Several volunteers have said that when they are alone in the basement of the engine house at Abbey Pumping Station they get the sense that they are not really alone. There is a feeling, a warm sensation that someone or something is there with you. Is this the ghost of Robert Richardson watching over the current keepers of his beloved Beam Engines?
The only known fatal casualty whilst building the Abbey Pumping Station happened just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday 26th August 1890 when Robert Richardson a 43 year old labourer was working as an engineering labourer for the main contractors, Gimson Iron founders of Vulcan Road Leicester. At the time 2 hours overtime was being worked each day in order for the building and engines to be completed on time, when he missed his footing on scaffolding in the roof and fell some 45 feet (14 Metres) sustaining internal injuries. At the time he was marking some ironwork with red lead.
A doctor was called and Robert was rushed to the Leicester Royal Infirmary where he died from his injuries two days later with his wife at his bedside. Sadly, injuries that by today’s improved medical standards and hygiene could have been treated.
As it was Robert had already been widowed and had remarried in 1883, 7 years earlier. He now left his wife, Augusta and a young child to fend for themselves in a time when financial help, as we know it today, was totally unknown.
The inquest into Robert’s death was report by the Leicester Mercury on Saturday 30th August 1890.
Robert was buried at Welford Road Cemetery on Monday 1st September 1890 on a day when it was reported there was terrific thunderstorms over Leicester, most probably causing local flooding. His workmates were not allowed time off to attend his funeral, so out of respect they inscribed the simple memorial in the brickwork at the spot where he fell as a lasting memorial.
So if you ever visit the museum, and get to stand by Robert Richardsons cross in the basement, don’t forget to say hello to him!