Tragic accident at St Mary’s church in Warwick

Charles Manning
Charles Manning

Pat Wightman of Kenilworth recalls a tragic 19th century accident at St Mary’s church in Warwick involving one of her ancestors.

There has been a recent appeal by St Mary’s church for urgent work to be carried out on the Beauchamp Chapel and it brought to mind a previous major restoration of the tower in 1885.

Whilst work was being carried out, the tower was encased in scaffolding and, despite a late snowfall and frosty conditions, worked continued.

It was on February 20 that a tragic accident occurred. Dennis Manning, a 24-year- old labourer from Warwick, fell from the scaffolding and died from his injuries in Warneford Hospital, Leamington, on March 3, 1885.

The tragedy was made worse by the fact that his 19- year-old widow, was expecting their first child. Fanny Manning (nee Young) gave birth to a son less than four weeks later.

At the time of his death, Dennis was working for a well respected and forward thinking builder, G F Smith, whose workshops were situated at Beauchamp Hill at the junction with Union Road in Leamington.

Mr Smith had previously built St Mark’s church and vicarage at New Milverton in 1876, so it is not surprising that he was commissioned to work on the tower at St Mary’s in Warwick. Fortunately for Dennis’ widow, Mr Smith had taken out an insurance policy with the Employer’s Liability and Accident Insurance Company of Birmingham to cover accidents to his employees.

The workmen contributed a small sum of money weekly to ensure some income during disablement or a sum of money to their family in the event of death. Dennis’s family received £93.3.4d.

Fanny Manning remained with her parents and then moved with them and her son, Charles Thomas Manning, to Southam, where seven years later she married again.

Charles Thomas (always known as Tommy) grew up knowing nothing of his late father’s family.

Pat Wightman has been researching the family history and has discovered that Dennis had three brothers, Stephen, John and Thomas and two sisters, Ellen who died an infant, and Mary who married Joseph Eden and lived in Whitehead Court, Satchwell Street, Leamington, now part of the Royal Priors Shopping Centre. Descendants of Stephen and Mary have been found but were unable to provide additional information about the family. Sadly, Mary died in 1892 aged 38 having had seven children, the youngest being Ernest and Walter Eden. Pat would be very interested to hear from any descendants of the Eden or Young family and she can be contacted on