After midnight on 7 March, 1934, the Front Gate porter was attacked by a mob in white clothing. A surprised Ford was bombarded by a mob of hooligans who began throwing stones at his window.In retaliation, Ford took a pistol and shot down to the group, injuring one.
With an extensive history ranging back as far as 1592, Trinity is an institution with many a story to tell. One harrowing event worth mentioning is the murder that took place in Rubrics in 1734.
The Rubrics- the red-brick buildings hidden behind the Campanile- are the oldest buildings on campus, dating all the way back to the early 1700’s. One man found himself on an early deathbed in these very buildings; this man was Edward Ford.
Ford was the son of a high-ranking official of the Anglican Clergy, and was Junior Dean of the College. Dr. Peter Boyle, a chemistry emeritus of Trinity, published a book last year called ‘The Provosts’. In it he gives a great account of the event from the perspective of the provost at the time, Provost Baldwin, whose painting remains hanging in the dining hall to this day.
Two undergraduates, Roan and Hansard, implored Ford to retreat but to little avail; he advanced and was shot through the window of No.25 to his death.
The trouble began when the room of Hugh Graffan was ransacked by undergraduates, causing an angered Ford to set out on a quest for justice. In Dr Boyle’s book, Ford is described as ‘an oppressive disciplinarian, pigheaded and stubborn’. These attributes made him thoroughly disliked by the students. In fact, he also indicates that Ford was known to sleep with his gun having been attacked previously and remaining on guard ever since. Ford’s investigations into the ransacking angered many students and he received threatening letters to deter his efforts. After midnight on 7 March 1734, the Front Gate porter was attacked by a mob in white clothing. A surprised Ford was bombarded by a mob of hooligans who began throwing stones at his window.
In retaliation, Ford took a pistol and shot down to the group, injuring one. He ordered other undergraduates to summon the Rubrics porter. Two undergraduates, Roan and Hansard, implored Ford to retreat but to little avail; he advanced and was shot through the window of No.25 to his death. According to the information from the trial which was given to the British Museum in 1932, when asked by Roan who had shot him, he responded, “I do not know, but God forgive them. I do.”These were his last words and he died two hours later.
A Lord is quoted to have said “a Fellow’s blood did not deserve an inquisition which might detain a man one day from his ordinary business”.
A trial was held in 1734. Five undergraduate students- Cotter, Crosbie, Scholes, Davis and Boyle- were found in Boyle’s room on campus with a gun and powder. White clothing was also found with an empty punch bowl and bottles. The group were put on trial but were found not guilty. The trial was messy; the Front Gate porter had had liquor the night of the murder and Hansard was confident that the voices he heard were not those of the five on trial.
Astonishingly, Provost Baldwin was not thanked by the parents of the students. The Board was accused of ‘a cruel persecution against the sons of gentlemen’. The incident was described as a ‘frolick’ and the students who murdered Ford were only trying to break Dr. Ford’s window. Incredibly, following the trial the Fellows were put under huge pressure by parents of undergraduates and what Dr. Boyle in his book describes as ‘unprecedented abuse’. It is astounding in this age to think after the death of a man, many thought the inquest by the college and the consequential trial an unnecessary feat. A Lord is quoted to have said “a Fellow’s blood did not deserve an inquisition which might detain a man one day from his ordinary business”.
Leaping forward to 2016, Trinity is a different place entirely. As you walk past Rubrics, you may hear the mumbling of a tour group discussing the ghost of Edward Ford as they point to room No. 25.
Whether you believe the five undergraduates were innocent or not, the case remains unsolved.