Friday, 19 July 2013

My Great-Uncle Was Murdered......By His Teacher!

Reginald Channell's father, John Henry Cancellor (1799-1860)

Reginald's brother, John Henry Cancellor (b. 1834)

It was almost by accident that I discovered that I had a personal connection to a Victorian scandal. My 3rd great-grand uncle was Reginald Channell Cancellor, born on 7th August 1844 in Regents Park, London, and he was the younger brother to my 3 x great-grandfather John Henry Cancellor (b. 1834). Reginald was just 15 years old when he was brutally beaten (as a form of corporal punishment for disobedience) by his teacher and died on the 22nd April 1860. He was a student at Thomas Hopley's private boarding school at 22 Grand Parade, Eastbourne, at the time, and is now thought to have hycephalus (water on the brain) and some form of learning difficulty. Hopley was tried and found guilty of Reginald's manslaughter in 1860 (the case described at the time as the Eastbourne Manslaughter) and served four years in prison, later to withdraw from public life. 

What makes this discovery more shocking is that Hopley had discussed the punishment with Reginald's father John Henry Cancellor (1799-1860), a court master from Surrey, beforehand to gain his support. I'm sure such a court case would be televised and the family on The Jeremy Kyle Show today, but at the time it seems largely hushed up.

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