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Colonial Cases


Cambrian, 29 April 1820

Sir Charles Wolsely. - The family of Sir Charles Wolseley is of great antiquity - Sir William, the third baronet, was drowned in his chariot and four, returning home from Lichfield, July 8, 1728, between seven and eight in the evening, passing a little brook in a village called Long, in the high road.  This accident happened by the sudden breaking down of a mill-dam, at a small distance, occasioned by a violent thunder-shower, which brought down a body of water that sunk the chariot in the very moment of its crossing the brook.


The Observer, 24 February 1799

   John Salt, keeper of the Prison at Wolverhampton, was last week committed to Stafford Gaol, charged in a Coroner's inquest, with the murder of Robert Ansell, a vagrant, who had been confided to his custody.  A young woman, named Jane Hall, was at the same time lodged in the same prison, on an accusation preferred in like manner, of having murdered her infant, illegitimate child.


The Observer, 31 March 1799

STAFFORD. - The infant son of Mr. Jackson of Turbury, some days since drank a bottle of a solution of sublimate, which occasioned his death, after suffering for nearly a week the most excruciating pains.


The Observer, 1 March 1800

STAFFORD. - A young child, the son of a shoemaker in this city, some days since running with a knife in his hand, fell on the weapon, which pierced to his heart, and occasioned his instant death.


The Observer, 15 February 1801

Mrs Smith lately died at Stafford of the wounds inflicted by her husband.


The Observer, 13 April 1801

YORK. - The body of J. Lambert, of Newton upon Ouse, was some days ago found floating near the Staith, in this City.  He has been missing since the 3d of October last, when, it is supposed, he had been fishing, and fell into the river.


Cambrian, 13 April 1805

Last week an inquest was held at Walsall, on the body of Elizabeth Adams, wife of Mr. William Adams, breeches-maker.  It appeared in evidence, that Penelope Edwards, sister to the deceased, a young woman, nineteen years of age, bad lived as a servant in the family upwards of two years; that on Monday the 25th ult. she mixed a quantity of white arsenic, which she had purchased from a druggist the preceding Wednesday (for the purpose, as she then said, to destroy the vermin with, but afterwards said she meant to destroy herself) into a saucepan of mashed potatoes, of which Mr. Adams, his wife, and herself partook for supper; that immediately after they were all seized with sickness and vomiting, as was also a son, who the next morning eat a small quantity which was left; and that on the Wednesday following they all recovered, except Mrs. Adams, who died on the Friday.  The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against the said Penelope Edwards, and she was apprehended at Heath Gap, near Stourbridge, and has since been committed to Stafford gaol.


Cambrian, 24 March 1810

Awful Event.

A few days since, during the sitting of an inquest at Litchfield, upon a man accidentally killed, one of the jury, apparently in perfect health, suddenly fell back in his chair, and died in less than two minutes.


Carmarthen Journal, 26 December 1812

   A melancholy accident happened on Monday last, at the Fordhouses, near Wolverhampton.  A young woman named Webb, about 17 years of age, had been to fetch some water, and on her return home met an acquaintance with a loaded gun in his hand, which she requested he would give her to fire off; upon his refusing to do so, she seized the gun by the muzzle, and whilst she was struggling to get it from him, the piece unfortunately exploded, when the contents entered her stomach and passed through her back. - She expired about five o'clock the same evening.


Cambrian, 27 August 1814

   On Sunday morning last, the body of Mr. Abel Round, of Wednesbury, Staffordshire, was found, by a fisherman, on the River Severn, near Welshpool; he had been missing since the preceding evening: his hat, wig, coat, and boot, were found on the side of the river.  We understand that he had been for some time in a depressed state of mind, and had arrived at Welsh Pool with a view of proceeding to Aberystwyth for the benefit of his health.


