Earthquakes, reckless driving and tragedy

1769 – Powerful Earthquake at Byton

At about eight in the morning of 29th December, a violent earthquake was felt in Byton…….it started with a rumbling noise which seemed to come from Shobdon’s Hill, and this noise was soon succeeded by the shock.

The River Lug rose by several inches before sinking again almost immediately. The tower of the church which was already decayed, was split in many places, and all the villagers were terrified. Men, women and children ran to the church in the hope of safety, but couldn’t get in because of the state of the tower.

Nobody was killed, but a large rent opened up in Shobdon’s-hill, from which water gushed out; however, a big bonus was that both coal and iron were revealed!

1844 – Bolting Horse kills Man

An inquest was held before N. Lanwarne Esq. on the body of John Smith of Byton.

John Smith was a shoemaker by trade, and he was seen on his bolting mare, careering through Byton village. He was trying in vain to pull the horse up, and after he crashed into a horse and cart he fell off.

The cart driver stopped and went to tend to him, but he found John to be bleeding from mouth, nose and eyes. John Smith died on the spot and a verdict of Accidental death was recorded

1855 – Death of Eliza Godwin

Henry Underwood, Coroner, held an inquest on the death of Eliza Godwin, wife of a Byton labourer.

Eliza’s husband Thomas, said that she was weak after a previous illness and that their daughter had died a while back which affected Eliza’s health further. One day, she complained of being unable to see and of being thirsty so he gave her some tea and a dose of Epsom salts before going out to work in the garden. Shortly afterwards he was alterted by screams from his surviving daughter, and running in he found his wife on her knees unable to speak. She died as soon as he arrived.

Mr. M. Tearne a surgeon of Presteign, examined the body but found no trace of poison (he had been suspicious because of the daughter dying suddenly seven weeks previously), and gave the opinion that Eliza had died either from heart disease or exposure to the sun.

The verdict of the jury was Death by the visitation of God.

1857 – Driving without Reins

Edward Corbett of Byton was fined one shilling, with costs of eleven shillings for riding on a waggon drawn by three horses without reins.

(A bit like driving a car with no hands on the wheel I suppose!)

1858 – Death of Jane Griffiths

Jane Griffiths aged 24 was driving with her brother to his new farm at Presteign; they were in a gig drawn by a mare which he had owned for some time, and which he trusted to be calm and quiet.

At the Cwm turnpike gate they were overtaken by Mr. G. Edwards of Byton, who drew level and started talking to Jane Griffiths. After a while, the mare started plunging violently, then bolted at great speed. The gig swerved against a bank and Mr. Griffiths was thrown out without injury, however the mare continued at a furious rate for another 300 yards, when the gig was dashed against a high bank and Jane was thrown out with great violence.

Mr. Thos. Adney, a surgeon of Presteign was sent for and he looked after Jane but it was to no avail and she died of injuries to the head.

1863 – Misconduct in Service

Thomas Preece and William Preece, both waggoners employed by Mr. C. Britten of the Woodhouse, Byton, were charged with misconduct while in the service of Mr. Britten, by being so drunk that they were incapable of taking care of their horse whilst returning to Byton from Leominster.

Their actions were judged to have endangered their master’s property; neither man had anything to say in their defence, and after being given a severe reprimand by the Bench were committed for 21 days and 14 days respectively to the house of correction with hard labour.

1899 – Nasty Trap Accident

Miss Harriet Price of the Court House suffered many injuries when attempting to take a short cut to the harvest field on Byton Hill in order to deliver dinner.

The trap could not cope with the rough and narrow lane and overturned, although the horse did not bolt. The servant who was accompanying Miss Price was thrown out at the back and was unharmed, but Miss Price went over the bank with the vehicle, and some part of it came into contact with her head, forcing out the left eye and fracturing her cheek bone. Her right leg was broken and her hip was badly strained; her arms and shoulders were badly bruised.

Dr. Debenham cared for her, and successfully removed the damaged eye and also set her leg.