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The 1899 Hampshire murder of young Dorcas HOUGHTON resulted in nationwide publicity.

Eighteen year old Dorcas was killed in Swanwick by her jilted boyfriend Charles MAIDMENT aged 22. Despite a plea of insanity Charles was found guilty. He was hanged at Winchester later that year.

The tragedy happened when Dorcas, after keeping company with Charles for about a year, told him their friendship was over.  Soon after on 19 April they met up. While walking in a lane near Manor Farm, Swanwick, Charles took out a pistol and shot Dorcas in the head.  He immediately ran away towards Botley . He later gave himself up at Fareham Police Station where he was held.  

The Inquest

Coroner GOBLE held the inquest on the Hampshire murder in the Railway Hotel,  Swanwick. This was next door to Dorcas’s home.

The first witness was Dorcas’s mother Augusta HOUGHTON. She explained the situation between the two.

Charles’ uncle, fruit grower John TUCKER, was the second witness.  He gave evidence about his character. He said that previously Charles  had shot himself in the finger when playing with the gun.

Other witnesses were:

  • Fisherman Henry FIELDER. He didn’t see what happened but heard the shot.
  • Edward KNAPP who saw Charles running towards Botley.

PC MASON repeated Charles’s custody statement.  

The Trial

The trial took place at the Hampshire Assizes on 27 June. Charles pleaded not guilty.

Mr HUNT prosecuted. Mr Clavell SALTER defending, claimed insanity.

Much of the evidence was repeated from the inquest but new evidence was given for insanity.  Charles’s grandmother and mother’s second cousin had both been in the Dorset County Lunatic Asylum.  Another cousin had died in Fisherton Asylum. Another family member was in Charminster Asylum.

The jury discounted the insanity plea. The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to death.

A Nationally Reported Execution

Charles MAIDMENT was hanged in Winchester prison at 8am on Tuesday 18th July 1899. The executioner was Mr James BILLINGTON.  A detailed press report appeared locally four days later. It was also widely reported in less detail in papers from London to Dundee.

Dorcas Houghton and her Family

Research shows that Dorcas was born in late 1880 in Titchfield parish. Her parents were Lewes and Augusta.  Lewes HOUGHTON  married Augusta PINK in Portsea Island just before the 1861 census.

In the 1881 census Dorcas was the youngest of four children. The family lived in Titchfield Park and her father was a farm labourer.

Dorcas was still at home with her parents in 1891.  The family now lived at the Bold Forrester Beer House on the Sarisbury Road. Her father was a beer retailer.

By 1901 the family had moved to Swanwick and Lewes HOUGHTON was a market gardener.

In 1911 Lewes and Augusta HOUGHTON aged 69 and 66 respectively still lived in Swanwick. Lewes was a market gardener and employer. The memory of their daughter was preserved in the name of their home – Dorcas Cottage.

 

Roy Montgomery

Research Centre

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