The Trial of William Chunn, Warrener
Death of Silas Ping
An entry in the burial registers for St Mary’s Twickenham reads:
“Sylus Ping buried 24 July 1722 “that was killed upon our Comon soposing to be hunting or killing of Chunns rabbets”
William Chunn, Warrener of Twickenham was indicted for both murder and manslaughter and, following six weeks in custody was brought to the Old Bailey on 7 September 1722. The transcript record of his trial reads as follows:
William Chun , of Twittenham, was indicted for the Murder of Silas Ping , by giving him, with a Staff, a mortal wound near the left Ear, of which he instantly died . He was a 2d time indicted on the Coroner's Inquisition for Manslaughter. Thomas Brown depos'd that about 2 in the Morning (the Moon shining) as himself with a Flail, the Deceased with a Hedge Stake, and John Screen , since absented, were walking 160 Yards from Twittenham Warren, the prisoner came up with a Quarter Staff, and knock'd the Deceased down, whereupon the other two run away, and left the Deceased; That they had three Dogs with them. Mr. Perkins, the Surgeon, depos'd, that about One in the Morning the prisoner call'd him up to take care of the Deceas'd; but when he came be found him dead. That he opened the Head, and saw the Skull broke, which was the cause of his death. Not far from the prisoner, he found a Cony newly kill'd. Mary Steward , the prisoner's Witness, depos'd, that she saw 3 Men advance toward the prisoner, who askt then what they were at. That she ran back to call assistance, and before she got in, heard the prisoner cry. Mr. Turner, come help me. She heard the Dogs bark, and Sticks rattle. Mr. Turner deposed, on Mary's crying out, he hastended to the prisoner; that the Deceased was lying by him. They asked him why he came there, he said in was the first time, and begged their pardon. Mrs. Cunningham confirmed the same. John Chun deposed, that following his Father with a Gun, he saw the Dogs fall on his Father, and the Men Strike at him, before he struck at either of them. He askt his Father if he should shoot the Dogs, who said, No. run away; that the Deceased struck at his Father, and his Father knock'd him down. It appearing Se defendendo, the Jury acquitted him, and the Court ordered Brown into Custody.
[ Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org), September 1722, trial of William Chun t17220907-31]
Warreners of Twickenham
The Chunn family are recorded as warreners in Twickenham for about 150 years from early in the 17th century. In about 1620 Lawrence Chunn was managing the warren then known as Twickenham Warren, it being so marked on the map of 1607 drawn by Ralph Tresswell the Younger. This was also known as Hither Warren or Fulwell Warren. Originally established by Sir Robert Brett, according to Moses Glover's map of 1635, it was later absorbed into the Fulwell Lodge estate (see Places/Houses of Local Interest) along the south bank of the Crane River.
No doubt William Chunn had trouble with poachers, who were liable to keep him and his son John up into the small hours. Silas Ping is not recorded in Twickenham where he was buried, nor are there records of Thomas Brown, taken into custody later or John Screen, who got away. However, somebody knew something about them, if only their names. One wonders who attended the funeral, if anybody. They were, perhaps, from a neighbouring parish on the Middlesex side.
Later, William's son John took over Whitton Warren on the north side of the Crane. This had been established in about 1720 by Sir Simon Harvey
A C B Urwin, The Rabbit Warrens of Twickenham, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No58, 1986