1880: A Terrible Tragedy!

A case which came before the Mayor and other magistrates, on Monday last was the means of putting to an end one of the most absurd rumours that could have been set afloat, with or without an ultimate intention in the excitement of electioneering.

On the evening of last Saturday week, a feeling of indignation was generally expressed when it became bruited about that Dr. Iliffe, in driving by the gate of Oxenholme Park, had been struck with a large stone, and seriously injured.

It was soon afterwards stated that a dastardly outrage had been intended upon the person of Mr. C. W. Wilson, a prominent supporter of the Conservative Party, and for whom Dr. Iliffe in the gathering darkness had been mistaken. The big stone, it was said struck him on the shoulder, having evidently been aimed at his head, and that had the intention succeeded he most indubitably have been killed.

As Dr. Iliffe dropped the reins “it was the greatest wonder in the world” that the horse did not run away and kill both the doctor and his attendant, though this was not made clear; and it seems moreover that the horse behaved remarkably well, as it stood quite still while the doctor got out of the trap, and found the would-be assassin (so it was said) behind a tree, when he (the miscreant) ejaculated, “By – it isn’t Kit Wilson, after all!” This explained the whole detestable plot! There were other harrowing details which our readers may fill in as their imagination prompts, and when complete they will be as near the actual facts as was the foolish rumour, which the more credulous so greedily swallowed.

The facts adduced in the magistrates’ court, where George Stubbs, was charged with assaulting Walter Iliffe, were as follows: – Dr. Iliffe (the plaintiff) was driving with his attendant near Birklands when he was struck with something – it might have been the stone produced which his attendant had picked up in the road. He got out and overtook a lad who told him it was the defendant who had thrown at him. Defendant pleaded guilty, but declared it was a sod he had thrown. He would not have done so, but a companion, William Graveson, hearing the vehicle approach said, “Whose carriage is this? – let us sod them.” They didn’t know at all who was coming.

A witness, Henry Graveson, said he was with his brother and defendant when the latter said. “Here’s a carriage coming. I’ll sod them.”

Dr. Iliffe said it might have been a sod that struck him. His arm was not bruised at all.

The magistrates decided to fine the defendant 10s. including costs, allowing a month for payment.

Previous to the notable trial there were many who held to the belief that “there was something in it which would come out,” which of course was correct.

Kendal Mercury, 16 April 1880

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