Extraordinary and fatal trapeze accident

A young man named Robert Townley has lost his life at Lancaster under distressing but very peculiar circumstances.

Deceased, who was 17 years of age, was a clerk in the employ of Lancaster Banking Company, and it was part of his duty to remain behind after closing time – three o’clock p.m. – to fasten up the company’s “strong room,” which is in an underground part of the premises. He was left in the bank for that purpose on Tuesday afternoon, whilst the other clerks went out to dine.

In the strong room, it appears, there is suspended from the roof a trapeze, with which the junior clerks have been in the habit of amusing themselves in their leisure moments. The two iron rings by which the cross bar is supported are about eight feet from the ground.

As deceased, whose hat was hanging in its usual place in the office, was not to be seen when wanted by the cashier on his return from dinner at five o’clock, a search was made for deceased, who was subsequently found in the strong room hanging by his neck from the trapeze, and quite dead.

A long rope had been fastened to one of the rings, and one end of it had been formed into a noose, and passed round his neck. As deceased had frequently practised on the trapeze in a variety of curious positions, the inference is that he was trying he experiment of supporting himself by the chin, and that in swinging to and fro the rope slipped against his throat and strangled him before he had an opportunity of seizing the loose end of the rope and drawing himself up.

The position and appearance of the body fully bore out this theory, and at the inquest on Tuesday night, the Jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.” The manager and cashier of the bank gave deceased an excellent character.

The Kentish Gazette, June 2, 1868.

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