Castle Bromwich Fox and Goose

Published on March 13th, 2017 | by Castle Bromwich Youth & Community Partnership


The Castle Bromwich Suicide


This article appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post on Monday 15 March 1886

Inquest into the Death of Mary Anne Turner

On Saturday evening Mr. Joseph Ansell (deputy coroner for Central Warwickshire) held an inquest at the Fox and Goose Hotel, Ward End, touching tile death of Mary Anne Turner (20), dressmaker, who resided at Cathcart Street, Birmingham.

Castle Bromwich Suicide

The first witness called was Mary Ann Turner, stepmother of the deceased, who deposed that her husband was in Australia, having left her nine months previously with a view of obtaining employment. She last saw the deceased alive on Wednesday evening, between eight and nine o’clock, when she wanted to come home, but deceased’s brother, who was not cognisant of his sister’s condition, refused to allow her to stay in the house. Witness informed the deceased of this and she at the same time told witness that she would see Will Bagnall, and that if he would not come to terms she should drown herself.

Warwick House

Covering nearly two acres of land, Warwick House was Birmingham’s largest drapery and furnishing business. It was founded in 1836 by William Holliday, and was situated on the corner of New Street and Corporation St.

Courtship of Mary Anne Turner and Bagnall Jun.

Bagnall and the deceased had been courting for the past three years, and witness’s daughter was enceinte. Deceased was a dressmaker, employed at Warwick House, Birmingham, but during Christmas time she stayed with Mr. Bagnall, who carried out the business of a brick maker at Hodge Hill. Witness’s husband knew of the engagement of his daughter with young Bagnall.

Body Found in Moat

Joseph Vaughan, of Haywood House, Castle Bromwich. deposed that on going to Chattock’s Moat for some water about ten o’clock on Thursday morning he noticed a hat and skirt in the water. He went to his house for a pole, and on his return met a boy from Bagnall’s, who said. “I have come down here to see if anybody has drowned themselves.” He found the body of this deceased in the water and took it out.

He at once sent for Mr.Bagnall, Sen., and on his arrival that person suggested that the body should not be moved until the arrival of a police-officer. Deceased was face downwards, and the water had frozen over her. Bagnall told witness that the deceased was at his house between ten and eleven o’clock on Wednesday night, amid that he had told his son that he had better send her towards home. Bagnall also said that the deceased had threatened to drown herself if his son did not marry her, but that he had told her that his son was not in a position to do so.

Evidence of Bagnall Snr.’s Grandson

Frederick Lavan, a boy fourteen years of age, was next called, and said that he was in time employ of Mr. Bagnall, Sen., who on Thursday morning sent him to the moat to see if anybody had drowned themselves.

Coroner: Who sent you?

Witness: My grandfather, Mr. Bagnall. That is all I have got to say.

The Coroner: Oh, that is it. We shall see whether you have got anything more to say.

Continuing, witness said his grandfather mentioned no name when he told him to go and see if anybody had drowned themselves, William Bagnall was having his breakfast at the time. On being pressed by the Deputy-Coroner, witness admitted that his Grandfather had told him that if the gentleman at the inquest asked him a lot of questions he was to say ” that is all I have got to say.”

Consent to Marriage

Police Constable Spraggatt said he removed the body to the Fox and Goose. On examining the clothes, among other things, he found a printed consent to the marriage of Mary Anne Turner and William Bagnall, Jun., but the document was unsigned. On seeing young Bagnall that person told witness that he had left the deceased at half past ten o’clock against a post at the corner of Highfield Lane. He added, ‘She would not go home, or I should have taken her. She asked me to marry her, but I told her I could not until I saw how it was. My father does not want me to get married. She also asked me for money, and I told her that I could not give her any.”

Mary Anne Turner Enceinte

William Bagnall was next examined, and stated that he had been courting the deceased for the past three years, and six months ago, bought an engagement ring. About a month since she informed the witness that she enceinte. In the latter end of November, he went to the Registrar of Marriages at Vauxhall, and got a printed consent to the marriage of a minor, but that the  gentleman he saw there told him he could not do anything until deceased’s father had signed the document. He saw the deceased alive for the last time on Wednesday night about 10.25. near a field leading from Hodge Hill Common to Bromford. He met her at nine o’ clock near to Ward End Church, and he left her after the lapse of a few minutes, and went into the Barley Mow public house.

