Life story written by Paul Beecroft
In loving memory of
JOHN HERBERT HUTCHINSON
Born June 23rd 1874 Died November 5th 1904
“We cannot Lord, they purpose see but all is well,
That’s done by Thee” Thy will be done.
Erected by his relatives and friends and the members of the
Reading Borough Police.
Detective Constable John HUTCHINSON was an officer with the Reading Borough Police. He had been a police officer for approximately 10 years. His integrity and ability had won the confidence of his superiors which had resulted in him becoming a detective. He was well respected, not only by his colleagues in the force but also by the community of Reading.
In the early hours of Saturday 5th November 1904, D.C. Hutchinson, had met up with P.C. Kiely in Duke Street and had accompanied him on his beat in the town as he headed towards Reading Police Station. In Thorn Lane they parted company. Approximately three minutes later, whilst P.C. Kiely was checking premises he heard a splash in the Holy Brook river. He at once ran back. He heard his colleague call out and saw Hutchinson in the river drifting away in a very strong current. P.C. Kiely tried to reach him but was unable to do so and nearly fell in himself. The alarm was raised, other officers attended from the police station and later that morning the body of D.C. Hutchinson was recovered from the river.
Exactly what happened remains unknown. The area where he fell in was described in newspapers as being a dangerous spot with a horizontal board, about two feet high as protection against falling into the river. The board was sufficient to keep children from falling in but was no protection for a grown-up person. The board had not given way and it was thought that he may have tripped over it in the darkness. Other reports also refer to a wall being broken and in need of repair.
The Inquest into the death of D.C. Hutchinson took place the same day at St. Giles’ Coffee House, Southampton Street. The Coroner, Mr. Weedon, after hearing the evidence he summed up that there could be no doubt that D.C. Hutchinson was accidently drowned. The property was, he heard, private property but the attention of the Corporation should be called to this dangerous spot. The foreman of the jury, Mr. Gray (Assistant Magistrates Clerk) announced that the jury’s verdict was one of “Accidental Death” and added, “We think it would not have been caused if the wall had been in proper repair, and steps should be taken to put it into repair. The Town Clerk or some other borough official should be informed about it.” The Coroner said he would write to the Town Clerk.
The following Monday, at the conclusion of ordinary business at the Borough Police Court, the Chairman, Alderman A. Hill, made a sympathetic allusion to the sad occurrence. He said he desired, on behalf of his fellow magistrates and himself, to say how extremely sorry they were for the misfortune which had befallen the Borough Police Force by the death of one of their number. He was a most promising officer, and it was a source of the deepest regret that he had been accidently drowned while in the execution of his duty on Saturday morning. His death was a great loss to the force, and he wished to express the deep sympathy of the Bench with the Force.
The funeral took place on Thursday 10th November. The Reading Standard reported as follows:-
THE FUNERAL OF DETECTIVE HUTCHINSON
AN IMPRESSIVE CEREMONY
The body of Detective John Hutchinson was borne to its last resting place in the Reading Cemetery on Thursday afternoon with impressive solemnity and ceremony. The wide esteem and popularity which the deceased officer had gained, and the tragic circumstances of his death combined, resulted in such a manifestation of popular sympathy – as shown by the unusually large number attending the funeral and the various bodies and classes represented – as has seldom been seen in Reading on any similar occasion. The cortege started from the Reading Borough Police Station shortly after two o’clock and proceeded to St. Laurence’s Church, where the first portion of the funeral service was read. The long and sad procession was headed by members of the Borough Force, of which the deceased was so popular an officer. Then followed the hearse, which was covered with beautiful floral tokens of respect and esteem, the seven mourning coaches and private carriages, and 69 of the Borough constables. The route to the church was lined with a large concourse of sympathetic onlookers and the church itself contained a larger adult congregation than has ever been seen there at a funeral service within the recollection of the oldest official.
The number of persons attending the funeral are too numerous to fully mention but amongst the mourners were Borough Magistrates, Town Councillors, Corporation officials, retired police officers, Constables of the Berks County Constabulary, Chief Constable of Reading, Chief Constable of Windsor, members of the Fire Brigade and Prison Service along with members of the family and friends.
The funeral procession on leaving the church proceeded down the Market Place, across into Duke Street, by Queen’s Road, Sidmouth Street and London Road to the Cemetery, a large number of people watching it pass by. At the Cemetery a big crowd had gathered to show their respect for the departed. The internment was conducted by the clergy of St. Laurence’s and was a most impressive ceremony.
Section 27, Row A, Plot 13