William Thomas Mellows, Tragic Honeymoon, Tales of Whittlebury

William Thomas Mellows, M.B.E., LL.B., F.S.A., F.R.H,I ST.S., whose deeply lamented
death took place on April 11th, 1950 at The Vineyard, Peterborough, was
one of the founders of the Northamptonshire Record Society, a member of the Council
from the 'beginning and chairman thereof (in succession to the late Mr. J. A. Gotch)
since 1942. He was a highly gifted man of unusual charm and versatility. An able
lawyer and' administrator in local government, he won for himself a great reputation
in his' profession. He had many hobbies- photography, entomology, philatelyand _threw himself with enthusiasm into them all, but without doubt the great intellectual passion of his life was hist9ry, and, in particular, the history of his native city.
The eldest of a family of three sons and one daughter, he was born at 79 Lincoln
'Road, Peterborough on 29th May, 1882. His father, who had migrated to
Peterborough from London, where he held an appointment as a young man in the
Treasury Solicitor's Department, was' William Mellows, founder of the family firm of
solicitors in Priestgate, Peterborough, and Town Clerk' of the City from 1884 to
1919. Hi~ mother was Annie 11artha White HoldiCh, daughter, of Thomas White
Holdich of Peterborough, where she died in 1947 at the age of 87.
Mellows was educated at Bishop's Stortford College, and, though he shewed an
interest in history, was not a particularly studious boy. His school life was interrupted
by ', ~,hree serious illnesses, leaving him with a weak heart, from which he never re~
cpvered. ' 'But, ,i n spite of his delicacy and the invalid life he was forced to live in his
later years, he was blessed with ~ strain of toughness and an inexhaustible spring of
energy which enabled him to overcome his disabilities in a quite astonishing degree .
. H}s father,,' needing hi~, heip in the business, removed him from school at, the agt? of
seventeen, and he was thus deprived of a general university education, which
w.as ~~ ' ~atter of regret to him)n ~fi~t· l~'fi. , He 'proceeded to London in 190'1 to work
for 4is law degree and took his 'LL.B. after' winning, a second class honours iI?- his
finals under the greatest difficulties of ill health and enforced rest. He was articled
to ' an'd ia't er became a partner with his father in the family fir"m, his younger brother
Arthur joining it in ;" 1921. The industry, sagacity, and integrity of the Mellows
family earned for the business a great position in the midland counties.
In I 907 ~fellbws married Beatrice Edith, daughter of William , Alfred , Pitt j
solicitor, of Bristol. For two years they lived at Thorpe' Lea in Fletton Avenue :and
then for th~ next twenty-six years at Scalford in Thorpe Road, ' Peterborough.
A son, born to them' in 1917, died at the age of sixteen months. Their second son,
Thomas Anthony,',was born in 1920. In 1938 they moved to the ho'use in the Precil1cts
on the site of the old monastic vineyard and looking out on to the magnificep~ choir of
the Cathedral', where the last twelve years of Mellows's life were sp'e nt-years over~
shadowed with anxiety, sorrows, and difficulties, bl.J.t with bright interludes in the
earlier period when the _delightful hospitality accorded by this happiest of families
has left treasured memories in the hearts of their many friends.
d V loped, 0 did his responsibilities. · His de:roted serv~ce
14-1918 war was recognised by an .M.B.E. HIS fathe: dIed
\l i l l h ha
lr ady ucceeded him as Town Clerk- he had prevIOusly
t id
P ri n in municipal work with his uncl~ the Town Cl,erk ?f
y- nd h h 1 thi p ition for eleven years at a most Important, per~od m
f th r pidly r win
ity. During his tenure of office the WI?emng of .
h bui! in
f the impo ing town hall, and the constructIOn of the
mpli h d. Using his influence 'quietly"behind the scenes,
d p r i t n ,undoubtedly contributed largely to t~e s~ccess
in 11 pr bability to their initiation. In 1930 he relmqmshed
u w
immediately elected to the Soke of Peterborough
1 rk hip
un il f whi h h w ver, he wa only a member for one year.
11 w wa br u ht up in the Congregational persuasion, but about forty y.ears
J 1
hur h f n 1 nd. H was in his early twenties when he started his
a1 r
n bl p mphlet, published in 1909 on " The Ancient Markets,
ir f the ity f P terborough " indicated the trend of all his future
whi h h pur u d with ver growing zeal and devotion to the end of his life.
