THE WEST BRITON, 7 December 1874


A diabolical attempt has been made to poison the workpeople employed at the works of the West of England Fire Clay, Fire Brick, and Bitumen Company at Green-hill, near Calstock. At "crib time", about nine o' clock on Friday morning, the people made tea for breakfast, and, as usual, obtained water to do so from the tank erected on the works for the use of the men and others employed there. No sooner had they finished their meal than many of them complained of feeling unwell, but in spite of this they resumed work at the stated time. Very soon, however, they were obliged to cease, for the whole of them, comprising between forty and fifty men, besides women and boys, were seized with violent vomitings, accompanied by frightful burning sensations in the throat and stomach, and great prostration. Medical assistance was at once sent for, and it was at once perceived that the symptoms were these of arsenic poisoning, and emetics and other remedies were speedily applied. It is supposed, a wheelbarrow full [of arsenic] was thrown into the water. Those who escape death will owe their lives to the fact that a very small quantity of the poison was dissolved in consequence of the coldness of the weather, and the little tendency that arsenious anhydride (white oxide of arsenic) has to become soluble in cold water. This compound of arsenic is manufactured on the works, and during the night some one must have broken into the store, and having abstracted the poison, threw it into the water.

THE BRISTOL MERCURY, 12 December 1874


   Further details of what appears to be a diabolical attempt to poison the employees of the West of England Firebrick, Bitumen, and Arsenic Works, near Calstock, are now ascertained. Out of the 60 poisoned, as stated on Saturday, fortunately not one has died, although several are still lying in a dangerous state. To the promptness in which action was taken the lives of many are undoubtedly due. Some were removed to their homes, while others were attended in the sheds and other buildings on the works. As the news spread affrighted wives and children rushed to the spot, and for a considerable period the works were the scene of the wildest excitement and alarm. When the tank was examined it was found that two covering stones were separated by a small chink, about the edges of which white arsenic was lodged. On removing the stone it was seen that the tank was nearly empty, and that a quantity of arsenic was lying in the bottom immediately under the hole by which it had been poured in, and that more was floating on the surface of the water. Quite a pailful must have been thrown un, Whoever was the perpetrator of the diabolical deed did it early in the morning. Some of the operations at the plant are carried on night and day, and on the night of Wednesday there were seven men employed. Osborne, a watchman; Crews, a brick burner; Jenkins; in the refining house; and Southcott, Barnes, Hodge, and State in the Mundic burning-house, where the heap of arsenic is, whence, presumably the poison was taken. Jenkins states that about three o'clock on Thursady morning he fetched water from the tank and used it without feeling any ill effects. This is corroborated by the Mundic men, who state that when Jenkins went for water they asked him to fetch some for them, which he did. It is evident, therefore, that the arsenic was put in the tank after this hour. The next time the tank was resorted to, so far as is known, was at seven o'clock, when Ingerson, one of the tenants of the cottages, thawed the tank with hot water, and took some for the use of his family, who were all taken ill. Evidently, therefore, the crime was committed between three and seven, As regards the perpetrator, the authorities appear at fault, though they have a very promising clue.