Dowding, William

Dowding, William           1876 January 29th

We regret to announce the almost sudden death at the age of more than “three score years and ten,” of Mr William Dowding, who was for many years the highly respected Governor of Salisbury Gaol, which building is now contemporaneous with his death, being razed to the ground. Some 53 years have elapsed from the time of its first occupation, when Mr Dowding assisted his uncle, the then Governor, in escorting to their new place of confinement the prisoners who were under detention in “Fisherton Gaol at the Bridge,” close to where the Infirmary now stands.

Two years before the battle of Waterloo Mr Dowding’s uncle was appointed Governor of the old gaol, and continued to hold office until 1838, when his nephew was appointed as his successor. Mr Dowding was superannuated in 1869, but at the request of the magistrates held office a year longer before finally retiring into private life. He had, previously to his appointment as Governor, held office as Deputy Governor for 11 years. He was highly respected, and not only by the magistrates, many of whom only knew him officially, but by all who were acquainted with him in social life. His end was quiet and peaceful. A good many, however, will regret that such an upright, straightforward, and genial man should suddenly have passed from our midst.

An inquest on the body of the deceased was held at his residence on the Wilton-road on Monday morning, before Mr R M Wilson, county coroner. Mr Thomas Gilbert was foreman of the jury.

Only two witnesses were examined, the first being Mrs Dowding, who stated that about seven in the morning she found her husband breathing very badly, and gasping a great deal. He called for water, which was given to him, and a servant was ordered to get tea. He took a drop of the water, but was unable to take the tea. He said, “Oh dear! God have mercy on my soul,” and died instantly without a struggle. Only about a quarter of an hour had elapsed from the time of the first alarm.

Mr W D Wilkes, surgeon, said he was Mr Dowding’s medical attendant, but had not seen him professionally since the middle of December, when he was suffering from an attack of acute bronchitis. For many years Mr Dowding had been suffering from disease of the heart, and chronic disease of the lungs. He last saw him at half past eight, or a quarter to nine, on Sunday morning. He was then dead. The face was very pale – a proof that there had been no suffocation. He attributed death to natural causes – immediately to paralysis of the heart, the result of old-standing disease.

The jury returned a verdict of “Death by the visitation of God.”


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