Rolfe, James

Rolfe, James            1889 May 18th             Andover

Sad Fatality at Andover

An inquest was held on Saturday at the Eagle Inn, Andover, before Mr Spencer Clarke (County Coroner), touching the death of James Rolfe, aged 24 years, which occurred as detailed in the following evidence. Mr T Howard was foreman of the jury.

Albert Brooks, a ploughboy boy living at Henley, near Hungerford, stated that he worked for Mr Woodman and knew the deceased, who also lived at Henley, and was in the same employ. Witness in company with deceased came to Andover on Thursday with three horses which were drawing a waggon loaded with furniture, to Mr Pavey’s farm. They finished unloading the goods about 3.30. They then put a spring cart on the waggon to take back to Henley, and began the homeward journey. All went well till they reached the chalk pit near the iron bridge. Deceased was leading the horse on the near side, while witness was in charge of the front horse. The horses became restless through the rattle of a carriage which was coming behind at great speed, and witness jumped on the bank by the roadside to get out of the way. He then saw deceased knocked down and the wheel go over him.

A juror inquired how the rattle of a light carriage behind could frighten horses attached to a heavy noisy waggon, but it was explained that considerable vibration would be caused by a carriage passing under the iron bridge, there being walls of chalk some 30ft high each side of the road.

By the foreman : The deceased was killed just below the chalk pit.

By a juror : The spring cart was tied in the waggon and did not rattle. There was no drag on the wheel.

The jury strongly expressed the opinion that there should have been a break on the wheel in going down such a long incline as that existing where the accident took place.

By Dr Taylor : Deceased’s head was lying on the bank, and was towards the top of the hill. He was not dragged at all. He was knocked down by the shafts while endeavouring to stop the horses.

Frank Knapp, of 35, London Street, a post boy, deposed that he was driving a horse attached to a half headed trap from Micheldever Station to Andover on Thursday. When about 100 yards from the Iron Bridge some cart horses in front ran away and witness saw the shafts of the waggon strike deceased on the head. He rolled over on the bank and the wheels passed over his body. Witness drove on down the road and saw deceased, who was lying in the gutter, draw what he thought was his last breath. His trap might have frightened the horses, he could not say.

By Dr Taylor : He saw the shafts strike deceased in the head and the wheels went right across his body. Witness was driving fast to catch the 3.30 train at the Junction.

Dr James Taylor, assistant to Dr F H Elliott, stated that he was called about 3.30 on Thursday to see deceased, whom he found lying by the side of the road halfway up the hill near the iron bridge. He was quite dead. He should think the direct cause of death was a very bad fracture of the base of the skull. Deceased had other very extensive injuries. The lower jaw was very badly fractured, and there were large wounds on his cheeks. Blood was flowing from both ear and mouth. The injuries might have been caused by blows from the shaft or by the wheel going over the head, but he thought the former was the most likely theory.

PS Matthews stated that he heard of the accident at 3.40, and immediately proceeded up the Longparish Road with a stretcher. He conveyed the body at once to mortuary, and on searching it, found a silver watch, 4s 6d in money, and several other articles.

The Coroner having reviewed the evidence, and stated that the cause of death in his opinion was due to the rattling of the carriages coming behind, but that there was no blame to be attached to the witness Knapp, a verdict was returned that deceased was accidentally killed by being run over by three horses in rapid motion.

The Foreman of the jury made reference to the fact that the county coroner had held the inquest in the place of the borough coroner (Mr A Farr), and also to the payment of the jury.

The Coroner, in reply, stated that under the Local Government Act the office of borough coroner was abolished, and he as county coroner had the duties transferred to him. For that he was not responsible. As Shakespeare said,

Some were born great, some achieved greatness,

and some had greatness thrust upon them.”

And he assured them that he had the duties of borough coroner forced upon him. The county coroner, upon whom this business now devolved, had the power to divide the county into districts and appointing a coroner to each, and when that was done Mr Farr’s case could be dealt with, but until then Andover would be deprived of the advantages of a resident borough coroner. As to the complaint of the foreman about payment of the jury, they were doubtless all aware that no payment was allowed in county inquests. He had supported a memorial to the county authorities to change their rule, but until they did an Andover jury must be treated the same as a jury in any other part of the county.

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