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Fighting in Hulcote Churchyard

The approach to Hulcote church December 2011
The approach to Hulcote church December 2011

Just before Christmas 1820 a fight took place in Hulcote churchyard. The two injured parties then went before the local justice of the peace (also the Rector of Hulcote and Salford) to make their complaints. The two aggressors then appeared before the quarter sessions and were fined. 

William Seer of Hulcote was examined by Rev. Edward Orlebar Smith JP on 20th December 1820 [QSR24/292]. He said he "went to Hulcot Church as a ringer on Tuesday December the nineteenth between the Hours of Seven and Eight in the Evening, he has been a regular ringer at Hulcot Church upwards of 3 years, & as he was going up the Field nearest to Hulcot Church called Church Close he saw two men behind large trees in the Avenue which leads up to the Church yard who ran away before he, W. Seer, or any of those with him, called out or spoke to them. He then called out "You have no occasion to run we have been after you a good many times and now we shall have you" he thought then that they had been two young men who had done this on one occasion or that they were about something wrong. They then stopped at a Holly bush adjoiningthe Church yard gates & upon the said William Seer going up to them - Joseph Kingham & John Fountaine of Hulcot Yeoman – Joseph Kingham came up to the said William Seer (who is sure that he did not first give Provocation or speak to the said J. Kingham) & said "Damn your Eyes what do you want of me", Seer answered "Nothing Sir" – Kingham said "You want to rob us" – Seer replied "'Twas the least in my thoughts" Kingham then stood in a threatening Attitude before Seer & holding up his fists said "Damn your Eyes I'll cut your head off". W. Seer immediately said "Mr. Kingham I did not mean any harm, I beg your Pardon – Kingham however before anything more passed struck the said W, Seer with violence upon the Nose & Seer believes he should have fallen to the ground if he had not been prevented by the Church yard Hedge against which he fell in consequence of the Blow. After this blow Kingham stood before him in a threatening attitude & said "Damn you I will kill you in two minutes & all you Salford Buggers" upon which Seer withdrew as quick as possible into the Church yard Kingham did not follow him but called him & his companions all damned rogues together".

One of his companions, Valentine Dolton, was also examined and said [QSR24/293]: "on Tuesday December the nineteenth he went in company with W. Seer & others to ring the Bells of Hulcot Church between the hours of Seven & Eight in the Evening – as he was going up a Field leading from the Road to the Church yard called Church Close He saw two men behind two Large Trees standing still or very near – these two men ran away from the approach of Dolton & his companions – but seeing them run William Seer called out "You have not occasion to run we have been after you a good many times & now we shall have you". V. Dolton thought they were young men doing this for a joke – but did not call out or say anything to them. He saw them run & stand behind a Holly bush adjoining one of the Church yard Gates & with his companions went to see who they were, upon his approach one of the men John Fountaine of Hulcot Parish Yeoman came forward up to V. Dolton & said "Damn your Eyes what do you want running after me" Dolton said in Answer "I did not know who it was I did not know that it was you sir" Fountaine answered "What do you want you poor informing Bugger, go & tell Smith [obviously the JP] again you poor Bugger". Then V. Dolton went into the Church yard saying to Fountaine "I don't owe you any ill will & I don't know why you should owe any to me but if you owe me any & want to knock me about do". V. Dolton said nothing more but upon this John Fountaine said "Damn you I will then and coming into the Church yard struck V. Dolton upon the head & V. Dolton stood quietly until he had been struck but being struck a scuffle ensued Fountain taking Dolton by the collar threw him down & fell upon him. Both got up again, Fountaine walked away telling Dolton that he would have no more to do with him. Dolton said he would go to a Justice & Fountaine answered "Damn your Eyes do your best".

Both Seer and Dolton signed by mark. Such submissive behaviour in the face of Kingham's and Fountaine's aggression at first seems odd. The answer seems to be a difference in ages. Valentine Dolton was fifty at the time of the 1851 census and so would have been eighteen or nineteen at the time of the incident. William Seer cannot be traced but it does not seem unreasonable to assume that he, and indeed the other, unnamed, bellringers, were about the same age. John Fountaine had a child baptised in Hulcote in 1806 and so was, clearly, much older, so too, presumably, Kingham. This supposition is backed up by the deferential language used by Seer towards Kingham and by Dolton towards Fountaine. In those days young lads would naturally have been deferential to those older than themselves – how times have changed!

The avenue of large trees leading from the Salford road up to the church has largely gone, as has the holly hedge around the graveyard. One or two large trees still stand in the avenue near the church and perhaps Kingham and Fountaine hid behind one of these. The rest of the row of trees have been replaced but at the present time [2011] the replacements are just saplings.

The path up to the church January 2008
The path up to the church January 2008