Accident site, from Acaster side



TWO questions seem to spring to mind immediately. Firstly, why did the Singers not use the ferries? Secondly, why did Turner make them row into danger, when the boat was already positioned safely on the river? “Instead of crossing the river in the Acaster ferry boat, they all (14 in number) got into a boat the property of a man named Turner, a fisherman. As they were crossing the river, a vessel, belonging to this city, laden with coals, was coming up, hauled by a horse.”[York Herald, December 28th 1833.]One question that often comes up is – why didn’t the Singers use the ferry?

We know from almost contemporaneous accounts, that the ferries across the river were plentiful, at the time. So why would the singers choose Turner’s small fishing boat? An 1834 survey of the river crossings gives some idea why it maybe seemed a good idea. The very fact The Perseverance was on the river on Boxing Day, suggests Dec 26th was a working day, like any other, on the river. The fact, George Eccles was picked up within minutes by another boat coming up towards Stillingfleet, bears this out, too.

Money might have been another consideration. Turner’s boat was free – the ferry would have cost. Also meant a wait, as some farm-lad who doubled as ferryman had to be peeled away from his day of rest, or maybe even find time between his never-ending work!The Ouse provided plenty of work for those who needed it, often old farming families down on their luck. At various times, John Fisher’s own father-in-law, John Shillito, had worked as a ‘haler’ (hauler, leading the horses that pulled heavy barges and commercial traffic) despite being the son of a prosperous yeoman farmer; and much later, John Fisher’s younger son William is described in a York Census as ‘haler’.

Stephen Green, the Cawood man who was leading Perseverance’s horse, also came from a family where the men had to turn to the river for a living, when their farms were no longer profitable. Green’s wife’s family, the Moses family from Cawood, were prosperous haulers.

The York Gazette mentions Green by name as one of those who came from surrounding villages at dawn on the Friday morning, to help drag the river for bodies:

Early in the morning, Green, the hauling man, came to Stillingfleet, and immediately rendered every assistance in his power.

Cawood and Stillingfleet parish records have many burials of un-named bodies found in the river, and pulling decomposing bodies from the river would have been a regular, grim task for watermen. Green and Fisher appear a couple of entries apart in the 1790′s Cawood baptism register, yet there is no reference anywhere extant to prove Green and Fisher knew eachother in the 1830s. But it’s entirely possible they did. (John’s family crossed the river to live in Stillingfleet when he was around 13 or 14, so John must have known Stephen at some point in childhood, even if they didn’t immediately recognise eachother in the dark and confusion on the river bank that night in 1833). John says it was one of the sailors, not Green, who shouted ‘Hold thy hold lad!’ to him, from the river bank, as he clung for dear life, onto the tow-line.  

So much for the halers and watermen of the Ouse. Turner made a living another way. To understand something of John Turner, the man who made the decision to put the Singers between Perseverance and the far-side river bank, it might be useful first to see what we can reconstruct of his life and background.

There were two John Turners born to Edward and Mary. The first John Turner and his twin Joseph were born February 1st, 1775, but like so many twins in the parish records, presumably perished as although they don’t appear in the death records, the next John Turner was born to Edward and Mary on January 29th, 1778 – making Turner around 20 years senior to anyone else on the 1833 boat – apart from Bristow. There is some evidence that John Turner had a couple of acres of land, hence ‘yeoman’ but there is something not quite right with the designation, considering the context. He consistently self described as ‘yeoman’ but others described him as ‘fisherman’. Even so, Turner doesn’t seem to have owned enough land for himself or his children to appear on any tithe apportionment map we have yet found, for example.

Yeoman farmers like John Fisher’s brother-in-law Robert Guy, at Auburn Hall in Kelfield (a part of Stillingfleet parish), had tens of acres – two fields alone of his were mortgaged for £400 around this date, that being a fraction of the land he held onto, unmortgaged. Guy’s cousin Barnard Clarkson owned hundreds of acres in the Bubwith area, Stillingfleet and Kelfield in 1811. Turner’s entire parcel of land was likely equivalent to an orchard or two – fractional, upto the true yeoman farmers of the district who could count their acreage in the tens or hundreds, and their properties on more than one hand. 

Yeomen also commonly appear in the Poll Books, as anyone with enough land could vote, or enough income – even tradesmen. To date, we have been unable to locate Stillingfleet Turners in the Poll Books for the early 1830′s elections.

