In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a sudden or suspicious death would be investigated by a coroner who would need a large local room at short notice in which to hold the inquest and accommodate 12 jury members. Public houses could often offer such an indoor space and The Alders, as it was known until its name change to The Dovecote in 1987, was host to such events on several notable occasions in Capel. The now partially demolished King's Head was also used for inquests in Five Oak Green.

Inquests were held very quickly after a death. The Coroner would issue a warrant to summon 24 'able and sufficient men' to act as jurors. From these local men, 12 would be selected and empanelled to form the jury. The coroner and jurors would be required to 'view' the body before they began to hear evidence. Unlike at a criminal trial, the members of the jury had the right to question witnesses. If the jury decided on a verdict of murder or manslaughter, then the case would be brought to the Assizes for a criminal trial.

Below are four reports from the time of inquests held at The Alders:

Kent and Sussex Courier - Friday 5 March 1880

Fatal Accident - On Saturday last, Mr T Joyce, Deputy-Coroner for the Cranbrook district, held an inquest at the Alders Inn, Pembury, relative to the death of Wm. Turner, a lad, 16 years of age, who had died on the previous day from injuries received while attempting to get upon the connecting rod of a threshing machine, which was passing along the highway. It appeared from the evidence adduced that no one was to blame save the unfortunate lad himself, and the jury at once returned a verdict of "Accidental Death."

Kent and Sussex Courier - Wednesday 4 February 1891

CAPEL: Gallant Attempt to Save Life - On Friday evening T. Huss, Esq., one the coroners for Kent, and a jury, of which Mr N. Tink was chosen foreman, held an inquest at the Alders Inn relative to the death of George Maynard*, 10 years of age, the son of an agricultural labourer working for Mr W. Levitt. The evidence went to show that the lad was on the ice on a deep pond close to Capel Church Farm, when he fell through the ice and disappeared. A man named William Berwick**, at once plunged into the water, but, on account of the ice, was unable to reach the poor little fellow and was so exhausted that had to be helped out himself. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and complimented Berwick his conduct. The Coroner quite endorsed the expressions the jury, and said that he regretted that he had no fund to reward him, but he handed him a small honorarium from his own pocket. He further announced that, Berwick had saved two persons from drowning before, he should certainly bring his claims under the notice of the Royal Humane Society.

* George Maynard is buried at St Thomas's church. His final resting place is now marked by a wooden cross (old West graveyard row 8 / column 2 on the map in the graveyard). As you look out from the church door, it is on the left side against the wire fence. 

** William Berwick did not always act in such a heroic manner. In 1874 he was fined a total of 28s 6d (around £110 today) for assaulting a little boy, Thomas Parker, and his mother Caroline Parker. A witness was John Jarman, whose wife's death by suicide is recounted below. And in 1896, Berwick was prosecuted for obtaining beer at the George and Dragon during prohibited hours and under false pretences. William Berwick died in October 1926 aged 72 and is buried like George Maynard in the old West graveyard section (row 1 / column 44) but in an unmarked grave.

Sussex Agricultural Express - Saturday 02 April 1898

SUICIDE OF AN INHABITANT - On Wednesday afternoon an inquest was held at the Alders Inn, near Capel church, by Mr. Thos. Buss, touching the death of Frances Ellen Jarman*, aged 42, wife of John Jarman, labourer, of Capel. The deceased woman's husband stated that he saw her alive on Monday morning about eight o'clock. She was then her usual fairly good health, but was subject to severe headaches, especially since she had the influenza some time ago. About 10.30 the same morning he was passing his house and, seeing the blinds all down he went to see what was the matter. He found the deceased lying on the couch in the front room, in her dressing gown, unconscious. On the table near her was a bottle containing carbolic acid, and a tumbler which also contained a few drops of the acid. She died on Monday evening about 6.30. They had always lived on good terms, and he had never heard his wife threaten to take her life. He did not know that she had any carbolic acid in the house. 

Mr. Hunton Jones, the employer of last witness, deposed to being called into the house by Jarman. The little child, aged four years, who deceased had adopted, was there and said, "Mama drank a glassfull." Witness corroborated the husband's evidence as to the condition of the deceased. He had known Jarman and his wife for some time and considered them a very respectable couple. Dr. Metcalfe deposed to being called to the deceased's house. He found her lying on the couch in an unconscious state. Her mouth and lips were discoloured. He administered antidotes and stayed with her until about 6.30 p.m. when she died. Judging from the quantity of acid she appeared to have taken he was surprised she had lasted so long. He had since made a post-mortem examination and found a quantity of carbolic acid in the stomach. Death was due to carbolic acid poisoning. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased committed "suicide during temporary insanity."

* Frances Jarman and her husband are buried together at St Thomas's church. Their gravestone is in the old West graveyard (row 1 / column 15 on the map in the graveyard). As you look out from the church door, it is straight ahead and slightly to the right under the oak tree by the wire fence where it borders the fields beyond.

Kent & Sussex Courier - Friday 26 June 1908

DROWNING FATALITY AT CAPEL: A DANGEROUS SPOT - On Monday evening, Mr Thomas Buss held an inquest at the Alders Inn, on the road between Pembury and Tudeley, on the body of Horace Osborne, aged about sixty, who was not known to have any fixed abode, which was found in the Capel Brook, on Sunday morning. Thomas Osborne. Evans Cottages, Capel, identified the remains as those of his father. Witness last saw him in September, when he was working in Tudeley. He was then in good health, but complained of pains in his side. He said he should go into East Grinstead workhouse.

George Bridge, landlord the Alders Inn, said he had known the deceased for some years. He came to the house on Saturday night, and remained for  a little over an hour having three "two's" of whiskey. He complained of pains in his side. He was a very sober man, and when he left the house he was quite right. Charles Martin, a lad, aged 12, gave evidence that when picking flowers he saw a man's body lying in the brook near the Alders. It was face downwards, and one foot had caught in the growth on the bank. There was not a great depth of water at the point. 

George Greenfield stated that he was called by the last witness, and removed the remains from the water. The body was stiff and cold and there was no sign of life. P.C. Leveck, who was called to the spot, said he found no marks of violence on the body. The brook was quite close to the highway, and there was no fence or hedge separating it from the road. Dr. Crawford, of Pembury, said he had attended the deceased, who suffered from chronic kidney trouble. The heart was weak in sympathy with the kidney trouble. Death was due to asphyxia from drowning. The Jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Drowning," and asked the Coroner to direct the attention of the Tonbridge Rural Council to the dangerous nature of the spot.

Thomas Osbourne is buried in the old West graveyard (row 9 / column 26 on the map in the graveyard) in an unmarked grave.