Old News

Fearful Tragedy at Marshall's Wick

From the Herts Advertiser, 28th August 1880

There was very extensive coverage of the murder of Edward Anstee at Marshalswick and the following passages  are selected Abstracts



The inhabitants of St Albans, and the residents for a radius of many miles round, woke on Sunday last to hear that early on the bright morning of an August day a tragedy of a cold-blooded character had been enacted almost in their midst. Not a few times lately they have been alarmed which came with the break of day of robberies and housebreakings - the latter in themselves being sufficient to startle people - but news of this character was out-done in its desperateness and fearfulness by the announcement, which found plenty of voices to confirm it, and which unhappily proved to be too true, that a farmer, well known as a long resident in the district, had been shot is his own bedroom, the other inhabitants of the farmhouse frightened and alarmed, and the dwelling itself ransacked. Consternation gave way to to regret for the murdered man who had come to an untimely end, and this was followed by sympathy for the relatives and friends of the deceased.



Mr Edward Anstee, whose death under the sad circumstances indicated we have to relate, was 68 years of age, but is thought by some to have looked older than he really was. He has occupied Marshall's Wick Farm for twenty years, and the place consisted of nearly 300 acres of land, we are informed, and a small house. Previous to coming to reside in this neighbourhood (where he has lived in much respect), Mr Anstee was a butcher in London, and was a successful trader in his calling. In his younger days, too, he was a cricketer who took a very deep interest in the sport, and when Lord's ground was a little less renowned than it is now, he played there in some of the matches. Ever since he has been in this locality he has maintained an interest in the popular game, but with declining years of course he has not been so well able to follow up the sport. But so late as last week he made an engagement with a friend in St Albans to attend a game on Bernard's Heath. Mr Anstee has for sometime past suffered from rheumatism, and has attended the Public Baths, in the city, to see if he could find any relief from that rather common complaint in the baths there provided. The persons who usually tenant the house attached to Marshall's Wick farm are Mr Anstee and his wife, a servant named Elizabeth Coleman, and a lad engaged about the farm. The week before last, however, Mrs Anstee left home on visits to some friends. She first went to Reading and then to London. During her absence Mrs Lindsey, the widow of an old tradesman in St Albans, who had carried on business as a painter and glazier in Verulam-street for many years, had stayed at the house and taken a general oversight of the domestic arrangements. The fine weather of the past fortnight took Mr Anstee and his several workmen much to work in the corn fields, and by Saturday harvest operations on the farm were in a forward state.


The house in which the deceased lived, and which for future time will become in a melancholy sense a "noted" dwelling, was not very capacious, albeit it was convenient, pretty, and very pleasantly situated. It is approached from St Albans by way of the Sandridge Road, or by Sandpit Lane. Off the highway first mentioned it lies half a mile, the turn being taken at the Midland Railway bridge. Passing alongside and leaving on the right hand the lodge at the corner, the road to Mr Anstee's runs almost parallel to the drive to Marshall's Wick, the seat of Mr T. P. Marten, J.P., to whom the farm belonged. The house is reached at the junction of the ways going out into Sandpit Lane, Sandridge, and other parts. From Sandpit Lane, a turning is taken to the left hand soon after passing Hall Heath. The neighbourhood is very woody and Marshall's Wick farm is not observed till it is very near go up to. The house is approached from the road by a small evergreen bowery and by a garden path of some 40 yards long. The dwelling itself is of red brick, with a portico and low drawing room window projecting beyond the other portions of the building. The back of the house is enclosed in a small court so frequently seen at the older farmsteads. Overlooking is the barn, cowsheds, cattle yard, etc, and to the right the rickyard. The house, very nicely furnished, consists of drawing and dining room, kitchen, etc, on the ground floor, four bedrooms on the first floor, and some other accommodation above.



After Henry and George Wheeler had been charged for the burglary at Mr Reynolds's and a warrant had been issued for the apprehension of Ann Wheeler, the wife of Henry, on the same charge (which in due time was executed), the prisoner Thomas Wheeler, who is about 35 years old, was brought up at the Magistrates' Clerk's Office, and charged before Major Gape, Mr T P Marten, and Mr T. Kinder, with the wilful murder of Edward Anstee. The hearing was in private, the reporters not being admitted. The prisoner was remanded until Thursday. He attempted to account for some blood which was observed on his clothes by saying that he had killed a pig for a person at the latter part of the previous week. A crowd gathered round the office to see him leave for the goal. As he stepped into the fly which awaited him, Wheeler smiled upon the indignant crowd which hooted at him and which on the previous evening had torn the door off the conveyance in order to lay hold of him.



On Monday afternoon, at 2 o'clock, Mr H Brabant, the coroner, opened the enquiry into the death of Mr Anstee, at Marshall's Wick farm. The following people were sworn on the jury:- Messers Jonathan Cox (foreman), Edward Woollatt, Wm Woollatt, William Cox, Thomas Cox, Charles Kidman, George Byles, George Young, Arthur Spary, Charles Gray, John Boyes, John Henry Smith, Thomas Smith, Edward Pullen, Wm Paul, Wm Parsons, John Hedges, and Robert Sayer. Among the gentlemen also present in the room in which the inquest was held were the Mayor of St Albans, the Rev. Dr. Griffith, Mr. T. P. Marten, Mr. T. Kinder, Supt Ryder, and Mr I. N. Edwards.

 See The Murder of Edward Anstee

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