Together with several others built to the same design, the Rocket – a steam locomotive produced by George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son, Robert (1803-1859) – took part in the opening ceremony of the Liverpool and Manchester railway on 15 September 1830. The Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel and William Huskisson (a former government minister and MP for Liverpool) were among the distinguished guests invited to travel on the inaugural journey.
The procession was led by the Northumbrian, pulling the carriage in which Wellington and Peel were seated; the remaining locomotives and their carriages followed on the other line. At about seventeen miles from Liverpool, the trains stopped for water and a few passengers disembarked, one of whom was Huskisson who crossed the track to speak to the Duke of Wellington. Shortly afterwards, the Rocket passed at speed alongside Huskisson and, unable to escape in time, he sustained serious leg injuries. The procession continued to Manchester in subdued mood and Huskisson died later that day.
Although the railway line is no longer in use, a memorial plaque marks the location of the accident (see below from Disused Stations Site Record):
And a monument at Chichester Cathedral provides a vivid account of Huskisson’s life and the respect and admiration his colleagues had for him: