Newspaper reports on the death of Mr. John Raby, Leicester, 1818-1837

Leicester Chronicle, 9th Sep 1837


On Tuesday night, the intelligence reached this town that Mr. John Raby, the second son of the late Richard Raby, Esq. of Bath-lane, had been thrown from his horse while riding on the Hinckley-road, and was killed by a fracture of the skull; and on the following morning the fatal accident became generally known throughout the town, and excited deep regret and sympathy, the deceased being of a family much respected in Leicester. He was himself well known in our streets, possessing a commanding figure, and a manly gallant bearing. Although only in the nineteenth year of his age, he measured in height six feet two inches, and was well-proportioned, weighing upwards of thirteen stone. Of a bold and adventurous disposition, at the early age of seventeen he entered the British Legion as a lieutenant under General Evans, and was twice wounded during twelve months’ hard and dangerous service in the Peninsula, (for which, by the was, he never received one farthing). Had he perished abroad, it was a fate which his friends at home were prepared to expect; but having returned in safety, his untimely and unexpected death is a severe shock to his surviving relatives.

On Wednesday afternoon at 5 o’clock, an inquest was held on the body, at the Red Cow public house, on the road from Leicester to Hinckley, about four miles distant from the former place. The jury having been sworn by Mr. John Gregory, the coroner, they proceeded to view the body, which was lying in an upper room of the house. The countenance of the deceased was remarkably placid, and the features still retained that beauty for which they were in life distinguished.

Mr. Richard Raby, the elder brother of the deceased, deposed, that in October last his brother was eighteen years of age. When in the British Legion, he was exposed to severe privations; and to allay the cravings of hunger, and as a solace in the midst of other hardships, he had recourse to smoking. This practice became a habit, and he did not lay it aside on his return to his own country; but, owing to a domestic affliction, he was unable to indulge in it at home. Their younger brother was labouring under consumption, and it was considered objectionable to have any tobacco-smoking in the house: the deceased, therefore, was accustomed to visit some village or way-side public house twice or thrice a-week, that he might enjoy his favourite habit. It was with this object that he left home on Tuesday afternoon, between three and four o’clock. He rode out on a grey mare; a quiet, steady, tractable, sure-footed animal, but with a tendency to shy, and in late rather irritable, owing to a stab in the fleshy part of the hind leg, which it received about a month ago, while turned out in the field; the wound, in the witness’s opinion, having been purposely inflicted by some cruel individual. The deceased was a good rider, but venturesome, and fond of trying experiments on the temper and qualities of his horse. He was not a horse-soldier when in the army: he was in the infantry – in the 8th regiment.

Miss Susanna Hitchcock deposed that she was the daughter of the landlord of the Red Cow. The deceased occasionally came to the house: he had been there five or six times during the summer. On Tuesday afternoon, a little before four o’clock, he came on horseback, and remained until past seven. He was smoking the greater part of the time, and had a glass or two of cold gin and water, but was perfectly sober when he left the house. Witness saw him depart. The saddle slipped to one side when he placed his foot in the stirrup, and the consequence was that he was nearly falling: his leg bending towards the ground, his trousers got dusty, and witness went into the house for a brush; but on her return he was mounted. Witness could not say whether or not he had tightened the girth in her absence. He rode off gently, but put the horse into a gallop before he reached the turn in the road, about a hundred yards distant from the house. Rather more than half an hour afterwards, he was brought back insensible, the blood flowing from his head; and at about a quarter past nine o’clock, he died. He never spoke or moved after he was brought back. A surgeon, the assistant of Mr. Paget, was brought over from Leicester; but the deceased was dead when he arrived.

