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1841: Navvies tried to murder a Railway Constable

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Brighton Gazette - Thursday 13 May 1841

May 5, 1841. Robert Taylor, John Owen, and William Johnson, three labourers on the railway, Hayward’s Heath, in Cuckfield, were committed for trial at the Adjourned Sessions on the 19th inst., for having on the 4th of May instant, feloniously attempted to suffocate Henry Hilton, one of the Railway Constables, with intent to commit the crime of murder.

It appeared from the evidence that seven or eight railway labourers were assembled in the evening at the Hit or Miss beershop, on the Heath, kept by Mr Richard Kennard, and that on their being requested by Kennard to leave the house at the time for shutting up, they refused to do so. Kennard thereupon procured the assistance of Hilton, and they were eventually compelled to eject one of the men.

The Talbot in Cuckfield High Street c 1870 (the trial was held on the first floor)

As soon as they were all out of doors the men fell upon Kennard and Milton; Kennard was very soon levelled to the ground by a brick-bat, and three of the men immediately commenced kicking and otherwise maltreating him, whilst three others knocked down Hilton and put him head-foremost into a hole near the house for the reception of all manner of filth and soil, where they would in all probability have suffocated him, had it not been for the timely assistance of Lydia Weaver, an inmate at Kennard’s, who hearing the cries of murder, went out with a poker and knocked one of the men backwards, when Hilton made his escape out of the hole almost suffocated, the men having forced the soil into his mouth. The three prisoners were secured and the rest made their escape. Hilton also received two very severe wounds on the back part his head. He is a very brave and efficient officer.

It must still lie in the recollection of our readers that three men, whose names are Dolby, Smith, and Anderson, were convicted at the last Assizes of assaulting and wounding Hilton, the former of whom was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment with hard labour, and Smith and Anderson to six months each.

Please follow the link for article reporting the attack....

The beershop keeper Richard Kennard was landlord of the Liverpool Arms on the 1851 census, and in 1841 he was just down as a beershop keeper so Hit or Miss may have been the former name of the Liverpool or being run out of another bulding before the Livvy was built. He is in the same area of Haywards Heath in 1841 but there were no addresses given at that time. Henry Hilton and another police constable, George Wright were lodging nearby with a tea dealer. Kennard's daughter Hannah and her husband later ran the Star for decades.


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