A village with a big story
Little Holland cottages at top of Green no longer there
Claypits Pond with Horses 1905
Long Melford Coronation fancy dress competition at the British Legion in Cordell road1953
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Selected Biographies

Underwood, David – Born: Cavendish, Suffolk on 21.1.1832.[1] Parents: Joseph Underwood (Shoemaker) and Charlotte [née Hartley].  Home: Cavendish, Suffolk (1851), Fornham All Saints, Suffolk (1861).  Occupation: Agricultural Labourer (1851), Marine-Store Dealer (1861).  Married: Louisa Smith [née Miller].  Criminal Record: David Underwood was committed to Bury Gaol for seven days for being in a state of drunkenness at Fornham All Saints in November 1867.[2]  The following Spring much worse was to follow when on 4 April he attempted to murder of his wife in a frenzied attack.  Under the headline – Murderous Assault upon a Woman at Fornham – the local press covered the incident in great detail as follows: The village of Fornham All Saints, near this town, was on Saturday night the scene of one of the most desperate cases of personal violence which it has been our duty to chronicle as occurring in this neighbourhood for some time past.  The perpetrator of the out rage is a man named David Underwood who has on more than one occasion been brought before the Magistrates for acts and threats of violence while under the influence of drink.  He is a marine-store dealer, about thirty years of age, and lived with his wife (who is twenty years his senior and had been previously married) in a cottage near the Three Kings Inn, the only other resident being a lad of fifteen years, a son of Mrs Underwood by her first husband.  About five o’clock on Saturday evening Underwood and his wife went to Bury, being then apparently on comfortable terms, and had some refreshment at a public-house, returning home about half-past eight, and at that time he was to a certain extent the worse for drink, but had not arrived at the stage of intoxication commonly known as “drunk”, and was considered by those who saw him to be perfectly aware of what he was doing.  After their return home, some words took place between them. But upon what subject we have not been able to ascertain.  It seems that his wife has a life interest in the house in which they lived (a cottage of somewhat superior character) and three other cottages, one of which immediately adjoined their own, and the other two are situated close by; and quarrels have often taken place between Underwood and his wife in consequence of his repeatedly-expressed desire that she should sell or mortgage her interest in the property, a request with which she persistently refused to comply; but, so far as we have been able to ascertain, this was not the subject on which they had words on their return home on Saturday night.  At about half=past ten o’clock he was seen by his neighbours digging in the garden, and it has since been discovered that he dug four holes, the largest of which is in the right-hand corner of the garden, and about five feet long and two feet deep: between two rows of cabbages, a very short distance from the second.  These holes are considered to throw some material light upon the fellow’s intention in his ulterior proceedings.  After satisfying his desire for digging he returned to the house, and further quarrelling with his wife (who was very deaf) took place; and at length he sized a butcher’s cleaver, which was upon the mantelpiece, and threatened to attack her with it.  The lad above-mentioned – the only other person in the house – became alarmed at the aspect of affairs, although unhappily accustomed to demonstrations of violence on the part of his stepfather and ran out of the house with the intention of calling in the aid of some neighbours; and it appears that at that moment Underwood fastened the door and commenced an attack upon his wife with the cleaver.  No screaming occurred, but several blows were distinctly heard by the woman next door, and the unfortunate woman was heard to fall upon the floor; but acts of violence on the part of Underwood were unhappily of but frequent occurrence, and such was his reputation that his neighbours were in fear of him during his exhibitions of temper, and it was some time before anyone dare venture to the house.  At length a women ventured to look in at a window of the lower room and was horrified at seeing him engaged in wiping up a quantity of blood from the floor with a flannel and bowl of water; but nothing was seen of the woman.  In the course of a short time several persons had gathered round the entrance to the house, and after a brief interval Underwood unlocked the door and went out, when one of the women standing round said “Oh David, what have you done?” to which he coolly replied “ I’ve killed the old b—-, come in and look at her;” and when the woman said she dare not go, he added “Come and have a look at her, I shan’t hurt you.”  At length, another woman having consented to go with her, they both entered the house together, and ongoing upstairs found Mrs Underwood undressed and in bed, but in an insensible state, and presenting a frightful spectacle: her face and head were covered with blood, which was still flowing freely from three terrible wounds, one of which divided the left ear and injured the posterior portion of the head, another had cut through her cheek and smashed her lower jaw, but not affecting any vital part of the throat.  As no screams were heard it is conjectured that the first blow rendered the poor creature insensible; and inasmuch as it is in the highest degree improbable that a woman who had been subjected to such treatment would have been physically capable of walking upstairs, if so disposed, it seems tolerable certain that the miscreant, having satisfied his desires of violence, actually carried his victim upstairs, undressed her and put her to bed, and then sought to obliterate one evidence of his guilt by wiping up the pool of blood from the floor of the lower room.  The women who ventured into the house, having seen the pitiable condition in which the poor creature was lying, immediately hurried off for further help, and as by this time an alarm had begun to be raised in the village, Mr Brown, Mr J. Nunn, and Mr Newell, farmers, together with Mr Ruffell, of the Three Kings Inn, were soon upon the spot, and Police Sergeant G. Sargent also arrived.  They went into the house, but saw nothing of Underwood in the lower room, where, however, they found, under the table, the bowl and flannel he had used for cleaning the floor, the former still containing water deeply stained with blood.  A piece of cocoa-matting on the floor was also found saturated with blood in one corner, which had been doubled up and covered with another piece of matting; and upon the mantelshelf was seen the cleaver, looking as bright and clean as ever on the outside, but on being turned round the other side was found besmeared with blood; one side had probably been wiped.  Upon going upstairs, the poor woman was found in the condition already described, but still the man was not to be seen.  A short search, however, disclosed the fact that he had got into bed with all his clothes on, boots only excepted.  The police officer opened the door and called “David.” “Hallo ye,” was the reply.  “I want you,” said the officer, “All right, my boy,” answered Underwood; and when Sargent said “You have very nearly murdered your wife,” he coolly replied, “I’m glad of it – it’s put the poor old critter out of her misery.”  He was taken downstairs, and then began to talk incoherently about the world coming to an end, saying, among other things, “God Almighty has begun to destroy the world, and I mean to go on with it.”  He also used a great deal of violent and disgusting language but yielded himself to the authority of the police without the slightest resistance.  Meanwhile Mt Brown had sent a messenger to Bury for Mr Hinnell, the parish surgeon, fears being entertained that the poor woman would expire before medical aid could be obtained; and a messenger was also directed to call at the Police Station at Bury and report what had occurred.  Superintendent Ginn in due time arrived from Bury and directed the removal of the prisoner to the Police Station, and Mr Coe soon after came and had the sufferer conveyed to the hospital in a cart belonging to Mr Newell, but she did not reach that institution till about four o’clock on Sunday morning.  In the interval she had recovered her consciousness, and said she thought she was dying, but she freely forgave her husband.  On Sunday, owing to the danger of erysipelas supervening, her condition was considered so critical that it was deemed advisable to take her deposition.  For this purpose, J. J. Bevan, one of the county magistrates, attended at the hospital, with Mr Sparke, Justices’ Clerk, and the prisoner was also present.  She displayed the affection so frequently found to exist among women for worthless husbands and refused to say anything likely to inculpate the prisoner, stating positively her belief that he had not struck her.  The case against the prisoner, however, does not depend upon the evidence of the injured woman, who has on more than one occasion, initiated proceedings against him, for acts and threats of personal violence, and subsequently withdrawn them.  He was remanded until Monday next, when he will be charged with the attempt to commit murder.[3]  The trial at Ipswich Assizes in July 1868 concluded that Underwood was insane and was immediately removed to the County lunatic asylum.[4]