It could be Turner was investing and making money in one of the many get-rich-quick schemes of the times, such as the railway shares the newspapers were so full of. We cannot know.When John Turner was a young man, and now fishing the river himself, for a living, in 1794, his father, Edward seems to have committed an indiscretion, as he fathered an illegitimate child with Ann Raimes, daughter of the pauper, William Raimes of Escrick. Raimes features strongly in J.P.G. Taylor’s excellent monograph, ‘Escrick, A Village History’, in Chapter 17. ‘The Parish and the Poor: Welfare at the Turn of the Century’, Mr Taylor looks at Raymes in great detail, and says this:…..

The parish does not neglect the inner man:July 11 1801 Wm Rames 3 Pints of Ale 9d…. In addition to free clothing (and occasionally, ale), William was receiving a regular payment in cash at this time.

In 1799, 1800 and 1801, for example, he was being paid 2s.6d. a week, every week of the year….. William disappears from the records for a year or two. Then we read this in the parish registers: The Stillingfleet parish register records his daughter Ann in this way, in the record of little Mary’s birth: The full names appear to have been excised at a later date – possibly by John Turner, when he became a church singer and may have had some access to the registers via the parish clerk, or maybe it was done unilaterally by a sympathetic parish clerk, at some later date. We have to remember that these were Georgians, not Victorians, and as mores and societal attitudes changed, the period in question was one where people often seem to have had a more down to earth approach to illegitimacy. The heavy handed attempts to confer anonymity, in a later hand, could be to protect the sensibilities of the Raimes family, and/or the Turners. As Turners remained in the parish and Raimes didn’t, my money’s on the Turners!

There are numerous references to illegitimacy in the 18thC parish records, but very few have been censored by later hands. As a Church Singer, Turner would be accounted amongst the most respectable and important of the villagers. But back in the 1790s, Ann Raimes was either, in the eyes of her contemporaries, a ‘fallen woman’, or worse by her father’s death and, whatever Ann’s circumstances, it would be unlikely she could have been in much of a position to help her poor father. Although it’s possible she did, given the gap between William’s date of death and his last receipt of poor relief. Either way, given what we know of the Raimes family, this doesn’t reflect well on Turner Sr, a man with a large established family in Stillingfleet, to have fathered little Mary Raimes in January 1794, from the pauper’s daughter.

Having a half sister ‘on the parish’ is also far from desirable for any respectable ‘yeoman’, although we do not know the baby’s fate and whether she even survived infancy or, if she did, remained in the village.

Turner himself fathered an illegitimate child when he was 19. The parish register for 1797, reads:

Jane Smith. Natural daughter of John Turner… [Mother] Ann Smith. Born December 11th, 1797. Christened December 20th, 1797

The short gap between birth and christening can sometimes be instructive. Either baby Jane Smith was ailing, or it’s possible her mother was going to leave the parish. We couldn’t find a death or marriage record for Jane Smith, but many villagers we know for a fact to have died do not appear on the IGI or in the parish records. A young woman, alone with an illegitimate baby, is likely to have tried to find a relative to care for the baby, and disappeared into service in the nearest big city or further afield, guaranteeing anonymity. The search isn’t helped by the name ‘Smith’! Coincidentally, Smith was the surname of one of the Cawood watermen who found Turner’s boat the following morning, floating upsidedown. When they righted it, Turner’s net was still inside.  No ‘yeoman’ would have any use for a fisherman’s net…

We hear nothing further of Ann or the child, and have no way of knowing who Ann was. Whoever Ann was, Turner clearly felt she was not for marrying and at that time, marriage was still a considered, financial transaction. Turner’s step-mother, Jane Heslegrave seems to have brought a couple of acres to the family, so it is unlikely Turner would want to make what they then called a ‘poor’ marriage, given that patrimony. The interesting thing about Turner’s first child is, how odd that years later, he was to name another daughter Jane. She would perish with him, that evening in 1833.

We do not know when or where Turner married Sarah, but it’s entirely possible she came from another parish and may have never known of Jane and Ann Smith. In the parish throughout the 18thC and early 19thC, most folk seem to have married aged around 21, rarely much younger or much older for a first marriage. For some reason, Turner did not marry Ann Smith, but by around 1804, he must have been married to Sarah as their first child, Mary Ann, was born in 1805.John Turner seems to have been a fisherman all his life, given the rather poignant description of his net found in the upturned boat, at Cawood.

In ‘Memories of Cawood in the early 1900s’, text transcribed from tapes, John Bernard Kettlewood described watching the Cawood fishermen (some of whom were also Turners in the early 19thC), using their nets to catch salmon:….

