Thursday, 14 March 2019

Murder in the Wilderness

Stennet Jeffrey worked for a Mr Warrener who farmed near the Tower on the Moor, Woodhall Spa.  Stennet visited Horncastle market on Saturday 21st June 1822 and, after enjoying alcoholic beverages at some Horncastle pubs he set off for home at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.  The distance was about 5 miles, not a great distance for a 22 year old farm worker of the early 19th century.
Stennet Jeffrey was murdered near here.
Stennet Jeffrey was murdered near this location.
The story goes that as he was passing along the footpath through a part of Whitehall Wood,
called "the Wilderness, " he was attacked by two men against whom he had given information of their poaching.  They were accompanied by a female named Sophia Motley, a big, masculine woman. His throat was cut and his body was thrown in a ditch.’They stole his watch, which he had bought at Horncastle the previous day and 20 shillings in silver.

Stennet’s murderers were thought to be from Coningsby Moor and was confirmed when it was discovered that the men stopped at a small public house  at Fulsby kept by a Mrs Copping, Fulsby is between The Wilderness and Coningsby Moor. Some bloodstained clothes were found concealed in a hedge near Fulsby.

A £100 reward was offered for the apprehension of the killers. One of the men was drinking in a small public house when he got into conversation with the landlord and another person, there was some disagreement about the facts of the murder, the man stated that he should know more than they as he was the last person in his company.  The constable was sent for and the man was arrested and taken to Lincoln. Along with another man he was convicted and transported for life. Motley was arrested as a suspect but there was insufficient evidence to convict her. Many years later a man named Paul Tomline confessed on his deathbed that he had been an accomplice in the murder of Jeffrey, he held Jeffrey down while his throat was cut.  

Stennett Jeffrey was buried at the church of St Lawrence, Revesby, 25th June 1822.

The murder of Stennet Jeffrey was true and reported in the next issue of the Stamford Mercury, but there are a few inconsistencies in this story; the first is that, along with many other crimes, murder and highway robbery were capital offences at that time, so why were the murderers transported?  Were they from a wealthy family? What were their names?

Sources:  Records of Woodhall Spa & Neighbourhood - J. Conway Walter
Stamford Mercury 28 June 1822

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