New School and child murder

1845 – The Danger of Draw Wells

In August 1845, three children were playing just outside the door of their house at Monkland, when one of them, 19 month old William Cheese, fell into the draw well which supplied four cottages with their water.

The poor lad drowned before help arrived.

1853 – New School Opens at Monkland

For some two years, the Rev. H. W. Baker, vicar of Monkland, worked tirelessly to raise funds for a new school and at the beginning of September 1853 his labours were rewarded when the school was opened.  He himself had laid the foundation stone in September 1852.

The building was said to be “exceedingly pretty”, and was in the early English style with separate entrances for boys and girls.  Situated between the church and the River Arrow, it was built from a design by J. Hicks of Dorchester at a cost of £350.

There were wonderful celebrations on the day, with villagers putting on their Sunday best clothes;  many dignitaries arrived for the service, after which numerous Clergy, wearing their snowy surplices and followed by 50 children and the parishioners processed to the school.  The children sang as they walked, and when they arrived the building was dedicated with a short service by the Vicar.

Later, everyone went back outside and made their way to a large tent where they were given a banquet funded by the Vicar and the parishioners.  The afternoon continued with outdoor games for the children and a good day was had by all.

1854 – Charge of Child Murder at Monkland

(Warning – Graphic descriptions)

Mary Morgan and her mother Ann Williams were up before the Magistrates charged with the murder of an illegitimate male child which Mary Morgan had given birth to.

For some time, Mary denied the existence of a child, or that she had ever been pregnant, however in small villages this is hardly something that can be kept secret.

The child was found buried in Ann Williams’ house;  in a dark back room, beneath a tub the body was found about six inches beneath the earth with nothing wrapped around it

Mary Morgan’s Story

When Mary was taken to gaol to await trial, Mary Ann Langdon who was in charge of the prisoner, let her out of the cell to warm herself in front of the kitchen fire.  Mary Morgan began to talk, beginning by saying she had never imagined that she would end up in gaol and was admonished by Mary Langdon for lying in the first place.

Mary Morgan went on to say that it was nearly a month since she gave birth – she had been ill all that night, and when her mother went to work in the morning she found that she was in labour.  Around 9.30 a.m. the child was born and lived until 8 that night and she said that he was a fine boy and she was “vexed to see him die so hard”.

She admitted that she had not taken care of the baby, but said that she was ill and could do nothing for herself;  she was frightened that her father would be angry with her.  She went on to say that her mother took care of everything and buried the baby before her father came home that night.

Ann Williams’ Story

The mother, Ann Williams, said that she had found the child lying dead next to its mother with part of the after birth around the mouth – implying suffocation.  This was not what the post mortem suggested.

The Magistrates Clerk informed the Court that the jury were of the opinion, with one exception, that a verdict of wilful murder should be returned against Mary Morgan and there was some reason to believe that the father was implicated.

The Post Mortem

Thomas Burlton, a surgeon at Leominster conducted the post mortem on the child:

“It was a full grown child, and in my opinion had been born alive;  the body was covered with dirt, on removing which the skin seemed to be in a state of decomposition.  On closer inspection it appeared to have been parched and blistered as if it had been subjected to heat and moisture;  it was particularly so on the face, back and bowels;  the hair of the head was not singed and there were no marks of external violence.  On opening the chest, the lungs were not completely inflated;  they crepitated and floated with the heart in water.  On opening the head I found the brain had become softened by decomposition, no traces of disease were apparent.  Had the child died in birth, I am of the opinion that it could not have presented the appearance I have described.”

His opinion was that heat had been applied either at the moment of death or just afterwards, but that the child was born healthy.  He thought that both fire heat and water had been applied, and perhaps the body had been put into an oven, or into a kettle with a little water in it, and subjected to a great heat as it seemed to have been partially boiled.

The Crown Court Judgement

Due to lack of concrete evidence, the Grand Jury threw out the bill for murder, but found an indictment against both Mary Morgan and Ann Williams for concealing the birth, and they were accordingly put on trial for this.

