The Piper Stabbing

Foxearth & District Local History Society

A sad story about a scuffle on the way home after the pubs closed, where a knife was drawn and a young man died. The charge was manslaughter, as there seems to have been some provocation. One can only echo the warning of the Rev Charles Badham who, on the coroners verdict being given, warned of the necessity of avoiding bad company
Foxearth & District Local History Society

Bury and Norwich post

April 3rd 1850

Yesterday at about 10 o'clock a dreadful case of stabbing took place on the Bulmer road about 1 mile from Sudbury.

Two young men from Belchamp were on their return from Ballingdon accompanied by two young females when two other men named Piper from Ballingdon followed them, one of the Pipers had been aquainted with a young woman and on overtaking the Belchamp men a scuffle broke out and both the Pipers were stabbed, one in the abdomen the other in various parts of the body, the latter is not considered in danger but the other is, as part of the bowels have protruded through the wall of his stomach.

Three men who reside in Otten Belchamp were arrested on suspicion, their names are Edgitt, Howard and Ginn.

April 10th 1850.

On Tuesday last, mortification having taken place in the case of Charles Piper, Dr.Skirmshire and Mr Mason, surgeon, gave it their opinion that he would in all probability be dead in a few hours;Supt.Hoy, therefore by the direction of N.C.Barnidiston and D.Badham Esqrs.conveyed the three prisoners to bed room of the dying man, immediately on seeing Ager, Charles Piper exclaimed "that's the man", and his deposition was taken as follows;

Charles Piper

'on Saturday the 30th of March, I was in the White Horse Inn in Ballingdon in company with several persons, we remained drinking to nearly 12 o'clock when the house was cleared,
I and several others and my brother William Piper walked out of Ballingdon towards Bulmer. There were five girls amongst us, when we got to the bottom of Kitchen Hill, I put my arm round the waist of one of them.
One of the men (who I knew by sight but not by name) said I should not go any further with the girl;I said I would.
Directly after that I felt blood running down my side and my leg and fell on the footpath. The two other men went away and left me and I was led home by George Golding. The prisoner, John Ager, is the same man who told me not to go any further with the girl.'

Ager was remanded until Tuesday next, the other prisoners were discharged.

On Tuesday morning the inquest was held on the body of Charles Piper at the King's Head Inn, Ballingdon, by Mr William Dowman, Coroner, Mr J.Gooday appeared for the father of the deceased.

James Downs, labourer of Ballingdon, said

James Downs

'I was in the club room at the White Horse Inn on the night of the 30th of March, there were about twenty persons present. Charles Piper came into the room about eleven o'clock, he was sober.
Elliston, I and Charles Piper with Charles Constable drank together, we had two pints of beer between four of us. John Ager, Robert Howard and Henry Ginn came into the room together at about twenty minutes before twelve. Kezia Chinery and three or four girls were in the room before John Ager came in. Emma Cranfield was there and I saw Charles Piper speak to her. John Ager appeared sober;he had one quart of beer with Robert Howard and Henry Ginn.
About quarter to twelve we left and I saw John Ager, Robert Howard, Henry Ginn, Emma Cranfield, Maria Smith, James Golding, George Golding, Charles Piper and William Piper in the street. They all walked up the Bulmer road and I followed them, about a rod behind.
It was a moonlight night but rather cloudy. I saw Charles Piper walking with Emma Cranfield, he had his arm over her shoulder. John Ager was also walking with her and had hold of her arm.

