1888

There are two large cases this year. One concerns a suicide pact of a young couple – Elizabeth Yates and Albert Sparey – who had met only recently. It makes an interesting comparison with the only other such case in the collection, that of Walter Brown and Dorothy Dredge in 1914.

Dinah Hibberd died in terrible poverty and starvation – not helped by the treatment of her abusive husband – and this inquest took an entire page and a half of newsprint, one of the largest I have transcribed. Much of this revolved around the doctor involved, in this case a locum tenens, Mr Birkett, standing in for Mr Kelland. His actions and the lackadaisical form of his testimony raised the hackles of coroner and jury, who strongly pursued their questioning of him, much to the chagrin of Dr Kelland, who appeared in the latter half of the inquiry and provoked a heated argument with the foreman.

Apparently a certified midwife in the middle of the twentieth century would deal with about 150 births a year in a city area – Catherine Bunsell was not certified and seemingly dealt with at least fifteen other women in Salisbury in the three weeks since helping Mrs Smith, several of which were infected with puerperal fever, of whom Martha Alsford and two others died. Lack of communication by Dr Kelland (not the first time) seems to be a contributory factor. Bunsell was also to be involved closely in a fatal case in 1889, that of Elizabeth Warne.

The inquiry concerning William Miles shows clearly that many people walked down the railway lines as short-cuts. There were no instructions for staff to stop people so doing. The same applies to Luke Turner, though there is some contention about the state he was in, perhaps some turning of a blind eye. Similarly a farmer, Thomas Powell, seemingly had to cross the railway daily to come and go from his land, and frequently did so on horseback.

Samuel Tancock was station-master at Wilton for 20 years. One of the witnesses was his son George, whose own death would be inquired into in 1899. The death of young Sarah Sturgess appears to have been natural causes, despite being beaten by a boyfriend, and the deceased’s sister used a classic folk remedy, applying for a pain in the stomach a linseed meal poultice.

John New collapsed and died as he had just chased and beat his errant son with a stick, a beating the lad probably never forgot. Isaac Carter fell from a tree and broke his neck, but Dr Chadwick examined him and then disappeared into the village for an hour before coming back and ordering the man to the Infirmary.

Tom Brewer died of hydrophobia, the symptoms of which are described graphically by several witnesses.

Reuben Snook rashly decided to try and get clear of the oncoming train by climbing on the platform instead of crossing back over the line – alas, at four miles an hour, the brakes then in use could stop the train only after five or six coach lengths. Station-master Davis clearly has experienced similar near-misses several times.

Davis, William

Crook, William

Alsford, Martha

Long, Mary                                    Romsey

White, Jane                                   Frome

Miles, William                               Codford

Manning, Henry                            Warminster

Radford, Jane

Brown, Charles                              Wilton

Tancock, Samuel                           Wilton

Gater, infant

Rawlings, Sarah                             Trowbridge

Haines, Ann

Wills, infant

Sheppard, Charles

Pretty, William                              Stratford-sub-Castle

Sturgess, Sarah

Messiter, Maria                             Trowbridge

Elkins, Eli                                     Whiteparish

New, John                                    Milford

Carter, Isaac                                 Stockton

Biddescombe, Frank jnr                Redlynch

Dredge, infant

Brewer, Tom                                Cranborne

Snook, Reuben

Rose, Harriett                              Trowbridge

Pride, James                                 Stroud

Wheeler, Alice                             Chippenham

Yates, Elizabeth, and Sparey, Albert    Fisherton Delamere

Infant, unknown

Townsend, Ann                            Trowbridge

Cowzener, John                            Westbury

Fricker, Jack                                 Devizes

Hibberd, Dinah

Kitson, Edward

Hudd, Edward                               Corsham

Hellier, Annie

Powell, Thomas                            Wylye

Turner, Luke                                Dinton

Woods, William                            Donhead St Andrew

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