Disease freee workhouse. suicide, drowning and more

1842 – Suicide at Bromyard

Jane Milton, aged 37 was grief stricken after burying her mother to whom she was very close, in fact she became deranged with grief.

Aware of this, Jane’s sister in law kept a watchful eye on her, even sleeping with her, but one morning Jane crept out of the house.

She went out of the back door and crossed into her neighbour’s garden where she threw herself in that neighbour’s well.  She was discovered at 7.30 the next morning.

1844 – Suicide of an Auctioneer at Bromyard

Mr. William James, a long time auctioneer in Bromyard, killed himself with a pistol to the head.

It seems that it was no secret that his financial state was decidedly rocky, and he had recently been charged with forgery.

William had lived for many months closeted in his house trying to avoid arrest, and many people actually thought that he had fled the country.  However the warrant for his arrest was given to Superintendent Marshall, and he along with two others called at the house;  on going inside and telling Mrs. James why they were they suddenly heard a gunshot.

On rushing upstairs, the policemen found that William had blown his brains out.

The inquest on the body of William James

At the inquest it was difficult to establish William’s state of mind, as only his wife and daughter had seen him for some considerable time;  however, his daughter, Margaret eventually agreed to meet the jury and told them that for seven months her father had not gone out, even into the garden.

Margaret told of how her brother had accidentally shot himself dead a month ago, and since then her father seemed different and rather excitable saying that he would not long be with them.  However in between periods of such excitement he would become very depressed.

The Post Mortem on William James

Thomas Pitt, a surgeon of Bromyard said that he found the deceased in a chair and near to death.  There was a large wound in the lower part of the right temple bone behind the ear;  a portion of the brains and blood was escaping from what appeared to be a bullet wound.

On removing the scalp, the surgeon found all the bones in the head fractured except the occipital bone;  the bullet was between the skin and the flesh on the opposite side of the head having passed through the brain.

The Jury’s Verdict

A verdict was returned of temporary insanity.

1847 – Cruelty to a Child at Bromyard

William Prince was charged with allowing his 13 year old daughter Ann to become chargeable to the Parish of Edvin Ralph.

Superintendent Marshall declared that he found Ann Prince in her father’s house, chained to the grate in a back room by her leg.  She was being beaten by her step mother.  Superintendent Marshall unlocked the padlocks chaining Ann and took her away before securing an order for her admission into the Bromyard Union Workhouse.

He said that he had often found Ann lying around on the streets of Bromyard, and each time asked her parents to take care of her;  however Ann was frightened to go home due to the anticipated beatings.  Many people spoke of having seen her sitting on doorsteps late at night.

William Prince said that perhaps the step mother did beat her too much, but that Ann often stole money from them.  This statement did not go down well in court, because it had been proved that there was no money for Ann to steal;  also, an older child had been allowed to go to London to make a living as a prostitute.

The stepmother did not appear in court as she had just given birth, but it was thought that she would be fit to turn up the next week and a summons was issued.

The magistrate said that it was one of the most disgraceful affairs he had ever heard.



1849 – Bromyard Union

In 1849 it was reported that the population of Bromyard Union was 11,405, and that only 37 deaths had been registered during the months of July, August and September, whilst the births totalled 95.

There was not one case of sickness at the Union Workhouse

1850 – Report on the State of Bromyard’s Health

Benjamin Herschel Babbage, the Superintending Inspector to the General Board of Health submitted a damming report on the state of Bromyard’s sanitary conditions.

Summary of Babbage’s Report

The annual increase of Bromyard’s population was one third of the country’s average.

The average annual mortality rate in Bromyard was hugely greater than elsewhere in Herefordshire.

The average living age had steadily decreased since 1838.

Disease had become endemic to particular houses in Bromyard, and certail localities were always infested by it.

Cause of excessive mortality was traced to defective house drains and open sewers.

Water supply was deficient, and the handles of private pumps were locked in summer so that water wasn’t stolen.

The parish churchyard was so full that there was no room for more burials.

The mortality rates in Bromyard imposed excessive demand on the inhabitants.