Underwood, John – Born: Long Melford, Suffolk on 7.1.1893.[5]  Parents: Alfred Underwood (Coconut Mat Weaver) and Elizabeth [née Cadge] of Long Melford.  Home: The Green, Long Melford (1901), Hollands, The Green, Long Melford (1911 to 1921), High Street, Long Melford (1939).  Occupation: Melford Hall Estate Woodman (1921).  Married: Alison Maud Pearson in 1924.  Service Record: John was conscripted on 6.4.1916 as Pte.20615 with 10th [Reserve] Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, transferring on 29.7.1916 to the regiment’s 1st Battalion and posted to the Western Front as part of 95th Brigade, 5th Division.  He saw action during the Somme Offensive, receiving a gunshot wound in his left arm on 5.9.1916 at the Battle of Guillemont.  The injury was severe enough for him to be shipped back to England for treatment and on his recovery was transferred to the Regimental Depot at Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey.  In April 1917 he was declared ‘no longer physically fit for War Service’ and Issued with a Silver War Badge and discharged.[6]  Died: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk in 1978.

Underwood, Percy George Edward – Born: Glemsford, Suffolk on 14.12.1887.[7] Parents: Henry Underwood (Coconut Mat Weaver) and Elizabeth [née Marshall] (Silk Weaver).  Home: Brook Street, Glemsford (1891 to 1939).  Occupation: Coir Fibre Winder (1901), Mat Shearer for C. Smith & Co., Coconut Mat Makers of Glemsford (1921), Milk Roundsman (1939).  Service Record: Percy was conscripted in 1916 as Pte.77647 with 29th (Works) Battalion, The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment).  He was well below the standard minimum height requirement, standing at 4’ 11’ and weighing a little over seven stone and placed in medical category BII which precluded him from joining one of the regiments fighting units and confirmed by his transfer in July 1917 as Pte.153329 to 5th Labour Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.  He received his discharge in December 1919.[8]  Died: Sudbury in 1959.

Underwood, William Edward ‘Joe’Born: Lavenham, Suffolk on 9.1.1915.  Parents: Charles John Underwood (Horseman on Farm) and Kate Elizabeth [née Howe].  Home: High Street, Acton, Suffolk (1921).  Married: Melinda May G. Cox in 1940.  Service Record: Due to his being employed in a reserved occupation, Joe was not eligible for regular military service, he did however become a member of the Local Defence Volunteers in Long Melford during the Second World War.  He rose to the rank of lance-corporal in ‘G’ Company, 10th Battalion, Suffolk Home Guard and is featured in the official tribute to the organization entitled The Lion Roared his Defiance, photographed in and around Long Melford in 1944.[9]  Died: Sudbury in 1980.

Notes – [1] Baptised at St Marys Church, Cavendish, Suffolk.  [2] Suffolk and Essex Free Press 21.11.1867.   [3] The Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Herald 7.4.1868.  [4] A Calendar of Prisoners for trial at the Summer Assizes for the County of Suffolk.  [5] 1939 Register.  [6] WO 329 – Silver War Badge [ref: 171415], Medal Roll [WO 329], and Medal Index Card [WO 372].  [7] 1939 Register.  [8] Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ [WO 363].  [9] Published by Marten & Son, Ltd., of Market Hill, Sudbury, Suffolk in 1946.

Joe Underwood carrying a Vickers machine gun on manoeuvres over Chad Brook to the rear of Brook House in Hall Street, Long Melford
Long Melford Men of 'G' Company, 10th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment

Genealogical Tables

Research by David Gevaux MA © 2023
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