f th hi tory of Peterborough-administrative, economic, religious,
am hi provin
and hi intelligent enthusiasm soon attracted the
non W. H. Rutton, afterwards D ean of Winchester, who gave him '
n ur
10 e friendship grew up, and Button became godfather
11 w. It wa through Rutton that M ellows first gained access to the rich
1 ia ti 1 record at Peterborough which formed the basis of so many of
a pr nt member of the Chapter h as said, it is impossible to exaggerate
alu and imp rtance of the work carried out by him in sorting and arranging
dio an and hapter r ord over a great number of years; and, it may be added, in
h ing many of th m repaired at hi own expense. His interest in the Cathedral
and i re ord I d to hi appointment in J uly, 1937, as Chapter Clerk and Treasurer of
ath dral (th fir t lay trea urer ever appointed). In 1940 he became Cathedral
Librarian and on hi relinqui hing all three posts owing to ill-health in 1946, he was
made Honorary Cathedral Archivi t, holding this post until his death.
e ular rchceology al 0 claimed hi attention. For many years he was Chairman
of the ru te of Peterborough Museu m and a keen and active member of the local
r hceolo 'cal ociety. It wa on hi uggestion that in 193 1 Sir Malcolm Stewart
made hi generous gift to the Society of th e old H~spital building in Priestgate in which
the Meum i no, hOll ed, aloof three portraits of local worthies secured at the recent
ale at Kimbolton Ca tle.
, hen in 19 20 the propo al to found a Record Society for .N orthampto'nshire
wa first mooted
ello s, as naturally d eligh ted. He organised the first Peterborough
meeting, and to his, i dom, practi:al help in every difficulty, and generosity the growth
and ~b ~quent su~ces ?f the SOClety were largely due. But, of"course, his principal
contnbutlO.n \ as hi ene of Peterborough texts edited by him with introductions of
great learnmg and alue. (The e are d~ cribed in N . P. and P. for 1948 and 1949, as
olume 11 I
11, and
III In the Society's series of publications). No
predecessor-neither Gunton nor Sparke nor White K~nnett-possessed in anything
like the same degree the intimate and detailed knowledge of the complex history of
the City and its Soke as that acquired through many years of study of original records
by Mellows, and it is these books which have placed him in the front rank of local
historians. In 'the very first to be published, his discovery of the confusion by previous
historians of the work of Hugh Candidus, the 12th century chronicler of the Abbey,
with that of later interpolators, attracted the attention of scholars, especially as the
error had escaped the notice of J. H. Round, that prince of historical detectives.
Mellows's last book, done in conjt}nction with his brother Charles and published
in 1949 by the Oxford University Press, gave to the world a much needed definitive
text of Hugh's Chronicle, gathered from two later registers of the Abbey, which was
warmly welcomed by historians.
For the writing of the administrative history of the abbey, cathedral, parish, and
city of Peterborough, Mellows was pie-eminently qualified. His own practical experience in grappling with the day-to-day problems of local government, ecclesiastical
as well as lay, gave him an insight into the minds of his predecessors in the same tasks
which no professional historian could possibly have acquired. All those people who
" ran" the secular affairs of the parish and city for hundreds of years were well-known
by name and very much alive to him, as were the individual abbots, priors, baili!fs,
sacristans, and other officials of the monastery in the centuries before the dissolution.
Mellows, who lacked perhaps in some degree the power of synthesis in addition to the
specialised training for his subject which he might have gained at a University, was a
grand annotator and penetrating interpreter of his texts, and his _objectiveness and
impartiality in presenting his facts are beyond praise. "It did not take me long,"
writes Mr. A. Hamilton Thompson (who lived for some years at Gretton in this County)
" after the late Dean of Winchester, then Archdeacon of Northampton, had introduced me to Mr. -Mellows, to realise what a thorough knowledge he possessed
of the documents preserved at Peterborough. As years went by, he gave me his confidence and asked my judgment upon matters which in fact he could have solved for
himself without asking advice. But his modesty was as thorough as his scholarship, and
he had had the advantage of a legal training which left him thoroughly able to deal
with the rich collection of muniments on which his chief interest was fixed. He
took part with me and others in one of the summer tours of the Historical Association
in France, in which his skill as a photographer was admirably displayed in addition
to his understanding of the history of the chapters of secular canons who ruled those
churches until the French Revolution." Through travel, which he loved, Mellows
secured periods of rest from his professional work and opportunity to pursue his
favourite hobbies and recreations. These summer tours found him chasing butterflies
in the Greek mountains or over the Yorkshire moors, deep.:.sea fishing in the roughest
weather off the Atlantic coasts of Scotland and Ireland, or, accompanied always
by his camera, exploring the ruins of classical and medieval antiquity.
In addition to his longer works, Mellows wrote several valuable historical ar"ticles
for different periodicals. He was elected a Fellow of ~he Society of Antiquaries in
1934 and of the Royal Historical Society in 1937. For many years he was one ofthe
i t ri al
ociation, serving on the Council from 1927
1945. In 1946 he b e'c am e their hono~ary solicito,r.
nd munificent Free-Mason, keenly Interested III
p rt, M 11 w' mo t important contribution to scholarship
d wn
all xi ting cartularies of Peterborough Abbey, and
11 i n h m d of those in private and public collections,
r f h
tat of other Peterborough records in the Public
qu athed to the Dean and Chapter in memory of
'n lud
a mo t important register, " Carte Nativorum,"
ript fr m Milton in 1920.
