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DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (4) The 20th century

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1900

The 1891 census reveals that living in Alvingham was a family headed by Henry Mason. Henry Mason was not destined to survive until the next census. On 1st June 1900, The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported:
“An inquiry was held at the Iron Bridge House, Alvingham, on Saturday by the Deputy-Coroner touching the death of Henry Mason, a carrier and cottager, aged 48 years, whose body was found in the Louth Canal, in tbe parish of Alvingham, early that morning. Mr. George Bett was foreman of the jury. The deceased had been a healthy and strong man to last September, when he developed mental trouble and in consequence of then attempting suicide he was removed to the county Asylum. Having spent three months in this institution be had sufficiently recovered to justify his discharge, and he returned home and followed his occupation. On Thursday Dr. Higgins, of Louth, was called in to advise as to his bodily more than mental condition, several boils having broken out. He then seemed a little depressed, and complained of not sleeping well, but in other respects the doctor could not detect any mental trouble. He, however, impressed upon the family the importance of keeping an eye upon him for fear of the return of a fit of depression. The deceased continued to go about his work as usual, and on Saturday morning he intimated that as the man and boy were busy he would go and shepherd, which he had done alone before that week. The sheep were in a field near the canal, and as he did not return for some time search was instituted, with the result that the body was found in the canal. The jury returned a verdict of ‘Suicide whilst of unsound mind.'”

1909

horror-creepy-face-under-ice-layer-horror-creepy-face-under-ice-layer-168350714The freezing weather at the beginning of 1909 – and the resulting ice – drew people to the canal, with fatal results. The wording used by The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, ‘The Face Under The Ice’ is horrifyingly graphic as it headed up a report on an event which occurred on Monday, 25th January.

Face

Hard on the heels of this was the tragic death of Ida Brewer, which I featured in Part One of this story. Click this link and scroll down the page for the full story.

Better weather, as was natural for June, but the canal was still doubling as a mortuary. In this case, no-one knew if it was a case of murder, or a matter of illegally disposing of a body. The only certainty is that it wasn’t suicide.

Infant

1910

The North Lincolnshire Advertiser of Saturday 26th march carried this sombre report:

“The body of Charles Dobbs, aged 65, of Kidgate, Louth, formerly a farm foreman and subsequently a carrier at Swaby, was recovered from the Louth Canal on Monday afternoon, under circumstances pointing to suicide. An inquest was conducted by the Coroner for the Louth District (Herbert Sharpley, Esq.) at the Woolpack Inn on Tuesday afternoon.

The Coroner said when the jury had heard the evidence be thought they would come to the conclusion that deceased put himself into the water, and that he did not get there by any accidental means. Wm. Ashton, shoemaker, said he had lodged with the deceased for about six months. Deceased had a complaint which troubled him very much, and he had been very upset the last few days. He said there was no help for him since Dr. Higgins’ death. He had his dinner with witness the previous afternoon, and when witness remarked to him that he did not seem to be enjoying his dinner, deceased said ” must die ; it will kill me, the pain at the back of my head.’

Witness was not surprised when he heard afterwards what hail occurred, although he had never heard deceased threaten to take his life. John Melton, employed by Mr. White, coal merchant, said he was with his employer in Thames Street the previous afternoon about a quarter past one, and met deceased about thirty yards from Harvey’s yard gate. Witness spoke to him and deceased replied. About three quarters of an hour afterwards Mr. Harvey called him, and witness assisted get deceased out of the water. Joseph Harvey said he left his wharf a little after twelve the previous day, and returned about a quarter-past one. He went into the office, and came out again about a quarter-past two.

A young man named Finney called his attention to a coat hanging on the crane, and when witness examined it he found an envelope the pocket with ” Charles Dobbs, Louth,’ written on it. He looked in the water and noticed something, and, although be could not reach it with the boat hook at first, the wind shifted it, and he was able to get it to the side. Mr. W. R. Higgins said deceased was subject attacks which were attended by mental depression. He was one of his late father’s oldest patients, and was greatly attached to him. Witness was not surprised when he heard what had occurred. He thought his trouble had temporarily unhinged hi.s mind. The Foreman said thirty-five years ago deceased told him that he thought the pain would drive him mad. A verdict of suicide whilst of unsound mind was returned.”

1913

From the Sleaford and South Lincolnshire Advertiser, 25th October. The sub heading was probably made up ready and put to one side due to its frequent usage.

BODY FOUND


“An inquest was held on Monday at Louth on the body of an unknown man. apparently 23 of years of age which was found in the Louth Canal near Fulstow Bridge on Sunday. On October 10th a man who lives at Thoresby Bridge found a cycle on the canal bank and took it to the police. No trace of the owner could be found. On Sunday morning the body of the man was recovered. There were cycle clips in his pockets and tools, which led to the belief that be was a mechanic. There was, however, nothing to identify the body. A witness said he did not think the deceased fell into the water, owing to the way in which the cycle was lying. The deceased was wearing a black coat and vest, light cord trousers with a pair of boots marked “The Yorkshire Hero,” nearly new. A verdict of ‘Found drowned” was returned.”
Fulstow

1915

A new century, and a new way for people to kill themselves

Car crash

crash report

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1923

Walking

With a slightly disrespectful subheading, the Halifax Evening News reported the sad death of a seven year-old boy:

“Well-known Minister’s Son Drowned. On Saturday afternoon, Bernard Spurr, aged seven, younger son of the Rev. F. C. Spurr, the well-known Baptist minister and author, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, was drowned in the canal near Louth. He was on a visit to his grandparents, Ald. and Mrs. F. Thompson, of Louth, and went for a walk with two other small boys. When near a bathing pool, formerly a dry dock, in the canal, he took off his boots, and said he would walk along a plank which was suspended by chains over the pool, and is used as a diving board. As he was walking across the plank overbalanced, and the lad was thrown into the water. A man named Wray attempted to get the lad out, but was unable to do so until some of the water had been run off. P.C. Cook tried artificial respiration for 2O minutes, but the lad did not recover.”

