James Richard Gunter

Date published: 22/04/2015
© Newbury Herald


 Inquest before Jos. Bunny Esq., Borough Coroner. Two inquests were held on Tuesday last, in the Magistrates Room. The first to view the body of James Richard Gunter, aged four years, the son of Richard Gunter, bricklayer, who met his death on the previous day from the effects of burning.


Jesse Breeze stated that he was a dealer and resided in Jack of Newbury-street. On the previous day, between two and three o'clock, he was in Ralph Allder's stable, Northbrook-street, when he heard a great noise, but did not know exactly where it proceeded from. He went to Gunter's house, and got in through the window. There were two children in the house; one was the deceased, who was all in flames, but the other was not. Witness took up the burnt child, and having taken off its clothes, gave it to Ralph Allder, and the other child he gave in charge of Mrs. Hamblin, who lived at the upper end of the yard. - Ralph Allder said he was a poulterer, in Northbrook-street. Between two and three o'clock yesterday afternoon his attention was attracted by loud screams of children proceeding from Richard Gunter's house. Witness thought the house was on fire, and directed Breeze to get in through the window, which he did, while witness went round to the front door. On reaching the front door Breeze handed to him the child on fire. Witness held the deceased for a few minutes, and then gave it to Mrs. Bull in whose charge he left it. He did not think the door was locked, but was not quite sure. He was never in the house before, and knew the father of the children only by sight. There was no one in the house besides the two children. The house was full of smoke . Witness saw the mother of the deceased pass by his house about twenty minutes before he heard the children scream. She did not return for a considerable time after the accident was discovered. There was no bed in the house, only shavings.


Ellen Weston, widow, who lives in the same yard, said about a quarter-past two o'clock yesterday afternoon, she also heard screams, and immediately went to the house, took the burnt child, who was most extensively burnt on the thighs, chest and back. It was quite sensible, but appeared in great agony until it died, which was about nine o’clock in the evening. Witness sent for a medical man, and Dr. J. Ligertwood attended, who said that the child could not survive.


The family had lived in the yard about a twelve month; they appeared to be nearly destitute and were without food and fuel one or two days last week until witness assisted them ,Mrs Milton, the clergyman's wife, had also relieved them. Some days they had a little food, and some days they had not. Yesterday morning they were without and witness believed that the mother was gone to Miss Randall's, to endeavour to get some food for the children. The deceased did not appear starved, and the mother always gave them plenty of food when she had it. The father of the deceased brought home on Saturday night only 2s. By the desire of Mr. Ward, the relieving officer, attended to the child and he furnished them with every comfort.


John Weston, son of the last witness, said after the accident he went to Kingsclere, where the father of the deceased child was gone to work, but did not find him until witness was returning home, when he saw him at a beer house. It was between eight and nine o’clock, and witness told him that his child was burnt, but he seemed to take little notice of it, and stopped in the house for some time afterwards drinking and they did not reach home until about midnight.


The mother of the child was called into the room, but not examined, and in answer to a few questions, gave a most deplorable account of the destitute state she and her family were in.


The Coroner told the jury that was the whole the evidence he had to lay before them, and he must say that it was one of the greatest cases of negligence and hardship by a father towards his family he had ever heard of, and he could not have imagined that such destitution existed so near to their own homes. The duty of the Jurors would not be to take into consideration the conduct of Gunter towards his family, for that more properly belonged to the Board of Guardians to investigate. He thought they would have but little difficulty in finding their verdict,


A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned and the Jury said much praise was due to J. Breeze and R. Allder for their prompt assistance at the time. By the request of the jury, Gunter was called into the room, for the express purpose of being reprimanded, when the Coroner severely censored him for his cruel conduct.


Newbury Herald Saturday February 25 1865

Sources:Newbury Herald Saturday February 25 1865

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