Of drunkenness, drownings and tragedy

1848 – Child burnt to Death

Mary Ann Tyler, a child of 18 months, was left in the care of her 4 year old sibling whilst their mother, Mary took her husband’s dinner to him.

When Mary returned some ten minutes later, she found that her toddler had escaped from the chair in which she had been fastened and was badly burnt.  Mr. Lingen, a Surgeon of Hereford, was sent for and he applied oils and gave restoratives, but to no avail – Mary Ann died late that night.

We have to remember that at this time it was quite usual for small children to be left in charge of even smaller children – something that would be unheard of in our own time.

1853 – Drowning in River Wye at Fownhope

In early July William Jenkins aged 19, who was employed by the keeper of the Fownhope Ferry, John Wigley, was taking two men who were working on the Hereford, Ross and Gloucester Railway across the river from Fownhope to the Holme Lacy side.  The men were Thomas Lawrence and James Hobley.

The river was in full spate and still rising, which made it impossible for William to land in the usual spot, and the ferry drifted down until it bashed into a coal barge being pulled by three horses.  The ferry overturned and all three men were thrown into the water, but Thomas Lawrence was able to catch hold of the barge and save himself.  Unfortunately, the other two were caught in the current and were carried down river, far too fast for anyone to help them.

The body of William Jenkins was found not far away, but James Hobley was nowhere to be seen – he had been due to be married just a few days after the tragedy.

The body of James Hobley was recovered a full 9 days later near to Foy.

1856 – Proposed New Bridge at Fownhope

A meeting was held at the Green Man Inn, Fownhope, in order to decide whether the project should be pushed forward.

Richard Hereford was in the Chair, and the Meeting approved the recommendation of the erection of a Bridge at Evenpitt instead of at the Mill Ford.

It was stated that funding was already very nearly in place, and that steps should be taking for obtaining an Act in Parliament.

Permission was eventually granted and the Fownhope and Holme Lacy Bridge Company was set up, with work being completed towards the end of 1858.

1859 – Opening of Fownhope and Holme Lacy Bridge

The new bridge was opening on 11th April 1859 for public use, and was an occasion of great rejoicing on both sides of the River Wye.

The tolls were fixed at a fairly low rate, with carriages and horses having to pay no more than at turnpike gates, and importantly, tickets would be issued for carriages, horses and waggons to pass and repass on the same day without having to pay again.  Foot passengers who previously had to pay one penny each time they were boated over, with a good chance of ending up in the water, would now just pay half that for each pass through the toll gate.

This new bridge enabled easy access from the Fownhope side to the railway station on the Holme Lacy side, and residents on both sides of the river would benefit greatly by being able to visit neighbours across the other side.

1859 – Inebriated in Church

W. Wilcocks of Fownhope had some rum in his Sunday morning coffee before going to St. Peter’s Church.

During the service it became clear that he was rather the worse for wear and a policeman was sent for;  by the time he arrive Wilcocks had left the church and was reeling around outside, where he was promptly charged.

He was fined 1s plus expenses.

1859 – Another Tragic death of Child

Thomas William Morgan, son of John Morgan an agricultural labourer, was left in the house with other children.

When the mother returned, she found him in the kitchen with his clothes on fire;  the lad died 24 hours later.

1862 – Christmas at Fownhope

The custom of giving a little money to the poor of the parish prevailed, in spite of many people beginning to think that gifts of coal at a reduced price or some useful article, would be more use than money.

In defence of the custom of giving money, it was said that the poor man’s wife knew better what she needed than the Lady of the Manor who didn’t really understand the needs of the poor, and that a shilling would go a long way to making Christmas more comfortable.

This was said of the Lady of the Manor:

“Let her try her hand on the layout out, say 10s or 12s per week for rent, coals, food and clothing for say four persons…..only see the bewilderment she would be in, not know where to begin;  and long before she had completed all she required, she would find her stock of money all gone.  We say this not to discourage the gift of any article to the poor, but we do say it to encourage a more liberal handed gift of a trifle of money at this time of year”

Through the generosity of the Vicar, Thomas Lechmere;  Thomas Evans;  R. Hereford;  J.Y. Stephens, Mr. Connop and other gentlemen, over 160 households were made happy at Christmas.

