Lost pigs; a drinking fountain, Christmas in the Workhouse, Odd Fellows and murder most horrid
1844 – Odd Fellows Meeting at Weobley
“The ancient town of Weobley was roused from its usual dullness by the proceedings of the Odd Fellows connected with the Star of the Valley Lodge, of the Wolverhampton Unity”
Late afternoon saw the church bells pealing out, as many people came into the town from nearby villages to contribute for the benefit of the Widow and Orphans Fund.
130 friends and brothers assembled in the lodge room at the Bell Inn, their breasts adorned with rosettes; the room was extensively decorated with flowers and evergreens, and outside there were lamps arranged into a star shape, surrounded by flowers which spelled out the name of the lodge, which had only been established for six months.
150 people sat down to tea and nibbles, after which many songs were sung by the brothers present.
Mr. Ribbon of Hereford was hired for the evening, and everyone tripped the light fantastic toe until the early hours.
1845 – Wanted – Master and Matron for Union Workhouse at Weobley
The man and his wife had to be without incumbrance, and would be required to perform such duties as laid down by the Rules and Regulations of the Poor Law Commissioners.
The joint salary was to be £50 a year.
1849 – Christmas in the Workhouse at Weobley
The inmates of Weobley Union Workhouse were given a banquet of roast beef and plum pudding, with plenty of cider to wash it down.
The beef was donated by an anonymous gentleman in the parish.
1857 – Strange Case of the Lost Pig at Weobley
Mr. Ford spent several days searching for one of his sows which had mysteriously disappeared – he traveled more than a hundred miles, but to no avail.
At the time of the disappearance, a steam threshing machine was working outside his house, and it was a full three weeks later that Mr. Ford discovered his missing pig buried under the straw. The poor animal had had nothing to eat or drink, and was heavy with piglets, but with much care and attention she recovered from her imprisonment and soon produced 10 piglets.
1858 – Kick from Horse Kills Weobley Man
William Taylor aged 67 was loading potatoes onto a cart, when suddenly the horse lashed out and kicked him in the abdomen.
The surgeon, Mr. Lomax, was immediately called, but he could see that there was nothing he could do, as the bowels were horribly ruptured.
William died shortly afterwards.
1859 – Weobley Drinking Fountain
C. Lomax; The Marquis of Bath, and others, all put money into the repair and restoration of the public pump in Weobley, which had been out of use for a considerable time.
The pump was not only repaired, but all the appliances of a drinking fountain were added for the “interest and comfort” of the inhabitants of Weobley.
1885 – The Weobley Tragedy (or Murder Most Horrid)
John Hill, alias Sailor Jack, and John Williams, alias Irish Jack, were charged with the wilful murder of Ann Dixon on 30th September in Coach Road Field, the Holme Farm, Weobley.
Williams was also charged with unlawfully wounding Mary Ann Farrall at the same time and place.
Hill was a sailor by occupation, but had returned to Weobley to gain a living by labouring, and Williams was a painter.
The pair were taken to court in the Merton Hotel omnibus in the charge of seven policemen, and on alighting at the court they were greeted by a hissing and booing crowd.
In the dock it was said that Williams behaved in an adacious manner as the case progressed.
Ann Dixon and Mary Ann Farrall
Ann Dixon was living with a man by the name of Cox and had a five year old child by another man. Mary Ann Farrall was from Manchester, and the pair of them were described as travelling women with no fixed place of abode. They were the very best of friends and were in Weobley for the hop picking season.
Cox was in Worcester gaol on a charge of drunkenness, but was due to come out and return to Weobley, which explained why Ann Dixon was in Weobley on the evening in question – she and Mary Ann went to the Lion to wait for him. They had a drink in the tap room where the two prisoners were also drinking, and as the evening wore on, Williams became over familiar with Ann and she endeavoured to stay out of his way.
When the two women decided to go back to the Holme, Hill suggested escorting them home and they agreed but didn’t want Williams to go with them, and they duly set off.
Some time into the walk home, Hill began to push himself upon the women, and although they rebuffed him, a little further on Williams suddenly appeared in front of them wielding a stick. He hit Mary Ann about the face with the stick, and she collapsed unconscious, but when she came to, Williams was taking her baby out of her arms. He tried to rape her, and she begged to be left alone but when he threatened to kill her she told him that if he let her get up and go to the barn, he could spend the night with her.