A complete sewerage system could be provided for £1180 15s 6d, and an abundant water supply provided for £1387 5s 3d (very precise!), and an average weekly payment of two and a quarter pence per house for thirty years would liquidate the principal and pay the interest of the above sums.




1857 – Drowning at Bromyard and a newly discovered possibility of resuscitation.

William Corbett, a 12 year old boy jumped into the River Froome to bathe, but he got out of his depth and because he couldn’t swim, he drowned before anyone could help him.

His body was in the water for half an hour before it was retrieved, and then there was another hour before Mr. R. Marley, a Bromyard surgeon, turned up.

The surgeon had read about the possible resuscitation of the apparently drowned in local papers, but his efforts to put the methods into practice failed…..not surprising given the length of time that had elapsed since death.

1857 – Inquest at Bromyard on Newborn Child

A woman named Ezenia Phillpotts had been in the Union Workhouse, but left at the end of May late in her pregnancy.  Shortly afterwards, she returned to the workhouse and asked the matron to express milk from her breasts, saying that she had had her baby which died almost immediately.

She told police where the body was, and it was found in a ditch in Avenbury.

The surgeon said at the inquest that the child had been born alive, and that there were no marks of violence, nor any other apparent cause of death unless it arose from suffocation.

The jury returned a verdict of “natural death”.

1877 – Opening of Worcester and Bromyard Railway

At the opening of the new Worcester and Bromyard Railway, banners were put up in the street proclaiming…. “come at last, Hurrah!”

The Worcestershire Chronicle reported

“….for many years now the easy going inhabitants of this pleasant Herefordshire town had looked with intense longing, but looked in vain, for the two iron streaks from which the puff of the railway engine might be seen, and the place of their nativity added to the great network of railways which afford a speedy means of communication over the United Kingdom.

Seventeen years is a long time to make a single line of railway barely a dozen miles in length, but difficulties have arisen in the way, and which, thanks to the indefatiguable exertions of E.B. Evans esq.  have been overcome, and at least the opening is an accomplished fact.”

The community rejoiced heartily, and although initially there were few passengers, there were many who went to the station to see the train.

“Soon the shrill scream of the whistle and the roar of the train will cause but little remark;  let us hope however, that Bromyard will now, phoenix like, rise from her ashes, and beginning a new and stirring existence prove to the two or three old fogies who reside within it, and who forget that the world moves, that railways after all are amongst the most important things required to make a town the scene of industry.

1878 – Manslaughter at Bromyard

An inquest was held on the body of 25 year old Richard John Box, a baker of Broad Street, Bromyard.

His brother William Henry Box said that he  saw him at 7 in the morning when he was in good health and busy making bread, then he next saw him late that night in Dr. Etheridge’s house, when he was lying on the sofa and bleeding heavily from a wound in his stomach.

William stayed with him that night and then took him home, not leaving him for very long at any time until he died some weeks later.  He was under the care of Mr. Shelton, Dr. Etheridge and Mr. Walsh.

It transpired that whilst Richard John Box was attending a wake with friends, their spring cart overtook a man called John Bentley, who then accused the driver of hitting him with his whip, and became very stroppy.  Bentley followed the cart, swearing profusely and eventually Richard got down and approached him before giving him a push.  Bentley fell down, then when he got up Richard gave him another push.  After a short scuffle, Bentley stabbed Richard, who bleeding badly, climbed back into the cart and his friends raced him to Dr. Etheridge, who found a severe wound from which bowels protruded.

Following many accounts of the fateful events, the jury retired and returned a verdict of manslaughter against John Bentley.


1891 – Bromyard Annual Sports

This event, held under the auspices of the Bromyard Amateur Athletic Association, was well attended due partly to the good weather.

There was not only racing, but also pony races and the Worcester Squadron of the Worcestershire Hussars gave an exhibition.

During the afternoon the band of the D Company of 1st Herefordshire Rifle Volunteers, under Bandmaster Palmer did their best to entertain, but unfortunately it was felt that they needed a bit more practice!