The Death Memorial
Old Cemetery, Bishops Stortford
Well, it seems that Stortford’s most (in)famous son has very much been in the news this week, but I would not dare to venture into that minefield of opinion here! However, I do have a post that relates to the property where Cecil Rhodes was born.
Rhodes was born in the property known as Netteswell House, a property originally built by a man of means, William Death (1760-1846). On the land where South Mill Road and South Road meet, William ordered the construction of an impressive semi-detached property, originally bearing the name of South Terrace, but later upon a split becoming Netteswell House (the adjoining property being known as Thorleybourne).
The property was built by the Grandfather of another of my ‘acquaintances’ who reside for all eternity in the grounds of The Old Cemetery in Bishops Stortford.
However, before I continue I would just like to point out that the wider history of the Death family was previously provided to me by a fellow ‘Memories of Bishops Stortford’ member, Tim Howard-Smith. I think it is fair to say that the real-life story of the Death family could easily have formed the basis of a Georgian/Victorian soap opera in that it had all of the requisite elements, life, love money and death. Sadly one of the strongest themes running through the family was one of tragedy. However, fascinating as the Death’s may be, the wider story is not mine, but Tim’s to tell.
I will focus on one element of the history, a snapshot of a former time and as is the case, then as now, it is a clear indication of how our times are forever changing and that is the nature of history.
Having come out of the closet (or should that be crypt) as a self-confessed taphophile, it should come as no surprise that my daughter, Mo, has appreciated my appreciation of the dying art and all things funereal.
A few weeks ago I posted some information on the family grave of Robert Heath. I mentioned the plot to Mo and without hesitation she told me about her favourite grave (hey, whose daughter doesn’t have a fave grave!), that of the Death Family in the same cemetery. The Heath post prompted the initial contact from Tim in which he mentioned the Death memorial, which just so happened to be Mo’s grave of choice!
Earlier in this lockdown odyssey, Mo and I took a walk into the cemetery and she took me to the memorial with all of the uncertainty of a guided missile (‘know your cemeteries’… a good Andrews’ family motto!).
It is one lady who is commemorated on this fine marble and granite (I think, although I am no geologist) that this post concerns. Her name was Lydia Unwin Death, who sadly met a rather violent death in a very early Road Traffic Accident (of the motorized variety at least).
Memorial to Lydia Unwin Death
Old Cemetery, Bishops Stortford
Lydia is remembered on one face of the memorial with the words:
“REQUIESCAT IN PACE”
IN LOVING MEMORY OF LYDIA UNWIN DEATH,
OF “THE CEDARS”,
WHO WAS ACCIDENTALLY KILLED
BY A MOTOR-CYCLIST AT
ON AUGUST 13TH 1904,
In short Lydia in the company of her sister, Sarah (or Sally) Death, died after being struck by a motor-cyclist whilst on holiday in Scarborough.
What follows are the details of the Coroner’s findings, the Magistrate’s hearing and verdict, as well as details of the funeral back here in Stortford, as were reported in the Herts. And Cambs. Recorder issue of Friday 19th August 1904. It is a long and detailed read (it took an age to type from the newspaper facsimile that much I do know!) but please persevere as I would be interested in other people’s thoughts on the verdict.
I grew up in the 1970’s at the time of the first skateboard craze (1977-1978). In that time it was fun to board a skateboard, grab the belt or saddle of a bike riding mate and then hold on for dear life as you reached otherwise unattainable speeds. In my mind Norris Hepworth and his mate John Webber were larking about on in a very similar manner, was this wreckless or negligent behavior on behalf of the pair? Was the horn sounded or not? Was the motor-cycle travelling at a furious pace or a walking pace? There seem to be a lot of contradictions. What would the present day verdict be based on the evidence presented?
I do not seek to trivialise such a tragedy but having read all of the available information I am genuinely interested in how this early RTA would be viewed over a century later.
However, the Chief Constable named as Mr. W. Basham did raise a smile.
