The job of of stationmaster, even at a small country station in the Victorian age, was considered to be a good position. The pay was above average and usually a house went with the job. However, despite these advantages there was little to protect anybody against what nature threw at them in the days before modern medicine and living conditions.

While researching for a shortly-to-be-published history of the Southampton and Dorchester Railway, a story of personal tragedy that befell a stationmaster at Moreton was revealed. A quick look at the 1881 census for Moreton reveals some interesting facts. The stationmaster was Uriah Sansom, aged 73, his wife Harriett was a mere 48 and their daughter Sophia was only five years of age!

The three station cottages were occupied by the following staff and their families; Francis Cox, 54, signalman. William Bishop, 47, platelayer. John Lane, 47, porter - the latter family also had a lodger, Henry Holmes, 18, telegraph clerk. A check of the records reveals that this was the Henry Holmes who later became superintendent of the line on the London South Western Railway.

A chance find by a friend while researching the Sansom family revealed a sad, complex story. Sansom, a local man who had previously been an agricultural worker, had been recommended to the LSWR by the local Squire, and commenced as a porter at Moreton in October 1847 at 18 shillings per week. In May 1848, the record of the baptism of his sixth child Sophia describes him as gateman at railway station'.

During 1850 he was appointed station agent at 24 shillings per week with house. However, tragedy was to strike the family in the October and November with the death of three of his children within four weeks. Firstly Sophia, aged two, who suffered from debility from birth, passed away, followed by Elizabeth aged 11 and Uriah aged nine of scarlet fever within days of each other, then Sidney aged two died the following March of croup.

It is not recorded where the family lived before moving into the station house, be it the crossing cottage (No 36) or another cottage, but poor living conditions, overcrowding and the lack of modern medicine were among the reasons for the high mortality rate, particularly in children.

Two years later a further child also named Uriah was born, and in 1856 a daughter Frances completed the family. The previous year Sansom had been placed on the salaried staff at £70 per annum, increased to £75 in July 1856 and to £80 in July 1863. Early in the same month further misfortune befell the family when their eldest child David, aged 28, residing in Lambeth, London with a wife and two young daughters and employed as a guard on the LSWR, received fatal injuries after striking his head when leaning out of a carriage window. To heap more misery on this unfortunate family, Sansom's wife Sophia passed away in late July 1867 aged 55.

The 1871 census reveals that Sansom had remarried, the household now consisting of himself, wife Harriett and stepson John Legg, age 13. A further daughter Sophia was born early in 1876. In April of the same year Sansom received his final salary increase to £90 (the same salary his successor was receiving 29 years later). Sansom retired in February 1882 on £60 per year from the pension fund, a sum that gave him 23 shillings per week, well above the average wage of the time - and in today's world, who can obtain a two-thirds final pay pension!

After a lifetime of hard work and personal tragedy he passed away at Greenhill Cottages, Fordington, Dorchester on October 14 the same year aged 75. He left a daughter Sophia, aged six, and wife Harriet, 49. More than a century later, are there any direct descendants remaining in the county?