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West Kent Guardian – Saturday 02 June 1838:

It will be recollected that a person representing himself as Sir William Courtenay was tried at Maidstone assizes some years since for perjury. He was found guilty, and sentenced to seven years’ transportation; but some doubts having afterwards arisen as to his sanity, the sentence was commuted to confinement in the lunatic asylum at Barming heath, where he remained about three years. This person summoned a large assembly to meet him on Wednesday at Blean wood, about four miles from Canterbury. This came to the ears of the local magistrates, and on Thursday morning the Rev. Dr. Poore, of Sittingbourne, and General Gosling, of Ospringe, sent three constables to notice the proceedings, and if necessary to arrest Courtenay. On their arrival they found an assemblage of about 100 people under great excitement, when one of the constables, named Myers, went up with the intention of arresting Courtenay, but the latter immediately fired a pistol at him, and he immediately after stabbed his victim with a dagger, which caused immediate death.


A despatch was then forwarded to Mr. Halford and Mr. Baldock, of Pettam, requesting them to send a detachment of the 45th regiment to Blean-wood. The request was immediately complied with, and two companies were despatched in carriages and vehicles of various descriptions. On their arrival at the scene of bloodshed the magistrates entreated the people to disperse, and on their positive refusal the Riot Act was read. Lieut. Bennett, by order of the commanding officer, went to where Courtenay was, in order to arrest him, when the latter fired a pistol, and the officer in a moment lay dead at his feet.

The soldiers, on seeing their officer fall, immediately attacked Courtenay with their bayonets, and killed him on the spot. This caused a general affray with the mob, who assaulted the military with sticks, &c, and the result was, that 11 of the ringleaders were killed, and many were severely wounded, amongst whom were some Canterbury people, who were attracted to the spot by curiosity. Several of the rioters were arrested, and the greatest excitement prevailed in the town. The weapons in the hands of the followers of Sir William were chiefly, if not altogether, heavy bludgeons.

The following are the names of the killed:— Sir William Percy Hollywood Courtenay, Knight of Malta, &c, supposed to be John Nicholls Tom, late of Truro, in Cornwall; Lieutenant Bennett, 45th; Edward Wraight, Herne-hill; F. Harvey, Herne-hill; E. Brenchett, Dunkirk; W. Burford, Boughton; W. Foster, Herne-hill; Thomas Griggs; W. Wry, Herne-hill; George Catt, constable of Faversham, killed in the execution of his duty. Lieut. Prendergast, wounded in the head.

Names of persons taken prisoners, some seriously wounded, and a few not expected to recover:— Stephen Baker, R. Hadlow, A. Toad, G. Griggs, W. Willis, E. Wraight, E. Curling, J. Spratt, Sarah Culver.

Amongst the magistrates who endeavoured to quell the disturbance, and who exposed themselves to imminent danger, we would mention the names of Mr. W. Baldock, the Rev. Dr. Poore, Mr. R. Halford, Mr. Norton Knatchbull, and the Rev. C. Handley.