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Tottenhoe Boy Killed by Stone Throwing

The Bedfordshire Mercury edition of the 20th October 1862 relates the sad tale of "A BOY KILLED THROUGH STONE THROWING". The article states: "On the afternoon of Thursday, October 10, a boy named John Kingston, 10 years of age [see below], had been playing with a boy named John Pratt, and on separating John Kingston threw a stone at Pratt, and Pratt threw one at Kingston, which unfortunately hit him on the head. Kingston cried at the time, but he went home as if nothing was the matter; but when he went to bed in the evening he complained to his mother of a pain in his head, and said it was hurt by a stone as he was coming home. She sent for the doctor, Mr. Farr, but when he arrived she did not tell him that the boy's head was hurt by a stone, and Mr. Farr prescribed as for a fever; the boy however sank and died the same evening. An inquest was held on Tuesday last, at the Bell, before Mr. E. Eagles, coroner, when the above facts were given in evidence, and Mr. Farr stated the result of the post mortem examination of the body. In turning back the scalp be found a contusion internally just above the right ear; in removing the skull cap there was a large clot of blood, weighing three ounces and a quarter, pressing on the brain at the part corresponding with the contusion above the right ear. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased died from injuries caused by a stone thrown at him in play. It is to be hoped that the above melancholy death caused by a common practice among boys will act as a caution, and put a check upon so dangerous a sport".

The 1861 census for Totternhoe shows that John Kingston was then eleven years old not.. He was the son of Thomas, aged 41, an agricultural labourer and Rebecca, aged 33, a straw plaiter. He was the eldest child, having two siblings - Sarah, aged two and Lizzie aged two months. Everyone had been born in Totternhoe with the exception of Rebecca who was from Kensworth (then in Hertfordshire). The family were living in Church End. The 1871 census shows that the family had another child, Emily, aged seven and so born after John's untimely death.

Although there are a lot of Pratts in Totternhoe none of them has a child called John on the 1861 census, the only John Pratts being men and head of household (the youngest of the in his twenties). The 1871 census, again, shows no John Pratt of around twenty years of age. Therefore, it seems likely that John Pratt was either: a visitor to one of the Pratt families in the village; or he lived in a nearby parish; or he and his family moved to Totternhoe after 1861 and moved away again before 1871.

Poor John Kingston was buried at Totternhoe on 15th October 1862, aged twelve years, not ten as reported by the newspaper.