Manslaughter, and inebriate tries to commit suicide

1847 – PMT Causes Suicide of Woolhope Woman

Susannah Parsons, a 23 year old woman from Woolhope had been working as a servant of Mr. Winter of the Shirehall, Hereford;  she was known to suffer from periodic tummy troubles, and was frequently bad tempered or irritable.  (Ring any bells ladies?  Sadly at the time it didn’t)

Susannah had had a relationship for some five years with Edward Jeffries, a porter at the Infirmary but it was somewhat rocky with many rows – sometimes they didn’t speak to each other for six months, but she readily admitted to her sister and others that the rows were her fault because she could not control her temper at times, and that Edward was blameless.

Susannah’s Boyfriend Breaks Her Heart

Just before the tragic event, Susannah and Edward  had not argued, but previously he had told her that he had plans to go to Liverpool in search of more lucrative employment……something she did not take well.  Susannah wrote Edward a letter with her thoughts:  (the spelling mistakes are left in but I have inserted one or two commas and full stops to make it more readable.)

“Dear Edward – I have taken the liberty of writing a few lines to you hopeing you will pleas to comply with my request,  I beech you to think no more of going to sea, I pray you will not go for my sake for I shall break my heart to think that I have been the cause of your leaveing your father an mother an native country.  I cannot bear it, I beech you to forgive me and renew our friendship again and then we shall be both happy again.  Only think of whare you are going to prpas if you once go to sea you may not see land again.  Dear Ed. pray pity me and do not go I pray and beech you, we have been acquainted so long now that if any one have any claim upon your affections surly it is me.  Pray pardon me and do not go for if you do I shall never foregive myself.  Pray send me an answer that I may know your deturmed will, so good by at present from your ever affectionate,

Susanna Parsons

Susannah’s body is Discovered

One evening not long after, she was seen in the kitchen of her employer, having returned from an errand;  shortly afterwards, she left the house saying that she would not be long but she never returned.

Later than night, a policeman named Richard Morgan, was doing his rounds when he noticed a shawl and bonnet close to the Castle mill pond, and he immediately went for assistance and a drag net.  Susannah was found and removed from the mill pond but she was dead.

The Inquest

The policeman tried to find somewhere to take her, and after being refused at many different houses, the body was taken to the Lamb Inn, St. Owen’s street where the inquest was held. It transpired that poor Susanna had suffered greatly with PMT, (although of course at this time it was not a known condition and was described in somewhat different terms) and it was this that caused her to be depressed and irritable each month.  At the time of her suicide, she was afflicted badly.

The jury returned a verdict of “Temporary Insanity” – a phrase which might well send any modern woman suffering from PMT into a rage!

1846 – Lambs Vegetable Compound

“An effectual cure for all descriptions of worms that infest the human body;  indigestion;  nervous diseases, bilious or liver complaints;  all cases of fits arising from internal irritation;  impurities of the blood;  early stages of consumption etc.*

This miracle cure was said to be mild and easy to digest.

In 1846 a Woolhope woman began to take Lambs Vegetable compound, and rather disgustingly passed a tape worm measuring several feet in length.

She had suffered dreadful indigestion, and doctors were unable to help her but the miracle cure left her completely well.   Apparently.


1859 – Murder or Manslaughter at Woolhope?

George Bull, a deaf and dumb man, was working at the Hop Yard farm in Woolhope when an altercation occurred which resulted in his death.

A witness to the incident was a lad named George Hookly, who said that he and George were in the fields earthing up potatoes, working some distance apart, when he noticed another man, Joseph Collings,  arrive and go up to George Bull.  He proceeded to make signs to him, ordering him to put lime on the potatoes before earthing them up, and a dispute appeared to blow up.

George Bull was the first to pick up a weapon, a hoe,  and he struck Joseph with it several times before Joseph found his own stick and began to trade blows.  Eventually, George fell to the ground but Joseph continued to beat him savagely around the head.

The witness, George Hookly, was too frightened to become involved but two men quickly came into the field and Joseph walked off towards the house.  The two men found George Bull very bloodied about the head, and eventually he was taken into the house and a doctor was sent for but he died shortly afterwards.

The Post Mortem

At the inquest, Mr. J.G. Morris a surgeon from Hereford, who carried out the post mortem, said that he found a bruise on the right elbow and that the left side of the head;  the right eye, and the upper part of the head were very bruised and swollen, and that there was a wound behind the ear.

He removed the scalp to expose the bones and picked out 15 or 16 loose pieces of bone that had been driven into the brain;  a large amount of blood had effused beneath the scalp and the lining membrane of the skull was ripped to shreds with the brain “much smashed”.  He could scarcely believe that death had not been instant.

A verdict of manslaughter was recorded, and Joseph was taken to Hereford county gaol, where he ate and drank and behaved as if nothing had happened.

1866 – Illegitimacy

Henry Hodges, a blacksmith from Much Marcle was ordered to pay 5s a week to help support the illegitimate child of Mary Ann Garston of Woolhope.

1888 – Woolhope Churchwarden shoots his Charwoman

James Williams, an 80 year old farm owner at Woolhope and a parish churchwarden, was charged with shooting  Ellen Carless with intent to cause grievous bodily harm;  Ellen was over 60.

Ellen had known James for around 37 years, and since he had lost his wife in 1884, Ellen had more or less looked after the house.  She was supposed to be paid 1s a week but had not received all of the money, and when she asked him about it, he threw dirty water all over her.  Then he fetched his gun and shot her.  At least this was Ellen’s version of events.

Later, shot was recovered from her thigh by a doctor.

A witness, William Knapper who also worked for Mr. Williams, said that he was close to the house when he heard Ellen say “take that you old brute”, and he saw her take two buckets of dirty water and throw them over James Williams.  Then James told her to leave his property or he would blow her brains out, and she replied “you do it”.  Then there was the sound of a shot.

The defence for Williams claimed that the gun could have gone off accidentally, and that he was only moving the gun because he knew that Ellen could be violent;  the other possible scenario was that he only intended to frighten Ellen.

It has to be said that Ellen did not report the incident, and it was only after the doctor had seen her that the police became aware of it.

Williams was committed for trial and the jury believed the defence.  He was acquitted.

1890 – Child Fatally Burnt at Woolhope

Mrs. Witherstone, the wife of a waggoner employed by Mr. Turner, a farmer, was baking in the bakehouse one morning and had left her four children in the kitchen.

She was alerted by sudden screams, and she found that her three year old son William Thomas Witherstone was in flames.  He had been playing with the fire and his shirt caught alight;  his mother immediately pulled the garment off but William had been very badly burnt.

He lived for some time, no doubt in extreme pain, but eventually died from exhaustion.

1899 – Woolhope Man Attempts Suicide at Weston Super Mare

David Marshall West, a clerk of Woolhope, tried to kill himself on 7th June 1899 by leaping from the pier at Weston super Mare – a height of around sixty feet.  The tide was strong at the time, and the water was some eight feet deep at the spot. He had never been to Weston before this.

David had separated from his wife;  he used to keep a public house in Hereford but as he was unable to control his own drinking the license was taken from him and he went to Liverpool to live with his brother in law.

David decided to plead guilty, but had he not, the jury might have thought that it was just an accident.  However, David was really sorry for what he had done, and admitted that it was down to drinking too much, this also being the reason why his wife had thrown him out.

Emma West, David’s wife, was willing to give him another chance and said that she would control his intemperance (not easy I would have thought given that she herself was now the landlady of the pub!) and taking this into account, the Chairman bound David over for £10 to be of good behaviour.