Cambrian, 24 October 1818

   An inquest was held at Rowley Regis, upon the bodies of John Jones and William Robinson, who were killed by an explosion of inflammable air in a coalpit at Barnfield Colliery, in the said parish.  Jones, a boy about 13, was at the time ascending the shaft, when the fire forced him out of the skip, and he fell a  depth of 100 yards; one of his legs was forced off, the body being terribly bruised, and he died instantly.  Robinson, who was a young man, in endeavouring to escape the fire, fell into a place called a sump, and was killed.


Cambrian, 23 September 1820

 The Wolverhampton Chronicle says:- On Tuesday, last (the 5th inst.) John Wright, of this town, a lock-smith, was taken into custody for drowning his son, James Wright, about five years of age, in the Birmingham canal.  An Inquest was held upon the body on Wednesday, ... He that night slept with the boy, and on the following morning got up about seven, and taking the boy with him, proceeded to the Wyrlet canal, into which he threw him, but relenting, jumped in after him, took him out, and went to a cottage to dry themselves; when he was desired to take the child home and out him to bed.  He went away with an intention of doing so, but feeling at a loss to account for the state in which they were, he again resolved upon effecting his purpose, which he accordingly did. ... Witnesses spoke to the uniform kindness with which the prisoner had treated the child, and to the agitated state of his mind before and after the perpetration of the crime.  The Coroner's Jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder, and Wright has been committed to our county gaol.


The Cambrian, 12 June 1830

    A boatman named Batkin has been committed to Stafford gaol, charged with having in July 1821, (in company with a man named Shorthouse) murdered Mr. Hollier, a farmer near Burton-upon-Trent.  Batkin was apprehended in consequence of a man named  John, a private in the 2d dragoon guards, having, while ill, disclosed the particulars of the murder to which he was privy, though he oak no part in it.  Shorthouse has absconded; hopes are, however, entertained that he will soon be in custody.  It is said, that the unfortunate victim was first set on and left for dead about ten o'clock; but some doubt existing in the minds of the assassins whether they had effected their purpose, they returned about one o'clock, and hearing the wounded man grab, they then  completed the atrocious deed.


Cambrian, 1 September 1821

   Distressing Event. - The Staffordshire Advertiser says, On Monday morning last, (13th instant), a most distressing event happened at one of the Slatherill coal-pits, near Audley, in this county, originating, we understand, in neglect of duty in the persons whose attention was required to clear the mine of the foul air, and who unfortunately fell a sacrifice to their temerity.  About eight o'clock in the morning of the above-named day, four men and five youths were at work in the pit when the inflammable gas came in contact with the flame of the candle by which they were working, and ignited, when a most tremendous explosion took place, and the flame issued from the mouth of the pit as from a furnace; the whole of the party became a sacrifice to the effects produced.  Soon as possible means were taken for descending into the pit; several persons went down, but were unable to proceed for want of pure air, and sustained injury in the attempt - one to such an extent that his recovery is considered doubtful, in consequence of a second explosion.  About eight o'clock in the evening two men descended, and found the bodies of the sufferers, and they were brought forth from the pit, some of them in a very mangled condition; not less than a thousand spectators were collected on the mournful occasion.

   The force occasioned by the explosion was such, as to tear up the railway at the bottom of the pit, shatter and destroy different articles, and cause great devastation.  The remains of the deceased were interred in Audley churchyard on Thursday last; and the accident being of the most awful description ever recollected in that neighbourhood, some thousand persons were collected to observe the solemn scene. Four men of the name of Barnett, a father, two sons, and grandson, were among the sufferers.  Verdict of the Coroner's Jury - Accidental Death.


Cambrian, 1 December 1821

Caution to Colliers. - A fatal accident occurred at the Wolverhampton colliery on Wednesday week. W. Ball, a miner, was descending an iron-stoner pit in a skip, when, after having been lowered only a few yards, the whimsey by some means turned, and he was drawn up again with great rapidity.  Upon coming to the mouth of the pit, he jumped from the skip and clung with his hands to the pit frame, to save himself from being drawn over the pulley; but either the skip, or the tackling chains by which it was fastened, caught his legs and threw them up with it.  After remaining a few seconds with his heels uppermost, his feet became disentangled, and he was then compelled to let go his hold on the pit frame, fell headlong down the shaft, a depth of nearly 80 yards, and was instantaneously killed.  An inquest has been held upon the body of the deceased, before H. Smith, Esq. Coroner, and it appears by the evidence, that the engineer, W. Dunning, whose duty it was to watch the descent of the kip, had quitted his post to supply the boiler with slack, during which time the accident happened.  The jury returned a verdict of Manslaughter against Dunning, and he was committed to gaol.


