Murders Part 2


From the Bristol Times and Mirror, Saturday 12 December 1863.




On Wednesday morning last the body of a young man called Isaac Kendall, a coal hawker, living at Soundwell, Kingswood was found murdered in a ditch at a remote place called Foss-hill, within half a mile of North Wraxall, Wilts. The head was covered with wounds, the largest of which was seven inches long and three-quarters of an inch deep, and penetrating into the bone.. Four other wounds, from two to three inches long, also penetrated into the bone, and there were other smaller wounds. On the face was a large wound two and a half inches long under the nose and passing through the jaw bone; two other wounds, two and a half inches long, penetrated the bone of the lower jaw. These wounds have somewhat the appearance of having been inflicted with a bill hook or sharp instrument of that kind, and the deceased must have been attacked while lying asleep under his cart on the road on the night of Tuesday. Deceased, who is about 32 years of age, is the son of John Kendell, a man who lives in Soundwell, near Two-mile-hill, Kingswood. The members of the family for a number of years have been in the habit of travelling with coal on the road from Kingswood to Castle Coombe, and West Kington, Wilts, the grandfather (named Pearce) having made a considerable amount of money by the same vocation. Deceased, with several of his brothers, lived with his father, who in addition to travelling, keeps a grocers shop at Soundwell, to which the mother attends while Kendell and his sons travel two or three times a week with coal. They generally travel together, but on Monday morning deceased left home alone, at nine o'clock, with a pony and cart and some five or six donkeys. He took his loads of coal at Cook's pit, Pucklechurch, and went on his journey to West Kington. He appears to have sold his load of coal - for which he would receive about 30s. - at Coombe, some 14 miles from Bristol, and was returning home on Tuesday. As was his custom he stopped on Tuesday night on the road at Foss-hill, near North Wraxall, and here put up for the night. Turning out the pony and donkeys inthe road, he was in the habit of tipping up the cart, for shelter, and placing the donkey pads and his coat underneath the cart, he usually made his temporary bed for the night; and here the murder was committed. The body was discovered about 8 o'clock in the morning of Wednesday by William Prosser, a dealer in watercresses, who gave an alarm, and a police officer had the body removed to a stable belonging to Mr. Alborough, of North Wraxall. Mr. James Hooper, Surgeon, of Ford, was sent for, and he immediately made an examination of the body, which was quite cold. He minutely examined the wounds in order to give evidence to the inquest. When found the body was lying with the head against the back of the ditch or gutter, and the knees were sticking up above the edge of the road. Near the scene of the murder was deceased's pocket knife (open), his purse, also opened and rifled of its contents; lying alongside it was a penny piece, and the only other money found was three halfpence, which was in the deceased's pocket. His hands are said to be bruised and otherwise injured in such a manner as to lead to the inference that the poor fellow, being attacked while asleep had thrust his arm over his head at the first blow, and stuggled as well as he could, to defend his head against the fearful gashes inflicted upon him by his dastardly assailants.


It is almost impossible at present to account for the motives which could have led to the commission of this crime, as one can hardly believe that the assassins were tempted by the 30s. of which deceased was apparently robbed. The frightful manner in which the ruffains treated their victim - a slightly-built weak looking man, whose appearance was more of a youth of 22 than 30, and the vicious and revengeful feelings which must have prompted such a deed, point to some other cause; and we have reason to believe that this will afford a clue which will eventually lead to the discovery of the murderers. Deceased, it appears, was out on bail, to answer a charge at the approaching Wilts session of being connected with the robbery of four donkeys, which took place some month or two ago at Malvern. Recently, deceased is said to have threatened to give the names of his accomplices, and was heard to say, in reference to the approaching trial that whatever was the result, "he would not go to prison alone." He was therefore in a position to divulge a secret which would implicate two other men concerned in the robbery, and although there is not a certainty, there is a great probability of the murder having been committed with the intention of effectually preventing him carrying out his threat. This is the light in which the matter is viewed by many of those who live in the neighbourhood of deceased's home, and were acquainted with him on the road which he travelled. The two men alluded to live in a village not far from this city, and it is stated that they travel the same road, and were seen on it the day or evening preceding the murder.


