Distressing Fatality on the Medway

From the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 25 July 1908 we read the following:

Faversham Man Drowned

On Sunday last a distressing fatality occurred on the river Medway, near Penshurst, when, as the result of the capsizing of a canoe, William John Foreman, a young Faversham man, was drowned.

The deceased, who completed his 23rd year only last week, was the eldest son of Mr. William Wood Foreman, coachbuilder, of Preston Street, Faversham. He served an apprenticeship to Mr. William Aitkins, at Greenstreet, and for the past three and a half years had been manager of the outfitting department of Mr. F. E. East’s business.

Since he had been at Tonbridge deceased was very fond of exercise on the river, for which purpose he and three of his friends went out in the canoe on the Medway, but finding that the small craft was too deep in the water, two of the party got out, leaving the deceased and another young man named Critten, who was employed at the same establishment as himself. They proceeded up river for some distance, and it was when near to a weir that the whirl of the water capsized the canoe. Each of them held on to an end of the canoe, and Critten managed to swim with it until they had got something like a footing near the bank. Critten then asked deceased if he was all right, and he replied that he was, but his footing was apparently not so secure as he thought, for he almost immediately sang out that he was not all right. In the meantime Critten had let fo of the canoe and Foreman was carried away and was drowned.

The body was recovered some three hours later, and an inquest was held on Monday afternoon, in the Institute, at Leigh, when the jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and passed a vote of sympathy with the bereaved family. The body was brought home to Faversham on Tuesday for interment. The deceased was much esteemed by his employer, and he was very popular amongst the members of the various athletic organisations at Tonbridge.

William John Foreman had been born at Lynsted, Kent on 14 Jul 1885, the son of William Wood Foreman and Susannah Pilcher. He was my 2nd cousin 3x removed, his mother being my 1st cousin 4x removed.

William was one of seven children, 4 girls and 3 boys, with two of the girls being his older sisters. His father was a coachbuilder when he married in 1882 and is listed as a retired coachbuilder on the 1939 Register when he lived at Ashdene, Cromwell Road in Whitstable, Kent.


Kent & Sussex Courier 24 July 1908
We learn more from The Kent & Sussex Courier of 24 July 1908:

A sad boating accident occurred at the Weir, Tonbridge, on Sunday morning, by which a young man, William John Foreman, lost his life. Deceased was in a canoe with a friend, Mr John Critten, and the vessel was swamped with a rush of water from the weir. Mr Foreman was manager at Mr F. East’s clothier’s shop, in High-street. He was well-known in the town, and had numerous acquaintances, among whom he was very popular. The melancholy news of his untimely end was received with very deep regret by Mr East and his employees, and by many others.

The inquest was held at the Institute, Leigh, on Monday afternoon, by Mr Thomas Buss, Coroner. Mr R. Baker was chosen foreman of the jury.

William Wood Foreman, a coachbuilder, of Faversham, said deceased, who was his son, was 23 years of age on the previous Tuesday. He was manager of one of the establishments of Mr F. East, draper, etc., of Tonbridge. He was a single man, and his general health was good. Witness last saw his son on Easter Monday. Witness believed his son was able to swim.

Dr. Fraser, of Leigh, said he heard of the accident and went to the spot in the hope that Foreman might yet be alive, but on his arrival he found life extinct. WItness believed the body had been in the water for about four hours.

John Critten, a draper’s assistant in the employ of Mr F East, stated that on the previous day he went on the river with deceased in a canoe, which belonged to witness and others. They left Tonbridge at 10.30 a.m.  There were four in the canoe altogether, and on nearing the weir there was not sufficient water to carry the canoe over, so two of the party got out, leaving witness and the deceased in the canoe. When they reached the surf from the weir the canoe filled with water and overturned. Witness told deceased to hold on, as he could only swim a few strokes. They got near the bank, but the back wash carried them away. Deceased left go of the canoe and made for the bank. He said he was all right, but apparently he got into a hole, and disappeared. Witness could not get near to deceased, as the current was too strong. They had frequently been to the same spot on the river before, but had never encountered so strong a current. He had had four years’ experience of the river, and the canoe was quite seaworthy.

By the jury: They had not changed seats. There was a strong current of water, but they succeeded in getting out of the first difficulties in which they found themselves.

P.C. George Henry Young deposed to proceeding to the weir, in company with P.Sergt. Wratten. On their arrival they found that the body had not been recovered, and commenced dragging operations. After three hours they found the body, which was in 16 feet of water, six feet from the bank. The river was very dangerous near the weir. Both sluice gates were open, and there was a great amount of water owing to the heavy rains.

A verdict of “Accidentally drowned” was returned, and the jury expressed their sympathy with the parents.

1 Generation Descendant Chart for William Wood Foreman

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