1931

Tailor

The Hull Daily Mail, on Tuesday 25th August, reported:

Lake

1938

TysonThis tragic story, from the Louth Standard of Saturday 13th August, is made even more macabre by the fact that it attracted a huge crowd of spectators:
“After her son had been missing for twenty-eight hours and the police had dragged the canal at Riverhead unceasingly, a Tetney mother arrived on the scene at the tragic moment when the body her seven-year-old child was being dragged from the water. Scores of Louth people, mostly women, were on the canal banks as the child?s body was brought to light, and their gay dresses and the blazing sunshine made a strangely unreal setting to the tragedy that was revealed.
The victim of the tragedy was seven year-old John Tyson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tyson, of Bishopthorpe, Tetney. He had been staying at 117. Eastfield Road. Louth, with his married sister. Mrs. Kirkby. It is understood that after dinner on Tuesday, which was to have been the last day of his holidav. the lad went out to the canal behind the house, telling his sister that it would not be long before he was back, as he was only going to fetch a jam jar which he had left at the side of the canal when he had been fishing before.
But he did not return either in a few minutes or a few hours even, and in the evening they notified the police. The police at once searched the canal banks, but could find no clue, and the fact that neither the lad’s cap nor his jam jar could be found led them to believe that the lad might have strayed. However, from midnight until about 1.30 on Thursday, the police dragged the canal behind the house, but without success.
Dragging operations were recommenced at 9 a.m. Later in the morning a search was also made in Hubbard?s Hills and a huge crowd of men. armed with sticks, walked through reeds and shallow water in lower reaches of the canal, working on the theory that the lad might have been wading in the shallow water and fallen down.
In the afternoon a big crowd gathered to see the police continue their search, which embraced the canal from Riverhead to Ticklepenny’s lock. The lock gates at the top of the canal were opened for the first time for many years ir an attempt to lower the level of the water at the places where it was thought that the lad might have fallen.
Later, the police worked their way back to the starting place, just behind the house where the lad had been staying, and it was here that the body was found at a quarter to four.
P.C. Storr was stirring the mud at the side of the canal with a grappling iron, when he touched the body, which rose immediately, and was fetched out of the water by another constable.
To add to the tragedy, the boy’s mother arrived on the scene at the fatal moment. She collapsed immediately and had to be carried indoors. A few minutes later, the boy’s father, who had stationed himself further down the canal, arrived at the scene and performed the sad act of identification.”

I am sure there were more suicides and more fatal accidents after the tragic death of John Tyson, but enough is enough, at least for this story. In a dry summer, the waters of the Louth Navigation are now generally shallow, placid and harmless. The waterway’s dark past tells a very different story and, if there are such things as ghosts and phantoms who have died in torment, then this would be the place to find them.

Willows Sketch

DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (3) 1879 – 1897

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Two surnames repeatedly crop up in these 19th century accounts. One is the Coroner, Dr Sharpley, and the other is Alfred Ticklepenny, the lock-keeper, whose house often played host to the melancholy duties of Dr Sharpley. Where was the house? I am told that there were only two lock-keeper’s cottages actually built beside the canal, and they were at Tetney and Top Lock. Old maps show a building just to the east of the lock, but nothing remains of it now.

This is from Stuart Sizer, who is the archivist of the Louth Navigation Trust:

When the Louth Navigation Canal was built, one of the locks of the canal was built on the land farmed by Joseph Ticklepenny.  This lock subsequently became known as “Ticklepenny Lock”.  Joseph’s youngest son, Thomas, became the lockkeeper at Ticklepenny Lock.  In addition, he farmed the land inherited from his father (the death/burial of Joseph has not been found).  For the next 115 years the family was associated with the canal in one way or another, either sailing the canal, (one became captain of a sea-going vessel which plied as far as Scarborough and Grimsby), or as lockkeepers, and one became overlooker of the canal.

Meanwhile, the tragedies continued to happen.

1879

The Stamford Mercury of Friday 16th May reported “a very painful case of self-destruction.

1880

On Friday 17th September, The Hull Packet reported this strange story:

Last week Dr. Sharpley, coroner, and a jury composed of gentlemen from Louth and Keddington, met at the house of Mr. Ticklepenny, near the Keddington lock and bridge on the Louth canal, to inquire into the death of Thomas Swaby, aged 31, unmarried, son of Mr. Swaby, clothier, Eastgate. John Gray said he was passing along the bank on Sunday morning before ten o’clock when he saw a man’s coat lying on the footpath and a hat floating on the water. He at once went to the house of Mr Ticklepenny close by, and got a drag, with which, however, he failed to secure the body he supposed to be under the water.

He then hurried to the police-station and gave an alarm. John Robinson, labourer, Louth, said he was passing by on the morning in question when he was told by some persons about the coat and the hat. He at once plunged into the water and dived, but did not discover anything. On diving a second time he came in contact with the body of deceased. Life was extinct. Mr. Alfred Ticklepenny said he was on his way to the Sunday school about 8.40 when he met Swaby between a quarter and half a mile from his house, and coming from Louth. He did not then know who he was, but he noticed that he looked very peculiar. He did not look like a tradesman on a Sunday morning’s walk, as his boots were very dirty, and his general appearance was that of a man of dissolute habits.

J. Smurthwaite, carpet weaver, 72, James Street, said that about a quarter to 12 on Saturday night a neighbour of his named Brookes, living in Ramsgate, brought Swaby to his house to see if he would give him a night’s lodging. Brookes said he would have taken him in, but his wife was ill. He agreed to do so, and Brookes paid sixpence for the lodging. Swaby told witness he had been locked out. He saw nothing particular in his manner or appearance; he was as bright and sober as possible. Deceased had not been to his house before.

On Sunday morning he called to witness, and asked him if he knew what o’clock it was. He answered he did not, when Swaby said it was just eight o’clock, and wished he would come down and open the door, as he could not manage the queer old lock. He left the house without breakfast. A man named Sanderson deposed to having noticed deceased early on Sunday morning. He saw him coming along towards Mr. Smith’s gate and then turn back again. He took hold of a gate-post and turned round two or three times, and at, last turned off into the road leading to Louth. He thought the man did not look quite right. Thomas Padman, of the county policed, stated that on his being acquainted with the affair he at once went to the scene. In deceased’s pockets were a bunch of keys and a knife,  but no money. Gray gave him a letter which he had found, and 22 photographic, cards of celebrated sports- men, actor; and actresses.

The Coroner said the letter “did not throw ‘any light on’ the matter in hand.” It alluded to family matters and disputes with friends and relatives. It contained the ominous words, “they may I regret it when it is too late.” It was written apparently on the preceding Tuesday. He should be glad if he could advise the jury to deliver a verdict of accidental death or found drowned, but they must take into consideration the surroundings of the case. There was the coat deliberately taken off and laid on the bank, and as to the hat, it might probably have been placed by it . and been blown into the water. Isaac Swaby said his brother was always irritable and excitable after having been drunk; he could not at such times bear a word of a reproof, and had at such times repeatedly talked of putting an end to his existence.

