Tragedy In Harbury Windmill: Part Two

From the Leamington Spa Courier, March 18th 1893

Harbury windmill in 2016
Image courtesy of Harbury Heritage Group

(continued from part one)

Thomas Berry, a haulier, residing at Harbury, said that about 10 minutes to 11 on Thursday night, as he was going to bed, Mrs Verney came into his house and said that her husband had not come home; she hoped nothing had happened to him and asked him if he would go down to the mill to see, as she was frightened. Witness asked the last witness to go with him and they and Mrs Verney all went down to the mill together. She supplied them with a candle and they went up into the mill, witness going first. The mill was quite still at the time but when witness got to the floor next to where he found deceased, it started to go. He went up the next pair of steps and saw deceased going round with the shaft.

Witness noticed at once the extent of the injuries to deceased, and ran and put the brake on to stop the mill. Having done that, he then ran for the doctor and assistance. The doctor came in less than three minutes. Verney was dead when witness first saw him, and he should think he had been dead quite an hour. He saw the rope in the cog above, but deceased was perfectly clear from any rope. He also saw the lantern picked up afterwards. It was broken to pieces. He thought it probable that the lantern went out, and deceased, catching his feet in the rope, was taken up. By a juror: the mill was in full cloth, and was going when witness went to see to his horse between nine and 10 o’clock that night. It afterwards stopped, and a flush in the wind started it again. Deceased had his arm around the shaft, as if in a death clutch. When found he was close to the ground, and quite away from the cogs.

Coroner and verdict

The coroner, in summing up, said there was not the slightest evidence or suspicion whatever of any foul play having taken place.

A verdict of “Accidental death, resulting from being entangled in the shaft of the mill”, was accordingly returned.

A juror (Mr Green) said he should like to draw the attention of the jury to the dangerous state of the mill from dilapidations. There were no means of governing or stopping the mill except from the stage, which was in a rotten condition, being unsafe for anyone to walk upon. He contended that means of putting on the brake and stopping the mill should be provided on each floor. Even if two persons were working the mill, and one got entangled, it would be impossible for the one to save the other, as one would have to run down the stairs and out onto a dangerous platform before the mill could be stopped. That was the only way the mill could be stopped, and there were seven floors to it.

Other jurors concurred in those remarks.

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