The story of Richard Hemming is one that spans over
25 years and proves that it is never too late to solve a murder. In 1806
it was one of the duties of the rector of Oddingley in Worcestershire to
collect the village tithes or taxes. Any collector of taxes is going to
be unpopular but in the case of Reverend Parker he seemed to take such
pleasure in his job that he was hated by the villagers.
On 24 June 1806 a shot was heard in the rectory
garden. Villagers ran into the garden and found the rector lying dead on
the ground. One of the villagers chased after the killer who was
disappearing into the distance. Without warning the man stopped and
turning around fired at his pursuer. Not wishing to be killed himself
the man gave up the chase but not before he had managed to identify the
killer. He recognised the man as Richard Hemming, a wheelwright and
carpenter from nearby Droitwich.
Although a reward of fifty guineas was offered for
the capture of Hemming no one seemed willing to claim the reward, and
the crime remained unsolved.
Twenty-five years passed and without the rector to
bleed them dry the village prospered. For one of them having more money
than he needed was not a blessing. He would drink and gamble it away in
the local inn. So used to this sort of life that he began to spend more
than he actually had. Before he realised what he had done Thomas Clewes
found he had to sell his farm.
The new owner was having some alterations carried out
when a skeleton was discovered under a barn floor. Even after 25 years
it was possible for Mrs Hemming to make the trip from Droitwich to
identify the remains of her husband.
Thomas Clewes was arrested and soon confessed to what
had happened. It seemed that Hemming had been hired by six local farmers
to remove the hated Reverend Parker. This he had done and had been paid.
He had then decided that perhaps he could blackmail them into paying him
more. This was when they had decided to kill him. Out of the original
six only three were still alive and they were influential members of the
village. It was thought best to let the matter drop.
peaceful green fields surrounding the little church of Oddingley - about
five miles northeast of Worcester - present a picture of tranquillity
oddly at variance with the dreadful crime committed there last century.
On Midsummer Day, 1806, whilst walking in those same fields, Oddingley's
rector, Rev George Parker, was first shot and then bludgeoned to death
in broad daylight.
The rector was a pleasant man, well-known for his
generosity to the poor but perhaps a little too astute in business
affairs for the liking of some of his parishioners. At any rate a fierce
quarrel over tithes had broken out between Rev Parker and some local
farmers led by Captain Evans from nearby Church Farm, a well-known
magistrate in the area. The angry old captain was heard to declare
furiously that Parson Parker was a very bad man and that 'there is no
more harm in shooting him than a mad dog'.
It was not Captain Evans, however, who murdered the
rector but a Droitwich carpenter, Richard Hemming who, immediately after
the shot was seen running away across the fields towards Trench Woods.
He was seen both to enter and to emerge from the woods after which he
It was 24 years before Hemming's fate was known. In
January 1830, during the demolition of a barn at Netherwood Farm,
Oddingley, a shallow grave was found containing a skeleton with a
fractured skull. Hemming's wife, who had since remarried, identified him
by his clothes and a carpenter's rule found with the body. A further
inquest was opened at the Talbot Inn in The Tything, Worcester.
The story was again told of the dispute between the
unfortunate rector and Captain Evans and his friends. The inquest was
adjourned and the former occupant of Netherwood Farm, Thomas Crewes was
taken into custody and held on suspicion of Hemming's murder.
Crewes made a statement disclaiming all
responsibility for the murder but implicating Captain Evans and a man
named Taylor who were both now dead.
The trial created enormous interest throughout the
county. Crowds jostled for admission to the Guildhall where the case was
being heard by Mr. Justice Littledale. After 13 hours the jury returned
a verdict that Crewes was guilty as accessory after the fact. As he had
not been charged with that offence the judge declined to accept the
verdict. The jury then found Crewes not guilty.
the news of the acquittal reached Oddingley the church bells were rung
in celebration - much to the displeasure of the rector!
The Oddingley Murders
Continuing towards Worcester on the A38 some 3 miles
from Droitwich the village of Oddingley and the hamlet of Dunhamstead
are signposted near the public house Cop Cut Elm at Martin Hussingtree
and by following this road Oddingley can be reached.
There is very little of the village, just a few
scattered houses and the church of St. James, however, this small
community was very much in the news in 1806 when the peace was shattered
by the murder of the Rector, the Reverend G. Parker, known as a hard and
an uncompromising man he was a stickler for rules and extracted every
morsel when collecting tithes.
His murderer was a Richard Hemming a carpenter of
Droitwich who was hired by three local farmers, Clewes, Banks and
Barnett and a farrier named James Taylor to do the deed.
The rector was shot whilst he was driving a herd of
cows down a lane, Hemming had hidden in the hedgerow and fired the fatal
shot from that position, he immediately fled the scene and was never
seen alive again, an extensive search was made and it was assumed that
he had escaped from the country.
In 1830 during the building of a barn at Netherwood
farm, human remains were found and were identified as being those of
Richard Hemming. The identification was made by finding a carpenters
rule in the mans pocket and it transpired that on the night of the
murder Hemming was enticed out of his hiding place in the barn by the
promise of food by his employers for the deed done, whereupon Clewes,
Banks, Barnett and Taylor set on him clubbing him to death.
This was done in order that he could not implicate
them in the murder of the Rector. Following the discovery of the body an
inquest was held at the Talbot Inn, Barbourne Worcester. By this time
Taylor himself had died and the others could not be charged because the
principal was dead so they were found to be not guilty. Upon their
return to the village the church bells were rung and there was much
On the border of Oddingley is the hamlet of
Dunhamstead, it was at the local pub The Fir Tree Inn that Thomas
Clewes became landlord and hence the reason for the naming of the bar
The Murderers Bar. In here is a display of prints and newspaper cuttings
that describe the events of the time. The pub has a restaurant and also