The Glenfield Tunnel - A Perfect Stranger

On Friday 18th August 1865 an inquest was held before coroner J. Gregory, Esq at the Swan and Rushes Public House, Infirmary Square in Leicester into the death of a women found in the Glenfield Tunnel the previous Monday evening.


The body of a respectable looking young women was found laying against the single line of rail about half a mile into the Glenfield Tunnel. Her body, frightfully mangled was taken to the Leicester Infirmary in an insensible condition where she died soon after her admission.

The Monday of the discovery, 14 August 1865, Elisabeth Moore, a little girl, who lived with her father Joseph Moore in a little cottage at the side of the Glenfield Tunnel mouth, said that on Monday morning about twenty minutes to eleven O’Clock,  a young women came to her and asked for a drink of water. Elisabeth had seen her about five minutes before on the railway line gathering blackberries. Elisabeth gave her a glass of water and they sat on the cottage steps together. She told Elisabeth she was from Leicester but she had to go for miles and miles before she reached her journey’s end. The young women didn’t sit for long and told Elisabeth she was headed back to Leicester. But after leaving the cottage steps, she walked towards the tunnel in completely the opposite direction that she should have been going.

Elisabeth and her two little brothers ran down the steps and called after her to come back as a train was coming but she said, " I shall be all right," and went in the tunnel. They begged of her to come back, screaming in fear of her fate, the train could be seen shunting towards the tunnel at the opposite end as the women ran up the tunnel in the middle of the track to meet it.






A few minutes later the train of loaded wagons entered the tunnel, and that was the last time they saw her.


About a quarter of an hour after, when the tunnel was cleared of smoke, they looked up the tunnel, but could not see anything.There was not any room in the tunnel for a person to stand while the train passes as it is so narrow.




At half-past four another empty wagon train from Leicester went through the tunnel.

All Elisabeth could do was sit and wait. She could not leave the cottage to get help, she had to look after her younger brothers. When her older brother Edward, came home from work she sent him to fetch her father, who was in Leicester. Her father returned home along with William Adcock, she told them what had happened, and they went up the tunnel with a light.

Joseph Moore, a plate layer for the Midland Railway Company went into the tunnel with William Adcock and about six or seven hundred yards from the mouth he found the body of a young women lying alongside the rail in the four foot way, she was still alive, her pockets still full of the blackberries she had picked earlier. Joseph went back for a trolley, and Adcock went to the Station Master at Glenfield to stop any trains from approaching. Accompanied by the Station Master, Moore and Adcock took her to the Infirmary in Leicester. She never spoke and shortly after arriving at the hospital she passed away.

Mr. J. C. Macaulay, the Assistant Surgeon at the infirmary described her injuries as compound fracture of the left leg and right arm, a severe scalp wound and contusions or bruises on different parts of the body. She was semi-conscious but never spoke. Her injuries were caused by the train passing over the body as the bones were completely crushed. He attributed her death to shock to the system and endless loss of blood caused by the above injuries.

The women was about 25 years of age, dark with a swarthy complexion which led to people believing that she was of  gypsy origin and a travelling woman. She about five feet two inches high, and slightly built. She had on a red coloured dress, with two flounces, the body of which was trimmed with red composition buttons and narrow black velvet. She wore a black buff shawl, black and red striped stockings, elastic side boots, a crinoline, bonnet and the usual under clothing. There was no ring on the fingers. Her description was sent to all the common lodging houses in Leicester but no person answering her description had ever been at any of them. She was a perfect stranger.


The jury returned a verdict to the following effect : “That the deceased was knocked down, and run over, but whether she went into the tunnel for the purpose of self-destruction or not, there was no evidence to show."

Image: Wikimedia Commons. File:The west portal of Glenfield Tunnel (1) Nigel Tout, 14.3.1967.jpg. Image cropped to remove housing in background.

Photo: Richard C Riley/
Transport Treasury