Mr. William Jones, of Halford-street, Leicester, deposed, that he was a coach-maker, and assisted Mr. Miles in his business. On Tuesday night, he was returning from a cottage on the Forest, in a car, accompanied by two of Mr. Miles’s apprentices. At about twenty minutes past seven o’clock, they were opposite the house of William Kenworthy Walker, Esq. half-a-mile nearer to Leicester than the Red Cow. It was then dusk, but he was able to see that there was a man lying across the centre of the road, on his back. The horse in the car swang round, as if alarmed at the sight. Witness alighted, and found the person quite insensible. His dress was soiled and torn as if he had been dragged; there was a severe wound at the back of his head. -[The wound, we understand, was nearly three inches in diameter; and the skull was driven deeply in upon the brain.] – His hat was off: it was lying on the road, at the distance of ten or twelve yards, towards the Red Cow. There was a pool of blood, as large as a hat crown, near the head; and froth was issuing from one side of the mouth. A large dog was standing over him, which opposed witness’s approach; but he removed the body to the side of the road out of the carriage way, and then went to the house of Mr. Walker for assistance. Mr. W. advised the removal of the injured man to the Red Cow, and promptly dispatched three of his servants to carry this suggestion into effect. The man (whom witness had not then recognised) was lifted gently into the car, and conveyed to the Red Cow. Immediately Miss Hitchcock saw him, she exclaimed, “Oh ! it’s Mr. Raby !” and witness then recognised him as that gentleman. A stranger from Warwick, on horseback, called at the house; and on hearing the nature of the accident, he very kindly said he would gallop off to Leicester, and send a surgeon. Witness followed shortly afterwards, lest possibly the stranger might not keep his promise; but on arriving in Leicester, he found that a surgeon had gone off to the Red Cow.

William Branston deposed, that he was in Mr. Raby’s service. After the accident, the mare came to Leicester, and was brought to Mr. Raby’s house on Tuesday night. Witness examined the animal carefully, and found a wound on each hind leg, at the back part of the hock. There was also a wound on the hip; and the saddle was much scrubbed on the same side. The fore-knees of the mare were not injured. It appeared to him that the animal (owing perhaps to a sudden check) had come down upon its haunches, and then fallen upon the near side, with the left leg of the deceased undermost. In this view he was confirmed by the fact that the left ancle [sic], and the outside of the knee of the deceased, were much bruised and lacerated. The hat of the deceased having fallen off, his bare head had come into contact with the ground. Witness was inclined to think that the deceased had not been dragged, but had received all his injuries in the fall. The saddle was properly fitted on when the mare was brought to Mr. Raby’s; but, for anything that he knew to the contrary, it might have been re-girthed by the person who found it.

Mr. Thomas Podd stated, that he had put this question to the man, and he replied that he had not meddled with the saddle, but rode upon it to Mr. Raby’s just as he found it.

The jury, after a brief consultation, returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.”

Mr. Walker was present during the inquest; and when Mr. Jones spoke in warm terms of the assistance which he had rendered on the previous evening, Mr. Richard Raby earnestly thanked him for his attention to his unfortunate brother in his dying moments. Mr. Walker replied that he had certainly done what he could, but it was no more than he was bound to do.

At the close of the inquest, the body was placed in a leaden coffin, and conveyed in a hearse to the Catholic chapel, as it was thought inexpedient (under the circumstances) to remove it to the house of Mrs. Raby, the bereaved mother of the deceased.


source: The British Newspaper Archive , brightsolid Newspaper Archive Limited.



Leicestershire Mercury – Saturday 09 September 1837

Fatal Accident

A very painful sensation was created in this town on Wednesday in consequence of a report that Mr. John Raby (lately a Lieutenant of the 8th Scotch Regiment of Infantry, in the British Legion,) had been killed on the Hinkley-road, about four miles from Leicester. Mr. Raby’s youth and fine, handsome figure (standing six feet two inches, though he had not completed his nineteenth year,) together with the fact of his having been in service in Spain, (where he was twice wounded) occasioned almost universal sympathy on the dreadful report of his untimely fate being confirmed. The inquest was held at the Red Cow, (W. K. Waker, Esq. and several friends of the deceased being present,) when the following particulars were elicited:

Owing to the privations of the campaign, (the forces frequently having to subsist on brandy and cigars alone for nearly two successive days,) Mr. Raby had contracted a habit of smoking which he was unable to indulge in at home in consequence of the illness of one of his brothers, who is in the last stage of consumption. On this account it was his practice to ride to a neighbouring village, once or twice a week, where he could indulge his propensity without annoying any one [sic], and among other places he often called at the Red Cow, on the Hinckley-road, about four miles from Leicester. On Tuesday afternoon he came on a grey mare, about four o’clock, and after enjoying his cigar, he left the Red Cow, soon after seven o’clock, being perfectly sober, to return to Leicester. Miss Susannah Hitchcock (the landlord’s daughter) noticed that the saddle slipped while he was mounting, so much so that his trousers were dirties; but on fetching a brush to clean them, he rejected her offer, and, being properly mounted, bade her good night, and rode off gently, though she heard him break into a gallop as soon as he had passed the turn in the road, about 100 yards from the house. In less than an hour he was brought back perfectly senseless, with a terrible wound at the back of his head. Mr. William Jones, of Halford-street, assistant to Mr. Miles, coach-maker, having found him weltering in his blood, in the middle of the road, nearly opposite to Mr. Walker’s house, his hat being picked up about a dozen yards nearer the Red Cow, and his clothes being very dirty, as if he had been dragged about. Mr. Jones, in company with two of Mr. Miles’s apprentices was proceeding towards Leicester in a car, and, after removing the deceased from the road to the causeway, he proceeded to the house of Mr. Walker, who advised him instantly to convey the unfortunate young gentleman to the Red Cow, and kindly offered every assistance, sending three of his men to lift the deceased into the car and to support him till they reached the house, where he was instantly put to bed, and attended with all the care kindness could dictate. Soon after the accident was discovered a traveller from Warwick rode up, who said he would hasten to Leicester for medical assistance, but the poor fellow breathed his last a few minutes before Mr. Paget’s assistant arrived, having lived about three quarters of an hour after he was brought to the house, though he never betrayed the least sensibility, a portion of his skull having been driven into the brain. As soon as Mr. Jones saw the poor fellow safely in bed, he proceeded to Leicester to inform his friends, keeping a look out for the mare, but saw nothing of her until he arrived at the toll-gate, where a number of people were standing around her, noticing he wound on her hip, which was then bleeding.

Mr. Richard Raby, the brother of the deceased, said that his unfortunate brother was a good horseman, but very venturesome and fond of trying experiments, which his relations had often cautioned him against. The mare was a very steady, sure-footed beast, her only fault being a tendency to shy; but owing to her having received a stab in the thick part of her hind leg, just under the flank, when she was in the field about a month ago, (which appeared to have been done deliberately,) she had become rather irritable, and would probably plunge if struck on the wound, which was doubtless still very tender.

William Branston, servant to Mr. Raby, stated that he had examined the mare, and found a wound on each hind hock, as if she had fallen on her near side, and wounded her hip. He had never seen the mare rear, but he was of the opinion that she had been pulled up sharply, and that she had fallen on her rider, having noticed while undressing the body, that the outside of the deceased’s left knee and ancle [sic] were much lacerated and swollen, which would correspond with the wounds on the mare.

The man who rode her from the toll-gate to Mr. Raby’s house, said that the saddle was in its proper place.

The animal was then brought from the stable for the inspection of the Jury, who were convinced that the accident had been caused in a manner described by the last witness, the near side of the saddle being also much rubbed.

After a few minutes consultation, the Jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death, and the body was shortly afterwards conveyed to Holy Cross Chapel, where it was yesterday consigned to the family vault, constructed a few months ago to receive the remains of the father of this lamented youth.


source: The British Newspaper Archive , brightsolid Newspaper Archive Limited.

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