Murder! 1854

Murder at The Cricketers 1854
Between 1897 and 1910 Rev. J. H. Mee wrote a regular series of articles for the parish magazine on the history of Westbourne, these articles were later collected together and published in 1913 under the title Bourne in the Past. Charlotte Pile related the following story to him about an incident in Westbourne involving herself and her mother.

In 1854 Martha Piles was living at Ivy Cottage next to the Cricketers Inn near Commonside with her daughter Charlotte who was fifteen.

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The landlord of the Cricketers Inn at this time was Emery Spriggs, he and his wife Rebecca had married thirty years earlier just two weeks before George Pile married Martha Martin. Their relationship had been a tempestuous one, many times had Emery Spriggs threatened and beaten his wife and on occasions he had locked her in a rear room where she relied upon her neighbours for food and drink.

On the afternoon of January 6 1854 Emery and Rebecca Spriggs were preparing to host a Forester’s Ball at The Cricketers, both were reported to be drunk. Spriggs had warned his wife to behave that evening and had threatened her saying “you know what is in there”, pointing to the clock case in the bar in which he kept a loaded gun.

The Cricketers only held a beer licence so during the afternoon Thomas Goddard, a blacksmith, was despatched to The Lamb to obtain a gallon each of whisky, gin and brandy for the evening’s refreshment. Rebecca Spriggs somehow got hold of the spirits and Mr Goddard had to return to The Lamb for a further supply; Emery and Rebecca quarrelled violently as a result of this and she, now very drunk, was locked in the brewhouse.

Nineteen couples attended the Forester’s ball but Emery Spriggs did not entertain his guests remaining upstairs and leaving the ball to Mr Goddard who was doorkeeper and Charlotte Creese (Martha Pile’s youngest daughter) who attended to the company. By 2.00 am the ball had finished and Rebecca Spriggs has reappeared, Mr Goddard gave Rebecca the nineteen shillings he had taken at the door then he, Charlotte and Martha Pile went to their homes and beds.

At half past three that morning Mrs Pile and her daughter Charlotte were awakened by Spriggs shouting “there’s a dead woman in my house” and begged Martha to come over; at first she thought Spriggs was drunk but eventually went over and found the body of Rebecca Spriggs lying in the doorway of the taproom, she had been shot in the head. Another neighbour called Hedger and Mr Goddard were summoned to assist. Mr Goddard described Spriggs as sitting in his chair drinking and smoking his pipe, he appeared unconcerned about what had happened and admitted to Mr Goddard that he thought he would hang.

At seven o’clock the parish constables arrived and arrested Emery Spriggs. On 9 January an inquest at The Lamb returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Spriggs and he was tried at Lewes Assizes in the March. He was, however only convicted of manslaughter and on 11 March was sentenced to transportation for life. He served thirteen years and then returned to Westbourne. He died in the workhouse in August 1875 aged 71 and was buried in the churchyard. Rebecca Spriggs was sixty when she was killed; she was buried in the parish churchyard on 10 January 1854.

Although Rev. Mee refers to Charlotte by her married name, which is how he would have known her, she did not in fact marry George Creese until 25 December 1855.