Wilmot, James 1878 June 8th Chippenham
An inquest was held at the Great Western Hotel, Chippenham, on Tuesday by Mr Coroner Whitchurch, on the body of Mr James Henry Wilmot, aged 18 years, a clerk in the Wilts and Dorset Bank, Chippenham, and son of Mr S N Wilmot of this city, who was drowned in the river Avon on the previous afternoon whilst bathing.
Frederick William Gunning said : I live at Calstone, near Calne, and am a clerk at the Hampshire and North Wilts Bank at Chippenham. Shortly after four o’clock on Monday afternoon John Davis Cooper and I went to Cocklebury Bridge to bathe. On the way there we met the deceased, who was taking a walk, and when finding we were going to bathe he said he would accompany us, and did so. Having stripped we all got into the river, and in ten minutes after the deceased, who could only swim a little, took hold of me by the arm, and his hand slipped off and he sank, and never rose again. John D Cooper was in the water at the time, but a few yards off. Deceased was in good spirits and appeared as well as usual just before, and did not complain. I went immediately and gave information to the police, and afterwards returned to the river with Mr Superintendent Baldwyn.
By a juryman : No efforts were made to save the deceased. There were no hooks or poles at hand. Deceased had been cautioned twice as to deep holes in the river, and at the time he sank he was walking. I did not try to help him, as I had as much as I could do to get out myself.
Mr Superintendent Baldwyn deposed : I went to the river in company with the last witness and Mr J D Cooper, when I took possession of the clothes of deceased, which were handed to me by the last witness. I afterwards searched for the body till between nine and ten o’clock, in company with Mr Borham and others, but we were not successful in finding the deceased in consequence of not having proper appliances. At 4 o’clock the following morning I renewed the search, and about 6 o’clock deceased was hooked by Mr Gauntlett, and I assisted in getting him into the boat, and afterwards removed the body to his lodgings.
After hearing the above evidence, the jury were unanimously of opinion that the deceased was accidentally drowned whilst bathing and returned a verdict accordingly. The following rider was also added : “The jury at the same time are of opinion that the bathing place at Cocklebury is highly dangerous, and recommends that caution boards and drags and poles should be placed there. A copy of this recommendation to be forwarded to the Local Board.”
The body of the deceased was brought to this city (Salisbury) shortly after the inquiry. Deceased was much respected by the officials of the Chippenham bank, and his death will be deeply regretted.