To all these manuscripts
tudy nd with the copious notes which he has left, they form a
whi h tudents of monastic and civic institutions generally,
ri n , will have recourse for very many years to corp.e.
hi w uld have earned him the everlasting gratitude
eived any form al recognition of his services
In the la t month hi great intere t h ad been the sumptuous re-equipment
\'ith oak book- helve a refe tor table, and other furniture, of the library over the
we t'por h of the atbedral a part of th e Thomas Anthony Mellows Memorial.
Fe\' men one" ould think can have lived a more active useful interesting
life than he, and thi in pite of continual ill-health. But, like 'Fl~rence Nightingale,
he turned even his illnesses to good account, and a vast amount of his historical
work, such as transcribing and correcting proofs, ~as done in bed, much during
wakeful hours of the night, the rest in 4is spare time after long days of exacting work
in his office. Behind all this learning and laborious life was a most loveable character,
a naturally happy and sociable disposition, a great power of enjoyment, and a nature so
kind that he never grudged the many claims on his time made by those who wanted to
pick his brains, though they must often have been a sore interruption to his own work.
In his devotion to his historical studies and in his prodigious industry Mellows
brings strongly to mind the great English scholars of the 18th century. The series of
volumes which he projected in memory of his son and upon which he was at work at
the time of his death will now have to be completed by other hands. This task, with
the necessary financial provision, he has entrusted to the Northamptonshire Record
Society, who will do their utmost to see that it is worthily fulfilled. In the meantime,
his completed work has won for him the lasting gratitude of his fellow-citizens,
the high regard of contemporary historians, and a permanent and honourable place
among English scholars. His ashes, as he would have wished, rest in the lady chapel
of the great Cathedral he had loved and served so well.
How sweet it is, when sun gets warmly high,
In the mid-noon, as May's first cowslip spring~,
And the young cuckoo his soft ditty sings,
To wander out, and take a book, and lie
'N eath ~ome low pasture bush, by guggling sprin~
That shake the sprouting flag leaf crimpling by ;
Or where the sunshine freckles on the eye
Through the half-clothed branches in tpe woods;
Where airy leaves of woodbines, scrambling nigh,
Are earliest venturers to unfold their buds;
And little rippling runnels curl their floods,
Bathing the primrose-peep, and strawberry wild,
And cuckoo-flowers ju.st creeping frpm their hoods,
With the sweet season, like their b,ard, beguil'd.
On 9th Februa ry, 1824, Carolin e Isham
wa marrie d at Polebr ooke by her father, the
Rector the Revere nd Charle s Euseby Isham,
t Th~mas Welch Hunt, the \ Squire of
Waden hoe. The Waden hoe Estate had come
into the hands of the Hunt family of Boreatton,
alop, where they had been settled since at least
the 16th centur y, throug p. the marria ge ,of
Thom a
Welch Hunt's great-g randfat her
homa to J ane, daugh ter of Sir Edwar d Ward,
Chief Baron of the Court of Excheq uer, who
a quired it from John Bridge s, the histor~an.
The bride's father, the Revere nd C. E. Isham,
who was Rector of Polebr ooke for nearly sixtytwo years, was a nephew of Sir Justini an Isham,
eventh Barone t of. Lampo rt. This happy
allianc e of two landed families had a· tragic
ending .
The story is well docum ented, not
nt mp r ry I tt r at Lampo rt and Waden hoe, but also by the
ini t r t aple, pre erved at the Public Record Office. I
n 1824, th
ontin nt of Europe , do ed to Englis h visitors for so long during the
p I ni
r ,wa again op n, and the young squire, who had just comple
ted his
t rm f ffi a Hi h h riff, and hi bride went to Italy. There
are portrai ts of the
y un
upl' hi h how a hand ome pair, in the possession of Brigad
ier-Gen eral
.B., a eat-n phew of the bride, at Stamfo rd. They are in the style
of Lawre n ,and perhap the work of Sir Martin Archer -Shee.
She is dark and he
fair. Whil in Rome, eri execut ed the small plaster medall ion
of Carolin e Hunt,
now in my po e ion, which i here reprod uced.
rom Rome the couple went to alerno , and then to visit the Templ
e at Paestum.