The event has necessarily created some excitement in the neighbourhood, and diligent inquiries are being made by the police.


An inquest on the body of the deceased has been opened before Mr. W. B. Whitmarsh, coroner, and the deceased having been identified by his father, John Kendell, Prosser deposed to the circumstances under which he found the deceased.


Mr. Superintendent Wright, of Chippenham, intimated that he was not prepared with evidence sufficient to bring the case home to the two men who were strongly suspected to have committed the murder.


The inquest was therefore adjourned to enable him to obtain further evidence. We should state that Mr. Bakewell, of Chippenham, appeared to watch the case on the part of the friends of deceased.




The Plume of Feathers, Burton

The case continued, with a report here from the same newspaper on 26 December 1863. Note - the man named John Kendall, who is being prosecuted, is not related to the murdered man, whose father is also called John Kendall.




On Saturday the four prisoners, Thomas Hicks, sen., Tom and John Hicks, his sons, and John Kendall, were again brought before the magistrates at Chippenham, and again after the examination of seven or eight hours duration, the two younger ones, John Hicks, a boy of 10 years of age, and Tom Hicks, 17, were released from custody, there being no evidence whatever against them. In order to provide ample room for the numerous witnesses and the public, the examination took place in the large room of the Town-hall, the magistrates present being Sir John Awdry (chairman), the Revds. S. Goddard and B. Winthrop, Mr H. Awdry, and Sir J. Neale. The case for the prosecution was conducted by the clerk to the magistrates (Mr. Phillips), under the direction of Captain Meredith, R.N., chief-constable of the county; and Mr. Wright, the superintendent of police.


Mr. Edlin, instructed by Mr. Tucker, of the Albion-chambers, Small-street, defended the prisoners.


Robt. Kendall, a lad, said - I am brother of the deceased, and live at Kingswood; I am no relative of the prisoner Kendall. On Tuesday night, December 8th, I was at Kington Down Gate with my Father, John Kendall, and slept there; I was turning our donkeys down the road about ten o'clock, when I saw two men come up the road leading to Burton; I saw the exact time by the clock at the turnpike gate; it was dark; I got close up to them; they both ran away; I ran after them, and they ran back down the road up which they came; I overtook one man and found that it was Hicks; I asked him if that was not his son Thomas, and he said it was: the gate is two miles from Bragland Bottom; I have not heard the elder Hicks speak of my bother lately , since he last beat him about two years ago.


Hannah Hall, keeper of the West Kington Down Gate, said - On Monday night, Dec, 7th, the four prisoners were at the Kington Gate, and Isaac Kendall, the deceased was with them. They all had tea there together, and left the house about eight o'clock. There was no quarrel between them in my presence; I don't know where their donkeys were, or where the prisoners slept that night; on the Tuesday night following, the prisoner Hicks, senr., came to my house alone, as near as I can say about half-past 10 o'clock; I know it was after 10; he said, "Stop, don't lock the door; I want to have a drink out of old Kendall's kettle;" he came in and drank a drop of tea that they left in the kettle; he then went away, and I saw nothing more of him; on the next morning (Wednesday), between eight and nine o'clock, the four prisoners came up to the gate; Thomas Hicks, the elder, asked me what sort of fire I had; I said not much of a one; he stood before it; his son Thomas said, "What do you do that for? He replied, To dry myself, for I am as wet as mortar;" John Kendall said, "Let's go on: it's no use biding here;" the others had been standing just inside the door; they then left, and I saw nothing more of them; they never called at my house before in my presence.


John Holder, a labourer, of Mountain Bowyer, North Wraxall, said - I have known the deceased for many years travelling on the road; I was going home from my work about half-past five o'clock on Tuesday, December 8th, and had reached the cross-roads at Bragland Bottom, when I saw two men standing in the road; on reaching them I said, "Is that Thomas Hicks?" he replied "Yes it is," but I cannot swear that he was the prisoner Hicks who is now here, for it was so dark I could not see his features; the other man went off, and I do not know who he was, or where he went; I was left with the man who said his name was Hicks; I spoke to him by the name of Hicks, because I thought I knew his voice; we walked two or three hundred yards along the road together, until we got to the road leading to Kington Wick, where he left me; our conversation was about the price of potatoes and such things; I only knew Hicks from seeing him travelling the road; the prisoner Thomas Hicks is the man I supposed him to be, but I cannot be certain it was Hicks.