They used to have a great, long net, oh about a hundred yards long and about eight or ten foot deep, I think. They used to have sinkers at  bottom, and some floats at top, and they used to go so far up river, nearly to the bend at Wharfe mouth. Then one man used to row the boat out: he used to have the net on a board at the back of the boat. One of ‘em would start and row across and the other would walk on the bank-side with a long rope to the net and he’d keep pulling… He’d go about three parts way across river with the boat and then… he’d come in real sharp…jump out on to the side and then he’d start to pull t’net in ….allus were coming with the water, never against it….


Turner’s marriage cannot be found in the parish registers and only possible ones can be pinpointed on the IGI. However, we know his wife’s name was Sarah, as she appears in the burial register for Stillingfleet:

1828. Sarah Turner, Stillingfleet, November 21st, 46 years

In conclusion, throughout the registers, as Turner’s younger children were born, he often self reported as ‘yeoman’ although he appears to have remained a fisherman.

We come to the most intriguing aspect of the disaster – why did Turner compel John and George to row into the path of danger? By all accounts, they were almost within sight of Stillingfleet Landing. Various accounts suggest they were in the centre of the river, presumably about to row to the Stillingfleet side, and the safety of the landing.

Both George Eccles and John Fisher said it was ‘dusk’. At least one newspaper account said the river was moving at 5mph; apparently, fast, with the current going in favour of the small boat, the wind in favour of the large vessel – which explains the speed impact must have happened.   The newspapers of the week following report hurricanes, and there are accounts nationally, that week of the appalling weather conditions.

On Thursday, an inquest was held before Mr Carter, at the Tiger’s Head, Lee-green, on view of the body of Mr Edward Green, a highly respectable farmer, who resided in Shoreham, Kent… the unfortunate gentleman was returning home in his chaise on Monday evening last, and was warned by several persons not to pass through a running stream at the back of the Tiger’s Head, the same being dangerous from the first heavy rains; the caution was however disregarded, and the deceased was found on the following morning , together with his horse, quite dead. Verdict – ‘Accidental death.’ 

[From 'The Times', December 29th, 1833].

And from The York Courant of January 1834, we get a sense of some unusual weather systems, only two days after the funeral:

THE LATE HURRICANE …. ON Tuesday last, this the the adjacent counties was visited by one of the most tremendous hurricanes ever remembered…. YORK. The hurricane raged here with great violence, uprooting six old elms, on the New Walk, and doing much damage to the roofs of the houses…. The water in the river presented a singular foaming appearance, and the wind was so powerful at times, as to raise it in clouds of mist to the height of a good-sized house. RICCALL, NEAR SELBY – The storm of Tuesday was very severely felt in this village… the chief injury was sustained at Riccall Hall. No fewer than six of the large and beautiful trees, near the Hall, were torn up, and three of the majestic elms in front of it, were levelled to the ground in less than 10 minutes. They fell with a tremendous crash…


So, our Singers were out on the river in cold, dark and possibly dangerous conditions. Although not in the full throes of a hurricane, clearly, the weather that week was unusually inclement. That said, even given – especially given – the conditions, Turner as an experienced waterman, would have had to assume Perseverance was probably being hauled by a line. Especially as the accident happened close to a bend in the river, so no vessel could rely on its sails, rounding bends.

John Fisher said:

George Eccles and I were rowing the boat: we met a vessel soon after we got into the boat, coming up the river; it was drawn by a horse and a line; Eccles and I wanted to keep on the off-side of the vessel, that is, towards the Stillingfleet side, the horse being on the Acaster side; John Turner said we were to row to the other side….


George went a little further, saying:

John Fisher and I were rowing the boat towards the off-side of the vessel, when John Turner called out for us to keep at the inside; Turner was accustomed to the river, being a fisherman, and it being his boat, we complied with his directions, because we thought he understood it better than we did, as we were quite unacquainted with managing the boat; we went on the inside; some one called out to the hauling-man to lower the line of the vessel; the line was lowered and John Fisher and, I think, John Turner also, got hold of the line to throw it over our heads, but the current was so strong, and the boat went so fast, that they could not clear it….

[Inquest as reported in The York Courant, December 28th, 1833].

Turner would have known which side the tow paths were on at this point in the river as apparently, on this stretch the tow paths were on one side only. He’d known it all his life. Even in the dark, he would have known that the barge in full sail, bearing down on them fast and with the wind in its favour, might still possibly have a towline attached – especially if it had the current against it AND was approaching a bend…

It’s hard to understand why Turner insisted the two farm labourers rowed into danger, knowing all this? As Rogerson pointed out:

in endeavouring to pass the vessel with the boat they should not have come on the inside; they ought to have been on the off-side; in that case it is probable no accident could have happened, as the rope could not have touched them, and there was plenty of room for them to have passed.

