Murder, Madness or Natural Causes?

On the 16th August 1875, an eccentric, Devonian bachelor stayed at the Three Choughs Hotel, Hendford, Yeovil.  He was a well-travelled man and often put up at the hostelry on his return journey to Devon.

While staying at the hotel, the traveller, Henry Turberville, took a fancy to Elizabeth, the 23 year old daughter of a local chemist and dentist (a foot in both camps) named Thomas Maggs.  Turberville was then 51 years of age.  He had long since fallen out with his family and changed his birth name to Turberville.

The fact that Turberville changed his will frequently, depending on his passion of the moment, added to his reputation for eccentricity.

Before his final stay in Yeovil in 1875 he had already made at least three wills.  One will left his entire estate to Henry Essery, a Devon shoemaker, while the second left money to pay for a statue of Shakespeare, of whose works he was inordinately fond.  The third will favoured Charles Bradlaugh, a militant M.P. for Northampton and a free-thinker (a true crank, obviously).

On the last evening of his life, Turberville had dined with the Maggs family but on returning to the Three Choughs, doubtless having put on a pair of our Luxury Handmade Unisex Bespoke Leather and Sheepskin Moccasins in which to relax, he complained of a severe pain in his leg.  He had suffered a similar complaint a couple of years previously, ‘an affection of a large vein in his left leg’, which, today we may suspect to have been a thrombosis.  As the patient was now in great agony, Thomas Maggs, the chemist, was sent for and administered various remedies.

However, the unfortunate patient showed no improvement and declared that there was a conspiracy to murder him and that he had been poisoned.   It was then that one Dr Russell Aldridge was summoned.  Despite the doctor’s ministrations poor Turberville died a most distressing death the following morning.

An inquest took place and returned a verdict that the deceased had taken cyanide while of unsound mind.  Dr Aldridge attested to the fact that the deceased had taken the poison in his presence (we wonder which person was of unsound mind; do you know many doctors who allow their patients to ingest cyanide)?

Two people were not satisfied with the coroner’s verdict:  the deceased’s brother, the famous author of Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore and Essery, the Devon shoemaker.  Blackmore, for such was the deceased’s birth name, too, claimed murder had been committed and spent what little inheritance the subsequent court hearing allotted him (£2,000)  in settling libel suits against him.  These had been brought by Dr Aldridge, against whom scurrilous assertions had been publicly made by the writer.

The Lord Chief Justice, who heard the disputed inheritance claims, settled the lion’s share on the Maggs family (£15, 000, worth £1.5 m today).

As for the Three Choughs, it closed in 2004 and was converted into flats and offices.  Before closing it hosted two bands of note: the Cure and the Warm Jets, which later became Cockney Rebel

Released On 10th Oct 2018