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Alaska.
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Ludlow, Ditton Priors, Wooferton. Thomas Wyre


Now it sometimes happens, that only the barest of information is forthcoming from an enquirer. This is because, either they don't know, which is obviously why they ask, or they have hit a brickwall. The following 123 year old case, illustrates some of the difficulties. Although it's not set actually in the Black Country, it does demonstrate, the social conditions of the time, and, sad to relate, the depths to which human beings can sink. Thomas Wyre, 1858, was born in Ditton Priors,, that lovely little village, nestling at the foot of the Clee Hills, in Shropshire. As you would expect, he faced a life of agricultural Labour, and indeed, he turned out to be a fairly skillful ploughman. Everyone knows, there's not supposed to be much to do in rural area's, there certainly wouldn't have been in the 1880s. Country life however, needn't be all work and toil, there were a few distractions in the offing. One of these ' distractions ', in the delightful form of Harriet Bytheway, just happened to cross Thomas's path one day. A day he would rue, for the rest of his short time on earth. Now Harriot was a much travelled young women, (well she had visited many hayricks and fields in the area) and she had already had at least three children when she met Thomas. She was just turned 22, and, if it needs to be said, unmarried. ( nothing new there then ) Not having met many young women like Harriot, Thomas, dispite his families warning, was smitten, and well and truely hooked. They were married in Ludlow, in March 1883, no doubt with two of her children in attendance, Mary Jane, nearly 2, and James Thomas, just a few months old. Both Children bore their mothers name, so it would seem that Thomas Wyre, took on the responsibilty of their upkeep, if not their name. If Thomas thought his new wife would mend her ways, he was sadly mistaken. She continued researching the local Pub scene, and mapping out the fields and quiet lanes, not alone either. He put up with this, but it would appear, he was cramping her style somewhat, and by 1887, she had given birth to at least two more children. Not his I should add, he merely ploughed the fields, she did all the scattering. The next year, 1888, she suddenly up sticks and left him, having found a man who had more promise than Thomas. She did leave him a present though, their by now, 4 year old son, James Thomas Wyre. From reading this, and the records, you would never get the impression that Thomas Wrye, was anything other than a simple country lad, would you? And you would be mainly correct. Although he had been charged with Larceny, when he was 18, he had been aquitted. His next action though, was unreprehensible. Taking the young lad, he set off, as he explained to a neighbour, to take the lad back to his mother, who was at that time, working in the Salway Arms Hotel, Woofferton, near, Ludlow. ( Information supplied by site member, A.H.) He never arrived, nor did the lad, because Thomas had evolved another plan. Making his way to an area he knew well, he calously dumped the child down a disused well. The body wasn't found for over 3 months, and Harriot didn't report him missing either. That I find a bit strange, it's almost as though she had told him what to do with the child, and the statement he made when he was charged, gives ample scope to believe it. There's a bit more to come yet, I will return.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 26, 2011 at 11:57 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Ludlow, Thomas Wyre, Harriet Bytheway, Child Murder.


Like all of us, I don't like child murders, or for that matter, the people who commit them. During the 19th and early 20th centuries they were far from uncommon. We should all be able to sympathise, with a young woman, left destitute by some philandering, lying, cheating, and possibly already married man. Not even welcome in her own family, seeing no other way out, she is forced to abandons her offspring. Society treated these women, to the full force of the law, until more rational minds prevailed. Not this case though, try as I might, after researching it in some depth, I can't escape the totally uncaring atitude of the mother. I have already said, elsewhere, that this was the age of cheap lives, and the only concideration was for oneself. Looking round, it seems nothing has really changed. Another surprise in this case, is that, dispite Thomas Wyre's final statement, Harriot Bytheway was not arrested as well. The verdict was never in doubt, indeed, in his last talk with the prison Chaplain, he fully admitted doing it. The child, James, was very much alive when he was thrown into the well. By arrangement, according to Thomas, he met his wife in Station Street, Kidderminster, after the deed was done. They enjoyed a drink and a meal in The Britannia, Blackwell Street ", before she went off on a train. He said she was well aware, of what he had done. Concidering her later actions, she didn't seem at all concerned, that her husband had just snuffed out the life of her own flesh and blood. She may even have been happy to be rid of the burden. As it turned out, two burdens. The State appointed Executioner, James Berry, arrived at the prison on the evening of 17 July 1888. fresh from another execution which had left a nasty mess for the authorities to clear up, and which would figure largely, in Berry's future employment. Thomas Wyre, was led from his cell, just before 8am the next day, and the courts sentence was carried out without a hitch. Little did Thomas know, that the day before, his wife, accompanied by a male friend, had boarded a Ship in Liverpool, bound for America. From which she was apparently, never to return. Non of this would have come to light, but for someone's burning curiousity, and a bit of poor research, many years ago. I'm happy to bring a bit of light to the subject. One more interesting little bit though, Harriots maiden name. During the research, it turned out to be a very rare, and almost extinct one. It dates from naming people by association, i.e. Smith, Fletcher, Saddler, Wood. In this case, way back in time, her Ancesters would have lived on, or near, a road or trackway. Hence the name, By-the-way. Very interesting at times, is a bit of research and genealogy.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 26, 2011 at 2:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Catherine Hayes or Hays, Worcestershire, Dis-membered, Pole Axe.


Over time, names can, and do, get mixed up and changed. This next one is just such a case. It has been suggested before, that the Woman involved was born in Halesowen. There are no records to prove it, nor indeed did she claim it, she merely said she was born near Birmingham. Back in the 1720s, it was fairly normal, not to know your actually age, most couldn't read or write, so had no need of documents. ( not that parents could afford such things anyway )  There is however, a record that will fit this woman, and maybe, with some more research. it will be confirmed.


In 1688, in the Village of Corley, not far from Birmingham, was born a girl, baptised as Katherine Lee. ( or Leigh )  The spelling varied, as the Clergy wrote down the name as it sounded, which could also mean, that later on, say at marriage, it would be recorded as different again. This is the scourge of all Genealogists, as some of you may well know. Katherine grew up to be a bit " peculiar ", the meaning of which will become apparently later on. While still young, she ran away from home, never to return, lured away by the possible attractions, of one of the many Military recruitment  parties. I say this, because the next time she mentions her life, it's with a group of Soldiers, who were based in Great Ombersley, Worcestershire. Now, not to put to finer point on it, Katherine made her living by Prostitution,  and Domestic Service, mainly the former, as the peculiar affliction she had, was Nymphomania. Soldiers move on of course, and also like to try fresh fields, and they eventually tired of Katherine, so she took up with a local Tanner called Billings. This lasted until about 1707, when Katherine gave birth to a son, Thomas Billings, who was soon fostered out, as it would slightly cramp the young womans life style. Sometime around 1710, she was lucky to get a job as a domestic servant, with a well off Farmer, John Hayes. Now he had 2 sons, and it didn't take Katherine long, to get the eldest, another John Hayes, into bed. The old man did not approve, but he couldn't manage the farm without help. so he put up with the situation. ( secretly changing his Will in the process )  On Katherine's insistance, the pair, unknown to anyone, and out of the district, got married. Not under her name Katherine, but using Alice Leigh, ( the alternative spelling ) at Norton & Lenchwick, Worcestershire,  in 1712. Also note worthy, is that Johns name was spelled as Hays, and not Hayes, as in previous records. ( I did say research could be frustrating )  It all seemed to go well for some months, but poor John just couldn't keep up with Katherines frenetic pace in the bedroom  department. She was soon at it again, and of course, Johns younger brother was directly in her firing line. The old man found out, and told Katherine that he had cut John out of his will anyway, and that there was never going be a legacy, for her to enjoy. This was in 1719, the same year that Katherine persuaded John to move to London. More men to choose from, more opportunities to exploit.


Once in London, using the little money his father gave him, John Hayes, set himself up as a Coal Merchant, with a sideline as a Pawnbroker and Money Lender. Soon, as the business got better, he found himself fairly well off, and the other side of Katherine now came out. She loved money, lots of it, and although John gave her a generous allowance, she always asked for more. To escape the constant nagging, he took to drinking, and at one time, actually reduced the allowance to teach her a lesson. She certainly learned well. In 1725, she talked John into taking in a lodger, Thomas Billings, who John knew, was her son from before the marriage. What he didn't know, was that shortly after moving in, the insatiable Katherine, began an incestuous relationship with him. Mother and son obviously had the same level of morals, as young Thomas, just turned 17, raised no objections. Nor were there any complaints, when Thomas's friend and neighbour, Thomas Wood, joined in. Her husband John failed, to notice anything untoward, and went happily on, making money and drinking. It couldn't go on, Katherine wanted more, and there was only one way, as she saw it, that would suit, John Hayes had to die.


Over 6 weeks in early 1726, Katherine discussed and cajoled the young men into doing what she wanted. Whether it was the the threat to withdraw her warm bed, or that neither of them had any scruples at all, it's hard to tell, but in the end, they agreed to kill John Hayes. She planned it with care, sending out for a large quantity of booze, and throwing a little party. Her husband, unwittingly, did not let her down, and got predictably drunk. When he went to bed, Katherine sat in the kitchen while her son and his friend, quietly followed, a short time later. Thomas Billings struck the drunken man on the skull with a Pole Axe, surprisingly, this did not kill him, and a second blow was delivered. Just to make sure, Wood then slit his throat.  At some stage, in every murder. something goes wrong. You just can't plan for everything, and so it was in this case, The Corpse would simply not fit in the Iron Bound Trunk that had been purchased. Panic stations, what to do, and trust Katherine to come up with the answer. Using Woods skill as a butcher, they cut off Johns head. Problem solved, oh no it wasn't, the Trunk was still far to small, and the Legs, Arms, Thighs, and other bits had to be removed before the lid could be closed. It's always been a problem when committing a murder as well, how do you dispose of the Body. They now had to improvise, so the head was put in a bucket, taken to the Thames, and just above Mill Bank, thrown in. Wrapped in blankets, the cut off bits of poor John, were dumped in a Pond at Marylebone Fields. The Trunk was simple left, unused, in the house. Katherine made up a story of her husband having to go out, late at night, loaded with money, to do some business, and then failing to return. Trying to cover the tracks, should the plot fail. It certainly did that, and a lot faster than they thought. The head was found next day, stranded on a sandbank, not far from where it was thrown in. In order to identify who it was, the authorities had it mounted on a pole, and put outside Saint Margarets Church. Their luck was in, one of Johns business friends recognised it, and went to see Katherine. She told him the story she put about, but he refused to believe it, and relayed his suspicions to the Law. Katherine and her son were arrested as they lay in bed, Wood was taken into custody after first fleeing, and then making the mistake of coming back. At the trial, the only excuse Katherine offered, was that they all had the devil in them when they killed her husband. Found Guilty of Wilful Murder, they were sentenced to death, to be carried out on 9th May 1726. Thomas Billings and Thomas Woods were to be gibbeted following the hanging, which caused them more anguish apparently, than the hanging itself. Catherine Hays, ( note the different spellings again ) her punishment for " Petty Treason ", which is what they called it for doing away wih your husband, was ordered to be " Burnt at the Stake ". 


