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Sunday 23 June 2024

Sad Boating Accident - Seth Charles Ward - Drowned at Boulter's Weir

All Saint's Churchyard,
Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK.

 
"In Holy Memory of
Seath Charles Ward
For 19 Years A Chorister in This Church
Caled To His rest June 4th 1878 Aged 69

His mercy is on them that fear Him throughout all generations."


Seth Charles Ward was born in on 15th May 1809 in Camberwell, Surrey, England, to parents Seth Stephen War, and Maria Black.  On the 26th September 1840 Seth married Rose Barraud at Saint Giles, Camberwell Church Street, Southwark.  Seth is listed on his marriage certificate as being a Clerk in court in Chancery. 

On the 1841 Census Seth and Rose can be found living in Queen's Row, Grove Lane, Camberwell, Southwark. On the 22nd August 1841 they celebrated the birth of their son Percival Seth Ward. Their daughter Marion Rose Ward followed in 1843 and another son, Bernard Stephen Ward on 5th August 1846. The family is still living in Queen's Row in Grove Lane, Camberwell in 1851. In 1854 another daughter Dora May ward was born but sadly she was to pass away in 1855.

By 1861 the family had moved to Maidenhead and were living in Castle Hill. Seth is listed as a clerk of records and writs in the High Court of Chancery. Percival is now an undergraduate of the College of Oxford (Oxford University). 

In 1871 Seth, his wife Rose, and their daughter Marion are still living in Castle Hill, Maidenhead, Berkshire. Percival has married Annie Trueman and moved away to Farnborough, Warwickshire, where he is training to become a vicar. Bernard, now and organist and pianist, had moved out to Dresden, Germany, where he met and married Susan Theresa Davey Holdich. 

Seth Charles Ward was to pass away on 4th June 1878, by drowning in the Thames at Taplow, Buckinghamshire. The Maidenhead Advertiser reported on the accident: 

"Serious Occurrence

We regret to have to have to announce a shocking accident which occurred yesterday (Tuesday) morning to a boating party who were out on the river under Taplow woods. Mr. P. S. Ward [sic], an aged gentleman, residing on Castle Hill, (this is a mistake in the reporting as P. S. Ward was Seth Charles's son, and lived until 1925) and was well known and generally respected in this neighbourhood, (so well known and respected in fact, they go his name wrong in the report), took with him yesterday morning, on an excursion on the river, his daughter and two nieces. They engaged a boat at Mr. Rose's, and went down the river and spent some time in enjoyment of the beauty of the scenery. They then appear to have gone to the weir to examine the sluices, and to have got out there. Returning to the boat, they turned into the backwater, and the boat, getting clear of the point, was carried broadside on to the sluice nearest the Bucks shore. The danger became manifest in a moment, and one of the ladies jumping ashore, dragged the second after her, and the third, having hold of the dress of the second, the three escaped, just as the boat capsized. Mr. Ward, however, was carried under and lost to view. A man on the shore saw the accident, and ran to Lord Dangan's and set to the lock for aid, and the ladies promptly rescued. A search was also made for the body of Mr. Ward, but without avail. All the afternoon and evening parties were out dragging for the unfortunate gentleman, but up to the time of our going to press the body had not been recovered. 

The man who witnessed the occurrence is named Charles Tuckwell, and he gives the following account:- at about 12 o'clock, I was sitting on the bank of the river and I saw a gentleman and two ladies near the weir. I saw them go near the centre sluice and land on it and look around. They then go into the boat again, and rowed around the backwater between the sluices. As soon as the boat got clear of the point, it was drawn broadside onto the sluice nearest the land on the Bucks side of the river. I saw one of the ladies jump ashore and pull another, the third having hold of the second one's dress. I also saw the gentleman's feet up out of the water, as though he was being drawn under. The ladies signalled to me that he had gone under, and I ran to Lord Dangan's (Henry Arthur Mornington Wellesley, 3rd earl Cowley J.P.) for assistance, and sent a boy to the lock to tell the man there.

The boat was broken into fragments, and these have been recovered in various places at a considerable distance from the scene of the accident. Lord Dangan rendered prompt assistance to the ladies, and conveyed them to his residence, and he afterwards placed a carriage at their disposal to return homeward.

Mr. Ward was an active member to the choir and the congregation of All Saint's. His sad and sudden death is a subject of deep and general sorrow, and the sincere sympathy of many friends is given to the bereaved and mourning relatives."  Maidenhead Advertiser, Wednesday 5th June 1878.


Maidenhead (Boulter's) Weir
where Seth Charles Ward drowned
on 4th June 1878


Seth's body wasn't recovered from the river until the 10th of June, his inquest was held at the Ray Mead Hotel near the river.  The Maidenhead Advertiser reported on the discovery of the body and the inquest as follows:

"Sad Boating Accident - The Inquest.