Cambrian, 15 June 1822

   MURDER. - William Worrall, an old man, upwards of seventy years of age, formerly a sawyer, but lately a coal carrier, residing at Buerton in Cheshire, started with a cart and horse to the Staffordshire collieries, soon after twelve o'clock in the night of the 16th ult. and was found murdered in his cart at Ounley, near Madley, in that county, early the following morning.  The deceased had been shot, by a pistol ball which penetrated a little below his left eye.  It is believed that the deceased took with him only a few shillings, sufficient to pay for his load of coals; of which he had been robbed.  On Friday week a man of the name of Price was apprehended near his home at Knighton, suspected of being the guilty wretch who perpetrated the horrid deed.


Cambrian, 30 November 1822

   Elizabeth Tomlinson, who was lately committed to the Stafford county gaol, charged with the wilful murder of her husband, by poison, died on Thursday evening last.  She was infected with jaundice, and confined to her bed, when the unnatural crime was perpetrated. During her short imprisonment she was regularly attended by the county surgeon, but her complaint was not to be subdued by medical skill.  To the exhortations of the clergyman the wretched woman manifested great indifference; and to the last moment of her existence she asserted her innocence of the crime with which she was charged.  An inquest was held on her body on Friday, when the Coroner's Jury came to the unanimous conclusion that she "Died by the Visitation of God."  She was upwards of 50 years of age - her ill-fated husband nearly 70.


North Wales Gazette, 20 March 1823

In the neighbourhood of Stone, on Friday, while two brothers, named Mitchell, were at work in a quarry, one of them, in making an effort to avert the fall of a ledge of rock, which appeared hurling in the direction of his brother, happened to throw himself in the way of his brother's uplifted pick axe, just at the moment he was bringing it down with all his force, the former received the blow behind the ear, of which wound he lingered all Sunday morning, when death put a period to his suffering.


North Wales Gazette, 20 March 1823

MYSTERIOUS AND MELANCHOLY DEATH. - Mary Kent, late servant to Mr. John Ginders of Singsley, in this county, died from the effect of poison on the 28th ult. and an inquest was held on her body at the Castle Hotel, in Lane end, on the 3d and 4th inst.  It appeared in evidence  that on Monday the 244th ult. her master discovered that an intimacy subsisted between her and John Woodward, a fellow servant, of which he disapproved, and in con sequence of which he dismissed Woodward on the following day, and the unfortunate girl almost immediately after left her master's service without giving him any notice. - She sat up with the young man during the night of Tuesday, at a cottager's in the neighbourhood, and visited her father on Wednesday, but where she passed that night did not appear.  On Thursday night she slept at a house at Wetley Rocks, where she remained apparently in good health, until noon on Friday, when she proceeded towards Lane-end, and between 4 and 5 o'clock was discovered lying by the road side near Fox Earths, by J. [Pickill], of Newcastle, who was driving a one horse cart.  The man humanely assisted her into the cart, and conveyed her to Lane-end.  On the road she complained of being exceedingly ill, and charged the young man (meaning, as it is supposed, her sweetheart) with having admixture poison to her in some rum and water, at the Plough, at Wetley Rocks; but it was fully proved that she and Woodward had not, not had either of them, been at the house.  The hapless woman having been taken into the habitation of a labouring man at Lane-end. Languished about three hours, when she expired, much convulsed.  A post mortem examination of the body showed the stomach and small intestines to have been in a highly inflamed state; and the contents of the stomach afforded indubitable proof, by chymical tests, that arsenic had been taken.  As a father proof that poison was the cause of death, a portion of the suspected matter was administered to a rabbit, which proved fatal in the course of a few hours.  The verdict of the Jury was, that Mary Kent had died from the effects of poison, but by whom administered, or where purchased, did not appear.  - Staffordshire Advertiser.