William Isaacs, shoemaker, of West Kington, said - I knew the deceased and all the prisoners; last March I had a conversation with Thomas Hicks, sen., at the Dudley coal-pit, Pucklechurch; pointing to Isaac Kendall, the deeased, who was on the opposite side of the yard, he said, "Look at that b______; he stole your donkey. It would be no harm to kill him; d___his eyes. He killed one of his own donkeys the other day up on Coddington-road, and two or three more dead in the week. It would be no more to kill him than it would be to kill a snake."


James Angell said - I live at Mangotsfield, and on Thursday, December 10th, I was cleaning out a ditch on the side of the road near Pucklechurch, and leading towards the coalpit spoken of by the last witness. Hicks the elder, and Kendal came along the road. I heard Thomas Hicks say to Kendall "That was the way to do the b______; Kill him." Kendal answered, "It is a bad job," or it will be a bad job;" I cannot say which he said. They could not see me when I was at work; it was a deep ditch, and there was a high bank, above which they could not see me unless I stood up. I was at the time standing up, peeping just through the stones at the top of the bank. I had not then heard of the murder. I was on the field side, and the fence or hedge was between me and the prisoners, they being three or four yards off. This was about four o'clock, and they were coming back from the coalpit. I told John Kendall, the father, of this conversation the following Monday.


Charles Adlam, labourer, of Nettleton, said - I knew deceased and Thomas Hicks and his sons. I knew of a quarrel between Hicks and deceased nearly a twelvemonth ago. It took place at Nettleton, near the Foss, in the road. Hicks "pitched into" Kendal , who ran away. Hicks followed him a little way, and then stopped and uttered some words much too horrible to use. He said, "D___ his ___ eyes; I will murder the ____ before it's long." As soon as Hicks went on the deceased, who had waited at the top of the hill afraid to come down, came up again, and I had some conversation with him.


P.S. John Midwinter said - I am a sergeant of the Gloucestershire constabulary stationed at Marshfield, and I arrested Thomas Hicks, senr., and his son Tom at a quarter to six o'clock, at Hinton, on Thursday evening, Dec. 10th; I told them I arrested them on a charge of murder, and I cautioned them; I searched them, and on the elder Hicks I found two half-sovereigns, six half-crowns, a two-shilling piece, and an old purse; at the same time I examined his boots, and found them heavily plated in front; some people call them tips, but I call them plates; they may be called heavy tips; his son Tom's were only comon nailed boots, and on his person I found a purse, a half-sovereign, a half-crown, one sixpence, and a knife; I took them from Hinton to Tolldown; going along the road I said to the elder prisoner "Have you heard of the murder of poor Ike," He said, "Yes, I heard something about it to-day at the pits at Pucklechurch;" I said "Did you not hear about it at Bond's (the public-house at Tormarton) yesteday?" He said "Yes, I did hear something about it there." I was on Kington-down the night before last (the night previous to the murder), and Ike and I parted company on the following morning; we came to Tolldown and met Supt. Wright and Sergeant Gerrard, who had arrested the other prisoners, and they then took custody of the two elder prisoners Hicks and Kendall, and I took the others on to Marshfield; the coin I produce, which is rather a curious one, I found on Hicks, sen., but it has not yet been traced; it is a half-crown marked with an ace; on the younger prisoner I found a penny and three farthings, the latter being also rather curiously marked.


After a few remarks from the Chairman, Mr. Edlin said he thought , in discharge of his duty, it was time for him to ask those having the conduct of the prosecution, if they had any further evidence applying to two if not three of the prisoners. But especially with regard to the two younger ones, it was his duty to ask the court if there was anything more to offer against them, not to detain them any further.


Captain Meredith, in reply to the chairman, said he was not aware of any.


