Yates, Elizabeth ; Sparey, Albert

Yates, Elizabeth, and Sparey, Albert           1888 August 25th             Fisherton Delamere

Romantic Suicide at Fisherton Delamere

Letters Written by the Deceased

At Fisherton Delamere, a village about a mile and a quarter from Wylye, was perpetrated on Friday night a deed which has created a great amount of sensation, viz- the suicide, by drowning, of a young woman named Elizabeth Ann Yates (who in March last was only 17 years of age) and a young man named Albert Sparey, who would have been 26 next month. The home of the girl was Wylye, but up to Monday last week she had, for about eight months, been in the employ of Mr Robert Everett, saddler, Warminster, which town was the home of the young man, who for about four months prior to the time when the girl left Mr Everett’s was Ostler at the Bath Arms Hotel.

He was also engaged at that establishment a year or two ago, previously to his going to London, where he lived about two years. The Bath Arms Hotel is next to Mr Everett’s, only a wall dividing the two, and the girl could from her bedroom see into the yard of the hotel where the young man was employed. The young man had been paying is attentions to someone else for about six years, and we understand that he was engaged to be married, but having made the acquaintance of Elizabeth Yates he became deeply enamoured of her.

On Monday in last week the latter, who was dark and somewhat stout, and was considered to be on very comely appearance, was dismissed from her situation, having, it is said, taken some gin, and Sparey (who was also dark and stout) determined to relinquish his post; he was under no compulsion to do so, but made up his mind that whatever place the girl went to after leaving Warminster he would follow her. A sister of the girl was also in service at Warminster, and Elizabeth, after leaving Mrs Everett’s, visited that sister, to whom she alleged that the reason she had left her situation was that she had refused to do the work her mistress told her and the mistress had paid her a month’s wages. She also told her sister that she was going to the Australian Hotel (at Warminster) to sleep with Sparey, whereupon her sister very properly told her that she ought not to go, and subsequently she sought for her as her mistress said she might sleep with her (the sister); she went to the Australian Hotel to ask for her but was informed that she was not there.

There is, however, reason to suppose that the two lovers did go to that hotel (the landlord of which has not been there long) and that they occupied the same room, having represented themselves as man and wife. Next day, Tuesday, they both proceeded to the girl’s home – Church Lane, Wylye – where the girl’s mother saw Sparey for the first time, and the girl stated that they were going to London to be married, to which the mother responded that he had better get a house first.

Mrs Yates (the mother of 13 or 14 children, of whom six are dead) told her daughter that she hoped she was come to stay a week or two to help get the victuals while they were harvesting, and the girl replied, “Yes, mother, I will.” Sparey slept at Mrs Yates’s on Tuesday night, and he also did so on other nights. The two lovers were repeatedly seen going about the village together in a way not unusual with young folks who entertain affection for one another, and there was nothing to their demeanour or appearance to indicate lowness of spirits. One circumstance noticed was the striking likeness between the two, this being so great that persons judging only from their appearance might have believed them brother and sister.

On Friday morning two letters were received, one being from his brother and the other from her sister, and the perusal of these communications evidently was not a pleasant occupation. The letters were not read aloud and both were cast into the flames, but the girl, who was much agitated, said, “O mother! It is not true.” Sparey told the girl’s mother that he was going away, and he started, but came back again. Subsequently both the girl and the young man went upstairs, and it was thought that they retired thither for the purpose of writing letters in reply to those that were received, but it is more than probable that they were there engaged in inditing two that were found after they had committed the sad and foolish act which terminated their lives – one of which was for her mother and the other for his mother, a widow, whose husband we understand, met his death in an accidental manner.

In the afternoon or early part of the evening the young man and the girl and the latter’s father and mother were at the Bell Inn, where a quart of beer and some biscuits were supplied. The two lovers took tea at the house of the girl’s father. At six o’clock they left the cottage together, the girl having informed her mother that she was going to see her grandmother at Deptford – a village hard by, lying between Wylye and Fisherton Delamere – and at that time they appeared to be cheerful.