The Cambrian, 14 June 1823

EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF SUICIDE. - On Saturday an Inquest was held at Hadeon Hill, in the parish of Rowley Regis, on the body of Harriet Cooper, aged ten years and two months.  It appeared, that in the Whitsun week she gave a small chimney ornament to another female, telling her it was given to her by an uncle; but on Thursday, being with her mother at her grandmother's, the circumstance was mentioned to the latter, who asked her if she was not ashamed of having taken it; and her mother gently reproved her, to which she made no reply, but immediately went home, whither she was soon afterwards discovered suspended by a pair of cotton braces to the rail of the bedstead; she was immediately cut down, but life was extinguished.  The Jury returned a verdict - That the deceased hung herself, being under the years of discretion.


The Cambrian, 20 December 1823


HORRIBLE SUICIDE. - Tuesday morning, about four o'clock, Mr. John Bradley, landlord of the Duke of York public house, Wolverhampton, put a period to his existence, by severing his head from his body with a razor; the windpipe, carotid artery, and nearly all the large vessels were completely divided, and he was dead in a few moments.


Cambrian, 3 January 1824

SUSPECTED MURDER. - On Saturday week the body of a man about 45 years of age, was found in the Wyrley and Essington Cabal, near to Lichfield.  After being removed to an outbuilding at the Wellington Inn, the body was carefully examined by a surgeon; the left arm was found broken between the wrist and the elbow, and there were several bruises about the head.  An inquest was held the same day before Stephen Simpson, Gent. And there being no evidence to prove by what means he came to his death, as verdict was accordingly returned Found Dead in the Wyrley and Essington Canal. - The unfortunate person is still unknown, and from the various circumstances attending his death, there is reason to suppose that he had been robbed and murdered.  No property was found upon him, and his watch pocket was partly turned out.  A hat was found in the adjoining field, supposed to have belonged to the deceased.


The Cambrian, 8 January 1825

MURDER. - On Monday, an inquisition was held at Tipton, Staffordshire, upon the body of William Bowater; when a verdict of Wilful Murder was returned against James hunt, under the following circumstances:-

   On the 18th inst. a number of men belonging to the Moat Colliery, assembled in the evening to drink, and several of them remained till twelve at night, when Hunt and Bowater (two of the party) proceeded towards their house at Coseley.  On the road they were heard wrangling, and Hunt made us of threatening expressions to the other.  Shortly after, Bowater was found lying upon the ground, the blood flowing copiously from his left thigh, and being asked what was the matter, replied, "Oh ! good Lord ! he has stabbed me." Hunt was standing by, crying and tearing his hair, and the wounded man being taken to a house, in a very exhausted state  from the loss of blood, expired in about twenty minutes.  Hunt appeared in great anxiety and distress, and repeatedly called to Bowater, "Do, God Bless you, Billy, speak to me;" but he was so weak that he could not reply.       Hunt afterwards absconded, and has not since been heard of.


The Cambrian, 15 January 1825

   On Thursday last, an adjourned inquest was held at the Mitre, Essington, Thomas Powell was fully committed to Stafford gaol, for the wilful murder of the poor woman, Ann Spencer, near Cannock, an account of which appeared in our paper of the 1st inst.  Two other men, who were in custody on suspicion, have been discharged.


The Cambrian, 26 March 1825

   At Stafford Assizes, Thomas Powell, a young man of florid complexion and mean appearance, was indicted for the wilful murder of Anne, the wife of Edward Spencer, by striking her upon the right temple with a hammer, and under the left ear, with a pitch fork.  Mt. Russell stated the case for the prosecution.

