Death by burning and other tales
1834 – Murder of Allensmore Gamekeeper
One Sunday morning, a much respected Gamekeeper by the name of James Davies, a father of three children, was murdered by poachers.
A chap named John Evans of Arkstone Common had been spotted in the wood just prior to the murder and he was arrested pending further investigation, but it was known that several other men were involved. Eventually five men were taken into custody.
The surgeon who examined James Davies said that he had a gun shot wound in the middle of his throat, and on tracing the wound to the left shoulder blade he found an amount of dispersed shot along with small bits of the shoulder blade. In his opinion, the shot was fired from above the deceased.
A verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown was returned at the inquest, and in reply to an application to the Secretary of State an answer was received: “offering a free pardon to any one accomplice not being the person who actually fired the gun, and who will give such evidence against any of the parties concerned in the murder as may lead to their conviction”.
So far, I have been unable to find the end of this tale.
1845 – Allensmore, a Poem
Oh, who has not heard of the famed Allensmore,
Where all this is bright and entrancing is seen;
Where to gaze on each beauty, but leads you the more
to linger amid such enchantments of scene?
Where the soft blush of beauty is fresh on each flower,
and the spirit of fragrance is borne on the gale;
Where the sweet singing mavis by day haunts the bower,
Theat echoes at night to the bulbul’s soft tale.
There the rose in its splendour opes forth to the light,
And loads, with its perfume, the sweet summer breeze,
That roves o’er the lake, lying silent and bright,
and murmers its music through whispering trees.
There flowers of all hues and all odours combine,
To fling o’er the landscape a charm that is deeper
and around the old walls of the mansion entwine
The jasmine, the ivy, the vine, and each creeper.
There Pateshall lives; where a Peri might dwell,
and forget e’en the charms of her own lovely sphere;
and the acts of his kindness and bounty will tell,
How man to his fellows should act while he’s here.
Through centuries storms has that proud mansion stood,
Unseath’d and unweaken’d; the family name
still retains all its splendour; unsullied in blood,
the present possessor shall pass down to fame.
There the goddess of plenty presides o’er the scene,
Enthroned and attended by pleasure and mirth;
And the wail of affliction is never, I ween,
allowed to intrude on that bless’d spot of earth.
Neath that roof the lone cry of the houseless is hush’d,
and soften’d each sorrow, and banish’d each sigh,
and dried are the tears that in anguish late gushed,
from the wayworn and sorrowful wander’s eye.
1846 – Death of Thomas Burgess
Thomas Burgess died aged 63 on 26th January 1846. He had worked for nearly twenty years as Butler at Allensmore House, but his expertise with his penknife is what he would be remembered for.
His skill in wood carving was exceptional, the he was responsible for the restoration of the pulpit in Allensmore church, as well as carving the wainscoated walls of Rotherwas Hall; the altar chair in St. Martins Church, and the celebrated stick at Mr. Winter Spring’s tavern in Holborn, and many other fine things.
1847 – Suspected Imposter, a Caution to the Benevolent
Elizabeth Rogers, nee Jones, born at Abergavenny, had developed a novel way of obtaining sympathy, money and goods.
She went to Allensmore House amongst many other large houses in Herefordshire, and then proceeded to fall down having a fit. After “recovering” she related that her husband was a japanner who found jobs in private houses and she had lost touch, and that her half brother kept a shop in Worcester and had written to her saying that he had heard that her husband was working nearby. She said that she was on the road trying to find him – in this way she procured quite a large amount of money.
The public were warned to be on their guard against her, and said that when last seen she had a baby in her arms.
1848 – Man Dies in Ditch
William Jenkins was found face down in a water filled ditch late one night by a passerby, an apprentice wheelwright named John Bird.
When John spotted William, he rushed for help and a Mrs Cooper and her two daughters went back with him to hold lanterns. John and another man, James Maclean, pulled William out of the ditch and for a moment they though that he was alive as he made a rattling noise in his throat.
However there was no pulse, and the men carried him back to a house while William’s wife was informed.
The verdict returned a verdict of “died by the visitation of God”.
1848 – Child Burns to Death
Martha Bethell aged 5, daughter of Stephen Bethell of Allensmore, was left alone in the house with her 9 year old sister Elizabeth whilst their mother went to fetch water from the well.
Elizabeth went upstairs, and then heard Martha screaming; she rushed down to find Martha in flames and it was some time before help arrived in the shape of Henry Sayce, who smothered the fire. She managed to tell her sister that a stick had fallen from the fire, and it had set light to her clothes.
Although Martha was still alive she was horribly burnt, and despite being rushed to the Infirmary she died a few hours later.
1849 – Robbery at Allensmore House
On 18th December, the saddle room adjoining the stables of Allensmore House, the residence of Mrs. Pateshall, was broken into and a writing desk was stolen, along with a five pound note and a quantity of gold and silver coins. Also several memorandum books and other things belonging to the coachman, and a single barrel gun, the property of Mrs. Pateshall, was taken.
