William Kingshott was born in Fernhurst, Sussex around 1816. He was one of eight children belonging to Henry Kingshott and his wife Sarah, nee Stent. In common with almost all of the Kingshott family at this time, he was an agricultural labourer who settled in the parish of Lurgashall, Sussex.
On 23rd February 1842, William married Sarah Berry and they went on to have eleven children.
In 1858, William was tried, at Lewes Assize Court, for manslaughter following the death of a man, William Hetherington, with whom he had had a fight. The story can be seen, in detail, through examination of the court reports in the newspapers of the time.
Inquest -- James Powell Esq, coroner of the Chichester, held an inquest at the infirmary on Monday to investigate the circumstances attending the death of William Hetherington, who died in the hospital on the preceding Saturday. It appeared that the deceased, who was a woodcutter, and a fellow workmen named John (sic.) Kingshott, were at work together in the parish Lurgashall on the 19th of March, that a dispute arose between them that led to a scuffle in which both fell to the ground; and the latter, getting the deceased thumb into his mouth, bit is so severely as to cause a dangerous wound, which got worse, and he was admitted to the infirmary, where every effort was made to cure it, but without effect. Amputation was deemed necessary, and the arm was taken off, from which time the patient, who was 67 years of age, gradually sank under exhaustion. A verdict of manslaughter was returned against John (sic.) Kingshott who was present in custody during the examination, and he was committed, under the coroners warrant, for trial at the assizes. - Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc (Portsmouth, England), Saturday, June 19, 1858; Issue 3063
Things were clearly not looking good for William at this point. If found guilty of manslaughter, a range of penalties were available up to and including the death penalty.
SUSSEX ASSIZES - A commission for the County of Sussex was opened on Wednesday, and the business was preceded with in both courts, Mr Baron Bramwell residing on the civil side, and Mr Justice Willes in the Crown Court. The cause list was unusually meagre, only to being entered -- 1, and undefended action of ejectment, and the other a special Jury case. Baron Bramwell having disposed of the first proceeded to try prisoners. The gaol calendar, with the exception of a charge of murder and one of manslaughter, did not contain any very serious charges, and there are only 21 prisoners for trial.
William Kingshott, 42, was indicted for the manslaughter of William Etherington, at Chichester. Mr Barrow prosecuted. Mr Creasey was counsel for the prisoner.
It appeared from the evidence that the prisoner and the deceased were both labouring men, and that they had a quarrel which resulted in a fight, and in the course of the struggle the deceased seized the prisoner round the neck, and nearly throttled him, and in order to free himself the latter bit him rather severely upon the thumb. According to the medical evidence the wound would in all probability, however, have healed of itself, all with some slight applications, but it seemed that the deceased went to a cow leech in the neighbourhood, who had the reputation of performing wonderful cures, and he applied some very powerful salve to the wound, the consequence of which was that the severe inflammation ensued, and the deceased and applied to a regular practitioner, who did all that was possible under the circumstances, but the whole arm was in such a condition that it was deemed advisable to remove him to hospital where his arm was amputated, and he died from the effects of the operation.
Mr Creasey, at the close of the evidence for the prosecution, contended that upon these facts the prisoner ought not to be convicted of causing the death of the deceased, it is much as it was proved that the original injury was a slight character, and not at all calculated to produce that result, and that the deceased had conducted to his own death by suffering himself to be treated by an ignorant and unskilful person.
Baron Bramwell left the court to consult Mr Justice Willes upon the points that have been raised by the learned counsel, and upon hisreturn he said that his learned brother concurred with him that a charge of manslaughter could not be supported upon the evidence, and he therefore directed the jury to acquit the prisoner.
Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc (Portsmouth, England), Saturday, July 17, 1858; Issue 3067
And so, a lucky escape was had by William Kingshott who was thus enshrined into British case law. The following article, relating to this case, appeared in the book "The Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence" by Alfred Swaine Taylor, the foremost authority in the field of what is now known as Forensic Pathology, but was then known as the far more impressive-sounding field of Medical Jurisprudence. The entry reads:-
If an operation is rendered necessary for maltreatment of an injury the responsibility of an assailant for a fatal result ceases In R v Kingshott (Lewes Summer Assizes 1858) it was proved that prisoner and deceased fought and that the prisoner bit the deceased severely on the thumb According to the medical evidence the wound would in all probability have healed of itself or with some slight applications but it seemed that the deceased went to a corn leech in the neighbourhood who had the reputation of performing wonderful cures and he applied a powerful salve to the wound the consequence of which was that severe inflammation ensued The deceased then applied to a regular practitioner who did all that was possible under the circumstances but the whole arm was in such a condition that it was deemed advisable to remove him to the hospital where his arm was amputated and he died from the effects of the operation For the defence it was contended that the prisoner ought not to bo convicted of causing the death of the deceased inasmuch as it was proved that the original injury was of a slight character and not at all calculated to produce a fatal result and that the deceased had conduced to his own death by suffering himself to he treated by an ignorant and unskilful person The learned judge held that the charge of manslaughter could not be supported upon the evidence and he therefore directed the jury to acquit the prisoner.
William Kingshott was my 3rd cousin five times removed. He had a large family of 11 children and his descendants are likely to number in their hundreds. He died 12 years after his famous court appearance and was buried in Bramshott, Hampshire, on 17th July 1870. I was to follow him over 140 years later in being acquitted of a charge of manslaughter.