The Late Chief Constable of Bedfordshire – Major Ashton Cromwell Warner
by Colin Woolf
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent, Saturday 6th December 1879, reported:
On Saturday morning last (29th November 1879) the sad news was rapidly circulated through the town of Bedford that Major Warner, the Chief-Constable of the county, was dead. The decease of this deeply lamented officer was so far sudden that it took the town by surprise. It was known to some that he had been confined to his room for several days by a severe cold; but we are not aware that anyone anticipated a very serious illness, much less a fatal issue. The cold assumed the form of congestion of the lungs; but the disease was apparently yielding to the medical treatment, when on Friday evening a change for the worst occurred, and early on Saturday morning the symptoms became alarming. Whilst Mrs Warner was administering the medicine which Mr Sharpin, the medical attendant had just before prepared, a blood vessel was ruptured, and the deceased was suffocated by the haemorrhage that ensued.
We learn that Major Ashton Cromwell Warner was born in Brighton on the 11th August 1835 and was the eldest son of Capt. Warner formerly of The Crescent Bedford. He was educated at Bedford Grammar School under Dr. Brereton. His cadetship was given him by Mr John Harvey Astell, of Woodbury Hall; (Everton Park) and he entered the army at the age of 18. He was one of the illustrious ‘garrison’ of Lucknow under the late General Sir John Ingles, K.C.B., who, in writing home said of the deceased, “Whenever a volunteer was wanted for a dangerous sortie, young Warner was always ready.” He was gazetted cornet on the 4th October 1857; and brevet-major, 19th November 1859.
Major Warner served throughout the defence of the Residency of Lucknow; and was mentioned in despatches, thanked by the Governor-General in Council, and received the grant of a year’s service. He was present at the defeat of the Gwalior contingent at Cawnpore, at the action of Khodagunge, and at the recapture of Futtyghur. He served as aide-de-camp to General Walpole during the siege and capture of Lucknow, and at the battle and capture of Bareilly, in connection with which services he was twice mentioned in despatches, received a medal with two clasps, and the brevet of major.
Major Warner’s official connection with this county dates from his retirement from the army nine years ago, when he succeeded Capt. Boultbee as as chief-constable of Bedfordshire. No words from us are needed to give emphasis to the universal tribute of praise which is bestowed upon his memory, and to the deep and general regret at his premature loss. It will be difficult for the county to supply his place. With official strictness he united a kindliness and courtesy that won the regard of all who came into contact with him. His death is deeply felt both by the county magistrates and the force; and in the town of Bedford the exhibition of sorrow has been general and sincere.
Major Warner has left a widow (his second wife) and four children. His first wife and an only child died soon after his retirement from the army. Public sympathy goes but a little way towards consoling for a private bereavement; but Mrs. Warner and her family have the mournful satisfaction of knowing that their loss is also that of the town and county, and that their husband and father will be long remembered with regretful appreciation.
The funeral – Took place on Thursday morning, 4th December when in spite of the severe cold, a number of people witnessed it. The cortege was arranged to leave the house of the deceased Major, Goldington – road, at 11.30, and soon after that time the procession was ready to start. There were three carriages waiting at the house, and these were preceded by the open funeral car which was drawn by two men. A number of spectators had assembled near the house, and these followed the carriages to St Peter’s Church, where the service took place: Arriving at St Peter’s, several other carriages joined the procession, the occupants of which had already taken their seats in the church. The county policemen formed a line on each side of the pathway leading up to the door between which the mourners and friends passed. On the coffin being brought into the church it was met by the Rev. W. Hart Smith, the rector, who proceeded to read the usual service for the burial of the dead. The church was moderately filled by county magistrates and friends of the deceased, but there was no unnecessary crowding, the arrangements being all that could be wished. The usual psalm having been read, hymn 221 (Ancient and Modern) commencing;
O happy band of pilgrims
If onward ye will tread
With Jesus as your fellow To Jesus as your Head!
was sung. The other portion of the service having been finished, the party left the church and joined in procession.
In the first carriage were Capt. W. Warner, Capt. A.M. Webster, the Rev. R.E. Warner, and the Rev. M. Parke (brother-in-law of the deceased).
In the second carriage were Master Lionel Warner with the nurse and Mr. H. Piers.
The third carriage contained Major Brooks, Col. Alexander, Col. Col. Warner (late 20th Hussars), and Mr. Jekyll.
The other carriages contained other friends of the deceased, amongst who were:
Capt. Polhill-Turner, M.P., Sir J.M. Burgoyne, Col. Stuart, Col. Sowerby (Putteridge Park), Mr. S. Gibbard, Mr. W.F. Higgins, Mr. T. Thornton, Mr.G. Higgins, Canon Macaulay, Canon Brereton, Rev. C.E. Haslam, Rev. H. Wood, Rev. R.E.R. Watts and Rev.Murphy (St Paul’s, Bedford), Rev. C. Greene (Great Barford), Mr. M. Whyley (county coroner), Mr. Theed W. Pearce (Clerk of the Peace), Capt. Verey (Chief Constable of the borough of Bedford), Mr. T. Ponsonby, Mr. W. B. Graham (late Deputy Chief Constable of Bedfordshire), Dr. Prior, Mr. Roberts (Governor of the gaol) Mr. Clough (late Superintendent), Mr. Jones (Bedfordshire Reformatory), the Medical Attendant (Mr. Sharpin) &c, &c. The Rev. Howard Kempson, rector of St. Cuthbert’s, in which parish the deceased resided, would have been present but was prevented by indisposition.
The whole of the Superintendents of the county, six in number, were present, viz., Supt. Shepherd (deputy Chief Constable), Supt. Kennedy, Supt. Bedlow, Supt. Carruthers, Supt. James, and Supt. Tydeman. These walked by the side of the car. Altogether there were about 100 constables in uniform following, including members of the county police, under Inspectors F. Smith, G. Smith, and Tomlinson. The Bedford borough police were present in force, under Inspector Hayncs. There were also some members of the Northamptonshire constabulary, under Supt. J.T. Noble (deputy chief constable). Several warders from H.M. Prison at Bedford also joined in the procession. Many other friends would have been present, but pressing engagement kept them away.
The coffin was a massive polished one with iron fittings. It was of medieval shape and on the top was a large cross extending its whole length. At the bottom step was a brass plate on which was engraved the following words:-
MAJOR ASHTON C. WARNER
DIED Nov. 29, 1879, AGED 44 YEARS.
A splendid array of flowers was placed on the coffin, and violet draperies were used-including a violet pall with a white cross. The whole of the funeral arrangements was under the direction of Mr. Bennett, High Street, Bedford, whose management, as usual, was entirely satisfactory.
The open car used on the occasion – known as the “Bedford” car – is of an original pattern and belongs to the undertaker – Mr. Bennett.
The Rev. W. Hart Smith conducted the remaining part of the service by the side of the grave, and along the Cemetery – road most of the occupants of the houses had their blinds drawn as a mark of respect. The ceremony being over the friends took their leave, most of those present taking a last look at the coffin.
Grave Ref: F2.170
Source – Bedford Central Library: Bedfordshire Times and Independent Saturday 6th December 1879, Page 5, Columns 4 & 5. Bedford Cemetery Records
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