A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
A death along a Preston lane in 1930
(Annie) Marjorie Cropper was born on 13 June 1896 at South Stoneham, near Southampton. Her father, Edward, was a civil servant - specifically, an architect working for HM Office of Works. By 1905, the family had re-located to Streatham, south London where Marjorie attended a private school, Hillsborough House, from 1905 until 1909. She was then educated at the prestigious James Allen’s Girls School - another private establishment - until September 1914. At around this time Marjorie had been horse-riding a handful of times. The following year, supporting the war effort, she worked part-time as a volunteer with the British Red Cross Society in the kitchen of the Auxiliary Hospital Streatham Common. In 1918, her mother went missing and Edward appealed to the press to help find his wife. She had left home at 8.00 pm. Annie snr was aged fifty, of medium build and with grey hair. She was wearing a dark green rainproof coat and a black hat. Edward feared that she was ‘suffering from loss of memory’. She was evidently found and returned home as she was noted in the 1921 census. Marjoie’s younger brother, Walter Cecil Cropper (born in 1900), was a schoolmaster when he married at St Andrews, Stoke Newington, London in the summer of 1925. Annie and her father were witnesses at the ceremony:
By 1929, both Marjorie and Walter had moved to Hitchin. Majorie was Dr Marshall Gilbertson’s dispenser (in those days, qualifications were not necessarily a requirement) and Walter was a mathmatics master at Hitchin Grammar School - he and his family were living at 9 Grays Lane in 1939. In 1930, Marjorie was horse-riding again and using the services of Dorothy Baulk (aged eighteen) who lived at Thirstley Bungalow, on the outskirts of Gosmore off the Preston road. One warm Wednesday July evening a group of five ponies/horses and riders were trotting along a ‘grassy lane’ at Preston - maybe Dead Woman’s Lane? This report followed in the Hertfordshire Mercury:
“Early yesterday morning, Miss Marjorie Cropper of ‘Aswaby’, Bearton Avenue, Hitchin died in Hitchin Hospital from injuries sustained in an accident at Preston on Wednesday night. Miss Cropper, who was a dispenser to Dr Marshall Gilbertson, was out horse riding with two friends, Miss Baulk of ‘Thistley’, Gosmore and Miss Barrett of Hitchin and during the ride, changed horses with the last named. Just before nine o’clock, Miss Cropper was discovered seriously injured and it was apparent she had been thrown from her horse. Medical help was summoned and Dr Gilbertson did the 4 mile journey from Hitchin to Preston in seven minutes. The Hitchin Hospital ambulance followed and on this, the injured young lady was taken to hospital. Mr Slesinger, a London surgical specialist was called but he could only pronounce that the case was hopeless. She remained unconscious until the end which occurred at six o’clock on Thursday morning. This sad occurrence is a great blow to the family and Dr Gilbertson. Miss Cropper’s brother is mathematics master at Hitchin Grammar School and her parents live at Streatham.
The inquest was reported in one of her old local London newspapers:
THROWN FROM HORSE Tragic End of Streatham Young Lady “Whoa!” AND A FALL The sad end of Miss Marjorie Cropper, daughter of Mr and Mrs Edward Cropper of Conyers Road, Streatham who was fatally injured when thrown from her horse at Preston, near Hitchin, was the subject of an inquest by Mr F R Shillitoe, coroner, at the North Herts and South Beds Hospital on Friday. Miss Cropper was thirty-four years of age and was a dispenser to Dr Gilbertson, a Hitchin doctor. Mr Walter Cecil Cropper, a master at Hitchin Grammar School, brother of Miss Cropper, said that when his sister was a child she rode a horse about six times. During the last eighteen months she had again taken to riding and had been going out regularly. Miss Dorothy Ellen Baulk of Gosmore, who had been giving Miss Cropper riding lessons said that on Wednesday evening a party of five were trotting single file along a grassy lane at Preston, witness being in front of Miss Cropper. She heard Miss Cropper say, ‘Whoa’ to her pony and on looking round she saw that she was falling off having lost one of her stirrups. She fell underneath her pony, which must have kicked her in the head. Miss Cropper had ridden the same pony almost every time she had been out and she had never fallen off before. Miss Nora Barrett said that although she was riding only ten yards behind Miss Cropper, she had not seen the accident. Half-an-hour earlier, witness had changed ponies with deceased. Dr Marshall Gilbertson said that Miss Cropper had sustained a badly fractured skull, a broken jaw and partial dislocation of the neck. A specialist examined her at 11 pm but could do nothing as her injuries were too severe. She died on Thursday morning soon after six o’clock. He was of the opinion that when she fell the horse had jumped over her and its hind legs hit her on the head. The coroner returning a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ expressed sympathy with Mr Cropper and the relatives and said there was no blame attached to anyone. If she had fallen clear of the horse there would not have been much harm, but having fallen underneath the horse, she received those injuries. Mr S Baulk on behalf of his daughter expressed his profound sympathy at the tragic occurrence and Drs J H and H H Gilbertson paid tribute to the work of Miss Cropper as a dispenser. Mr Cropper thanked the hospital matron and staff and the doctors for their devotion and assistance, also the police for the courteous and kindly manner in which they made their enquiries