England, John 1876 January 29th Alderbury
On Monday last, Mr R M Wilson, the county coroner, held an inquest on the body of John England, aged 48, who was found dead on the Southampton Road on Sunday morning about 7 o’clock. The first witness called was,
Sarah East, the wife of Mr T N East, of Alderbury, who said the deceased was her brother, and had been an inmate of the Alderbury Union. He came out a fortnight ago, and then she took him in. She did not believe he ever tried to get any work, and being near sighted, she did not believe he would have obtained employment. He could, in fact, scarcely see; his bodily health was good, but about half past nine or ten o’clock he left her home, saying he would return to the Workhouse. She heard nothing more of him until Sunday morning, when she was told he was found dead. He was hardly right in his head, and people used to give him drink to make sport of him.
Samuel Salisbury then said he knew the deceased by sight, and he saw him on Saturday night, about a quarter past eleven, going up Milford-street by himself. He did not speak to him, and did not notice whether he was in liquor. He went through the lane leading into St Ann’s-street. Witness saw two young men named Bell and Maslen, and they wished him good night. Afterwards they went down the same lane.
James Francis, a shepherd, living in Greencroft-street, stated that on the previous morning at seven o’clock he was going along the Southampton-road, and after passing the second iron bridge, before coming to Peter’s Finger, he saw, about 30 yards from the bridge, the body of a man. At first he did not recognise the man as he was laying on his back. He could not see any signs of struggling. He then went and obtained the assistance of Giles Thorne and Mr Job Packer, and when he returned he recognised the deceased. He had froth exuding from his mouth.
Giles Thorne deposed that he came with the last witness and found that the deceased had a scar on his forehead, the hair being matted with mud. His clothes were wet up to his collar, and under his right hand were indications that he had worked about after he had fallen or had been placed there. About 30 yards before he came to the bridge there was an appearance of something having been taken out of the water, and there were the marks of footsteps of some person having been in the water. He hardly thought that a person in the water there could have got out without assistance. His clothes were frozen to the ground.
At this stage of the proceedings (it being deemed necessary to institute further inquiries) the inquest was adjourned until Wednesday.
At the adjourned inquiry,
Joseph Adams, of 86, Milford Hill, signal-man on the London and South Western Railway, was sworn, and said that on Saturday night he heard, at about quarter to 12, the voices of two men apparently on the road in conversation. He distinctly heard one call out “help” three or four times, and “why don’t you leave me alone?” He thought some people were squabbling and went in again. About a quarter of an hour afterwards he heard the confused sound of people moving further on the road, but could not distinguish what was said. He only heard it for five or six minutes on the second occasion, and then all was quiet.
Carr Holstock Roberts, surgeon, stated that he had made a post mortem examination of the deceased. Externally about the head and face there was a good deal of abrasion of the skin, which was dirty, as if he had tumbled about a good deal. He could not see any injury to the front teeth, nor that the lip was cut, but it was bruised. The skin was off in three places on the knuckles of the left hand, and both hands were tightly clenched. There were no other external injuries. He appeared to have been in the water as he was quite wet. The body was very well nourished.
He opened the head and found the brain perfectly healthy. The stomach, with the exception of about two table-spoonsful of fluid (which appeared to be indigested beer) was quite empty. He had evidently had no food. There was an old-standing disease of the lungs, but not to any great extent. The liver and kidneys were perfectly healthy. There was very extensive disease of the heart, and he had also hernia of long standing. He attributed his death to disease of the heart, his death being very probably accelerated by having been in the water, and the coldness of the night. From the state of his lungs he should suppose he hadn’t been in the water above a few minutes. The lungs didn’t present the appearance of a person who had been drowned.
George Sweet, labourer, of Milford, stated that he knew John England, and saw him on Saturday night at the “New” Inn corner, at from quarter to half past eleven. James Maslen and Charles Bell were standing there with him. Witness said, “Hallo, John, how are you getting on?” and he returned the greeting and shook hands with him. He then told him how he had been knocked about, saying John Hayter had struck him with a pint cup whilst he was drinking, and knocked out two of his teeth. His mouth was bleeding and one side of his face was black. Maslen and Bell said it was a shame to serve him so. They all walked from there to Mrs Fowler’s lodge and stopped a little, and he asked Maslen what he wanted to follow the deceased for, as he was sober and could get on very well by himself. They said they were going to see him down the road a little way to see him safe. All three went along the road and witness went home. Deceased seemed to be very good friends with Maslen and Barnes. Maslen said they had some chats (wires) down the road, and they were going to see for them. They were going as far as Brick-kiln lane.
James Maslen, bricklayer’s labourer, of Milford Hill, stated that on Saturday night, at about quarter to 11, he went into the “Crystal Fountain” with Charles Bell, and had a pint of beer. The deceased was there, and also John Hayter, who trussed hay for Mr McIntosh, and there was a house full. They left about 11, and deceased had left five minutes before. He had been drinking, and had been having a tidy drop of beer. When they got out they saw him at Safe’s Corner, and he complained then, as he had done in the house, that Hayter had struck his lip with a cup, and had cut it. Bell and witness walked behind him through the lane and into St Ann’s Street. They met Mr Sweet just opposite the “New” Inn corner, and all remained in conversation three or four minutes.
They then walked on to Mrs Fowler’s gate and stopped again. Two went up the hill, and Bell and witness went along the road, and parted with the deceased before they got to the lower Station gate. He thought it must have been getting on hard to 12 o’clock. He did not, when taxed in James Sweet’s presence with having told his son that he was going as far as Brick-kiln Lane, say that he had only said so for a pint of beer. He left Bell at the entrance of his (witness’s) own passage on Milford Hill.
Charles Bell, bricklayer, Penny-farthing-street, said he saw the deceased at the Crystal Fountain about 20 minutes to 11 on the night of the day in question. John Hayter was there, and he saw him black the deceased’s face, and hit the cup in his mouth when he was drinking, which made his mouth bleed, and deceased complained of his mouth being very sore. The witness then further corroborated what had been said by Maslen, and said they finally left deceased at the lower Station gate.
No other witnesses were called, and the jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony, there being no evidence to show that the deceased was pushed into the water, or that he fell into it accidentally.