Fire, concerts, assault on a pig and more

1845 – Yet Another Child Burnt to Death

Mary Addis, a girl of 13 was burnt to death when her clothes caught fire whilst nursing her Aunt’s child who was away gathering wood.

Mary was so conscious of being in charge of the baby that in spite of being dreadfully badly burnt over the whole of her body except her feet which were protected by her boots, she still managed to take it to a neighbour before dying.

Very sadly, her younger brother had burnt to death just three months previously, which provoked a sermon from the coroner on how children should be left alone.

First, he recommended wool clothes  instead of cotton or linen, as wool ignited less easily, but he also said that children should either be locked outside of the house, or tied securely to the table or dresser well away from the fire.

We may well feel horrified by his suggestions, but the papers in the 19th century are littered with reports of children burning to death when left alone in the house, and the coroner in this case regularly had to deal with five or six in one week.

1850 – Assault on Man and Pig

George Townsend, a labourer of Little Birch, charged James Powell, toll collector at Wye-bridge gate with having assaulted him.

George Townsend had purchased a pig and was taking it through the turnpike when he realised that he didn’t have the right change, a halfpenny, to pay the toll.  He told James Powell that he would pop into a nearby pub so that he could obtain the change, and began to drag the pig along the road, it being reluctant to go the way he wanted it to go.

James chased after him and grabbed the pig, and a scuffle ensued whereby onlookers feared that the pig would be pulled in half, as neither man was willing to let go.

Eventually, in temper, James kicked the poor pig then thumped George around the head, and a witness hastened to pay the toll for George before either pig or man was seriously hurt.

It seems that this was not the first time that James Powell had been complained about, and the Bench told him to mend his ways, whilst fining him 1s plus costs which amounted to 10s.

1854 – Child Dies after taking  Poison

Mrs. Cook of Little Birch had been forced to stay in bed for weeks after contracting T.B., or consumption and had been prescribed some medicine which contained morphine.

One day, one of her two children, a five year old boy, took two spoonsful of the medicine and although he ate his supper and went to bed as usual, later in the night his father heard a loud rattling noise from the lad’s throat.

The noise continued until late the next morning when the poor boy slipped into unconsciousness and died.

At the inquest, John Morris the surgeon who was looking after the lad’s mother, said that he had examined the body and found the bowels to be distended and green with decomposition.  The boy’s general appearance was consistent with someone who had been poisoned and cause of death was given as this, as two spoonsful of the medicine he had taken would be more than enough to kill a young child.


1854 – Fire destroys Rose Cottage

In May 1854, the chimney at Rose Cottage, Little Birch, caught fire and as much of the building was thatched the sparks quickly caused the fire to spread until the entire house was completely burnt out.

Mr. Cranston of King’s Acre, the proprietor of the cottage, was very grateful to all the kind neighbours who worked tirelessly to save most of the furniture and adjoining buildings.

1899 – Little Birch School Concert

In May 1899 the children of Little Birch School put on some splendid entertainment for a very appreciative audience.

One of the stars of the show was John Yapp, aged 10, who was “chief comedian” for the evening.

There was also a musical sketch, and a play given by the youngest members of the school, as well as a “nigger burlesque” (don’t have a go at me – that was the wording of the report!) 

Miss Southey filled in the gaps with piano solos, and the Little Birch handbell ringers played a lovely selection on their bells.