1853 – Coroner looks into Suspected Poisoning at Eardisley

There was much excitement in Eardisley when rumours abounded that a 19 year old girl, Caroline Herretts had poisoned her father and a baby.

Her father, Thomas Herretts was an earthenware dealer, died on 16th September 1852 and at the time his death was attributed to heavy drinking;  however, a month later his daughter bore an illegitimate child which died shortly afterwards in spite of being declared strong and healthy by the midwife.

The family were arguing about dividing up the spoils of the household goods, and during the sorting out a box was found which contained steel filings and magnesia, enough to kill anyone who took it – suspicions began to surface about how their father had actually died. The parish authorities took the matter in hand, and the Coroner, Mr. N. Lanwarne, was asked to disinter the bodies of the baby and Thomas Herretts.

This was immediately done and an inquest was formally held.

The Inquest

One of the sons, 17 year old Thomas Herretts Jnr. declared that he was one of eight children, and that his father was 48 when he died after years of hard drinking – mostly beer and cider. He said that his sister Caroline made breakfast on the morning in question, bread and butter and tea, and she had already poured the tea by the time they arrived at the table.  Their father drank his tea from an extra large cup in one go then looked at it and asked what was in it.  Caroline took the cup from him saying that it was just the grounds from the kettle, whilst washing it out.

The father Thomas, plus two sons and Caroline set off for Hay when suddenly Thomas became violently ill – although it was quite usual for him to be very sick after a heavy night’s drinking.  They carried on to Hay but he became worse so they sent him home with one son in the cart.  Although attended by Mr. Davies the surgeon, he died early the next morning.

The Post Mortem

Peter Broome Giles, a surgeon of Byford was ordered by the Coroner to conduct a post mortem:

“The body of Thomas Herrett was in an advanced state of decomposition having been in the grave for four months;  externally we found nothing to observe upon;  internally we found the heart and lungs as may have been expected – the liver was evidently that of a man who had been an habitual drinker;  the stomach was in a highly inflamed state, and the intestines showed great congestion through the whole course.  …..we mascerated a portion of the stomach to test for mineral poison, testing with ammonical sulphurate of copper which produced a green appearance, showing a slight presence of arsenic;  this is not an infallible test as the human body contains arsenic, and there are other tests that would give more proof.  The appearance of the stomach would indicate irritation from either poison or drinking.  I should not like positively to state that the deceased had taken poison; the general appearance could have been the result of hard drinking or of poison.”

The Verdict

After more witness accounts from the family, the Coroner said that there was much conflicting evidence and the jury eventually returned a verdict of death by natural causes.  The same verdict was returned for the baby.

It is quite possible that Caroline got away with murder, and further correspondence in the newspapers expressed concern that the verdict was reached without proper tests being carried out.  Rumblings carried on for some considerable time.

1857 – New School Opens at Eardisley

The village of Eardisley was considered the most important in the west of the county, with about 800 inhabitants.

The new school was opened in the presence of many locals, and was a “handsome structure of brick and timber, covered with blue Staffordshire tiles, executed from a design by, and carried out under, the direction of John Clayton, in a style of architecture well suited to the materials.”

1860 – Fatal Accident of Eardisley Man

64 year old James Brookes who was a waggoner employed by Walter Croose of Eardisley, had taken a wagon load of grain, drawn by four horses to Kington, and he was to return with a load of guano.

At some point he had some cider and then some beer, but those who saw him setting for home didn’t think him worse for wear.

James took pride in his ability to guide his team and wagon downhill without the normal practice of locking one of the wheels, and such was the case on this occasion.   James’ son was in charge of the fore horse, and James himself was close to the shaft horse;   just beyond Bollingham the road ran downhill for a good mile, and it seems that the wagon began to run away –  James tried to apply the slipper on the wheel but was hit by a shaft and knocked down.

He had no time to get out of the way, and death must have been instant as the wheels of the wagon went over his head.

1863 – Tragic accident in Eardisley

A wagon laden with timber belonging to Messrs. Price of Kington was going through Eardisley on its way to the saw mills belonging to the contractors of the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway, when a 9 year old girl called Alma Boyles lost her hat.

She ran to catch it, and went straight under the wheels of the wagon, the wheels of which went over her body and legs.

