Samuel Blagbrough Bancroft.... "Strange Death in an Ovenden Public House"

Ovenden Cross Public House

'Strange death in an Ovenden Public House' is the title of an article which appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 12th March 1892, and concerned Samuel Blagbrough Bancroft [1848-1892]  who was born, and lived all his life in Ovenden near Halifax.

Samuel was the son of  John Bancroft [1815-1875], a Master Joiner and Farmer  from Ovenden, and his wife Martha [nee Blagbrough] who together had a family of eight children.

Samuel seems to have been a rather unpleasant character, who had a life ruled by drink,and it looks as though Samuel had a very difficult relationship with his family. I reported the story in a previous article of his first appearance in the local court on 19th October 1869, when, at the age of only  22 years, he was summonsed to  court on a charge of assaulting his father, mother and sister. The incident was reported as follows in the Halifax newspaper under the heading:

 'A violent son near Halifax.'
Yesterday at West Riding Court, Halifax, Samuel Bancroft, joiner of Ovenden, pleaded guilty to having assaulted his father on the previous Saturday. When the prisoner had gone home, he struck his mother and dragged his sister about by the hair on her head. The father was assaulted when he interfered, and stated that his son was a drunken, lazy and dissolute fellow. The prisoner was fined £2 5s, or else 2 months in prison.

He seems to have finally settled down, because in 1890 he married Mary Ann Ramsden, and the 1891 census shows the couple as living at 9 Whitley Street, Halifax with his occupation shown as a joiner.

But  much more was to come in 1892 when Samuel hit the headlines again, but this time for a very different reason, albeit still involving drink..... his untimely death at the early age of 44 years. The Yorkshire Evening Post had the following report on 12th March 1892.

'Strange death in an Ovenden Public House'
 A man named Samuel Blagbrough Bancroft has died suddenly at the Ovenden Cross Public House.  Last night the Deputy Coroner of Halifax, Mr JF Hill, held the inquest there, Mr John Stirk being foreman of the jury, and Chief Constable Pole was present.
Samuel Blagborough Bancroft, a pavior, was in the inn, last Thursday at 2 0 o'clock, and called for a pint of beer, which was supplied him. Sometime afterwards the landlord brought in a quart jug full of rum and water, and a tot glass was handed to everyone present. The company at that time numbered five or six. Subsequently the jug was left on the table, and the deceased helped himself to two or three glasses more. The drink appeared to  a witnesses to take some effect on him. Anyhow, an attempt to leave later on caused him to fall on the fender, and rolled off with his face to the floor. He was assisted up and guided to a chair, where he was still seated when witnesses left the house. It would be about six o,clock when the man fell.
Replying to the Chief Constable,to the best of his recollection,  it was about four o,clock when the jug was brought in.  The deceased however had nothing else to drink between receiving his pint of beer and this being served. The man in fact did not seem inclined for drinking, as he never drank heartily all the afternoon.
Answering a juryman, he said that the grog was very weak, so much so that he asked the landlord " if it was the tap droppings sweetened?"
Frank Tasker, the landlord, gave evidence that the deceased was in the habit of doing odd jobs for him, and visited the house daily. He complained, on entering the house on Thursday, that he was not at all well. With regard to the grog he provided, it was very weak,there being only about a noggin strength of neat spirit. It was simply in fact what had been washed from an almost empty cask, and a man could have drunk the whole quart without it doing him any harm.He had made the practice of giving the liquor away to his customers ever since he had been in the trade. After leaving the jug on the room table, he went away, having some cattle to attend to. On his return, shortly before eight o'clock, he found the deceased on his knees in the room, with his head on the chair, dead. There was no one else in the place.
Dr. Montgomery, who was called in, attributed the death to an apoplectic fit.
The Deputy Coroner, after hearing the provided evidence,said that he still adhered to his opinion that a man might have swallowed the whole of the drink he had heard of, if he was a healthy man, and it would not have caused death.The man's apparent intoxication might also he said, be a condition accounted for by the development of apoplesy.[sic... should read apoplexy]
The jury therefore decided that he had died through "Natural Causes". 

[From the late 14th to the late 19th century, apoplexy referred to any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. The word apoplexy may have been used to refer to the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not a verified disease process. Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, certain ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks may have been referred to as apoplexy in the past.]

Around this time Temperance Societies were at their most active, warning the working classes about the evils of drink. The local Temperance Magazine produced the following warning to pub landlords:

"If there is a business in which the candidates of hell are labouring, it is yours, and full well you know it.
Were it not a conscience killing business, you would not take the last sixpence from the trembling hand of the drunkard and give him in relief a poison that, ere the next rising sun, may send him to his tomb.
Were it not a demoralising traffic, you could not stand by unmoved, and see the last spark of mortality and virtue driven from the mind of a man by the poison you administer.
Were it not an inferior business you would not be so assiduous in servicing the devil with victims for his abode of endless misery, for he exalts over every drunkard you prepare for the drunkard’s doom.
Then cease this business of ruin, ere the cry of humanity ceases and ere the wrath of angry heaven be poured out upon your head, for God has announced “a woe to him who putteth the bottle to his neighbour’s lips”.

The evils of drink!

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