They went up Bulmer Kitchen Hill some distance.The other men had hold of the other girls.When they were going down the next hill, I heard John Ager say to deceased, "Charles Piper, you shan't go but a d----d little further".
Charles Piper asked for why as he had as much right to the girl as him. John Ager then turned round and made a poke or butt with his right arm at the lower part of his body, he then made a second poke at him but I did not see what he had in his hand.
Charles Piper stepped back and fell on the footpath and called out, "oh my body, I have got a pain within me", he said nothing more.
John Ager then said to George Golding, "I can fight", he then bent his fists and went to him in a fighting attitude, George Golding ran away and John Ager followed him but did not get near enough to strike him.
Charles Piper kept calling out "oh my body", shortly after William Piper came up and said to his brother "what is amiss",
John Ager said, "we will b----soon let you know, we will serve you worse than than we did your brother", John Ager then made a push at William Piper, at the lower part of his stomach. Piper stepped back and John Ager ran up to him and struck him in the thigh, I did not see anything in Ager's hand.
James Golding led William Piper home. When John Ager ran up to William Piper, the latter said "I have got as much as I want, I am struck in the thigh".
Ager made no reply but walked down the hill. When we had got a quarter a mile on the road I heard William Elliston say to John Ager "we want the knife you stabbed that young man with"
Ager replied he had not got one, I then left them and they went on to Bulmer.

William Piper, brother of the deceased deposed that his brother left the White Horse at about quarter before twelve with the girl Cranfield and another girl and George and James Golding.

William Piper

I was walking with William Elliston and two girls, Kezia and Sophia Chinery, up Bulmer road when I heard someone call out and ran to see what was the matter. When I got over Kitchen Hill I saw my brother laying in the path and John Ager standing nearby, John Downs, George and James Golding were standing nearby.
I said what is the matter and Ager replied, "I will b--- soon let you know, I will serve you worse than I have the other".
John Ager then ran at me, it was moonlight, I saw a knife shining in his hand, he pointed the knife at my stomach, I went back about a yard and put my arm out to push him away but he cut my wrist. When I pushed him he went down on his knees and stabbed me in the thigh at the same thrust, I felt so ill that I laid down on the path near my brother and bled profusely.
John Ager then ran away. My brother cried out "I have got much pain within me, I do not know what to do". James Golding then came and led me home.

William Elliston, malster, said

William Elliston

'when I was getting near Bulmer Kitchen Gate, Edward Spalding met me and said that William Piper was stabbed by them Belchamp fellows. I then ran forward and when I got part down the hill beyond Bulmer Kitchen Gate I saw William Piper laying on the path surrounded by several persons, I could see he was bleeding from the thigh.
I ran down the hill to Bulmer Street after them and overtook them just by the houses on Pinch Hill on the road to Belchamp. There were three men and two women,
I went up to John Ager, took hold of both of his arms asked for the knife he stabbed William Piper with. He said he had not got it. I saw him pass the knife to Emma Cranfield, while I had hold of both his arms, he touched the girl and she took it from him, I distinctly saw the knife handle as he passed it to the girl.
When he said he had not got the knife, I said no you have just given it to the girl, I then took hold of the girl's arm and said to her "you have got it",
she said"I have not".'

' I have reason to believe she had it in her pocket. I then asked them to all to come back and see William Piper, they refused. Anger said he had not done it. I then returned to where I had left William Piper laying but found he was gone.
I overtook Charles Piper walking homewards to Ballingdon. This was on the top of the hill, nearly opposite Kitchen Farm Gate, he was walking slowly, I said to him "come on old mate",
he said "I can't walk fast, for I feel so bad in my body". I passed him and went on to Ballingdon. When I got to an entry by Mr Hasell's bake office I saw William Piper standing in the entry.
I asked him how he was, he said pointing to his thigh, "just look here". I then left him and went home.
When I was on Pinch Hill attempting to get the knife from the girl, Ager came up to me so close that I was fearful of his intentions and knocked him down.'

Maurice Mason, surgeon, deposed;

Maurice Mason

'On Sunday morning last I was sent for to attend Charles Piper in Ballingdon. I found a wound about 3/4 of an inch long about 2 inches above the navel and inclining to the left side. It was a transverse wound and appeared to have been done with a pocket knife.
A small part of the omontum was protruding from the wound which I returned to the body, then dressed the wound. He complained of great tenderness in the body. I applied leeches, formentations and blisters etc.;but he died on Wednesday evening, about nine o' clock. I attended him three or four times a day.
I have since made a post mortem examination and am of the opinion that he died from the wound he received on Saturday night.

