Taverham Mill
River Wensum


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills


A millwright by the name of Walter Cudbard, who had been for some years in the employ of Mr. Smithdale, of King-street, Norwich, and had lately been at work at Messrs. Delane and Magnay's paper-mills at Taverham, committed suicide on Friday last in a most horrible manner, and without any apparent motive. The deceased, who was a very steady and trustworthy workman, had been engaged from an early hour that morning with another millwright on a job in one of the machine houses, but he did not make his appearance after breakfast, which excited considerable surprise, as the job was an urgent one, and the deceased was scrupulously attentive to his work. He could not be found in any part of the mill, and no clue could be obtained as to what had become of him for three or four hours after, when the pit wheel suddenly stopped, and the other millwright, who had been sent to ascertain the cause of the stoppage, found the mangled trunk of the deceased in the pit; the head, which had been crushed to fragments, being completely severed from the body, and the cogs of the pit and pump wheels, which work into each other, being splattered with hair and blood. The tragic cause of the stoppage was instantly apparent, and there could be no doubt that, whether the fatality was the result of an accident or of a deliberate intention, the deceased had been concealed in that obscure and unfrequented part of the premises from breakfast time - about half-past eight - until the moment of the stoppage, which occurred about a quarter to twelve. The pit wheel, which is of enormous size, is shut off from a dark and narrow passage by a door which is raised up to get access to that part of the machinery, which is, however, open at the side, where it is fenced by an iron bar, so that there is no possibility of any one falling into the machinery by accident, without first getting in through the shutter or under the iron bar. In the next place, the circumstance that the deceased had evidently met his death through his head being crushed between the cogs of the two wheels precluded the idea that he could have fallen in, as, from the position of the wheels, he would, in that case, have fallen not exactly between the cogs of the wheels, but below among the arms, which would have been equally fatal, but which would have injured his body in a very different manner to that in which it was found, the extremities being comparatively uninjured. The deceased, moreover, had no duty in that part of the premises, but ought to have been completing his work in the machine-house; and therefore, though there is nothing to account adequately for the dreadful impulse which led him to commit so horrible an act, there can be no doubt that, perhaps during some sudden abberation of the mind, he deliberately placed his head between the two wheels, where it was instantly ground into atoms.

The deceased, who was 40 years of age, was unmarried, but he leaves four children by a woman with whom he lived.

On Saturday morning, an inquest on the body was held in a room adjoining the mills before Mr. E. Press, Esq, the county coroner, when the following evidence was taken: -
Robert Beales, carpenter, employed at the Taverham Mills, said - Deceased had been employed at the mills for the last five or six months. He had been at work at the mill on previous occasions and was well acquainted with all the parts of the machinery. It was his business to attend to any part of the machinery which required looking to. the machinery is very extensive and complicated. the deceased was missed yesterday a little after nine o'clock. I had not seen him at work at all in the morning. Enquiries were made of the workmen whether they had seen him, and he was looked for in every part of the mill, where it was thought he might probably be at work. It was his habit, if anything was wrong, to go about the mill and find out where it was and put it right without awaiting for orders. The pit wheel where the deceased was found is fenced off by a shutter, but there is an open space at one side with an iron bar round it. It is large enough for a man to get in. A person who wanted to see the wheels at work could do so if he stood outside the bar, which is three feet from the wheels. The passage is lighted by gas, and lamps are used when any one has occaision to examine this part of the machinery. I have known the deceased about four years. He appeared to be a very steady man, and very attentive to his work. I saw him on Thursday night, and he spoke to me of some work he was on, but I did not observe anything peculiar in his manner. I was the first man who found the deceased. The wheel had stopped, and I was told to go and see what was the reason. The shutter was not in its proper position. I had passed the place about an hour before, and the shutter was then up, and the wheel going all right. I saw the body of the deceased lying under the wheel. No lamp has been found in the pit. If I had been sent there to do anything I should have got a lamp, and should have previously gone to the engineer and asked him to stop the wheels. No one has any business to do anything to that part of the machinery without first going to the engineer, and getting him to shut off the wheels.

