’It just started out as an ordinary day ‘…. Part 1.

It did not start out looking too well, for the very first walk, at 2.05 pm on Sunday 27th June in the Old Cemetery, it was pouring down with rain, umbrellas were everywhere. This ‘themed ‘walk for FoSOC since 2019, was heading towards either, going to be cancelled or at least postponed. Nevertheless, the group stayed and within 15 minutes the rain had stopped and thankfully, did not start again until after 4.00 pm, when many of us were home and in the dry! Seventeen members of the public plus four FoSOC members, including Lizzie, stayed. They were all thoroughly captivated by the stories that unfolded during the walk.  Here are just two of the twelve, as told by Lizzie.  All these stories can be found in, old local newspapers regarding when the incidents happened.

Elsie King 19 years Sept 1888 – this headstone just recently discovered.

Elsie was born in Paris in 1868 and her family name was Legendre. Elsie was married to Corporal William King of the Kings Royal Engineers, and he worked in Ordnance survey offices in London Road.  Elsie and William lived in Bevois Valley.  Lucy Rowe, Elsie’s friend lived nearby said that for the last few days, she and William were worried about Elsie as she seemed strange. Elsie was usually a happy and vivacious person but recently she was tearful, not eating, not sleeping, she spoke of death a lot, and her eyes were described as “wild”.  Elsie complained of terrible headaches which got so bad that Elsie took to her bed.  Lucy said that Elsie had not been herself since the suicide of their neighbour Fred Coates. Coates had committed suicide in his house slitting his throat from ear to ear using an open razor.  Unfortunately, both Elsie and Lucy had gone to his aid and Elsie had become covered in his blood and was visibly upset by the sight of the blood gushing between his fingers from the wound.  Since that time, Elsie has been acting strangely.  It got so bad that eventually a doctor was called for. The doctor diagnosed a cold and despite Elsie telling him how upset she was and could not eat or sleep and crying all the time the doctor simple told her to “try and put it out of your mind” and “to think of something else”.   Both the Doctor and Lucy then left. William had to go out for an hour. However, on his return home he called up to Elsie but got no reply, so he went to check on her.  He tried to open the door, but it was locked. But then he realized it had no lock, so something was stopping the door from being opened.  He shouldered the door open and burst in and there was no Elsie in the bed…it was empty. So where was Elsie?  He looked behind the door and there she was hanging by the neck.

William said she was warm and gurgling so he lifted her off the peg and laid her on the bed and went to get help. Lucy came to see if she could help while her husband went for a doctor and the police.  There was nothing anyone could do, and Elsie was certified dead. The coroner’s verdict was ‘Suicide while temporarily insane’. 

Henry Rose. Age 25 years – 4/5//1868. 

Henry Rose lived in Northam and on the evening of the 4th May went with his friend Charles Brown to the Itchen River to bathe. Neither boy could swim but they knew it was low tide and the river would only be waist deep at this time, so they would be ok.  They got into the water and Henry was the braver and started splashing about and starting to get quite a way out. Charles called to him and said be careful do not go too deep. Henry stood up to show it was only up to his waist.  He continued to carry on splashing around and walking further out when suddenly Charles heard Henry gave a cry and disappeared.

Charles said, one minute he was there, then next gone. He called for help and several men from a nearby pub came out and started help look for Henry. They search the riverbank for several hours but found nothing, the search was then called off.  A few days later Henry’s father was out on the river looking for his son, when he heard a mud barge man shout out, “There’s a body I can see hair and an arm”. Henry’s father rushed over and got into the water and saw it straight way, it was his son, he then began to untangle his sons’ body from the rope he had been caught up in. 

At the inquest, the coroner called in an ‘Expert witness’ who testified that yes! It was true at low tide for 30 or so yards the water, is waist deep but running down the centre of the river is a 20-foot-deep channel.  The coroner surmised that Henry as he walked further out stepped into the channel and being unable to swim was dragged into the deep water. The inquest verdict was Accidental death by drowning. Henry’s headstone is actually inscribed with how he died.