Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


Death of John Isles, 1908


Newspaper report from November 1908.



A shocking trap fatality occurred at St.Annes on Thursday evening, the victim being John Isles (61), head gamekeeper to Mr. T. Clifton, of Lytham Hall.

Isles, Thomas Matthews (another gamekeeper), Richard Leeming, Kitty's Lane, Marton, and John Walsh, of Moss Side, Marton, set off from the Half-Way House about 6.30 in a cart drawn by a cob, which Isles thought of purchasing from Walsh. They we along Blackpool road, and just after passing Cartmell's Farm, Isles, who was standing up and driving touched the cob with the reins. The animal suddenly bolted, throwing Isles, Leeming and Walsh on to the road. Matthews pulled the cob up in about quarter a mile, and when he returned it was found Isles was lying unconscious. Walsh drove to St. Annes for Dr. Monnington, and Isles was taken to Leach Lodge Farm. He never recovered consciousness, and died about twenty minutes later. There were no external marks of injury and no bones were broken.

Isles had been a gamekeeper on the Clifton Estates for over 40 years, and was much attached to the present lord of the manor. The Squire motored to St. Annes on Thursday [night after receiving the news.


The inquest was conducted at the St. Annes Council Offices on Saturday night by Mr. J. Parker (Coroner.) Mr. W. G. Croucher was foreman of the jury, and Mr. Wm. Bee, licensee of the Half-Way House, was presenting the proceedings.

John Isles, son of the deceased, said he last saw his father alive at nine o'clock on Thursday morning. He gave evidence of identification.

John Walsh, grocer, Walker's Hill, Marton, said that about one o'clock last Thursday he called at the Shovels Inn at Marton, remained there till about two o'clock, having three glasses of beer during the time. On leaving there he went to the Half-Way House with his horse and cart in company with some other men. Some time after arriving he met John Isles and Thomas Matthews at the bar, and they had some drinks together. They then had three games of bowls, leaving the gamekeepers in the house.        On returning Isles was still at the bar and they had two or three drinks after that. Isles fancied witness's cob, which was 14 hands high and about seven years old. They left the house about six o'clock. The cart was a long two-wheeled cart with shallow sides. The occupants of the cart were Isles, Leeming, Matthews and witness. Witness drove at the start and then Isles got hold of the reins and was driving when they were going past Cartmell's farm. About 150 yards past the farm Isles leaned over and touched the pony with the reins, and it gave a sudden start, and Isles, Leeming and witness fell out of the cart.

The Coroner: I suppose you were thrown into the road ?—I was thrown on my back Isles was thrown over the side..

And the horse went on?—Yes.

Trotting or galloping?—Trotting.

Did the horse seem to bolt?—Not quite bolting. If I had been there and shouted "whoa" it would have stopped.

Have you had an accident with it before?—No, never.

Do you say the deceased appeared to be hurt?—Yes.

Did you drive to St. Annes for a doctor?—Yes.

And Dr. Monnington followed you back in a cab?—Yes.

And Isles was taken to Leach Lodge Farm? —Yes.

Was he drunk?—He was not what you call “beastly drunk," but he seemed to have had drink.

Was he or not? I want an answer?—I think he was drunk.

How was Matthews? — About the same way. And how were you?—I was pretty near as right as what I am now, sir.

And Leeming?—He was as right as what I was.


By the Foreman: You had drink at the Shovels previously?—Yes.

You had three at the Shovels. How many had you at the Half-Way House?—We had seven in all.

You told the Coroner that in your estimation Isles was drunk. Do you think you were in order in allowing him to drive that cart?—He seemed to walk all right.

A Juryman: Had you all seven drinks? — I can't say.

What was it you were drinking.—I was drinking beer.

What did Isles drink?—I didn't take notice.

Thomas Matthews, under-gamekeeper for Mr. Clifton, said that about 11-30 on Thursday morning he met Isles at his house in Regent Street, Lytham. They went to witness's house and left about a quarter-past one for the Half-Way House, arriving there between two and half-past. Isles had a pint of beer and witness had a small whisky. They then went to Layton Hawes Farm to shoot pheasants, but having no luck returned to the Half-Way House, arriving between 4-30 and 5-0. Witness had three small whiskies and Isles was with him. While he was having the whiskies Isles went out and met Walsh in the passage and began talking about the pony. They left the house about 6-30.


The Coroner: And who began driving?— Isles said he would drive.

Was that when you started?—Yes.

So that if Walsh says he drove it part of the way he was wrong?---Yes.

You are sure Isles drove it till the accident?—Yes.

And did you go in the direction of Lytham?—Yes.