On the following Bank Holiday last year the deceased told his friends he should make an end of himself. His brothers often remarked that he must be going crazed. He had for some time past been irregular in his habits. He had latterly paid his addresses to a respectable young woman, a servant in a gentleman’s family, and was in her company at the Mablethorpe regatta on the preceding Thursday. The jury returned a verdict of “Suicide whilst temporarily insane.” The Coroner said it was remarkable that when he held an inquest a few years ago on one who committed suicide by drowning in the canal be had been called upon to hold four inquests within a few days, and that this case was one of a similar multiplicity of inquests.

1882

Reynolds News, in January, reported on what it called “a Singular Suicide.”

“Dr. Sharpley, the district coroner, hold an inquest at Louth, Lincoliishire, on Monday, on the body of William Barton, aged fifty-live, a publican. The deceased sent for his doctor on Saturday night, who found him evidently suffering from the effects of drink, and prescribed for him an opiate. Deceased then went to bed at midnight, but on Sunday morning he was seen by several persons walking rapidly from his garden into the country. It appeared he walked for two miles to the Louth Canal, into which he precipitated himself. When the body was recovered life was extinct. A verdict of ” Temporary insanity ” was returned.”

1884

James Ingoldby was a disturbed young man whose mental frailty combined fatally with a liking for drink. He was found in the canal basin in March, and the inquest determined that he had taken his own life while temporarily insane.

1886

From the Lincolnshire Chronicle, 18th June:

“On Friday second, inquest was held before the Deputy Coroner, respecting the death of man named Charles Turner, whose body was found in the canal, near Ticklepenny’s lock, on Thursday afternoon. Deceased, who was a Louth man, kept the Bell Inn, at South Somercotes, some years ago; recently he has been living at Hull. Thursday morning he left the Woolpack Inn, River Head, which is kept by his mother in-law, Mrs. Hewson. Some time afterwards, in consequence of his coat being found on the bank of the canal, a search was made for him; his body was soon found in the water, and on being taken out, life was quite extinct. After hearing the evidence, the jury returned verdict of “Drowned himself whilst of unsound mind.”

And there was this, from the Stamford Mercury, published on the same day:

William Robinson 1886

1890

The Boston Guardian just had three lines to spare here in June. A married woman named Grantham committed suicide at Louth on Wednesday. Her dead body was found in the Louth canal.” There were several Grantham families in Louth, and the census information gives us Fanny, aged 43, MA, aged 34 and Elizabeth, aged 18. In the 1891 census there is no mention of Fanny, so perhaps she was the unfortunate soul.

1896

This was a bad year for accidents, with deaths in April and December  .

1896

1897

Mr Watson

IN THE FINAL PART OF THIS FEATURE WE WILL
LOOK AT 20th CENTURY DEATHS IN THE CANAL

DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (2) 1834 – 1877

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Readers of my posts about Louth will probably be aware that most of my information comes from old newspapers, bet the first mention of a fatality connected to the Louth Canal that I could find is dated 1834, many decades after the canal opened in the 1760s. One must assume that there were accidents and suicides during that period, but they don’t appear to have made it into the newspapers. This, then, was the brief but melancholy report in The Stamford Mercury on 15th August 1834.

1834 Huby

Temporarily back in the present day, a summer doesn’t go by without a few scorching hot days, and these are inevitably accompanied by reports of people drowning while swimming in rivers or pits. It is nothing new, however, and in June 1841, The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported:
“We regret to record a fatal accident which happened to Mr. Boys, an assistant in the shop of Messrs. Sutton and Pettinger, drapers, Louth, and son to Mr. Boys, of Epworth, joiner. The young man, early on Saturday morning last, in company with three of his brother shopmen, repaired to the Louth canal, near thee third lock, for the purpose of bathing, but, within a few minutes after entering the destructive element, he sunk, and before assistance could be procured life was extinct. The other young men used every effort to rescue him from his fate; but, alas, proved of no avail. An inquest was held over his body the same day, and his remains were interred in St. Mary’s burying ground on Tuesday last. The spot where this unfortunate young man breathed his last, has long been a bathing resort for the young men of the town; but we hope this, added to many previous fatal occurrences, will tend to make others more careful in future.”

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“The third lock” would be Ticklepenny’s Lock, and its dark reputation was beginning to be established. In February 1855, The Stamford Mercury, in its report into local inquests included an incident which would have a fatal echo over half a century later (see Part 1 of this feature).

1841 hardcastle

Grimoldby 1861

The 24th August 1861 edition of The Louth and North Lincolnshire advertiser devoted just six lines to the death of a Tetney lad, but a search in the 1861 census records reveal that he was Matthias Richard Grimoldby, third son of Benjamin and Elizabeth. The same newspaper, in its edition of Saturday 14th December, reported at greater length:

“A melancholy event was brought to light yesterday about two o’clock p.m., by the discovery that a gentleman who formerly resided at Louth, Mr. Thomas Grant, and who was related to several families of the highest respectability in the town and neighbourhood, had committed suicide by drowning himself in Louth canal. The unfortunate gentleman had some time past resided with his family in Jersey, and about a week ago came over to Louth on a visit, but suddenly disappeared on Sunday evening last, leaving his father’s residence at about eight o’clock. On Wednesday, the most painful apprehensions were aroused at his prolonged and mysterious absence, and a bill was issued offering reward to any person who could give information where he might be found.

Yesterday it was resolved to run off the water out of the canal, and at the same time drags were employed; in a short time a hat was found which left no doubt on the minds of those engaged to the poor gentleman’s fate. Messrs. Phillipson and Sugden succeeded in recovering the body just outside the first lock, which they placed in shed at the River-head, and on examination it was found that the gold watch in possession of the deceased stood at 8-45, proving at what hour Sunday evening the painful event transpired. A young man named Easting, remembered seeing Mr. Grant, at about half-past eight the same evening, not many yards from the spot, and before he had got out of the neighbourhood heard a splash in the water, but he had no suspicion as to the cause. Evidence was adduced on the inquest, held yesterday at the Lock Tavern, which fully established the fact that the fatal act was committed when the deceased was in an unsound state of mind. Verdict temporary insanity.”

Sad to relate, in the decades up to the turn of the century, a further seventeen people (at least) died in the unforgiving waters of the Louth canal.

1869

The death of 23-year-old James Davey in April was particularly horrific. He was mate of the sloop “Hawk” and was negotiating the boat’s passage through Willow’s Lock . He was drawing up the dam of the gates to let water into the lock when the handle slipped all of a sudden and he fell into the river. The force of the current rushing strongly into the lock, he was dashed against the gates and washed in therewith. The lock is very deep and had no appliances to render help, he sank and his body was not recovered until 30 minutes later.