Here they m twith di a ter-th eywer e murde red by brigan ds. There
is a monum ent to
their memor y in the English cemete ry at aples/ and in the north
aisle of the church
adenho a tablet wa set up with this inscrip tion. : " acred to the memory of Thoma s '\ elch Hunt, Esquire , late proprie
tor of the Estate and
r boor of ~ 'adenhoe, and of Caroline, his wife, eldest daught er of
the Rev. Charles Euseby
Isham, rector of Polebro oke in thls county, who were both cruelly
shot by banditti near
1. The Lampor t letters are in the I ham correspo ndence in
the care of the Northan ts. Record Society. The
Wadenh oe lett~ here quoted wex:e
kindly transcri bed for me by Miss Gertrud e Ward Hunt. For
the docume nts m the P.R.O. I am mdebted to the unfailin g co-opera
tion of the Deputy Keeper and
2. See
orlh~lIts. and.Rutl aJld
C; lercy. "ol. 7, by th~ Rev. H: Isham Longden
stated that he had in his
Caroline I ham s BIble. For details of their burial see p. 11, who
Paestum in Italy, on Friday the 3rd of December, 1824. He died on the evening of the
" "same day, having nearly completed his 28th year. "She died on the morning of the following
Sunday in the 23rd year of her age after an union of scarcely ten "months, afford.ing an
," impr~ ssive and mournful instance of the"instability of human happiness. Their remains are
interred in one grave at Naples.
They were lovely' and pleasant in their !ives, and in their death they were not divided." (2 Sam; 1. 23).
There were, of course, no children of the marriage, and, the Wadenhoe estate
passed to · Thomas Hunt's aunt Mary Hunt, who died unmarried in 1835,-then to his
cousin Mary Caroline, who also died unmarried, when the estate went to his cousin, the
Rev. Gcorge Hurit, who married Emma, aunt of Sa"m uel R. Gardiner, the historian.
George Hunt died in 1~53, ap.d his son, the Right Ronble. George Ward Hunt was
Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of the Admiralty. This ge~tleman was
stout, and weighed twenty-four stone. Queen V"ictoria, when he attained cabinet
rank, is said to hav.e remarked, with a rare flash of humour: " You will add weight "
to our counsels.'? There is a half circle cut out of the table at the Admiralty Board
Room, which is supposed to have been done to accommodate the corpulent First
Lord. Waden4oe"is still in the possession of his descendants, the present squire being
George Ward Hunt.
The fullest contemporary account of the assassination is contained in a letter
from Charles Alex Thorndike, midshipman in the Revenge, who, with two other
midshipmen, was first at the scene. I It is clear "that on December 3rd, 1824, there
were three parties of English tourists at Paestum, viewing the ruins; Mrs. Benyon
and her two daughters, the Hunts, and three midshipmen from the Revenge-Thorndike;
Hor~by, and Thompson.
The Hunts had"passed the previous night at the" miserable little inn at. Eboli," where" the landlord, observing that he [Mr. Hunt] had silver
mounted cruets, and silver backed brushes in his dressing-case (a wedding present he had
received), communicated with a band of brigands that infested the neighbourhood." 2
These brigands; accordingly, stationed themselves about half a mile from the village,
and held up the first party to leave the ruins, Mrs. Benyon and her dalJghters, about
one o'clock. They were robbed, and threatened, but allowed to continue to Salerno,
where Mrs. Benyon anxiously awaited the other tourists. That evening, she wrote to
the Minister at Naples, to report their non-arrival, adding: "it is much to be feared
that resistance . .. mqy have led to dreadful results." Her fears were only too · well
justified. Thorndike's letter, of which the text follows, survives only in typescript, but
was presumably an account sent by him to the British aut40rities in Naples, and by
them transmitted to the Hunt family.
" Sir,
I beg leave to transmit for your information the particulars of the melancholy affair on Friday
the 3rd of December, 1824, about 2.0 p.m. at Peastom (sic).
Mr. Hunt's servants informed us that their carriage had been stopped by bandits and that
his master and mistress had been shot. We, Messrs. Hornby, Thompson and myself immediately
Charles Alex Thorndike, entered Royal Navy 1810; served i.n the Revenge; died as .Lieutenant in
the Coast Guard Service, 1845. O'Byrne, Naval Biog. Dict. 1849.
2. The Rev. S. Baring Gould, a cousin of Mr. Hunt, in his Early R eminiscences, (1923).
Ir. unt d p iti n:- 'We had only proceeded about half a mile from Peastom
hen a man prong ut fr m the corners of the hedge and stopped the horses. Another
1 p d n t th £ tb ard and demanded money from Mr. Hunt's servant who was on the
b . fr. unt called out" I have the money." Notwithstanding, they dashed him to the .
gr und and h Id him d wn. There were six men with handkerchiefs tied round their mouths
cl e u
think all armed. One of them presented a musket to Mr. Hunt and another one
~t . n at m~. They demanded Mr. Hunt's money. He instantly delivered up his pu:se
which did not at.! fy them. r. Hunt begged very hard for two or three carlins I to go on wIth
hich they
uld not listen to but insisted on having more. I entreated Mr. Hunt to give up
~plore? of ~, but he was ~eaf to my proposals. The murderers replied:
H you do n t Immediately gIve up everything, we will shoot you.' Mr. Hunt answered:
ou dare not do that.' The words were no sooner uttered than we were both unfortunately
hot. I wi h he had not been so obstinate, and I am sure they would not have acted so rashly
-but pray do not tell my husband I said so.