   In the parish of Bushbury, near Wolverhampton, the deceased and her husband, a poor but respectable couple,  had lived for nearly fifty years.  While he was gone to his work, on the 22d December, she was foully and barbarously murdered, and the cottage rifled of articles of dress.  To bring home the guilt to the prisoner, there was evidence that shortly after the murder he was seen on the road to Wolverhampton, in company with another man who carried a bundle; that shortly after, he pledged articles taken from the cottage; that blood was on his hands; that he burnt a handkerchief stained with fresh blood; and that he had falsely asserted that the clothes were given to him by a man named Edwards, and that he first denied, and then admitted, that he had pawned them.  The case was proved as stated.

   The prisoner, in his defence, said he was wholly innocent.  Had he been conscious of guilt, he had many opportunities of escaping.  He had caught the constable Diggory in an act of impropriety, and this was his revenge.  Mr. Justice Littledale summed up the case with great minuteness.  He thought there was abundant evidence to show that the prisoner stole or received the goods; and it was for the jury, if they could, to disconnect that act from the murder.  There were undoubtedly circumstances in his favour, which the jury would impartially consider.  The jury deliberated for 20 minutes, and then returned a verdict of Guilty.  He was executed on Thursday.


Carmarthen Journal, 8 February 1828

DISTRESSING ACCIDENT.- On the 19th ult. an inquest was held at Ipstone, Staffordshire, on the bodies of Hannah Smith, aged 62, and her children, Joseph Smith, aged 19, William Smith, aged 24, and Hannah Smith, aged 12, whose death was occasioned by the roof of the house falling in upon them.  The family consisted of five persons, and owing to the house being out of repair, they were sleeping on the ground floor at the time when the accident happened.  William Smith, the husband, alone escaped. - Worcester Journal.


The Cambrian, 19 April 1828

MURDERS. - Mr. Thomas Hollier, of Burton-upon-Trent, was murdered last week.  The body of the deceased was found by a man and his son who were going to work, in rather a lonely lane in the parish of Burton-upon-Trent, called Lichfield-lane, and used as a backway into town from the Derby and Hunninglow roads.  Some suspicion of the perpetration of the murder rested upon two young men with whom the deceased had, in the course of the evening, had a quarrel; but nothing definite has occurred to attach the crime to them.  A reward of 50l. has been offered for the discovery of the murderers.


Carmarthen Journal, 11 July 1828

   At Ashby-de-la-Zouch a shocking occurrence has happened.  A gentleman named Hawksworth, clerk to Messrs. Mamott and Co., had entered into an engagement with a young lady, aged eighteen, also of Ashby; the wedding dress was provided, and the day appointed, but alas ! her father would not give consent.  On Monday, Hawksworth took a quantity of poison, but not sufficient to cause his death; while it was operating upon him, he went several times to see the lady and on his return shot himself dead ! - Staffordshire Advertiser.


Carmarthen Journal, 31 October 1828

SUICIDE. - On Sunday last, the eldest daughter of Mr. Manlive, farmer, of Horton, near Leek, put an end to her existence by cutting her throat.  She was a very beautiful young woman.  It is rumoured that the cause of the rash act was her having been reproved for having possessed herself, unknown to her parent, of some gaudy apparel. - Macclesfield Courier.


The Cambrian, 8 August 1829

MURDERS. - It is with pain we record the following atrocious murders:-

   Tonbridge and its vicinity have been thrown into great alarm in consequence of a murder having been committed upon an elderly female who resided in that town.  The poor woman is about 55 years of age, and resided in a small cottage near the turnpike, and immediately opposite the Angel public-house.  She let a portion of her cottage to two navigators, who were employed with other men in deepening and widening the Medway.  These two men returned home on Saturday night.  One of them being in an ill state of health, took some medicine, and went to bed at an early hour, and the bother retired to rest a short time afterwards.  About four o'clock the following mooning, the sick man heard his fellow workman get up and go down stairs, where he was engaged for some time.  This circumstance, however, did not make any impression upon him, and he did not suppose that the man was engaged in committing the murder.  In the morning, when some of the neighbours entered the house, the door of which they found open, they discovered the unfortunate woman lying on the floor of her room quite dead.  A surgeon was immediately sent for, and he discovered that she had been suffocated by the hand of the ruffian who had grasped her throat.  The monster who had committed the murder remained in the town until the body was discovered, when he made a hasty retreat, but was taken soon afterwards.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 9 January 1830

   The deaths of two infants, of the age of one month, were caused last week, at Barton-under-Needwood, by their mother, Ann Barker, having administered to each of them, though ignorance, an overdose of laudanum.  She gave to one ten drops, and to the other five, mixed in sugar. - Wolverhampton Gazette.


