at Locking on 17th September 1904.  Her father attended, but the funeral was conducted by Revd. W.Rosen, rector of Hutton, the adjacent parish.