Sudden death at Melbourne House lodge

Grantham Journal
Saturday 9 September 1871

SHOCKING OCCURRENCE NEAR WAKEFIELD

On Saturday night, shortly before eight o’clock, Mr John Buckley, who occupies the farm buildings connected with Melbourne House, better known as “Prophet Wroe’s Temple”, situate at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, sent his son with a newspaper to one of the lodges in the Temple grounds, the sole occupant of which was an old Scotchwoman, named Jane Foreman Campbell. The young man returned, saying he could not make the old woman (who always kept the door locked) hear. Mr Buckley then went to the lodge, and on effecting an entrance perceived a strong smell of burning. On making an examination of the premises he found the old woman lying on the floor near her armchair. Her clothes were all destroyed, her body charred and adhering to the floor, and the seat of her chair was burnt out. It is supposed that whilst mending her stockings on the Thursday evening (which was the last time she was seen alive) her clothes caught fire, and she was burnt to death. She was seventy-nine years of age, was the widow of Mr Cotes Campbell, assistant-keeper at the Register House, Edinburgh, and mother of Mr W Campbell, C.E., Newcastle-on-Tyne, to whom she frequently wrote up to about a fortnight ago. An inquest has been held before Mr T Taylor, and a verdict of “Accidentally burnt” returned.

Sad death at Broom Hall

Leicester Guardian
Wednesday 6 November 1872

A FARMER’S WIFE POISONING HERSELF WHEN DRUNK

On Wednesday an inquest was held before T Taylor Esq, at Snow Hill, near Wakefield, on the body of Sophia Thompson, wife of Mr George Thompson, farmer, Broom Hall, Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, who had died from the effects of a large dose of arsenic taken by her in a gloss of brandy, whilst under the influence of drink. The deceased, who was forty-seven years of age, was addicted to drinking, and although she had generally drank at home, she had often returned from Wakefield the worse for liquor. She began drinking on Wednesday night week, and continued to do so for the next three days. Last Saturday morning the servant girl heard someone downstairs, about four o’clock, and, on going into the cellar, she found her mistress, who had been in the habit of getting up at nights and sometimes sleeping in the kitchen, talking to herself. The girl returned to bed, and some time afterwards she heard the deceased, who was tipsy, talking to herself in her room. The deceased went downstairs and stood before the kitchen fire a few minutes, and then returned upstairs. Mr Thompson had bought a pound of arsenic on the 18th instant to use in dressing wheat, and the deceased seems to have got some of it and drank it along with some brandy, for between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday morning the servant found her seated on a box upstairs with a glass of brandy before her. It was subsequently discovered, and she admitted that she had taken a large dose of arsenic in the brandy. Mr W Statter, of Wakefield, and his son were called in during the evening, and administered the usual antidotes for arsenic, but with little hope of success, and the woman died on Monday. – The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased had poisoned herself when drunk.

Manslaughter charge for lighting candle in local coal pit

Yorkshire Gazette
Tuesday 30 August 1836

FATAL EXPLOSION OF FIRE DAMP AT A COLLIERY NEAR WAKEFIELD

On Saturday last an explosion of inflammable air took place in Bull Pit, at Kirkhamgate, about two miles to the west of Wakefield, which occasioned a serious loss of life and other damage. Although the accident was serious enough, in point of fact, the accounts, as they reached Wakefield were much exaggerated, and excited intense interest. It was recently reported that ten men had been killed, and twice as many scorched, many of whom were not expected to recover. On inquiry, it was found that, at the moment the explosion took place, there were about twenty men and boys in the pit, three of whom were killed, and the remainder, with the exception of two, more or less scorched. Up to Monday night no other death had occurred, but several of the unfortunate creatures were reported to be in a very precarious state.

John Pickford, aged 17, William Brooke, aged 10, and William Broadhead, aged 9, were the persons who lost their lives. Amongst the other sufferers the following were seriously hurt – David Broadhead, Thomas Brooke, George Lumb, Charles Hartley, David Hartley, Thomas Becher, Benjamin Scott, James Bedford, George Broadhead, and Edward Throit.

The Bull Pit belongs to Messrs Smithson and Co. On Sunday, Thomas Lee, jun. Esq, empanelled a jury, in order to inquire into the cause of the death of John Pickford. The jury came, to the conclusion that the poor fellow lost his life in consequence of the incautious use of a candle at one of the “banks” by a pitman. On Monday evening at six o’clock, a second inquest was held the house of Mr Percival Brooke, innkeeper, of Kirkhamgate, before Mr Lee and a very respectable and attentive jury, on view of the bodies of the two boys, when additional evidence was adduced, and the inquiry was adjourned till Thursday, at Potovens, when after a protracted and minute investigation and the examination of Mr Walsh[?] surgeon, and particularly Benjamin Scott, a lad who was working at the same time in the same place with Benjamin [sic] Bedford, the man who took the candle which caused the explosion and after hearing Bedford’s voluntary statement, the Jury returned a verdict of “Manslaughter against James Bedford”. Two of the sufferers are expected not to recover.

James Bedford was found not guilty at the York Spring Assizes in March of the following year.

