Unexplained Death in Victorian Haslingfield

‘The Haslingfield Chronicle 1776-1900’ is a collection of newspaper articles printed in the ‘Cambridge Chronicle’ relating to the village, and the Village Society is hoping to arrange a reprint sometime in the future. One of the items regularly reported is unexplained death.

Any death apart from one through natural causes has to go to a coroner’s court. Haslingfield seems to have been short of large public places during this period, so courts were held in the many public houses in the village. The young seem to have been particularly prone to accidents. In June 1843 Hayes Barnard, “a dumb boy”, was found drowned in the Cam, and a coroner’s court in the Rose and Crown delivered a verdict of accidental death. In January 1854 a Charles Neaves, aged 12, was deemed to have suffocated in mud when his smock was caught in the machinery of a bean-grinding machine.

Some causes of death were not so clearcut. In the following month, Richard Reynolds was found dead in his orchard. He had been ill that winter, but perhaps the shortcomings of medical knowledge at that time led to a verdict of “died by the visitation of God”. 1854 was a bad year. Two-year-old Joseph Hall, left by his sister who went shopping, set fire to himself with ‘lucifer matches’, and died the next day. And to end a tragic year, in December a John Hayes died of a ruptured aorta, the week after he had paid a deposit for he and his family to emigrate to Australia.

More cheerful fare next month.

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