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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Death far from home

I wrote a recent post (see Mysteries of a Devon churchyard - a poignant inscription) about the death in 1895, of 30-year-old Luke Hosegood, whose gravestone inscription reflecting the peace of a country churchyard, belied the circumstances of his death.

Luke was born in 1864 in the village in which he was buried, the third son of William and Matilda Hosegood. He lived with his 4 brothers and one sister on a 200 acre farm. When Luke was 10 his father died and his mother, assisted by Luke’s older brothers, took over the farm - successfully too, it seems, as by 1881, the size of the farm had grown to 390 acres.

But by 1891, although Luke is still living at home, he’s no longer listed as a farmer’s son like his brothers but is the manager of a hotel. (Beside this information on the enumerator’s form, someone - I wonder who? - has added the word Pub.) Was Luke’s change in occupation because the farm could no longer support all the brothers or did Luke yearn for something more than rural life could offer him?

The bright lights of London

Perhaps the latter was the case, as it seems the bright lights of the capital called and Luke became the publican of an establishment in Friar Street in central London, called The Bell.

Sadly, though, Luke’s career in hospitality was tragically cut short. He died in August 1895, shortly after taking over the licence of The Bell. The cause of death is recorded as phthisis - i.e. consumption or tuberculosis. Often the death certificate notes how long the patient has been suffering from the condition but there is nothing to indicate that here.

A sad year for the family

Luke left his estate of £764 (over £62,700 in today’s money, according to the National Archives’ currency converter) to his sister Mary Matilda.

1895 must have been a difficult year for the Hosegood family - their widowed mother, Matilda, had also died only a few months before Luke.

I suspect that it may have been Luke’s sister Mary, who arranged for the erection of his headstone which stands beside that of their parents. I wonder if it was Mary who wrote the poem inscribed there:

And when I die, oh let me lie

Where trees above me wave

And wild flowers bloom around my tomb

My quiet country grave.



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