Barley MowThe deceased who had evidently been waiting for him, met him on his way home, and again reminded him of her condition, requesting him to take her home, saying ” I have no work, no money, and no bed to sleep on.” Deceased had frequently asked him for money, which he had refused. On Wednesday night, deceased asked him what he intended doing, and witness replied that he would marry her in the course of a few weeks. He would have married the girl before, but his father told him that he’d had better wait a bit, he did not tell his father of the girl’s condition until three weeks ago, and his father then said that he must wait as he was not getting sufficient money to keep a wife. When near Ward End Church on Wednesday evening last, deceased complained of her position and threatened to drowned herself.

Coroner: What did you do then?

Witness: I promised to marry her later.

Coroner: You knew what this poor woman’s condition was, and yet you told her to wait-wait until her disgrace was known to the world.

In reply to further questions witness said that although he had money with him he never offered the deceased anything, notwithstanding that she told him she had no work, no money, and no bed to sleep in. The deceased did not come to his father’s house on Wednesday night: he left her standing near a gate, and did not enquire where she was going to sleep. She said she was going home.

Coroner: Home, what home? You have said she told you she had no home.

Evidence from Bagnall Snr.

Bagnall, Sen., father of the previous witness, denied that the deceased was up at his house on Wednesday night. The girl had previously threatened to drown herself in the moat, he was cognisant that the deceased had visited his house as the future wife of his son, and also that she was left alone in the lane on Wednesday night. Where his son told him that deceased had threatened to drown herself, he said. “Good gracious, I hope she’s not coming here to do anything of that.”

Coroner’s Verdict

Summing up, the Deputy Coroner said there could be no doubt that the poor girl had committed suicide by drowning, under circumstances which he was pleased to say, were not often heard of in coroners’ courts. It was a sad and painful story. The deceased appeared to have been betrayed by young Bagnall who, having taken from her all that was dear to woman, left her, between ten and eleven o’clock on at cold, bleak winter’s night, absolutely penniless and homeless; and after she had threatened to destroy herself. He had persistently refused to marry her, and by so doing to save her from the shame that was hanging over her, but let her leave him on that cold winter’ s night, heartbroken and weary of life, in a miserable country lane, about five miles from her home. He could not find language strong enough to convey his sense of the conduct of such a man as young Bagnall: it was a matter for him and his conscience hereafter.

Even her step-mother and her own brother appeared to have behaved anything but well to the unfortunate girl. Bagnall, Sen., also knowing the shame his son had brought upon the girl, coldly withheld his sanction to the marriage. ln conclusion, Mr. Ansell said it impossible to imagine what must have been the pain, anguish and remorse of the unfortunate girl when she left her lover on her errand of self-destruction.

The jury, after a few minutes’ consideration, returned a verdict that the deceased had committed suicide whilst temporarily insane, the Foreman adding that the deceased was aggravated to take her life by the inhuman conduct of William Bagnall., jun. They also believed that the father was cognisant of what was going on, and encouraged his son to break off the engagement; and further that both were deserving of extreme censure, the son especially, as his treatment of the girl was most inhuman

Bagnall and his son were then called into the room, and informed of the verdict of the jury. Turning to the son, the Coroner said: Your conduct, sir, I agree with the jury, has been most inhuman. Having robbed the girl of her chastity, you left her penniless and without a home, and had not the common humanity to honorably deliver her from her shame. I cannot find language sufficiently strong to convey the utter contempt in which I hold men of your description. (Hear, Hear.) The death of this unfortunate girl lies at your door, and must rest on your mind as long as you live.  The Coroner also censured the elder Bagnall, remarking that, as the father of a family, he should have been the last in the world to have placed the slightest difficulty in the way of the marriage. The enquiry was then terminated.

This article forms part of the research undertaken by the Castle Bromwich Youth & Community Partnership for the “Stories Behind the Headstones” project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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