This case is interesting in quite a few ways, well it is for me. It was the first documented muder that concerned Dismemberment,  and the first one where it was admitted that things did not go well at the execution. For a start, Thomas Woods died in Gaol from a fever. 2 of the prisoners who were to be hanged, prior to the burning, almost succeeded in escaping. The Executioner, Richard Arnet, after burning his hands, trying to pull the rope that should have strangled Catherine Hays, was forced to throw a large lump of wood at her head. It's debatable, whether or not this saved the victim from an agonising death, and as she could be heard screaming, and attempting to move the burning wood away, I personally doubt it. She could have saved the three of them from this fate, if only she taken more care in getting rid of the head. There was no way, in 1725, of being sure that the other remains found, were indeed those of John Hays. A thing to always remember then, " In a crisis, never lose your head ".

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 23, 2011 at 4:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Abbots Bromley Murder, Stafford Gaol, George Smith, William Collier, Poacher. Erasmus Brown, George Jackson.


If conditions were hard in the Towns of Staffordshire in the 1850s, rural areas fared no better. Despite what you may read at times, murders were not that common, and many more were hung for Sheep stealing, than the ultimate capital crime. Some even escaped the supreme penalty, as in this case.


Farmer William Charlesworth, had, like his father before him, tilled and ploughed land around Abbots Bromley for all his life. Now approaching his twilight years, and having a bit of money put by, he tended to enjoy himself whenever possible. On this day, in 1857, ( did he but know it, the last he would spend on earth ) he had returned from Market, having had a very successful day. What better way to celebrate, than with his many friends, at a local Tavern. Well known for his generous nature, William was soon buying rounds of drinks. Too much drink, as we all know, loosens the tongue a little, and soon, everyone knew just how much he had made at the sale. It was a pretty substancial sum. At one end of the bar, stood 2 men, Erasmus Brown and George Jackson, and they had heard all of what was said, but more to the point, had seen the wad of cash, the by now very merry Mr Charlesworth was carrying. For the average agricultural worker, it represented a couple of years hard work, and they decided to relieve the old farmer of the burden. Biding their time, they waited a few minutes when the farmer left, and then set off to waylay the old man. The discription of  " rolling like a ship in gale ", would surely fit the state of the old man, as he made his rather unsteady way towards his home. They soon caught up, but the quick plan they had hatched, did not include the resistance that was offered. A lifetime of hard graft, had turned the older man into a study individual, and he wasn't going to give in easily. It now got to the point, where the two of them were getting the worst of the exchange, so Jackson took some drastic action. Rushing to a nearby hedge, he pulled up a hefty fencing stake, returned, and beat William Charlesworth to death with it. So fierce was the assualt, that the old mans brains spilled out onto the dusty track. The body was found early the next morning, and it did not take long to piece together the story, and to indentify the culprits. At first, it was all denials, and then Erasmus Brown broke down, and confessed his involvement. This was to save his life, for he heaped all the blame onto George Jackson. Incarcerated in Stafford Gaol, they were kept apart, until the day of the trial, when, not surprisingly they were both found guilty of Wilful Murder. The execution date was set for 8th August, 1857, but on the day before, George Jackson discovered he would face the Hangman alone. Erasmus Brown, thanks to his well timed confession, had been reprieved, and would only have to face transportation for life. Jackson was not pleased, believing that if one were hanged for the crime, they both being guilty, they should both be hanged. The scene in Jacksons cell that night, would not have been a pretty sight. He raved and fought like a madman, and almost succeeded in injuring the Chaplain, who was forced to flee the cell. The next day, Jacksons last in this world, was even worse. Dispite being bound, it took 4 warders, to carry him to the scaffold. He still managed to get the hood off his face, and made such a mess of the rope, he couldn't be hanged. In the end, he was roped into a chair, which was then carried onto the drop, Jackson still struggling for all he was worth. George Smith, the hangman, would have a right good old tale to tell, around the pubs of Rowley Regis, for many years to come, as he took hold of the lever, that then sent George Jackson, plummeting to his doom.


The second little tale, is centered around the hatred two men had for each other. One a Farmer turned Poacher, the other, the Farmer who had vowed to put a stop to it. William Collier, born in 1831, had, in 1861, a small Farm, of 33 acres, called Oldfields, just outside Kingsley, on the road from Hanley, to Ashbourne. ( Now called the A 52.) It was clear that either the farm wasn't very good, or Collier wasn't very good at farming. He was not a man to back down over mere threats and at 35 years old in 1866, he was a large and powerful man, and a very experienced and notoriously crafty Poacher. Very early, on a bright clear morning, Collier took up his shotgun, quietly left the house, where his wife and 12 children were sleeping, and headed for Thomas Smith's land. Smith farmed 436 acres of land some distance away at Whiston Eaves, and employed at least 8 people, including a Shepherd, Cowman, Dairymaid, and a Housemaid. He was a very popular man in the area, being well respected by his staff.  On this day, Colliers luck was out, not only did he not kill any rabbits, but he was caught in the very act of trying, by Thomas Smith. Collier never disclosed what passed between the two men, but it's inconceivable that an argument did not ensue. In any case, what wasn't in dispute was that someone shot Thomas Smith, and then, finding him still alive, beat his brains out with the Gun. Why not just shot him again you might ask, well, thats easy, too near the farmhouse, and the shot would have been heard. When Smith failed to appear for his breakfast, a search was made, and which, very soon, discovered his shot and beaten corpse, and the shattered Gun stock beside the body. Once again, it didn't take long to find out who had done the dreadfull deed, and William Collier was sent To Stafford Goal, to await trial. Collier, obtained the sevices of  a leading Lawyer, Mr Mottram, who made a moving and eloquent defence, at times, bringing tears to those in Court, when mentioning the defendents wife and 12 children. ( I could only find 7, and the defence lawyer may have counted his brother George's 5, to bolster his case. ) Non of this, nor the appeal by a local lay Preacher from the local Primitive Methodist Chapel, had any effect on the Judge, Mr Justice Shee, who rightly sentenced Collier to death. Unlike George Jackson, Collier became resigned to his fate, and on the morning of 7th August, 1866, he resolved to face the hangman like a man. It's great pity the hangman, one George Smith, hadn't put in the same preparation for the day.


William Collier was led to the scaffold by the turnkeys, accompanied by a Catholic Priest. Having secured his arms and legs, Smith put Collier on the drop, adjusted the rope, ( which later he would sell by the inch ) and placed the hood on the condemned mans head. As Collier had been so well behaved, Smith paused, to shake his hand, and then pulled the lever which withdrew the bolt. As expected, the doomed  William Collier went down into the pit, followed by the rope, the tied knot of which had unravelled. A great cry went up from the crowd, either disappointment, or horror, it was difficult to tell really, as most of the mob were only there for the entertainment. The Priest was on the point of fainting, and the officials began to run round in circles, The day was saved, ( at least for the crowd ) by a turnkey, braver than the rest, who went down into the pit, bought back Collier and the rope, propped a ladder againgst the beam, and re-fastened the rope.  The whole awful show started again. This time there were no mistakes, and Collier went off to meet his maker. Smith meanwhile, now facing an angry and hostile crowd, hurriedly made his departure from the scaffold, seeking the safety of the Prison walls. It was some time, before it was deemed safe enough for him to leave the scene of the hanging, that had taken over 6 long minutes. William Collier, was the last man to be hanged in public outside Stafford Gaol, the practise was moved inside in 1868. A good job too, even the most bloodthirsty of mobs couldn't have put with many more such shocking spectacles as that one.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 26, 2011 at 3:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
Member
Posts: 46

It makes you wonder how good a hangman Mr Smith really was.

May 27, 2011 at 1:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Halesowen, Turnpike, Samuel Whitehouse, Joseph Downing, Murder.


There is always a bit of confusion, when looking at old documents and Census details, when you find what you are seeking, is in another County. Boundry changes and old Manors account for most of it, some going back to the time of Wiiliam the Conquer. Such is the case in the next tale. In 1822, the old Manor of Halesown, was a detached part of Shropshire, so any crimes committed within the manor, had to be sent to Shrewsbury for trial. Halesowen was much larger then of course, covering the area known as the " Halesowen Turnpike Road, all the way to Little Lightwoods, on the Birmingham border. Warley Wigorn, to give it the old name, also came under Shropshire, with the area to the North and West being within the County of Staffordshire.