The report in the Hereford Journal went on to say:

“It was a pleasing sight to see the poor old man “sans eyes, sans teeth, sans everything”;  the poor old woman led by the hand of the grandchildren;  the lame, the halt, the blind, all wending their way towards the never to be forgotten barn at the Vicarage, where from the memory of the oldest it has been customary to dole out help to the need at this time of year.

We say, and say from the bottom of our hearts, may the custom never be done away with whilst England the proud, England the noble, England the charitable, the birthplace of liberty, the home of the slave – whilst she stands in all her glory, the wonder, the admiration of the world.   May the hand of kindness and love be ever extended to the poor in the manner we have shewed it is done at Fownhope”


Crikey!  How times have changed.

1862 – Luck’s All Beerhouse

George Gordan was enjoying a drink at the Luck’s All beerhouse where several other men were drinking away their wages;  an argument developed (not unusual in this establishment), which resulted in George being knocked to the floor and kicked.  This was not violent enough for the drunken men, and one picked up the kettle of boiling water from the fire and threw it over the poor chap.

George was very badly scalded on his face, head, shoulders and side, but even this did not satisfy the men and they then kicked him down a flight of stairs into the cellar.

He was taken to hospital, and for a while it was touch and go but gradually he recovered.

1867 – The Notorious Green Man at Fownhope

There were an enormous number of men being hauled before the Bench in the 19th century, for causing a drunken disturbance at the Green Man.

In May 1867, Richard Andrews was just the latest in a long line of cases, and he pleaded guilty to be drunk and riotous late at night in the pub.

The Chairman said that there were far too many cases from Fownhope, and something must be done about it – maybe he wondered, was there something wrong with the Green Man?  The Superintendent explained that for a while the pub had been left in the charge of two girls, but the father was back and it was not actually the fault of the people in the pub because the trouble makers got cider from elsewhere first.

It was stated that any and every case of drunkenness would be brought before the Bench.

1876 – Disgrace of Fownhope Magistrate

Mr. Thomas C. Lechmere of Fownhope Court, a County Magistrate and head of one of the oldest county families, was discovered drunk and incapable whilst driving a horse and trap in St. Ethelbert Street, Hereford. He was also charged with assaulting his wife and refusing to leave the residence of Mr. J. Cleave when asked to do so.

Mr. Cleave was a solicitor and clerk of the peace for the county, and he stated that Thomas called to his house in Hereford asking to see his wife, who it turned out had taken refuge there.  He was extremely drunk, and appeared quite mad with his conduct and language being excessively coarse.

His wife, Mrs. Lechmere came into the room, and Thomas tried to make her go home with him, but she flatly refused whereupon he whacked her on the side of the head.  It turned out that it was no new thing for her to be beaten by Thomas, and in fact this was why she had fled to the Cleave household that day.

Thomas was remanded in custody.

Thomas was too ill to attend Court, but Mr. G. Williams brought the case forward and pleaded guilty on Thomas’s behalf.  The fine of £2 and costs were promptly paid, and a similar amount was donated the poor.  He was also made to enter into a bond of £100 to keep the peace for 12 months.

How on earth did he continue to hear cases of others who were drunk and disorderly after this, or indeed cases of wife beating?  Perhaps he was never again allowed to.

1878 – Devastating Floods

In the space of a few hours, after torrential rain, the River Wye rose by some 16 feet, and many cottages close to the river found themselves almost submerged whilst livestock was swept away.

At one point, the river resembled a floating orchard with the amount of fruit being born away from orchards, and a railway bridge between Whitney and Clifford was destroyed, in  spite of the fact that it had recently being rebuilt in stone.

The whole vast expanse of Holme Lacy meadows was turned into a lake with only the tops of hedges and trees to be seen, and many roads were completely impassable.