Manslaughter at Yeovil

Manslaughter at Yeovil

Result of a fracas at the Crown Inn


The following report is from the 27 December 1862 issue of The Bristol Mercury -

"John Birkely, 20, was indicted and charged on the coroners inquisition with the manslaughter of Uriah Lane, at Yeovil. Mr Prideaux appeared for the prosecution, and Mr Ffooks for the defence.

It appeared from the evidence that on the evening of the 17th of November, being the first day of Yeovil fair, the deceased and the prisoner, with some other persons, were at the Crown Inn, at Yeovil. A man named Wm Crocker [Junior], who was originally charged with the prisoner, but the bill against him was thrown out by the grand jury, asked a girl named Lydia Abbott to drink with him. She declined to do so, and Crocker then threw a glass of beer into her face. The deceased interfered, and said it was an unmanly thing to do, and Crocker said he would do the same to him. Lane said he would not give him the chance, as he would leave the room.

He accordingly left, and the prisoner had a scuffle with a man named Guppy, in the passage of the inn. The deceased interfered, and said there should be no fighting there. The deceased was struck down, and he cried 'Murder'. Another scuffle took place outside the Crown and the deceased was knocked down and kicked.

He got up, however, and went away with the girl Abbott and the other men. They went to the Choughs Tap, the Railway Tavern and the Butchers Arms and drank at each place and separated between twelve and one o'clock in the morning. Shortly afterwards the deceased died, as it was alleged, from the effects of the blows he had received.

After the examination of three witnesses, his lordship stopped the case as he held the prisoner was not sufficiently identified. The jury accordingly returned a verdict of not guilty."


As a sidenote, it appears that William Crocker "considered himself the best man in the town" and frequently challenged people to fights after he'd been drinking. Indeed, some years before this trial he had been indicted for the manslaughter of George Watkins resulting from a fight at the Running Horse in Grope Lane (today's Wine Street). He was convicted of common assault only and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. For full details see here.