The mother sat up till midnight and then retired to bed, but left the door of the cottage unfastened. Between Wylye and Deptford there are several bridges, and the girl and young man were seen standing on one of these, being observed by a passer-by, who noticed their affectionate demeanour towards one another, and on looking back saw, he believed, the young man kiss the girl. Deptford, as already indicated, is the place where the grandmother of the girl dwells, but the couple went beyond that village, going on to Fisherton Delamere. At about quarter past eight they passed a meadow where Mr John Parry, a farmer, of Fisherton Delamere, was fishing, and so far as is known that gentleman is the last who saw them alive.

Shortly before six o’clock on Saturday morning the miller at Messrs Parry’s mill went to shut in the water and observed a black hat and a woman’s hat – one inside the other – lying on the pathway; and he also found some gloves, an umbrella, and a wrap. There were, moreover, two letters, addressed in ink, and sealed, one being directed to the girl’s mother, and the other to the mother of the young man – Mrs Sparey, Boreham Road, Warminster – in addition to which an open letter was picked up. The miller observed moreover, that someone had been standing on the eel stage and having obtained a boat and made a search he saw in the stream the bodies of the girl and the young man, which were tightly bound together with two handkerchiefs and the girl’s belt. At a distance of about 15 yards from the mill there is, it seems, a strainer for the purpose of keeping back weeds when necessary. When the mill hatches are drawn for the purpose of “flushing” the mill the water rushes through with force, and by this process, carried out at intervals during a number of years, the bed of the stream between the strainer and the mill has been affected to such a degree that the water is of great depth. It was in this part of the stream that the bodies were seen. When the stream is high the water is something like 22 feet deep, and on Saturday there was a depth of about 16 feet; at any rate, a pole of about 14 feet long and having a crook attached to it at the end was not of sufficient length for the bodies to be recovered by means of it.

A considerable amount of time – about an hour and a half – was spent in endeavours to get them out on that side of the mill where they were first observed, but these efforts proved unavailing, and ultimately it was determined to draw the hatches. This decision was put into effect, and the bodies, which were, by the force of the stream, turned over and over, were swiftly born along to the other side of the building, where the water is shallow. The bond by which they were united was then severed and they were removed from the stream. The position of the hands of the deceased ere that bond was cut was such as to give the impression that when the fatal plunge was taken the two lovers were clasping each other, for the hands of the girl lay one at each side of the young man, and those of the young man one at each side of the girl.

There was not the slightest evidence of any struggle – nothing indicating either that the girl clutched excitedly at the young man or the young man at the girl after immersing – and the features were in no way distorted but perfectly natural. The eyes of both were open. One of the handkerchiefs used to tie the two lovers together is believed to have belonged to the young man as no other handkerchief was found upon him, and the other is thought to have been the property of the girl, only another very small one being found in her pocket, and the belt used – consisting of a piece of blue webbing – was one that the unfortunate girl wore on the occasion of her confirmation some 12 months ago or more. The band was round the waists of both and as the knot was at the back of the young man there exists an idea that it must have been tied by the girl.

The open letter found by the miller, to which reference has been made, was written in pencil. The calligraphy was good, the character – so far at least as regards most of them – being clearly formed and not giving indications of a trembling hand, but the letter was not free from errors, as will be seen from the following, which is a copy, verbatim et literative:

however finds this please to take Mrs J Yates at Wylye & we have drowned ourselves here at this spot E Yates & A Sparey we fully intented doing it & done it quite happy together don’t vex not trouble about me dear mother I shall die very happy indeed suicide of two Lovers its done for the cause of my sister & his brother on purpose for them to remain in the world & live happy goodbye.

It may be stated that the sister and the young man’s brother were not acquainted with one another till Saturday last, on which day they met when on their way from Warminster to Fisherton Delamere for the purpose of attending the inquest.

