Peregrine Fellowes: A Forgotten hero
by Kelvin Shipp
Peregrine Henry Thomas Fellowes was born on the 7th November, 1851, the only son of General Fellowes of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He joined the army in 1872 under going training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst from February to December that year, being gazetted into the 31st (East Surrey) Regiment in the June. March 1873 saw him joining his regiment with whom he remained until September 1883 when having risen to the position of Adjutant he resigned in order to join the Victorian Military Forces in Australia, as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General. He was to remain in this position from December 1883 until September 1888 when he was promoted to Assistant Adjutant General holding the local rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He finally left Melbourne in 1890 to rejoin his old regiment in Tipperary, Ireland where he took command of a company with the rank of Captain.
His connection with Hampshire Constabulary was to start early in 1891 when along with 74 other applicants he was to apply for the position of Chief Constable – an office which offered £500 per annum with residence, a little less than his predecessor Captain Forrest had earned.
Several of the applicants were rejected as they were over the age limit of 45 years set by the Home Secretary. The preliminary meeting of the Standing Joint Committee, which was comprised of members appointed by the Quarter Sessions and County Council, reduced the number of applicants to 7. Most of these were serving or former military officers, including a Deputy Chief Constable of a northern county force.
The voting took place on Monday, 23rd March, 1891 and resulted in Captain Fellowes narrowly defeating 43 year old Lt. Col. Doncaster, JP, Brigade Major Tay Volunteer Brigade and military Magistrate for Belfast, late of the 2nd Btn. Black Watch.
Captain Fellowes took up his post on 1st May, 1891. Within a short period of time he was taken seriously ill as a result of poor sanitation standards at Police Headquarters. Upon his return to work, he soon proved himself a very competent and capable Chief Constable. When the situation called for harsh action to be taken, punishment could be dispensed quickly and ruthlessly. In November 1891 Supt. Russell was reduced to First Class Constable because of ‘irregularities’ in his accounts. Slackness on the part of Chief Constables Chief Clerk, Supt. Bowles, resulted in his reduction to Sergeant.
Although a strict disciplinarian, he was always fair to those who made errors of judgement. The case of Second Class Constable Boyde is a good example. When Boyde allowed a prisoner to escape through negligence, Captain Fellowes allowed him a week’s unpaid leave to recapture the prisoner before he punished him by reducing him to Third Class Constable, a course of action he regretted having to take.
Captain Fellowes was always prepared to support his men if he felt that they were right, even against strong opposition and condemnations from the newspapers and public. This is well illustrated by the ‘Aldershot Scandal’, when he expressed his “extreme satisfaction at the acquittal of these officers”, of whose innocence he was “never in doubt”. The affair concerned allegations against and the trial of, a Sergeant and Constable at Winchester for perjury. At the time the case attracted a lot of national interest and generated adverse publicity for the Police. Captain Fellowes supported his men and won the day.
The welfare matters of his men always concerned him, such as Third Class Constable Matthews’ stay at the Police Rest Home in Brighton following a severe bout of influenza.
It was to he this concern for people and their welfare that was to be the cause of his tragic and untimely death. Shortly before 10 am on Monday, 2nd October 1893, John Best – a farmer of Chilland, Martyr Worthy and his wife were riding along the Romsey Road in their horse and trap, from Chilland towards Mottisfont. Just as they passed the first milestone John Best saw two men leading a cow to Winchester market along the footpath by means of a rope tied to her horns. In Mr. Best’s own words, they were, “driving her along as fast as they could, running along with her’.
As the cow approached the Best’s horse and trap the men pulled the rope. This seemed the make the cow turn towards the horse. The normally quiet horse then plunged forwards, the trap mounted the bank and threw Mr. and Mrs. Best out. The horse then turned around and bolted towards Winchester with the empty trap in tow. At this point they were about three quarters of a mile from Police Headquarters.
As the horse, out of control, hurtled along the road towards Headquarters and the fatal downhill gradient, PC James Vincent and two colleagues were just returning to Headquarters on drill duty. Vincent spotted the panic-stricken animal pounding remorselessly on towards them and warned his two companions, who quickly formed a chain of sorts across the road with him.
At this moment the ill-fated Captain Fellowes, who was off-duty on his way out for a day’ shooting, came out of the gate and joined the three men in the road. Captain Fellowes was at the end of the line, adjacent to the high wall which then surrounded the site (part of which remains today) and close to the gateway into Headquarters (which is where the present wider entrance drive is today).
