1887: Summit Lock Inquest on Charles Skuse

From the Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle, 15th October 1887

AN INQUEST was held on Monday last by Mr. Deputy-Coroner Foote, at the “Summit Lock” House, close to the canal, near Chaddington, Wootton Bassett, on the body of Charles Skuse.

The evidence went to show that on Monday morning, about seven o'clock, deceased left his residence to go to his work at the “Seven Locks”, near Dauntsey, taking a punt with him. Deceased had to pass a lock on his way, where he had to draw several paddles to let the water out of the lock. A man named Richard Hunt had to meet him there.

Hunt, on arriving at the lock, saw the punt there, but no one was there with it. Hunt, thinking Skuse had returned home to fetch something, stopped for nearly an hour waiting for him to return. Another man coming along,  and Hunt, finding from him that Skuse had not returned towards home, had his suspicions aroused. The two men obtained a rake, and dragged the lock, finding the body of Skuse under the punt.

It was supposed that Skuse must have fallen into the water by overbalancing himself in pushing the punt off. A verdict of accidental death was returned. Skuse was an experienced hand, and had been in the employ of the Canal Company a great number of years.

NOTE: Details of Charles Skuse from the Censuses:

In the 1881 Census, Charles Skuse was a lock-keeper 'in navig. service' living at Summit Lock, aged 54 and born at Tockenham. His wife Matilda, a year older, was born in Wiltshire, at Cliffe Pypard; they had an adopted daughter, Mary J H Man, aged 15, from Stratton in Wiltshire.

We can trace Charles back to Tockenham in 1851, 23-year-old unmarried son of George Skuse, aged 62 and born in Christian Malford. Both were described as Agricultural Labourers, as was his mother Elizabeth, aged 47 and from Cliffe Pypard; also recorded was their 8-year-old grand-daughter Jane Woolford. They shared their house with lodgers William and Elizabeth Goddard, also agricultural labourers, plus their infant son William.

By 1861, Charles had married Matilda, and they lived at 'Wood Gate' in Tockenham; he was still a farm labourer, and they had a lodger, 19-year-old William Sheldon from Wootton Bassett. Ten years on and still in farming at Tockenham, Charles and Matilda had another boarder, 5-year-old Mary Mann – but in this Census in 1871, her birthplace was listed as Wootton Bassett.