I was saddened to find Richard Carrington without family on FamilySearch Tree yesterday and set about gathering some company for him today. After a couple of hours of snooping around databases and websites, I went back to FST and discovered a couple of duplicate entries for him (missed yesterday). Both gave him parents and one provided several generations of his mother’s family. I chose to merge the three instances into the one with the largest population. And gave him a wife.
Richard was 43 years old when he married Rosa Ellen JEFFERIES in 1869. She was 23 and living as a married woman with a man in his late forties who went by the name of William RODWAY. Richard thought William was Rosa’s brother. Rosa was almost illiterate. She could hardly read and would ask a friend to address envelopes for any letters she tried to write. But she was not daft. Richard was a man of means. He may have looked old before his time but he was of independent means – his wealth derived from the family brewing business. Richard gave his young wife a generous allowance, most of which she passed to Rodway, with whom she continued her dalliance.
Event 1. William Rodway attempts to kill Rosa.
After stabbing Rosa three times in the hallway of the Carrington residence, known as The Devil’s Jump, Rodway tried to inflict mortal wounds on himself. Both survived to tell their sordid tale in Court. There is a long and fascinating account of proceedings in the Surrey Comet of 30 March 1872. After the case had been proven the jury was told that Rodway, going by the name of Edward SMITH, had been sentenced in 1848 for the manslaughter of a prostitute, Rebecca GILL. He received only 12 months hard labour in prison for that deed. For failing to end the life of Rosa he received twenty years and died in jail a year or two later.
Event 2. Rosa dies under mysterious circumstances.
On 16 November 1875 Rosa readied herself for bed. Richard, as was customary, gave his wife a potion containing 10 grains of chloral. She was being treated for epileptic attacks but was also known to be “in an unsound state of mind”. On waking around 8 o’clock the next morning Richard found his wife still sleeping so went down to breakfast. While eating, a maidservant told him that Mrs. Carrington was dead in her bed. Richard found her face down, her body still warm. A post-mortem discovered no traces of poison in her stomach and the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of “Death by suffocation, but how produced there is not sufficient evidence to show”.
Event 3. Richard dies under mysterious circumstances, two weeks later.
Richard had been censured by the coroner’s jury “for not providing a proper person to look after his wife”. It would appear that he dismissed his servants for he was last seen alive a week later, on 27 November, entering his house. His body was not discovered until the first day of December. There was a poultice of tea leaves above one ear, indicating an attempt to relieve suffering. A post-mortem showed that death had been caused by “an effusion of blood on the brain”. On 4 December an inquest returned a verdict of “Death from natural causes”.
Event 4. Richard’s Will is made public.
Esther Clarke Carrington on FamilySearch Tree.
Note: The photograph of Richard was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, photographer unknown. You will find it reproduced on the Solar Storms website – together with a lot of astronomical detail. Stuart Clark has written about the Carrington Event of 1859 in his book The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began.