The photographs show the Death memorial in Bishops Stortford Old Cemetery with detail on the inscriptions remembering Lydia, Sarah and their uncle Woodham who took charge of the sisters after the tragic death of their father William.
FATAL ACCIDENT TO MISS LYDIA DEATH
KNOCKED DOWN BY A MOTOR CYCLE AT SCARBOROUGH
A CHARGE OF MANSLAUGHTER
A very painful impression was caused in both the Bassingbourn and the Bishop Stortford districts by the appearance in Monday morning’s papers of a brief paragraph stating that “Miss Lydia Unwin Death, 79, of Bassinbourn, Royston, who was spending a holiday in Scarborough, was crossing Crown Crescent, when she was knocked down by a motor cycle ridden by Mr. Hepworth. She was so seriously injured that she died within an hour. M. Hepworth who was also on holiday, at once surrendered himself to the police.”
In some of the Monday’s papers the lady was described as Miss Death, of Bishop Stortford, a mistake which is easily accounted for from the fact that the deceased lady’s sister, Miss Sarah Death, lives at Bishop Stortford, and the painful interest and to some extent the uncertainty was increased in both districts on that account. In fact both the sisters were on a visit to Scarborough together, and had only arrived a short time before the sad accident occurred.
It appears that Miss Death and her sister from Stortford had arranged to go on a visit to Scarborough together. On Thursday Miss Lydia Death left her home at the “Cedars”, Bassingbourn, and travelled from Royston to Cambridge, where she met her sister from Stortford, and the ladies travelled together to Scarborough.
For the following particulars of the sad fatality we are indebted to the Scarborough Evening News:-
A sad fatality occurred on the South Cliff on Saturday Evening, when a visitor was run down by a motor cycle and died three quarters of an hour after the occurrence. The victim was an elderly lady, Miss Lydia Unwin Death (79), who with her nephew and sister came to Scarborough last week from their home at Bishop Stortford, Hertfordshire. They were staying in apartments at 10, Crown Crescent, South Cliff.
The deceased had just left the house and was crossing the roadway towards Belmont Road, which is near the southern entrance to the Valley Bridge, when she was run down by a motor cycle ridden by Norris Hepworth, junr., aged, 20, son of Mr. Norris Hepworth, head of a well known firm of clothiers at Leeds. She was conveyed to her rooms, and Dr. Berverley and other medical gentlemen called in, but all aid was unavailing, death ensuing three quarters of an hour after the occurrence, and the deceased never regained consciousness.
As soon as the injuries sustained terminated fatally, Mr. Hepworth went to the Police Station and gave an account of what had taken place. He was detailed in custody, and a special sitting of the magistrates was held in the evening, at which he was charged with manslaughter, and remanded till Monday, bail being allowed in his own surety of £100 and two others of £50 each.
The inquest touching the death of Miss Lydia Unwin Death, was held at the Court House, Castle Road, Scarborough, on Monday evening.
Mr. Tasker Hart, solicitor, watched proceedings on behalf of Mr. Norris Hepworth, junr, of Headingley, Leeds, who had been staying at 26, Grosvenor Crescent, Scarborough, and who was riding the motor cycle; and Mr. S. Jones (Deputy Town Clerk), and the Chief Constable (Mr. W. Basham) watched the case on behalf of the police.
The Coroner, at the outset, said deceased was in the company of another person – her sister- when she was knocked down. He asked the jury when they went to view the body to take particular notice of the road, or whether there were any obstacles which would intercept a rider on a motor cycle. There was no question that the deceased was knocked down by a motor-cycle, and there was no doubt that it was ridden by a person named Hepworth, but they had to find out whether the collision was the result of a pure accident or whether it was due to culpable negligence on the part of the rider of the cycle, or whether the occurrence could have been avoided had there been care exercised, and had the person riding gone at a reasonable pace.
