Bucks Free Herald (1st Aug 1891)

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The first show in connection with the Lacey Green Cottager’s Garden Society, which was held at Grymsdyke (by kind permission of the President, John Forrest, Esq.), will probably be remembered by everyone in the village and neighbourhood for many years to come, for it was the occasion of a fearful fatality, which brought the proceedings to an abrupt conclusion. This was the death of three men by lightning, and the injury of three others. The weather in the morninghad been wet and gloomy, but as mid-day approached the sky gradually cleared and for a time the weather was bright. This lasted until about three o’clock when the sky became heavy with the gathering clouds. Shortly after this time rain fell, but not heavily. A cricket match had been arranged, and one innings had been completed, but besides the cricketers there were comparatively few people in the grounds. When the rain came on some obtained shelter by standing under a tree near a bee tent, whilst others stood near watching the preparations for a bee lecture. As they were standing thus a vivid flash of lightening was seen to pass in the direction of the tree. A terrific thunder clap followed. A number of persons standing there were felled to the ground, and when others ran up to them, they found three were dead and three others were insensible. This caused consternation among those present, and after the unfortunate victims of the deadly fluid had been

carried away, a consultation was held and it was decided to abandon the enterprises, and to give the prizes at some other time. Of the three men whose lives were thus brought to such an unexpected termination, George Adams, sen., was the oldest. He leaves a widow and six children to lament his loss. He was a labourer in the employ of Mr. Poulton, and was what was generally termed “The Sunday morning postman” he having delivered the letters at Mr Forrest’s and at other residences on Sunday morning for some years. He was a member of the Committee. Mr John Eggleton, who had taken an active interest in the Society and whose name appeared on the schedule as its treasurer was another victim. Mr Eggleton was a single man. He was highly respected and looked up to, a Guardian of the Wycombe Union, and a very useful man in many local capacities. He lived at Wardrobes Farm, Loosley- row. Henry Bowler, of Speen, was the third victim. He was a single man, and the son of Mr. John Bowler, of Speen. Of the three men injured one was Mr. Henry Baldwin, who had come down to lecture on “Bees and beekeeping” from the British Beekeepers’ Association. The others were Mr. Thomas Ward, single man, of Speen, and Mr. Ernest Ward, of Hampden. Their injuries were considered to be most serious, and as quickly as possible medical aid was secured. The unforeseen event cast a gloom over the whole village.


There is very little to say in respect to the show itself. As the first show the exhibits must be termed successful. The schedule comprised forty-seven classes, and these had attracted 150 entries. The vegetables were particularly strongly represented, the potatoes and peas especially producing some fine exhibits. Fruit was also well represented, whilst garden and cut-flowers, though not bringing together a large number of entries; yet produced some fine specimens. The three classes of honey brought some good samples, and the lace and bead work were well done.

The exhibits were displayed in a large tent, and proved to be a very interesting collection/ The management was in every way excellent, and every credit to the Secretary, Mr. R. Harman, who worked very hard in order to bring the enterprise to a successful issue, and to the members of the Committee. It was anticipated that a thousand people would have attended the show had the weather been favourable, and that the show would have been successful in every way, but the sad occurrence happening as it did at the time when there were but comparatively few in the grounds, and the decision to close the show necessarily caused a considerable loss. We are informed that there is sufficient money in hand to relieve the Committee and managers from responsibility. The judges of the vegetables and fruit classes were Messrs. T.H. Mason (gardener to Mr McNorton, Surrey), and Mr. A. Ayres (gardener to the Rev. John Graves, Bradenham).


