One Place Study
Normanton on Soar
People of the Village
Commission of Lunacy
Published by The Times: Monday, Nov 05, 1827
On Thursday week, a Court of Inquiry was held at Nottingham to inquire into the state of mind of the Rev. William HOLMES, rector
of Normanton on Soar in that county. The Inquiry turned upon the fact, whether Mr. HOLMES had become, from age and infirmities,
incapable of managing his own affairs, - not that he had any original defect of mind. The reverend gentleman was above 80 years of
age, and the petition to the Lord Chancellor had been presented by Mrs. STEVENSON, a daughter of Mr. HOLMES by a former wife –
by his present wife he had no children – his income exceeded 2,000l. a year.
Some domestic servants proved the gradual decay of this gentleman’s mind for the last four or five years, and that he wandered
about the fields late in the evening, and behaved in a childish and forgetful manner.
The Rev. Dodsley FLAMSTEAD, who himself an octogenarian, and had known Mr. HOLMES from the time of their colleglate education,
deposed likewise to the decay of his faculties of late years.
Thomas MARSTON, the parish clerk, who know Mr. HOLMES for 45 years, deposed, that for the last eight or nine years his memory
had entirely declined. He would confound the marriage with the burial service, forgot the names at baptism, and, in fact, so confuse
the lessons and ritual, that he could not of late be suffered to officiate. He likewise was shown to have forgotten that persons about
whom he inquired were dead many years; also, that parts of his land were not allenated from him.
Dr. PENNINGTON believed him of unsound mind, and approaching idiotcy, and unfit to manage his affairs. His memory was totally
gone; of this he related several instances; though he said he always read the newspapers, yet he did not know that Mr. CANNING was
dead, that his (Mr.HOLME’s) own daughter was living, or his brother at Leicester dead.
Dr. W.W. ARNOLD thought that the chief features in Mr. HOLMES’s case were, mental imbecility, feebleness of mind, and a great
want of memory. He was totally unequal to the management of his own affairs.
Mr. WRIGHT, who was counsel against the petition, contended that more imbecility of mind did not legally constitute that
unsoundness which must be established before any man could be made a lunatic. He ascribed this petition to an undutiful daughter,
who was allowed by her father 200l. a year, and said he would show that a number of letters had recently passed between Mr. HOLMES
and his steward, clearly indicative of his competency for business. He produced several witnesses, who deposed, that though this
gentleman’s memory was weak, yet he had conversed with them rationally on business up to a late period; and his curate, the Rev.
Mr. KIRK, said that he had visited Mr. HOLMES every Sunday during the last three years; he regularly and decorously attended church,
complained of the hostility of his daughter, and behaved otherwise with the manners of a gentleman; his memory was, he admitted,
It was next proved that his bankers regularly paid his checks.
The Rev. D.R.JEFFERSON was in the constant habit of seeing Mr. HOLMES, whom he thought to be a rational gentleman.
Dr. HASLAM, the eminent doctor in cases of lunacy, had heard the whole evidence, as well as repeatedly seen Mr. HOLMES, and was
decidedly of the opinion that he was not a lunatic; he behaved like a gentleman of the old school, complained of the cruel conduct of
his daughter, recognized with propriety his visitors, finished a Latin quotation which Dr. HASLAM had begun, and calculated off hand a
small number of figures which he had set down before him. The doctor underwent a long metaphysical examination as to the changes
in the faculties of the human mind, and concluded by repeating his opinion that Mr. HOLMES was not a lunatic.
Mr. WRIGHT summed up the evidence in behalf of Mr. HOLMES, and urged its inefficiency.
Mr. CLINTON replied in support of the petition, when the Commissioner charged the jury, who returned a verdict, that the Rev.
Mr. HOLMES “is not a lunatic, but partly from paralysis, and partly from old age, his memory is so impaired, that he is incompetent
to the management of his affairs, and therefore is of unsound mind."
This inquiry commenced on Thursday week, and was continued from day to day until last Tuesday evening
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