He let her get up, and gave her back her baby, then they walked through the field together – where she suddenly started screaming “murder”, whereupon Williams fled.
The next morning, the body of Ann Dixon was discovered, with the stick as above alongside. The doctor found that the frontal bones of her skull had splinters which had entered the brain, and the injuries to her eye was shocking. Not only that, but there was clear evidence that the poor woman had been raped after her death.
The Coroner’s Report on Ann Dixon
The body was lying close by marks made by knees and toes in the mud; she was on her stomach and face, with her face turned round so that it rested on the right side. The right arm was raised as if warding off a blow, and the left arm was also raised, but was underneath.
The hands were semi-clenched and the legs were stretched wide apart; the clothes were dragged apart so as to expose the latter part of her thighs and the stockings were turned down over her boots. The arms and hands were covered in mud and blood, and the nose was driven in. A square piece of flesh was missing from the right had side of the mouth; the bones were smashed in so badly that it was impossible to recognise the face.
The lower jawbone was fractured in three places; most of the teeth had been knocked out and the upper jawbone was smashed to pieces as was the nasal bone and cheek bones. The eye was driven into the brain.
It was concluded that the injuries were inflicted by a blunt instrument, possibly the broken stick found by the body.
Both Hill and Williams had large amounts of blood on their clothes, and Hill also had deep scratches on his hand and face – there was human skin under Ann’s nails.
Eventually the jury reached a verdict of Wilful Murder.
The Execution of the Weobley Murderers – the First to be carried out inside Hereford Gaol
Until this point, all executions were conducted publicly outside the walls of the Gaol, but John Hill and John Williams were executed in November 1885 inside and out of sight, they both having apparently had a restless night. Hill made a full confession before being taken to the gallows.
They left the cells just before eight o’clock, with Williams crying bitterly until he dropped, with the sound of the bolt being drawn carrying to the large crowd assembled in Workhouse Lane. After the bodies had hung for the usual time, they were taken down and covered with lime before being buried within the precincts of the gaol.
An Eyewitness Account of the Execution for those interested in gory details!
“The place of execution was in the airing yard at the back of the prison. A pit of about 12 feet deep and 6 feet by 4 feet wide, was prepared, to which access was obtained by steps in a side pit. The pit was covered by two loose doors which, held together level by a bolt, formed the standing places of the prisoners, and upon a simple strong wooden framework above them were suspended the ropes with which they were hanged.
Both prisoners were attired in their own clothes; near the feet of Hill were marked in pencil on the platform his weight – 10 st. 10 lbs, and his height, 5ft 5 and three quarter inches. Near Williams’ feet the figures 9st. 3lb, and 5ft 2 and a half in.
Hill being the heavier man of the two was given a drop of eight feet and Williams a drop of half a foot extra. Berry the hangman who had come from Bradford on Saturday, and taken up his quarters in the gaol, and already tested the drop several times.
When the bodies were taken down they were laid in a shed in their clothing; they were quite dead; white and rigid with blue lips and their heads bent over their shoulders. Their necks were broken, and death was declared to be instantaneous.
1899 – Drunken Man runs Riot in Weobley
William James of no fixed abode was hauled before the court after behaving atrociously in Weobley.
He violently assaulted two women and exposed himself whilst being exceedingly drunk, then followed up by assaulting the policeman called to the scene.
In the end, after general mayhem, P.Cs Barton and Baynham managed to handcuff William James, and tied his legs together, whilst avoiding being bitten!
In Court, he was ordered to be imprisoned for two months for assaulting the women; two months for exposing himself, and two months for the assault on the police, along with a fine of 5s plus costs for the drunkenness.
When William was being taken from the lock up to a conveyance to take him to Hereford, he became very violent; kicking, biting and shouting like a madman. Once again he was handcuffed (with great difficulty) and tied by the legs, before being bodily lifted into the conveyance.
1899 – Death of a Weobley Miser
70 year old Elizabeth Wood of Weobley died suddenly on Boxing Day.
She had been ill for some considerable time, but lived as a pauper with few comforts. It turned out that she had ample money to live well, and at her inquest the Coroner said it was a matter for regret that she had lived in such a miserable condition unnecessarily.