A selection of fascinating, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic news items from Ashperton’s past

1841 – The Queen’s Coach in a collision

Mr. R. Rider of Ledbury was returning home from Ashperton when he met the Queen’s Coach, which was on its way to Hereford, on the canal bridge. Mr. Rider rode as close as he could to the wall on the side of the bridge, but the step of the coach caught his leg, badly lacerating it and nearly pulling him from his horse. It seems that the coach driver saw no reason to stop to offer assistance, and the poor chap had to struggle home. He lost vast amounts of blood and was in a state of collapse, and when medical help was summoned the doctor was shocked by the extent of the injuries.

Following the initial report, there was a second one which was quick to transfer blame to Mr. Rider. It was stated that Mr. Ford, the Queen’s Coachman, was noted for his steady driving and that nobody should think that he was at fault.

1845 – Hilarious “Pleasure Party

I cannot improve on the account provided by the Hereford Times:

“On the afternoon of Sunday last, the weather proving very propitious, a party of young men, some of them mechanics, and the rest of various occupations, having worked all the previous week, thought they would seek a little recreation. Accordingly they procured a pleasure boat and, in the highest possible glee, to the number of 14 or 15 set sail on our new canal, which, by the bye, is thought as much of by many of the Ledburians as the Thames is by the Londoners, or as is the mighty Atlantic by those whose coasts are washed by its angry waves. Well, this happy party, who we must not forget to state, had pretty well “moistened their clay”, intended to go as far as Ashperton; but, Ashperton alas that day they were doomed not to reach. The boat sailed well til it arrived at Swinmoor about five miles from Ledbury, when lo, through some unforeseen and unaccountable mishap, over she went and in the twinkling of an eye the whole of her precious freight, all dressed in their Sunday best, were immersed in the water! We are informed that the scrambling, shouting and screaming which ensued, baffles all description; had a party of females been placed in a similar predicament, there could not have been more noise. We are glad however, to be enabled to state that all managed to get to land, although a child which they had taken with them had a very narrow escape from drowning.

All the inconvenience now experienced is a few slight colds and a little damage to the Sunday toggery.”

1847 – Trespass by Chickens

A farmer, Mr. Joseph Fennell, complained that Susan Cope of Ashperton had allowed her chickens to trespass on his land and thereby damage his wheat to the amount of one shilling. Mrs. Cope didn’t turn up at court, but Mr. Fennell said that five or six of her chickens were in his field scratching up the wheat; he said that he had told her several times to fasten them up and initially she did, but then let them loose again.

The magistrates convicted Susan Cope and fined her including expenses, 9s 6d. She then turned up at court and when being told of the decision she said that she penned the fowls up when told to do so, but let them loose again thinking that they could not possibly damage the wheat. She pleaded poverty, saying that she was a widow with children to provide for, and promised faithfully to keep the chickens at home in future.

The Rev. Edward Higgins paid the constable for serving the summons and Mr. Masefield kindly forgave his fees.

1850 – Riding without Reins

William Rouse and William Gurney were summoned for riding without reins in the turnpike road in Ashperton.

Rouse was fined 6s 6d and Gurney, 10s.

1852 – Sad Death of George Sexty

George Sexty was a well respected tradesman with a grocery business in Ledbury. He had been at the house of Mr. Thomas Dutson, a farmer in Ashperton, drinking gin and water. He rode home on a pony, accompanied by two of Mr. Dutson’s men for some time, but at his own request he eventually continued alone. At midnight several people heard cries, but they just assumed it was drunks. The next morning George was discovered dead in a pool by the roadside, from apoplexy.

The verdict was “Died by the visitation of God”

1852 – Dramatic Flooding

Herefordshire was under water for many days, with farm houses submerged; haystacks washed away and livestock drowned. Many roads were under water and the Hereford Railway Bridge over the River Wye was washed away by the force of the water. The Canal at Ashperton burst its banks, and traffic was stranded.

1862 – Selling Spirits without a License

Appearing before R. Biddulph and J.M. Aynsley, an Irishman by the name of James Dunlavey was charged with hawking spirits without a license at Ashperton. He was fined 25s, with the option of three months hard labour

1863 – Capture of a thief

A policeman was ambling along his beat early in the morning near the Woodsend, and stopped to lean on a gate. (Oh those wonderful days of PC Plod). He thought he heard a noise and looking around spotted someone coming up the road; he hid in the hedge until the person was level and accosted him, asking his name and telling him to stop – to no avail. Our gallant policeman grabbed hold of him and threatened handcuffs, but “Jimmy” (that was his name) said he would go quietly. He wore a jacket with a cunning pocket the whole length of his back, and whilst walking along he managed to slip his arms out of the jacket and legged it. The policeman gave chase, and Jimmy began to flag, then finding himself about to be caught he gave every intention of harming the policeman, who cleverly stuck his foot out and sent him sprawling in the mud at the same time falling upon Jimmy “until he grunted”. Our hero said that we would like to know where the apples that filled the hidden pocket came from, but the “bird was too old to be caught by chaff”.

The prisoner was handcuffed and taken to Mr. Palmer of Woodsend to learn his name, and everyone was astounded to discover that he was one who was considered the most honest man in the parish! Jimmy was taken fore Magistrates, but as nobody came forward to prosecute, he was set free with a caution.

1866 – Attempted Suicide by Old Woman – a very sad tale

A woman of roughtly 79 described as “very old” was charged with attempting to destroy herself by hanging.

John Abell a farmer of Ashperton said that he found the old woman in his shed, with a cord round her neck; the other end she had tied to a hurdle and stake, and was pulling away trying to strangle herself. He untied her and asked what on earth she thought she was doing, and she said that she had no home nor anywhere to go.

To his discredit, the farmer sent her on her way. Shortly afterwards, Edwin Smith found her trying to pull her apron strings tight around her neck. He untied them, then as she sat down, sent for a constable who took her away.

The Magistrates told her off for not going into the Workhouse, and then sent her straight there.

1872 – A Novel Celebration of the Recovery of the Prince of Wales

The Clergyman of Ashperton, along with villagers and school children, planted a fine speciment of Wellingtonia Gigantea, which was to be called “The Prince of Wales’ Tree on Ashperton Green”, in celebration of the recovery of the Prince of Wales. As has always been the custom in Herefordshire, the newly planted tree was drunk in old cider.

1879 – Horrible Railway Accident at Ashperton

William Parry, a man from Pontypool, was the fireman on a luggage train. As the train passed through Ashperton he climbed on top of the coal in the tender, whereupon the coal slipped and fell off onto the tracks. All the trucks went over his legs just above the knees, and the poor chap’s limbs were cut off. He was taken to Hereford Informary, where they made further amputations but he died the next morning.

1901 – Tragic Death in Fire

The Ledbury Fire Brigade attended a fire at Court-y-Park Farm, Ashperton, owned by W.F. Pudge, where two big French barns were ablaze. The fire was discovered at 2 in the afternoon, Jack Watkins, a four year old boy who was the son of a worker at the farm, ran to try to put out the flames in his own simple way. He tripped and fell and was immediately surrounded by flames. Mr. Buck, the estate agent tried desperately to rescue the boy, but was driven back by the intensity of the fire.