Death in Low Spirits


A liking for spirits and a disregard for fire-safety ended in disaster for two excisemen.

“On Tuesday evening died, in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Cotton, the excise officer, who was burnt on Monday night at Mr. Wright’s, distiller, in White Friars – The following is the fact relative to that terrible accident: On Monday night, about eleven o’clock the above officer came to relieveĀ  another Excise officer then on duty, when they agreed together to go down into a vat that the spirits work into every day from the still, and which is every night pumped up into the store vats, and had been done for that night, that nothing remained but what the pump would not draw up, and some dirt which there generally is at the bottom of such vats, which are in constant use; however, the little spirit that did remain and was not fit for a person to drink, they agreed to get out to mix with some water; but when the man, who is since dead, was getting down into the vat with a candle in his hand, that ladder by which he was getting down flipped , and he tumbled into the vat, which was about five feet deep and the candle immediately set fire to it, he being in the midst of the flames; however, the other Exciseman got him out alive, and Cotton told the whole affair, with this expression, that, as dying man, what is related is the fact; upon which Mr. Wright immediately send him to hospital, and the other Officer to the Compter*.”

Stamford Mercury, 21st August, 1766.

* Compter (orĀ  counter): a small English prison for civil cases, controlled by a sheriff.