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Bridgwater, Somerset
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Henry Herbert Burrington

Bridgwater Mercury 12 December 1877 Supplied by R De Smet


The following evidence was adduced at the inquest held by Mr. English, the city coroner, on the body of Mr. H.H. Burrington, the particulars of whose sad death at Bath, where he had recently commenced business as a stationer, were briefly recorded last week:-

Mr. Ernest Field, resident medical officer of the Royal United Hospital said he was called about a quarter past twelve o'clock that morning to see the deceased, whose body was then in the Royal Baths lying on the steps leading from the bath. The limbs were perfectly placid, and water was flowing from the mouth. The body was free from marks of violence. The deceased appeared as if in perfect health up to the time of his death. A bottle was pointed out to witness by the attendant, on the ledge above the bath, and within reach of a person in it. The bottle contained a small quantity, barely a teaspoonful, of colourless fluid, possessing the odour of orange flower water. There was no label upon the bottle. He detected no odour of poison, and he was unable to ascertain the contents of the bottle by the odour. He had tested a portion for several poisons, but had not succeeded in detecting any. There was a solution of hydrate of chloral, which was dissolved in orange flower water, and was sold by chemists. It was a poison if taken in an overdose and was sold to procure sleep. The time had not been sufficient to test the liquid for that poison. The appearance of the body gave him the idea that the deceased died from drowning.

By the Jury: He did not think there was chloroform in the bottle.

By the Coroner: His idea was that deceased took some narcotic poison, which stupefied him, and then fell into the water and was drowned. No doubt he would otherwise have died from poison.

Susan Chivers said she had been in the employ of the deceased for three months as housekeeper. He was a printer and stationer and carried on business at 10 Stall Street. He was a single man, and no member of his family lived with him. The deceased had been complaining for the last week of loss of appetite and sleep, but he did not complain of anything else. She asked him the reason why he did not take his meals, and he replied that he did not know. He went to New King Street Chapel on Sunday evening, and took a little supper on his return, but he seemed very much depressed. He said he thought he had a cancer in his stomach, and when she suggested he had better have some advice about it he replied that there was no cure for it. That was the first time she heard him complain of the cancer. He retired about eleven o'clock. She heard him go downstairs once in the night. She had heard him on previous occasions go downstairs at night. He was very abstemious and she had never seen him otherwise than sober. She saw him at breakfast at nine o'clock on Monday morning. He was not then any better; but he looked very poorly. He went to business in the shop, and she did not see him again. About one o'clock she found a sealed letter lying on the table in the shop addressed to 'Mr. Burrington, the West Quay, Bridgwater,' and at the request of Mr. Yates (superintendent of the baths), who was in the shop at the time, she opened it and handed it to him. She knew the handwriting to be that of her master.

Miss Caroline Elizabeth Kingston, shop assistant to the deceased since August 20, said that until about a week ago the deceased appeared to be in good health. During the past week he had not looked well and seemed very low and depressed. He never gave her any reason for his depression, and she did not ask him. He appeared to get worse during the last week. She had not heard anything about a cancer till Sunday. She saw him in the shop on Sunday morning, when he appeared very low. He left about ten o'clock stating he should be back in about half an hour, but did not say where he was going.

By the Jury: The deceased had been working very hard, and had said that his business was very prosperous, and that he was well satisfied with it.

Mr. West, attendant at the baths, remembered seeing the deceased at the baths about three weeks ago, but that was the only time. Witness stated that deceased came to the baths about ten or fifteen minutes past ten o'clock on Monday morning. He asked for a bath and witness turned on the water, and the bath took about thirty minutes for preparation, and at the end of that time the deceased said he hoped they would not reckon the time taken for filling the bath, but that they would allow him an hour from the time the bath was full. A few minutes before twelve witness found the door still locked, and he entered the bath by a private door and found the deceased reclining on the third step, under the water, with his face upwards. He immediately turned the water off and went to the hospital. He returned to the baths, and with another attendant, laid deceased upon the top steps, and as soon as the physician came he pointed out to him a bottle which was nearly empty. The deceased desired the temperature of his bath to be from 96 to 98 degrees, and the attendant made it 96, which is a very unusual temperature.

Edwin Henry Burrington, of Bridgwater, leather merchant, said the deceased was his son, and was 26 years of age. He last saw him on the 4th of November; his son came to him on the 3rd, and spent the 3rd and 4th at home. When witness first saw him on 3rd he appeared very dejected and pale. Witness's wife also noticed a great change in the deceased, who complained very much of having too much work to do, and all the previous letters from deceased to his home complained of the same thing. After breakfast on the Sunday morning the deceased produced a statement of accounts, and remarked that he was doing remarkably well, but the accounts were so confused and incoherent that witness could not possibly understand them, and the deceased said he could not explain them to him. The deceased was a very good accountant and very systematic. Witness did not see much of deceased after the morning. Witness heard nothing about the cancer, but it is true he had an aunt who died from cancer. The deceased had only been in business three months, and was thoroughly conversant with his trade.

In reply to the Coroner, witness said he knew of nothing which would prey on his mind except over work.

After short consultation the Jury returned a verdict of 'Suicide while under temporary insanity'.

The mortal remains of the deceased were interred in the Bridgwater Cemetery on Friday last.

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