Faked fits, deaths. fire and more

1819 – Three Year Old Burned to Death at Whitbourne

William Siveton, a three year old boy was burned to death when his clothes caught fire.

William had been left in the care of a 7 year old child whilst his mother went out.

1832 – Enormous Gourd Grown at Whitbourne

William Smith of Whitbourne Court managed to grow a most astonishing gourd – it measured five feet ten inches around and weighted eighty five pounds.

1846 – Surprise Baby at Whitbourne

Eliza Phillips, a 32 year old woman from Norton near Bromyard and described as having a “somewhat weak intellect”, was discovered in a hay loft at Whitbourne in a rather poorly condition.

She was put in a cart by her helpers and taken to the Bromyard Union Workhouse, but on the way Eliza gave birth to a large and healthy baby!  Both of them did well under the treatment of the Workhouse governor.

1847 – Attention Seeking at Whitbourne

Mary Ann Jenkins, also known as Mary Ann Jones, greatly annoyed people when she threw herself to the ground on the road in Whitbourne and pretended to have a fit.

She was given much attention and aid, before it was discovered that she was faking it, and she was given two months hard labour in gaol for her efforts.

1853 – Death of Waggoner at Whitbourne

George Portman, a “sober and industrious”  waggoner working for J. Freeman of Gaines, was driving three horses along with his 12 year old son.  George was known to be lame.

The wagon was loaded with two and a half tons of coal, and when nearly home the lad had hold of the leading horse when the shaft horse shied across the road.  In the ensuing confusion, the shaft horse threw George to the ground, and the wheel of the wagon went over him, killing him outright.

1858 – Bigamist at Whitbourne

John Rowlands, a Shoemaker, married Elizabeth Ford at Whitbourne in March 1856 whilst his first wife, Martha Rowlands, was still alive.

Elizabeth Ford worked for the Rev. R. Briscoe as a cook, and he was not best pleased when she married John, who had been separated from his first wife for 25 years and believed that she was dead.

At the trial, the defence argued well, and persuaded the Court that the Rev. Briscoe was the real prosecutor because he wanted to keep Elizabeth as his servant and get rid of John Rowlands.

However, the jury only took a short time to return a verdict of guilty, but he was given a light sentence of two months in prison without hard labour.


1859 – Death from Burning

Ten year old Fanny Jones of Whitbourne, daughter of a labourer, was holding a baby whilst sitting by the fire.

Her clothes caught fire, and she rapidly sustained fatal burns.

Nothing was recorded about the baby.

1859 – Drunk Falls off Wagon

William Price of Whitbourne was rather the worse for wear when he fell off the shafts of a wagon.

The wheels went straight over him and he died soon afterwards.

1862 – Cottage Fire at Whitbourne

Mr. Pitt and his wife were renting a cottage from E.B. Evans, and one afternoon they went out leaving a lodger and  the Pitt’s  small son at the house.

The lodger then also went out, and not long afterwards the little boy raised the alarm that the house was on fire.  Lots of people rushed to help and managed to save most of the Pitt family’s possessions, but the cottage was entirely destroyed – apart from the chimney.

1893 – Fatal Accident on the Ice at Whitbourne

In January 1893 the River Teme had frozen over except for a channel down the middle where there was a strong current of water.

Harry Hopcutt, a farm labourer for Sir Richard Harington was working with another man loading hop poles on to a wagon.

Harry jumped from the load and started sliding across the ice, but near the middle the ice broke and he went under.  His cries for help raised the alarm and many helpers, including Sir Richard Harington,  raced to drag the river – they continued until dark without success.

The next day his body was found.

1893 – Man Dies after Kick from Pony at Whitbourne

William James, a farmer at Whitbourne, was putting a bridle on his pony when it whipped round and kicked him in the stomach.

The surgeon, Mr. Hinings, was immediately sent for and he did everything that he could the help the man but unfortunately that night William deteriorated.

Despite the attention of the doctor, William died the next day leaving a widow and grown up family.

1893 – Tale of Amazing Survival at Whitbourne

A carpenter named Stephens was riding on a timber dray, when somehow he fell off;  the dray loaded with a heavy tree, went right over his body.

Stephens’ ribs were crushed and he suffered serious internal injuries, but he was attended to by the surgeon from Bromyard and to everyone’s surprise he survived.


1899 – Death of Farmer at Whitbourne

Joseph Grubb was considered one of the best farmers in the district but at the age of 68 he met his death whilst driving a pony and trap home from Bromyard.

Joseph was discovered lying in the road during the evening – he had a nasty gash on his head and was quite dead by the time the doctor arrived.

The pony and trap had carried on without him, and at the inquest it was wondered whether he might have had sudden heart failure which caused him to fall from the trap, or whether the bad state of the road had jolted him from his seat.

1899 – Scarlet Fever Outbreak at Whitbourne

Scarlet Fever broke out at Whitbourne with whole families being infected.

Carbolic and sulphur was being used in the schools to try to prevent the spread of the disease, and the Rector and his family went to stay at Bournemouth.