Ward, John

Ward, John         1885 April 11th

Early on Good Friday a poor fellow, John Ward by name, put an end to a life which, of late, had been full of misery. He was 48 years old, and the father of a family of nine, the eldest 23 years old, whom the mother described as being in “America or somewhere” – her vagueness is due to the fact that she has not heard from him for some time – and the youngest an infant of 20 months.

Ward combined as a means of living the trade of cobbler and the “profession” of a photographer. But not withstanding the union he could not gain a livelihood. The rent of his house in Ringwood, where he lived, fell in arrear, and there came the inevitable – a portion of his furniture was sold, the rest was thrust in to the road and was ejected.

His wife preceded him to Salisbury, the poor fellow hoping that in these “fresh fields and pastures new,” Fortune would deign to favour him with a glance. A few days after his arrival in the city, his wife missed him from his bed. It is supposed that he must have gone to Longbridge and jumped over, a merciful view might suggest he fell in were in not for the fact of his previous threats, his despondency, and his evident tendency to insanity.

The inquest was held at the “Crown” hotel on Saturday afternoon by Mr G Smith (city coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr Lywood was foreman).

Dr J H Gordon, the first witness, said he was passing Bowling-green Lane at about one o’clock on the previous day when he was called to see the body immediately after it had been taken out of the water. The man had evidently been dead for some time. There were no external marks of violence, and there was every appearance of the man having died from suffocation.

Mary Ann Ward, the widow of the deceased man, described her husband as a shoemaker by trade but added that he had also “been doing photography.” Previously they had been living at New-street, Ringwood, where, in consequence of his being in arrear with his rent, his goods were distrained upon by the landlord and he was ejected. Acting on his advice, she – previous to the distress which they had anticipated – on Monday week came on to Salisbury, leaving her husband with four out of the five children living with him at Ringwood. She took a small cottage in Griffin’s Court, Salisbury, and on Wednesday week wrote to her husband informing him of it. On the following day her four children arrived by the carrier, her husband having then been ejected, and on Friday her husband arrived.

He came to her at Griffin’s Court. At first he appeared very reserved and strange. On Monday he returned to Ringwood to recover a part of the furniture which had been left in the road. On Wednesday he returned and appeared so strange that she was induced to ask him what was the matter. He repeatedly replied, “Oh, nothing.” Their circumstances at that time were very bad; they were almost penniless. He had told her since their trouble had come upon them that if things didn’t alter he should drown himself. This, however, was at Ringwood.

While at Salisbury it was remarkable that he had not noticed the children; he was usually an affectionate father. One evening at Salisbury noticing his despondent state she took him for a walk, hoping to this arouse him. On Thursday evening he went to bed as usual. During the evening he had been very quiet, sitting with his head bent down. She missed him from the bed at about five o’clock in the morning, and heard nothing of him until her mother came to her and told her that she thought her husband had drowned himself. She afterwards identified the body.

The Foreman : Was he despondent before the distress?

Witness : No, he was not; he was usually pleasant and genial.

The Foreman : Has any of his family suffered from this despondency?

Witness : His grandmother died in an asylum and another relative was insane.

The Foreman : Had he been out of work long?

Witness : Well, he usually did this photographing, but a better man came from Sherborne and took most of his work away. Then he disagreed with his own relatives; and I think that preyed on his mind.

Replying to further questions, Mrs Ward said altogether they owed either nine or eleven month’s rent; the rent was 10s a month. She offered to pay 4s a month towards the arrears, but the landlord would not accept it.

Mr Supt Mathews deposed that at one o’clock on Friday he heard that a body had been seen in the Avon. He proceeded to Mr Lywood’s garden at the end of the Bowling-green lane, and saw the body in the water. With assistance it was taken out and removed to a neighbouring shed. Dr Gordon examined the body in his presence. On the body he found 2½d in coppers and a corkscrew. At six o’clock Mrs Ward identified the body.

A Juror : Did you hear he had been a drinking man?

Witness : Yes.

A Juror : Who found the body?

Witness : A lady and a little girl saw something in the water and they sent for me.

The jury returned a verdict of “Committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity.” They gave their fees to the widow.

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