Murder Most Foul
Banished for murder
In the early 11th century, land here was held by Tostig Godwine, Earl of Northumberland and Harold II's youngest brother.
Tostig was banished by Edward the Confessor for various crimes, including the murder of Orm Gamel, Lord of Kirby and for “the accursed murder of the noble Northumbrian the gens-Gospatric, whom Queen Eadgith commanded to be craftily slain in the King's Court for the sake of her brother Tostig; Gamel son of Orm, and Ulf, son of Dolphin, whom Earl Tostig commanded to be slain craftily at York the year before, as well as for the immensity of the tax which he had unjustly taken from all Northumbria.”
That he was later pardoned is evident from entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and his ownership of lands - such as the Manor of Horley. Tostig died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, just before the Battle of Hastings.
For such a small village Hornton has had a surprisingly colourful and varied crime history over the last millennium. From petty theft, assault and drunkenness to murder, we've seen it all over the centuries.
In 1391 John Clerk of Hornton was pardoned by the Bishop of Neath and on the testimony of the Archbishop of Dublin for the death of Thomas Brygge, also from Hornton, “killed at Sant Putte on the Hornton High Road on Sunday after St Matthew”. The exact location of this incident is unknown, but there were archery butts on the high road between Horley and Hornton at the time. King Edward III decreed that “most able-bodied men, if not engaged in war with France, should practice archery at the butts”.
Wrong resting place
In 1882 a sad and singular affair occurred in Hornton’s churchyard.
A stillborn infant from the Colman family was buried in the churchyard on a Saturday morning at about 10 o'clock. On Sunday morning it was discovered that the coffin had been disinterred and tied up in a nearby walnut tree.
Originally, it had been intended that the child should be buried at Horley. A dispute about fees meant that the infant's coffin was brought to Hornton instead, where it seems it was buried for a shilling by the notorious and much-disliked vicar, Charles Heaven. The fee at Horley was half-a-crown.
A ‘wilful and felonious murder’
A notorious incident in Hornton during the Victorian era was the murder of Hannah Treadwell in 1847.
Both born in Hornton, William Cave and Hannah (known as Martha) Treadwell had a long-term affair, though each was married to another. Hannah lived with husband Edward near Holloways Mill in Hornton (above West End) and they had 11 children, while William owned land in the area and married another Hornton girl, Catherine Baldwin, who was his second wife.
William was accused of the ‘wilful and felonious murder’ of Hannah who, by that time, was a widow and considered to be ‘not the best of characters’.
The prosecution told the packed Oxford courthouse:
“...They passed the house of Mrs Holloway who heard the deceased make use of very bad language towards Cave. The prisoner at that time had a gun with him: a short time after a report of a gun was heard and the deceased very shortly was found ... lying on a footpath with a large wound in her throat and a stream of blood flowing from it.”
It was claimed that Hannah had tried to hit William with a stone, found in her grasp when she died. The judge, in his summing up, told William that he felt the jury had ‘taken a very merciful consideration of the case’. William was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to be transported for life. He was transferred from Oxford gaol to Millbank prison to await transportation, but died there nine months later.
Secretary, Hornton History Group
Thanks to Chris Woodcock for her original research and text.