The Cambrian, 12 June 1830

    A boatman named Batkin has been committed to Stafford gaol, charged with having in July 1821, (in company with a man named Shorthouse) murdered Mr. Hollier, a farmer near Burton-upon-Trent.  Batkin was apprehended in consequence of a man named  John, a private in the 2d dragoon guards, having, while ill, disclosed the particulars of the murder to which he was privy, though he oak no part in it.  Shorthouse has absconded; hopes are, however, entertained that he will soon be in custody.  It is said, that the unfortunate victim was first set on and left for dead about ten o'clock; but some doubt existing in the minds of the assassins whether they had effected their purpose, they returned about one o'clock, and hearing the wounded man grab, they then  completed the atrocious deed.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 15 January 1831

SHOCKING ACCIDENT at Mr. Ash's slaughter-house, Wolverhampton, on the 25th ult. - A carpenter was repairing a shutter at the upper part of the building, when the ladder on which he stood gave way, and in falling he was caught upon a large iron hook, which penetrated his side.  In this horrible situation he was suspended will his cries brought several persons to his assistance, who supported him in the best way they could, while they attempted both to withdraw the hook and to saw it from the beam; but their efforts were unavailing.  In about a quarter of an hour a surgeon who had been sent for arrived, and on removing his clothes, and after ascertaining the direction which he hook had taken, soon released him;' but he was then in a dreadful state of agony and exhaustion.

   On examination, it was found that the hook had entered the poor man's side between the lower ribs, six of which above it had held within its grasp, breaking two of them, and had also penetrated his lungs. 

   For two or three days the sufferer was in very imminent d anger; but we are happy to learn that under skilful treatment of his surgical attendant, there is a prospect of his recovering.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 12 September 1840

MURDER AT BURSLEM. - Joseph Ball, an engineer at the engine of the Jackfield colliery, near Burslem, was murdered on Saturday week by George Nixon in the following horrible manner.  Nixon was known to possess a revengeful feeling against Ball's family, in consequence of some supposed insult received by him from them.  On Saturday night he pushed poor Ball into the place in which the fly-wheel goes round, called the "fly-wheel race," and there the body was found on Sunday morning by one of the stokers when he went to light the fires for getting up the steam.  Nit a bone was broken, but the flesh was literally torn off them, and the death of the poor fellow must have been of the most excruciating kind.  No person would have known of the murder had not Nixon told some of his acquaintances before the body was found in the place into which he said her had thrown it.  On Monday an inquest was held at Burslem upon the body, when a verdict of Wilful Murder was returned against Nixon, who protested his innocence.


The Cambrian, 26 September 1840

ANOTHER MURDER. - An atrocious murder was committed during Wednesday night last, at Newcastle under Line, on the body of Martha Keeling, who had lived for a long time as cook at the Castle hotel in that town, and had recently commenced busies in a  cook-shop.  She was found dead on Thursday morning, having been strangled by pressure with the hands on her throat, and marks of violence were also found on her chest, as of done by the knees of the murderer.  She was supposed to be in possession of some money.  Suspicion attaches to a shoemaker, who lodged with her, named Matthew Fowles,  who went the same morning at four o'clock, to John Jackson, a clothes dealer, and paid for a second hand pilot which he had bargained for the preceding evening.  He was traced to and from Birmingham to the Hartford station, where he got off, and walked to Northwich the same night.  A description of  the supposed murderer has been extensively circulated, and little doubt is entertained that he will be shortly in custody.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School