They all made their escape without delay without taking a single article from us." 2
I at this moment observed Mrs. Hunt became faint therefore I ceased to ask her any
more. Their servant s story rather varies from the above. ' I have no doubt Mrs. Hunt's is the
correct one .
.The servant states: 'He w~s pulled off the box, trampled under foot and robbed
of his wat~ and one dollar, dunng which time the others demanded Mr. Hunt's money.
He gave his pur e and asked for a carlin or two, which was refused and they demanded more
1. Carline, a icilian sil'\er coin, worth about fourpence. (O.E.D.).
2. An0tJ:ler interrog~ti~n by ~ "e0l>0litan was the subject of a protest by the British Minister to
~lon ~ur, de .... led!cl~ ~e ~pohtan foreign minister," presque le seul moment Oll les officiers
etalent elOlgnes de 1 appartement de la Dame." (Documents at P.R.O.). See next page.
:H 0 N E Y MOO N
of him and in the act of stooping to unlock his case and give all he had, a man fired and in
that instant they all run off. Mr. Hunt fell out of the carriage and I lifted him into it and
placed them in 'their seats-both wounded. I took off one of the horses and rode full speed
to acquaint the English gentlemen, and shortly after, the carriage came back driven by the
coachman.' That is the purport of his deposition.
At 6.0 a.m. on Saturday we despatched a courier to Naples, an~ fearing we might be detained
on the road, Mr. Thompson set out also at noon. Mrs. Hunt became much worse in the evening
and coughed 3 good deal and freq~J.ently asked for medicine and enquire.d how long it would be
before Mr. Roskilly came, being answered as much to her satisfaction as possible. She seemed
perfectly calm and patient and said she was not at all afraid and only hoped that her husband was
not suffering as much as she was.
At 6.0 p.m. she slept about five minutes. On awaking she thought she had slept several
hours. She told us a man took her deposition while we were at dinner, and' he asked me who my
father was and his name, which I did not think proper to inform him, considering it merely idle
At 8.0 p.m. the doctor administered some medicine which she seemed very much pleased
at. She was in great perspiration which he remarked was favourable. She agreed and said she
expected to s,leep, but she did nO,t know how she could get through an,other night so long as the
last. ' She exclaimed: " These bandages are so very tight, I think I shall cut them all off." I then
observed that she was getting worse. At 9.0 p.m. she requested us toJeave the room. She did
not wish any person except the woman to remain with her. She said she should do"very well
till we saw her next morning. The moment we left her she ordered the door to he bolted.
About 1.0 a.m. on Sunday morning without being apparently aware ofh~r death, she uttered
Oh, my God, my God," then reclined and rose her head a second time and uttered" Oh dear,
oh dear," and expired.
The doctor and woman were present at her last moments. We repented not being there also,
but we obeyed her request by quitting her chamber.
At noon on Sunday, Mr. Roskilly and two of his friends arrived from Naples, but unfortunately too late. Immediately a schedule was taken of the property of the deceased in the pres, ence of Mr. Roskilly. Mr. Roskilly -expressed a wish to see the corpse of Mr. Hunt, and to our
great astonishment we found that the surgeon, entirely without our sanction, had opened the
body of Mr. Hunt and conveyed it to the Church and placed in a narrow closet, only place enough
for it to be in a sta.nding position and in a perfect state of nudity, and the body not even closed up
They meant performing the same operation on Mrs. Hunt, but the arrival of Roskilly P!evented it. Orders were immediately sent to Peastom for coffins.
1 cannot avoid mentioning the genuine hospitality we all experienced from the la.ndlord of the
December 7th, 1824.
At -Lamport are two .interesting letters about the murder. One ' is f:r;om ' the
BritIsh Minist~r at Naples, WiIliam Richard Hamilton (1777-1839) a diplomat and
antiquary; who was Minister t~ere from 1822-1825 and a Trustee of the British Museum.
He wrote to Lord .Compton, who in 1828 succeeded as 2nd Marquis of Northampton,
and died at Castle Ashby.in 1851. Lord Compton, who was M.-P. for Northampton
(1812-1820) resided in Italy from 1820 to 1830, and like Hamilton, was a trustee of the
British Museum.
nt th Mini ter" letter, with a coverin g note to Sir]ustinia n Isham,
fir t ou in of the bride's father. "I. have, · th~refore,"
h . b t t writ to you as the head of the famIly to wh~ch ~rs.
n t quaint ed with Mr. Hunt and do not know In .whIch
hi r lati n reside, I am obliged to ask you also to m~orm
n it d tail. 1 Hamil ton's accoun t, though less detaIled,
h rndik '. He adds that the Consu l Genera l (Lushingf th pr p rty and send a proces verbal to the family, " then (a
i hi pr t t to the Neapo litan govern ment) "Mr. Hunt was
i t I with him. The same villains had robbed Mrs. Benyon
hour befor ."