On the morning of 3rd April, 1822, Thomas Fox, a Blacksmith, sat waiting for the arrival of Joseph Downing, and Joes relative, Samuel Whitehouse. Fox's cottage/smithy, was on the turnpike, opposite a trackway, that would later become Galton Road. They were related by marriage, and had some family business to conduct, after which they had arranged with Fox to do a bit of hunting in the woods. Whitehouse arrived at 8.00am from West Bromwich, and Downing, who lived in Turners Hill, Rowley, a few hours later. Both were on horseback, Downing leading a young colt, and bringing a Gun Barrel for Fox to repair. With a borrowed fowling piece, they set off and returned about 3.00pm. The three of them had, what was discribed as a few drinks at Fox's cottage, and also a little wager. Fox suggested that they bet on how old the colt was. that Downing had bought with him that morning. Even in their slightly tipsy condition, it did not go unoticed, that Whitehouse was carrying a large roll of Banknotes. He was a man of substance, Samuel Whitehouse, owning a conciderable amount of property. Downing plied Whitehouse with more booze, until they both decided to leave for home, at about 9pm. Setting off up the trackway and through the woods. Fox was surprised when Downing returned, he had forgotten the Gun Barrel. An hour later, Richard Aston, from the Beech Tree Tavern, just below Fox's cottage, found Samuel Whitehouse's horse on the turnpike, without it's rider. Alerting Fox, he then went in search of the rider, believing him to have been thrown, and maybe injured. he soon found Whitehouse, lying unconscious by the trackway. Requiring some assistance Aston rode back to Fox's house, but was unable to rouse him from a very drunken sleep. Mrs Fox, and the Blacksmiths apprentice, then helped to get Whitehouse back to the Beech Tree. It was noticed, almost at once, that the injured mans money pocket had been undone, and of course, it was empty, he had, without doubt, been robbed. Richard Aston, seeing the condition of the victim, rode to Rowley, and informed Downing of what had occured. He spent the next 3 hours in Downings house, drinking mulled wine, as Whitehouse's relative, for some reason, seemed a little reluctant to return. On finally arriving back at the Beech Tree, and finding Whitehouse still alive, Downing  said he would go and search the trackway, the severely injured Samuel Whitehouse died two days later. The inquest on the 6th, in Halesowen, indicted Joseph Downing for the Wilful Murder of Samuel Whitehouse, with a Gun Barrel of Iron or Steel, to the value of 10shillings. Quite what the weapons value had to do with it, I don't know. Joseph Grainger, Halesowen's Constable, arrested Downing, and sent him to Shrewsbury to await trial.


All cut and dried you might think, far from it, as enter, not one, but two Surgeons, each with differing opinions. Downing pleaded not guilty, stating that after collecting his gun barrel, he never caught up with Whitehouse, and did not see him, or his horse, on the way home. Stephen West Bloxham, a prominant surgeon in Halesowen, who was the first called to the scene, was convinced the injuries had been caused by a gun barrel, and not, as put forward by Downing's defence team, by being kicked by a horse. Another well known surgeon, John Badley, this time from Dudley, who had been called in to tend to Samuel Whitehouse at the Beech Tree, was of the opposite opinion, he had been kicked by the horse. Esekiel Dearne, who lived at a cottage near Hill Top, ( see the Map, in Images from the forums ) stated he had seen two " strangers " in the area on the night of the attack. Samuel Hodgetts, who resided at Bristnall Field, said that the horse Whitehouse was riding, had a history of " skittish " behaviour ". Samuel Whitehouse's servant, Thomas Bincks, told the court, that the horse was indeed prone to "temper tantrums". All this of course, would be confusing to any jury of the time, not having any proper forensic experts to sort it all out. It was therefore all up to the Judge, to bring some commonsense and guidence to the Jury.


" It has been shown in evidence that two strange men at least, were seen coming on foot, from the spot where the deceased was found and it is plain that whether the deceased was injured by the hand of man, or by horses, for the wound might have been inflicted by a person on the bank with a crowbar or, if his horse threw him, it might have been occassioned by a kick. Whichever way it happened, it is plain that he was robbed by some person. There is, gentleman, abundant evidence from the circumstances of the case, to satisfy my mind that the prisoner could not have been that person.


Well that cleared it up for the Jury, who promptly bought in a verdict of " Not Guilty ". Joseph Downing left the dock, and the court, in tears, no doubt the tears of sheer relief. Back in Rowley, like they always have done in the Black Country, people were quick to forgive, but most diffinately not to forget. The Downing family from then onwards carried the stigma and the stench of something rotten. Having no other relatives, Samuel Whitehouses estate passed to them, but it seems to have only bought bad luck. His four children never married. Joseph died in 1848, his wife in 1855. Of his children, one died in 1861, two others in 1873, and their only son, Isaac Downing, in 1874. Having no living family relative's, Isaac left the bulk of the estate to the son of the Rev. William Crump, who was vicar of the parish of Rowley after his father. Strange thing to do you might say, but it fits in with my own opinion, Guilty Conscience.


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Hasbury, Halesowen, Nailshop Murder. Hare and Hounds, Colman Hill, Cradley.


I was reading an article just last week, about the idea of what they called " Mercy Killing ".  You know the sort, where someone puts some one else out of their misery, as an act of kindness. It struck a cord in the old memory box, and sure enough, I dredged this one up. It's along the same line's, but with a bit of a twist.


The Hare and Hounds, in Halesowen, must have stood in fairly pleasent scenery in 1786, with a view of open fields. Just a few cottages surrounding it, and the blacksmiths shop owned by Thomas Foxall nearby. Attached to his forge, was a Nailshop, which at the time must have bought in a fairly decent income. For him mind, not the young girls he employed. His supply of nailrods, in weighed bundles, were delivered every week, from a dealer called Mr Crampton, whose premises were situated in Colman Hill. Before the age of certified standard weights, cheating on all sales of goods was pretty rife, and it's likely that blacksmith Foxall was constantly on the lookout for short measures. On this day, in October, his delivery was bought by a young waggoner named John Davis. Now Davis, who was just turned 14, but by all accounts was a well built sturdy lad, despite his age, was well up on all the tricks of the trade. It was not unusual, to remove a few nailrods from each bundle, hide them in a hedgerow, and collect them on the way back. They would then be sold on to another nailmaker, or even passed to a family member. There was no suspicion at the time, that Mr Crampton knew anything about all this, well he wouldn't have wanted to get a bad reputation as a nail fogger, would he. Accompanied on the trip by a John England, an old man who lodged with Davis's mother, they arrived to find the blacksmith drinking in the Hare and Hounds. Joining him, they spent a couple of hours testing the Landlords home brew. Returning to the nailshop, the cart was unloaded, and although he may have drunk a few, he became convinced he was being fiddled. Naturaly enough, this led to a heated argument, then to a bit of pushing, and finally came to blows. The young girls working in the nailshop, retreated towards the end of the shop, as the fight was now blocking the doorway. Foxall was getting much the upper hand in this skuffle, and Davis, in a bit of a panic, grabbed an Iron nailrod that was in the fire. In the struggle, this red hot piece of Iron somehow pierced the throat of the blacksmith, the huge volume of gushing blood cutting short the blood curdling scream that escaped from his lips. Seeing what had transpired, the old man, England, snatched up a nearby lump hammer, and bought it crashing down on Foxall's skull, killing him instantly. Turning to the girls, who had just witnessed this ghastly deed, he muttered, " I on'y done it to put 'im out of 'is misery '. Davis was clearly in a state of shock, blubbing like a baby, so England led him quickly out into the yard, onto the cart, and off in the direction of open country beyond Oldnall Bank. A massive hue a cry followed the report of the appalling murder, but of the pair, there was no sign. Despite most of the area being on the lookout, nothing more was heard of the pair for the next 3 days. Uffmore Wood, unlike today, was a busy place, the scene of a greal deal of Line-Prop making, and as he was preparing to cut down a suitable branch, one propmaker got a nasty shock. Hanging from the tree he had selected, was the cold, and very stiff body of young John Davis. Fully aware of the fate that awaited him, and, just as he had almost certainly tried to cheat the blacksmith, he determined to cheat the Hangman, and succeeded. Of John England there was no sign for another 2 days until a man on the way to work, found his drowned corpse in the Saltbrook, close to Lye Waste. The hangman was to be cheated out of his fee as well. The area was flooded with religious leaflets, all de-crying the demon drink, and threatening devine retribution for the wicked. Cradley's new Baptist Church  was full to overflowing, as the ranters preached parable after parable on the evil in their midst. The Pub and the Church are both still there. I don't know if someone was saving money when it came to the funeral, but all 3 were buried, side by side, in Saint Marys. Oldswinford. Maybe it was a last reminder of the pitfalls in taking strong drink, well, it didn't work then, just as it doesn't work today.

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July 14, 2011 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Dudley, Kates Hill, Joseph Meadows, Murder, Mary Ann Mason, Sailors Return, 1855.


Now here's a murder that got the area around Dudley a bit excited. A mixture of deceit, revenge, the demon drink, and a pretty sixteen year old girl, led to the downfall of a young man, who otherwise might have lived a fairly humdrum life. Joseph Meadows was a 23 year old Galvaniser, working for Joseph Rann, a small Dudley Iron-Master, and, by all accounts, a pleasent enough young man when not drinking. A pastime, it must be said, indulged in by the population, as an antidote to the hard graft, bad working conditions, and poor wages of the era. The works were fairly close to a popular public house called " The Sailors Return ", and it was from here, in 1855, that Joe Meadows first cast his eyes on what would turn out to be his doom. Mary Ann Mason, who was born in 1839, was the daughter of a lay preacher, and a very pretty daughter too. He had strong views on the demon drink, so it was with some surprise to many, that he allowed her to take up employment, as a domestic servant, at William Hunts public house. Perhaps it was the extra money bought in, times were always hard, or Mary's teenage tantrums that swung the decision. In any case, the die was now set. William Hunt soon noticed, that Mary had a nice smile, liked a laugh, and his beer sales went up whenever she appeared in the bar. Coming from a religious background, she could sing as well, although hymns wouldn't have been what Hunt called " entertainment ". He encouraged her to spend more time serving than cleaning, and she became quite an attraction in the Sailors Return. It's not recorded what Mary's father thought of all this, but to keep her there, Hunt increased her wages. Young Mary soon had many admirers, and like a great many of her age, exploited the situation to her advantage. Without, it has to said, any thought to the consequences of the raging emotions she would be stirring up. William Hunt though, had already given the matter some thought, and barred the vivacious young lady, from any romantic assignations on the premises. No fool was our wise old entrepreneural landlord, he knew a little goldmine when he saw one. Early in 1855, Joe Meadows employer, Mr Rann, who, as most employers did, supplied beer to his workmen, recieved a message from William Hunt at his works. The messenger was Mary Ann Mason, and Joe Meadows was smitten. At this time, he was already " paying court " to a young lady, but dropped her like a red-hot brick after meeting Mary. The feelings it appeared, were mutual, but the problem that stood in the way, was her agreement with William Hunt about her relationships with young men. They soon however, came up with a little ploy, Joe would pretend to be her brother, and William Hunt gained another customer. The arrangement did not go well, Mary continued to " perform " for the customers, singing and flirting as she had done before, and poor old Joe was forced to watch, becoming more and more frustrated as time went on. They had some furious rows, away from the pub obviously, and it appears that Mary failed to recognise, the every growing jealous rage that was consuming young Joseph Meadows. On May 11th, after yet another row, she told him she would have nothing more to do with him. This was just too much for him to take in, and he brooded all night and then made his fateful, and last, decision.