They then, according to a witness, “made as much fuss as they could to try and stop the horse”. The horse, which was no doubt unable to stop itself on the gradient, veered to the left towards Captain Fellowes. One of the officers shouted, “jump out the way, Sir’, Captain Fellowes turned to make a run for the gate into Headquarters but was too slow.
The shaft of the trap caught him on the side, knocking him against the wall. The wheel passed over him, the horse went a little further and fell, overturning the trap. One witness stated that for a moment Captain Fellowes, the horse and trap seemed to be “mixed up together.”
Romsey Road looking towards the direction from which the horse and trap came. The original entrance was where the present one is at the moment In the right foreground is part of the original wall which surrounded HQ at the time of the accident.
James Vincent and his two colleagues carried the semi-conscious Captain Fellowes indoors, Medical assistance arrived promptly. Dr. Richards, who was in attendance, discovered that he had a fracture at the neck of the right thigh bone, a cut above and dislocation of the right kneecap, a fracture to the right collar bone and a scalp wound to the back of the head.
There was also extreme bruising over the right hip. Concern about internal injuries prompted the request for the services of a consultant from London, who upon examining the patient diagnosed a ruptured liver.
General Orders (para 5 of 59/93) carried brief details of the accident and informed officers that the Deputy Chief Constable would be taking charge of he Force under Acts 2 and 3 Victoria. “On the 2nd inst. the Chief Constable observed a horse attached to a cart and under no control, galloping at full speed down West Hill, Winchester. With the laudable object of preventing, in all probability, loss of life, the Chief Constable most gallantly and at the imminent risk of his own life, attempted to stop the runaway, with the most regrettable result that he was knocked down and sustained terrible injuries, whereby he had become completely incapacitated, for some time at least from carrying out the duties of his office.
The Deputy Chief Constable has therefore under authority of 2 & 3 Vic: Cap: 93 assumed charge until further orders.”
For nearly three weeks the Chief Constable lay seriously ill at home, then he began to show signs of recovery. His external injuries were healing slowly, and the pain had cased, allowing him to sleep at night. Hopes were high of a full recovery.
Just over seven weeks after the accident, on Wednesday, 22nd November, he suddenly complained of chest pains. This lasted a day or two, before he appeared to be back on the road to recovery. On the following Wednesday, 29th, he was especially cheerful, discussing his return to work and plans for a Dew recreation room for his officers. He was left asleep in the charge of Nurse Alice Purchell.
At about 140am on Thursday morning he awoke and called Nurse Purchell, complaining of a sensation of cramp in the left leg and a recurrence of the chest pains. Mrs. Fellowes was summoned to the room and a messenger was dispatched to the Royal Hants County Hospital. Dr. Clark followed shortly afterwards by Dr. Richards, attended from the hospital, but they were too late. Captain Fellowes, after calling his wife by name, had died at 1.55 am on Thursday, 30th November 1893. He left a widow and 6 young children.
An inquest was held on Saturday, 2nd December, 1893. The Coroner stated that had it not been for Captain Fellowes’ courage, someone would almost certainly have been killed or injured had the horse continued on into Winchester at such a furious pace.
The jury concluded that Captain Fellowes had died from internal injuries accidentally received. They decided that their fees should go towards a wreath.
The Deputy Chief Constable, Mr. Stephenson, informed the Force of the Chief Constable’s death through General Orders of the 30th November, paying the following tribute to him:
‘It is with feelings of the most profound sorrow and regret, which, without doubt, will he shared by each member of the Force, that the Deputy Chief Constable has to announce the death of the Chief Constable, Captain Fellowes, which took place early this morning from the effects of an accident under circumstances recorded in para. 5 of GO. 59/93.
Little more than 2 1/2 years have passed since the late Chief Constable assumed charge of this Force, during which time he has been unremitting in his efforts to increase the efficiency of the service and to promote the comfort and happiness of all those who have had the privilege of serving under his esteemed command.
With a life humanly speaking, bright with the promise of much good to come, he had now alas! been cut off in the meridian of his manhood and in the plenitude of his strength, furnishing a high example of fidelity to the sacred principle of duly, and moreover, as the soul of honour, he endeared himself by his kindness of heart, his charm of manner and courteous bearing to all those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance and like a true hero has yielded up his valuable life in his gallant and undaunted effort to save others!
Noble thus in life, and honoured in death, without feat and without reproach, his memory will he enshrined in our hearts, and it may perhaps be some consolation to his bereaved family in this their night of sorrow, to receive the assurance that though dead he yet speaketh, and that he has left behind him an imperishable record of duty faithfully and nobly performed.”