m day (7 e.) on which he wrote to Compt on sent a desr try, G org Cannin g, relatin g the details of the murder,
m, nd addin g" The author ities of the Gover nment (of the
f th
wo i ili ) inc this disastr ous tragedY .have shown some actIVIty
ur u
f th murd r r , and may, it is hoped, be roused by such an event
to a
ffi tu 1 pr t etion f th liv and proper ties of i~dividuals, than
under the
. tl
y t m h hith rto been afford ed." On Dec. 14, he wrote again
v r I arr t of u pected person s have alread y taken place, and
of a tivity among st those engage d in the pursui t." Since the
nd r st ration in 182 I, he had been mainta ined in power by an
rdingly, Hamil ton tried to induce the Comm ander- in-Chi ef
u trian
re in aples to " send a detach ment of chasse urs to the neighd " a r qu the £; ared would not be grante d owing to " jealou sies"
on both
sid .
n id r d that th perpet rators may have been" a Corps which a few
a 0 w r in th pay of the Gover nment -a set of pardon ed highw
ay robber s, who had
b n 11 t d in the plain of Pae tunl and placed under the comm
and of a Chef de.
Bri ad f th name f 0 ta-wh o, having some years ago fled the
justice of the
countr y, had join d the King Troops in Sicily and disting uished
himsel f as a virulent
anti-j obin.
h pay of this Corps of sixty ex-crim inals having been stopped
C from mori
of conomy, they are of course, driven to their old trade."
Hamil ton ugge tion that the eopoli tan govern ment might publish
his account
of the rime a refUsed on the ground s that to do so might prejud
ice ' the trial of the
a a in
but added Hamil ton, "the real cause of their unwillingness
to give
publi ity to thi e ent i to be found in the system which has at all
times been pursued
by thi 0 ernme nt to withho ld from the knowle dge of the public
the real state of the
ountry .
That Hamil ton's repre entatio ns were not withou t effect is proved
by his
relatio n of an inciden t after the funera l on 18 Decem ber. "At Court
this morning, his
icilian aj ty (Ferdin and I) wa pleased to express the great afflicti
on he felt at this
melanc hol e ent, and his determ ination to order the most effectu
al measures to be .
taken for the d' co ering of the murde rers." 2 Moreo ver, ] ames Whites
ide, when visiting
1. From Rome" Decem~ 9th, 1. 24" (Isham (Lampo rt)
Corr. 3066A).
2. The characte r of Ferdman d. I IS tbu~ describe~ by an English
writer: he was " ignorant , superstit ious
and brutal, ~d he ~ Justly IDlSt;rusted.
After the fall
restored t~ hi .thro~e m 1 15 to lose It by revoluti on in 1820. of Murat's kingdom of Naples, he was
h e "'as mamtam ed lD power by the Austrian s. C. E. M. Hawkes he re-enter ed Naples in 1821 , where
worth, Last Century in Europe. (1912).
the ruins of Paestum' in 1846, as related in his Italy ,in the Nineteenth Century
(2nd ed., 1860), was much annoyed by "a company of brigands in appearance,"
who" clamoured for food " but were actually the guard " who usually ,a ttended parties
to the ruins of Paestum, in consequence of an Englishman and his bride having been
murdered some twenty years since while on this excursion."
Lushington, the English Consul-General at Naples, in a final report made five
months after the murder, suppli~s the , epilogue of this harrowing tale,x and throws
further light upon political conditions in Italy at this time. The Hunts were desirous
of ,s ending some tangible token of their gratitude to Signor Bellelli, the owner of the
farm house in which Caroline had died, but Lushington thought this would be redundant, explaining that £60 had already been raised by the English residents in
Naples and laid out on " a silver waiter with an Italian incription engraved on it, a
silver coffee pot, sugar basin, and twelve very handsome porcelain coffee cups and
saucers." These things, he continued, "have been ready for six weeks, but such is the
semi-barbarous state of this country that no good opportunity of sending them to
Signor Bellelli has hitherto presented itself."
In reference to the wish of the family to erect a tomb, Lushington said: '
"It is necessary I should remind you that there is not any Protestant Burying Ground at
Naples, and that such of that religion as die here are buried in a Garden, the proprietor of
which not only makes most exhorbitant charges but objects to erecting of tombs, altho'
not to fixing tablets against the garden wall near to where the remains may be interred. A
tablet 'therefore can be put up without any great expence or difficulty, and I will take care
it shall be properly done as soon as you send me out the inscription the family would wish
to have engraved on it. I should however mention to you that the English residents at
Naples are in treaty for the purchase of a Burial Place. Should we succeed, it
is possible Mr. Hunt's friends might prefer having the Memorial erected in the new Burial
Ground, particularly as I would not be answerable for any tomb 'Or tablet put up in the garden
where Protestants are now 'buried remaining undestroyed six months." (Lushington's
suggestion was adopted).
