Frederick Stovell of Cheam

Frederick Stovell, was born in Effingham 0n 26th November 1846, the fourth son of Thomas Stovell and his wife Elizabeth, nee Holdaway.  He married Martha Lawrence in 1872 who had been born in Cheam, Surrey in November 1852.  Fred had also been living in Cheam since at least 1871 as he is listed as a lodger at the Plough Inn at that time - a place that played a major part in his subsequent life.  By the 1881 census Fred and Martha, and their children, were living at No. 2, Station Road, Cheam, just two doors away from the Plough, and must have been living in the village throughout the previous ten years as all their listed children have their place of birth shown as Cheam.

Station Road Cheam

Station Road Cheam, thought to be about 1920. The open topped car is parked outside or close to 2 Station Road, and the Plough is adjacent to the last of the terraced houses in the distance.  

Cheam Crossroads - Station Road is to the left, behind the Policeman, who is standing outside the Plough.  This scene is now unrecognisable as all the buildings have been demolished. 

It would seem that Fred, another generation of blacksmiths, was hard working, but also hard drinking.  Might this have stemmed from his upbringing, raised by a blacksmith father who also ran a pub, the Blacksmith's Arms in Effingham?  We cannot now know, but we do have newspaper reports.  This brief article, from "The Sussex Express, Surrey Standard, Weald of Kent Mail, Hants and County Advertiser" (a snappy title!) of Tuesday November 12th 1889 shows that Fred was up before the Epsom bench for his behaviour, and had already lost his job for "bad conduct". 

Village Blacksmith in Trouble

Two years later, in the census of 1891, Fred was living in Lambeth as a lodger, described as a Blacksmith Journeyman, whilst Martha and their children were still at No 2, Station Road, Cheam.  We might suspect that his reputation prevented him from obtaining local employment, and he was obliged to look further afield, perhaps returning to Cheam at the end of the working week.

By 1897 he had returned to working in the area, and as the following newpaper article says, was working for Mr. Pearson, in Sutton, presumably Tom Pearson, but possibly his son Harry who may by then have been managing that business.  As an aside this is an especially interesting family connection.  Pearson's still exists as a business, claiming to be the oldest bicycle shop in the world, and they have considerable detail of their own history on their website.  Frederick Stovell's Granddaughter Violet would eventually marry Tom Pearson's grandson Arthur, who succeeded his father Harry in running the firm, and Pearson's continues as a family business, now run by Violet's two grandsons, and highly respected in the cycling world.

But I digress.  As will be seen from the following newspaper article, transcribed in full, 1897 was an awful year for Fred Stovell and his family.  The article is well worth reading for it's graphic detail.

Text of newspaper article in The Sutton and Cheam Advertiser and Surrey County Reporter of Saturday October 30th 1897:

Note - When reading newspaper reports of Victorian legal proceedings - trials, inquests etc. - it is helpful to know that the questions asked of a witness were, generally, not reported, but the answers to those questions were.  Hence a witness's statement can seem to be a series of truncated, short statements.  For example:  The witness would have been asked:  How long were you married?
The answer would, no doubt, have been "We were married for 25 years.  July just past was our 25th anniversary."  But see below for the manner in which the local reporter wrote this up. 


An inquest was held at the Plough on Monday afternoon by the district coroner, Mr Percy W.Morrison, on the body of Frederick Stovell, blacksmith, Station Road, who committed suicide under the most determined circumstances.  Mr A. Norrington was chosen foreman of the jury.

Martha Stovell, widow of the deceased, identified the body as that of her husband, aged 50.  She lived with him up to October 11th, when she left him owing to his threats towards her and the children.  He had threatened to kill them, and she believed he would have done it, and consequently left him.  They lived happily together when the deceased was not drinking.  She had thought that for years his mind was affected when he was in drink.  They had been married 25 years in July last.  She had taken out a summons against the deceased for maintenance, and the summons was to have been heard this morning.  On the occasion of her leaving him he came home the worse for drink and obtained his savings, £14.10s. He said it ought to have been £90, and threatened her life if she did not get this sum.  Her husband had been working for Mr. Pearson, Sutton.  When leaving him witness went to live with her daughter at Fulham.