The 1830s was a boom and bust time, when banks were crashing, for example: the Selby bank of Messrs. Scholfield, Clarkson, and Co crashed around this time. The Clarksons had lived in the parish and had relatives still in Kelfield – it’s possible some locals put their trust and money into it. (Amazingly, Clarkson was a distant relation of John Fisher’s brother-in-law).

Investments in new technology like the railways sometimes failed to come good. Maybe a self styled ‘yeoman’ had made some unwise investments? We can never know, but maybe should bear it in mind, that Turner may have been preoccupied, for some now unknowable reason, that night.

In case anyone should think the Singers were tipsy, John Fisher addressed this directly at the inquest, ending his initial statement by saying:

we had drunk a little ale during the day, but we were all perfectly sober, and every one was as capable of helping himself or herself, as though we had not had any.

John appears to have been a deeply honourable man, being clear that Turner – like the hauler Green – called out to lower the line, and he, erroneously, to tighten it. John was also insistent that he and he alone raised the tow line, despite the fact his fellow survivor and someone on the bank, believed it was done by more than one person – we can’t help thinking how many hours a modern inquest would spend on clarifying that question alone.

On the other hand, the other victims’ descendants and the three survivors, lived as neighbours for many more decades, the Fishers, Eccles family and Webster descendants living next door to eachother for many years after that night in 1833, Spencers and Toes and Buckles also remained in the village. There are Spencer and Fisher descendants in the parish to this day. Every family but the Turners, in fact, remained in the parish or neighbouring ones, for decades after the disaster.

The fact the Turners – who had lived as long as the Fishers in the parish, since the early 18thC – are all gone from the parish in the years following the disaster, is suggestive.

The last ‘Why on earth did they….’ issue I’d like to address is the one closest to my own heart! As a Fisher descendant, I’ve had a few jokey comments about my ancestor being the ’cause’ of the disaster, by lifting the rope, and a brief Sky TV item on the disaster in the late 1990s, perpetuated the erroneous idea that ‘one of the men lifted the rope and the boat was swept over’. But again, the contemporary accounts are not so straightforward, or blame-apportioning. Whilst John Fisher took responsibility entirely on his own shoulders for lifting the rope, Stephen Green and George Eccles both thought the line was lifted by more than one man.

At least one local newspaper blamed the sailors of Perseverance, presumably because their failure to moor their own rowing boat meant that once Richard and John were pulled out, they were unable to save the other victims, whose cries could be heard from the bank:

We fear that much blame is to be attached to the people in the vessel, but censure of the living can be of no avail to the dead. Their own consciences, if blame be due, will be sufficient source of punishment

.[York Herald, December, 1833]

The jurors, seemed to be starting from the assumption that no-one on the boat was to blame, as all they seemed to consider was whether any blame was attributable to the ‘vessel’ (ie: Perseverance), or Stephen Green. And let’s not forget had blame been attributable, to Stephen or someone else living, there was a very real risk of criminal proceedings, possibly ending in transportation.

.BY A JUROR – I cannot say that there was any blame to be attributed either to the people on the vessel, or to the hauling-man.

[York Herald, December 28th, 1833].



The Funeral – From The York Gazette, Jan 4th

Stillingfleet church – grave to left of this

In the second edition of our last week’s paper, we brought down our narrative of this afflicting accident to Friday night when the inquest was held on nine of the bodies of the unfortunate sufferers.

On Saturday morning, the search was resumed with the drags, for the bodies of Sarah Eccles and Sarah Spencer, – but we regret to say, the, that notwithstanding every exertion was made – it was without success; and the poor afflicted relatives were thus denied the consolation of seeing their remains interred with those of their fellow sufferers. The Rev. D. F. Markham, however, secured them, that neither labour nor expense should be spared, to find the bodies.

On Sunday morning, at nine o’clock, about 30 of the villagers proceeded to the church-yard, where they all set to work to dig the grave in which their late companions and friends were to be entombed. It was made 21 feet long, by 7 feet wide; and they finished their labours in about an hour and a half. The usual morning service was performed at the Church, by the Rev. D. F. Markham, in a most impressive manner. He was assisted at the altar table by the Rev. Mr. Bree, of Haxby. The congregation was very numerous, and the singing was performed by the choir of Escrick church, – the psalms selected were the 147th, the 112th, and the 39th.

The sublime Liturgy of our Church was read in a beautiful manner, and the prayers for the fatherless children and widows and all who are desolate and oppressed, – and for protection from sudden death; and the thanksgiving for creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, – in which special mention was made of the three individuals who had been saved by the protecting hand of Providence, – evidently had a powerful affect upon the whole congregation, many of whom dropped a silent tear to the memory of their deceased companions, – and appeared to be deeply impressed with the mournful event, which had so suddenly snatched them from the eart.

