Cattle Plague and other troubles

1844 – Lightning Causes Fire at Much Cowarne

In July 1844,  servants of Mr. Pudge of the Hillend, Much Cowarne, were working in the rick yard when a tremendous clap of thunder, along with a vivid flash of lightning, frightened them so much that they raced for safety in the stables.

The barn nearest the house burst into flames, and as it was full of dry straw it was soon blazing so fiercely that the house and other buildings were in danger.  A lad rushed to catch a horse in order to ride to Hereford for the fire engine, but the frightened animal lashed out and caught the poor boy on the head……he was initially thought to be dead, but thankfully he did recover.

Everyone in the neighbourhood rushed to help, and they somehow managed to prevent the flames spreading to the house whilst waiting for the arrival of the fire engine…..this arrived most speedily although many times the engine nearly toppled over due to the appalling state of the roads.  (They are not much better now actually!).

By the time the engine arrived, two barns, two beast sheds, a large wainhouse, and pigsties were blazing, and all were consumed, along with a great many agricultural impliments,  before the engine could do its work;  however, fifteen tons of old hay was saved and of course, the house.  This was due in no small part to the incredible efforts of villagers, both men and women, who worked tirelessly to prevent further loss for Mr. Pudge – who unfortunately was not insured.

1862 – Child Drowns in Well

An inquest was held at Hope’s Rough, Much Cowarne, on the body of four year old Oswell Wood who had fallen into a well.  The well was at the end of the garden, and was open with about three feet of water at the bottom.

The child’s grandmother, Elizabeth Wood said that Oswell had gone out into the garden, and some seven minutes later she followed him.  When he was nowhere to be seen, she checked the well and could see him down at the bottom;  she managed to get him out but it was to no avail as he was dead.

1866 – Cattle Plague

In the early part of 1866, cattle plague was spreading rapidly throughout the whole country, and it was estimated that some 100,000 animals had died since it first made its appearance.  The loss was thought to be around a million pounds.

Briefly, it was hoped that the disease had run its course in Herefordshire, but unfortunately this was not the case, and Much Cowarne’s herds fell victim along with those of many other villages.

Vaccination was found to be useless, and despairing farmers realised that there was no prevention or cure other than “a free use of the poleaxe”.

1867 – Rather Suspicious Death of Child

An inquest was held on the body of four month old Eliza Jones, the daughter of Thomas Jones, who died on 1st October.

The mother, Mary, said that the baby was healthy and was fine when they all went to bed at around nine at night.  She said that Eliza had not been ill at all, although she had a sort of dry scurvy on her back and a few marks on her buttocks.;  no doctor had ever seen the child.  She also said that Eliza had “fed heartily” before going to sleep, and that there was no way that either she or her husband could have rolled on top of her.

At just before six in the morning, Mary woke and found that Eliza was dead, and had clearly been so for a while as she was cold and stiff.

Richard Marley, a surgeon from Bromyard, had carried out a post mortem and he testified that he found no internal disease, and that the stomach was empty.  There was a slight effusion on the head, which was actually sufficient to account for death, and the whole of the back of the body was denuded of skin and greatly discoloured;  some parts being white or grey ash in colour, whilst others were black.

He said that on the buttocks he found deep marks, or wounds, which were ulcerated with red inflamed edges and almost suppurating.

Cause of death was definitely effusion of the brain, which could have been caused by a severe shock to the system from extensive burns – he said that nothing the mother said accounted for the marks and condition of the skin.  He went on to say that poor Eliza appeared to have been habitually neglected.

Due to lack of evidence as to what actually caused the effusion of serum on the brain, no action was taken.