Another of the “Rugeley Tragedies” – Also at the bottom of the page: Did an Aunty have a narrow escape when the chickens died?
Uncle Joseph was Palmer’s mother’s brother who had lived at Longdon Green near Lichfield before moving to Dodsleigh near Uttoxeter where he married his third wife. His neighbours used to call him ‘Beau Bentley’ because he was always so well dressed. When his first wife died she left him a lot of money.
He was a disreputable character who was suspected of several crimes including arson and robbery. When his second wife died from a broken neck the local gossips suspected him of pushing her down the stairs. After his second wife died he took a mistress who lived with him and by her he had a daughter. It is claimed in the Illustrated Life and Career of William Palmer of Rugeley, published by Ward Lock 1856, that he also had a child by his illegitimate daughter.
After he had taken a third wife there was talk of him being over friendly with a servant girl.
One night only a few months after Palmer’s mother-in-law had died he and Palmer were drinking brandy and water together, when Joseph, who had been drinking heavily, fell from his chair supposedly in a drunken stupor. Reports vary but either the next day or three days later Bentley died. The Illustrated Life and Career of William Palmer of Rugeley stated that, “It is general opinion that Palmer wanted his uncle out of the way”.
Bentley’s death certificate states that on 27th October 1852 Joseph Bentley; Male; Aged 62 years; Occupation – gentleman; Cause of Death – Malignant Disease of the stomach; registered on 29th October 1852.
Natural causes or Palmer’s poison? We shall never know for sure.
An Aunty Survives – But the Chickens Did Not!
The Illustrated Life and Career of William Palmer of Rugeley added another story which stated that Palmer had another Uncle Bentley who was rich and elderly. He was a cripple but had a very caring wife who was so affectionate towards her husband that her father- in-law, in his will, left her, in case of her husband’s death, the house. So it was said that as long as she was alive William Palmer had no chance of inheriting the house.
One day, when old Mrs. Bentley was visiting Palmer, she complained of feeling unwell. Palmer mixed a couple of pills for her with the instruction that she should take them that night at bed-time. She however felt better and, as she disliked taking tablets, deliberately did not take them. Early next morning a messenger came from Palmer to enquire as to the lady’s health. The messenger appeared “very much disconcerted” when he heard that she had not taken the medicine and suggested that, “Mr. William felt very anxious about her health”, and that she was to be sure and take the pills that very night. Instead she threw the pills out of the window. The story continues that, unfortunately, she threw the pills out of the window that overlooked the yard where they kept the chickens. The chickens that ate the pills died after their meal.
Gossip, fact or just a good story?