ABOUT THE VILLAGE.
John Huntley died at the age or 94 in 1891 having been born in the year 1797.The following are reminscinces of the village told by him to Miss Helen Foxcroft in 1888.
Midford Hill Murder
The victim of this murder was James Wilkins of Norton, a pedlar, "a harmless funny sort of man". He was murdered by his nephew Harry Walters for his watch and chain. Walters was only 18. "He was the smartest, handsomest fellow in Hin ton, there wasn't the like in the parish , nor isn`t now" . The murder took place about 1823. Huntley found the body. He and his sweetheart, Ruth Deverell, were returning from Bath, where they had been to see her sister off for London. As they went up Midford Hill "my ooman" said Huntley "got alarmed thinking the house would be shut up. It was 20 minutes to nine. " As they walked up the hill they met the murderer who told them a man was lying drunk by the road. On reaching the spot they found the old pedlar dead. He had been dragged to the roadside and placed in a sitting position. There were no marks of violence. He had been struck "with a stone in the fist" on the temple "where the skull of man or women is as thin as an old shilling". Huntley would have gone and left someone else to find the body but his "ooman" prevented him saying he might be accused of the murder. He then tried to overtake the murderer but "though a good runner" could not do this. He got men from Chancellor's at The Fox, and the body was carried on a hurdle.
The murderer was traced by the watch, which he sold in Bath, on the day after the murder. Huntley was told to go to Stoke when Walters was arrested, and he had to go although he could not witness to the circumstances of the actual murder.
Walters was such a "smart young fellow" that old Squire Hippisley Cox of Ston Easton paid £5 for Counsel to defend him. The trial was at Wells. Huntley appeared as a witness. The Counsel tried to throw him off his guard. Huntley had sworn he found the corpse "by the road". "So you f'ound the corpse under the hedge" said the lawyer, hoping to entangle him. "Na, Na, " said Huntley "I was by the road". "Pooh: Pooh " says the Judge, "The man said by the road". The next witness was the pedlar s son. He had to swear to the watch. The Counsel asked him "if the balance were steel or brass". Heanswered "Brass". It was f'ound to be steel. "Pooh, pooh, says the old judge "like enough the man doesn't know what a balance is".
Walters was hanged at Ilchester. He conf'essed his crime, and also various other thef'ts. He had f'elled a butcher coming f'rom "Milsom (Melksham) Fair" and got £20 from him, but the man was not killed. He had also stolen the clothes of a poor old man in Hinton Poorhouse "up the Green". He had kept company with old Francis's wife, as she became later, and she parted from him at the top of' the hill on the night of' the murder.