Alfred William Davie, Harold View, Sunnifield, Henley, nephew of deceased, identified the body and said she lived at the “Cedars” ,Bassinbourn, near Royston. She arrived at Scarborough on a visit last Thursday afternoon in company with her sister. Being so elderly - 79 – she was rather infirm, and was slightly lame.
The Coroner: Had she good sight?
Witness said she needed spectacles, but would be able to see anything coming on the road.
Further examined witness said deceased never uised spectacles out of doors. As to hearing she was slightly deaf, but only very slight. She was not nervous on a public thoroughfare, but was careless.
At this stage Mr. Hart said on behalf of Mr. Norris Hepworth, junr., who stood charged with manslaughter, and on behalf of his father, he was desired to say how extremely they regretted that unfortunate accident. It was a pure accident , and they were more than sorry that Mr. Norris Hepworth, junr., had been a participant in that extremely unfortunate occurrence. They desired to tender to the relatives of the lady their sympathetic condolence in their sudden and sad bereavement.
The witness said that, so far as the family were concerned, they were very sorry any case should be brought forward.
The Coroner: No, no; you mustn’t go into that. This enquiry is merely as to the cause of death, it is not a magistrates; enquiry.
Witness: Just so, only I would like to say that, and to return thanks.
In answer to Mr. Hart witness repeated that deceased was slightly deaf and slightly lame , and she was careless often when on the highway.
Sarah Death, sister of deceased, who lives at South Lodge, Bishop Stortford, wa next called. She said that on Saturday evening she and deceased left the house, 10, Crown Crescent, Scarborough, where they were staying, and had got about half way across the road and were near the other side when witness saw a motor-cycle approach. When they left the house they didn’t see it. The cycle was going up the incline from Belmont Road. When she saw it, it was ten or twelve yards away. Witness moved in in the direction she was going, and said to deceased “Take care, there is a bicycle coming.” When witness looked round again the cycle was on her. It ran into her and knocked her down. When witness spoke to deceased she did not know whether deceased stepped back or not. She might have moved a step. She did not move forward. There was very little time for her to dodge a bicycle. Witness heard the cycle, and saw it at the same time. She was not certain whether it made a sound or not. She thought she would have heard a horn, but she dare not say it did not sound for certain. She was rather deaf. Witness did not notice another bicycle besides a motor-cycle. Deceased was carried into the house, but died within an hour.
Asked whether deceased was careful on roads she replied: “I don’t think she was, generally, very careful.”
Further examined witness said the bicycle struck the deceased in the front, and she fell on her back.
Mr. Jones asked witness whether, between the time of witness telling deceased the bicycle was approaching, and her looking round deceased had time to move out of the way?
Witness replied that she did not think she had, because deceased was not so active.
By Mr. Hart: Deceased was staying at No. 10, Crown Crescent, and the accident occurred at opposite No. 3, Deceased could hear better than witness. Deceased had turned round, and it looked as if a horn had been sounded, although witness did not hear it. Witness had time to get out of the road, but deceased was less active. The rider gave what assistance he could, and was very kind.
Nellie Gibson, wife of Wm. Gibson, 15, Huddersfield Road, Barnsley, who has been staying at 9, Crown Crescent, said she and her husband were having tea when they saw deceased and her sister pass the window. They were on the footpath, and then she saw them cross the road in a slanting direction. Witness saw a motor-cycle, ridden by a young man, coming up the hill from Belmont Road. It passed the window, and witness immediately got up – she got up when she heard the cycle coming – to see if the old ladies had got across the road. Neither had got completely across. One was a yard or two in front of the other, and the motor-cycle was about 3 yards off the one in the centre of the road. The cycle dashed into the one in the centre of the street, and knocked her onto her back. Deceased moved when she saw the cycle. She seemed flurried, and not to know which way to turn. She first turned one way and then the other, and then turned round facing the cycle.
The Coroner: Did you hear a horn sounded?
The Coroner: Or any signal?
The Coroner: Would you have heard it had it been sounded?