The fatality which occurred on Monday afternoon has thrown this village and those of Speen and Loosley Row into a profound gloom. Some of the details of the sad affair have been given in connection with the Flower Show, and further information was made known at te inquest, which took place at Grymsdyke on Tuesday afternoon. It seems that two of the unfortunate men had been playing in a cricket match in the meadow in which the Show was being held, and that one innings had been completed when a slight downpour of rain came on, and the cricketers and others in the meadow sought shelter. Most of them took refuge under the trees. The tent in which the exhibits had been arranged had only just been opened, and some might have taken shelter therein had they anticipated a thunderstorm. But it seems that they did not realise any danger. The rain was not of a very heavy nature, and little lightning, if any, had been noticed, and it appears that the terrific flash which did such fearful work, followed almost instantaneously as it was by a heavy clap of thunder, was totally unlooked for. Those who were near say that when the flash came upon them they felt as though something had struck them which had made their faces burn, and they were unable to see what had taken place for several seconds. Then they perceived that the lightning had struck some of their friends to the ground, and when they went to them they found three were dead. Three others were also discovered to have been rendered unconscious. After means had been used to ascertain whether there was any life in the bodies, those of Messrs. Eggleton, George Adams, sen., and John Bowler were conveyed to Mr. Forrest’s premises. Mr Baldwin was also taken into the house. The other two young men who were struck were injured but slightly. One of them was able after some time to be conveyed home, whilst the other was, we understand, taken to the Aylesbury Infirmary. Everything which could be done for the injured was done by Mr. Forrest, whose kindness and readiness to assist to the utmost of his power was shown in a most creditable way. In consideration of that had happened he gave orders that the grounds should be at once cleared this was readily done. Much sympathy is felt with the widow of George Adams, who was sitting in the tent when the sad event took place, and was almost overwhelmed when she was informed of the calamity.

The inquest took placed shortly after four o’clock in the servants’ hall at Grymsdyke on Tuesday afternoon. The Coroner for the District, Mr. G. Fell, presided and the jury was as under:- Messrs. George Stratton (who was chosen as foreman), William Poulton, Peter Floyd, R. Harman. G. Dormer, J.Kilby, W. Turner. Free Chilton, W. Plumridge, R.Stevens, and G. Timms. Having been sworn, the jury proceeded to view the bodies, which had been placed in a room in the out-buildings. The features of the deceased were not distorted in any way. Adams’ face was discoloured, as was also Bowler’s neck. The latter’s left hand also bore evidence of electric fluid having been passed over it, being slightly scorched. Mr. Eggleton’s hair was scorched at the crown and in the direction of the spine and Bowler’s and Adams’ hair was similarly, though less distinctly, injured. Apart from these things, their appearance was perfectly natural. Some of the Jury also visited the cherry-tree under which the fatality happened. The tree was a good sized one, but there were no signs of anything unusual having taken place.

Having assembled in the hall, the following evidence was adduced:-

George Eggleton said: I have seen the body lying in another room, and recognise it as that of my brother, John Eggleton. He was a farmer, and was thirty-four years of age on the 11th of this month. He lived at Wardrobes Farm. Mary Ann Adams said: I have not seen the body. My husband’s Christian name was George Adams. He was 42 years of age, and was a farm labourer.

John Bowler said: I am the father of Henry Bowler. I have seen the body; it is that of my son, who was in his twenty-third year. He was a benchman (a chairmaker).

John Forrest said: I live at Grymsdyke, Lacey Green. There was a fete in my ground yesterday, at which John Eggleton, Geo. Adams, and Henry Bowler were present. I did not see the accident. John Eggleton came to me from the tent to my smoking house. He gave me his bag and pipe, mentioning that there was money in the bag for distribution afterwards. He said it was safer in my house than it would be in the tent. He went away with me, and as it was raining at the time, he put on his mackintosh. He left me and went to see what the score was. The next thing that I heard of him was that he had met with an accident, and I went down to the cherry tree and found him dead. On the opposite side of the tree was the body of George Adams. He was dead. The Foreman-Then they were not all on the same side of the tree? – Witness – They were not then. People were holding them up.

By the Coroner – I heard the thunder and saw the flash. They were simultaneous, and seemed to come from the direction of Bledlow. Mr Eggleton locked the bag which he gave me, and which I now produce.

George Cheshire said: I was present yesterday at the fete at Grymsdyke. About three o’clock I was standing neat the bee tent, in a straight directions with the cherry tree. A gentleman came out of the bee tent and went straight to the tree. I kept an eye on him and when he had got some distance I thought he knelt down. I looked thought the netting of the tent, and about fifteen yards away I saw something open like a ball of fire, about twenty inches from the ground. The flame seemed to be about twenty inches in extent. As the fire opened it went like a flash. It seemed to open and seemed to knock them all down under the tree. I saw them all fall this side of the tree. I heard a report directly after. I believe they were on the ground when the report came. It seemed to be as loud as a cannon going off. I saw the bodies afterwards and I knew the persons who were killed. I don’t think either of them breathed after they fell. I had not heard any thunder before. I am not very deaf. I did not see Bowler until they were about to move his body. I heard no further thunder. As far as I could see the lightning did not hurt the tree.

