Canning, Henry

Canning, Henry             1881 April 2nd              East Harnham

On Thursday morning, shortly after eleven, Mrs Wallen, who resides just above East Harnham bridge, observed a body floating down the river Avon. Assistance was procured, and the body recovered from the river – but life was found to be extinct. The unfortunate man was known to no one in the locality; but, subsequently, it was discovered that his name was Henry Parsons Canning, and that, for some short time past, he had been living at the “Eagle” inn, Fisherton. The body was removed to a neighbouring inn – “The Swan,” where an inquest was held on the following morning by Mr R Wilson and a jury of which Mr F Musselwhite was foreman.

No apparent substantial reason for the crime exists; though it is believed that domestic unhappiness and a low financial condition culminated (in the opinion of the jury) in the act. It was, however, evident that the man had meditated the crime. On Wednesday morning, at a very early hour, he was observed by several persons near to and regarding the water; and later in the day his steps were observed to be turned in the same direction. At the inquest no one representing the family of relatives of the deceased was present. We subjoin, in effect, the evidence adduced.

Ellen Wallen, the wife of Robert Wallen, who lives at Harnham, deposed that at about eleven o’clock on Thursday morning she was in her garden, which adjoins the Avon, and observed the body floating down the stream. It was floating on its face with hands slightly extended.

Peter Delicate, blacksmith, whose residence adjoins that of the last witness, had his attention called to the body by Mrs Wallen, who first imagined it was that of a child. He went to Mr Snook’s and got a boat, and he and Mr Snook proceeded in search of the body, and about 200 yards below Harnham bridge they got it out. The body did not appear to have been in the water long; it had evidently never sank. Owing to a misconception as to what to do with the body it remained on the bank for about half-an-hour. On Dr Lee’s arrival it was at once taken, by his orders, to the “Swan.” Life was quite extinct when they took it out.

Edward Bartlett, landlord of the “Eagle” inn, Fisherton, recognised the deceased. He had known him for two or three months; and believed he was a dealer and came from Glanville near Castle Carey. At intervals he had been staying at the “Eagle” – making that house his rendezvous. After an absence of a week or ten days, he returned on Tuesday week, and remained with him until Thursday morning. At about ten o’clock, he prepared to leave the house, and, in answer to witness’s interrogatory, said he was going for a short walk.

Previous to that he eat a good breakfast. He observed nothing extraordinary in him before leaving. Usually, however, he was a quiet, reserved man. He did not appear to have anything on his mind. His age, he believed, was about 71. He had heard that he left his home because his wife and he could not agree. The deceased was a very temperate man. Up to a few days he had paid his bill regularly, but latterly he appeared to have “run quite out” of money. He told his (witness’s) wife that, on Tuesday next, a friend of his would see his son and would obtain some money from him. The deceased never said anything to lead him to suppose he was going to do away with himself. He was not a strong man; indeed, rather feeble.

By the foreman : He slept out on Tuesday night and did not return to his house till Wednesday evening. He (witness) had heard that on that morning he was seen near the river.

Mr F Fawson Lee, surgeon, of Salisbury, stated that at about a quarter past eleven on Thursday morning he was called to see the body. He had it at once removed to the “Swan.” The deceased appeared to be dead, but the trunk of the body was warm, and from that he judged he had not been in the water long. Every endeavour was made to restore life, but without success. He was of opinion that the man came to his death by drowning.

This concluded the evidence; and, after a brief deliberation, the jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity.

One of the witnesses inquired what remuneration would be given to those who, to their own inconvenience, attended to give evidence. It was very infrequent that witnesses received anything in return for their services. He was informed that he could receive the same as the jurors – 9d.

We are told that at the conclusion of the inquest, the son of the deceased appeared and claimed the body. We also learn that the body will be interred at East Harnham this (Saturday) afternoon.


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