Tragedy In Harbury Windmill: Part One

From the Leamington Spa Courier, March 18th 1893

Harbury windmill in 2016
Image courtesy of Harbury Heritage Group

The two shocking fatalities at Harbury on Thursday and Friday last week, threw the usually quiet village into a state of great excitement.

The first refers to George Frederick Verney (27) miller, who while engaged in working his mill, late on Thursday night, it is supposed, fell and got entangled in the upright shaft, his legs being horribly mutilated. He evidently died in great agony. Full particulars will be found in the report of the inquest, which is given below.

The second death was that of Mrs Eliza Boote, widow of Mr C Boote, of Harbury, who, it appears, went to Verney’s house to try to comfort her niece (Verney’s wife) in her sad bereavement. It is stated that Mrs Boote had a desire to see the deceased, but before doing so, was so overcome that she herself died almost instantly. Having been suffering from heart disease, the coroner did not think an inquest necessary.


The inquest on the body of George Frederick Verney was held before Mr Dr Wynter (Coroner for Central Warwickshire), at the New Inn, on Saturday afternoon. Mr John Horley was foreman of the jury.

William Verney, father of the deceased, stated that he was a threshing machine proprietor, living at Harbury. The deceased was 27 years of age last October, and had resided at the Mill House for the past three years. Witness last saw him alive on the Wednesday morning previous. Deceased was in the habit of working at night when there was a good wind, and had worked many nights recently. Deceased knew all about the working of the mill and generally worked it alone. He thought it very probable that the deceased was in the dark, and that his clothes caught in the upright shaft. There was a pane out of the window close by, and he thought the draught from it would have blown the light out if deceased had passed it by. Sometimes the flour wanted poking down, and that would necessitate his having to go close by the window. Deceased’s clothing might have caught in the rope which was coiled round the upright shaft.

The foreman said he should think the accident might have occurred in the way suggested, as the rope was covered with blood. No doubt deceased did trip up over that rope, and fall against the shaft.


Edmund Edward Griffin said he was a carpenter and joiner, residing at Harbury. He knew deceased well, and met him on Thursday night, at about nine o’clock. Deceased was then taking a light up the steps into the mill. Witness told him to stop a minute or two till he could fetch his tools out, as they were in the mill. Deceased did so, and asked witness if he was going to make his uncle’s coffin. Witness replied that he was. Deceased said that he could not make room enough for witness to work at it in the mill that night but added that, if he wanted anything else they could see about it in the morning. Witness went home. Deceased told witness he was going to work in the mill the ‘night through’ and that was the reason he could not have the bench. Deceased was quite sober at the time.

(continued in part two)

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