Behind the Victorian Fountain at the entrance to Botley Railway Station (so called – it is of course in Curdridge) there is a cast iron plaque mounted on cemented stones :
It reads :
This Stone is Erected to Perpetuate a Most Cruel Murder Commited on the Body of Thomas Webb a Poor Inhabitant of Swanmore on the 11th of February 1800 By John Diggins a Private Soldier in the Talbot Fencibles Whose remains are Gibbited on the adjoining Common
The Talbot – or Tarbet – Fencibles were barracked in Botley at the time. Private Diggins, with two other soldiers, had come upon Thomas Webb, a poor and elderly pedlar, somewhere near Kings Corner (Pinkmead) in Curdridge. They not only robbed him of what few shillings he had, but then – according to a contemporary newspaper report – stabbed him, threw him in a ditch and stamped on him. Despite his injuries, Webb was able to crawl to a nearby cottage and get help – including the removal from his body of six inches of bayonet by a local surgeon. He was also able to tell what had happened – before he died. Diggins was found guilty of the murder at Winchester Assizes and sentenced to be hanged. The other two soldiers were acquitted for lack of evidence. Diggins was hanged in Winchester and his body then gibbited – that is, hung to rot – on Curdridge Common, between the main road to Shedfield and Outlands Lane. Thomas Webb was buried in St Peter’s Church graveyard, Bishops Waltham.
Meanwhile, the stone referred to on the plaque is not the cemented stones on which the plaque itself is mounted, but the undistinguished stone, without inscription, which sits half buried behind it. This suggests that the plaque was a later addition, Victorian perhaps, by when local history had became a subject of much interest.
All this can be found in more detail in local historian Dennis Stokes’ Botley and Curdridge – A history of two Hampshire villages, published by the Botley and Curdridge Local History Society (2007) – http://www.botley.com/history-society
I became curious when I came upon the following:
Hampshire Treasures, Volume 1 ( Winchester City District), Page 82 – Curdridge
|Memorial Stone||Site of murder. Culprit hanged on local gibbet, cast iron plaque removed to Portsmouth City Museum.||SU 520 130
How can the plaque have been ‘removed’ to Portsmouth and yet still be present in Curdridge ?
I wrote to the Museum. Their reply was :
“The original plaque was donated to the Portsmouth City Museum before 1945 & is kept in storage there, although it has been used in a display at Southsea Castle. The plaque at Botley Station, therefore, must be a copy.”
Our plaque a copy ? Why, that practically makes it a forgery !
Or, perhaps, for some reason, two copies of the plaque were made at the same time? But why ?
History, it seems, is full of mystery . . .
Still, if anyone knows anything more about this matter, do let me know.
Another account of the murder can be found at : https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/the-gruesome-murder-of-thomas-webb-1800-curdridge-hampshire/