Murder, suicide and Odd Fellows

1832 – Wagon Accident

John Pugh, a labourer working for J. Davis of the Brook Farm, Lyonshall, was driving a wagon heavily laden with oats down a narrow lane.

The wagon tipped over and fell on the poor chap, and although people frantically shoveled the oats out of the way, when they uncovered John Pugh he was dead.

1844 – Opening of New Lodge of Odd Fellows

On 4th November 1844 the Greyhound Inn, kept by John Walters, Lyonshall became the venue for a new lodge of Odd Fellows, of the Manchester Unity.

The number on the dispensation was 1813, which shows the incredible progress of the order, and the name of the branch was the Loyal Lyonshall Castle Lodge.

It was the first to be opened by the officers of the Kington District, and visiting brothers from neighbouring lodges and candidates for admission, began to assemble at ten o’clock.  Shortly afterwards the lodge was opened, and thirteen new members were initiated.

Later, headed by an excellent band, the brothers processed to the church were an impressive sermon was delivered by the Rev. John Randall.

1847 – Child Burns to Death at Lyonshall

Mary Davies aged 4 was left alone in the house of her father Jas. Davies, a labourer, when her mother went out to buy some bread.

When the mother returned she found Mary enveloped in flames, and despite the skills of the surgeon, Mr. Thompson of Kington, she died a few hours later.

As described elsewhere on the site, the Coroner was tearing his hair out because of the terrible frequency of children being burnt to death.  In 1844 there were 7 in one month alone, including 6 year old Thomas Smith of Woonton’s Ash, Lyonshall who was at school.  The master had gone to get some coal to put on the fire, and whilst he was gone Thomas threw some shavings in the grate – the resultant sudden blaze set fire to his pinafore and he burnt to death.

1858 – Suggested Solution to Deprivation by Sheep Worrying

Every year, Herefordshire farmers suffered terrible losses from the dreaded “kill-sheep dogs”.

In April 1858 havoc was created amongst the flock of William Ball of the Hope Farm, with lambs forming the tempting bait to draw dogs into worrying.  In this instance, the mangled remains of three sheep and ten lambs was very distressing for the farming, and two more lambs died later that day.  Most of the deaths were caused by fright rather than savaging.

Insurance did not cover this sort of thing, and it was suggested that the farmers in the district formed an association with subscriptions varying according to how many sheep they had, so that they could stand each other’s losses.

It was said that the killer dogs often traveled great distances, and were rarely not of the immediate area of the attack.

1862 – Suicide at Lyonshall

George Morgan was a married man aged 40 with two children,  had been working as a gardener for Charles W. Allen, and had never given any indication of being unhappy.  He was a regular churchgoer and much trusted by his employer.

George was found hanging by a cord from a piece of wood across a trap door in the ceiling, and was almost fully dressed.

The surgeon, Mr. Gustavus Foote said that George was of a bilious and melancholy temperament, and that such men do commit suicide at times.

1863 – Child Murdered at Lyonshall

Sarah Wilcox, a 20 year old single woman was charged with murdering her illegitimate female child on 27th August 1863 at the house of John Fowler, Rise Farm, Lyonshall.

Sarah was entirely friendless, and both her parents were dead;  during the whole inquiry she sat in an arm chair resting her head on a pillow and could barely speak in response to questions.

It transpired that whilst Sarah Wilcox was working for the Fowlers, Mrs.  Fowler became suspicious that she was pregnant, but when she asked Sarah if this was the case, she vehemently denied it.  Mrs. Fowler was not convinced however, and when Mr. Foote, a surgeon, happened to call at the house she asked him to give his opinion, and although he agreed that Sarah did appear pregnant it would be some time before he could be sure.

On 27th August, a woman staying at the house, Rachel Trigg, rushed to see Mrs. Fowler, saying that something bad had happened – Mrs. Fowler went to Sarah’s bedroom and saw that the floor had been scrubbed, and she also found blood on the stairs going to the dairy.

When Sarah was questioned, she said nothing had happened, but eventually she was examined by Mr. Foote who confirmed that she had just given birth;  also the afterbirth was found in the orchard and she finally confessed to throwing her baby into the middle of the pond.  The police dragged a rake through the pond and discovered the baby.

The Post Mortem

The baby girl was fully developed and weighed nearly 7 lbs.  There were no marks of violence, and the navel string had been cut roughly, or torn off, with no ligature.

On opening the chest which was well formed, the heart and thymus gland occupied the front, the lungs on either side partly over capping and were a bright rose colour and crepitous to the touch.

On removing the heart and lungs from the chest and placing them in water, the heart and thymus gland sank and the lungs floated;  on cutting the lungs into small pieces and pressing each piece firmly between the folds of a towel and then putting them into water, each and every piece floated. When pressing the pieces of lung, dirty looking aerated fluid escaped.

From these tests the opinion was formed that the baby had breathed.

Next the abdomen was opened and stomach removed, and it was found to contain dirty fluid, like dirty water, and the coat of the stomach had gritty dirt adhering to it.  The only way it could have got in there was by being swallowed.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of wilful murder, and Sarah was  taken to Hereford in a closed carriage, and committed for trial at the March Assizes.




1899 – Mr. Steward Robinson Comes Home

A telegram announced the expected arrival of Steward Robinson on the last train of the day on 17th July 1899.

He had been living in Ceylon and India for some four and a half years, and the Lyonshall villagers were excited about his return as he was much loved and respected.  Many people gathered at the station gates, and the church bells rang with such skill that it was clear that the experienced old hands were manning the ropes.

When the carriage from the station reached the entrance lodge, the horses were unhitched and Mr. Robinson was pulled up the drive to his home by estate workers, followed by a crowd of men, women and children, all cheering loudly.

Steward Robinson made a small speech, and went around shaking a great many hands;  after which everyone partook of some refreshments before going home.