"The murderers of poor Mr. & Mrs. Hunt," he went on, "were brought to trial about a
month ago. All four w~re found guilty, but one who had been instrumental in discovering
the others was recommended to the King for pardon. This his Majesty will probably do,
as murder, assassination, and such-like crimes, are trifles in this country in comparison with
political offences."
All these accounts vary slightly in detail, but the main outline of the story is clear,
and , Thorndike's first hand version is undoubtedly the most detailed and reliable.
Whiteside, writing twenty-two years after the event, claimed to have the story from
the wife of the treacherous innkeeper at Eboli, who exhibited her murderous husband
in the refectory, and told how he " had obtained the King's pardon by making all
speed to the royal presence to convict his accomplices. He happened to leave the
palace at the mo.ment when the British Minister was entering it for the purpose of
demanding justice upon the perpetrators of the atrocity of which he had just been
informed." Thre~ of the assassins, Whiteside relates, were eventually guillotined. 2
The tragic incident was not forgotten. As already stated it was mentioned in his
1. A contemporary copy of this letter, bearing no direction, and apparently addressed to Lushington's official
superior in London, is among the Ward Hunt papers in the custody of the Northants. Record Society.
2. The Northampton M ercury (1 Jan., 1825) gave an account of the murder and in May, 1925, reported
the execution of three of the robbers.
l Reml1l
eenus b y the R v.
Baring Gould publish ed in 19 2 3, and, as late as
r I d a ain in the Evening Standard and St. J ames 'G
s azette
ho f Trage dy" by Mr. C. Brietzike, a grandson of
h rn, fir t u in f th bride.
r h t th y un quire behave d with gallant ry: an~ show~ a proper
in bulli cl but was somew hat impru dent In hIS handlm g of the
lly h wa u'n rm d. The tale, besides re.cording the sad d.eaths
n p I , r fl t ill n the state of securit y In the Bourbo n km~~~
mind th words of Edwar d Ferrar s in Sense and Senszbzlzty,
nt nted Englis h peasan try to "the finest banditti
In this number are memories of old, Paulerspury supplied in 1937 by Mr. Williani
John Frost, at the age of 76. "My family has had a long connection with the' church
and rectory," he writes, " my grandfather was gardener when the Rev. Kerrich was
Rector, and for some time under the Rev. W. H. Newbolt. My father worked there as
a' boy in the Rev. Kerrich's time. 'He went back to take charge in 1860 and worked
there till his retirement in ,1904. I myself went to work there as a boy in i873 and
retired in I929. I served under four Rectors and completed fifty-five years and nine
months service. I was people's warden for twelve years, bell ringer for ,twenty-nine
years"and in the choir for sixty-one years." We also give a spirited account ofSyresham . '
by Mrs. B. Friday, extracted frolll a series of letters to Mr. C. D. Linnell, son of the
Rev. J. E. Linnell; native of Silverstone and author of Old Oak. Village life was
an exuberant affair in ' those days, and needed no ,London committees ' and councils
to keep things going,·if, indeed, they are necessary now, which we venture to doubt.
In fact, if such things had existed then; their efforts would probably have been iQ.
the dlr~ction. ofrestraint rather than encouragement. We were a pugnacious turbulent
lot in Soutli"Nqrthamptonshire and not dependent on the wireless for our fights.
Physical strength and endurance allied to sharpness of wit were the qualities most
admired. ' Now for ,Mr. Frost's account : VILLAGE
" One of the notable characters of the village was a man named William Smith who went
by the name 6f' Perk.' ,From all accounts he was a bit of a dare-devil. He was landlord of the
Barley Mow. He was game for anything . . On,e of the games they used to indulge in, and in
which he was proficient, was 'kick-shins.' Th~y used to clasp each other by the shoulders,
watch th~ir opportunity and see who could fetch the other down first. Rather brutal I should
think. Another foolhardy thing he did for a wager. He went up the Church tower, got over the
battlements and clambeted along a narrow ledge while clinging to the battlements. He used to
brew his own beer. One day, when brewing, he had got the wort in the copper and had just
put the hops in but they had .not sunk when he got to hear of a prize fight about to start in a
field close to. Away he went to see this fight. It lasted over an hour. When he went back the
copper, had boiled dry and he saw his beer running down the street. That did not trouble him;
he said he had seen one of the best fights he had seen for a long time. He too was a great poacher.
It was his boast he had kept count of several hundred hares. He was always game for a fight.
Once he 'was at a holiday at C6sgrove. Someone there, as 'was the old custom, was throwing
his hat up and challenging all and sundry: Some of the crowd said to old Perk, ' Why don't
you take him on ?' He said: 'My turn will come by and by.' He had hardly spoken when
the hat fell close to him. He promptly kicked the crown in. The fat was in the fire at once.
