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In 1967 the Queen Mary set off on her final voyage to Longbeach, California. This watercolour by Eric Crompton records the farewell.A stone carving on the RSH Hospital Chapel.An afternoon stroll on Plymouth Breakwater
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   Home      The Murder of Caroline Sophia Colborne


The murder of Caroline Sophia Colborne

News report 17th Sept 1865

On Monday week, George Broomfield was tried at Winchester for the murder of Caroline Colborne, at Shirley, near Southampton, on the 3rd December last. The murder created a great sensation at the time from the fact that the victim was a young and pretty woman only lately married, whom the prisoner, though a married man, sought to pay his addresses to. After shooting Mrs. Colborne, the prisoner attempted to commit suicide, and nearly succeeded. The defence set up that it was insanity, but the Jury found the prisoner guilty, and he was sentenced to death.

George Broomfield was in his late forties and had worked in various households with good references and with his last post as butler to Miss Onslow at Upton Grey House, Old Alresford. Miss Onslow was the daughter of Mr Guildford Onslow MP who had other properties in London and Onslow a village by Guildford from which the family name originated. Caroline Wing, born in Shirley, 2 miles from Southampton was the lady’s maid of the household. Caroline or Carry as her family called her was the daughter of Henry James Wing a plasterer and his wife Caroline who resided in Union Road, Shirley which was in later years included in the town of Southampton. She had been walking out with Fred Colborne a plumber/painter but that relationship cooled and she decided to go into service away from the town.

Whilst on one of their London seasons visit, Miss Onslow and her maid were the guests of Miss Delay whose family owned land in London and Ireland. It was here that Carry met George Broomfield, butler to Miss Delay. Broomfield had been married for four years to Anne, a lady some senior in years, who also worked for the Delays and lived in lodgings at South Molton Street, Mayfair. Very soon after the marriage he had taken the post as butler to Lord George Beauclerk. In September 1862, Broomfield was accidentally shot in the head and back when a member of the shooting party, Lord Falkland, mistakenly hit him while tracking a bird in flight. He was taken home and the doctor removed some 30 pieces of lead shot.

From that time his diligence and attention to detail changed and he became very remorseful and a classic hypochondriac, often bursting into tears. Broomfield informed his doctor that parts of his inner stomach were disappearing and his brain and heart were leaking fluids. As his condition worsened he feared that his blood was turning to water and had the notion that his wife Anne was terminally ill. He regularly called out in fear as he fancied that “faces at the windows” were watching him.

 For some unknown reason, probably his health, he then changed employers from the Beauclerks and then worked in the Delay household.

But it was the arrival of Miss Onslow known for her philanthropic nature and, perhaps he also had  his sights on the pretty servant maid, Caroline, on their weekend stay at Miss Delay’s that persuaded Broomfield to take a post in Miss Onslow’s large house at Old Alresford. So in October 1863 the new butler arrived at Upton Grey House. This Carry Wing was to regret. After taking the post of butler, he began to pay her excessive personal attention. Politely she discouraged his attentions and would bring into conversation her intention to marry Fred, her beau at Shirley. Broomfield with his developing personality disorder became more and possessive. Later at the inquest, Carry’s mother Caroline related how her daughter detested the man and had been forced to leave her post and to return to Shirley.

Broomfield wrote to Carry 2 or 3 times and she sent him a demand that such correspondence should cease; Carry emphasised that she had no interest in a man 20 years her senior. Then driven by his passion, he arrived at the Wing residence in January 1864 and proposed marriage [although of course he was still married]. This was firmly rejected.

 In March, Fred Colborne was invited for tea by Mrs Wing and the former relationship with Carry was rekindled and within days the couple announced their engagement. They married at Shirley Church on 8th May 1864. Fred rented a house near to Carry’s parents in Union Road. Carry happy in her marriage soon forgot the unwelcome attention of Broomfield. 

Broomfield’s state of health had worsened and he relinquished his post in March 1864 and returned to his wife. He explained to her his infatuation with his fellow servant; Anne seemed to accept this along with his daily outbursts that he would die that very day. His doctor visited regularly and feared suicide so cautioned that he should be always attended whilst in the house.

On 3rd December he called out that he was going to buy a paper but went to an acquaintance Mr Brown and told him that he was travelling to Southampton to join the confederates in the American civil war. He borrowed a £10 note and duly signed an IOU. He then went to Waterloo to board the Southampton train.

Calling at the Shirley Arms Hotel, he asked the landlord where Mr and Mrs Colborne resided. A short time afterwards Frederick called in at his local and from the landlord’s description, he realised the caller had been Broomfield. He hastened home and Broomfield and his wife were chatting politely. Broomfield stressed that any misunderstanding was in the past and they all shared a cup of tea. He informed them of his plan to fight in the war in America and that he wanted to say goodbye to his former colleague. Broomfield enquired as to whether they could put him up but the couple were not able to do so and Broomfield went back to the Shirley Arms Hotel to book a room.

The atmosphere was quite relaxed, both men enjoyed a pipe of tobacco and Broomfield asked for some brandy. About 9 pm Carry was preparing a fish supper and Fred popped out to get a jug of beer. As he returned he saw neighbours showing some alarm outside his house. There inside Carry’s mother was cradling the body of her dead daughter and other neighbours were attending Broomfield who was still holding the pistol. Broomfield had shot himself twice in the chest and they assumed him to be dead but then he opened his eyes. Two doctors and Sargeant Cheney from the nearby police station attended. Dr Weston urged Broomfield to make amends with his maker as he had not long to live. Broomfield was taken to the Royal South Hants Infirmary. He survived and faced his trial at Winchester Assizes.

In court, Broomfield held a handkerchief to his head and seemed unaware of what was happening. His wife and a doctor from the infirmary attended him as he sat in the dock, most of the time his eyes were closed tightly. When asked if he wished to question any witness he chose only Frederick Colborne. Strangely he asked if Carry had bewitched him and that he had laid for 3 weeks or 3 months [claiming that Carry had told him so]. Colborne replied that he had not.

The defence tried to convince the court that his personality disorder since the accidental shooting in 1862 had disturbed his reasoning and the killing of Caroline Colborne was committed when he was of a disturbed mind. The jury were out all of seven minutes however found him guilty of murder and he was sentenced to be hanged.

There was some public discussion as to when a jury should view a crime when committed whilst of unsound mind. The Spectator ran a challenging article on the case 22nd July 1865 [page 3] The British Medical Journal Vol. 2, No. 239 (Jul. 29, 1865), pp. 94-97 ran an in depth review of his condition at the time of the crime. The Home Secretary then announced that the death sentence would be reduced to a life sentence.

Broomfield composed a long poem of regret which was published by Henry Disley, printer London in 1865.

Yes I must face the gallows tree

To die a death of scorn




snowfall Southampton Old Cemetery courtesy FoSOCSeamen's strike at Southampton 1966Royal Blues at Bournemouth c 1949 photo by Derek Amey local historians Jim Brown and John Avery deep in thought. Image Ann MacGillivray Veronica Tippetts addressing Court Leet Oct 2nd 2012. Image Will TempleJohn Melody Southampton Town Crier at Court Leet 2012. Image Will Temple