1804: Jilted Cuckfield corporal takes his own life

British infantry deployed in line prepare to repulse an advancing French column

The Lady's Magazine relates in its 8 June 1804 edition a tragic story that occurred in Cuckfield to a member of the well known High Street shoemaking family.

The following catastrophe occurred here yesterday night. Peter Leney, a shoemaker, and corporal in Major Smith’s company of volunteers, after assisting at drill, complained of being unwell, and quitted the ranks under pretence of making the best of his way home.

But, instead of so shaping his course, he struck off in a different track, and pursued it till he arrived at the church field, where, in a fit of extreme desperation, he placed the muzzle of his loaded musket to his mouth, and by some means contrived to discharge the piece, which produced the unhappy consequence he had meditated.

… The above rash act is attributed to disappointment in a love affair, occasioned by a young woman, to whom he had paid his addresses, having discarded him, to bestow her matrimonial favours on another. The coroner's jury, on a view of the body, delivered in their verdict - Lunacy.

The Leneys were a well known local family who ran a shoe and cordwainer’s business at the corner of Church Street, with family members living above the shop. Peter died just yards away from his home.

Just 15 years later the Leney family were central to keeping Gideon Mantell informed of dinosaur fossils at the Whiteman’s Green quarries that led to the recognition of a new species of prehistoric creature - the Iguanadon.

Public records show Peter Leney died on Tuesday 29 May at the age of 31.

Source: The Lady's magazine: or, Entertaining companion for the fair sex


Caption: British infantry deployed in line prepare to repulse an advancing French column. Disciplined, short-range musket volleys, followed by a bayonet charge, usually drove off an attacker. [Image edited by Malcolm Davison based on a Wikimedia Public Domain graphic]

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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