The Rev. pastor, too, was several times, during the progress of the services, nearly overcome by his feelings.The Sermon was preached by the Rev. D. F. Markham, from Psalm ciii, 1, 2, 3, 4. “Bless thee Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgiveth all thing iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies.” From these words, the Rev. Preacher made a most excellent discourse – particularly exhorting his hearers to value, as they ought, the blessings bestowed upon them by a bountiful providence; and at that time, when the termination of the year was fast approaching, to ask themselves, whether the goodness of God was firmly impressed on their minds? Did their hearts overflow with gratitude to their divine Benefactor? Had they resolved to amend what they had done amiss, and to be more frequent in the performance of good works?

He shewed how grateful they ought to be to that Providence which had preserved their lives, when so many were snatched away by the hand of death; and, alluding to the recent melancholy event, he observed, that they might exclaim, the Lord was mighty to save and mighty to destroy. – He would not dwell upon the feelings of the poor afflicted relatives, nor mention the heart-rending sobs of the widows, or the plaintive cries of the fatherless, which he had witnessed, – when administering comfort, support, and consolation; but he would say, let it be the business of his hearers to take warning at this dreadful visitation; and let not the heavenly Father repent that he had made them; but let them strive to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. The sermon was listened to with great attention, and has made, we trust, a deep and lasting impression on the congregation.

There were three processions with the bodies to the church, three bodies being taken each time; and the Escrick choir heading the way, singing a funeral hymn. The three bodies brought first were those of William Bristow, the parish clerk, Thomas Webster and Cecilia [sic] Sturdy. On the arrival of the melancholy train at the church yard, they were met by the Rev. D. F. Markham, and the Rev. Mr. Bree, – the former reading in a most impressive manner, that beautiful sentence from Job: “ The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord”.

- The bodies were then taken into the church, and placed in the chancel; the bearers taking their stations around them. The churchwardens were placed at the door, to keep order, and prevent the mourners from being impeded by the large crowd which was congregated. The bodies of John and Jane Turner, and Elizabeth Buckle, when then brought into the church, in the same manner – as were lastly those of Henry Spencer, Elizabeth Spencer, and Christopher Spencer.

The whole of the corpses being arranged in the chancel, and the mourners seated in the pews, the spectators were admitted, and the church was instantly filled in every port. The number of mourners could not be less than 120, and the emotions they displayed were heart rending in the extreme. The beautiful funeral service of the church was read by the Rev. D. F. Markham, and was listened to with the greatest attention. – The Escrick choir, who had taken their station in the gallery, sang an anthem from Revelations 14c. 13v. “I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, write, blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, from henceforth: Yea, sayeth the Spirit,that they may rest from their labours.”

The performer of this anthem was far above mediocrity, – and the voices of the singers attuned well with the instrumental music. After the anthem, the bodies were removed from the church in their last sad home, – and the coffins were placed by the side of each other.

This occupied a great length of time  - and it was a most affecting scene to witness the agonized feelings of the mourners as the bodies of their respective relatives were lowered into the grave. This painful duty being performed, and the mourners having taken their station by the side of the grave, the service was continued by Mr. Markham. When the whole was concluded, the mourners after taking a sad last look at the grave, slowly moved from the melancholy scene to their respective homes, – and here we draw the veil over the anguish of the sorrowing survivors; the privacy of domestic grief should not be interfered with. As there are several families deprived of their protectors, and left destitute, we doubt not that the charitable and humane example set by P.B.Thompson, Esq., the Rev. D. F. Markham, and other persons, will be followed up.

The Accident – York Courant, December 28th, 1833

Ouse at Kelfield, in winter

It is this week our painful duty to present our readers with the details of an event which happened on Thursday afternoon, on the river Ouse, about seven miles from this city, more dreadful in regard to the extent of its fatality, and somewhat resembling in circumstances, the heart-rending accident which occurred opposite Acomb landing in the summer of 1830.

Like that afflictive dispensation of Divine Providence, it took place on the same day of the week, and about half-past four, nearly the same hour of the day, It has been an annual custom for the singers of the church at Stillingfleet, at Christmas time, to visit the principal farmers within the parish, which includes the villages of Stillingfleet, Moreby, Acaster-Selby, and Kelfield.

On Wednesday last, (Christmas day) the party aided the solemn services of the church by singing the Christmas Hymn, and on the same evening they were entertained at the Rectory, where they supped, and afterwards passed the evening in singing the praises of God. Thursday was the day appointed for their annual excursion, and they set out under emotions of innocent pleasure, little dreaming of the dark dispensation of Providence which was to clothe the evening of that day, to them with the darkness of the night of death, and fill their happy villages, and quiet homes with lamentation, and mourning, and woe.

