In the height of the summer of 1748, a chaise and pair (carriage with two horses) travelled north from London with a coachman and two gentlemen passengers. After a journey of several days in the heat of the summer, the chaise stopped in a lane near Peterborough. There the coachman spotted some shiny black berries at the side of the lane and had a little snack. This would turn out to be a grave error, for they were Deadly Nightshade berries, also known as Belladonna.
The poison in the berries took some time to work and at first he was ‘inclined to idiotism than madness.’ After stopping in Peterborough where he ‘took some oil for it’, the man managed to drive the carriage to Spalding, but things got worse there. The men stayed the night in an inn where the poisoned man talked deliriously and tore the bed he had been sleeping in. At around seven in the morning the man, who was by that point naked, climbed out onto the roof of the inn through his bedroom window. He started running along the roof, destroying all that he could. He smashed windows, removed window leading, half destroyed the chimney and pulled up most of the tiles on one side of the roof, throwing them at people who tried to stop him.
An attempt to dislodge him with a ‘water engine’ (likely to have been the town fire engine) managed to cool him down before his foot fell through the roof and he was dragged back into the inn. He was taken to the town gaol where he ‘continued raving in a most affecting manner’ for several days until he was given antimony. Being calmer but still very unwell, he was taken in by Mr Skinner, a Quaker, who provided a bed for him. Attempts were made to remove the poison from his body, but he died a few days later, a tragic end to the unnamed coachman.
Reference: The Scots Magazine, September 2 1748, p. 46-47
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