Rhoda Sturgess

Date published: 28/06/2016
© Reading Mercury




Dr Watson, Borough Coroner, held an inquest at “The Newmarket Inn” Cheap Street, Newbury on Monday evening, on the body of a little girl,8 years of age ,named Rhoda Ann Sturgess,who was accidentally run over by a manure cart at the corner of Gas House Lane, leading out of Cheap Street, that morning.  Mr Edward Gould was chairman of the jury and the following evidence was given:

The body was identified by George Sturgess, the father, a carman in the employ of Mrs Draper, Great Western Railway Goods Agent, who stated that the deceased child had but one arm, being born so.

George Green, the next witness, gave his evidence in an unsatisfactory manner, appearing very callous about the matter, and calling forth a reproof from the Coroner.  He stated that he was a labourer in the employ of Mr John Leonard,   Grocer, of the Adam and Eve Road.   Shortly before one o’clock that morning he was leading a horse and cart, laden with manure, down Cheap Street to a meadow near Greenham Mills, and when turning the corner to Gas House Lane he heard someone call. On looking back he saw the deceased child lying on the offside of the road, the wheel of the cart having passed over her chest.  He did not see any children at the corner when turning, neither did he feel his cart heave at all when passing over deceased, in fact had someone not called out he should have known nothing of the matter.  He saw another child lying on the ground at the same time.  He stopped the horse at once and ran back, picked up the deceased and carried her to a house near where she was placed on the floor with a support under her head. She was not dead then but did not speak.

John Adams, a drover, employed by Mr Joh Hobbs, of Arlington Grange, deposed that he was looking out of a window at the “Steamer” beerhouse  (which is exactly opposite the scene of the accident), and noticed the cartload of manure passing round the corner of Gas House Lane.  He also saw two little girls on the nearside of the lane.  The younger of these two ran between the horse’s hind legs and the near wheel of the manure cart.  The elder sister (the deceased) seeing her danger, rushed after her and succeeded in pushing her to the ground beneath the cart, but in attempting to run out herself on the offside she was knocked down, the wheel going right over her chest.  The younger child was quite unhurt. Adams stated that he did not think any blame could be attached to the last witness, who was leading the horse very slowly.

Mr Richard, Hickman, surgeon, deposed to being called to the scene of the accident and to examining the deceased, who had been dead a few minutes when he arrived shortly after one o’clock. He discovered a graze wound on the right shoulder, and also one underneath the deceased’s chin.  The left side of the chest appeared slightly pressed in, but nothing very distinct. He could find no broken bones, nor was the skin even cut. Death was due, in his opinion, to pressure on the heart, and probable rupture of that organ.

The Coroner, in summing up, remarked upon the heroic conduct of the deceased child. Who lost her life in saving that of a younger sister, and expressed the sorrow that the jury must feel at the sad occurrence. He could not abstain in commenting on the remarkable fact, given in the medical evidence, that not a bone was broken nor the skin cut, and this despite the fact that the cart weighed upwards of a ton.  He thought the sad affair was purely accidental, and advised the jury to return a verdict to that effect.

A verdict of “Accidental Death” was accordingly returned.


Extract from the Reading Mercury 10 March 1894

Sources:Reading Mercury 10 March 1894

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