In November George Ward went missing. He was not a happy man, and feared he was about to become the victim of a conspiracy. His housekeeper observed him at his house in James Street near Ramsgate, burning documents and papers, but his disappearance remained a mystery, until he was finally found in the depths of Ticklepenny’s Lock. The informative website called Death On Your Doorstep says:
“His body was taken to the Woolpack Inn, Riverhead and placed in an outhouse. His corpse was in an amazing condition and the coroner had just received that day a most vile and scandalous anonymous letter implicating certain people in his disappearance. When discovered, Ward’s face was caked in mud and in his pockets were a comb, seven keys, a knife, handkerchief and rather oddly, a pair of nutcrackers. There is no doubt that the body had laid in a hollow made by machines that scoop out the mud from the canal bed and there must have been thirty of these machines pass over, thus embedding the corpse in the mud.”

1870

From The Lincolnshire Chronicle Friday 16th December:

On Saturday last an inquest was held at the Woolpack Inn, before Dr. Sharpley, coroner, on the body of Thomas Lidgett, of North Somercotes, aged 65, which had been taken out of the Louth Canal, near the first lock, the day before. The jury having viewed the body, the following evidence was taken. John Spoonser, Somercotes, said about half-past 12 o’clock on the night of Wednesday, the 23rd of November, Louth Martinmas fair day, the deceased and he left the Pack Horse Irnn together. “When near the Railway-bridge deceased said he should not go home that night, he would stop at the Woolpack Inn (River Head). Although the deceased was not sober he thought he was quite capable of taking care of himself. Witness himself had had some drink during the day. Samuel Dixon to a certain extent corroborated the statement of Spoonser, whom he joined at the Railway-bridge, but as he had not been in company with either of the parties during the day he knew very little beyond what Spoonser had told him on the road home. John Face, a sailor, said on the preceding day a man’s hat came under the quarter of a vessel he was aboard of, and he had heard that the deceased was missing and was supposed to be drowned in the canal, he and three others grappled for the body, which they found near the first lock, about 100 yards lower down than where the hat was found Having recovered the body they at once communicated with  the police. Mr. E.D. Ditchett had made a superficial examination of the body, upon which had not found the slightest trace of injury. The jury after a short consultation, pronounced the deceased “Accidentally drowned. “

1875 

In July, eight year-old Joseph Proctor was found dead, floating in the canal. His father, Thomas Proctor, said he had been sent to Mrs Nell’s garden to fetch some vegetables in a basket. At the spot he was discovered, he must have bent down to get a drink from the spring and somehow, whether, by the wind blowing him in or a dizzy spell, he ended up in the water. He was found near a stone trough into which water is conducted from a spring in order to supply vessels, adjoining the wall of the canal basin.

1877

In September, Betsy Carritt, aged 51, was found dead in the Louth canal near to Willows Lock. Her husband, Edward Carritt, saw her on Saturday afternoon when she went to the market. Later on that evening a man came and told him that he could hear his wife screaming. They got a lantern and went to search for her. They went to Ticklepenny’s Lock and got the drag, but in the meantime, her corpse had been found further on in the canal. She was pulled out around 9-30 p.m., with the basket of food in the centre of the lock. She had been drinking in the Marquis of Granby pub earlier that evening and this, coupled with her short-sightedness, and also the fact that she was tired and it being dark, were adjudged to have contributed to her accidental death.

1878

From The Lincolnshire Chronicle, 14th June:

Sarah Brown

NEXT: 1879 – 1897

DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (1) An introduction

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GranMy maternal grandmother  was born near Beverley in 1882, spent her teenage years in Tathwell with her family and then, after her marriage, moved to Louth where she remained almost to the end of her life. For reasons I could never quite fathom, she had a morbid fascination with death, and I can recall listening in as a small child to conversations she had on the subject with my mother. Grannie Preston (left, in younger days) was convinced that once, when she was very ill, she had a near-death experience, complete with trumpets and a blinding light. One conversation always stuck in my mind, and it was on the best way to commit suicide. Drowning, she thought, would be “such a peaceful way to go.” I suppose there is a poetic aspect to this, as the far off ancestors of mankind are meant to have emerged from the water (or, as the cliché would have it, the primeval slime) so a watery death has a certain circularity about it, and it is true that many suicides have taken place in a warm bath. The bath, however is usually only the setting, the unfortunate person usually having used other methods to actually bring about their end.

Sadly for Grannie Preston’s theory about the peaceful experience of drowning, the pathology of drowning is that death is brought about by suffocation which, as deaths go, must be one of the most violently unpleasant experiences. Clearly, though, the many people who chose to end their lives by jumping into the Louth Canal must have shared the old lady’s views.

I spent much of my childhood in Louth, but by that time, the canal was virtually derelict. Yes, water flowed – remember it was basically a man-made appropriation of the River Lud – but, at least in the summer months, it seemed placid and shallow. There was a bit of folklore that said the quaintly-named Ticklepenny’s Lock was “bottomless.” When we finally cycled out to investigate, we were rather disappointed to find that the dark depths of the legend would hardly have come up to our shins, despite the towering brickwork suggesting something more sinister.

The truth, of course, is that the canal we saw in the 1960s was nothing like the waterway that was built in 1770. Its usage as a navigation had begun to decline by the time of The Great War, and the catastrophic Louth Flood in 1920 destroyed much of the infrastructure at the town end of the canal. After that, water levels steadily fell due to the lack of boat traffic and the decay of the eight locks which controlled how much water lay between them. The waters of the Louth Canal were, then, much darker and deeper than they are today.

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Obviously, none of the poor souls who chose to end their lives in the Louth Canal are around to answer the question “why choose drowning?” Many of the deaths which I will relate in this feature are suicides, but there are two or three notable dramatic accidents, and one such was in late January 1909. It made the front page in a celebrated – and sensationalist – tabloid paper called The Illustrated Police News. During that month freezing conditions across much of the country had tempted people out onto the ice, and this wasn’t the only drowning incident. The Boston Guardian later reported:

A DISREGARDED WARNING. A distressing ice fatality occurred on the Louth and Tetney Navigation Canal on Saturday night, when four skaters, including three members of a well-known Louth family were immersed, and Miss Ida Brewer, aged about 25 years, was drowned.
It is only in very severe weather that the Louth canal is sufficiently frozen over to permit of skating. During the week, however, an intense frost had been experienced with the result that the canal was coated over with ice of sufficient thickness, and on Thursday of last week skating became general on the waterway, and particularly on the stretch near Keddington and Ticklepenny’s Lock.
On Friday there was a great change in the climatic conditions, a thaw setting in, while rain fell at night. These adverse conditions affected skating and rendered the ice unsafe.In spite of the weakening of the ice. however, a large number of skaters were the canal which, at some places presented an animated picture. Reports regarding the the ice on Saturday afternoon were of unsatisfactory character, and in the evening, the number of skaters at this particular spot greatly dwindled.
It is not improbable that the height of the the water by this time had greatly varied, for one the skaters stated that the ice was bending and cracking beneath the weight of those on its surface in an alarming manner, and water was penetrating it at points.
The accident occurred about ten minutes past eight. Miss Ida Brewer, who was the eldest daughter of Mr William Brewer, of Victoria Road, Louth, and who was a teacher in a school, was skating, in the well-known hand-in-hand fashion with her brother, Mr Sidney Brewer, a clerk in Louth Post Office; a younger brother named Oswald was following close up behind by himself.

