Strawberry tea garden, deaths, harbouring a prostitute and more
1846 – Sudden Death
This seems to me quite bizarre, that an inquest would be held on the death of a 97 year old woman.
The inquest was held at the White Hart Pub in Much Birch, on the body of Eleanor Rudge, an old woman of 97.
John Harper testified that Eleanor had been living in his house for more than 40 years, and on the evening in question he had had a bit of a row with his wife, which raised voices.
Eleanor left the room to go outside, and John said that he could not say whether she went for some “necessary purpose” as she had been eating pork for dinner, and this always had an effect on her bowels, or whether it was in consequence of the noise he and his wife were making.
After an hour or so, they realised that Eleanor had not come back in, so went to look for her, and they found her by the garden gate unconscious. She died soon afterwards.
Verdict – Died by the visitation of God.
1856 – Extraordinary Cause of Death of Child
In October 1856, the son of a labourer named Porter who lived at Much Birch, met his death in a most unusual manner.
Little master Porter was a mere one year and seven months old, and had been playing with a knife. (!) A nearby sheep was running around and it was thought that the little boy became frightened and tried to run away, but in doing so he fell on the knife.
When his mother picked him up, the knife was sticking into his throat, and when she removed it the blood flowed (as the poor woman expressed it) “like a pot boiling”.
The surgeon, John Morris of Hereford, was sent for, but as the carotid artery was severed there was no hope of saving the child’s life.
1858 – Steam Machine Death
Thomas Watkins, a married man of 53 with seven children, was working for Mr. Fisher of Strickstenning, Much Birch. Mr. Fisher had hired a steam machine to thresh his wheat, but the chap who usually acted as “feeder” to the machine was away, so Thomas Watkins was forced to take his place.
Thomas had never done this work before, and had no knowledge of steam threshing machines; he climbed up as the thresher was started, and put his foot on the feeding board…..it was immediately drawn in between the drum and the board, and although the machine was instantly stopped, his foot was very badly crushed.
Thomas was taken to Hereford Infirmary, and after deliberation it was decided not to amputate the foot. He seemed to do well for a few days, but suddenly gangrene set in and poor Thomas died shortly afterwards.
At the inquest, it was said that “when persons employ the mighty agency of steam to assist in their operations, they should be careful to have competent men to attend to the machinery”
It seems that this was just one of a catalogue of fatal accidents resulting from inattention when working steam machinery.
1860 – Harbouring of Prostitutes
John Harper, keeper of the White Hart Inn at Much Birch was charged with allowing prostitutes to be harboured on his premises.
Mrs Harper appeared to answer the charge, and swore that she knew nothing about it, although she did know the woman referred to by the police and knew that she was of “bad character”, but that on the night this woman was in the pub, she behaved very well.
Mrs. Harper could not read, and she had a large family; her husband John was 90 years old; the testimony became very confusing, and I have struggled to understand it….however, it seems that Mrs. Harper was heavily pregnant, and her 90 year old husband was too frail to attend court! Not to frail or old for other things it seems.
Anyway, the magistrates took pity on Mrs. Harper and let her off with a severe reprimand and costs of 8s.
1861 – Strawberry Tea Gardens
On Saturday 15th June, the public were respectfully informed that a strawberry and tea gardens had been opened at Much Birch – described as a delightful spot for picnic parties.
Charges were declared to be moderate!
The tea gardens were owned by Thomas Priddy, Mason, of Hennan’s Quarry, Near Rose Cottage/