The sad story of Jonathan Garbutt of Waskerley
A while a go I started putting together a number of small articles I had found in the old newspapers relating to the area. Most are on the more macabre side or I just found strangely interesting. The following is a brief account of one such story I found recounted in a number of papers and other local documents as well as some further research.
Jonathan Garbutt was a farmer at The Allotment, Waskerley a secluded small holding a few miles from Consett where he lived with his wife Jane. He was born in 1820 in Wolsingham and prior to farming had been a labourer and also a lead miner at near by Dene Howle. Dene Howle was an ancient mine with its origins stretching back into the medieval. It was also once famed for supplying the majority of the silver for the silver pennies minted at Durham between 1066AD to 1377AD.
Jonathan was by all accounts an industrious man with a good sized family and had worked hard his whole life. However, some time after 1881 he was struck by a terrible affliction and became gravely ill. His body began to decay at a rapid rate and the poor man was said to have been in terrible agony. Unfortunately for his wife Jane, the terrible stench of his decaying flesh emanating from their home was so strong that no one else would come near, leaving her to deal with the whole unfortunate event on her own.
Toward the end of his illness Jonathan’s legs had became so rotten that they were almost coming away from his body. A few days prior to his death he was said to have ripped flesh from his own legs and finding a pair of shears had then proceeded to cut away further lumps and discard them into the fire. He passed away at the end of September 1884 finally at peace. For his poor wife Jane however, the horror persisted. The parish authorities denied her a coffin in which to bury him and just threw his body into the grave “as if he had been a heathen living in a foreign state”. The people of the area were disgusted at this treatment and demand an inquest.
However, when the Lanchester Guardians who governed the area met to discuss the matter the main objection to be brought up was not of Jonathan and Jane’s treatment but of the stench which still remained. A letter was drafted by the Clerk to Dr Bolton, the Union medical officer, bringing him to task over his lack of forethought and for not supplying a quantity of Carbolic acid to help negate the smell in the locality of the Garbutt’s home.