Tony and Helen Franklin moved into their new home at Blacknest,
Alton, they knew that the house, Cricketer’s Cottage, had an interesting
history - but it wasn’t until the very day they moved in that they
just how interesting!
For, in September 1894 the Cricketers Inn,
as it was then, was the scene of what was reported in the press at that
time as “The Binsted Wilful Murder Case.” The Inn, which belonged
to Farnham United Breweries, was run by Frances and Cyrus Knight, who
lived there with their adopted son, William Brewer, aged 15. Cyrus,
a Hire Carter by trade, was 45 years old and his wife Frances was 53.
They had married in 1887, Cyrus being Frances’ second husband. The
of the day reported the murder in great detail - it even got a mention
in the Times. But Sheldrake’s Aldershot & Sandhurst Military Gazette
probably gives the fullest account of the tragic night of September
28th, 1894. It would seem that Cyrus, in a half drunken condition, was
playing dominoes in the tap room when Frances called him for his tea.
The Times newspaper even gives us the time of day - it was 7.30 p.m.
A quarrel broke out at the tea table concerning some milk and Cyrus
threw the contents of his cup at Frances, who retaliated by throwing
her tea at him.
According to William Brewer’s
statement, later, Cyrus then threw the cup at her and said, “That will be the last
cup of tea you shall fling at me.” He put on his jacket and
walked into the lower room returning with a double-barrelled breech-loading
gun, took some cartridges from out of a clock-case and walked out
the kitchen door into the garden, leaving the door ajar. Brewer said
he next saw the muzzle of the gun pointing inside the door. It was
towards his mother, who was standing washing up the tea things at
the time. Two shots rang out and Frances fell dead, hit in the jaw
.....‘the walls and pictures were besplattered with blood and Mrs.Knight
was bleeding profusely from a fearful wound in the neck.’...... The
boy ran into the tap room for help while his father simply walked
leaving the gun resting against the door of the adjoining cottage.
The next morning the local constable was
joined by Inspector Hawkins of Alton and they were no doubt surprised
Cyrus returning to the house at 8.00 a.m., some 12 hours after committing
the crime. On being arrested, he told the inspector that the gun
gone off accidentally. Cyrus was tried for the murder of his wife
at the Winchester Assizes on November 17th, 1894. In his testimony
son, William Brewer. frankly admitted that Knight and his wife lived
unhappily, that he had often struck her and that six months previously
he had threatened he would “do for the old b -.” A gunsmith
from Alton had tested the gun and stated that, in his opinion,it
not have gone off accidentally.
No witnesses, except to character, were called
for the prisoner. Having heard the evidence, the jury took just 10 minutes
to arrive at their verdict - Guilty, but they strongly recommended
him to mercy because they thought he had committed the crime in the
heat of passion.’
The Judge, Mr. Justice Grantham, doesn’t seemed
to have heeded their recommendations - he sentenced Cyrus Knight to
death by hanging and he was executed on Wednesday, December 12th at
Winchester Prison. So died Cyrus and Frances Knight, while what became
of their adopted son is not known.
The public house continued to offer liquid
refreshment, and, no doubt, a lot of gossip, until 1915 when it ceased
business, becoming simply Cricketer's Cottage, a house with quite
story to tell!”