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1927: Tragic unexplained suicide at Highbridge Mill

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 08 March 1927



The tragic death of a retired butler living at Cuckfield was the subject of an enquiry conducted by Dr W. A. Daryl (deputy coroner of East Sussex) at the White Hart Inn on Thursday afternoon.

Deceased was Charles Gwilliam aged 67 and he resided with relatives in Broad Street,. Between six and seven on Wednesday morning his body was found lying face downwards in the pond at Highbridge Mill.

George Jordan, of Broad Street, a brother in law of deceased, said the latter went to bed about 10:45 on Tuesday night in his usual health. He was engaged to be married to his cousin, but was not worrying about it, but rather looking forward to it. During the past fortnight he had been a little drowsy, and would drop off to sleep when reading a newspaper, but had not had influenza, and had not been medically attended since an operation several years ago. Witness heard no unusual sound during the night, but on coming downstairs next morning he found the door unlocked and the deceased’s candle standing on a table close by.

Colourised postcard of High Bridge Mill circa 1920

Deceased left no letter or anything to explain the affair.

William Alfred Hall of Mill Cottages, Highbridge, Cuckfield said that at 6:40 on Wednesday morning he was going to shut the floodgates preparatory to starting work when he found a man's macintosh and cap on a gate leading to the flood gates. This gate was about 10 yards from the water. Farther on he found a man's jacket, and then he saw a body lying on the bed of the pond. The water was low at the time, and the gates had been open all night. The spot where the body was found was five minutes walk from a footpath. There was hardly 2 feet of water where the body was lying, but it had been deeper on the previous evening. It would have been at a depth of 2 feet for some hours. Witness informed the police of the discovery.

P. C. Webb, stationed at Cuckfield, said that on receiving information from the last witness he went to the place and found the body lying face downwards in the water. It was 10 feet from the bank, and there was no doubt the deceased jumped off the footbridge over the floodgates. His jacket was on the bridge, and deceased was wearing blue surged trousers and waistcoat, but no coat or hat. The outer garments had been identified as belonging to deceased.

The deputy coroner returned a verdict that deceased drowned himself, but there was no evidence to show the state of his mind.

The funeral service was held at Cuckfield Church on Saturday. Among the private mourners were Mr and Mrs H. Stark (brother-in-law and sister), Mr and Mrs G. Jordan (brother-in-law and sister), Mrs Mee (sister), Mrs Gwilliam (cousin), Miss E.Jordan (niece), Mrs C. Minter (niece) and Mr C. Minter and Mr J. Bennett (friend). Many friends of the deceased were also present in the church. The service was conducted by Canon C. W. G. Wilson, assisted by the Reverend S. G. Thorough. On the Coffin was inscribed:-

Charles Gwilliam,

Died March 2, 1927,

age 67 years.

Beautiful floral tributes were sent by Jack; Harry and Bessie; Jenny and George, Charlie and the girl; loving Sarah; and Tom, Edith and Muriel. Mr and Mrs Jordan wish, through this medium, to thank all friends for the sympathy shown them in their bereavement.



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