The Farnborough Explorer
Interesting Things Around Farnborough

Assault on the Railway

On the 11th July 1864, Farnborough Station saw the first arrest for a new kind of crime: Assault on a train. There had been several prosecutions for assault on trains prior to this, however there was dispute over the status of the trains. It was uncertain until this time whether a train carriage was public or private property and this defined whether a crime had taken place or merely a civil offence. If a civil offence had been committed, then the offender could be prosecuted by the railway company but not arrested or detained. If a criminal offence had taken place then the police and the public would have the power of arrest. It had been decided mere months previously that a train was a public carriage and therefore such offences were criminal.

In this particular incident, the assailant was Henry Nash, a yeoman farmer from Farnborough and the assaulted lady was a Miss Mary Moody, the daughter of the curator of Winchester Museum. Miss Moody had been shopping in London and was returning to Winchester on the 1:10pm train from Waterloo. She had started in the train's compartment with another lady and Nash. As soon as the train left Waterloo, Nash tried to force a conversation with the other lady who left the carriage at Surbiton. Miss moody tried to get out too, but was slow in gathering her baggage and the train started before she could get off. Nash then laid down across the seat opposite her and began to question her in a lewd manner. In panic, Miss Moody stood up and Nash got up too, grabbing her around the waist with one hand while starting to lift her dress up with the other. Fearing for her virtue, Miss Moody opened the carriage door and climbed out. After Miss Moody climbed out of the door, Nash gave up on assaulting her and closed the carriage door, leaving her clinging to the side of the train as it was travelling at a speedy 50 miles an hour through the countryside.

In the next compartment, Mr Stokes, a military bootmaker from North Camp saw Miss Moody hanging by one hand from the now closed door. He reached out from his window and caught hold, pulling her up onto the running board of his compartment and held on to her with all his effort while farmers in adjacent fields on seeing them, shouted to raise the guard's attention until the train was stopped. Miss Moody was helped into Mr Stoke's compartment and the train then continued to the nearest station, Farnborough, where Nash was arrested.

Nash was initially brought up in front of Hampshire's magistrates but the prossecution was dropped as the assault had taken place while the train was travelling through Surrey. Nash was finally brought before the Surrey Assizes for Indecent Assault and Common Assault. The first charge was dropped, but nash was found guilty of the second and given nine month's hard labour.

The case is noted not only for being the first time a person was arrested for assault on a train, it is also the case that caused the development and installation of the 'Communication Cord'.