The next morning, the 12th May 1855, he arrived at the " Sailors Return " at about 6.15am, the pubs usual opening time. A great many workers, always stopped off for two or three drinks before going to work, especially the miners. In fact there were two in the bar, as Joe began to drink heavily of a bit of " dutch courage ". Both miners knew Joe, but only as Mary's brother, so when the flitatious Mary sat on William Ingrams knee, more to spite Joe than anything else, they were shocked when a gunshot rang out. Not so shocked though as young Mary Ann Mason, who fell to the floor, shot through the face with a heavy ball from a horse pistol. She was dead before she hit the floor, her brains scattered around the walls of the pubs kitchen, and over Ingrams and the other miner Robinson. Joseph Meadows made no move to leave, and quietly gave up the weapon to Ingrams. He was still sitting peacfully in the room, when Superintendent Joseph Jewkes, of the Dudley Police arrived at the scene about 9.30am. In various statements, the truth came out about their relationship, and that he had planned to kill her the night before, but she had been holding one of William Hunts children at the time. " I have had my revenge and I've heard say revenge is sweet ; and now I am satisfied ", were the words he used, when charged by Jewkes with wilful murder. He probably intended to take his own life as well, as another loaded pistol was found in his coat pocket. but courage failed him at the last minute. There was no escape for Joseph Meadows, unlike today, no defence of a disturbed mind was permitted. He was found guilty as charged, at Stafford Assizes, on 17th July,1855. It was reported, that at his execution, just 11 days later, he went calmly to his death, even assisting George Smith, by lowering his head, to slip the fatal noose around his neck. Mary Ann Mason, is buried in the churchyard of Saint Johns, Kates Hill, Dudley. More a victim of her own stupidity, it could be said, than some other murders I know of. There is a picture of her grave stone in the gallery, taken in the 1960s, as the Church has recently been refurbished, I don't know what state it is currently in.

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August 30, 2011 at 11:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Bilston Murder,1922. Elijah Pountney, Coseley, Winson Green, John Ellis.


Following a request for information on a murder in Bilston, here it is, in all it's gory details.


Elijah Pountney was fairly typical of most Black Country men, no specific skills, but worked hard at whatever work he found. Born in Coseley, Staffordshire, 1874, he was married by the time he was 18. His young bride, Alice Gertrude Reynolds, a year younger, was to put it bluntly, somewhat up the duff. To be fair, she had a dificult childhood, her father, Edward Reynolds, died two years after her birth, in a accident at work where he was a Furnaceman. Her mother, the former Hannah Armson, was crippled, and was left to bring up 4 children on her own. The happy couple did not have a very auspicious start to married life, as the baby, Elijah Henry Pountney,  died soon after birth, and to be honest, the marriage failed to improve as time went by. The next year, 1893, Alice gave birth to Joseph Pountney, and in 1895, to Phoebe Pountney. Unfortunately, their bad luck continued, and both Joseph and Phoebe died that same year, which to be honest, must have been soul destroying. In 1900, they started again, with Alice gaving birth to Eric Armson Pountney, but he died in 1901. John Edward Pountney, born in 1902, survived, but another son, Herbert Armson Pountney, born in 1905, died the next year.  Poor Alice must have been totally devastated, and the deaths, of five children it seems, left it's mark. Elijah, from the beginning, was a jealous man, a fact not missed by Alice, who, smarting from having already lost so much, was known to " wind up " her husband on many occasions although at the time, there was no hint about other men. ( Mind you, they do say, that it's a wise man who knows his own father. ) He had worked for sometime in Bradley, as a blacksmith in the Iron works, but decided on a change of direction, with an eye to putting a bit by for their old age. He took on the licence of " The Pheasant Inn ", in Broad Street, Bilston, some distance from his home in Batemans Hill, Coseley. ( Times were hard following the end of the Great War ) From the start, the takings were not good, and Elijah very quickly found he would need to take a job, leaving Alice to run the pub, with help from their only remaining son, John, who lived with them. Even this was not enough, and in 1921, it was decided to take in lodgers as well. Now Elijah was just about 5 foot 5 inches, and skinny with it, so when a new lodger arrived, Edmond McCann, a big strapping bricklayer with an eye for the women, he sensed brewing trouble. Whether there was any truth in it or not, he began to suspect that something was going on behind his back. He then began to drink rather more than he should have, possibly believing, that this would make him forget his percieved troubles. It didn't, it just made it worse. After several rows with Alice, during which McCann supported her, Elijah turned up at the Police station, clearly the worse for drink, asking for help in throwing the Bricklayer out. His problem, he explained, was that the lodger was to big for him. The Police refused to get involved with a domestic argument. Things could only get worse, and the next year they did. Easter Sunday that year, was on the 16th April, and as usual, after a heavy Saturday night of drinking with his friends, Elijah staggered downstairs to get some breakfast. McCann and Alice were in the bar, eating Oysters and swilling them down with Ale. Alice now made a fatal mistake, she refused to get Elijah his breakfast, and this was the trigger that turned the worm, so to speak, as they rowed all morning. Now although Bilston was a rough old town, the inhabitants were still regular Church goers, so when the pub opened at lunchtime, there were very few customers. Towards closing time at 2pm, Alice went into the kitchen to prepare their mid-day meal, and was seen to be peeling the spuds, McCann seems to have left the scene.  Elijah then seen to enter the kitchen, turn around, and say, in a loud voice, " Kiss her lads, it may be the last time ", then he pulled back his wifes head, and slowly and deliberately, draw a sharp knife across her neck. The blade sliced through her windpipe, blood spurted over the kitchen, and then poor Alice fell to the floor. She was dead before she hit the lino. With a look of sheer horror on his face, Elijah fled the Pub. The Police and a Doctor were soon on the scene, but there was nothing they could for the unfortunate woman. A murder hunt was started at once, after all, they knew who they were looking for.


Leonard Hamblett, his brother Jess, and William Doughty, three young lads, were playing down by the canal. Trying to move the boats, as kids used to do, they spotted a body wedged between them. Dragging it out, they found the body was still breathing, and summoned help. Doctor Charles Waddell soon had Elijah Pountney back on his feet, then bundled into a passing car, and down to Bilston Police Station, where he was put into a nice comfortable cell. Later on he was found to be suffering from shock, poor devil, it must have been the thought of what was going to happen to him. After spending several days in Hospital, it was time for the Inquest, which surprise, surprise, found him responsible for Wilful Murder. So off he went, to Winson Green Prison, to await trial at the next Stafford Assizes.


Today of course, the plea of Insanity carries more weight than it did then, and the outcome would be a Manslaughter verdict. The Judge and Jury in Elijahs case though, just wouldn't believe it. and he was sentenced to Death. Perhaps the lovely July weather had something to do with it, the Jury wishing to get off home and enjoy a bit of Sun Bathing. His Lawyers did appeal, backed up by a petition, and several letters of support, some of them detailing how badly Alice had treated poor old Elijah. As you can't Libel the dead, these letter writers could say what they liked, and some of them did just that, as Alice Pountney was not there to contest them.  Dismissed by the apeal Court Judge, the petition failed, and so, at 8.0am, on 11th August, 1922, at Winson Green, Elijah Pountney paid the full price for his wicked act. The only one's who may have been pleased, were John Ellis, and his assistant, Robert Baxter, the hangmen, it being a Friday, they had the whole sunny weekend to look forward to.

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October 8, 2011 at 4:37 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Lye Murder,1925, Bert Checketts, Alice Mary Rowley, Broadmoor.