Mr. Edlin.- Then I shall simply ask that they be liberated.


The magistrates retired to consider this application, and on returning, the chairman said the bench were of the opinion that the two younger prisoners might be discharged. They were accordingly liberated, but the chairman requested them not to go away; as they might be wanted.


A conversation ultimately took place between the magistrates and the the learned counsel, the inquiry having occupied between seven and eight hours. Mr. Edlin said, that understanding that the magistrates were about to remand the two prisoners, he was not in a position, under the circumstances, to offer any opposition to such a course, providing that it was to an early date.


The two prisoners were then remanded till Tuesday.




The two prisoners, Thomas Hicks and John Kendall, were again brought before the magistrates, to-day, at the Townhall, Chippenham, on a charge of being concerned in this revolting murder. The magistrates present were Sir John Awdry (chairman), Sir John Neale, the Rev. B. Winthrop, and Mr. H. G. Awdry. Mr. Edlin, instructed by Mr. Tucker, again appeared for the prisoners.


The examination was resumed at half-past eleven o'clock, the prisoners being allowed to sit down during the inquiry..


John Kendall, the father of the murdered man, was recalled, and his evidence having been read to him, the witness continued - I was lying down some time back in the summer, just beyond Kington Down pike, when Tom Hicks, the prisoner, came to me as I was about to have some tea, and said he would pull my b_____ old tongue out of my mouth by the roots; not a word had passed between us before; we had no recent quarrel; at the same time my son, the deceased, was collecting sticks the other side of the wall, but he was afraid to come over on account of his fear of Hicks; a woman named Sally, who cohabited with my son, was by my side at the time, and heard and saw all that took place.


In reply to the chairman, the witness said that the deceased told him, after Hicks was gone, that he was afraid to come over the wall, fearing that Hicks would knock him down immediately he got over.


Hannah Hall, keeper of the Kington Down turnpike-gate, was also re-called, and her former evidence having been read over to her, she further stated - I told Thomas Hicks, the prisoner, that Isaac Kendall, the murdered man, had stated to the magistrates, at a trial for donkey-stealing, at which I was a witness, that he (Thomas Hicks) had two of the donkeys, and John Kendall, the other prisoner, had one; this was last month, when Isaac kendall was brought before the magistrates for stealing the donkeys, and my conversation with Hicks about it occurred a week before the hearing of the case; both Isaac Kendall and William Strange were committed for trial on the charge, but Kendall, the murdered man, was admitted to bail; when Hicks called at my house on the morning after the murder he left no linen there, and I supplied him no dry linen; when I told Hicks what Kendall had said to the magistrates about the donkeys, he said, the b___ b___, he ought to have his ____ tongue torn out of his mouth;" the following week he came to my house again; he spoke about Kendall; I told him again what Kendall had said, and he made use of the same expression.


John Smith, landlord of the Feathers Inn, Burton, in the Parish of Nettleton, said - I remember the evening of Dec. 10th, when , sometime after dark, Mr. Superintendent Wright and another constable called at my house, with the two prisoners in a trap; I went out to the trap, and spoke to John Kendall and his companion, and Mr. Wright came into the house; about half-past eight o'clock next morning I went to the place where the trap stood and picked up a knife, about three inches from where the near wheel had left an impression plainly visible on the ground; the front of my house is eight or ten yards back from the road, and there is very little traffic along the spot; I gave th knife to Sergeant Gerrard on the day following, and I recognize the knife now produced as that which I picked up; I had previously shown it to Mr. Hooper, in the stable where the body was lying.