His Lordship observed that when a young girl found herself in this position, it was natural that she would want to conceal her shame, but he warned that it could not go unpunished or it might lead to “a frightful increase in the number of these offices, already far too frequent”.

After much deliberation, the Jury eventually found both Mary and Ann guilty and they were sentenced to four months hard labour.


I feel that they got off rather lightly.

1867 – Fire at Monkland

A fire broke out on the farm of Henry Taylor of Wall End.

A messenger was immediately sent to Leominster for the fire engine, and they arrived speedily;  they confined the fire to the outbuildings thus saving the actually farm house, but the barn, granary and cider mill were totally destroyed along with a huge quantity of grain, seeds and cider.

The buildings were made loosely of wood, lath and plaster so burned rapidly, and the fire was suspected to have been started by someone smoking in the barn.

Sadly, Mr. Taylor had only recently stopped insurance payments on his property.


1889 –  Man Killed by Traction Engine at Monkland

A traction engine belonging to Mr. Kinsey was in the charge of John Jancy, a 46 year old guardsman with the engine.  James Williams (the deceased) was also employed on the engine and his duty was to look after the wagons and keep an eye out for horses or traps approaching from behind – his place was to walk behind the engine.


When they came to the corner at Mondland, John Jancy saw James walking alongside the engine, then he moved to the front.  John called for the engine to stop, and it was reversed as quickly as possible but not before the wheel had gone over James, who died pretty rapidly.


James had worked with the traction engine for seven years and was perfectly sober, so it was a complete mystery why he should have moved in front of the engine

1900 – A Monkland Boy at The Front – Boer War

The following is taken from a letter written by A.W. Postans, a Private in the 2nd Shropshire Light Infantry, to his parents.

Paardeberg Drift, February 28th 1900

Just a few lines to let you know I am alive and kicking.  We are having a very lively time of it.

We went from Orange River about six weeks ago, and we marched about sixty miles in three days.  The last day we went fifteen miles, and got into Paardeberg on a Sunday morning.


When we got there we were in camp about an hour when we were called out and then had a lively time of it.  I was under fire from six in the morning till half past seven at night.


It did seem strange at first, but I am getting used to it now.  It is not very pleasant to have bullets humming round you all day, and to see your comrades killed and wounded by your side.  I had a bullet go through my serge tunic and another through my mess tin.  In all we lost seven killed and forty eight wounded;  but cheer up, it will soon be over, for we have captured Cronje and he is the leader of the Free Staters.  He gave in today and I am writing this after he gave in.


This is an outlandish place, you can get nothing, not even a stamp.

1900 – A Monkland man at Maitland Camp, Capetown – Boer War

Lance Corporal H. Padfield sent the following letter to his parents, the Rev. J. Padfield, vicar of Monkland and  Mrs. Padfield:

Maitland Camp, March 7th 1900

You will know that we arrived here safely last Monday week.  We went up to Maitland Camp and are still there.  There are of course a lot of things to tell you.


Crossing the line was great fun.  Many of us got a ducking, your son was among the number.  We had glorious weather after the Bay, coaled at St. Vincent, and laid in a large stock of oranges and bananas.  Maitland Camp is about five miles out of Capetown.  It is really on a big dust heap, but we, as usual, are lucky to have a bit of grass.


You would laugh to see us in our tents – twelve in each, with our horses in front.  The first two nights were a bit exciting.  The horses kept breaking loose – stampeding.  Perhaps six would get loose and away they would go, knocking down tents and smashing up everything, men included.


We are all very happy.  We don’t exactly live like we did at the Mansion House, but I can say I have never been hungry without being able to get something to eat.  No one has yet said that he is sick of it, and although we get plenty of work, and hard work, no one has cause to complain.  I have Mildred’s air pillows and find them useful.


I have just seen Archdeacon Lightfoot, he told me to make a home of his place if I ever get down here again.  We have orders to go up to Kimberley on 9th, day after tomorrow.  We have the name of being the smartest Yeomanry Regiment out here, so hope to do some good work.


Be sure and don’t get down about me as I am as happy as ever anyone could be.