Last month, I was asked about a murder, which occured in Lye, Worcestershire, in 1925. On face value, it's a fairly nasty, grubby little crime, in which the victim suffered  their throat being cut. I was tempted just to put the bare details in the topic on Lye, in the miscellaneous section, but a murders a murder after all. The full story, can be read in Ian M. Bott's recent excellent book, Black Country Murders. ( ISBN 978-0-7509-5053-4 ) Bert, ( or Burt ) Checketts, was born in Lye, in September 1901, and was 24 when the muder was committed. The victim, Alice Mary Rowley, was 22, and was the step sister of Checketts, her father had died some years before, and her mother had remarried. Young Bert took a liking to the girl, although the attention, bordering on sexual assault, and way beyond mere stalking, was most certainly not favourable received. Checketts was prone to violent tempers, and had a history of bad behaviour, but was not concidered to be mentally unstable. Just a nasty man to cross. So it proved, for on the evening of Saturday 4th July,1925, after Alice refused to lend him sixpence, he flew into a rage, and was only stopped from harming her by the intervention of a neighbour. The next day, still harbouring ill feeling towards her, he began to harrass her again, and Alice called her mother for some assistance. It all went quiet until about 9.20pm, when hearing screams, Robert Collins, working in the brickyard in which the Checketts family also lived, went out to have a look. All he saw was young Bert, who appeared to have something wet on his clothes, although in the dim light, Collins did not see that it was blood. At 9.30pm, Checketts was standing at the yard gates, and informed a woman passing by, that some woman in the brickyard had cut her own throat. Nothing could have been further from the truth, for as the inquest heard, Alice Rowley had suffered more than that. As well as the two cuts across her throat, she no less than 52 other injuries, all inflicted with an open razor.They ranged from her inner thighs and lower parts, up to her breasts and arms. Some of these horrendous wounds were not reported in the local papers, as they were concidered too graphic to publish. They are described in both the book, and in papers held in Dudley Archives. Bert Checketts trial was held on 23rd October 1925, before Mr Justice Roche, and he pleaded not guilty, maintaining that she had cut her own throat. Despite an attempt to downplay the sexual elements of the various wounds inflicted, the jury, on the Judge's direction, heard it all. Incidently, the names of all the jury members are in the book, as are many witness'es. The defence team had to depend on a plea of insanity, which, given the Judges summing up, and the Juries verdict, failed to convince. Bert Checketts was, under the law as it stood, sentenced to Death by Hanging. On appeal, and It seems the Judge, and the jury, anticipated this with the sentence of death. ( A recommendation by the jury of mercy, due to insanity, would have meant he would only be detained at " His Majesty's Pleasure ", and could quite easily have been let out after a few years, and may have killed again ) this sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. I would be willing to bet though, that the Judge was not best pleased. Lord only knows the anguish her brothers and sisters went through. Even more so for her mother, who since the murder, was to ill to attend her daughters funeral. So the smirking, unremoseful, and very dangerous Checketts, escaped the attention of either William Willis, or Thomas Pierrepoint, the Home Office Approved executioners. So what happened to him, after he was safely lodged in Birminghams Winson Green Prison. ?


No records of prisoners are available, at least not to the public, to follow what happened to Checketts. That he was sent to Parkhurst or Maidstone Goal , ( both of which had a measure of high security ) is highly likely. At some stage, during his early imprisonment, it was decided that his mental condition warranted a move to a state institution. An educated guess at which one goes like this. Broadmoor, was the obvious choice, but it being full at the time, the overflow choice was Rampton, Nottinghamshire. I suspect this is where he spent some years, untill the late1940s, when Moss Side, Liverpool, was expanded, and became known as Ashworth, when several prisoners, including Checketts, were transferred. The reason for believing this to be good guess, is that Bert Checketts, died in September,1965. I don't know if his remaining relatives had him buried in Lye, but his death was recorded in Ormskirk, Lancashire. This place is within hearing distance of the famous Ashworth Warning Siren, which is sounded, if a dangerous inmate escapes. It used to be tested every Friday, and the locals could, and did, set their watches and clocks by it. At least the family, of Alice Mary Rowley, had the satisfaction of knowing, that the evil monster who had killed their relative, never set foot outside his place of confinement again. As to whether he was really insane, you will need to read Ian Botts rendition of the crime, as for me, I'm with the jury on this one.

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December 6, 2011 at 11:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Bilston,1874, Rowland Cooper, Mary Leadbetter, Lucy Goodwin, Manchester


Now I don't have the trial records of this murder. which occured in Bilston, in June,1874. It's another one of those nasty grubby little crimes, committed by a man, so bereft of any common decency, he should have been strangled at birth. Born in 1822, in the town, and baptised Rowland Cooper, he started life as most did, digging for coal, and working in the iron trade. He married in 1845, to a young woman from around Market Street Bilston, her name being Mary Leadbeater. The family was hardworking and by the 1860s, Cooper was trading as a Corn and Hay Merchant, living next door to his in-laws at house 22, in Market Street. The records suggest that he was bit of a violent man, beating his wife on a regular basis, especially when having taken a drink. This would in all likelihood have contributed to her early death in 1867. He appears to have abandoned the children, and took up lodgings elsewhere in the town, or the poor womans family, made life a bit too uncomfortable for him. He next took up with a woman, Lucy Goodwin, who was 23 years younger than him. If she didn't know what he was like before, she sooned learned, although at what point it's hard to say, as she bore him 2 children. Instead of just living together, as most did at the time, they married in Dudley, in 1873. From time to time, he had changed his name slightly, from Rowland, to Richard, which suggests that he was also known to the police, or just to escape a few debts. In June, 1874, and it's not clear why, he arrived home, took a heavy rolling pin, and beat poor frail little Lucy about the chest. This of course would mean, that the resulting bruises could not be seen. She died soon afterwards, and Rowland Cooper found himself arrested, and thrown into a filthy cell. The Coroner, at the inquest, had no hesitation in procuring a warrant, that charged Cooper with Wilful Murder. Somehow, this dispicable individual managed to pursuade a Judge and Jury, that the death was not intended, and he escaped the expected verdict, of Death by Hanging.


If he was expecting a lighter sentence, he was to be sadly mistaken. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he was transported as far away from Bilston, as it was possible to go. The Isle of Wight is a lovely place to live or to take a Holiday, but back in 1874, Parkhurst, and Carisbroke Castle, were pretty grim establishments. The maximun security prisons of their day, the rules, as can be seen from some of the other posts on the subject, would keep modern day Human rights people busy for years. Not that he deserves any sympathy, even after the passing of 137 years, and some may be pleased to know, that he died while still imprisoned. Not on the Island though, he was transfered to HMP Strangeways, Manchester, about 1882, and died there in 1884, his death being registered in Bolton. If anyone has a copy of the trial, I would be glad to see it, and so I suspect, would the Goodwin family.

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December 12, 2011 at 4:22 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Willenhall Murder,1872. Locksmith, Christopher Edwards, George Smith.


I don't know what the weather was like on 21st March,1838, dark and dismal I suspect, an omen maybe, for the child who had just come into the world, Christopher Edwards. Like almost every one, living and working in Willenhall, Staffordshire, his Father was a Locksmith, a trade to which the young Christopher would later be apprenticed in. If there's one thing, apart from Lock making, that defines life in the area at this time, it was the drunkeness. No matter how many times the local clergy preached about this abomination, nothing changed. Christopher Edwards certainly didn't, as circumstances proved.


Working in the same trade, was a young woman from Wednesfield, her name was Rosanna Ecclestone. She must have fancied the young man, for they were married on 14 November, 1859, in the small Church in Wednesfield, she was just turned 20. For some reason, maybe they couldn't afford them, children did not appear until the birth of Rosanna, in 1867, and Louisa, in 1869. All however, was not well between them, Christopher was very handy with his fists when drunk. (which was often) The target of the violence was his wife Rosanna, and he beat her many times. Even the arrival of his father, in the house in Church Street, Willenhall, failed to curb his outbursts, and Rosanna, fearing for her life, took to habitually carrying a knife. What prompted his rage on 20 April, 1872, is now anyones guess, but the neighbours, used to screams from the house, this time sent for the Police. They arrived too late. Christopher Edwards, his 76 year old father to frail to stop him, attacked poor Rosanna with a heavy poker. Showing no mercy whatsoever, he proceeded to beat out the brains of his wife, while his two children cowered in the room adjacent. He tried to claim he had acted in self-defence, but the poor womans injuries were far in excess of such a claim. Besides, the neighbours had heard the row begin, and Rosanna's repeated cries for mercy. If he was expecting any sympathy from the Judge and Jury, on 28 July, when he appeared at Stafford Assizes, he was soon disabased of the notion. It took them less than 10 minutes to find him guilty of Wilful Murder, and the Judge less than 2, to sentence him to the death penalty. On the 12th August,1872, he was led onto the drop, by a man dressed in a smock coat, and wearing a tall hat. The one and only George Smith, and just for once, I wish I could say Edwards suffered greatly. I can't, the Rowley Bungler for once got it right.

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January 25, 2012 at 3:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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West Bromwich, Newcastle on Tyne, Samuel Emery, 1894. Stanley Hobday, 1933. Thomas Pierrepoint, Winson Green.


Two murders this time, both commited by young unmarried men, both came from West Bromwich, and both used a similar weapon. One killed out of sexual frustration,and the other during a burglary. It's a strange thing, but when ever the subject of the Death Penalty comes up,  ( as it has done again recently ) cases like these two never get mentioned as an argument against. Now, I have not been a supporter, of the State executing anyone, since 1960. Mainly because, no one has ever come up, with a painless and ethical alternative, to the many methods currently used around the world. My guess is, they never will, and the present system of punishment, inadequate in many peoples views, will remain. Having said that, under the law at the time, both of these individuals got what they deserved.


I don't know, if 132, Sams Lane, West Bromwich, is still standing, as it was in 1874. In this house, in that year, was born Samuel George Emery. His parents, William and Betsey Emery, could never have forseen the trouble that lay ahead, they did their best in raising him, and he became, like his father, a worker in the File Industry. Times were hard in the 1890s, and sometime after his 17th birthday, young Samuel joined the Army. Maybe it was the steady employment and pay, or the yearning to see a bit of the world, in any case, he finished up with the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment. If it was excitement he craved, he was out of luck, most of the Regiments duties were strictly Garrison, either in England, India, or Egypt. So in 1894, Samuel Emery found himself in the Oriental climate of the Albemarle Barracks, Newcastle-on Tyne. Now don't get me wrong, Newcastle is a great place to visit, although what it was like in 1894 I have no idea. There are some nice little seaside towns within easy reach of the Barracks, ( yes, they are still there ) including Tynemouth, which is where young Samuel, was on the 23rd April,1894. This is also where, having possible been turned down by an attractive young lady, he took out a knife, and stabbed her. Mary Ann Marshall, 17 years old, and out in her finest dress and Easter Bonnet, fell to the ground and was dead in minutes. He made no attempt to run away, and was quickly in custody. He showed no trace of emotion at his trial at Newcastle Assizes, and didn't apparently even blink when sentenced to death, the date being set for 11th December,1894. James Billington, who arrived the night before the execution, recorded in his notes, that the young man was the calmest one he had hanged, during his long career. How the Marshall family reacted is not known, nothing after all, would bring back their beloved daughter, senselessly killed by a young man who appeared not to care.