1855 – Allensmore Feast
Instead of the somewhat unseemly proceedings which had always accompanied the holding of Allensmore Feast and the desecration of the Sabbath, the Vicar decided on a more agreeable celebration.
He arranged for a friendly cricket match to be held, and it was a great success with much good humour and harmony. The parishioners dressed in their best holiday clothes in order to see what this new game was.
It was stated “we should rejoice to see the manly game of cricket introduced in every village of the kingdom, being well assured that the generous rivalry inculcated by the amusement would do much towards cementing that union and friendship which ought to exist between rich and poor; when the sons of the wealthy might mingle with those of the peasant, and both derive advantage by the intercourse.”
The teams were made up of the young gentlemen of the Hereford Proprietary School, and the youths of Allensmore parish.
1858 – Harriett Meek and Susan Bennell
The above pair were up in court for the theft of money, dresses and other clothing belonging to James Meek of Allensmore.
Harriett was described as a sullen looking country girl of 18, and had been somewhat neglected by her parents so her uncle offered her a home. Susan was a prostitute who had been living in Plymouth before coming back to Allensmore where her parents lived.
The two girls committed the robbery when Mr. Meek was in Hereford, then journeyed to Plymouth via Newport and Bristol but were apprehended on arrival. Both of them were wearing the clothes belonging to Mrs. Meek, and when the contents of the bundles they had been carrying were exposed in court there was a great deal of laughter because “the whole mysteries of feminine apparel and adornment” were there for all to see, and it was said that the uninitiated bachelor would fail to guess the use of them. There was one thing, stuffed with feathers, which was like a new moon with strings attached to the horns. There was also many ribbons, books and dirty letters – the latter giving the girls more anxiety than anything else about the proceedings.
Harriett claimed in court that she feared for her life when living with her uncle and that he threatened her regularly. At this, James Meek became enraged and the police had to hang on to him to prevent him attacking Harriett.
The prisoners were committed to the Sessions
1862 – Accident at Allensmore
Thomas James, an 18 year old labourer employed by Mr. Berrow of Allensmore, was working in the Welper quarry when he was engulfed in a deluge of debris.
Fortunately, other men were working nearby and they quickly uncovered the poor man; finding that he was badly injured they rushed him to Hereford Infirmary.
Thomas had badly broken both legs, but the house surgeon Mr. Beavan set to work and it was expected that he would make a full recovery.
1867 – Death of the Rev. Francis E. Baker
“Mr. Baker was born in September 1801 being the eldest son of Rev. Francis Baker, Rector of Wylye, Wiltshire. After serving sundry curacies, among which was that of Peterstow in Herefordshire, he was appointed to the vicarage at Allensmore by the Dean and Chapter of Hereford, in January 1842, where he has since lived, setting an example of great simplicity of life and of active daily charity. It is difficult to describe a character which bordered closely upon eccentricity, but avoiding the mention of weaknesses to which all are subject, most of our readers will recognise the truth of what we say, when we draw attention to his remarkable humility of character, his willingness always to see others preferred to himself, and his sincere consciousness of his own faults; his chivalrous respect for the female sex, poor and rich alike; he reverenced youth, and unceasingly endeavoured to infuse an honest, manly spirit into the hearts and lives of the young, wherever or whenever he met them. His contempt for all plausibility and humbug was well known. In him the poor have lost a sympathising friend, and the rich a companion of the true gentleman type; and though he has been withdrawn from public intercourse for some time past by his lengthened and trying illness, yet it will be long before his name ceases to be a household word in Allensmore parish.”
1899 – Death by Burning at Allensmore
James Pritchard, a 78 year old labourer of Cobhall Cottage, Allensmore was taken into Hereford General Infirmary suffering from the effects of severe burns received the previous Sunday, and he died a few days later from severe shock and exhaustion due to the burns.
At the inquest, a neighbour Mrs. Jones told how she often looked after him although he was in general good health. James’ brother Thomas told how he was informed on the Sunday evening that James had been burnt and when he went to see him, he found him in bed. He remembered falling into the fire, but recalled no other details.
Thomas said that as far as he knew, James had never had fainting attacks.
Another kindly neighbour, Edith Jones married to Alfred Jones a thrashing engine driver of Trap House, Allensmore, said that she often cooked for him and attended to other needs but that he was comfortable looking after himself.
On the afternoon of the Sunday, James was heard to be calling for help, and when people ran in they found him lying across the fire – they managed to get him out and and at this stage he could remember trying to wind the clock at the side of the fireplace; somehow his boots slipped on the stone floor and because there was no fender he fell into the fire.
A doctor attended that night, and the following day he was taken to the Infirmary.
The verdict was Accidental Death