New School and child murder
1845 – The Danger of Draw Wells
In August 1845, three children were playing just outside the door of their house at Monkland, when one of them, 19 month old William Cheese, fell into the draw well which supplied four cottages with their water.
The poor lad drowned before help arrived.
1853 – New School Opens at Monkland
For some two years, the Rev. H. W. Baker, vicar of Monkland, worked tirelessly to raise funds for a new school and at the beginning of September 1853 his labours were rewarded when the school was opened. He himself had laid the foundation stone in September 1852.
The building was said to be “exceedingly pretty”, and was in the early English style with separate entrances for boys and girls. Situated between the church and the River Arrow, it was built from a design by J. Hicks of Dorchester at a cost of £350.
There were wonderful celebrations on the day, with villagers putting on their Sunday best clothes; many dignitaries arrived for the service, after which numerous Clergy, wearing their snowy surplices and followed by 50 children and the parishioners processed to the school. The children sang as they walked, and when they arrived the building was dedicated with a short service by the Vicar.
Later, everyone went back outside and made their way to a large tent where they were given a banquet funded by the Vicar and the parishioners. The afternoon continued with outdoor games for the children and a good day was had by all.
1854 – Charge of Child Murder at Monkland
(Warning – Graphic descriptions)
Mary Morgan and her mother Ann Williams were up before the Magistrates charged with the murder of an illegitimate male child which Mary Morgan had given birth to.
For some time, Mary denied the existence of a child, or that she had ever been pregnant, however in small villages this is hardly something that can be kept secret.
The child was found buried in Ann Williams’ house; in a dark back room, beneath a tub the body was found about six inches beneath the earth with nothing wrapped around it
Mary Morgan’s Story
When Mary was taken to gaol to await trial, Mary Ann Langdon who was in charge of the prisoner, let her out of the cell to warm herself in front of the kitchen fire. Mary Morgan began to talk, beginning by saying she had never imagined that she would end up in gaol and was admonished by Mary Langdon for lying in the first place.
Mary Morgan went on to say that it was nearly a month since she gave birth – she had been ill all that night, and when her mother went to work in the morning she found that she was in labour. Around 9.30 a.m. the child was born and lived until 8 that night and she said that he was a fine boy and she was “vexed to see him die so hard”.
She admitted that she had not taken care of the baby, but said that she was ill and could do nothing for herself; she was frightened that her father would be angry with her. She went on to say that her mother took care of everything and buried the baby before her father came home that night.
Ann Williams’ Story
The mother, Ann Williams, said that she had found the child lying dead next to its mother with part of the after birth around the mouth – implying suffocation. This was not what the post mortem suggested.
The Magistrates Clerk informed the Court that the jury were of the opinion, with one exception, that a verdict of wilful murder should be returned against Mary Morgan and there was some reason to believe that the father was implicated.
The Post Mortem
Thomas Burlton, a surgeon at Leominster conducted the post mortem on the child:
“It was a full grown child, and in my opinion had been born alive; the body was covered with dirt, on removing which the skin seemed to be in a state of decomposition. On closer inspection it appeared to have been parched and blistered as if it had been subjected to heat and moisture; it was particularly so on the face, back and bowels; the hair of the head was not singed and there were no marks of external violence. On opening the chest, the lungs were not completely inflated; they crepitated and floated with the heart in water. On opening the head I found the brain had become softened by decomposition, no traces of disease were apparent. Had the child died in birth, I am of the opinion that it could not have presented the appearance I have described.”
His opinion was that heat had been applied either at the moment of death or just afterwards, but that the child was born healthy. He thought that both fire heat and water had been applied, and perhaps the body had been put into an oven, or into a kettle with a little water in it, and subjected to a great heat as it seemed to have been partially boiled.
The Crown Court Judgement
Due to lack of concrete evidence, the Grand Jury threw out the bill for murder, but found an indictment against both Mary Morgan and Ann Williams for concealing the birth, and they were accordingly put on trial for this.
His Lordship observed that when a young girl found herself in this position, it was natural that she would want to conceal her shame, but he warned that it could not go unpunished or it might lead to “a frightful increase in the number of these offices, already far too frequent”.
After much deliberation, the Jury eventually found both Mary and Ann guilty and they were sentenced to four months hard labour.
I feel that they got off rather lightly.
1867 – Fire at Monkland
A fire broke out on the farm of Henry Taylor of Wall End.
A messenger was immediately sent to Leominster for the fire engine, and they arrived speedily; they confined the fire to the outbuildings thus saving the actually farm house, but the barn, granary and cider mill were totally destroyed along with a huge quantity of grain, seeds and cider.
The buildings were made loosely of wood, lath and plaster so burned rapidly, and the fire was suspected to have been started by someone smoking in the barn.
Sadly, Mr. Taylor had only recently stopped insurance payments on his property.