A FUTILE WARNING. Another male skater had preceded the party up the canal, and he, feeling that the ice not in a safe condition, turned round, intending to go to the bank to take off his skates. As he passed the two elder Brewers he warned them that the ice was “not safe over there,” adding ” You two had better part,”
Possibly they did not hear his cry of warning as they continued their course, and immediately afterwards their would-be friend heard the ice give way. Looking round saw the three persons in the water. An alarm was raised, and another skater, Ernest Shearsmith. bricklayers apprentice, residing in Mount Pleasant, Louth, who was a considerable distance away down the canal, immediately dashed up. and. despite warning shouts to ‘keep back,” was going to render assistance to the unfortunate Brewers, when he found the ice giving way beneath himself, and he, too, was immersed.
Being a swimmer he fortunately did not lose his presence of mind and after a few unsuccessful attempts to get out of his perilous position with the ice breaking away in his hands, managed to clamber to safety. As he made for the embankment the ice again gave way beneath him, but luckily he was near enough get hold of the grass on the bank and save himself from being again precipitated into the water.

MISS BREWER’S DISAPPEARANCE. Meanwhile the other three had attracted the attention of all the others on the ice, and by means of ladders and the plucky action of one man, who lay down on the ice and drew one of the youths out, both Sidney and Oswald Brewer were rescued. However, of Ida Brewer there does not appear to have been any trace after her first disappearance until her body was recovered from beneath the ice an hour afterwards. Artificial respiration was resorted to Mr. W.J.Best but without the desired effect.
Later the body was conveyed home. Attached to the fatality is a tragic interest in the circumstance that only a short time before the accident Miss Brewer is stated to have remarked one of the other skaters that she had made her will “in case she got drowned”.

1909 IPN image


IN PART TWO – 19th century tragedies

MURDER IN THE PARK . . . The tragedy of Doris and Walter Reeve (2)

DORIS HEADER

SO FAR – The murder-suicide of Doris and Walter Reeve in August 1933 has shocked Fenland and made the national newspapers. The Illustrated Police News – which had been publishing lurid accounts of crime since 1864 –  had great delight in producing an imaginative illustration of the double tragedy.

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Back in Wisbech, the inquest continues to investigate the relationship between Doris Reeve and her husband.

On the Tuesday, Doris’s father went to Upwell to confront his son-in-law. Walter Reeve was aggressive when spoken to, and accused Mr Reeve senior of only coming round to provoke an argument. When Walter Reeve was accused of carrying on with another woman, he replied:

“I know I have, and I shall do again.”

Later, Doris revealed, that in addition to physically knocking her about, Walter had shown her a double barreled shotgun and threatened to first blow her head off, and then turn the gun on himself. Eventually, later in June, Doris left Walter for good. Walter paid several visits to the Clarence Road home and was in turn both threatening, and playing the part of the heart-broken husband. On one occasion, Doris’s father said to Walter:

“You have turned out a rotter.”
Walter replied:
“You will not let her come back, and you will regret this.”

The events of that Saturday evening, 26th August became clear as the case progressed. PC Howard, who had been called to the grim scene in the railway carriage told the inquest that he had been on duty in Wisbech early on the Saturday evening. He had seen Walter and Doris Reeve standing in the High Street. Walter Reeve had his hands in his pockets, and Doris did not seem to be upset or distressed in any way.

May Simpson, of Norwich Road Wisbech, had known Doris as a friend since January. The two were meant to meet in Wisbech at 7.00pm that Saturday evening, but Doris did not arrive on time. Miss Simpson began walking up Norfolk Street, and stopped outside a butchers’ shop to talk to another woman friend, when Doris Reeve came rushing up. This was about 7.10pm. Doris seemed to be in good spirits. The three women then went to the Empire Theatre, and came out at about 10.45pm. They stood outside talking for a while, and Doris still seemed cheerful, and said nothing about any matrimonial troubles. Doris and the third woman, Mrs Read, then walked towards the Lynn Road, going via the cannon on Nene Quay, rather than the dark and rather confined Scrimshaw’s Passage. They said goodnight by Ames Garage, and Doris the walked briskly off in the direction of her own home. That was the last time that anyone – with the exception of her husband – saw her alive.

What had Walter Reeve been up to on that fateful evening? The court was told that he had no history of mental health problems, and was a man of “considerable bodily vigour and health”. On the evening of the murder, he met with some friends in The Five Bells on Norfolk Street. They stayed there drinking until about 10.00pm, when they went to Wombwells, a fish and chip shop next to The Electric Theatre. After enjoying a fish supper, they left about 10.40pm in the direction of Blackfriars Bridge over the canal, where they parted company

One of the men with whom Walter Reeve had been drinking was asked by the court if Reeve had been the worse for wear. He replied that he had been rather quiet all evening, when he was normally quite jolly. The witness said that he knew divorce proceedings had been started between Doris and Walter, and that Reeve had been seeing another woman.

Ernest Martin Henson, a garage proprietor of Cannon Street, Wisbech, said that he had heard knocking on his door between 11.30pm and 11.45pm on the Saturday night. He answered the door, and the man, who gave his name as Reeve, said that he wanted to be taken to Upwell. Henson said:

“I suppose you know what the fare will be?”
Reeve answered:
“Four shillings.”
No, “ said Henson, “it will be twelve shillings and sixpence at this time of night.
In a very offhand manner, Reeve said, “Oh, alright then.

Henson took about five minutes to get dressed, and went and fetched the car. When he drove round to the front of the premises, there was no-one there. Henson waited for about forty five minutes, but when no-one came, he went back to bed.

Two men, itinerant fruit pickers who had been ‘dossing’ in the park on the Saturday night had an interesting tale to tell. One of the men, called Nesbitt, saw a figure standing by a gate, but the man was doing nothing to attract attention. Then Nesbitt heard groans, and said to his friend:

Come along – there is somebody there badly using a woman.
His friend replied that it might only be a couple in a domestic dispute, and so they decided to let discretion be the better part of valour. The next day, Nesbitt’s colleague said:
There’s been a woman murdered over there..” and Nesbitt replied that he must have been correct all along the previous night.