Stanley Hobday, 1933


The second murder is a bit more recent, 1933 to be exact, and must have shocked people for it seemed so casual. There are many peoole in this world, who go around, with what some would describe as, " a chip on the shoulder ". Stanley Eric Hobday was one such individual, although he may have had a better reason than most. He was, to put it into the correct PC language of today, " vertically challenged ". One can only imagine, the cruel jibes he must have suffered at school or work, being just about 4 feet 2 inches in his boots. Mind you, being so small had it's advantages, he was, before long, a prolific Burglar. Quietly leaving the home of his parents, Albert and Gwendoline Hobday, at 23 Poplars Avenue, West Bromwich, he made his way to Newtons Butchers shop in Bromford Lane, and forced entry through the rear. He was there, unheard, for some time, sewing a button on his coat, having a shave with Mr Newtons Razor, and stealing a few pounds and other items. He them moved on to the premises of Charles William Fox and his wife, in Moor Street, who were at this time in the morning, asleep. This time he made a mistake, and knocked over someting in the house's front room, which woke Mrs Fox, who sent her husband downstairs to investigate, while she hastily put on her dressing gown. She arrived downstairs in time to see her husband stagger out of the front room, a large knife deeply embedded in his back. He collapsed, fell to the floor, and died in her arms, Stanley Hobday making good his escape. The news spread quickly, the street rapidly filling with people, for William Fox was a well respected shopkeeper.



For such a prolific and experienced Burglar, he had left many clues this time. His finger prints were all over items in the house, and when the Police found out about about the earlier breakin, they found his prints there as well. An expert from Scotland Yard was called in, and the name of Stanley Hobday, and a discription, was soon to be heard on a Nationwide Radio appeal, for he had fled the district. Not far as it turned out, just down the road to Birmingham, where he stole a car. ( A Jowett )  It's debatable how well he could drive but he succeeded in getting as far as High Leigh, a village in Cheshire. Here, a farm labourer, with his head down working away, was mortified, when a car came flying through the air, over the hedge, completed a full somersault, and landed back on it's wheels in the field. The driver, Stanley Hobday, staggered from the vehicle, dazed and shocked but otherwise unhurt, and then hurriedly walked off. Once again he left a clue for the Police, his cardboard suitcase, full of his clothes. He then seems to have disappeared for a time. Meanwhile the Radio appeals continued, and a few days later, something struck a chord with a cowman driving his herd along a road outside Carlise. A man had become trapped in the herd, and something twigged in the cowmans brain. (the fact the man was so small may have done it )  Reaching the farm he telephoned the Police, and just 2 hours later, Stanley Eric Hobday was in custody. His trial at Stafford Assizes did not take up much time, there was just too much damning evidence, and it took the jury just 45 minutes to find him guilty of Murder. An appeal failed, and he was hanged in Winson Green Prison, Birmingham. The executioner was Thomas Pierrepoint, and the only note in his diary, was the date, 29th December, time, 8.00am, and the place, Birmingham.  No remarks at all, about a man called by one witness, "  an overgrown dwarf ".

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January 26, 2012 at 4:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Wolverhampton Murder, Josiah Davis, Martha Hodgkins,1913, Walsall, Stafford Gaol.


Josiah Davis, born in Wolverhampton, in 1860, was, it appears, not a very nice man. He was one of the old fashioned sort of Iron workers, hard drinking, and a temper to match. A married man with children, although at the time of this particular event, she. and the children, had long departed from his violent presence. He took up lodgings, with a Mrs Martha Hodgkins, at her house, 79, Duke Street, Wolverhampton, around 1911/12. She was a widow, having lost her husband Joseph in 1907, and was well used to having boarders, something they had both done for many years. In September,1913, Josiah Davis lost his job at the Iron-Works in Monmore Green, and struggled to pay the rent. Being about the same age, Mrs Hodgkins must have had some sympathy for the 53 year old Iron worker, her late husband having done the same kind of job. Matters however came to a head as Christmas approached, and she had insisted on payment, or he had to go. There was no suggestion that he was drunk at the time, he had very little in the way of funds to sustain such a lifestyle anyway. Taking a length of heavy duty Curtain cord, he strangled Mrs Hodgkins, covering her face with a silk hankerchief, and then, after packing a few things, simply left the house. The face covering was an old superstition, it prevented, so it was said, the face of the murderer being imprinted in the victims eye's. She had just turned 54. It took the Police several days to locate Davis, and eventually he was arrested at a relatives house in Walsall. From the start, he denied all knowledge of the murder. Even when faced with a mountain of evidence pointing to his guilt, he insisted, that all he knew about the affair, was what he had seen in the Newspapers. Mr Justice Lush, had Davis admitted what he had done, and pleaded Insanity, would have given him the benefit of the doubt, and substituted life imprisonment. But Davis didn't. So, in the cold gray light of an early January morning in 1914, John Ellis, and his assistant, Thomas Pierrepoint, arrived at Stafford Gaol, and dispatched the luckless Josiah Davis to which ever place would accomodate him, Heaven or Hell, take your pick.

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February 9, 2012 at 3:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Dudley Murder, 1957. David Keasey, Dennis Howard, Smethwick, Winson Green


There will be a few people about today, who will remember 1957, as the year in which Elizabeth II visited Dudley. On the 23 April, the whole town was festooned with flags and bunting. and because of the warm weather, the whole population seemed to have turned out to see her. The happy mood continued, well it seemed too, until the afternoon of 17th May, when a brutal murder shocked the town back to reality. The scene was a mens outfitters shop in Wolverhampton Street called " Halfords ", and the victim, the son of the owner , and partner in the business. David Alan Keasey aged 21. The young man, engaged to be married, had resisted an armed robber, and paid for it with his life. It was only when the body was removed to the mortuary, at the Guest Hospital, that it was realised the young man had been shot. A murder hunt began, and the Police made appeals for any witness'es to come forward.


It was established, that a man had run out of the shop, yelling that someone was having a fit, and to call for a Doctor. This man then disappeared in the direction of the Market, where, mingling with the shoppers, he vanished. One man said he heard the sound of breaking glass, another had entered the shop and tried to help the injured man, then his fiancee, who worked at the Hospital turned up, just as the Ambulance arrived. He was still alive at this stage, but was dead on arrival, all efforts to save him having failed. He had been shot with a .25 weapon, which was likely to be a Pistol rather than a revolver, confirmed when a spent cartridge was later found in the shop. A clear fingerprint was also found, but this being 1957, it could only be checked in the local files, and there were no matches. Despite many more appeals, no other information came to light, and a month of frustration for the Police followed. Scotland Yard officers, called in after the 1st week, also failed to locate any further evidence, and were ready to return back to London.


Lady Luck, although of a muted kind, was just around the corner. The fingerprint had found its way to Birmingham, and was identified as similar to a print found after a raid on the premises of George Bate's, Gunsmith's, in Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham. No one however, had matched the print to a person as yet, so they knew where the gun had possible come from, but no name. More time passed, then from, the Smethwick Police, came news that someone had reported that a young man had a collection of Guns and Ammunition. It didn't take long for the Police to discover where the man lived, and at last, they had a name, Dennis Howard, 24 years old, and living at 3, Lones Road, Smethwick. The Police sealed off the small Council estate, off Middlemore Road and Halford's Lane, just behind West Bromwich Albion Football Ground. Bravely entering the house, they seized the young man, they then found, in his bedroom, most of the weapons and ammunition from the Gunshop raid, some of the Guns were loaded.( It was not routine at the time, to have any armed and trained firearm's officers ) Howard of course, denied murdering David A Keasey, and claimed it was all accidental, the Gun going off in the struggle. Not so, as it became clear at his trial.


On the 17th October, Dennis Howard went on trial in Worcester, for the murder. In evidence, the bullet and casing were matched to the Gun found in Howards possession, the finger print found was matched to him, and under cross examination he admitted cocking the self loading pistol, before entering the shop. The fatal shot had been fired, while the Gun was pressed into the victims clothes, leaaving no trace of scorching, which is why it was initially missed. His case was further damaged, after claiming he only intended to frighten the victim, in which case, why did he load the magazine into the pistol ? Howard was a bit unlucky though, the Death sentence had been suspended 2 years before, so that a review could be carried out. The new Act defined, " that Killing someone in the furtherance of theft ", was a capital crime. 1 hour and 40 minutes after retiring, the Jury bought in a verdict of Guilty, and despite an appeal, Dennis Howard was Hanged by Albert Pierrepoint on 4th December, 1957, at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham. ( Worcester no longer had any equipment )


It was reported, although there's no absolute proof, that David Keasey was reading an Agatha Christie book before his killer walked in. A Hercule Poirot mystery, " One, two, buckle my shoe ", in which a Dentist gets shot. That was solved as well.

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February 25, 2012 at 4:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Norton Canes, Cannock, Murder 1893. William Masfen, John Hewitt, Stafford Gaol, Executioner,


Back to a bit of poaching with this next one, and an example of the march of progress in Forensic Science, in the field of Gunshot Victims. The year is 1893, and the scene is a small Farm in rural Norton Canes, Staffordshire. Now quite a lot of people went poaching, there was plenty to catch, and if caught it was only a small fine anyway. What prompted this perticular poacher to the level of violence used, is anyones guess.


William Masfen, at 29, was a pleasent and amiable young Farmer. He had been born in Penkridge in 1864, where his father farmed and owned land. The name of course was Scottish, and the family had moved steadily south over the generations, other members having land in Derbyshire, as well. Not counted amongst the upper classes, the family did have money, all were well educated, having a Doctor and other professionals in their ranks. In 1891, young William married Helena Blanche Tinker, a girl of similar back ground, in Ecclesall Bierly, on the Derbyshire/West Riding Border. She was just turned 21, having been born in Huddersfield in 1867, and they moved back to his farm at Norton Canes. A daughter, Helena Hanbury Masfen was born in 1892, ( Hanbury being an old family connection ) and life was looking good for the young couple. Except of course for the constant poaching.


