AS part of our weekly Crime Files series, we are taking a look back at the archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire's history.

The following story dates from 1844.

A FARM labourer was killed after a drunken squabble between workers turned violent on a Herefordshire farm in 1844.

Thomas Turner entered a guilty plea to a charge of manslaughter and a not guilty plea to a charge of assaulting a man with intent to do him grievous bodily harm when he appeared before Hereford Assizes in March 1844.

The court heard from James Thomas that he had been working as a labourer at Grange Farm in Adforton with the accused when he was attacked.

He told the court he had told Turner he should work faster or he would "nip his calf-skin", and had remarked on how much further ahead another reaper was.

Turner, he said, had made a comment in return, and was told to "shut his mouth" by another labourer, John Stephens.

Minutes later, he said, he saw Stephens on the ground, dead, and was struck himself by Turner, who caused him two wounds to the hip.

Another labourer, James Bryan, said he had seen Turner strike Stephens to the ground and then strike Thomas with a reaping hook.

But, he said, he had seen Thomas and Turner quarrelling before the blow was struck with the hook, and had seen Thomas strike the prisoner "a very severe blow" to the face.

His assertions were backed by another labourer, James Leary, who also said he had seen Thomas punch Turner.


The court heard the labourers had been drinking before the row broke out.

Surgeon James Williams said the wounds inflicted on Thomas had not been serious but had left him unable to work for a month.

Turner was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm, with the judge telling the court it was clear he had never contemplated committing the dreadful crime, but that they had taken place "under the excitement of intoxicating drinks".

"Persons of like conduct to yourself must be taught that if they indulge in such excesses they must suffer greatly for their actions," he said.

Turner was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for the two offences.