The Foreman: Can you tell the Jury how many persons were knocked down? – Witness: I could not say. It seemed to knock all down on one side.

The Foreman: You know they were all on one side? – Yes; it was on the side near the bee tent.

Henry Septimus Bott said: I am a surgeon practising in Risborough. I was sent for yesterday to see the people injured by lightening. I found John Eggleton, George Adams, and John Bowler dead. I have made a superficial examination of their bodies, with the result that I found marks of burns upon them, such as leave no doubt their deaths was caused by lightning.

The Foreman: Is it right that the fluid came out through Mr. Eggleton’s watch? Witness: No. His stockings were burnt and his shirt singed.

There were several other witnesses present, waiting to be called, but the Jury expressed themselves satisfied as to the cause of deatch. One of the witnesses was Thomas Ward, one of the three men who had been injured.

P.C. Thorn produced the hats the deceased persons were wearing at the time. That worn by Mr. Eggleton was a white cricket cap with light-coloured stripes. The seams of the outside material were torn apart at the back, but the lining was uninjured. Bowler’s cricketing cap was roughly torn apart at the back from the edge to the centre, whilst Adams’ hat, a soft felt one, was scorched and had a small round hole in the crown, and the lining was injured.

One of the Jurors said that all the caps smelt strongly of burning.

The Coroner, in addressing the Jury, said he thought that it was a very painful thing to have to come there on such a melancholy errand as that. It seemed as awful dispensation of Providence that these poor things had been struck down in the way they had in the bright simmer tome, but it was God’s will that it should be so, and they must bow to it. It was their melancholy duty to inquire into the cause of death and the cause of death was a palpable one. There were not only witnesses they had had before them, the there were others struck down by the lightning which was seen by all around. There was no doubt that the death of the three persons had been caused buy the electric fluid, and he thought that their only verdict could be that death was caused by a visitation from God, as it did seem so when people were killed by lightening.

Mr. Stratton said he thought that the verdict should be “killed by lightning.”

The Coroner said that would be a proper verdict, but he thought the other was most suitable.

Several Jurors thought the verdict should be “killed by lightning,” and this was recorded.

The Coroner remarked that it was a most awful occurrence, and when he heard of it he was quite unnerved.

Mr. Stratton – So were we at Risborough when we heard of it.

The Coroner added that it had cast a gloom over the whole neighbourbood.

Mr G. Eggleton gave his fee to the widow of Adams as did also the Jurors.


A correspondent who witnessed the occurrence writes:- Grymsdyke, Princes Risborough, the seat of John Forrest, Esq., was on Monday the scene of a terrible event, which has placed several families of the district in unexpected grief and mourning. Preparations had been in progress all the morning for the Lacey Green Cottage Garden Show, and the judges of fruit, flowers, vegetables, lace and bead work had finished their work and awarded the prizes, which later on were to have been presented by Lady Buckinghamshire. The Show was opened at 2 p.m., the Speen Band had commenced its performance of music, and in the bee tent and various booths everything was in readiness for the coming festivity, in which the village was greatly interested. There had been a slight shower in the morning, and at 2p.m. the cricketers, who had hardly commenced their match, sought temporary shelter under a small cherry tree not far from the bee tent in the Park. Suddenly, without previous warning, a terrific and appalling flash of lightning, accompanied by a peal of thunder like the discharge of a forty ton gun, struck the group of cricketers to the ground, and three of them, alas, rise no more. Mr John Eggleton, of Wardrobes, Princes Risborough, Henry Bowler, and John Adams were killed, and Messrs. Baldwin, the bee master, John Ward of Hampden Row, and ward of Speen, were all most seriously affected by the electric fluid. The greatest

consternation prevailed at this sudden and terrible calamity. The storm passed away as quickly as it had come, with a slight rumble of thunder from the surrounding hills, and it seemed difficult to realise how in an instant, by one single and terrible bolt of lightning, that scene of festivity was turned to one of sad and fearful grief.

