Eton College Boys, indicted for Manslaughter, 9th of March, 1825, as the Result of a Two-Hours' Fierce Fight
THE scene of this melancholy event, by which one youth, a member of a noble family, was hurried into an untimely grave, and two others were brought to the bar of a public court of justice upon a charge of manslaughter, was at Eton College, and it occurred on Monday, the 28th of February, 1825.
On the 9th of March, 1825, George Alexander Wood, son of Colonel Wood and nephew of the Marquis of Londonderry, and Alexander Wellesley Leith, were placed at the bar at the Aylesbury Assizes, charged with killing and slaying the Hon. F. Ashley Cooper, son of the Earl of Shaftesbury. The circumstances will be best explained as they appeared in evidence before the coroner.
On Sunday, the 27th of February, about two o'clock, two young gentlemen, scholars at Eton, the Hon. F. A. Cooper and Mr Wood, were in the playground, when some words arose between them. From words they proceeded to blows: they had fought for several minutes when the captain came up and separated them. It was subsequently determined that they should meet on the following afternoon and terminate their differences by a pugilistic contest. Many of the scholars were present to witness the battle. The combatants stripped at four o'clock on Monday afternoon and commenced fighting. Mr Cooper was under fifteen years, and his opponent, who was half-a-head taller, was nearly seventeen. Mr Wood had the advantage in point of strength; but the quickness and precision of Mr Cooper were remarkable for one so young, and he declared that he would never give in. In the eighth, ninth and tenth rounds he became weak and exhausted, and it was then evident that he was not a match for Mr Wood. Some of the "backers" had brought a quantity of brandy in bottles into the field; and the second of Mr Cooper having, in the eleventh round, poured a portion of it down Mr C.'s throat, he recovered his wind and strength. The young men continued to fight from four till nearly six o'clock; and when they were in a state of exhaustion they were plied between the rounds with brandy. They fought about sixty rounds, and at the end of the last round Mr Cooper fell very heavily upon his head, and never spoke afterwards. He was carried off the ground to his lodgings, at the house of the Reverend Mr Knapp, by his brothers, who were present at the fight. He was put to bed; but no medical assistance was sent for till four hours had elapsed. Shortly afterwards he expired. Upon the arraignment of the defendants they pleaded not guilty, and the witnesses for the prosecution did not answer. Mr Justice Gaselee having ordered their recognisances to be estreated, a verdict of not guilty was returned, and the defendants left the bar attended by Lord Nugent, Colonel Brown, Sir John Dashwood King and other persons of distinction.