The letter of the young man to his mother contained an expression of his sorrow for what he was about to do, and also gave directions for the division of his few belongings, his brother Harry being strictly forbidden to have any of them. “I have,” said the writer, “forgiven my brother Harry, and I hope the Lord will forgive him. Both of us wish to be buried in the same grave. We have lived and loved and died together; nothing can part us. We have been true to the last. We have done it for a good cause, and I could not have parted from her – no, never. Good-bye. God bless you.” He requested his mother to “take care of that blue book I left at the ‘Bath Arms,’ entitled ‘Faithful and True.’ as it was given me by Elizabeth, and keep it till the day of your death.”

In the letter to her mother the girl said,

My Dear Parents,

I am so exceedingly sorry to express my sorrow and vexation for all you have heard which has made us do a thing against my wish. I wish you to have all my things which you think would be very useful to you and to my little sisters. Please to take great care of my album and that photo to the day of your death, as it was given to me by Albert. My wish is to not let Sarah have not even a thread, as she has done no more than to try and hurt me, but I have forgiven her with my whole heart, hoping God Almighty will forgive her, and it my desire and wish to have a watery bed, and also for us both to be buried in one grave as we have loved true to the very last. He told me he was going to do so and there was nothing for me live for after he was dead and gone. We lived and loved one another, and no no-one would never part us, and now we will die together and also be buried together. My dear Albert’s mother I have forgiven her for calling me a brute and a liar and all she has said against us, but they will all get their reward at the end and which they will see they never part him from me and it is too late now for their trying but we shall both be happy in Heaven. All my little things I have which you can’t worry or trouble about let Annie have it. She will find it useful to her. Now dear mother please to do as I wish, to bury us both together at Wylye churchyard. So no more, with love to all remaining friends, hoping dear mother you will forgive me and please to ask father to forgive me as I plead. You have been good parents and God will reward you some day. So I must say good bye to you with Albert Sparey’s kind love and wishes and with Elizabeth’s kind love and wishes to father and mother and Tommy and sisters and brothers, hoping to meet you in a bright and happier dwelling, from me your loving daughter,

Elizabeth Yates.

The foregoing was written in ink, on the four pages of a sheet of writing paper, and accompanying this was a scrap of paper on which the following had been written,

Dear mother, you will accept of my umbrella and with love to Sarah and all friends at Warminster as I have forgiven all of them. I have done it for a good cause. I could never part from him, no never. [A list of things to be distributed, consisting chiefly of articles of wearing apparel, is here given]. Dear Annie, hope she will never forget me. I wish for Annie to have my best dress and white hat and my cloak and jacket and navy blue dress and gloves and hat and my big morning aprons. Dear mother, my five little aprons will do for Annie and my glove case will do for Annie. Please to take care of it as I shall want nothing of that now. From your Elizabeth. [Here follow three little rows of crosses, intended to represent kisses].


After the bodies had been recovered they were taken to the National Schoolroom, Fisherton Delamere, where they lay side by side, and at or about five o’clock Mr R A Wilson, coroner for South Wilts, held an inquest at that building, the foreman of the jury being Mr William Parry, brother of Mr J Parry, and partner with him in the ownership of the mill.

Emanuel Brown, of Fisherton Delamere, was the first witness. He said: I am miller at Mr Parry’s mill in this parish. When I went this morning about ten minutes to six to shut in the water I saw a black hat and a woman’s hat, one inside the other, and an umbrella lying in the pathway. There were also an open letter (produced) and one addressed to Mrs Sparey, Boreham Road, Warminster; and inside the other hat was another letter addressed to Mrs Yates, Wylye. On looking round I saw someone had been standing on the eel stage. I got a boat and with a long crook I felt them. The hatches were then drawn and two bodies were taken out. The two were clasped together in each other’s arms, and a band with two handkerchiefs tied together was fastened round their waist. I did not recognise the bodies. I went for the policeman.