John Wallace deposed - I have been in Messrs. Delane and Magnay's employment eight or ten days as a millwright and engineer. I was working with deceased on Friday morning. We worked together from about five o'clock at the paper machine No.2 till half-past seven o'clock, when I was ordered to go to the beating engines. I left the deceased at work. I saw him at his breakfast when I left at twenty minutes past eight. On returning at nine o'clock, he was not there, and at ten o'clock not having seen him at his work at No.2 machine, where I had gone myself to work, I made some enquiries about him of the other workmen. He had been working under my instructions, and as it was a very pressing job, I was surprised at his absence. I asked the manager whether he had sent him to any other job, and he said not. After some time, as he did not make
his appearance, some alarm was felt, and nothing having been seen of him in any part of the mill, some began to look about the river, and there was some talk of dragging it. I felt apprehensive that something might have happened to him as he left so urgent a job without saying anything about it. He was very reserved and silent in his manner, and was not like other men. I noticed when he was at breakfast that morning that he was very flushed in the face, as if he had been at a hard job, which was not the fact. I do not think that the deceased could have had any business with the pit wheel. I have examined the wheel since this occurrence, and find that the brackets which carry the wheel and the water-pumps are broken. The stoppage of the wheel led me to examine that part of the machinery. It was supposed that some foreign substance had got in between the wheels - that perhaps a belt and fallen in between, and thus stopped the wheels. The discovery of the deceased's body at once accounted for the stoppage. The feet were upwards, and the head away from the body, and the latter then dropped down below the wheel. The brains and part of the skull were on the floor. There was some of the deceased's hair on the cogs of the wheel. I have no doubt that his death was immediate, and that his head was the first part that came in contact with the wheel, and that then the wheel stopped at once. The only way that I can account for the occurrence is that the deceased actually went and put his head between the wheels. I do not think that he could have fallen in, or that he could have been drawn it at that part. The place is too high up for that. If a man fell in he would fall between the wheels and not on the cogs, and the nature of the accident would have been very different. The shutter was fast at the bottom, but the top part had sprung through the breakage of the machinery. It struck me when I first met him on Friday morning, about five o'clock, that there was something on his mind, for he crossed me, on going towards the mill, and merely bowed, without saying "good morning," and passed on. I thought it very strange that he should not wait for me as he was within a few yards, and we were both on the same work. His mind appeared to be occupied with something; he seemed to be full of thought.

By a juror. - I do not think that he felt any jealousy towards me. He never showed the slightest signs of unfriendliness - merely reserve. As he was a borrowed man, I do not think he could have considered himself superseded by me.

Mr. Thomas Smithdale, millwright, of King-street, Norwich, deposed - The deceased has been in my employ about eight years, and at different periods he has been lent to Messrs. Delane and Magnay for weeks or months together, whenever they wanted him. He still remained in my employment and was paid by me. I considered him to be one of the most trustworthy men I had in my employ. He was a sober and steady man, and was thoroughly to be depended upon. I saw him last Saturday evening in Norwich, when he came for his wages. He would often stop on occaisions for nearly half an hour, describing the work he had been engaged in at the mill during the week. He made particular mention to me of this very spot where he was killed. He considered that the water-wheel wanted some trifling repair, and he said that he had occaisionally gone there to listen if he could learn what was the matter with that part of the machinery. I asked him if he had been sent there to examine the wheels, and he said no, but that he had frequently gone over the mill on his own account to see if there was anything wanted doing which might save a great deal of expence if done in time. He was that sort of man that if he thought there was anything wrong, he would no rest until he found out what it was. He was not the sort of man to leave his work. If I were going to examine the wheels myself I should prefer going round at the back of the pumps to going through the door or shutter, as I should not consider it so dangerous while the wheels were at work. He never expressed and dissatisfaction at his employment; on the contrary, I have heard him speak in the highest terms of many of his workmen, and especially of the principals. Last Saturday night he asked my leave to come home to his old work, as he said he was uncomfortable. I understood him to refer to his being away from his family. I told him I though he had better stop as long as Messrs. Delane and Magnay had anything for him to do. I have never observed the least deviation in his temper all the time I have known him, which is nearly thirty years. His general habits were not indicative of the least mental unsoundness; he was a peculiarly even-tempered man, and not at all excitable.

Frederick Randall. - I keep the Red Lion at Drayton, and the deceased has lodged with me for the last three or four months. He was a very honest and sober man. For a few days before his death, I noticed that he looked very weary and out of spirits, particularly on Thursday evening. He used to read to me in the evening, but the last few evenings he had not done so. I asked him whether he was not well, and whether I could get him anything, but he merely replied that he was not as well as usual. He seemed full of thought and study. I have heard him say that he should like to have the position of millwright at the mill, formerly held by Mr. Lumsden, who died lately. I never heard him say that it was promised to him. I asked him why he did not apply for it, and he said he did not like to, lest he should not get it, and his master might be angry and think he was dissatisfied with his present place. Last Wednesday night, when he came in, he said to me - "Randall, they have got another Scotchman down at the mill to take my place."

Mr. William Avery, foreman to Messrs. Delane and Magnay, said he had known the deceased for about four years. He had always found him to be a very steady, sober, and honest man, and never knew him to absent himself from work. He never expressed any dissatisfaction to witness.

The CORONER, in summing up, observed that the jury had seen from the situation of the wheels that there could not be the slightest reflection upon the proprietors for not having their machinery not properly protected and fenced off. The questions for the consideration of the jury were - first, whether the fatality was the result of an accident or was a deliberate act on the part of the deceased; and secondly, if they came to the conclusion that he had committed suicide, what wasthe state of his mind at the time.

The jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased committed
suicide, but that there was no evidence as to the state of his mind at the time.

Norfolk Chronicle - 10th March 1862

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