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Not Brentford New

Brentford Families - John Round departs this world

(The account which follows has been compiled from the information given in the coroner’s inquest following John’s death, as reported in The Times on 27 November, 1839).

Saturday 23rd November 1839 dawned cold and frosty. Early that morning 18 year old John Wood, an apprentice to John Round, Master Grocer at 33 The High Street, Old Brentford, Middlesex, went to his employer’s room to collect the keys to the shop - as he had done hundreds of times before.

No conversation passed between the two men, but John Round made an appearance shortly afterwards and enquired from John Wood as to the whereabouts of 14 year old employee William Dodge. He was informed that William was below cleaning shoes, to which John Round replied “that will do”, and went below. He reappeared ten minutes later, and remarked to John Wood, “It’s a very cold morning, isn’t it, John?” “Yes, Sir, it is”, replied his apprentice, and John Round went below again. Little did John Wood know that his employer had just uttered his last words.

At about 8.30am John Wood needed to speak to John Round on a business matter, so he sent William Dodge to look for him. William went to the stable, but John was not there, and as William was returning he saw that the door of the room in which the sawdust was kept, was standing open. He looked inside, and there was his employer lying on his back in the sawdust.

Eleven year old Ruth Round, John’s daughter, was close at hand feeding the chickens. William shouted for her assistance and Ruth came running – she took one look at her father and told William to take his hand. William complied, and his hand came away covered in blood. Ruth ran upstairs screaming for John Wood, “Lord, John, he has made away with himself”. John Wood dashed downstairs to the sawdust room, took John Round’s hand and raised him up. John had cut his own throat, and had bled a great deal from the wound, but was still alive. He opened his eyes a little when his apprentice spoke to him, and died shortly afterwards. A tortoiseshell handled razor was later found among the sawdust.

A suicide note was found in John’s pocket, addressed “To all whom it may concern”. It read as follows:
“My present wife is a good, virtuous and excellent woman; she deserved a better fate. God bless her and all my children, and my nephew, William Round. I die in peace with all the world”.
The note was dated 20 November 1839, three days before John took his life.

At the coroner’s inquest a few days after John’s death, the jury reached the unanimous verdict that “the deceased destroyed himself while in a state of temporary insanity”.

John was survived by his second wife Ruth Parrott, three of his children from his first marriage (John, William and Thomas) and two from his second marriage (Ruth and George). He is buried in the family tomb at St Mary’s, Ealing, with his parents, brother, sister and first wife.

The monumental inscription indicates “…..John Round husband of the above Abigail……This poses an intriguing question. The inscription referring to John as Abigail’s husband seems strange, does it not, when at the time of John’s death, his second wife Ruth was alive? It’s possible that John’s sons William and Thomas had a hand in this – presumably they arranged the monumental inscription, as they were the executors of their father’s will. If this is so, it speaks volumes about William’s and Thomas’ negative attitude to their stepmother Ruth and their lack of respect for her.

red green and blue arrows forming a circle: the Round motif

Published March 2009