In answer to further questions witness said she did not notice another cycle there. She looked more at the old ladies than the cycle – she did not notice two cycles. The reason she got up to look at the old ladies was because of the cycle going at such a rate. Hepworth had ridden round there twice previously that night, and also on other nights had been round there.
By jurymen: Deceased was not moved any distance by the collision with the cycle. Witness did not hear a horn sounded, but she heard the ordinary noise a motor-cycle makes. That would have been sufficient to attract attention.
By the Coroner: There seemed to be plenty of room on the road for the rider to pass by deceased.
By Mr. Jones: On other occasions she had heard the rider sound a horn when turning the corner. The cyclist appeared to have control of the machine.
William Gibson, husband of last witness, gave corroborative evidence. When witness first saw the cycle, the latter would be about 20 or 30 yards from the old ladies. The cyclist did not sound his horn.
The Coroner: You are certain about that?
Witness: I am. It is a good horn.
The Coroner: What pace was he going?
Witness: I cannot tell exactly, It was furious, or what they commonly call scorching – in my opinion.
Continuing, the witness said the cyclist had been round there just before on that night, and once before that night, and once before that. That was the third round. Witness saw another cycle – an ordinary one – coming up with the motor-cycle, and the rider of the ordinary had his hand on the shoulder of the rider of the motor-cycle. The motor would be in the centre of the road, and the other bicycle on the left.
Dr. Beverley said he was called to deceased on Saturday evening. She was lying almost in the middle of the road on her back. Subsequently he made an examination. There were no marks on the abdomen. Deceased was suffering from concussion and some compression of the brain probably caused by hemorrhage. Shock was the principal cause of death. Had deceased been younger she might have recovered. The shock was the result of injuries received. There were no bones broken.
By Mr. Hart: It was fair to assume that had deceased been hit in the front there would have been marks.
MR. HEPWORTH’S VERSION
Norris Hepworth, junr., of Headingly, Leeds, the young man who is charged with manslaughter, then went into the box. He was cautioned by the Coroner, and was told that he need give no evidence which would be likely to incriminate himself. He came to Scarborough, he said on the 5th of August, and on Saturday evening he met on the Esplanade a young man named Webber. Witness and Webber rode up to the Holbeck Gardens , and came back down the Esplanade together. Webber was riding an ordinary bicycle. They came down Belmont Road, Webber riding on witness’s right. They then turned up the hill going towards Albion Road, Crown Crescent being on the right. In ascending the hill, Webber took hold of witness, putting his left hand on his shoulder. Witness saw two ladies in front. They would be about 30 yards away when witness first saw them. When he saw the ladies he immediately sounded his horn with his right hand. His left hand was on his brake ready to apply it. When he applied the brake, it cut off the connection with the engine, and the machine could not proceed. He sounded his horn once – he thought twice. Webber also sounded his bell. When about five yards off the ladies, Webber let go of his shoulder, and rode around the ladies on the right. One lady at that time was near the footpath – which is not clearly defined – and the other nearly in the middle of the road. Witness tried to go round on the left side, he seeing that the old lady in the middle of the road was standing still. He steered to the left, and the lady stepped in front. Witness then saw there was room on the right, and he went that way, when deceased stepped back right in the way of the bicycle, and unfortunately the cycle came into collision when she was then facing him, and the effect was that the old lady was knocked down; his bicycle came to a stop, and he got off and went to her assistance. When he was ascending the hill his cycle was not going more than six miles an hour. He applied his brake, and when he collided with the deceased he was going at the rate of about two miles an hour. He saw the deceased carried to her rooms, and then immediately went to the Police Station, where the particulars were taken down in writing. Webber being with him. After that he went to 10, Crown Crescent and inquired after the lady’s condition. Subsequently he heard that the lady was dead, and immediately he went to the Police Station and surrendered himself. He was bailed out at 12.15. He was not going to ride the bicycle anymore.