She was so badly injured that she died that same evening.

1863 – Kington and Eardisley Railway

The first sod was ceremoniously cut on 13th March, for the start of the construction of the Kington and Eardisley Railway.

The ceremony was performed by Lady Langdale.

1867 – Man killed in Fight

James Proctor, aged 28, son of Henry and Mary Proctor, had just left home to seek work as a railway navvy.

The Fight

On 16th September, he started a scuffle with Joseph Wall outside the New Inn, Eardisley.  Other men tried to break up the fight, but to no avail, and initially it seemed that James Proctor was the stronger of the too and more aggressive.  The fight progressed to an orchard, and from there to the kitchen of the New Inn, where Joseph Wall repeatedly was knocked to the floor, but was picked up by various onlookers.  It seems that the gathering crowd were thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.

Eventually the hitting stopped and they were more or less wrestling when Joseph fell backwards and seemed to be stunned, whereupon he was carried into a stable – the landlady of the New Inn, Mrs. Whitehouse, refused to let them take him into the house as she said he was drunk.

Although men tried to make Joseph comfortable in the stable, they were soon ordered away by Mrs. Whitehouse, and it was at least two hours before she checked on him and called a doctor, Arthur Robert Lomax.

Dr. Lomax found him to be in a state of apoplexy caused by blows to the head, and he never regained consciousness before his death the following evening.

The Post Mortem

The post mortem carried out by Arthur Lomax revealed the following:

“on removing the scalp, I discovered slight congestion on the back of the head, but this might have been the result of gravitation from the position in which the body lay.  I opened the skull and discovered about six ounces of clotted blood on the left side of the brain – the right side being healthy.  I removed the brain but failed to detect any fracture, either of the inner or outer table of the skull;  from this I deduce that the extravasation of blood was the immediate cause of death, but I cannot positively say that it was caused by either a blow or fall.  I am also of the opinion that a very slight blow upon the head of a person intoxicated and excited would be more likely to be followed by fatal results than a severe one on a person sober and unexcited.  I am of the opinion that the death of the deceased was not caused by any blow given to him, but was probably caused through the excited state of the deceased from drink, or else from the fall”

The Verdict

The Coroner and jury stated that the conduct of those encouraging the fight was much to be blamed, and returned a verdict that cleared James Proctor of murder.

1873 – Royal Mail cart driver killed at Eardisley

Details of this incident are scant, but the Royal Mail cart was in a collision with a travelling steam cider mill, and the driver was killed.

1899 – Consecretion of more Ground for Burials at Eardisley

For some time it had been realised that the available burial ground in the churchyard was filling up, and Mrs. Perry Herrick and Canon Palmer came to the rescue.

Mrs. Herrick donated part of her orchard which was next to the churchyard, and Canon Palmer gave part of his vegetable garden – the total amount of ground was considerable.  In addition, Mrs. Herrick funded the materials for building a wall.

The new land was duly consecrated by the Bishop of Hereford.

1899 – An Ex Soldier’s Desperate Suicide at Eardisley

John Morris, a 36 year old Army Reserveman and carpenter by trade had been in the army – artillery – for 8 years and had been in India for 3 years.

He had been out of the army for 3 years and had been employed as a carpenter with Mr. Morgan of Kington, but the poor chap had never been quite right in his mind since coming home.  He had frequent bouts of not talking and acting strangely, and on the day that he committed suicide he was behaving very oddly indeed.

On the farm where he was engaged in repairing a barn, the foreman Edwin Davies had borrowed a gun from John Turner in order to scare birds and shoot vermin.  The gun had been left loaded in the manger, and during the morning John Morris suddenly picked it up and shot himself.

The Post Mortem

Post Mortem Report by Dr. Darling:

“There was a large pool of blood and the deceased had a gunshot wound at the back of the right ear and angle of the jaw.  The whole of the bone and jaw was shot away.  All large arteries in the neck were torn away. (There is more but it is rather grisly and as it is not necessary for the story I have decided not to put people off their tea)”

Death was no doubt instantaneous, and as the barrels of the gun were short, it was easy enough for John to aim it at himself.

The jury returned a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity, but the Deputy Coroner admonished Edwin Davis for the careless way he had left the gun lying around.