The date was Wednesday, October 6, 1880, and the story involves a gentleman by the name of Henry Vernon, who was 24 years of age at the time.

Henry lived with his parents on Castle, and a girl called Annie Hodkinson, a family friend lived at Acton and was at the home of Henry when he returned to the house.

When she was due to leave for home in the evening, he told her that he was going to visit Annie’s sister, who lived at Mrs Clarke’s in Barnton. He said he would walk with her some of the way, and this they did as far as The Copyhold in Northwich Road, Weaverham.

There they split up, Annie heading for Acton and Henry setting off for Barnton via Saltersford Locks.

Annie later said that he did not appear to have been drinking, and when she left him, he was fine. It was, however, the last time she would see him alive.

John Lyon, the lock tender at Saltersford, was sitting in his house on the lockside when he heard a scream.

He remembered that the night was very dark and wet when he went out, and the cry appeared to have come from the bridge about 80 yards away.

He called to one of the other workmen, and with a light and lifebuoy, they set off; on the way there, they heard another scream, and as they neared the bridge, there was a groan.

He was present with Sergeant Batty on the following Tuesday when the body of Henry Vernon was found between the lock gate and the wall.

The sergeant checked Henry’s pocket and found his watch; it had stopped at a few minutes past 8pm, about the time that the screams were heard.

The following day, an inquest was held by the coroner Mr Churton at the Blue Barrel Inn, Castle, Northwich, and when all the sparse evidence was heard, Mr Churton summed up the case. The jury returned a verdict of ‘Found Drowned’. (Copyhold is the area off Northwich Road, Weaverham, on the school side of Esthers Lane).

Paul Hurley has a flourishing local Facebook Group called Mid Cheshire Through Time, no politics or advertising, just old images and fun. All are welcome.