At about 3am, on 1st July, 1893, one of William's farm workers, as instructed, woke him up at Rectory Farm, so that he could check on his interests at nearby Hole Farm, where he had the shooting rights. John Brooks, the workman, offered to go with him, for the young farmer was a popular man, but William declined, and sent him off to get some sleep. Taking up his stout walking stick, he set off to keep an eye on the game, and hopefully frighten off any would be poachers. One in perticular, John Thomas Hewitt, a local 19 year old miner. By 8.30am, he had not re-appeared back at the farm for his breakfast, and Helena, getting worried, and having the baby to look after, sent for Williams cousin, John Hanbury Masfen. He was staying at a relatives house in Mill Street, having arrived in connection with his Corn Merchants business, based in Tamworth. He began a search, and soon uncovered the reason why William was late.


A short time after 6am, a miner, Edward Jones, who lived in Cannock, saw what he assumed was William Masfen, hiding in a ditch to suprise poachers. He was a regular traveller this way, and had seen the farmer doing this many times before. He carried on towards his home and his breakfast. John Masfen found his cousins body about 9.30am, and it was clear he had been shot to death, he summoned the Police in the form of first, Sergeant Upton, and then Superintendent George Barratt. The ground being soft from recent rainfall, they easily found a set of footprints, which, when followed, led right to the door of John Hewitt. On the table was a rabbit, freshly prepared for the pot, and behind the door, a recently fired shot gun. Hewitt was arrested, and then made a statement. It appeared that he had left the house around 2am that morning, with the gun and 6 cartridges of No.5 shot. On the way back, he been surprised by Masfen who, he said, demanded his gun. He said that while trying to get over the fence and away, he and Masfen had wrestled for the gun and it had gone off, hitting the farmer in the head. Now came the time to put Hewitts tale to the test. William Masfen had indeed been shot in the head, not once, but three times, each shot, in the same place as the first one. The farmer was still alive after the intial shot, and Hewitt had to kill him or get caught, the other shots were made to cover up and confuse the Police. They didn't. Non of the three shots had been fired at the range Hewitt suggested, as in a struggle, they had all been fired from at least 23 feet away, or slightly more. As clear a case of Wilful Murder as anyone could conceive.


The judge at the trial, Justice Collins, asked the jury to take into account the evidence of the accused, who had claimed it was all accidental. All said and done,it was simple thing to determine, did the prisoner point the gun at William Masfen, and was it a deliberate act then, to pull the trigger. Taking in account it was only a single barrelled shot gun, it would have to be re-loaded twice, it could not have been an accident. With no recommendation to mercy, the jury found the young John Hewitt guilty, and the judge, passing the Death Sentence, fixed the date of execution for 15th August. An appeal failed, and at 8.30am on the day, John Thomas Hewitt paid the full price for that skinny little rabbit, announced to the world by a small black flag, that was hoisted over the gate of Stafford Gaol.


Just a little end piece, Thomas Henry Scott, from Huddersfield, was the appointed Executioner. Rather aptly for his chosen calling, he was listed as a Rope Maker, and just to satisfy my rather peculier sense of humour, A Stone Mason as well. He mainly operated in Ireland up to 1901, as he was only on the Home office list from 1892, to 1895, having blotted his copybook over an incident, in Liverpool, concerning a prostitute, a cab, and a stolen wallet.

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April 9, 2012 at 11:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Walsall Murders,1966, Raymond Morris, Cannock Chase, Unsolved Murders.


Well within living memory this next murder, and the perpetrator is still firmly behind bars. Which is far better than he ever deserved. We have, I suppose, been lucky in the Black Country, serial killers here, have been few and far between. Back in 1966 though, while the Country was a bit pre-occupied with a certain Football competition, dark deeds were afoot in Walsall, Staffordshire.


On the morning of 12th January, 1966, the bodies of two very young girls were discovered in a drainage ditch on Cannock Chase. They were found by a workman who was clearing away some rubbish at Mansty Gulley. The area was sealed off, and a search was started for any clues, for the Police had at least an idea as to the identity of both bodies. Two young girls had previously gone missing, one on 8th September,1965, and the other on 30th December the same year. Margaret Reynolds was the first, just 6 years old, she had vanished on the way to her School, in Aston, Birmingham, just off the A34 Birmingham to Walsall road.


( Her home, pictured in 1968 during the trial, and demolished in 1969 )


During the days following her disappearance, a massive search of the area was carried out by over 2,000 Police, Cadets, and Volunteers. They found nothing, and parents, fearful for their own children, formed groups to escort children where ever they went. The Birmingham Police were still desperately seeking any clues, when the second young girl, Diana Tift, went missing while taking a short walk to her Grandmothers house in Bloxwich, Walsall. She was just 5 years old, and at first she was thought to have merely got lost, but as the time passed, and searchers found no trace of her, this became more unlikely. The dreadful news, that both the bodies had been identified as the missing children, confirmed the view that the area had a serial killer on the loose. Some Newspapers called them the " A34 Murders ", others the " Cannock Chase Murders", but no matter what the name, two very young children were now dead. The only clue the Police of both Counties had, was that a grey car had been seen in the area, shortly before the abductions. Almost 18 months passed, when on 19th August, 1967, Christine Darby, aged 7, was abducted in a grey car from Camden Street, Caldmore, Walsall. This time there were some witness's, other children who had heard the driver ask the young girl for directions, invite her into the car, and then drive off in the opposite direction. The discription fitted either an Austin A55, or the later model A60. From over 1,375.000 records, ( no computers then ) the Police checked 25,000 car registrations and drew a blank. They interviewd over 80,000 people, and visited 39,000 homes, including as it turned out, the possible killer. For the first time a composite picture of the car driver was used, and once again, there was no response. By now, the hunt had become the largest in British history. All the Police could do was wait, and on 22nd August, a man walking on Cannock Chase, found a body underneath a pile of brushwood, less than a mile from where the two other bodies had been found. The similarities were inescapable, but with no solid clues, all anyone could do was plod on and wait. Months went by, but in November 1968, the Police had a stroke of luck, and a young girl had a very fortunate escape. Margaret Aulton, aged 10, was playing in the street when a car pulled up, and the driver tried to lure and pull her into the vehicle. He failed, and the resulting commotion attracted the attention of a young mother nearby, who mentally noted the cars registration number. It was a green and white Ford Corsair, and it was soon traced to a man they had already interviewed, and who lived opposite the main Walsall Police Station in Green Lane. He was of course arrested for the attempted abduction.


Raymond Leslie Morris, was born on 13th August 1929 in Walsall. Discribed by some as a mechanic, he was a complex character. Married at 19, in 1951, he was the father of two boys, and a marriage that was soon in trouble. His strange sexual demands have been blamed for the failure, and after 8 years he threw her out. Divorced in the early 1960s, he re-married in 1964, and went to live at Flat 20, Regent House, Green lane, Birchills, Walsall. as the record shows, just over the road from the Police Station. When he had been arrested, on 4th November,1968, the Police searched his Flat. What they found in a drawer, were some very indecent photographs of a young girl he had taken. They turned to be those of his wifes niece, aged just 5, and he had made the mistake of leaving on his distinctive watch and strap. His wife, faced with such appalling evidence, told Police that the alibi she had given him, for the murder of Christine Darby, was all lies. On the 16th November, he was again arrested, this time by men from Scotland Yard, for the murder of Christine Darby. When his face was compared with the composite, it was found to be a very good match, so why he wasn't recognised earlier is something of a mystery. In 1969, he was found guilty of  the one murder he could be charged with, and given a sentence of life imprisonment. In 2010, he appealed to be released after serving 42 years. It was refused, and since then, he has indicated that he will not appeal again. I can't say I am sorry, this monster should suffer the same fate as the Moors Murderers, and die in prison. You will find the rest of this story in a post in the " Blackcountry Unsolved Murders " section.

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September 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Tipton, Tividale Murder,1902. William Lane, Elizabeth Dyson, Stafford Gallows.


At the junction of Tipton Road, Dudley Road East, and Dudley Road West, Tividale, there used to stand a pristine white painted fingerpost. Before midnight on 26th June, it was fine, but as the clocks struck the bewitching hour, the post was suddenly spattered with blood. At first light could be seen, that a few words had been scrawled in the congealed blood, " Kate Bryan, murdered June 26th,1902." In fact, someone had the facts wrong, there had indeed been a murder, but the victim was Elizabeth Dyson, and she had been most cruelly slain. Even as the curious inhabitants viewed the macabre message, the culprit, William Lane, was already securely in Police custody at Tividale Police Station. Just another midland murder you may think, and so it was, but neither victim or perpetrator came from the area, but one far away.


Elizabeth Dyson had been born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1856, and that was her married name. She had divorced her husband about 7 years before, was possesed of a decent education, and could play the Piano fairly well. Indeed, she had toured the Public Houses of her native Bradford, billed as " Madame George." Divorce wasn't easy at the time, and to gain evidence, Elizabeth had employed the services of a retired Bradford Policeman, William Lane. As sometimes these things do, an attachment grew between them, despite Lane being happily married with two teenage lads. Even his family finding out about his wandering habits failed to end the affair, and whenever he had to go away on an investigation, Elizabeth Dyson went with him. So dismissive of the family feelings on the matter was he, that he even moved her into his home. The family were morally outraged, as any family would be. Under a great deal of pressure, William Lane moved his family a great distance away, to West Bromwich, and they set up a new home at 20, Poplar Avenue. If his wife and sons thought this would end the affair, they were sadly mistaken, for Elizbeth Dyson was an attractive woman, and shortly afterwards, she was back in the new house, William Lane was at it again. His business began to suffer, he took to drinking to much, as did Mrs Dyson, and the rows were incessant. On the 21st June, after an evenings bout of boozing, William had a nasty fight with his sons in which knives were produced, and the fed up family packed and left. The amorous cople were only in the house for a few more days, then upped and left as well, taking lodgings in Sandwell Road, with a Mrs Rogers. She of course knew nothing of the couples business, and as far as she was concerned, they behaved themselves. That is until the night of the 26th, when all hell broke loose.