And when you had got between Cartmell's Farm and Leach Lodge Farm did you hear Walsh speak to Isles?—Yes.

What did he say?—Something about it won't stand hitting. He then gave it a touch with the reins.

Would Isles hear him?—Yes.

Was Isles offering to hit the pony at the time?—Not just then.

You don't know why Walsh told him?—No.

Did he strike the pony with the rein?—I don't know whether it was the end of the rein or the flat.

It was not severe punishment or anything of that sort?—Oh no.

Were you kneeling at the bottom of the cart?—Yes.

And what happened to you?—Three of them went out.

You stuck in the cart?—Yes. The reins were down.

Consequent on Isles having fallen.—Yes.

You got the reins?—Yes.

How was the horse going?—Very very fast.

How do you mean?—Galloping.

Properly bolting?—Yes.

Within what distance did you stop?—About quarter of a mile.

How long did it take you to pull up?—It took me a long time. I was on the horse's back. I had to get over the cart and get the reins.


A very plucky thing to do. The reins were too far forward and you had to get on the horse's back?—Yes.

It was a proper runaway?—Yes.

What was the condition of Isles?—He seemed a bit merry.

Would you say he was drunk?—No, I should not say he was drunk.

How was Walsh?—He had had a glass or two.

And how was Leeming?—He was about the same.

And how were you?—I was sober enough. Something like Isles?—About the same, I daresay.

You don't think you, were drunk?—No.

The Foreman: When Walsh went for the doctor was Isles conscious?—No, sir. I spoke to him several times, but he did not answer.

In your opinion the cause of the accident was Isles striking the horse and it bolting?—Yes.

Richard Leeming, market gardener, Leamington House, Kitty's Lane, Marton Moss, said that on Thursday he went to the Half-Way House about 1-30 and remained till 6-30. During that time he had about four glasses of beer and two lemonades. He saw his cousin, John Walsh, and Isles and Matthews. They started out about 6-30 and Walsh was driving at the start. Isles afterwards took the reins and Walsh told him the pony did not need hitting. Walsh was behind Isles, steadying him, as Isles was the worse for drink.


How was Matthews for drink?—I should say he had had sufficient, but he was not drunk.

And Walsh?—Sober enough.

How were you?—Sober.

Thomas Braithwaite, farm labourer, Leach Lodge Farm, gave evidence of Isles being brought to the farm.

A Juryman: Did you consider any of the men drunk?—They were no worse for drink that I could see.


Wm. Bee, licensee of the Half-Way House, said that about 2-30 on Thursday afternoon Isles and Matthews came to his house. Isles had a pint of beer and Matthews had a small whisky. Isles said they were going pheasant shooting, and invited witness to go with them. Witness and they all returned about half-past four, Witness took them into the smoke-room and sat with them till about half-past five. Isles had three small whiskies, which witness served. Later Isles went to the bar and commenced talking to Walsh, while Matthews remained in the room. Witness then went upstairs for his tea, coming down at ten minutes to six. He saw Isles talking to Walsh at the bar, and there were glasses before them.

The Coroner : So far as you know what drink had Isles?—I saw him served with a pint of beer and he had four small whiskies.  The pint of beer was at half-past-two, and the effect would have gone.

That is a matter for the jury. Altogether the had five drinks?—Yes.

What was his condition?—He was perfectly sober at ten minutes to six.

Witness, in answer to further questions, said he did not see the party go away. He went to light a bonfire for the children and when he got back at ten minutes or quarter past six he had gone. He heard of the accident about 8-0 o'clock. He had a man who put in the horse for them and saw them go away.

The Foreman: Did you call anywhere while out shooting?—No.


Dr. Elliott said he had examined the body and could find no external marks of injury which would lead to any conclusion as to the cause of death. He made a post mortem examination and found that Isles died from a ruptured liver. There were no bones broken. Ruptured liver was frequently caused by a fall; and the liver was enlarged by chronic alcoholism. He was a heavy man and the fall from the cart would be sufficient to cause that injury. It was a very bad rupture and was practically torn. There would be tremendous haemorrhage, and he had congestion of the brain which would account for him becoming insensible.

The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death," and passed a vote of sympathy with deceased's widow and family.


The funeral took place on Monday morning at Lytham Parish Church. The remains were conveyed through the Lytham Hall grounds. Amongst those present were Mr. and Mrs. Clifton, who walked next to the coffin, Mr. Jas. Fair, the agent to the Clifton Estate, and many of the tenant farmers. Mr. Arthur England and Mr. W. Hopwood represented the Alexandria Building Co., St. Annes, by whom the funeral arrangements were carried out.


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