On the evening of 3rd April 1884, a convivial dinner party was held at Bradwell Grove House, the seat of William Henry Fox near Burford in Oxfordshire.
One of the guests was a local vicar, the Reverend Daniel Ward Goddard, aged 72 but still a central part of the local gentry; an active Oxfordshire magistrate, chairman of the local highway board, and an Oxford graduate who was known for his involvement in social life, his amiable character and kindheartedness.
It was a pleasant evening, and the vicar did not get up to leave until 11pm, the time at which he had asked his groom, Josiah, to meet him, in order to accompany him on the short walk home to his vicarage at nearby Holwell.
Shortly after leaving the Fox residence, however, Daniel said that he felt unwell – “I can go no farther” – and asked Josiah to run home to fetch his carriage. Josiah fled, leaving his employer sitting on a low wall. When Josiah reached the vicarage, he told the wonderfully named Sarah Duck, who had been Daniel’s housekeeper for over 20 years, what had happened, and while he got the carriage ready, she ran back to where Daniel had stopped.
“Who is it?” Daniel asked; “Sarah,” she responded, “Are you ill?” He grabbed her hand, and tried to walk, but was unable to, and being stronger than Sarah, she was unable to support him, and he gradually sank to the ground. Sarah leaned over him and loosened his necktie. Josiah then turned up with the carriage, but as he and Sarah lifted Daniel into it, they realised that he had quietly died.
On the Saturday following his death, an inquest was held at the village schoolroom; Daniel had previously let its schoolmistress lodge with him at the vicarage. The coroner, Mr Westell, found that Daniel had died of heart disease.
Jackson’s Oxford Journal duly covered the inquest, and noted how news of his death – “the melancholy event” – had been greeted in Burford with a “feeling of painful surprise” by locals who knew and liked him.
The paper eulogised that his death would be a “serious calamity” to those people:
“for we think it impossible to estimate the high esteem in which he was held by all classes… The kind and able way in which he had performed his public duties was fully appreciated and we know that his loss will be keenly felt.” (Oxford Journal, 12 April 1884)