Share this page

Sophia and Amadine*

Anne-Marie Ford    -    6 July 2016

The river Teme rises in mid-Wales, flows through Shropshire, then to the Worcestershire border, on its way to join the River Severn south of Worcestershire. It was to be the site of a tragedy for the Butler family, as an inquest of 1st October 1887 relates:

Held at the Fox Inn, Bransford, on Tuesday afternoon [there was an inquest] touching the death of Samuel Brumill (sic), a Gypsy, who committed suicide in the Teme on Sunday night. Sophia Brumill (Brumwell) stated that the deceased was her husband, who was a shoemaker by trade and was 50 years of age. They had no regular place of abode, but wandered about the country. Lately they had been working at Mr Lambert Nicholls’, Cotheridge, hop picking. They slept with their six children in one of the outbuildings. Witness’s sister, with her husband, joined them on Sunday last. They finished their work at Mr Nicholls’ on Sunday about mid-day [and] they came down to the Fox, leaving the children in the outbuildings at Mr Nicholls’. They stayed at the Fox until the house was closed in the afternoon, then returned to the buildings. They had had drink but were perfectly sober when they left. They had dinner and tea in the outbuildings and returned shortly after six in the evening to the Fox, where they remained drinking ale outside the house. Witness did not know what quantity of ale they drank. The deceased fetched the ale. They remained until a little after nine, when they started to return to the buildings. Witness and her sister were sober, but the men were the worse for drink. Boswell and witness’s sister went first and witness and her husband followed a few yards behind. On crossing the bridge over the Teme, the deceased put his foot upon the bridge rails, and witness asked him what he was going to do. He said he was going to drown himself. Witness said, “Oh, you silly man, come on back to the children.” Witness did not think he meant seriously what he said, and did not tell Boswell and her sister. Deceased came on with witness and went through the gate into the field leading to Mr Nicholls’. Witness joined her sister and her sister’s husband, who were near the gate on the roadside, and said, “Come on,” and Boswell lighted his pipe. Immediately afterwards witness heard a plunge in the water, and said to her sister, “My husband has drowned himself!” She told them what he had said. After crossing over the bridge witness did not see the deceased return through the gate. They all returned to the bridge, and Boswell ran to the water’s edge and got into the water by the flood gates. They commenced screaming and a man came up and asked what was the matter, as he had heard a plunge in the water. Witness’s sister afterwards found some clothes of the deceased which were lying on the buttress of the bridge. There had been no quarrel whatever between them, and her husband had never before said he would take his life. Deceased complained on Sunday morning that he had not been able to sleep for two nights. Other witnesses were called. A search for the body lasted for over two hours and was resumed after daylight on Monday morning. About half-past six the body was recovered. It was about mid way between the bridge and the weir, and was in about 10 feet of water. . . There were no marks of violence on the body. A verdict of suicide whilst in a state of unsound mind was recorded.

Sophia Hodgkins Brumwell, baptised in 1850, was the daughter of Charles Butler and Elizabeth Hodgkins, and the granddaughter of Daniel and Amadine Butler. Her union with Samuel Brumwell had resulted in six children: Thomas, born in the registration district of Kidderminster in 1872; Charles Henry, baptised in West Malvern on 22nd April 1873; Matilda, born in Martley, Worcestershire in about 1878; Eliza, baptised in Shelsley Beauchamp, Worcester on 1st May 1880; Harriet, born in the Kidderminster registration district in 1883; Emma, born in Martley registration district, Worcestershire in 1885. As a result of this tragedy Sophia was left a widow with children whose ages ranged from 15 to just two years old.

As a particularly close knit family, it is clear that Sophia had support amongst the Butlers, Boswells and Hodgkins. Her daughter Matilda married her first cousin, Stradivarius (Studevereus) Boswell, the son of her sister, Amadine, and Matilda and Strativarius’ daughter, Elizabeth, married Samuel and Sophia’s grandson, Stradivarius Hodgkins, whilst another grandson, Henry Hodgkins, married Elizabeth’s sister, Ama/Dinah. In addition Amadine’s daughter, Louisa, married William Butler, another cousin marriage, as William was the son of Joseph Butler and Sophia Coleman.

Amadine Hodgkins, the sister who was present at the tragic suicide of her brother-in-law, Samuel, had married into the extended family when she united with Sylvanus Boswell, son of Susannah Boswell and Solomon Hodgkins, Susannah being the daughter of Susannah Butler and William Colbourn Boswell, the elder Amadine’s brother, and a great uncle of Sophia and Amadine Hodgkins. Amadine had married Sylvanus in Worcester in 1875, in a joint wedding with her father, Charles Butler, and his second wife, his cousin Eliza Davis. At both unions the witnesses were Samuel and Sophia Brumwell, Amadine’s sister and ill-fated brother-in-law. It was, of course, Sylvanus Boswell who had waded into the Teme in an attempt to save his brother-in-law in the report of Samuel’s suicide 12 years later.

Amadine and Sylvanus’ known children were Stradivarius, born in Malvern, Worcestershire on 28th May 1877; possibly an Ellen; Louisa, baptised at Colwall, Herefordshire on 14th January 1883; Drusilla, baptised in the same location on 4th October 1885; Sophia Augusta, baptised at Harbury, Worcester on 20th August 1888; Aleck, baptised at Stourport on 17th May 1891.

The events of Samuel Brumwell’s suicide must have preyed on the minds of all concerned, and perhaps there is, therefore, a terrible irony in a newspaper report in the Birmingham Daily Post of 7th April 1890, three years after the tragic death of Sophia’s husband, which involved her sister Amadine, and her husband, Sylvanus, in an incident all too close to the drowning of Samuel Brumwell: Doitwich - Sylvanus Boswell, a travelling tinker, was brought up in custody for being drunk and incapable on the third inst. It appeared that the defendant was drunk and incapable on the canal towpath at Thernal Green, and on his wife remonstrating with him, he jumped into the canal. The cries of the two brought PC Edwards to the spot and, with some difficulty, he rescued the man. Defendant was committed to prison for seven days hard labour, in default of paying the fine and costs.

Perhaps this was sufficient time for Sylvanus to consider his actions and his wife’s temper to cool.

*This is a companion piece to last month’s story and, in addition, the RTFHS has just published a Butler Family Tree book, for details of which please see their website.

Copyright © 2016 Anne-Marie Ford