In the Coroner’s summing up, he said that it was clear that Walter Reeve had murdered his wife and then done away with himself. He raised the question of Reeve’ sanity, but said that there was no evidence of mental health issues with either Reeve himself or any members of his immediate family. He did refer, however, to the testimony of Reeve’s mother, who had said that even as a child, Walter had been possessed of a very violent temper. The Coroner reminded the jury that if they were prepared to say that Reeve was out of his mind when he killed himself, they could then hardly say that he was sane a little earlier when he had plunged the knife into his wife. He said that the reverse was also true.

The jury returned the obvious verdict of murder in the case of Doris Reeve, but asked that the archaic verdict of Felo de Se be placed on record. The Latin term literally translates as “felon of himself”, and in earlier times, English common law considered suicide a crime. A person found guilty of it, even though dead, was subject to punishment which might include forfeiture of property and being given a shameful burial.

If only in the personal column of the local newspaper, Doris and Walter Reeve were united in death.

Obit

Regarding the burials of the two young people, shameful or otherwise, the Wisbech Advertiser had this to say in its edition of Friday 1st September:

FUNERAL 1

Just six miles away, however, a rather different interment was taking place.There will have been tears shed, but no-one sang hymns, and the police were not required to control the crowds.

Funeral 2

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MURDER IN THE PARK . . . The tragedy of Doris and Walter Reeve (1)

DORIS HEADER

On the weekend of 13th and 14th September, 2014, something unusual surfaced on social media. On Facebook, someone reported a mysterious homemade memorial which had been placed on the grass at the edge of Wisbech Park. I went to have a look. It was a simple wooden cross, with a laminated printed message pinned to it.

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Strangely, the sign was only there for a couple of days, but research in newspaper archives led me back over eighty years.

It is August, 1933. The hit song of the year was Stormy Weather, sung by Ethel Waters. In the cricket, England beat the West Indian touring side with ease. Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister, while Winston Churchill’s speeches warning of the dangers of Germany’s re-armament had been largely ignored. In Wisbech, meanwhile, the local papers were full of the latest speculation about the health of the forthcoming harvest, while the Advertiser and the Standard were running weekly updates on what looked like being a bumper year for Bramley apples. At The Electric Theatre in town, cinema audiences were preparing to be terrified by the forthcoming feature – The Mummy – starring Boris Karloff. But those Wisbech folk were to have a horror – of a genuine kind – delivered to their doorsteps very soon.

Body Text

Day broke, and as people gathered around the scene of the murder, none of them was to know that within a couple of hours, an equally macabre and disturbing discovery was to be made. Meanwhile, police had driven to the nearby village of Upwell, where Doris Reeve had been living with her husband Walter, aged 26. Getting no answer to their urgent knocking, the officers forced their way in, but found the house empty.

Another Wisbech Bobby, Police Constable Howard was called, at 10.30 am on that Sunday morning, and told that there was a man who appeared to have hanged himself in a railway carriage near Wisbech LNER station. When he went to investigate, he found that the carriage was the middle one of three, standing in a siding. and he was able to access the carriage without going through the station.he found a man hanging from a luggage rack, with a neck-tie and handkerchief used for the job. The man’s feet were dragging on the floor of the carriage, but his whole weight was on his neck. His right hand was resting on the seat, next to a knife, and his body was stiff and cold. He was wearing a pair of light grey flannel trousers, a vest and a shirt. Round his waist was a belt, with a sheath attached to it. His shirt was flecked with blood-stains and there was a knife wound on the left side of his chest. Cast to one side in the carriage compartment were a jacket, waistcoat and hat. In his possession were a wallet, ten shillings in small change, and a driver’s licence in the name of Walter Reeve, Low Side, Upwell.

The police now had two dead bodies on their hands, and people were able to reach their own conclusions about the circumstances of the deaths. It wasn’t until the inquest, however, that the full truth about the tragic events would be made public. The inquest was held at the North Cambridgeshire Hospital in Wisbech on Monday 28th August. By law, the deaths of Florence and Walter Reeve had to be considered separately. We can look at the evidence given in whichever order we choose. Firstly, the grim physical details of the deaths. Dr Butterworth, when he examined Doris Reeve, had found an incised wound, an inch long, over her third left rib, and another wound – of the same shape and size – more round to the side and between her eighth and ninth ribs. The wound over the third rib had been the fatal one, severing the pulmonary artery. The wounds had clearly been caused by a small – but very sharp – knife. Walter Reeve had died as a result of strangulation, but it also seemed that he had tried to inflict wounds on himself with the knife which was found on the seat beside his body. The doctor and the police were able to confirm that this knife was the one which had killed Doris Reeve.

In order to establish the state of the relationship between Doris and Walter Reeve, Doris’s father was called to the witness stand. He said that Doris had married Walter in January 1932, but the marriage was not one made in heaven. By June 1933 Doris had left their married home in Upwell, and moved back in with her parents at 21 Clarence Road, Wisbech. Doris’s father said that he had been largely unaware of events in his daughter’s life, because she was not n the habit of confiding in him. His first intimation that things were wrong was when he awoke from a nap one day to find Doris kneeling on the floor, with her head in her mother’s lap. Doris, however, would not tell him what had happened, but Mrs Reeve senior told him that Walter had knocked Doris down and taken money from her purse. He had only given her £1 for housekeeping that week rather than the usual thirty shillings. Doris returned briefly to Upwell, but she would come home each night to Wisbech, having been given the bus fare by her mother.

The double death in Wisbech made the national newspapers, and the Daily Mirror published this photograph of the murder site, but mistakenly sited Walter Reeve’s death to Upwell.

Murder site

IN PART TWO
Two funerals, and the inquest concludes

THE STRANGE DEATH OF HORACE DIMOCK . . . part two

Header

The Great and the Good (minus one or two of the medical fraternity from Wisbech) gathered to pay their last respects to Horace Dimock, in his home village of Stretham. There had been a kind of ‘lying in state’ in the family home, before the mourners assembled at the church, ready to make the procession up the hill to the village cemetery. A beautiful old funeral bier still exists inside the village church, and may well be the one which carried Horace Dimock’s body on its final journey.

Bier

The newspaper commented thus:

Many of the mourners came the other side of the Isle, where, week after week, Dr. Dimock had served his patients faithfully and well. The mourners assembled outside the family residence in Red Lion Street, where the young doctor lay dead, and few of them were allowed look upon his face for the last time. Dr. Dimock, in a will made prior to one of his sea voyages taken for the benefit of his health, expressed a wish that flowers should be sent by the family in the event his death, and this wish was respected on the present occasion. Floral tributes, however, came from elsewhere, chiefly from Wisbech—and the inscriptions on them showed the high regard which the doctor was held by those amongst whom he had laboured. One wreath bore the following inscription, which fairly represented the feelings of Wisbech: “In loving sympathy, for one who worried the few, but loved the many.”

