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The dangers of life in 19th century Wymeswold

Alec Moretti

Looking through the records of burials in Parish Registers we generally find no reason given why people died, but in the 19th century the vicars of Wymeswold, Rev Robert Walker and others, added a few notes to the register detailing various points of interest including relationships and in a few cases the cause of the person?s death. Some of these were related to their work, others to the conditions of the period. Small-pox was the cause of death of 7 children in 1830, and 9 more in 1839. This was before the widespread acceptance of vaccination The son-in law of the Parish Clerk died of a ?low fever? in 1870. I wonder how that would be diagnosed today?

Work seems to have been rather dangerous and working with waggons was the cause of three deaths. two of which involved teenagers. Arthur Holwell, aged 14 'fell under a dray' and was buried on 8 March 1882. John Tuckwood aged 15 'was killed by a waggon . . . by the end of the Clay [Clay Street]' and was buried on 6 July 1878.

Were they just careless, like William Marston aged 58? He is shown in the Register as being buried 'with Coroner's Warrant' on 22 May 1856. There is a report of the inquest in the Leicester Advertiser and the verdict was '"Accidental Death" caused by the deceased's own negligence in not scotching the waggon wheel before descending the hill.' This occurred on the Duke of York's bridge after he had been to the Mundy Arms in Loughborough for a load of manure. I am told this is the humped back canal bridge in the Nottingham Road, which was a difficult place for horse and cart.

Another accidental death connected with transport was that of William Ernest Bates, a porter at the Great Central Railway Station, who was killed whilst shunting. He was buried 25 April 1900.

Two brothers were buried on 6 July 1884 and the Vicar entered the following note:- 'These two brothers were killed by lightning on Highthorn Farm, Friday 4 July 1884.' They were James Tuckwood aged 63 and William Tuckwood aged 51. With them at the time was Thomas Tuckwood Hubbard, aged about 40, and at his death in 1910 was this note -- 'Nephew of James and William Tuckwood who were killed by lightning on 4 July 1884 when he was slightly scorched.' Was this accident or Act of God? Were they sheltering under trees?

Another work-related death was that of William Basford aged 34, buried 15 May 1885, who cut his hand with a steam saw.

Perhaps more sad was the case of Martha Morrice, a servant at Nottingham, aged 21 who was buried on 13 April 1870. 'This poor girl threw herself from a window.' No reason was given.

Childhood was not free from its dangers as shown when Alfred Mills, 'infant son of Joseph of Turnpost Farm was drowned in a pond' at the age of eighteen months on 30 July 1883.

While such deaths could occur nowadays, we should be worried if so many happened during a similar period in a small community like Wymeswold.

Originally published in Wolds Reflections 1997.

Copyright the author.

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