Sarah Yates deposed as follows: The deceased was my sister. I am in service at Warminster, at Mr Bailey’s. On Monday afternoon, about three o’clock, I saw my sister in Warminster. She said she had left her place and the reason was she had refused to do the work her mistress told her and the mistress had paid her a month’s wages. I then asked her to come up to the Down with me and mistress. She came, and I was with her till nine o’clock. She first said she was going home and then she told me she was going to the Australian hotel to sleep with Albert Sparey. I told her she ought not to go and I went out afterwards to try and find her as my mistress said she might sleep with me. Albert Sparey seemed very fond of her. I went to the Australian Hotel to ask for her, but they said she was not there.

John Parry, farmer, Fisherton Delamere, said: I was present this morning when the bodies were taken out of the water and I recognised them as a couple I had seen together on the previous evening, about a quarter past eight. They passed the mill where I was fishing. I did not know either of them personally.

Mary Ann Yates, wife of John Yates, of Wylye, laborer, said: The deceased, Elizabeth Ann Yates, was my daughter and was 18 years of age. She was a domestic servant and had been 8 months with Mr Everett, saddler, of Warminster. She left last Tuesday and came home that day. I did not know she was coming home. The deceased, Albert Sparey, came with her. I had never seen him before. She said he was her lover and they were going to London to be married. I said he had better get a home first. He slept at my house, and yesterday morning he said he was going away, and started, but came back again. They both left my cottage together about six o’clock. Having had some tea she said she was going to see her grandmother at Deptford. I sat up till 12 o’clock and then went to bed, leaving the cottage door undone. My daughter never told me why she had left her place. They only said that one would not go away without the other. They appeared to be cheerful and never led me to suppose that they were going to do away with themselves. My daughter Sarah lives in service at Mr Bailey’s, at Warminster, close to where the deceased lived. I knew they did not get on well together, but I never heard anything else.

Henry John Sparey, of 47, Boreham Road, Warminster, said: I am a gardener, and work for Mr Wakeman, of Warminster. The deceased was my brother and would have been 26 years old next month. He was older than I. He had been ostler at the Bath Arms, Warminster, about four months. Previous to that he was in London for two years and previously he had been at the Bath Arms. My brother lived at home, but he had not been there since Sunday night. His meals were sent down to him on the Monday to the hotel. I was with my mother that evening between nine and ten o’clock, and saw my brother with a young woman. My mother spoke to him but I did not hear what she said. My brother had been engaged to some other girl. On Tuesday morning, about ten minutes to nine, I saw my brother again but nothing passed. The deceased left the Bath Arms of his own accord. He was sometimes the worse for liquor and then it affected his head and he used to talk at random. The accident he had when previously at the Bath Arms affected his head and he was laid up for some time. I have never heard him threaten to do away with himself, not even when he was the worse for drink.

Charles Penruddocke, registered medical practitioner, Wylye, said: I have examined the bodies of the deceased. There are no marks of violence. There is every appearance of death from drowning.

PC William Merritt, of Wylye, said: I searched the bodies of the deceased. There was no money. I identified the bodies. I knew Alfred (Albert) Sparey very well. He was at the Bath Arms. I did not know that he drank.

The jury returned a verdict of felo-de-se. They declared that “the said Albert Sparey was found drowned in the mill pond belonging to the mill tied round the waist with a band to a young woman identified as Elizabeth Ann Yates of the parish of Wylye in the same county, and the jurors do further say that the said Albert Sparey threw himself into the water where he was found and by the means aforesaid did feloniously kill himself.” The wording of the verdict in regard to the girl was similar to that in the case of the young man, except the names. The decision was formerly ratified on Monday morning, when the jury appended their signatures to the parchment documents produced.

Elizabeth Ann Yates was buried on the north side of the church in Wylye churchyard, at a time kept private from the villagers, and without any form of ceremony taking place. Albert Sparey was buried in similar circumstances in the burial ground at Christchurch, Warminster. Orders for the burial were given by the coroner, and some degree of secrecy was sought by the various officials concerned for both occasions.


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