The owner of the hat was stripped at once. Old Per1( said' Don't be in a hurry, I'll be with you
soon.' As soon as he was ready he jumped over the ropes into the ring ~ Some of his supporters
said: ' .You jumped in, you won't jump out.' They had a ' tremendous fight for over an hour
with bare knuckles. Perk was the winner and he jumped out of the ring again, but he admitted
it was one of the toughest battles he had ever taken part in.
I ,
mu h for th Paul r pury heroe .
ow for those of Syresham, a large straggling
n th m in r ad fr m owce ter to Brackley, a bout 5 miles from Paulerspury,
and n within th for t purli u. Here ou r inform ation comes from Mrs. B. Friday,
in a
f I tt r \\ritten in 1937. Mter ome in terestin'g stories of poachers,
pa , on quack do t rand
h tell us that" In this village a Miss Monday
k pt hou f; r a Ir.
and then goes on to the subject we have in
t one time fighting, wa a r~gular thing on a Saturday night at Syr~sham. I have seen. as
many as four couple fightmg out Ide the Bell at once. In the winter time once when the snow
\\ a on the ground a man wa fighting and the other tore every sh red of clothes off him as it was
about.ll p.m. Th~re v;as the usual crowd there, p eople wh o lived close t o did not even get up
to then b droom wmdows after them. It was a regu12. r o ccurrence and n othing was thought of it.
They even pulled a watch and chain to atoms-a silver one-and always there was a black eye
about for a few days. They used to kick one another in the face and often times had two black
eyes besides scratches all over their faces. Plenty of them was not fit to be seen. One night every
window in the Bell was smashed. Sacks was nailed up to serve over Sunday.
There has not been any fighting in the village for years.
The old village feast was kept with keen spirit, and two fields was taken by the showmen who
visited this place-King's Head Close and Grizers Ground, showing galleries of all sizes, roundabouts, fortune tellers, gingerbread and rock stalls, swings, shows of fat women and wild men,
cocoanuts and stalls all along the High Street and on the grass anywhere if they could find room,
and quoits, cricket and all games were in request by the crowds who came from all the neighbouring villages."
In the middle ages the annual festivities knowp as Whits un Ales were second only
to Christmas in the village calendar. They died a lingering death. Miss A. E. ~aker,
in an appendix to her Northamptonshire Glossary, published in 1854, describes the last
Whitsun Ale celebrated at King's Sutton about the .beginning of the 19th century.
A group of villagers in their finest clothes, impersonating the lord and his attendants
and including a fool and a fiddler, went in procession to the neighbouring villages
accompanied by six morris dancers, gaily bedecked with ribbons and roses.
festivities ended with a great banquet held in a barn-the village hall of those days.
"The Whitsun-ale at Gretworth," Miss Baker tells,. survived until 1785. "Though
this ancient revelry has ceased," she adds, "Whitsuntide continues in our rural
districts to be one of the most joyous seasons throughout the year, being chosen for the
anniversary of the Clubs' and Friendly Societies. Nothing can be more lively and
exhilarating than the processions at these club-holidays; all the attendants dressed
in their best, music playing, flags flying, the church bells joining their merry peal,
and the whole population of the village coming forth, to gaze on the enlivening scene."
From Mrs. Friday's account here given, it seems pretty clear that at Syresham the
Friendly Society holiday (thes~ societies did not exist before the 18th century) had
been tacked on to a pre-existing Whitsuntide feast lasting a whole week, indicating
that these club feasts (now alas! extinct) were descended in lawful and unbroken
s.uccession from the Whitsun ales of our m~dieval ancestors. Mrs. Friday continues : "Whitsun was kept up with great excitement. Before having a partition [of the club money]
there was a waggon drawn into the field and several of the leading lights as they were called had a
seat in it. Plenty of beer and minerals were used on these occasions and cricket were the order
of the week from Monday to Saturday, North Aston always coming on \X1hit Monday for years.
One man would always argue and say he was not <?ut, but he had to go because everyone who
knew him was used to him wanting to stay and bat.
On the Whit Wednesday the Friendly Society had their annual holiday. More people used to
come into the village th~.t day than went through it the other part of the year. The lunch was
served to members which numbered nearly 300 strong. All members carried a staff coloured
blue and red and was headed by a huge flag flying on a 20 foot pole to match the staffs, the band
accompanying them to church and playing for the hymns. Crowds would flock to the church
that day and the young people would stay and count how many people could never get into the
church. It was always more than a hundred, some years nearly tw6 hunired.
Ho \' ab ut Bob, indeed!
ext year we propose to print some poaching stories.
The eene ~u kes of Fillberd are excellent to keepe Y nke from being mouldy;
they mu ~ be put mto the nke \ hen it is made and there remain. Note : iff the Y nke
be made In the decrea e of the moone it will not mould but if it be made in the increase
of the moone it will mould. (Kirhy Hall receipts).