Brownjohn, Maria

Brownjohn, Maria      1876 June 3rd         Burcombe

On Wednesday morning last an inquest was held at the Salisbury Infirmary, before the City Coroner, G Smith, Esq., on the body of a woman named Maria Brownjohn, who died in the Infirmary on Tuesday last, through having fallen from a threshing machine at Burcombe on the previous Saturday.

The Coroner, in addressing the jury, said they were met to inquire into the cause of death of Maria Brownjohn. It appeared that she was a farm labourer at work on Mr Sheppard’s farm at Barford St Martin, and fell, he believed, from a threshing machine. At all events she fell, and no doubt that was the cause of her death, but when she was brought to the Infirmary she was examined by the medical man, and there was no apparent cause of death, but no doubt he would be able to tell them what was the cause, and they would be led to a correct conclusion.

Moses Biggs, house surgeon at the Infirmary, was the first witness called, and upon being sworn, said : The deceased was admitted on Saturday night at about 8 o’clock. I examined her on admission, and found that she had sustained very slight injuries beyond bruising. She merely complained of a pain in her side. She went on very well until yesterday morning, when I was called to her, and found her breathing very bad. This gradually grew worse, and she died in about four hours. I have since made a post mortem examination and found death resulted from congestion of the lungs and failure of the heart. I don’t think the congestion of the lungs or failure of the heart would account for the pain in the side she complained of. I attribute the pain in her side to bruises sustained by the fall. There was no injury to the bones.

By a juryman : Death was accelerated by the accident.

Edward Sheppard, a farmer residing at Barford St Martin, was the next witness, and said : Maria Brownjohn, the deceased, was in my employ on the 27th May, and on that day she was engaged with another woman cutting the bands off wheat sheaves on the top of a threshing machine . I was present, and saw the deceased fall from the machine unto a cloth placed beneath it, under which there was a layer of straw. She fell, covered with sheaves, a distance of about eight feet. The accident was caused through the deceased stretching out for the very outside sheaf instead of taking he nearest to her, in consequence of which she lost her balance and fell. As she had a black veil on perhaps she could not see well. I called to her, but it was too late, and after she had fallen I immediately got off the waggon where I was, and with others went to her assistance.

She was unconscious for the first minute. I asked if she felt any pain, and she said she did, across her stomach and back. We then lifted her away from the machine and propped her up with straw and chaff bags. The other woman who was on the threshing machine washed her face, and in about ten minutes afterwards she was placed in a cart and taken to her home. The accident happened on my farm, in the parish of Burcombe. Deceased’s brother, who was working there, went home with her, and I immediately despatched a messenger to Dr Good, of Wilton, who attended her very shortly afterwards, and advised the family to send her into the Infirmary.

By a juryman : She was quite capable of doing the work. It is not hard work.

Mr J H Abrahams (foreman of the jury) : It seems to me not exactly a right occupation for an old woman with a black veil on.

Witness : It is a usual thing. Deceased was always a very active woman.

Ann Arnold, a married woman residing in Fisherton, said she was the daughter of the deceased, who was in her 67th year. She never heard her complain of illness.

Mr Sheppard was recalled, and in reply to a juryman, said he could not account in any way for the bruises Mr Biggs referred to, and didn’t think she came in contact with anything in falling.

The jury returned a verdict to the effect that, “the deceased accidentally fell to the ground, by means of which she received certain bruises and contusions, which, in consequence of congestion of the lungs and failure of the heart, caused her death.”

Upon the suggestion of the foreman the jury gave their fees to the Infirmary.

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