Three Drown at Hayne Bridge

Monday November 29th 1841 – There had been a day of torrential rain in mid-Devon, so bad that 7 or 8 houses had been destroyed by floods in Coleford. Rev Henry Allwright Hughes, aged 60, curate of Clannaborough, his wife Sophia, their son George Frederick, one of their daughters and a servant boy named John Knowles aged about 15 had been to a christening party at the house of Rev George Baker Garrow in Bondleigh, near North Tawton. Their daughter stayed in Bondleigh, but the rest of the party set off back to Clannaborough in the evening.


By about 7 o’clock they reached Hayne Bridge, which crosses the River Yeo on the road from Zeal Monachorum to Bow. They were advised by some farm workers not to attempt to cross the bridge as the river was in full flood. Their son George managed to go over on horseback first and then came back and persuaded his father who was driving their four-wheeled phaeton (carriage) to attempt to cross. The second time he attempted to cross the bridge, his horse lost its footing and he fell into the swollen river. Shortly afterwards the carriage was washed away and floated down the river.


George, and his mother and the servant boy who were inside the carriage, all drowned. Rev Hughes was found clinging to a tree some 15 minutes later and was pulled out of the water alive by local blacksmith William Bibbings.


The bodies of Mrs Hughes and her son were found at about 8 a.m. the following morning. William Wreford of Clannaborough Barton helped in the search. They were taken to Hayne Farm, the residence of Mr George Snell, where at an inquest on 3rd December, verdicts of accidental death were recorded.

The body of the servant boy John Knowles was found by his father and his brother-in-law, half a mile downstream, but not until over a month later, on 10th January. At an inquest the following day a similar verdict was returned. John was buried in Colebrooke Church on 12 January. He has no memorial, not even a gravestone.