‘Choked to Death Eating a Sausage’ and other unusual deaths

Most of my ancestors seem to have died in quite unextraordinary ways – mostly cardio-vascular or pulmonary disease and old age. But some of them have met their ends in more unusual ways.

‘CHOKED TO DEATH EATING A SAUSAGE’ was the attention-grabbing headline of the local newspaper report on the death of Thomas Bushby Olliver in September 1953. The coroner’s inquest was told that he ‘gobbled his food’ and had had a previous episode of choking some months before. Thomas’s son Denis Raymond Olliver also liked his food, dying of morbid obesity in 2000. In contrast, Charles Parkes died of marasmus, a type of malnutrition, in 1858.

Some of the deaths are notable for their timing: Denis’s grandmother Alice Chapman died in 1910 four weeks after giving birth, and her mother Susannah Wells Hooper died some months after falling down the stairs on Christmas Day 1916. Others are notable for their location: Joseph Bowhill suffered an attack of apoplexy while incarcerated in the County Gaol in Maidstone, while Charles Parkes, his mother, Louisa Elizabeth Tonks, and grandmother, Charlotte Rothery Newman, all died in Shoreditch workhouse. And poor William Upton did away with himself in the lavatory.

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