Funeral 3

The report continued:

It was expected that the funeral of the late Dr. Horace Dimock would be largely attended, but the villagers of Stretham were scarcely prepared for the crowds that trooped into their midst on Friday. One of the oldest inhabitants, in conversation with our representative, looked upon the attendance at the funeral as a fine tribute to the popularity of Dr. Dimock, and said he had not seen anything like it in the village before.”

The mourners were met at the churchyard gate by the Rev. S. Stuart Stitt and the choir, one of whom acted as cross-bearer. The surpliced churchmen led the mourners into the sacred edifice, and the coffin, covered with beautiful wreaths, was taken thither on a wheeled bier, which was placed near the entrance the sanctuary. The service was conducted by the Rector. The choir sang“On the Resurrection Morning.” and Now The Labourer’s Task Is O’er. You can listen to the tune of this lovely old Victorian hymn by clicking the media player below.

Hymn

WreathsThe floral tributes included the following:

“In deepest sympathy and loving memory of The People’s Doctor, from members of the Wisbech Working Men’s Liberal Association.”

“With deepest sympathy, from the residents of Gorefield and Leverington; With united, sincere, and deepest sympathy, from the staff and employees of the G.E.R., Wisbech.”

“With deepest sympathy, from the parishioners of Elm— “Greater love hath no man than that he laid down his life for others”

‘With deepest sympathy, from the Rev. and Mrs. S. Stitt; For Dr. Horace, with love, from Hilda: With deepest sympathy for our late beloved doctor from the M. and G. Joint Staff, Wisbech—”Gone but not forgotten.”

The newspaper account concluded:

“The cinematograph was at work during the afternoon, and one photographer more bold than the others of his fraternity, erected his apparatus on top of a churchyard monument. The interment took place in the cemetery after the first part the service had been held in the parish church. The proceedings were orderly, with the exception that one Wisbech man gave vent to some strong language, which had reference to the way which Dr. Dimock had been treated. The police, of whom two were in plain clothes, had an easy task to perform, as compared with what might have happened under certain circumstances.”

Postcard 3A century or more later, what do we make of the affair? What happened to the participants who survived? Reading contemporary accounts, it is difficult to believe that Horace Dimock was a totally innocent party. It would have been perfectly possible for him to have won the hearts of his patients, many of them from the poorer side of society, at the same time as conducting a hate campaign against those fellow professionals against whom he bore a grudge. The less lurid of the postcards allegedly sent by Dr Dimock were reproduced in the press, along with detailed evidence by so-called handwriting experts.

The ordinary people of Wisbech were not sitting on the fence, however: to them, Dimock was a victim of a vile conspiracy, and a modern martyr. It must also be remembered that this was not a period in British history marked by many episodes of popular unrest. This was still the Golden Age of the British Empire, and despite his death three years earlier, the benign spirit of Edward VII still hovered over his subjects. Within twelve months of Dimock’s suicide, Europe would be torn asunder by a terrible war which would lay waste to a generation of young men.

What of Dimock’s fellow Wisbech doctors? Dr Meacock, who was the most vociferous of Dimock’s detractors, was to make the headlines again, some twenty years later, but this time in his capacity as a magistrate. Dr Gunson went on to serve with distinction in The Great War. He survived to return to general practice, and is remembered in a street sign near his former home, which was one of the targets of the Wisbech mob in the dark November days of 1913.

Ghost Passage

And now, in 2020? The Dimock home in Stretham has long since been demolished. Horace Dimock’s grave lies next to that of his father, who had died three years earlier. His father’s tombstone is still clear, but the inscription beneath Horace’s cross is barely readable. It is only by comparing the original funeral photographs with modern images that we can be certain of Horace’s last resting place.

Final montage

 

THE STRANGE DEATH OF HORACE DIMOCK . . . part one

Header

It all started with the National Insurance Act of 1911. For the first time people paid
into a scheme which gave them some protection against sickness and unemployment. It was the beginning of the Welfare State. Among doctors a
sequence of events was set in train. In Wisbech, an unassuming town in the Cambridgeshire Fens, it would end with tragedy and riot. Before 1911 there were private GPs who gravitated towards wealthier areas. The 1911 Act provided insurance cover for about 12 million workers earning less than £160 a year and included the free services of a GP. The individual became a ‘panel patient’. The difficulty lay in finding a private doctor prepared to work at panel wage rates.


Postcard 3In Wisbech this was a problem
because no doctor would do it. A new doctor, Dr
Horace Dimock, was drafted in to help clear the case-load. Though the poor of
Wisbech took him very much to their hearts, his arrival created hostility among the
other doctors. Dimock was a local man from the village of Stretham, but the local
private doctors, fearing a cut in their incomes, turned their backs on the Government’s health reforms.
In October 1913, Dr Dimock’s already difficult relationship with other doctors became impossible. These other doctors were receiving malicious postcards and anonymous letters supporting the wonderful work of Dr Dimock and criticising them. One of the doctors receiving the hate mail, Dr Meacock, informed the police and Dr Dimock was arrested. He was taken before local magistrates and was remanded on bail. Dr Dimock appealed to the Medical Defence Society but discovered they were already acting for the other doctors. Dr Dimock returned tired and distressed to his home village, Stretham. The next morning he was found dead. He had taken an overdose.

 

On 30 October 1913, the news broke in Wisbech of the death of Dr Dimock. A crowd gathered and rushed to Dr Meacock’s town house by the river and stoned the windows. The local police called for reinforcements but the situation got out of control. Eventually the Mayor of Wisbech read the Riot Act and the police went in with their truncheons.

This is how the riot unfolded, according to one newspaper.

“There was tremendous excitement and grief when the news reached Wisbech. On Thursday evening, October 30th – two days after Dr. Dimock’s death – four or five thousand people attended a meeting in the Market Place. The meeting was orderly enough, although the speaker declared that Dr. Dimock had been “persecuted from the day he came to Wisbech”. Tributes were paid to his services “especially to the poor”, and the crowd, standing with heads bare and bowed, passed a resolution of sympathy with his relatives and then sang “O God our help in ages past”. But, said a reporter “apparently an undercurrent was at work”.

