Sad Affairs


A Century of Stories about the Oxford Canal at Adderbury, taken from Jackson’s Oxford Journal

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Sat Nov 26th 1808, Issue 2900

A few days since an inquisition was taken at Adderbury, before Mr Gough, one of the coroners of this county, on view of the body of Henry George, who was drowned in the navigation at Nell Bridge; and it appears, from the account given by his companion, that suddenly stopping his horse, as the boat entered the lock, the night being very dark, he got too near the edge of the bank, which gave way and he fell into the water. Jurors’ verdict, accidental death.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, October 16th, 1824

At Adderbury, on view of the body of William Wilkins, a child about two years old, who being left in the coal yard, near the canal, fell into it and was drowned. Verdict: accidental death

Jackson’s Oxford Journal June 9th 1827

On Tuesday last Mary Wise, a single woman, between 30 and 40 years of age, left her home for the purpose of going to Boddicot [sic], and was afterwards found drowned in the Oxford Canal. A bonnet on the hedge and pattens near the spot attracted the notice of two boys who gave information to some labourers, and after some time her body was found near a brick bridge in the parish of Boddicot. An inquest was held before Mr Gough and a verdict of insanity was returned by the jury

Jackson’s Oxford Journal April 3rd 1841

An inquest was holden at the Three Pigeons at Neithrop, on Monday last, before J. Churchill Esq., one of the county coroners, on the body of Martha Elliot, aged 50, wife of Alexander Elliot of Adderbury. It appeared that the unfortunate woman, who had been in a desponding way for 18 months, left her home about two o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday last, and before 6 o’clock was found drowned in that part of the Oxford Canal which runs through Hardwick Farm, upwards of four miles from her home; but there being no evidence to show how she came in the water, the jury returned a verdict of found drowned.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal 27th March 11th  1848


On Tuesday last an inquest was held at Nell Bridge Wharf in the parish of Adderbury, before J Churchill Esq, one of the coroners for Oxfordshire, on view of the body of Elizabeth Townsend of Adderbury, aged 78, who was killed on the previous Saturday when walking on the turnpike road between Adderbury and Aynhoe, and near the canal bridge. From the depositions it appeared the deceased, who was staying with her son, Richard Townsend of Nell Bridge, canal foreman, was out for a walk on Saturday afternoon by the side of the road and near to the canal. Joseph Fisher, boatman for Mr Robert Farmer of Oxford was on his way from Banbury to Heyford with the Tantivy laden with coal. On arriving at the canal bridge he, instead of unfastening the boat rope as he is required by the laws of the Canal Company, allowed the horse to ascend the turnpike road, and go down into the towing-path again, with the boat cord attached. The cord was consequently across the road, and was prevented from lying flat on the ground by the parapets of the bridge. At the time, John Auger, servant to the Rev John Ballard, staying at Woodeaton, came up on horseback.

Fisher told him to stay while he unfastened the rope, and Auger pulled up. At this instant Thomas Huxford, servant to E Ethelstone Esq, staying at the Crown Hotel Bicester, who was on his way home from Chipping Warden on a hack which his master had ridden to cover, came along at a furious rate, the horse having bolted with him and become unmanageable. Fisher and Auger both called to him to stop, but he could not manage the horse, and he went over the bridge; the force of the horse against the rope broke it in two, and that portion of it attached to the mast flew off from the force into the road, striking the deceased on the neck and face, and so injuring her as to cause her death before the arrival of John Griffin Esq, surgeon of Adderbury, who was quickly on the spot. Mr G described the injuries, which were sufficient to cause death. It appeared that Huxford did not see the rope nor the unfortunate woman till after the disaster, and that he stopped his horse as soon as he could; that he went back and stayed some time, and that he voluntarily attended the inquest. He expressed great regret at the occurrence, as did the boatman, who was in attendance.

The Jury, of which Mr James Garner was foreman, after a consultation, returned a verdict of “Accidental death”. Fisher was censured and was given to understand that he would be proceeded against, under the Act of Parliament, for having allowed the rope to be across the road. It appears that many boatmen act thus negligently and endanger the lives of persons passing along the road. We understood, while at the inquest, that no less than three ropes were thus allowed to be across the road while the inquiry was going on.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Sat May 12th 1900, Issue 7678


A somewhat singular fatality occurred on Saturday morning, the unfortunate individual being John Stilgoe, the well-known keeper of Grant’s Lock, near Twyford, on the Oxford Canal. The deceased left his home about half-past six for Banbury and left the lock here on the return journey shortly before seven o’clock, with one of the company’s iron boats, which he was towing by means of a line. All went well apparently until he was within half a mile of his home, when it is supposed he had a fit or some other seizure and either fell into the canal or  on the towing path and was pulled into the water by the progress of the boat. …. Verdict “Death from Natural Causes”

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Saturday, October 6th 1900, Issue 7699


A pathetic story was revealed at an inquest held at the Red Lion Inn, Twyford, on Saturday, by Mr George Coggins, the Coroner, who had to enquire into the death of James Lewis, a young man of twenty-four, and Alice Tuffrey, a married woman, the wife of a Reservist, whose husband, after serving in South Africa, had been sent to China. Mrs Tuffrey was a native of Aynho, and her husband had been in the employ of Messrs. Foster and Dicksee, the well-known builders of Rugby. They had only been married eight months when her husband was called out, and their home broken up. Mrs. Tuffrey came home to her mother at Aynho for a time, and afterwards went back to service. The fact of her husband being ordered to China, after serving in South Africa appears to have affected her health, and she had to leave her situation in London. For the sake of change she went on a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, who live at Sandell farm, near Grant’s Lock on the Oxford Canal. A son of Mr Lewis’ from Woolwich was also living with his father at the time, and on Wednesday night he suggested to Mrs. Tuffrey that they might take a walk as far as the Red Lion in Twyford. Mrs. Tuffrey assented, and they walked over the fields to the inn, where, in the porch, they had some refreshment and some conversation with Mrs. Twynham, the landlady, Lewis remarking to her that it showed courage to come from Sandell farm in such a rough night. They left at ten o’clock, and instead of going over the fields to the farm, they went by the towing path of the canal; but they never reached their destination, for they were found in the canal the following morning – the woman in Grant’s Lock and the man just outside it. At the lock there is a footpath which leads to Sandell’s farm, and it is conjectured that in the darkness of the night they had fallen into the lock from the side of the canal or from the footboard on the lock-gate which is used for crossing the canal. The lock-keeper heard no noise of any kind during the night. In the course of Thursday morning while a boat was in the lock, the lock-keeper found he could not close the lock gate, and he discovered the body of the woman jammed between the wall of the lock and the gate. He afterwards found the body of the man a yard-and-a-half from the lock gate, and it had no doubt been washed out of the lock while the boats were passing through. The place is an exceedingly dangerous one on a dark and rough night such as Wednesday night was, and the probability is that the unfortunate people took the towing path in preference to walking through the wet grass to the farm. There were no signs of any struggle on the side of the canal. Mrs. Tuffrey was to have returned home to Aynho that very night, but the state of the weather prevented her, and Lewis was to have returned to Woolwich on Saturday. A watch found on Lewis had stopped at half-past ten.

Compiled by Phil Mansell
April 2020

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