Christmas Church decorations.  drownings and a suicide in the Lugg River

1832 – Case of Distress

A labourer by the name of William Phillips, living at Lugwardine, went to Hereford at the end of January 1832 to buy food for his wife and family, but as he returned home he was attacked by two men at Tupsley, who brutally beat him and severely damanged his leg.

After a considerable period of suffering and despite treatment, the leg became badly infected and indeed, he nearly died.  Six months later, he was still bed bound in Hereford Infirmary, and although no longer in danger it was thought that he would be a cripple for life.

An appeal for financial help for William and his family went out for donations to add to the £5 made by the Sheriff.  It was not long before generous amounts were being donated.


1861 – Mysterious Drowning at Lugwardine

A man named Jarvis from Longworth Mill was walking by the turnpike road when he saw a “wretched and miserable” old woman sitting on the Hereford side of Lugwardine bridge, with a bundle at her side.

When the woman saw Jarvis, she got up and walked through a gap in the hedge to the strip of land by the river, where the next day her bundle was found…….but not her.

There were some marks on the bank by the water, which seemed to be like the heels of someone slipping, but the parochial authorities were not inclined to bother to try to find a body.

Superintendent Wilson however, decided to search out the truth, and he had the area of the river dragged;  unfortunately nothing came of this, due mainly to the depth of the water at that point.

Mr. Hiles of Tidnor Mills kindly consented to draw the flood gates by his mills, which effectively lowered the water level above, and the search continued.

The pool old woman’s remains were discovered some quarter of a mile below where she was thought to have gone in the water, just below a weir.

The inquest

The inquest revealed that when the woman was found, her apron had been tied over her head and her shoes and stockings were missing.  The bundle found by the river contained a few lice ridden articles of clothing, and her body was in a terrible state from the lice. She had a remarkably flat nose and was muscular and brawny looking.

It was stated that she had been in the locality for a few days, telling people that she had a son in Kington and would be moving on shortly.  She had been taken before the city magistrates for drunkenness on a couple of occasions.

With no further evidence, a verdict of Found Drowned was returned.

1862 – Church Decoration at Christmas

On Christmas Day, 1862, the parish church of Lugwardine was lavishly decorated by the ladies of the village.

Over the altar there were festoons of holly, larel and ivy and the royal purple altar cloth with its inscription of I.H.S in gold along with a tracery of ivy around the windows made a most pleasing effect.  The sills were decorated with winter flowerets, and the chancel arch was enriched with “Hosanna to the Son of David” floriated triangles in holly leaf and berries.

The south transepts contained “Emmanuel” in holly and ivy berries, also the text “God with us” holly berries forming a handsome triangle.  In the north transept was the text, worked in ivy leaves, “For our sakes He became poor”.

The pulpit and reading desk were enriched with wreaths and borders of ivy, and the gallery and pillars were decked with evergreens and wreaths.

The Corona was elaborately decorated with ivy, holly and berries, and the organ rood shone with stars and wreaths of berries.  The seats were dressed with sprigs of evergreens and the pillars were entwined with winter foliage.

When the candles were lit for the evening service, the whole church was incredibly beautiful.

1867 – Sad End of Crimean Hero

Joseph Phillips, a pensioner and late private in the 57th Regiment of Foot was found drowned in the river Lugg.

He had been married to his wife Ann for six years, and they lived in Lugwarding.  Joseph was a pensioner of the 57th Regiment of Foot and had 9d a day pension.

Joseph had been missed for a few days, and missed his call on bail on a charge of drunkenness.  Mr. Davies, a grocer of Commercial Road who was standing Joseph’s bail, applied for an adjournment and he was granted this.

Following this, a warrant for the arrest of Joseph was out, on the charge of assault committed on Mary Barwell.

Joseph Phillips’ last evening

Mary Barwell was the wife of Thomas, a labourer, and they kept the Lugg bridge turnpike gate.  One Thursday evening, Joseph turned up and asked for a light for his pipe, but he actually had no tobacco either and she refused to give him any.  He was rather drunk, and collapsed on the sofa in the kitchen, searching his pockets for tobacco dust – he eventually found enough to put in his pipe but it wouldn’t catch light, whereupon he started to rant and rave.  He said that he had spent nearly all of his pension money, and would go and drown himself.

Mary told him to go home to bed, but he kept on repeating that he would drown himself.  Mary went off to find some wood for the fire, and when she came back he found that he had his hand up her 9 year old daughter’s petticoats;  understandably she was furious and hit out at him, but she was unable to evict him from her house.  Joseph then turned his attentions to her, and tried to grope her under her petticoats at which point her husband fortuitously came home.  Mary went out to a man wanting to pay a toll, and when she returned, Joseph was again indecently assaulting her child.

Mary was so angry that she hit Joseph hard enough to floor him, which made him swear violently, but at least he decided to leave.  That was the last anyone saw of him.

The discovery of the Body of Joseph Phillips

Great efforts were made to find Joseph, and eventually his body was discovered in the river Lugg near to Tidnor forge – his three Crimea medals were found to be attached to the breast of the “gallant but misguided soldier” who had in his country’s service borne “the battle and the breeze.”  The first was a medal with three clasps – Sevastopol, Inkerman, Balaclava;  the second, a medal for long service and good conduct;  the third the French Crimean medal.

The Inquest

At the inquest, Joseph’s wife, who was hugely distressed,  gave evidence, saying that they had not rowed, and on the day he disappeared he was not quite sober as he had drunk a quart of cider on an empty stomach – his appetite having vanished a week previously.

She talked about the medals, and said that he would put them on with his second best clothes to go and get his pension on pension day.

Another witness claimed that when drunk, Joseph would declare that he would drown himself.

A verdict of Found Drowned was returned.


1899 – Suicide at Lugwardine

Phoebe Emma Williams, the 18 year old daughter of William Williams and his wife who worked at the Hereford Sanitary Laundry, for no apparent reason decided to commit suicide in the River Lugg on the day of her birthday.

Phoebe was said to have been “finely developed” for her age, and on the day in question, whilst her parents were working, wandered down to the bridge over the river in the company of her sister, Lizzie, aged 8 and a lad aged 6 by the name of Ivor Price..

She left the children at the bridge, and went into the meadow by the river, where she carefully took off her jacket and hat then folded them neatly and put them beneath the bridge.  She then waded into the river, whilst talking to the children on the bridge.

A lady, Mrs. Brooks and her daughter, turned up and saw that Phoebe was in the water up to her waist, and asked if she needed help to get out;  Phoebe just pleaded to be left alone, and started trying to drown herself by repeatedly ducking beneath the water.

Help was summoned immediately, but when the cavalry arrived, Phoebe was carried out of her depth by the current and sank from view.

Her body was recovered very quickly, but despite artificial respiration being carried out, it was all too late. (Artificial respiration at this time involved little more than rubbing the limbs, covering with blankets and using hot water).  Tragically, Phoebe’s mother was hurrying home with many gifts and things for an evening celebration of her birthday, when she found her daughter lying lifeless on the bank.

The Inquest

At the inquest, it became clear that all was unclear!  Phoebe by all accounts had a happy home life and had not been arguing with anyone prior to the event.  Indeed, she was looking forward to her birthday celebrations, and to seeing her Aunt the following day.

The only theory put forward was that Phoebe had been run down and a little overworked, and got into the water for some kind of amusement.

A verdict of suicide whilst temporarily insane was returned.

As a result of this episode, a drag and life saving apparatus was purchased, and kept at the nearby Lodge.