On the 5th September 1908 19-year-old Henry Taylor and his brother in law Albert Lee unloaded a cartload of furniture at his father’s house, Geranium Cottage, Brick Hill. It was a small place, barely more than a cabin.
After a long day, presumably spent moving in, the two went to bed. Just before midnight, Henry was woken by noisy shouting, which he thought it was a wedding party.
This begs the question as to what Valley End weddings must have been like then, because suddenly a large pole used as an impromptu battering ram broke down the back door, the bedroom door was smashed off its hinges, and the pole landed on the bed where they were sleeping.
The Wrecked Cabin, Valley End. By Bill Stevens, the Brick Hill photographer. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)
Henry Taylor jumped up and hurriedly begun to dress, but when the window crashed into the room, complete with frame, he wisely jumped out of the window instead. Barely had he landed when someone hit him, “slightly”, with an axe. He escaped, and ran off to summon the Police.
Albert Lee was left, desperately dressing, and listening to the men being urged on by two women to demolish the house around him.
The attacking party were highly excited. They had brought gallon jars of beer with them, and tackled the house with huge determination. It was all but razed to the ground. The doors were broken down, and walls were pushed in. Furniture was dragged outside and destroyed
This was in fact a midnight visit from a couple of their aunties and a selection of friends and relations. They were fuelled by beer and indignation, due to a family dispute over a will.
Samuel Taylor had left Geranium Cottage to his wife. It was planned that after her death it would be sold, and the money divided between their children. It appears that this did not happen, and this triggered a bitter family dispute as to who owned the cottage.
Samuel’s son John Taylor had sent Henry and Albert to move in. His two sisters, Ellen Mossman and Amanda Brown, had turned up at midnight with 5 other family members to oppose this.
When the case was heard at the Surrey Sessions, it was pointed out that nearly everyone involved was related. The women claimed that they had a right to a share in the house by the terms of their father’s will. They were found guilty, but the jury recommended clemency. The men were fined £5, but the women, who had urged the men on, were fined £10 – significant sums in those days.
This story caught the public imagination and articles about it were published as far afield as Scotland, Nottingham, Gloucester and Cornwall. It’s not surprising; after all, family arguments rarely bring the house down.
Site of the Wrecked Cabin. (Photo by J. End, reproduced courtesy of J.End.)
Nottingham Evening Post. 8th Sept. 1908.“Country cottage stormed.”
Dundee Courier. 10th Sept. 1908. “Family feud.”
Gloucestershire Echo. 10th Sept. 1908. “Night attack on cottage.”
Gloucestershire Echo. 22nd Oct. 1908. “Midnight house wrecking.”
Cornish Telegraph. 29th Oct. 1908. “Wrecking a cottage; a family feud.”