Along the bridleway to Towersey is a copse which hides an historic settlement with a sad story.

Coldharbour was a hamlet with a single farm along what is now the bridleway between Ilmer and Towersey. Historically, places called Coldharbour were abandoned refuges along ancient roman roads. It is likely the farm was created at this site.

coldharbour map

A particularly sad story about the farm comes from 1907 when the farmers son, aged just 12, accidently shot and killed his sister aged 5 with a gun which had been left loaded. In addition to appearing in the Bucks Herald, the shooting was also covered in newspapers such as the Western Gazette, the Cheltenham Chronicle and the Taunton Courier.

Bucks Herald, 10 August 1907


Sad Shooting Fatality.

A sad shooting fatality ocurred at Cold Harbour Farm, Illmire, on Friday evening, the 2nd inst. It appears that a young lad named Philip Gomme, son of Mr George Gomme, farmer, had gone to the granary to obtain some fowls' food, when he noticed a gun, which happened to be loaded. He picked up the gun and pulled the trigger, discharging it. Unfortunately his little sister Ettie, aged 5, was standing in the line of fire and received the charge of shot in the upper part of her body. Medical aid was at once procured, but despite all that could be done for her, the poor child succumbed to her wounds the same evening. On the following day, an inquest as to the cause of death was held at the farmhouse before Mr. Edward Wilkins, coroner for the Aylesbury district, and a jury, when the following evidence was taken:-

Mr. George Gomme stated that he lived at Cold Harbour Farm, in the parish of Illmire, he being a farmer. The body now viewed by the jury was that of his daughter Ettie Nellie Gomme. She was 5 years of age last April. On Thursday night last he used a gun to shoot rats. After he had done shooting he put the gun in the granary, to reach which an ascent of five steps was necessary. The granary was not kept locked. He placed the gun in the left corner from the door. It was a double-barrelled breach-loading gun. When he left it there was a charge in the right barrel; the other was empty. Both hammers were half-cocked. He did not see the gun again till the night of the accident, when he found that one barrel had been discharged. About six o'clock he was in Mr. Goodchild's fields, and upon hearing of the accident he came home at once. He found the deceased had been shot, and was lying on a couch indoors. The granary was about 60 yards from the house. It was after that time that he saw the gun.

Philip William Gomme said he was 12 years of age, and lived with his father. On the previous night, about five o'clock, he went into the granary to fetch some food for the fowls. The deceased went into the rickyard with him, but did not go into the granary. When he got into the granary he saw his father's gun, and thought it was unloaded. He picked it up and went to the door of the granary. He showed deceased the gun, and pulled the trigger. He did not know whether he pulled the cock up before doing so. When he pulled the trigger the gun went off. The shot struck the deceased, and she fell. She was about five yards from the door. He did not put the gun to his shoulder, or point it at the deceased. He had never shot the gun before, but he had carried it to his father. When he pulled the trigger he had the gun in his hands in front of him, about half-way up his body. (Witness showed the jury how he held the gun.) After his sister fell he pulled her up, and then called his mother. He did not threaten to shoot his sister. They were good friends, and he had not had a quarrel with her. A younger sister aged 3, was standing near, but she was not struck.

Mrs. Gomme, mother of the deceased child, deposed that on the previous day, about 5.10p.m., she was indoors, and heard a shot. She looked out of the window, and saw the last witness lifting up the deceased. They were near the granary door, and she then found the deceased had been shot. She was alive, but did not speak. Her son Philip cried, "Oh, mother, I did not know the gun was charged, and I have shot Ettie." She brought deceased indoors, and sent for a doctor. Deceased died just before nine o'clock on the previous evening. Deceased and her brother Philip were good friends, and had had no quarrel.

Mr. B. H. Andrew said he was a registered medical practitioner residing at Thame. About six o'clock on the previous evening he was sent for to the deceased, and he arrived at about 6.30. The child was then alive. He found her suffer from a gun-shot wound in the upper part of the left arm and chest. There were a great many wounds, which indicated that the gun, when discharged, must have been but a few yards off. She was unconscious, and gradually sank under the wounds, which caused her death.

After considering the evidence, the jury found a verdict of "Death by misadventure."