Ralph Graham, 1820 - 1866

Information kindly provided by Pauline Tebbs. Ralph Graham was her great great grandfather's brother.


Ralph Graham was baptized at St. Andrew's Church, Aycliffe on December 31, 1820. He was the eldest child of John Graham, a weaver of Aycliffe, and his wife Ann Howe. Ralph was named after his grandfather who had willed the Weaving Shop to John in 1824.

In the 1841 census Ralph was 20, a weaver, still living at home with his parents. By the 1851 census he was 31, living with his first wife and son in North Row, next door to his parents, and entered as a Brick yard labourer. In the 1861 census Ralph was living with his second wife and three sons at East Row, Aycliffe and was a Quarrier of stone.

All Ralph's children were baptized at St. Andrew's Church. About 1864 or 1865 Ralph and his family moved to Darlington, where he worked as a labourer at Messrs Fry, Ianson and Co., Ironmasters. He and another man, James Wise, were killed at work in an accident caused by high winds in 1866. Ralph's body was brought back to Aycliffe and he was buried February 27, 1866 at St. Andrew's Church. Ralph was just fory five years old.

Newspaper account of Ralph Graham's death at Darlington

Transcription of the newspaper report:



Soon after two o'clock on Friday afternoon the extensive and valuable rolling mills of Messrs Fry, Ianson and Co., ironmasters, Darlington, were blown down by the high wind at one stroke, occasioning loss of life and much bodily injury. There were not more than a dozen or twenty men - probably not more than a dozen, the precise number cannot yet be ascertained - in the works at the time, the great body of the men, numbering some 200 or 300, having turned out on strike on the previous day. The high wind which sprung up yesterday morning had increased to a fearful gale, sometimes accompanied by showers. By two o'clock in the afternoon the wind had risen to a height never known to be exceeded in Darlington or district. Only a portion of the machinery was in work at this time, which happened fortunately, as it is therefore much less damaged than would otherwise have been the case. Suddenly, and with scarcely any warning, the entire shed, covering about an acre of land, gave way, being propelled as it were with the pillared supports, upon which it rested, forwards from a north-west direction, from which quarter the wind was then blowing, and coming down with a sudden crash, alarming the whole neighbourhood for half a mile round. About half a dozen men who were working about the outskirts of the shed managed to escape uninjured. Those, however, further into the interior had no time to run out, and the whole roof fell upon them. An alarm was instantly given, and great numbers of the men out on strike, and the two or three hundred men employed at the railway works, were almost immediately on the spot, and rendered every assistance by climbing over the debris and rescuing the unfortunate fellows embedded beneath. One of the first taken out was Ralph Graham, a labourer, who was mangled in a horrible manner, his brains being scatteredaround the spot where he lay. This, happily, was the only immediately fatal case, though there was one other man who, it was feared, would not survive till the next morning. The number of men injured is, as far as can be ascertained, ten.

The works are a total wreck. The damage done has been estimated to be nearly £3,000. The iron pillars on which the roof rested were torn from their beds of solid masonry in every instance, and some of them are lying snapped in pieces. Had the men not been on strike all the furnaces would have been lighted, and the number present under the shed would not have been less than 100 or 120, and the great majority of them would almost certainly have lost their lives, if not by the fall of the building, by a still more horrible death - that of being burnt or roasted alive - as the wood of the roof must inevitably have taken fire. The sad accident has created a good deal of excitement in the town.


Another of the injured men, named James Wise, died on Monday; and an inquest was held before Mr Settle, coroner, on both bodies on Monday night. Mr Hugh Dunn appeared to watch the inquest on behalf of Messrs Fry, I'Anson & Co., the owners of the rolling mill. From the evidence it appeared that the mills were erected in October, 1864. On Friday, when the works were blown down, the wind blew a hurricane from the south-west. It seemed to encircle the building like a whirlwind. The bolts which fastened the iron supporters to the stones did not pass through the stones, and some of them were torn away; the iron columns falling and leaving the large stone to which it had been secured. In other cases the stones themselves were completely upturned. The roof itself then came down, burying the men in the building with it. The witnesses, some of whom were builders, gave it as their opinion that it was impossible to secure the mills from destruction in the case of such a wind as that which blew on Friday. They stated that the works were erected on what was considered a safe principle, the timber and iron being of the best quality, and heavier quantities were used than at other mills of the same kind. The Stockton Malleable Works were protected by walls, but the roof was blown down the same day as those at Darlington, the walls being left standing. - A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned.