in the village...
murder or manslaughter is fortunately a rare occurrence in any
village, it is remarkable that there were two in Bere Regis
within the space of less than ten years - one in 1877 and the
other in 1886. In addition there was one earlier on in 1818.
There have doubtless been others during the course of the village's
history but any records regarding them have not survived. The
two referred to are, however, well documented by detailed contemporary
newspaper accounts of the initial reports, inquests and subsequent
Below is a press cutting about the first murder
in the village...
OF PREGNANT WOMAN
Bere Regis woman, Priscilla Brown was murdered on 14 May 1818.
She had been about 7 months pregnant according to Thomas Nott
the Bere Regis surgeon who examined the body which had been
found on a dung hill in Back Lane, behind West Street, Bere
Regis. She had been suffocated.
father of her unborn child, John Gollop (who had recently married
Charlotte Gilham) was arrested, tried, found guilty and hanged
at Dorchester gaol on 27 July 1818. The motive had been
to avoid the possibility of having to pay maintenance money
under a Bastardy Order. Priscilla Brown had already been
receiving maintenance of 2s.0d per week on account of her 8
year old son by another man under a Bastardy Order.
The next murder was that of a Policeman...
Hill fair had always attracted a large influx of visitors to
the village, and there was often a good deal of associated drunkenness
and rowdyism among both visitors and local inhabitants when
ugly situations could rapidly develop. On such occasions it
was customary for the one local policeman to be reinforced by
additional colleagues so that most of the potential trouble
spots could be patrolled.
the evening of 20 September, 1877 the local policeman Pc. Thomas
Bishop and Pc. Sansom were on duty in West Street, when at about
11 pm a dozen or so people came out of the Drax Arms. A quarrelsome
and noisy situation soon developed during which one of the number,
Henry Lock, a 25-year-old labourer, was heard to mutter threats
against Pc. Bishop who had previously summoned him for being
drunk and disorderly.
Drax Arms today
two policemen tried to persuade the troublemakers to go quietly
home, and towards this end Pc. Bishop separated the ringleader,
Lock, from the rest to escort him along a passageway to his
home, whilst Pc. Sansom kept the remainder at the entrance to
afterwards a neighbour came running for the assistance of Pc.
Sansom, saying "Come quick as your mate is beaten bad."
Sansom found Pc. Bishop lying on the ground with severe head
injuries after Lock had been seen to attack him about the head
with a large flint. Pc. Bishop was taken home, and in spite
of Dr. Lys having attended him all night, he died at 5.30 the
Lock was arrested, subsequently convicted of manslaughter and
sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.
Bishop, who was 38-years-old, had been the village policeman
for the past 2 1/2 years and had been held in very high esteem,
for on the day of the funeral all the village shops were closed
and window blinds were drawn in every house. The funeral procession
was headed by a contingent of 24 Constables under the command
of the Chief Constable, followed by members of the inquest Jury
and practically the whole population of the village. The village
schools were also closed, as in the log-book for the boys' school
the following item occurs for 24 September, 1877:
in the afternoon on account of the burial of the Pc, who was
Bishop left a widow and an 11-year-old child, and the villagers
started a fund for them which was opened with a donation of
£50. The highest sum which was at that time payable in
such circumstances from official sources was £63 17s.
6d. and it was not until 14 years later that widows of policemen
killed in the execution of their duties were entitled to a pension.
third murder was of a Grandmother by her Grandson...
murder occurred in 1886 at Chamberlaynes in a cottage opposite
the school, and was reported in the Dorset County Chronicle
of 14 October, 1886 as follows, under the heading:
at Bere Regis
A YOUNG MAN SHOOTING HIS
before going to press information reached us of a murder committed
in this village. A young man named Sidney Russell, aged 21,
on Tuesday night shot his grandmother, Sarah Scutt, aged 79,
with a pistol. After committing the dreadful deed he went to
the police station and gave himself into the custody of Pc.
Bugby, to whom he confessed his crime, for which no motive has
yet been assigned. When surrendering himself he said to the
constable "I have shot my grandmother; you must go and
lock into it." This was at five o'clock in the morning.
The young man lived with his grandmother, with whom, it is said,
he was not on very friendly terms.
latter sentence appears to be something of an understatement
as Russell had been about to leave his grandmother for good
by emigrating to Australia. In fact his departure was so imminent
that his luggage had already been taken to Wareham station,
and he had spent the evening going around Bere Heath and Hyde
making last farewells to various friends and acquaintances.
No really clear motive emerged at his subsequent trial, but
it was by some supposed that the number of farewell drinks he
had taken with friends during the evening had been sufficient
to unbalance him.
effect which this episode must have had on the neighbouring
school can be imagined from the following relevant entries in
the Heath School log book by the mistress, Miss Horth:
15. No school on Thursday afternoon as the room was required
for the inquest up-on the body of Mrs Scutt who was murdered
by her Grandson Sydney Russell in the cottage opposite the school
on the previous Tuesday night.
9th. Compelled to close the school this afternoon as I have
to go to Winchester to appear as a witness against Sydney Russell.
16th. Returned from Winchester & reopened school on wednesday
morning - was kept at Winchester 7 days waiting the trial which
took place on Tuesday 16th & the unhappy young man was condemned
today, but with a recommendation to mercy on account of mental-weakness.
to the Village History page