Back in 1929, the following gravestone was noted by Mr. L. H. Chambers, who was documenting all of the monuments in the new churchyard:
The gravestone is now long gone, but we found a news article in the 'Reading Mercury' of September 11th 1869 relating what had happened a week before on September 4th:
SAD AND FATAL ACCIDENT
Considerable excitement was occasioned on Saturday evening, by the report that a young man, named George Franklin, in the employ of Messrs. Righton and Son, butchers, Broad-street, had been thrown from a cart and killed. Unfortunately the news proved to be correct.
It appears that the deceased was proceeding down Sulham Hill, when from some cause or other, which will ever remain a mystery, he was thrown from his seat and sustained fatal injuries. No one except a girl, of the age of 13 years, witnessed the accident, and therefore the evidence as to how the deceased was thrown from the cart is involved in uncertainty.
He had been in the employ of Messrs. Righton for two years, and was a respectable, steady man. On Monday an inquest was held on the body, before W. Weedon, Esq., coroner, and a respectable jury, of whom Mr. James Duckett was foreman.
After viewing the body the following evidence was adduced:-
Hannah Hunter said – I am the wife of Matthias Hunter, labourer. At about 8.40 p.m., on Saturday, my little girl told me she thought something the matter in the road, as she saw something white lying down, and heard a noise, and saw a horse’s tail frisking. The child is twelve years of age, and is unwell this morning. I went to the spot. It was at the foot of Sulham Hill. I found a horse on the ground, and a man under it. The horse was attached to a cart, and the cart was lying on its side. I sent my little girl for my husband. He came, and with the assistance of another man, the body of the deceased was raised up and removed to the school-room. I thought that the deceased was quite dead at the time. I saw no-one with the cart, and I did not notice if there was any name on the cart.
There was meat in it – Matthias Hunter, labourer, said – I am the husband of the last witness. I was called to the deceased, so ascribed by her, and found the deceased man in the position mentioned. I and another man got him from under the horse and took him to the School-room. He was quite dead. I did not know the deceased, but I have seen him several times driving the same cart, which belongs to Mr. Righton, butcher, Reading. Deceased did not always drive the same horse. I am not sure whether I saw this horse before. The front part of the cart was broken, as if it had been kicked; he looked as if the horse had fallen on him, and he had not moved. The kicking strip was broken, and the rest of the harness was sound. The horse appeared too little for the cart. The horse was coming down the hill. I have not heard of any one who saw the accident. A brother and sister of the deceased came to see the body yesterday. They recognised it as that of their brother. They said his age was 23 years age, next birthday. I did not hear his name.
By the Foreman. – I saw the wheel mark on the back. The cart was in the road, lying on the off side wheel.
Police-constable Herring said – I saw the brother and sister of the deceased yesterday. They recognised the body as that of their brother. They said his name was George Franklin; that he worked for Mr. Righton, and was 22 years of age. They also identified the watch I found on the body. I did not see the body until it was in the school-room. I have inquired but cannot hear of anyone who saw the accident.
Henry Ireland said. – I am in Mr. Righton’s employ. Deceased had been in Mr. Righton’s service about two years. I had never been out with the horse deceased was with. My master had had it a fortnight. I don’t know whether it was steady or not. I had not heard of any accident with it before. There was no one with the deceased when he started from the shop, at about ten o’clock on Saturday morning. The horse started quickly.
The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death".
Sulham Hill is to the west of Tilehurst, and at the bottom of the hill is a junction with Little Heath Road at Hallplace Farm. There was a school-house along Little Heath Road, as shown in the bottom left of the 6-inch Ordnance Survey map from 1881:
For a modern aerial photo of Sulham Hill, click here.
George Franklin's family
In the 1861 Census, George and Ann Franklin were living in Arborfield somewhere near the 'Bramshill Hunt' P. H., along with their younger children Ann, Charlotte, Charles, Ellen and John. It appears that their eldest son George, then aged about 14, had already left the household by this time. His father, an agricultural labourer, had been born in Swallowfield, while his mother, a charwoman, was from Reading St. Laurence. All of the children living with them were born in Barkham.
George senior died in 1864 aged only 39, and is buried at Arborfield. His widow Ann married George Dash of Hazeley Heath in the December quarter 1867 in the Wokingham area; he was at least 10 years her junior. By 1871 George and Ann Dash were living in Arborfield along with Ann's children Ann, Charlotte, John and 9-year-old William. Ellen had left the household to work as a nursemaid and domestic servant for the Curate of Arborfield, Wyndham C. Hill D'Aeth., who lived at Arborfield Cross. Wyndham had married Mary Simonds of Newlands, and by this time, they had three small children: Harriet, Wyndham and Cloudsley. Ellen's brother Charles had left the parish; in 1875 he married Amelia Vickers, and although they made their home in Reading, they brought their children Ellen and Charles to be baptised at Arborfield in 1878 and 1879.
In 1881, the Dash family were still living in Arborfield, near to Targett's Farm. Ellen Franklin had returned to live there with her brother William and sister Ann, then aged 31; both sisters were seamstresses. By 1888, Ann had died aged only 39, and is buried alongside her brother. In 1929, Mr. Chambers found 'a small wooden cross that is all perished but there is a glass case with a card inside which has on it: "Ann Franklin, who died March 6 88 aged 39 years". Her mother died in 1899 aged 75, while her step-father George Dash died in 1898, aged 62. By 1929, the Dash's grave wasn't even marked with a wooden cross.
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