It was then decided to adjourn the case till Wednesday evening.
THE ADJOURNED INQUEST AND VERDICT
The enquiry by the Coroner (Mr. Taylor), and jury, was resumed on Wednesday evening, when the examination of Mr. Norris Hepworth, junior, was continued.
Replying to jurors, Mr. Hepworth said he knew the rules of the road, but he attempted to pass to the left, because he thought under the circumstances it was better to do so. Had the deceased lady not hesitated and stepped backwards, he and his friend, Mr. Webber, would have been able to pass her. He had never been warned for furious driving.
John Ernest Webber, of Waterloo House, London, who was riding with Mr. Hepworth, corroborated his evidence and other witnesses, and other witnesses stated that they considered every care was taken to avoid the collision.
The Coroner then addressed the jury upon the case, and said that they had to decide whether the death of deceased was in any way due to the negligence of the cyclist, remarking that it was a common idea on the part of drivers of motors and other vehicles, that pedestrians had no right to the road, and if they were there it was at their own peril – an idea that was entirely wrong.
The jury must be satisfied that there had been negligence, to bring in a verdict of manslaughter. His idea was that if there had been negligence there was very little difference between Mr. Hepworth and Mr. Webber. They were riding together. The jury must not take into consideration whether the deceased was lame or deaf, but whether her death was the result of pure accident or negligence.
The jury retired to consider their verdict at 9.30 and returned in 20 minutes.
THE CORONER AND THE JURY’S VERDICT.
Mr. James Tonks (Foreman of the Jury) in reply to the Coroner, said the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death”, but at the same time they considered that there was a want of care shown by Mr. Hepworth and Mr. Webber before the deceased was knocked down.
The Coroner said he could not accept such a verdict. Was there, he asked, culpable negligence? It might have been an accident, but could the accident have been avoided by proper care?
The Foreman of the Jury: This is the mildest form in which we can agree to a verdict. If you don’t accept it we will disagree.
The Coroner: You must bring in a verdict of “Accidental death” or the other thing. Will you return again to talk it over?
The jury retired and came back again in twenty minutes, when the Foreman said that they could not possibly agree.
The Coroner, addressing them again, said that what they had to consider was whether the two gentlemen had been so negligent that they placed themselves in such a position that a collision could not be avoided. There could be no question whatever that Mr. Hepworth did all he could to avoid a collision when he got to within a few yards of the old lady. He did not wish to say too much, but it was the rule to give a person charged the benefit of the doubt.
A juror: Must the verdict be perfectly unanimous?
The Coroner: There are 15 of you altogether, and I shall accept a verdict of 12.
In reply to the Foreman, the Coroner said the jury, if they thought fit, could return a verdict of “Accidental death”, and a rider censuring the cyclist.
The jury retired again, and after a further absence of 20 minutes, the Foreman said it was impossible to give a verdict.
The Coroner: You are placing yourself in an awkward position. I may keep you here as long as I like, or I may adjourn the inquiry until the next York Assizes for you to be addressed by the Judge on the law! If you say you cannot agree, I shall be disposed to adjourn to the Assizes.
A juryman: I am quite willing to go to York. (Laughter).
At the earnest request of Mr. Hart. The jury retired for a fourth time. They were absent thirty five minutes, and they returned with the following verdict: “Accidental death, but that the Coroner be asked to severely censure Mr. Hepworth and Mr. Webber for their riding prior to the accident.”
The Coroner accepted the verdict, and severely admonished both young men, pointing out that the jury, after nearly two hours’ deliberation, had taken a merciful view of their conduct, but they had placed themselves in a very delicate position.
The inquiry lasted altogether 9 ½ hours.
MR. HEPWORTH BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES.
Norris Hepworth, junr., a slightly-built young man of smart appearance, who bore himself calmly, surrendered to his bail on Monday morning at the Borough Police Court on a charge of manslaughter that he did “feloniously kill and slay Lydia Unwin Death”. Accused, who was represented by Mr. Tasker Hart, was accompanied by his father and by another young gentleman. Considerable interest was manifested in the case.