They had been to Acaster, and the party consisting of FOURTEEN PERSONS, got into a boat the property of a fisherman named Turner, for the purpose of proceeding to Stillingfleet ferry, where they intended to land. At a place called Mill Mouth, about a quarter of a mile from Acaster, they met a vessel, coal- laden, coming down the river, – hauled by a horse. The party in the boat called out to Stephen Green, the hauling man, to hold the line tight, so as to allow them to go under it. Green replied that he would not do that, – for if they attempted to do so, he should sweep them out of the boat. He therefore slackened the rope, to let the boat go over it, – when one of the men in the boat seized the rope, and attempted to throw it over the boat; – in this he failed, and the line catched the stern of the boat, which being thrown on her broadside, instantly filled with water, and capsized.

The boat in which the sufferers had embarked was one of rather small dimensions. The current was running at the rate of five miles and hour, – the boat consequently going at a rapid pace, and in about the centre of the river. The vessel had the current against it, and was on the off side; and the party in the boat unhappily came inside. When the line got under the boat, one of the men attempted to clear it, by throwing it over the boat. After the boat was swamped, the unhappy people, as they were dragged by the current, in the most heart-rending manner called for assistance, but in vain.

The boat belonging to the vessel had been lost from its moorings; but by what means the sailors could not explain; it is most probable that they had unfortunately let go the painter, by mistake, in their endeavours to throw out lines to save the sufferers. – Turner’s boat had turned [ ] uppermost, and was found at Cawood, by George Liddle, waterman, and Thomas Smith, labourer. When found, she was floating rapidly down the river, and on being righted, the fishing net belonging to its owner was found in it.

At the time of the accident it was quite dusk, and it was with difficulty that the towing rope could be seen. The following is a correct list of the sufferers: – Henry Spence [sic], labourer, aged about 50; and his two daughters, Sarah aged 16; and Bessy, aged 15; Christopher Spence, [sic] brother to Henry, labourer, aged about 40; John Turner, fisherman, and common carrier, aged about 59; and Jane Turner, his daughter, aged 16; Thomas Webster, labourer; William Bristow, officiating parish clerk; Sarah Eccles, aged 16, daughter of George Eccles, one of the survivors; Elizabeth Buckle, aged 15, daughter of Mr. Buckle, inkeeper; Clarissa Sturdy, aged 17, daughter of Mr. Sturdy, schoolmaster, and formerly of this city, linen-draper. Within a quarter of an hour, and not more than a quarter of a mile from the fatal place the body of Miss Sturdy was picked up, when floating, by a vessel in the river, which was coming up shortly after. She was quite dead. The mother of this unfortunate young woman, at the time of the accident was in this city attending the funeral of a nephew, when the dreadful event was made known to her.The following are the names of the three survivors: – George Eccles, Richard Toes, and John Fisher, – all agricultural labourers, with wives and families. Eccles has a large family of seven or eight children; Toes has a wife and four children; Fisher has a wife and two children.The men who have suffered, have left the following families: – Christopher Spence, a wife and four children; Henry Spence, a wife and eight children – five of whom are under his parental roof, and were dependant upon his labours for support; John Turner, was a widower, and left two daughters – one married and the other single; Thomas Webster, a wife and one child; Thos Bristow, [sic] a wife and three children.

The moment the news of this afflictive catastrophe was circulated the greatest gloom and affliction prevailed, in the respective villages, and on Friday morning by four o’clock several parties had arrived at the fatal spot from Cawood, Lower Acaster, Nun Appleton, and the neighbourhood, in boats, and commenced dragging the river, – but without success, until about ten o’clock, when Christopher Spence was found, in a place called the Willow Hole, about half a mile from where the accident happened. Turner and Webster were found soon after, a little lower down the river, and were brought up by one drag. It is supposed they had been clasped together, and sunk in each other’s arms. About half past eleven o’clock, a shawl was found belonging to Sarah Eccles, and shortly afterwards the bodies of Henry Spence, a fine robust man, – and Jane Turner were found. A little after two o’clock, Bessy Spence, one of the daughters of Henry Spence, was found. This family was sorely afflicted. The disconsolate widow, who has a child at her breast, and is herself in a delicate state of health, having recently been a patient in the County Hospital. At the same time that Bessy Spence was found – another body was also found, which turned out to be that of the parish clerk, William Bristow. Both bodies, as well as all the others, were conveyed to their respective homes.Great praise is due to the Rev. D.F. Markham, the worthy vicar of the place, for his kind and sensible attention to the distressed relatives of the deceased. With all the benevolence of feeling, which may be expected of a spiritual pastor, he visited each, and administered, so far as human aid could do it, the consolations of religion, and pointed out to them to unerring wisdom of that kind Providence who has promised to make all things work together for good to those who, in humble resignation, place their confidence in him. Mr M. we hear, also ordered mourning to be provided for them, at his own expense.

