The Wavendon Poachers and the Gamekeepers 1867

As in any district as old as ours, there have been several shocking murders, though thankfully few and far between. Just as now, those committed within the last hundred and fifty years have all been subject to intense media interest and speculation.

This case comes from 1867. Two notorious local poachers, James Inwood, 22, a lathrender by trade, and William Emmerton, a bricklayer were out trespassing on Capt. Swabey’s land on Christmas Eve, when they were discovered by John White, the gamekeeper and Edward Farr, the under-keeper. White had previously caught Inwood poaching, and he had served six months for the offence. On this occasion, Emmerton ran away, with Farr in hot pursuit, but Inwood stood his ground, and faced White. Farr was 50 yards away when he heard a shot and turned to see White fall to the ground. He raced back, just in time for White to be able to cry out “I’m a dead man, and it’s James Inwood that has shot me!“. He had been shot from so close a range that the muzzle flash had set his coat alight. White then died in Farrs arms.

After Farr had raised the alarm, Inwoods house was raided and searched. A gun was recovered, minus its ramrod. As well as Whites last words to condemn him, the matching ramrod was found in the grass at the scene of the crime. The charges against Emmerton were dropped, and he acted as a witness for the prosecution of Inwood. The inquest was held at The Swan, Woburn Sands, and Inwood was committed for trial at the Bucks Assizes the following March.

After the trial, at which Inwood was said to have shown the upmost indifference throughout, the jury took three quarters of an hour to find him guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 20 years. We know that he was still alive and still in prison, at HMP Borstall, 14 years later in 1881.

White was buried at Wavendon, with Capt. Swabey and every member of his household in attendance to support Whites widow. One of the last things he had done was to help decorate the Servants Hall at Wavendon House for New Years Eve.

The White family commemorated the life of John by inscribing his name in their family Bible, which is still in the hands of his family. In a more visible form, the spot where John was shot in the fields across from Woburn Sands Library was marked with a cross mown into the grass, which existed until well into the 20th century.


Page last updated Jan. 2019.