Road death outside Bay Horse

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 6 April 1844

DISTRESSING AND FATAL ACCIDENT

On Monday last, a very distressing occurrence took place at Snow Hill, by which a son of Benjamin Dixon, Esq, of Wakefield, solicitor, lost his life. It appears that in the afternoon of that day, he had been walking towards Potovens, in company with some other children; and as they were returning, a cart was descending the hill from the bar just at the time the young people had reached the junction of the Bradford Road with Potovens Lane [now Wrenthorpe Road]. As they were playing, they unfortunately did not notice the approach of the cart, and Mr Dixon’s son ran backwards against the horse, which knocked him down on his face, and the wheel passed over his loins in slanting direction upwards; and though no bones were broken the injuries done to the spine were so great that death ensued before medical aid could reach him. An inquest was held on the same day, which was adjourned to Tuesday, before Thomas Lee, Esq, coroner, at the Bay Horse at Snow Hill, when the above facts were given in evidence, and a verdict of Accidental Death was returned. The driver, who was also the owner of the cart, was stated to be a very respectable and steady man, and showed deep concern at the lamentable occurrence. The coroner cautioned him to be more careful in future to be near the head of his horse when driving, remarking, at the same time, that nothing was more common than to see drivers loitering at an unwarrantable distance from their teams.

Carter falls beneath moving cart

Leeds Mercury
Thursday 17 March 1887

FATAL ACCIDENT NEAR WAKEFIELD

Yesterday noon a shocking accident, which terminated fatally in the evening, took place on the Wakefield and Bradford road, near the large building at Carr Gate known as “Prophet Wroe’s Mansion”, about a couple of miles from Wakefield. About the time named William Jones, a carter living in Elm Street, Halifax, and in the employ of Mr Brears of Halifax, was in charge of a light lorry or waggon. He was jumping off the waggon, when one of his feet slipped, and he fell under the waggon, and the wheels passed over him. He was removed to the Clayton Hospital at Wakefield, where it was found that he was in a very critical state, having sustained a compound fracture of the skull, a fracture of the ribs on the left side, and a fracture of the left leg. The sufferer, who was a single man, and apparently between thirty-five and forty years of age, was admitted into the hospital at 1.15pm and died from shock to the system.

Mining accident deaths: lockjaw

Accidents down the pit resulting in deaths from lockjaw (tetanus) were not uncommon. Here are two from the mid-19th century, relating to miners from Potovens.

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 19 August 1848

DEATH FROM LOCKJAW

On Monday last, Mr Lee, coroner, held inquest at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens, near Wakefield, on the body of Benjamin Scott. Deceased was a coal miner employed at Messrs Burnley’s pits in Wakefield, and the 14th ult. he was filling his corf when a quantity of coal fell upon him from the roof, and broke his leg. He was attended by Mr Statter, but lock-jaw took place on the following Wednesday, and he died on the ensuing Sunday. Verdict, “Accidentally killed”.

Leeds Times
Saturday 26 January 1856

FATAL COAL-PIT ACCIDENT

An accident befel a boy named Henry Nottingham, on Thursday, the 3rd inst. He was a hurrier in the Haigh Moor Pit, Stanley. On the day in question, when getting off the “rolley”, which he was driving along the road to the pit shaft, a portion of the wheel caught his clothes and threw him under the “rolley”, breaking his thigh, and otherwise injuring him. He has since died of lock-jaw. An inquest was held on the body on Tuesday, at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens, before T Taylor, Esq, when a verdict in accordance with the facts stated was returned.

News of ‘Prophet’ Wroe’s death filters back to Europe

The news of John Wroe’s sudden death in Melbourne, Australia took weeks to reach Europe and gets widespread coverage in early June 1863. The first title in the British Newspaper Library’s online archive to cover the story is the Dublin Daily Express.

Dublin Daily Express
Thursday 28 May 1863

FANATICISM IN AUSTRALIA

There appear to be a sect in Melbourne calling themselves “Christian Israelites”, but called by others “Wroeites”. Their “prophet” has recently died, and the Melbourne Weekly Review has notice of him.

“It will, probably, be a piece of perfectly novel intelligence to the bulk of our readers to learn that the wretched old man who thus obscurely ended his career was, up till the very last, looked upon by his deluded followers as an inspired personage… able to bestow immortal life on all who believed in him… Yet it is very certain that this was nothing more nor less than a monomaniac… There lies before as a volume of ‘The Life and Journal of John Wroe’, which contains many alleged Divine communications revealed to him.’ …The miserable maniac who died the other day at the ‘synagogue’ in Fitzroy steadily declared all his life that neither himself nor his followers could ever taste death, bat that both they and would be translated to heaven as Elijah was! Indeed, John Wroe’s latest ‘revelation’, delivered only few weeks before his death, was that should return to England within a few months. He had actually taken his passage by one of the Liverpool liners, in fulfilment of the ‘prophecy’, when the inevitable hand of death fell upon him. So ended the eighty years of wild hallucination and daring impiety of John Wroe. His duped followers, it is averred, are at this hour looking for his resurrection and re-appearance amongst them!”