Monday, 1 August 2011

Murder most horrid.

Oddingley, a quiet scatter of buildings in the Worcestershire countryside,

dominated by the mellow grey stone church and the ancient half timbered farmhouse.  A scene of bucolic charm. But on the 24th of June 1806 the even tenor of life was shattered by the brutal murder of the Rev'd George Parker, Rector of St.James Church, shot and clubbed to death in his own clover field. Appointed to Oddingley in 1793, by 1799 he was in dispute with his parishioners over the amount to be paid in lieu of tithes. Thomas Clewes, John Barnett, George Banks and Samuel Evans in particular openly voicing their dislike of the rector.
After the rector was shot the murderer was seen to escape towards Trench Woods and was not caught. The local magistrate made the preliminary enquiries (This was in the days before organised police forces) and it appeared that the likely culprit was Richard Hemming, a carpenter from Droitwich, a man with a reputation for violence, who had been hired to do the job. A search failed to find Hemming and it was assumed that he had got clean away. Without him the accessories could not be charged and the furore died down.
In 1830, during the rebuilding of a barn on a farm once tenanted by Clewes a skeleton was discovered buried beneath the floor. The skeleton was identified as that of Hemming by a carpenters rule found with the body, it was clear he had been murdered to silence him.. By now Evans had died but after a coroners hearing Clewes, Banks and Barnett were sent to Worcester Assises on charges of aiding and abetting Hemming's murder. The case was heard before Mr. Justice Littledale but, on a technicality Clewes was found not guilty and the case against the others was dropped and so the horrid tale of the Oddingley murders came to an unsatisfactory end.

St. James Church still stands,

with it's medieval stained glass of kings and saints,

it's 16th C. wooden pews

and the bracket to hold an hour glass to let the preacher know when he had droned on long enough.
I doubt most people who pass through the hamlet have any idea of the bloody deeds that took place here two hundred years ago, it keeps it's secret well.
Who knows what Worcester, faithful city of the Civil War, will reveal.

Watch this space...............

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