Charles Constable, a labourer who left the house with Elliston said that he saw John Ager, young Howard and Ginn standing round Charles Piper who was laying on the ground.

Charles Counstable

'William Piper went up and asked what was amiss, then young Ager said "I will ---- soon let you know, I will serve you worse than I did the other". He then made a thrust at Piper, aiming at his body but Piper drew back and Ager stumbled as he ran at him and went down on his knees and stabbed him in the hip, his wrist was cut at the same time. I saw the blade of the knife in Ager's hand. Ager stopped a minute then went away.

Edward Spalding a groom of Bulmer said he left the White Horse with John Turner. He had got a little way up Sandy road when he heard a disturbance and ran back and beyond the Kitchen Gate saw William Piper laying in the road alone.

Edward Spalding

'I went up to him and asked him what was the matter, he said someone had run a knife into him. I ran back to Ballingdon and met William Elliston and he and I went after the party from Belchamp and overtook them beyond the top of Pinch Hill. I heard one of them say in answer to a question from Elliston, "I have not got a knife about me".

Elliston then took hold of the person and knocked him down and asked one of the women what she had got in her gown. She said"nothing", I saw her put something in her pocket but do not know what it was'.

Emma Cranfield of Otten Belchamp, said

Emma Cranfield

'I am 15 years old. I was at the White Horse Inn, Ballingdon, with Kezia Chinery from between 5 and 6 until about quarter before twelve. Sophia Chinery, Maria Smith, John Ager, Howard and Ginn. Maria Smith and myself were the first to go home. Ager, Howard and Ginn overtook us.
When we had gone a little way on the Bulmer road six other young men overtook us and wanted to go home with us but we refused. They continued to follow us as far as beyond the gate at the top of the hill. Some of the young men who followed wanted to pull me away from the party. I was with Ager and had hold of his arm.
Charles Piper put his arm on my shoulder but it was without my consent. I told Piper to be still but he would not and Ager told him not to interfere. They kept walking with me half way down the hill. Charles Piper let me go first. I walked fond so did I.'

Maria Smith, aged 16, of Otten Belchamp, and another witness were then examined but nothing new was elicited.

The Coroner shortly after summed up and the Jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against John Ager.

On Sunday afternoon a very impressive discourse was preached at All Saints Church by the Rev Charles Badham on the melancholy death by the stabbing of Charles Piper in the Bulmer road;shewing the danger and solemnly warning the young men of his flock of the necessity of avoiding bad company which had been the means of bringing this young man to an untimely end.

May 1st 1850.

John Ager and Emma Cranfield were committed for trial on the charge of manslaughter.

July 24th 1850.

At Chelmsford Assizes, John Ager who was charged with the wilful murder of Charles Piper was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to be transported for life. The charge against Emma Cranfield was abandoned.

In the 1851 census there was an Ann Ager a 57 year old widow in Belchamp Otten and living with her 17 year old son Samuel Ager. William Howard was a 20 year old labourer, William Ginn was a 23 year old labourer. (G.H.).

John AGER, born 1830, unmarried, labourer, was sentenced to life for manslaughter at Chelmsford Assizes on 15 July 1850.

John AGER is described as 5’4 ¾”, dark brown hair, grey eyes, with a long face, fresh complexion, and of slight build. He had a mole on his left arm, and a scar on his left hand. (taken from 'The Voyage of the “William Jardine”'.

He arrived as a convict in Western Australia on “William Jardine” on 1 August 1852.
He was Convict No 1355, and gained his Ticket of Leave on 2 December 1854. (A Ticket of Leave was a kind of parole, with prisoners allowed their freedom within the Colony, but were never to return to England.)
John would almost certainly have been involved in the construction of the original Fremantle Gaol, from limestone hand-quarried on-site. Source

(Greg Crawford)