The Oddingley Murders

by Angela Lanyon

On 24th June 1806, George Parker, the Rector of Oddingley, a small village between Worcester and Droitwich was driving his cows in for milking. Richard Hemming who had been lurking in the hedges all afternoon, shot him at point blank range, threw down the gun and ran off. Despite a reward being offered for information leading to his arrest he was never seen alive again. Running towards Worcester, Hemming was in fear of his life.

Twenty four years later, one winter afternoon a body was found buried under the floor of a local barn. It was identified as being that of the Rector's murderer. Why had he shot the Rector? George Parker was an unpopular man, demanding and taking a tenth of every parishioners' corn, eggs, hay, even hedge clippings. The villagers had banded together and hired Richard Hemming, a man with a reputation for violence, to kill him. When Hemming doubled back to the village after the murder he imperilled them all.

On the other side of the valley lay Netherwood Farm belonging to Thomas Clewes. While deciding what to do, Clewes urged Hemming to hide in the hay loft. The other conspirators agreed. To protect them, Hemming must die. Later that night he was lured down by the promise of food, struck on the head and killed. Clewes, fearful his dogs might be disturbed, dug a hole in the floor, tipped the body in and went to bed.

An inquest was held at the Talbot Inn on the Barbourne. Clewes and those of the conspirators who were still alive were charged with murder. Clewes confessed but said he had 'stood by afeared ' while James Taylor a drunken farrier had struck Hemming. Taylor was now dead and at the time accessories to a crime could not be sentenced in the principals absence. After the trial the verdict of 'not guilty' resulted in scenes reminiscent of a playhouse.' In Oddingley village, they rang the church bells. Angela Lanyon

Copyright © Angela Lanyon 1999

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