The Chief Constable (Mr. W. Basham) said that from the particulars obtained it appeared that at about six o’clock on Saturday evening accused was riding a motor-cycle in company with another young man who was seated on an ordinary bicycle. The latter had his hand on the shoulder of the accused. In Crown Crescent Lydia Unwin Death was knocked down by the accused. She was conveyed to her rooms at 10, Crown Crescent, and Dr. Beverley and other medical men were called in. The injuries, however, were so severe that she died in three quarters of an hour. The accused did not sound either bell or horn, and he was going at a furious pace. He (the Chief Constable) was unable to go on with the case, and he asked for a remand till Friday.
Mr. Hart said that there were certain statements made by the Chief Constable that, according to his instructions, were somewhat inaccurate. He did not purpose going into the matter that morning. All he had to ask was that the accused should be admitted to the same bail as on Saturday night.
Accused was remanded till Thursday morning, himself in £200 and two sureties of £100 each, Mr. Hepworth, senr., being one of the sureties.
The charge of manslaughter preferred against Norris Hepworth, junr., came on for hearing at the Scarborough Police Court yesterday (Thursday), and the widespread interest that it has evinced was indicated by the crowding of the Court in the public gallery. There were several fashionably-attired ladies in a gallery set apart for them, notable amongst the number being Lady Ida Sitwell.
The magistrates on the bench were the Mayor (Councilor Morgan), Mr. A. J. Tugwell, Alderman Gawne, Alderman Sanderson, and Councilor Sinfield.
Mr. Sidney Jones (Deputy Town Clerk) prosecuted.
Dr. Beverley said the deceased’s death was shock combined with depression, the latter being due to hemorrhage in the skull. There were no marks or bruises on the body apart from the head. The scalp wound, concussion and depression were likely to be caused by anything which knocked the old lady down on her back. The principal cause of death was shock. If a motor-cycle weighing 126 lbs and travelling at a rate of twelve miles an hour were to have struck deceased in the front of the body he would have expected to find bruises there.
After a hearing lasting all day, the Bench dismissed the case, the Chairman remarking that the Bench considered it was a pure accident.
The deceased came from an old Essex family which had been settled near Bishop Stortford where her sister still lives. The deceased was a niece of the late Mr. Woodham Death, of South Lodge, Bishop Stortford and she has four nieces three of whom are married. She came to Bassingbourn about 20 years ago and was well known and respected by all. Latterly she had been very feeble and not capable of taking so much interest in village affairs, but she had always been much interested in the Congregational Chapel. By all connected with that place of worship she will be much missed, and it is a great grief to all to lose her in such a sad and sudden manner. She was well known in Royston and frequently drove into the town, the last occasion being only a day or two before her departure to Scarborough.
Memorial to Woodham Death
Uncle of Sarah and Lydia
Old Cemetery, Bishops Stortford
Memorial to Sarah (Sally) Death
Sister of Lydia and fellow traveller on the day of the accident
Old Cemetery, Bishops Stortford
The body was conveyed from Scarborough to Bishop Stortford, on Tuesday, and the funeral took place there on Wednesday.
The Rev. John Wood, congregational Minister, conducted the service. The chief mourners were: Miss Sarah Death, of South Lodge (sister), Mr. and Mrs. A. W. W. Davies (London), Dr. and Mrs. Morris, Dr. and Mrs. Gervase, and Miss K. Death (each of the ladies being nieces of the deceased), and John Pettingell, the coachman. There was a number of choice wreaths, and in addition to those of the family, floral tributes were sent by the Misses Wilkerson (Barley), and Mr. Andrew Wright (Melbourn).
Sarah (Sally) Death outside South Lodge, Bishops Stortford
A woman possibly more Victorian than Victoria herself!
(Many thanks to Tim Howard-Smith for sharing this fabulous photograph).