To Paul Beilby Thompson, Esqu., M.P., equal praise is due; for he was personally indefatigable in the search for the bodies of the unfortunate people. We understand that he not only engaged and paid the labourers who dragged the river, but also, at his own expense, has provided the coffins, and the requisite appendages, and we have no doubt but he will hereafter aid, by his princely fortune, the hapless widows and helpless orphans of the deceased.


At six o’clock on Friday evening, John Wood, Esq., Coroner [ ] Stillingfleet, and immediately the constable summoned the following Jury, who were sworn :-

William Triffit, (Foreman,) Mr. William Cooke, Mr Thos [ ], Mr William Camidge, Mr Thomas Hornshaw, Mr Francis Robinson, Mr. Thomas Brown, Mr George Lazenby, Mr [ ] Creaser, Mr John Thompson, Mr Thomas Simpson, Mr [ ] Lazenby, Mr Robert Nottingham.

On the return of the Coroner and the Jury to the White Swan inn, the examination of the witnesses was proceeded with.John Fisher was the first witness examined; having been sworn, he stated as follows:

-I am a labourer, and reside at Stillingfleet; I am one of the singers at the parish church, and went along with the deceased persons whose bodies are found, and George Eccles, Richard Toes, Sarah Spencer, and Sarah Eccles, to sign the Christmas hymn; we set out yesterday, about half-past one o’clock in the afternoon, as we had done for the last two years at Christmas; we were the singers at Stillingfleet church; we first went to a house at Moreby, near the river, and afterwards crossed the river at Low Acaster, in a boat belonging to John Turner, the deceased; about four o’clock, or a little after, we all returned , and got in the boat to re-cross the river, at Stillingfleet-landing, which required us to sail down the river about half a mile, to reach it; George Eccles and I were rowing the boat: we met a vessel soon after we got into the boat, coming up the river; it was drawn by a horse and a line; Eccles and I wanted to keep on the off-side of the vessel, that is, towards the Stillingfleet side, the horse being on the Acaster side; John Turner said we were to row to the other side; I told Eccles to ease his oar, and I would pull; we did so, and came to the inside of the vessel; Turner said we could clear them easy enough, and called to the man with the horse to slacken his line, fancying, as I believe, that we could get over the line; the ebb ran sharp, and the vessel was going up; I saw danger, and caught hold of the line, and lifted it up, in order to clear it from the boat, and throw it over our heads; in consequence of the boat running down so very fast, the line caught hold of the side of the boat, and threw her over, and we were all instantly pitched into the water; I still kept hold of the line, and I thought I heard one of the sailors call out “Hold thy hold, lad” and, I did so; they then drew me and Richard Toes out, by the line onto the vessel, and we were both, in consequence, saved; after I had got on the vessel, I thought I saw three men’s heads, as though they were on the bottom of the boat; they were some distance down the river, and I saw no more of them, it was getting very dark, and we had drunk a little ale during the day, but we were all perfectly sober, and every one was as capable of helping himself or herself, as though we had not had any.

William Rogerson deposed;

I reside at South Hindley, nearBarnsley: I am captain of the Perseverance, belonging to John Jewitt, of York; I was coming up the River Ouse yesterday, with my vessel, about four o’clock in the afternoon; when near Low Acaster, we met a boat with several persons in it; it was nearly dusk at the time; my vessel was drawn by one horse and a line; and the wind was blowing very strong in our favour at the time, we had our sails up; the boat was coming down, and the two men were rowing, and we endeavoured to keep clear of them; in consequence of the men in the boat calling out to slack the line, we immediately ran to loose the line on the vessel, and the man on the shore did the same. The rope was considerably slackened, and astern the vessel some way, before the boat reached it, but in consequence of the strength of the current, it did not sink; when the boat came into contact with the line it upset her and, all the people were thrown into the water; my man and myself pulled out Fisher and Toes, with the line they had laid hold of; we ran the vessel ashore for the purpose of getting into our boat to render assistance; when just as we had loosed our boat, we saw the two men holding by the line, and we had ran to draw them out, without having sufficiently secured the boat, as afterwards appeared; when we had got the two men out, we ran to get into our own boat, when we discovered she had washed loose, and was gone adrift to the other side of the river; and by running the vessel on shore she had stuck fast, so that we could not get her off; we were thus prevented from rendering further assistance; we could see two or three men hanging to the boat bottom, and going down the river, until they reached a corner of the bank called the ‘Ness End’, and then we lost sight of them; the man with the horse stopped immediately; he was told to do so, and I do not think there was any blame attributable to him: in endeavouring to pass the vessel with the boat they should not have come on the inside; they ought to have been on the off-side; in that case it is probable no accident could have happened, as the rope could not have touched them, and there was plenty of room for them to have passed.