The following description given by one who was close to the scene of the disaster will be reas with interest: - “I was standing, as one does at a flower show, doing nothing in particular, but watching the groups of people exchanging the various little courtesies of life with those I knew, when a shower came on, and shelter was at once sought by everyone in the open. I was very close to the unfortunate men who were struck. They had taken shelter under a large cherry tree, and were talkingto one another, and some of them were smoking. I think they had been at cricket till the rain stopped them. With dreadful suddenness, a flash of lightning came, that seemed to nearly blind me, and this was followed by a crash of thunder. I looked round to where the others were, and was horrified to see they were all down. The lightning had been so vivid that everyone seemed alarmed, and consternation was depicted on all faces, and on every hand the women and children were running away, screaming and crying with fright. I at once, as soon as I realised the state of affairs rendered all the help I could to those who were down. I helped to lift some of them under cover. We put them under the tents first. I saw it was a bad case with the three who were killed. I can hardly describe how they looked, but they at once gave one the impression that all was over with them. They presented a horrible sight, with their singed and burnt faces and their eyes rolled back, and very soon they changed to a dark purple colour. I afterwards helped to carry them to an out-building behind Mr. Forrest’s house, where we reverently laid them in a row, after straightening their limbs, and the policeman who was there locked the door and took the key. There were plenty willing to do what could be done to help those whose cases were not fatal. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Forrest, and Mr. Kelly and Mr. Wells, the clergymen, in and out among the people rendering aid and directing those about them what to do, and it wanted a few cool ones to do it, as people were quite at a loss how to act – the whole thing had come about with such suddenness. One of the victims, John Ward of Hampden, after a time partly recovered consciousness, I rubbed his legs and feet and bathed his temples and legs with water, gave him a little brandy, and stayed by him for a long time and did all I could for him. He complained of great pain, groaning with the agony. I noticed that his face was burnt on the left side and all down his face and side was blistered where the lightning had run. I saw them leading the gentleman who was to lecture about bees to the home, but do not know to what extent he was injured. One of those knocked down by the lightning, whose name I do not know, told me that he felt a powerful blow hitting him on the soles of his feet, and remembered nothing more, and had no idea when he came to what had happened, and it was only when told he had been struck by lightning that he learnt what had occurred. His recovery seemed to be without any pain; it was just like anyone waking from a very heavy sleep and exhibiting symptoms of an exceedingly drowsy awakening. I was, I should think, nearly an hour helping one way and another, and I never had such a dreadful experience in my life before. After the one tremendous clap of thunder that followed, the deadly flash rain poured in torrents for about 20 minutes, and the storm passed away without any more than just distant rumblings. Of course, they shut up the show, no one would be likely to want to see flowers or vegetables after such an experience, and they sent and stopped Lady Buckinghamshire from coming to distribute the prizes.”

The Vicar of Lacey Green, Rev. W.F. Kelly writes: - On Monday, the 27th inst., a Village Horticultural Fete was held in the parish. In the midst of the festivities a threatening shower induced a number of persons to seek shelter under a tree. Suddenly a vivid flash of lightning descended where the men were gathered, and, without cry or exclamation, some 12 of them were struck to the ground. In a few minutes it was found that Mr. John Eggleton of Wardrobes Farm, Loosley Row, George Adams, labourer, Lacey Green, Henry Bowler, chairmaker, were dead and three others seriously injured. Two of the three on the following morning were happily sufficiently restored to resume their ordinary vocations, but Mr. Ward, of Hampden, still remains seriously ill. A public meeting was held in the schoolroom at Lacey Green on Wednesday evening for the purpose of taking some steps for the relief of the widow and the six orphaned children of the unfortunate labourer, George Adams. A committee was appointed, and the Rev W.F. Kelly, Vicar, Mr. Thomas Poulton, of Grymsdyke Farm, and Messrs. Wheeler, the Bank, High Wycombe, will gladly receive subscriptions from any benevolent persons for this purpose. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon. It is strange to observe that each hamlet of the parish shares in this calamity, Loosley Row, Lacey Green, and Speen.