Sunday, 8 April 2018

Widowed in the Orchard (Twice!)

Thomas Frederick Young died on December 27th 1906 aged 44 years. A native of Lichfield, where his mother and siblings still lived, he had lived for a number of years at the Eagle Inn, Pitchcombe, near Stroud. On his marriage to the daughter of the former owner in 1895 he had taken over as landlord. moving to Gloucestershire.

With snow still lying on the Cotswold Hills, Thomas Young collected his double-barrelled shotgun and, as the clock struck one, told his wife not to hold dinner for him should he return home late. Next time she saw him was three hours later when she went out to feed the pigs. A glance in the direction of the adjacent orchard and she spotted her husband lying by the hedge. Returning to the pub she asked a Mr White, a military man with medical training, to investigate. He discovered the landlord lying face down in the orchard, on top of the shotgun which had been discharged at point-blank range into the owner's bowels. Clearly he had been dead for some time.

When the police arrived he traced the footsteps in the still-lying snow. These showed he had walked to a neighbour's property and back to the orchard, presumably looking for game, and something he would often do and share any rabbits with the neighbour for Thomas Young was known as the very best of marksmen. The inquest heard the evidence and came to the conclusion the man had placed the gun on the orchard side of the fence before climbing over. A wise precaution but a fatal one for as he grabbed the barrel of the gun and lifted it, twigs of the hedge caught on the trigger and fired the gun.

Back in Lichfield the news was met with dismay for Thomas Young and his family were well liked in the city. Many will have remembered the man who had worked as butler and gamekeeper for Mr. J. C. Little when in Lichfield a decade earlier. With his body interred in Gloucestershire, a memorial service was held in the place of his birth.

It was here that rumours began to circulate and questions asked. It seems the widow Young had been married before. Her first husband, also landlord of the Eagle Inn, had also meant an untimely end. Furthermore this had also been the result of a gunshot wound and also in the orchard adjacent to the inn. Any suggestion of foul play was dismissed as mere coincidence, but still many questioned how the wife had failed to hear the gun going off when his body was discovered just 75 yards from their home.

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