George Eccles, of Stillingfleet, labourer, deposed;

I was one of the party that was in the boat yesterday, when the accident happened; we then set out from Stillingfleet, and went to a house in Moreby; we then crossed the river in Turner’s boat, for Low Acaster; and about four o’clock again got in the boat to return, intending to go to Stillingfleet landing; it was about dusk; a little after we got into the boat we met a vessel; John Fisher and I were rowing the boat towards the off-side of the vessel, when John Turner called out for us to keep at the inside; Turner was accustomed to the river, being a fisherman, and it being his boat, we complied with his directions, because we thought he understood it better than we did, as we were quite unacquainted with managing the boat; we went on the inside; some one called out to the hauling-man to lower the line of the vessel; the line was lowered and John Fisher and, I think, John Turner also, got hold of the line to throw it over our heads, but the current was so strong, and the boat went so fast, that they could not clear it, and the boat was upset; I continued to keep hold of the oar with which I had been rowing; I also got to the boat, which was upsidedown, and I got hold of her with my other hand, and I held there as long as I could; William Bristow had likewise hold of her; the boat turned over several times, and he and I at length got into her, she being then full of water; in that state we went down the river about two hundred yards; she then turned over again, and we both lost our hold of the boat, but I still continued to hold by the oar; I never saw any more of Bristow after the boat had turned over; after holding by the oar for some time, the other oar came near me, and I caught hold of it with my other hand; I was supported by the two oars until I saw another vessel coming up, and then I called out for help; the captain got into his boat, and got me out of the water; after I had got into the boat I saw something floating before us, and I desired the captain to assist me in reaching it. We first overtook two hats, the next was the body of Clarissa Sturdy, who was floating on the surface of the water, and we took her onto the boat. She was quite dead. I afterwards got into the cabin of his vessel, and sat by the fire, until we got to Acaster ferry, and I then went on shore. And two neighbours led me home. My own daughter was drowned, and her body has not yet been found.

BY A JUROR – I cannot say that there was any blame to be attributed either to the people on the vessel, or to the hauling-man.

JOHN FISHER was recalled by a juror, and also interrogated as to the conduct of the watermen, and the man who had the charge of the hauling horse. He said, he did not think there was any blame to be attributed to them.Stephen Green said, I live at Cawood, and am a hauler and labourer. I was driving the horse which drew the vessel. When the boat came up to the vessel, some of them called out to lighten the rope; I thought they said “Tighten it”. I replied, it was impossible to lighten it, without throwing them over, but I would slacken it, and they might go over it. I did slacken it immediately, I ran to my horse’s head, and held him. I cannot say whether the boat would have gone over the line or not, if the men had not lifted it up. The reason the rope was so slack when the boat came up, was, that they had been letting me some line out from the vessel. The current would not let the line sink.John Fisher , stated, that Turner called out for the rope to be slackened, and he called for it to be tightened. MR CORONER WOOD, said, this appeared to be the case. If necessary he would read the evidence; but he thought it hardly was, as the jury had paid great attention to it [sic]. In his opinion it was clearly an accident, – if they were satisfied it was so, it would not be necessary to make any further comment.

They would return a verdict of accidental death, and find a deodand on the boat, which was the moving cause of the accident, as a forfeiture to the crown. It was the province of the jury to fix the amount of the deodand. The jury, without hesitation, returned a verdict in each case, of ACCIDENTALLY DROWNED, – with a deodand of 1s on the boat. The indentures of inquisition were then filled up, and signed by the Jurors, – in which their verdict was recorded in the following manner: -

“ We find that on the 26th day of December, being in a certain boat then belonging to John Turner, of Stillingfleet, and now the property of his legal representatives, and sailing therein on the river Ouse there, it so happened that the said boat was accidentally upset, and by reason thereof the said deceased were accidentally drowned in the waters of the said river; and do find that the said boat was moving to the death of the said deceased, and is of the value of one shilling.” The inquiry terminated about eleven o’clock at night.

THE FUNERALThe Coroner granted his warrants for the interment of the unfortunate sufferers, – which is expected to take place at Stillingfleet on Sunday afternoon (to-morrow) at two o’clock.