The report tells us all about the winner of the Gold Medal for the year 1894. His name is Mr William Mugford and he is Foreman of the Works under the local authorities at Torquay.
There was a violent rain and thunderstorm there 20 October 1894. The flood rushed from all points with terrific force into the town sewer*, the water of which rose about 3 feet in as many minutes. A party of 8 or 9 men were dispatched to carry out some repairs to the interior of the main sewer.
They had been at work about a couple of hours, when the man who was set to watch out, signalled to them that the water was rising, and William Mugford, the foreman, ordered the men up. Three men, Callicott, Beasley and Potter started off in the direction of the manhole but Mugford remained behind to make fast the staging upon which they were working.
The water rushed down in a perfect torrent, and before the foremost man had reached the manhole, it had overflowed the dam, and was whirling about down the sewer in a resistless flood. Beasley managed to clutch a barrow which had been made fast to the dam, and by means of a life-line was pulled up on the staging. John Callicott was overcome and carried away, nor was anything seen of him until his dead body was found lodged against the staging upon which the men had been working. Milton, one of the workmen, again and again was carried off his feet by the rushing water, and would undoubtedly have drowned but for the coolness and presence of mind of William Mugford who is a powerful man, and held on to him, half carrying him out of danger. Potter, who was further up the drain, also owes his life to the Foreman. The two men, under the direction and supported by Mugford, finally hauled themselves up to the foot-irons and chains, and remained seven hours there before they were finally rescued.
It is stated that had it not been for Mugford's brave devotion to his fellow workmen, all would have been drowned, as the outlet discharges directly into the sea on a rocky and dangerous coast."
* Torquay's so-called "Great Sewer" was completed in 1876 and, in addition to waste water from the new buildings in the higher part of the town, culverted the waters of the Flete Brook underground for the final part of its journey to the sea. Heavy rain turned the underground stream into a raging torrent which forced the manhole covers up and caused large amounts of water to back up into the streets.