A Tragedy at Whatton

Over the years I have heard several different accounts of the events at Whipling Farm on the 10th February 1914. After much research none of the stories I had heard, I determined that none of those stories were true, I came across the real story in the report of the trial of John Frederick Houghton for the murder of his brother and his father.

Sadly the Houghton family were no strangers to tragedy as their two eldest children died in quick succesion in the 1890s.

The incident was clearly considered important and no less than the Deputy Chief Constable of the County headed the enquiry,

The report reproduced below is the fullest account I can find and is a summary of the trail, reported in the Grantham Journal – 20th June 1914.

“Before facts shown in connection with the terrible tragedy were that Mr Houghton, his wife, and their two sons were in the dining-room at the farmhouse on the night in question, all being apparently on the usual friendly footing. Fred, as accused was called, after saying good night, went up the stain which led from dining-room go to bed. was followed shortly afterwards by Jasper, when Mrs. Houghton heard the sound of a gun-shot. Mr. Houghton proceeded to the stairs to see what had happened, and he was going up when there was a second loud report, and he fell dead at his wife’s feet. Mrs. Houghton called out : What’s the matter ” and Fred replied: ” It’s gun, mother.” He came down and placed some shot cartridges, which were alive, on the table. A double-barrelled breech-loader which had belonged to Jasper was, he said, found by him on the staircase. Only the right barrel had been fired, that the person who discharged the two shots must have re-loaded the weapon.
When spoken to by Mr. Harrop, deputy chief constable, he said, “It’s a bad job for mother, but I don’t mind so much about mine, I am the eldest son, and father has no will.” A statement by his mother that he saw a man run across the stackyard, drew from him the remark, ” Take no notice of mother; that’s all imagination.” Prisoner had had authority to draw on his father’s account in the London City and Midland Bank, at Melton Mowbray. In February last this account was overdrawn to the extent of £3,800, and prisoner had given a guarantee £2,500. He persuaded his brother Jasper insure his life for £1,000, which was later increased to £10,000, and afterwards to £13,750. The statement was made that Jasper would come into income of £100,000.
Mrs. Houghton, who was in deep mourning, and accompanied by a nurse, painfully gave evidence against her son, who showed considerable emotion and shed tears.
Evidence was further given that the accused was subject to attacks of epilepsy, during which he had to be held down. Accused had gambled heavily in maise.
Dr. Eaton, of Bingham, attributed the deaths of the deceased to shot wounds in the head and upper part of the body.
A police-constable, who was called in after the tragedy, said that Fred seemed to ” take no interest the matter.”
The trial concluded on Thursday. Evidence was given that prisoner had fourteen epileptic attacks in prison, and three doctors expressed the opinion that he was insane at the time of the crime. The jury found that Houghton was guilty, but that was insane the time. He was ordered to be detained during his Majesty’s pleasure.”

Houghton was found Guilty but Insane and committed to Broadmoor. Mrs. Houghton left the parish after the sale of the farm and mill effects and went to live with relatives in Melton Mowbray.

Gregg Redford