The tragic death of George MITCHELL

21 Apr

When I heard from a family member that my great grandfather George MITCHELL had died as a result of a kick from a horse, I knew that I just had to find out more details.

I already knew when he was buried (10th January 1951) and where (West Dean, Sussex), in fact I had already been and located his grave and from the inscription on the kerb stones knew the exact date of death.

I had the GRO reference, so I could have ordered a death certificate, but that would give me very little detail that I didn’t already have. Instead I guessed such a story would have made the local newspaper, even though he was “only” a carter, not a public figure.

I was correct. Not only was there a report of the Coroner’s inquest (in two separate local papers) but also a report of his funeral as well.

The inquest heard evidence from George’s son Lawrence, who had witnessed the accident. He told how on New Year’s Eve his father had let the 11 year old horse out of the stable (where it had been kept for several days due to bad weather), so that he could clean it out.

Once George had cleaned the stable he took the horse by the mane to lead it back, then the horse reared and kicked him in the side of the face and he fell to the ground. A doctor was called and George was taken to St. Richard’s Hospital in Chichester where he remained, unconscious, until his death on the 4th January 1951, aged 77 years old.

The coroner returned a verdict of “Death by misadventure” but was unable to say whether the injury, “a fracture to the base of the skull and accompanying brain injury”, was caused by the kick from the horse or when George fell to the ground.

The report of the funeral was unexpected, and also contained more detail than I would have expected. I am including the full report as an example of what can be found by searching local newspapers:

The funeral of Mr. George Mitchell (77), who was fatally injured on New Year’s Eve and died in St. Richard’s Hospital on January 4, took place at West Dean Church last Wednesday. The Rev. J. B. Hunt conducted the service. Mr. Mitchell lived at Warren Farm, Chilgrove, for 52 years and worked 29½ years for Mr. Knight, 4 for Mr. Ruff and 18 for Mr. Heyler, the present tenant. His wife died in 1939. They had 14 children, 58 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and four generations were born in the same house. Chief mourners were Messrs. Henry, Robert, John, Laurance, Walter, Alfred and Edward Mitchell (sons), Mrs. N. Cutler, Mrs. D. Clark, Mrs. D. Daughtry, Mrs. E. Elliott and Mrs. R. Treagust (daughters). The inquest on Mr. Mitchell is reported in our Chichester news on page 2.

West Sussex Gazette, 18 January 1951.

There is so much information contained in that single report that I can follow up on and verify with other sources (proof that it shouldn’t be trusted 100% is evident by the fact that some of the names are spelt wrong). It is hard to think of another source where you will find the names of someone’s previous employers and the length of service for each of them.

I think I did have all the daughter’s married names, but it is a good check for my research. Then there are those 58 grandchildren, I think I have details for about seven or eight of them so far!

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