Martha Stovell, nee Lawrancejavascript:void(0)



Martha Stovell

nee Lawrance, Fred's wife.  




Part of the original news article

Frederick Stovell Suicide Report Extract

Dr. Bosworth stated that he was called by the police at 5.30 on Saturday, and on going to a shed at the back of the Plough he saw the body of the deceased hanging from a hook in the ceiling.  The door of the shed was locked, but Mr. Ockendon got in through a window and opened the door and admitted himself and the coroner's officer.  The deceased was suspended by a rope and his feet touched the ground.  His tongue was protruding and was very black and swollen.  The rope was tied round the neck, over a plaid scarf.  Below the scarf there was a wound in the throat about an inch and a half long.  Afterwards he went into the deceased's bedroom and found a small looking glass on the bed.  The sheet and mattress were stained with blood.  There was lying on the floor a blood-stained razor, and under the pillow an old-fashioned revolver.  He thought deceased first of all cut his throat and then walked into the shed and hung himself.  Death was due to suffocation from hanging, as the wound would not have been sufficient to cause death.


....he had done all the work he was going to do in this world.

Mr James Ockendon, High Street Cheam, stated that the deceased used to drink frequently.  He had no reason to think his mind was affected except when in drink, when he would act like a madman.  On the previous Wednesday the deceased hallooed from his window that if his sons came to the door they would not go away alive.  His sons had threatened to break in the door to get some of their things.  The deceased on Tuesday evening had an hour's talk with witness, and he complained that he only had £14 10s savings, and that he ought to have had £90.  He said he had put £13 in the bank and was going to give his daughter 30s.  He said £70 had been taken from his bag, and further that he should do for himself, and witness tried to persuade him out of it.  Deceased said he had made up his mind not to go to Epsom, (see end of article ed.) and came back a second time, and offered him his bank book for Witness to have the money to bury him with.  Witness would have nothing to do with it and told deceased to "buck up" and go back to work, but he replied that he had done all the work he was going to do in this world.  Deceased said he should go to Leatherhead and get his brother to come and fetch away the furniture.  On the Thursday witness knocked at the door, but could get no answer, and thought he had gone to Leatherhead.  On Saturday evening Mr. Sheppard, the landlord, was in the yard and saw a cat in the scullery window.  He knocked a piece of board away from the window and on witness looking in he saw the deceased hanging.  He was quite dead.

The wife, recalled, stated that the deceased never had £90 saved.  Her son helped her.

William Sheppard. the deceased's landlord, said deceased was as hard a working man as there was in the parish.  He occasionally had too much to drink, and was not then answerable for his actions.  On the Wednesday the deceased offered him his rule and hammer, and also asked him to take his watch, and keep for his younger son.  Deceased had a great dread of going to prison, and thought he would, owing to the proceedings being taken against him by his wife.  A letter from the deceased's daughter showed that that was not the wife's wish.  She only desired a maintenance order.

Frederick Stovell, son, also spoke to his father threatening his mother, in consequence of which she left.


My three bad sons and my wife robbed me....

Sergt. Cooper gave evidence of finding the body.  In the trousers pocket was £1 3s 6d, and two watches, and on the bed was some powder and shot with which he had loaded the revolver.  Lying on the bed was a paper, on which was roughly written in deceased's handwriting - "My three bad sons and my wife robbed me of £70, or there is that gone, and it is as bad as having thieves. I love my little daughter.  My money I have in my pocket give to Sheppard for Ockendon.  Put me under the turf and have my club money.  I was going on the drink.  I thought no good.  I would like Sheppard paid, and there is money to do it.  I hope they won't go to the turf."

The doctor stated that when the body was cut down that life had been extinct for two or three days.

The jury returned a verdict of "Temporary insanity".

At the Epsom Bench on Monday Mr Dennis referred to the case of Stovell v. Stovell.  He said it was a case of maintenance, but since the issue of the summons the husband was dead.  He asked that the case be marked "No appearance".

Mr W. R. G. Farmer presiding, said he knew the case.

The magistrates adopted the suggestion of Mr. Dennis.