We gave last week an account of the sad boating accident at the weir above Boulter's Lock, by which Mr Seth Charles Ward, and aged gentleman, residing at Boyn Hill, was unfortunately drowned. The search for the body of the deceased commenced shortly after the accident, was continued without success until Monday morning. A reward was offered, and several punts were out each day, and the river was carefully dragged for a considerable distance; but no trace could be found of the body, and the general opinion was that it had been sucked down and retained in one of the holes or ledges underneath the bank near the weir. On Saturday morning, by the permission of Captain Etheridge, superintendent of the Thames Conservancy, the water was drawn off to a depth of nearly two feet, but the body still remained undiscovered. At about four o'clock Monday morning, however, a man named Harmand was out with a punt in the back stream near the gas works, and saw a dark object near the bank in the vicinity of the fish baskets, nearly facing Mr. Rose's boathouse. He put down his punt pole to it, and found it was the body of the unfortunate gentleman; it was thereupon lifted into the punt, and being conveyed therein to the gas works, where Mr. Harmand is employed, it was removed to the Ray Mead Hotel, and subsequently by the coroner's permission, to the deceased residence, near Boyn Hill Church.

Here an inquest was held at 3 o'clock, before W. Weedon, Esq., coroner, and a respectable jury, of whom Mr. F. Hillersdon was foreman. The first witness was Marian [sic] Rose Ward, who said: I am the daughter of the deceased. He was 69 years of age, and engaged in the Record and Writ Office. On the 4th of this month the deceased, I, and my two cousins were out boating. Mt father and I were rowing. He was accustomed to rowing, and I was fond of it, he knew the river quite well. We got out of the boat to look at the weir above Boulter's Lock, and he stood in the boat holding it. We got in again, and he sat down to his oar, but missed his stroke, and fell back into the boat. Instantly, he got up again, saying that it was all right; but by this time the boat was drifting close to the weir. As we came quite close to it we all caught hold of the beam there. I knew the danger, and my father told me to get out. My cousins stepped out on to the land, and I followed them. I saw the boat filling with water and quite on one side : at that moment he went down, feet foremost, as I just landed. 

"Do you, " asked the Coroner, "attribute the accident to his losing the stroke?" - "Yes," was the reply, "I attribute a good deal to losing control of the boat in that way; or I think he would have prevented it, he had just time to say 'Sit still.'"
"Was it by his wish that you went to the weir?" - "It was : I ought to say, we had been to the weir more than a dozen times before, I should think."
"He did not rise again?" - "No ; I thought I at first saw a hand and arm, but it must have been the oar; the oars were very white."
"You and your cousins didn't get into the water?" - "No."
"What happened next?" - "We called for help. There was a little boy on the opposite side of the river, and I think he ran to the lock. In about a quarter of an hour several men came, and a gentleman and a lady in a sort of canoe. The boat went into three pieces as he sank."

Charles Tuckwell, the next witness, said: "I am a labourer. On Tuesday I was standing on the bank of the river just above the weir, and I saw a gentleman and three ladies past in a boat. I did not know who they were. I saw them go near the pier, and the three ladies got out. They got in again, and the gentleman began pulling. It appeared that he wanted to go down the dead water; instead of that, the stream caught the head of the boat, and as he pulled it brought the boat right across the stream, which took him down to the weir. The stream was too strong for him, and took him the contrary way to what he wished. When he got to the sluice, as far as I could see, one side of the boat tipped up, and the ladies saw the danger and stepped out onto the brickwork. I heard the boat crush, but I did not see where the gentleman went. I fancied I saw his legs as he went down, and I called to the ladies a dozen times, I should think; to know if he had gone down. I then sent a boy to the lock, and went myself to Lord Dangan's for assistance. The gentleman seems to row very well. I helped search for the body, but could not find it.

By the Jury: If the ladies had been one minute later, they would have been swamped altogether.

Henry Harmand said: "I am a stoker at the Gas Works. About four o'clock this morning I found the body. I started away from the Gas Works at about three o'clock, and found it in about an hour, against the old bucks, near Mr. Rose's. It was over quarter of a mile from the weir. I saw the deceased's coat first, and lifted the body into the punt and took it down to the Gas Works. It was taken to the Ray Mead Hotel."

The Coroner said this appears to be all the evidence needful. No doubt, he added, the occurrence was an accident, for which no-one was to blame. At this point Rev. Percy Ward, son of the deceased gentleman, asked leave to say a few words to the jury. The Coroner acquiesced, and Mr. Ward observed: "Of course, in cases of accident of this kind there may be suspicions of carelessness or want of skill, and I should like to say of my dear father that there never was a man more careful than he was; and I assure you, as to the skill, that 40 years ago he was considered to be one of the best oarsmen on the Thames. And he was especially careful when he had ladies with him. He had become accustomed to go to that very spot when the sluices were shut, and when the water had not such a head on."

The Coroner said that the family of the deceased had his sympathy under these sad circumstances.  The Foreman added to this that the jury sincerely sympathised, as did indeed, the whole neighbourhood, with the deceased's relatives in their said bereavement. The Jury at once returned a verdict that the deceased was accidentally drowned by the upsetting of a boat at the weir near Boulter's Lock; on the Thames; and at their request, the Coroner promised to write to the Conservancy, suggesting that "Danger" boards should be put up at either end of the weir. They handed their fees (13s) to the Editor of the Maidenhead Advertiser for presentation to the funds of the Cottage Hospital.

The remains of the deceased were interred yesterday afternoon in the churchyard of All Saint's, Boyn Hill, amid great expressions of sorrow." - Maidenhead Advertiser, Wednesday 12th June 1878.



Ray Mead Hotel, Maidenhead, Berkshire. 


Seth's widow Rose would continue to live in Maidenhead until her death in 1905.


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