John Musgrove (c1833-1884)

This is an update to a blog post I published on 1 November 2015.

John Musgrove is my 2x great grandfather. He was born c1833 to parents Joseph Musgrove and Jane Dewhurst.

On 6 October 1855 John married Catherine Ainsworth at the Parish Church in Blackburn, Lancashire. They had at least 5 children:-

Susannah – born 2 August 1856 – died 1 February 1869
George – born 20 August 1857 – died 20 August 1857
Thomas Ainsworth – born 12 December 1860 – died 16 April 1928 (my great grandfather)
Joseph – born 13 April 1864 – died 3 June 1948
James – born 5 August 1868 – died 23 November 1868

I have found John on the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1881 census returns. His occupation varied over the years and he was described as a crofter, a carter and a general labourer. In the 1871 census Catherine is living at 18 Ellen Street, Over Darwen, Lancashire and I assume that John was away from home at the time of the census.

On the 2 December 1858 tragedy struck the family when John’s father, Joseph Musgrove, died as the result of a fall at home. Here’s a blog post about his death – Sunday’s Obituary: Joseph Musgrove

Ever since I started my interest in genealogy and researching my family history my mother has regularly told me of a story about a suicide by hanging somewhere in the past. So I was aware that at some point I may find the evidence.

Back in August 2015 I finally got round to ordering a copy of John Musgrove’s death certificate. And finally had confirmation of the family story – cause of death was “suicide by hanging – unsound mind”.

John Musgrove - Death Certificate

According to the death certificate John died at Railway Road, Clitheroe, Lancashire, on 17 September 1884. An inquest was held by the Deputy Coroner J C Anderton on the same date.

The family story was that John returned home one night and the door was locked. Whether he had been drinking, whether John and Catherine had argued, I guess I will never know. Catherine refused to let him in and John replied that he might as well kill himself. If the story is to be believed then Catherine threw him a rope.

Despite my best efforts in the Autumn of 2015 I wasn’t able to find any record of the inquest. I tried Clitheroe library and visited Blackburn library to search the newspaper archives. I also spoke with the Blackburn Coroners Office. There is a death notice in the local Blackburn paper but no report of the inquest. I discovered during this search that inquest records/reports were considered to be the property of the coroner and were most likely destroyed when the coroner retired.

Yesterday I went to Skipton library to search the newspaper archives of the Craven Herald in connection with another relative. As a long shot I decided to try the Craven Herald, a weekly paper, to see if there was any reference to John Musgrove back in 1884.

BINGO!!!

I was very fortunate to find two articles about John’s suicide. The first is from 20 September 1884 – three days after John’s death. The second is from 27 September 1884 and reports on the Coroner’s inquest.

Craven Herald – 20 September 1884

SUICIDE – At six o’clock on Wednesday morning John Musgrove, labourer, fifty two years of age, was found hanging on a gate in Railway Road, Clitheroe, quite dead. John O’Donnell, mason, found the body as he was going to his work, and immediately gave information to the police. Deceased, who lived in Water Street, Clitheroe, had been drinking hard for some weeks, and has had domestic trouble during the last few days.

Craven Herald – 27 September 1884

SUICIDE THROUGH DRINK – An inquest was held last week, before Mr J E Anderton, deputy coroner, touching the death of a labourer named John Musgrove, aged 52 years. Deceased was found hanging by his neck from a gate in a bye-road leading from Railway Road to the Gasworks, dead. A clothes line was fastened about his neck and tied to the top bar of the gate. His shoulders were resting against the lower part of the gate and his legs and the lower part of his body were on the ground. A man named John O’Donnell found the body as he was going to his work, and immediately gave information to the police. Deceased is known to have been drinking hard for some weeks, and has been in a low way during the last few years. “Deceased committed suicide whilst in an unsound state of mind” was the verdict of the jury.

Another lesson for would-be genealogists is to always be on the look out for new records being added to online resources. I check the newspaper archives on Find My Past regularly. I had previously been unable to find any mention of John’s death – until this morning as I’m writing this blog post. Now I’ve found an article from the Preston Herald of 20th September 1884!

Preston Herald - 20 September 1884.png

Preston Herald – 20 September 1884

SUICIDE BY HANGING – At six o’clock on Wednesday morning John Musgrove, labourer, aged 52 years, was found hanging by his neck from a gate in a bye-road leading from Railway Road to the Gasworks, dead. A clothes line was fastened about his neck and tied to the top bar of the gate. His shoulders were resting against the lower part of the gate and his legs and the lower part of his body were on the ground. A man named John O’Donnell found the body as he was going to his work, and immediately gave information to the police. Deceased is known to have been drinking hard for some weeks, and has been in a low way during the last few years. The inquest was held on Wednesday afternoon, before Mr J E Anderton, deputy coroner for the district. Joseph Musgrove, son of the deceased, identified the body as that of his father. John O’Donnell deposed to the finding of the body by him at six o’clock that morning in the position and place described above. PC Halliday said that from information he received he proceeded to the place mentioned by the last witness, and there found the body of John Musgrove. He cut the cord and conveyed him home. PC Benson said that he saw the deceased alive on Tuesday at twelve at noon. Musgrove accosted him in King Street, and said that he had been to the police office to try to get locked up, but there was no one in. Witness told him to go home and go to bed and he would feel better. He (deceased) was drunk at the time. The verdict of the jury was that deceased committed suicide whilst in an unsound state of mind.

So there we have it. A bit more of the picture to a very desperate end to John’s life has now been painted. It appears that John had possibly been depressed for some years and couldn’t go on any longer.

I’m left wondering what it must have been like for John in those final days and hours.  What must Catherine have gone through before and after wards – perhaps not understanding what was happening to her husband as he descended into despair. They had both shared the grief of losing three of their five children – one aged 12 and two as babies. John’s father had died in a tragic accident – although this was 26 years earlier maybe that trauma stuck with John, who knows.

Catherine died three years and two days later on 19 September 1887.

I feel quite sad now.

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