Sunday, 11 October 2015
Postman's Park (28): William Drake
Hyde Park was long a fashionable place for horse and carriage rides. At the same time, it is surrounded by busy roads, including Park Lane. This was the scene for an accident in 1869.
Mademoiselle Titiens and a friend were entering Hyde Park in a brougham, through Stanhope Gate off Park Lane. However, a wagonette crossed in front of the carriage; in his attempt to perform an emergency stop, Mlle Titiens' carriage driver broke the carriage-pole and lost control of the horses. Luckily, help was at hand: passer-by William Drake and a policeman ran over to stop the horses, preventing a serious accident to the carriage occupants. During the incident, Drake was kicked on the knee by one of the animals.
The Mlle Titiens referred to seems to have been the opera singer Terese Titiens (Tietjens). Born in Hamburg, she had moved to London in 1858 and was considered one of the great sopranos of the nineteenth century. She would continue performing until shortly before her own death in 1877.
What may have appeared a relatively minor injury to Drake turned to pyaemia (a form of blood poisoning with fever and abcesses). As a result, Drake died. However, there was some consolation for his family: a representative of Mlle Titiens assured the inquest that she would amply care for his dependents. He was also recognised in Postman's Park:
WILLIAM DRAKE LOST HIS LIFE IN AVERTING A SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO A LADY IN HYDE PARK, APRIL 2 1869, WHOSE HORSES WERE UNMANAGEABLE THROUGH THE BREAKING OF THE CARRIAGE POLE.