I couldn't help wondering what happened to the people involved in Joel Fisher's story following his execution on the 4th September 1844, so I carried on looking for snippets of information. As you know from my last post, sadly Rev. John Hamilton Forsyth's health failed and he passed away at the young age of thirty-two in 1848.
The Devonshire Inn itself was bought by a fellow called Charles Searle, who turned the bedroom where the murder had been committed into a storeroom and renamed his premises the 'London Inn', in an attempt to disassociate himself and his public house from the events of the past. In the years that followed, his life fell apart, he was forced to flee to America, and his wife divorced him.1
According to the census, Mr Bernard, the doctor who'd attended to Mary Hyatt and testified at Fisher's trial, was still in Weston in 1861; he lived at 6 Oriel Terrace with his wife and four children. Apparently, he later became seriously ill and had to leave Weston for good.2
Robert Hill, the policeman who'd arrested Joel Fisher, was out on his rounds on the evening of the 20th November 1847 when he was called once more to the London Inn. There had been a fight in the tap room and the landlord was worried that things might get out of hand, so Hill threw everyone out of the inn. Once outside, however, not all of the men who'd been ejected were eager to move on. Trouble broke out again, so Hill intervened and ordered everyone to go straight home, at which point most of the men did as they were told; one man, a twenty-nine year old smith by the name of Thomas Cann, objected to being ordered about and became verbally abusive. Hill decided to make sure that Cann did go home, so he followed him at a distance along Regent Street. As Cann reached the corner of St James' Street, he attempted to double back, so Hill said, pointing towards St James' Street, 'That is your way home, and I insist upon your going that way'.3 Cann rushed at the policeman and stabbed him in his left side; Hill tried to strike Cann with his staff, but failed.
Hill was taken to the Plough Hotel, where two local surgeons were called to attend to his wounds; one was a Mr William Jones and the other was Mr Charles Bernard, the doctor who'd been called to Fisher's wife back in 1844. Hill had suffered two wounds; one was slight, the other was about half an inch long but deep, from which the policeman was losing a lot of blood.4 Jones dressed Hill's wound and noted some improvement.
Cann was arrested at seven in the morning the following day by Constable John James Salmon Parsons. Two knives were found in Cann's pocket, and he confirmed at the time that one of them had been used to stab Robert Hill. Following a hearing at the Gas House in Weston-super-Mare, at which Hill gave evidence before being ordered back to bed by his doctors, Cann was committed to Shepton Mallet gaol to await trial at the next assizes. On the 1st April 1848, he was found guilty of stabbing Robert Hill with intent to kill and sentenced to seven years' transportation.5
According to the convict transportation register, Thomas Cann was one of 257 convicts transported on the Maria Somes on the 3rd May 1850; he arrived in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on the 9th August of the same year.
Following the assault by Thomas Cann, Robert Hill had gone on performing his duties as a policeman, despite suffering from severe pain. But during the first week of February, 1851, he fell ill and died as a result of the injury he'd suffered three years previously. An autopsy was performed by Surgeon Rawlinson, who discovered that Cann's knife had actually pierced Hill's diaphragm back in 1848, allowing eight feet of intestine to escape into his chest cavity.6 It's amazing that the man could stand, let alone carry out his job.
Hill left a widow, Elizabeth, and four young children, two of which died in 1862. The census shows that ten years after her husband's death Elizabeth Hill was still living in Weston with her two remaining children, at 5 Wellington Lane, Regent St. She was, at that point, taking in lodgers to make ends meet.
By that time, the man responsible for making Elizabeth Hill a widow had married twice and had several children. Cann didn't die until 1874. Had Robert Hill died immediately following the stabbing, rather than soldiering on for three years, Cann would certainly have been hanged for murder in 1848.
As of yet, I haven't been able to find out what happened to the lodger, william Upsall, or the maid, Ann Evans.
1, 2, 6 Austin, B. Tales of Old Weston, Vol 2. Woodspring Museum Service.
3, 4 The Bristol Mercury, 27th November 1847.
5 County of Somerset: Register of all Persons charged with Indictable Offences at the Assizes and Sessions held within the County during the Year 1848.