Mr. James Wright, superintendent of police at Chippenham - On Wednesday , Dec. 9th, I went to Kington Wick, and saw the body of Kendall lying in a stable; I was talking to him on the Tuesday afternoon, at four o'clock, at Castle Coombe; on Thusday, Dec. woth, I attended the inquest at the Shoe Inn, North Wraxall, which was adjourned till Friday, Dec. 18th; I then went with Sergeant Gerrard in search of the prisoner Thomas Hicks, and met him and his son Tom at Tolldown, in custody of Sergeant Midwinter of the Gloucestershire constabulary; Sergeant Gerrard took John Kendall, who with the boy John Hick, was driving their donkeys; I took the custody of the two prisoners now before the bench; I handcuffed Thomas Hicks to the side of the trap on my left, and Kendall was behind me handcuffed to the trap on the other side with Sergeant Gerrard; before stopping at Burton I examined the prisoners' boots at the Tolldown public-house, with the assistance of Sergeants Midwinter and gerrard; on the toes of Hicks's boots I found tips, and on that on the right boot was nail projecting one-eighth of an inch from the tip, which was firm on the boots; on the toes of Kendall's boots I found iron plates; I then took the prisoners on to Chippenham, sitting in the trap, and secured as I have described, and stopped on the way at the Feathers inn, Burton, at about half-past eight o'clock; I there got out of the trap, giving the reins to Sergeant Gerrard, who held them between the prisoners, over their shoulders; I wished to ask a question of the landlord, and the prisoners said they were very cold, and requested me to let them have a pint of warm beer; I complied, and it was taken out to them by the landlord; I was only there a minute or two; I then went on to Chippenham, where the prisoners got out in the station yard, and only had a few yards to walk to the cells; it was a dark night; at the station I saw them both searched; seven pence half-penny was found on Hicks, and on Kendall was found a knife and some 9s. or silver; they were locked up in separate cells; on the following morning I had the prisoners in the station room again, and assisted in a minute search; examined Hicks's boot, and the tip in which the projecting nail had been seen was gone; I asked him what he had done with it, saying, "it was all right last night, and you must have taken it off in the cell;" he replied that he did not know; he had not taken it off, and it must have dropped off; I just looked about the cell, but could see nothing of it; on the Tuesday morning after the first examination, I went to the cell again, and said, "Tom, I am not at all satisfied about that tip, and you must have taken it off here; it must be here somewhere;" he said he had not taken it off, and he knew nothing about it , and it must have dropped off; I then searched the cell; there is a ventilator in the wall with an iron plate fixed there; there was asmall hall in the wall at this place, and Sergeant White placed a candle in the ventilator, through one of the holes of which the light reflected on a ledge. Inside, where I saw a part of the tip; on removing a brick, I found half of the tip I now produce; I said to the prisoner Hicks, "Well, Tom, here it is, I thought it could not be far off;" he said "I know nothing about; I did not put it there;" I compared it with Hicks's boot, which I now produce, and it corresponds; the whole of the tip was on the boot when I first examined it; at the same time I said, "Well, Tom, here is something else," and I then threw on the table the knife found by the last witness; when I asked him if he knew anything of that knife, he said, "Yes, I do, it was mine once; I lost it between Tolldown and Burton;" I said"When?" he replied "On Monday last;" this was the knife I received from Sergeant Gerrard on the previous night, and , and which was picked up by the witness Smith.


Mr Edlin, at the close of the case for the prosecution, said there was no evidence whatever against Kendal to justify his detention.


The room was cleared for a short time; at the expiration of which,


The Chairman said, it is the opinion of the bench that the prisoner Kendall may be discharged.


Mr. Edlin - Then, with regard to the other prisoner, Hicks, I should submit that there is but a shadowy case against him; but should you be of the opinion that it is your duty to leave it for the decision of another tribunal, I should advise the prisoner to reserve his defence.


Hicks was then commited to take his trial for wilful murder at the Wiltshire assize, in March next.







The story came to a conclusion at the end of March. This report was in the Devizes and Witshire Gazette on Thursday 31 March 1864.


THE WEST KINGTON MURDER - The grand Jury, in accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Baron Martin, in his charge, on Friday, ignored the bill against Thomas Hicks, for the wilful murder of Isaac Kendall, at West Kington, on the 8th of Dec. last. The business of the Assize was thus considerably shortened, there being something like 30 witnesses for the prosecution.


After the Court rose, Mr. Baron Martin left Devizes by 5.45 train for Savernake to dine with the Marquis of Ailesbury.




A bit of an unsatisfactory end to the case. The Western Daily Press for 28 March 1864 has an editorial piece discussing this - I'll include it shortly.