“Hundreds of people went & stood in front of Dr. Meacock’s house on the North Brink. There were cheers for Dr. Dimock and loud boos for Dr. Meacock. Then stones were thrown, and several windows were smashed before the rush from the police broke the crowd up. But they crossed the bridge over the river and reassembled again in front of Dr. Gunson’s house in the Crescent where,  booing and hooting, they smashed all the windows. The police charged again and drove them away – only for them to return to Dr. Meacock’s house.”

 
This is the obituary from the British Medical Journal, for the unfortunate young doctor.
Obit

Before we continue with the saga of the Riots, it should be mentioned that the new welfare measures were a national issue not confined to the Fens. The Riots were widely reported in newspapers up and down the land, and the matter of doctors’ panels in the town had been raised in Parliament earlier in 1913. This is the report from Hansard, and if at least one of the names seems familiar, he was Captain William Benn, MP for Tower Hamlets and Junior Lord of The Treasury. He went on to serve with distinction in The Great War and was, of course, the father of the late Tony Benn.

WISBECH MEDICALPANEL

HoraceSo, the people’s favourite, Dr Horace Dimock (right), was dead by his own hand, as a result of persecution form his fellow medical men in Wisbech. Was it as simple as that? Had the other doctors received hate mail? Did Horace Dimock have ‘previous’? Here is another side of the story, widely reported in the press, up and down the land. Was Dimock a victim of a concerted plot organised by the establishment, or was he a foolish man with a hatred for anyone who dared to disagree with him?

“As soon as he (Dr. Dimock) came to Wisbech, anonymous postcards of all degrees of scurrility and obscenity were sent the secretary of the hospital, to the doctors, and to various lay members the community. These postcards in (hand) printed characters, not script, were found to resemble most closely those used some nine years before in a number of scurrilous documents that were sent to a medical student at St. Thomas’s Hospital (London)who was living in the same lodgings also occupied by Dimock. A writing expert considers that the St. Thomas’s Hospital documents and the Wisbech documents were, undoubtedly written in the same hand, and anyone who examines the two sets of documents must agree with this. These documents were sent in such a fashion that the wives of the Wisbech doctors saw them. The police, then taking the matter in hand, saw Dr. Dimock post documents at certain pillar-boxes, which were kept under careful observation until the officials of the Post Office could open them. In both cases postcards or similar documents were found near the top, addressed to Wisbech doctors, in the suspected writing, and of a libellous nature.”

But then on the other hand, one of Dr. Dimock’s admirers spoke up in his defence.

“Who are the authors of the anonymous and libellous letters and postcards written to the late Dr. Dimock, which he received from the first day he began to work in the town ? Why have colleagues called him “blackleg”, boycotted and ignored him? Who repeatedly pulled down and defaced his brass plate, and were they acting for others? Who threw the gate to his back garden off its hinges, and who smashed his windows? Who repeatedly called him the telephone at night to attend to distant cases which not exist? and What evidence have the police regarding the secret persecutors of the doctor, which, it is hoped, may lead to an arrest?”

Not to be outdone, Dr Meacock was not slow to reply in the press.

CLIPPING 1

Sadly for our modern tastes, the salacious postcards allegedly sent by Dr. Dimock were not revealed in their full glory in Meacock’s letter, as newspaper readers of the time were expected to use their imagination much more than we are today. It was also evident, according the outraged Meacock, that Dimock was something of an amateur artist. Dr Meacock finished his letter regretting that Horace Dimock had died – if only because that sad fact had prevented justice from being done, and seen to done.

CLIPPING2

Meanwhile, the public disturbances had continued, not without a few moments of unintentional humour.

“Since an early hour this evening a mob has been parading the streets and demonstrating alternately before the residences of Dr. Meacock and Dr. Gunson. At nine o’clock a double police cordon was drawn across the bridge which gives access to the street front of Dr. Meacock’s house, and the crowd, which must have numbered about 1,500 strong, concentrated upon Dr. Gunson’s in the Crescent .The Police who barred the way were subjected to a fusillade of squibs and detonators, the explosion of which, though harmless, sounded remarkably like revolver shots. An arrest in Bridge-street before ten created some disturbance, and three or four stones were thrown at Dr. Gunson’s windows, one or which was broken. About ten o’clock night there was a recrudescence of the rioting in the neighbourhood of the Market-square. A crowd numbering several hundred invaded Market-street, and in a few moments had broken every window in the surgery.”

Further rioting took place on Saturday night. The streets were crowded with people, but there was no trouble until nearly ten o’clock. Then the people formed into mobs, and powerful explosives were discharged. Several of these exploded perilously near the faces of some of the police on duty. One bomb was so strong that it smashed the window in a jeweller’s shop. That was the only damage to property during the evening, the crowd seeming to be more anxious to attack the police than damage the property of residents. This was probably due to the fact that the police had been too vigorous in  their handling of the crowd on the previous evenings. From ten o’clock until two this morning there were continuous conflicts between the police and civilians in various parts of the town, and the mob was really more riotous than it had been on any previous occasion. The rioters attempted to rush the cordon of police guarding the approach to Dr. Meacock’s house, but the constables used their batons, and the crowd was repulsed, several men and women being knocked down and others receiving hard blows from the batons. A number of police were struck in return.”

The worst disturbance took place about 11.30 in the market-place. About 2000 people were assembled, and a rowdy element commenced throwing explosives and empty bottles at the officers. Three or four of the bottles struck policemen, inflicting nasty cuts their faces. Then the police drew their batons and charged into the crowd. They hit hard, and several of them were struck heavily in return. One aged man was hit on the head with such force that he sustained a bad wound, and was treated by doctor. The man alleges that he was standing at the top of the passage where he lives and was struck without any provocation whatever. Another man received a blow in the mouth and some of his teeth were knocked out. Order was restored in the market-place about one o’clock, but when the police attempted to clear the streets there was a renewal of the disorder. Blows were freely struck, and there were instances of of stand-up fights between civilians, while police constables on duty in the outskirts of the town were attacked at several points by villagers returning home. It was not until two o’clock this morning that order was restored.

One former Constable clearly was a gamekeeper turned poacher.

“There was a sequel to the recent disturbances yesterday at a local police court, when Ernest Langford, an ex-policeman, pleaded guilty of having assaulted the police, and was fined 20s. Constable Wallace said that on Saturday night the police had just cleared the demonstrators from the Bridge, when Langford rushed across and hit the witness on the head with a stick. The blow knocked off his helmet plate and also the chain. The defendant ran away, but fell down, and was stopped by another constable. He was rescued, however, by the crowd and got away. The Defendant expressed regret, and stated that he had been a police officer, and was discharged from the force with a good character.”

PART TWO – DIMOCK’S FUNERAL and AFTERMATH
will follow on Saturday 20th June

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