HE was just 15 when he saw his father killed.

It was late summer and farmer William Troke rode into a field to check on the harvesting.

But Troke, who was unwell, was not pleased with what he saw and complained to labourer Anthony Harris, who was having his breakfast, the oats had not been cut.

"I don't think the field is that large," Harris protested.

Troke, unimpressed, directed him to drive away some birds but the two men began arguing, Harris denouncing his employer as a rogue.

"What do you mean by that?" the boss demanded.

The labourer stormed off, throwing down his tools and grabbing a scythe with which he had been mowing, swung it viciously. Troke, armed with a stick, parried the first blow but then his horse suddenly reared as the second came in and he fell heavily to the ground.

His windpipe had been severed, his collar bone broken and his neck slashed with a seven inch long cut.

Harris immediately realised the enormity of the injuries and helping him to his feet, told his son, Benjamin, to get dairyman Thomas Martin as quickly as possible.

The teenager ran off and shortly returned with him - but there was nothing that could be done. Troke was dead.

"How did it happen?" Martin asked.

"I don't know," Harris replied. "We were both in a passion."

With that, he tried to run off but Martin forcefully grabbed him by the arm and detained him.

The following day, August 21, 1821, a jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Harris was remanded to Winchester's County jail on a coroner's warrant for trial, finally appearing at Hampshire Assizes on March 4, 1822.

Pleading not guilty, he told jurors: "An altercation took place between us and I desired Mr Troke who was fencing at me with a stick to keep his distance."

It was enough to convince them he had been reckless and convicted him of the lesser count of manslaughter, for which he was jailed for 12 months and bizarrely fined 1s.

He was followed into the dock by Isle of Wight husband and wife Benjamin and Margaret Davies, accused of killing their apprentice chimney-sweep Valentine Gray who according to witnesses had been barbaricly treated with a series of beatings.

Gray, who had been under the care of the Visitor and Guardians of Alverstoke, collapsed when working in Newport and when seen by a surgeon was found with several sores about his body and an inflammation to his brain.

What treatment the doctor prescribed was not recorded but two days later Gray was dead, the post-mortem revealing internal concussions of the skull, as though inflicted by blows, but no external marks of violence.

Mr Justice Burrough in his summing up deemed the couple had been guilty of "incautious immoderate chastisement rather than anything alluding to murder.

But that is for your consideration and if you entertain any doubt upon the matter, you should give them the benefit of it."

Following a lengthy retirement, jurors convicted Davies of manslaughter for which he received a year's imprisonment but acquitted his wife.