I suppose in order that the neighbours wouldn't know, they were in the habit of drinking far away from West Bromwich, and on that evening they were in The Vine, in Brierley HIll. They were reported to have left around 7 pm, in good spirits, no doubt having planned a round about route to get home. By 11pm, they had reached the location of the Seven Stars Inn, Dudley Road, Tividale, and an argument between them was in full swing. William Lane was, it appeared to some witness'es, feeling a bit amorous, but Elizabeth was in a different frame of mind, and threatened to go off in the opposite direction. They were last seen heading towards Gypsy Lane, and a few moments later came the sound of a blood curdling screams of murder, then it went quiet. When Benjamin Shakespeare and Jack Richards reached the scene, they were horrified to find the corpse of a woman, with her head almost severed from her body. William Lane was standing calmly by the fingerpost, offered no resistance, and was shortly taken away by the Police. The next day he was transferred to the Central Police Station, Old Hill, to await the verdict of an Inquest.


It goes without saying that he was charged with Wilful Murder, by the coroner, Mr Pearson. At his trial on the 22nd July, it was put to the jury that during his 11 years on Bradford Police Force, he had been struck on the head several times and this had led to him becoming insane. At a previous hearing he had said he been planning to kill her for some time, she had evidently been getting on his nerves. He had also said he was going to kill himself following the murder, but his courage apparently failed him. Found guilty and sentenced to death, he was remarkably calm about it all, and when the day dawned, Tuesday 12th August,1902, he walked steadily to the drop, accompanied by the Billington Brothers. He didn't of course return, justice having been done under the stern eye of the law and Stafford Gallows.



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October 29, 2012 at 4:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Himley, Earl of Dudley, Murder 1807, Bossack, Poachers, William Griffiths, Kingswinford.


Himley Hall, as most will be aware, was the ancestral home of the Lords of Dudley, although at the time of this story, the head of the family was plain Viscount Dudley. The Viscount had an abiding loathing of poachers, and was said to have employed some of the most ruthless Gamekeepers of the period. When caught, they could certainly expect no mercy from the Magistrates, Viscount Dudley was a very powerful man in the circles of the governing elite. Poachers though, were, and quite possibly still are, a hardy breed of tough individuals, and despite the penalties, carried on. The Viscounts estates were vast, and it was impossible to cover all the ground, no matter how many gamekeepers he had, so other methods were adopted. They set Mantraps.


The Viscounts head Gamekeeper, William Griffiths, either designed the traps, or paid a visit to Wednesfield, the centre of trapmaking, for the most powerful they could get. These were placed in areas known to be the points at which the poachers entered, or exited, Himley Woods. They were moved at irregular intervals, and it was a freshly laid trap, that caught a persistant poacher, Ralph Bossack, in 1797. These traps were, as said before, extremely potent, and Bossack was so badly injured, whether by his own hand or surgery, he lost his right leg below the knee. A poor exchange for a brace of Pheasants.


The Bossack family, had for generations, lived in the tiny hamlet of Wall Heath, just up the road a pace or two from Kingswinford. Their Cottage cum small holding, in Prestwood Lane, was a shade on the rundown side, and the few scrawney animals they kept hardly put much on the table, so every now and then, they ' borrowed ' a few of the Viscounts pheasants. The arrival of William Griffiths, and his vicious man traps, had now changed the picture somewhat. One can only guess at the agony that Ralph Bossack must have gone through when that trap slammed shut, and admire the courage as first of all he forced open the jaws, then dragged himself back to the cottage. Griffths and his men were on his trail however, as soon as they found the sprung trap, Bossack had left a trail of blood, right to the place he had choosen to hide, the families pig-stye. His leg heavily bandaged, he was arrested and charged with poaching, then given what medical aid was needed, which of course resulted in the removal of his lower limb. The Assize Judge gave him no mercy, despite losing the leg, he was sentenced to 7 years transportation, and off he went to Western Australia. Old Man Bossack was not, as would be expected, well pleased with this, and quietly vowed to enact some revenge on the Gamekeeper.


The story now skips forward some 10 years, to 1807, and one of the coldest winters anyone could remember. William Griffths was still in charge at Himley Hall, and knowing full well that food would be scarce in the harsh weather, stepped up his patrols to ward off the poachers. Never let it be said he was a stupid man, for he arranged an efficient three shift rota, covering the full 24 hours, 7 days a week. He would rise very early each morning, and personally inspect his patch, to ensure no poaching had occured. One cold December morning, he failed to come back. The other gamekeepers hurriedly organized a search, and it didn't take long to find him. By the weak and stuttering light of a lantern, they found him near to Holbeche Croft, and he wasn't a pretty sight. He had been savagely mutilated with a sickle, and the frozen snow covered ground was red with his blood. If the sight of the blood covered mangled corpse wasn't bad enough, an even worse sight was to come for the searchers. The lantern revealed, that his head was brutally crushed between the powerful jaws of one of the man traps he had so favoured. Someone had made doubly sure the hated Gamekeeper was indeed dead, and made a pointed statement at the same time. But who did it?


In the thin layer of snow, there were some tracks, determind by the local Constable to have been made by a one legged man with a peg leg. And now the superstitions of the locals took over, which was that Ralph Bossack had returned, and carried out his awful revenge. It was taken seriously at first, but enquiries revealed that Ralph had died in Perth, Western Australia, in 1801. Rumours of ghostly figures began to circulate, and having failed to gain any information from the tracks, and Old Man Bossack remaining silent on the matter, there it rested. The family, all except the old man, left the area, and nothing more was heard until another rumour began to spread in 1836. The old man had died in 1827, and the cottage, now derelict, was being pulled down. The story had it, that a workman, dismantling the chimney breast, had found, on a hidden shelf, a smoke-blackened and scorched wooden leg. It was said, with a sly wink, that old man Bossack had indeed had some revenge, and thats why he had died with a grim smile on his face. Well, thats the story anyway, believe the ending or not, whoever killed William Griffiths, was certainly never caught.



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October 30, 2012 at 4:42 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Redditch Murder 1826.Warwick Assizies. George Gardiner, Sarah Kirby.


Elsewhere on the site, you may have read, that someone fleeing justice, caught in a one county, would then be handed back for punishment, ( usually hanging ) only for another county to offer to conduct the proceeding. Expense saved in one, entertainment created in another. This next tale doesn't fit that storyline but it does include a desperate chase across a county, a frantic atempt to escape by train, another dash across country, and finally arrest in another county.


Outhill, is a small spot on the map, just a few miles outside the Town of Redditch, Worcestershire. In 1862, it was just a collection of small farms, one of which, Outhill Farm, was owned by a Mr Edge. At the farm, were Mr Edge's Aunt, a Miss Davis, a young domestic servant, Sarah Kirby, and a Labourer come Gamekeeper, George Gardiner. Now Gardiner's main form of entertainment, after finishing work, was romantically pursuing the attractive Sarah, who, as it turned out, didn't fancy George in the slightest. And she wasn't slow in telling him either. On the 3rd May, 1862, Mr Edge, having made his usual rounds of the Farm, at 9.30am, climbed into his little gig, and set off for the Tamworth Fair, intending to buy some livestock. Miss Davis went about her housework, and young Sarah started to wash clothes. About an hour passed, and then Gardiner appeared in the Kitchen. Still smarting from the rebuff he had received from the youngster, he gruffly asked her to hand him down Mr Edge's Shotgun, from the wall near the sink, as he said he had been ordered to clean it. It was unlikely to be loaded, for Mr Edge was a careful man. He was seen by Miss Davis, to either remove the caps frome the twin nipples to clean them, or more likely, he had loaded the gun, wiped the nipples, and put on two fresh caps. He then, to her horror, levelled the gun at Sarah, who was bending over the sink, and fired both barrels at her. The blast hit her in the neck, and without a sound, she fell to the floor, stone dead. Miss Davis, possibly not realising her danger, remonstrated with Gardiner about what he just done, and then, fled to the Parlour, where she promptly locked and bolted the door. He follwed her and tried to force the door, this failed and he went outside, now with the gun loaded again, and began looking through the window, presumably to fire at her, but she had taken the precaution of hiding. He then took a hammer and smashed open Mr Edge's desk, looking for money, but the Farmer had taken it with him, leaving only 6 pence in a drawer. While he had been searching, Miss Davis had made a run for it, and was now on the way to the next farm, seeking help. George Gardiner had now no choice, but to make a quick escape, the only witness to his crime having already done so.


The local Police were soon on the scene, and with a few of the local Gamekeepers were soon to pursue the culprit. They knew he was armed, for they had discovered that he had also taken a powder flask and shot with him. Word soon arrived that he was headed for nearby Henley in Arden, but Gardiner veered off and went to Wooton Wawen instead, where he caught the Train to Stratford-on Avon. Off went the posse when they learned the news, only to discover that instead of heading for a big City to hide in, he had, so he thought, crafitily got off the train and headed in a different direction. It didn't take the pack behind him long to work out what he had done, and a pursuit across country began. You may think it would be fairly easy to hide yourself in the countryside, but if you bear in mind that everyone in those days knew everyone else, a stranger in their village could not go unnoticed for long. Across the River Stour he went, then across the River Avon, bypassing Welford on Avon, Long Marston, Broad Marston, and with the posse in hot pursuit, holed up in Honeybourne, just across the border in Worcestershire. Exhausted, and with no fight left in him, he was soon captured and taken back to Warwick, where he was charged with the Wilful Murder of Sarah Kirby. Committed to the Assize's, his trial didn't last long, and in front of a large and hostile crowd, outside Warwick Gaol, he was duly hanged on 25th August,1862. Jealousy is a strong emotion I know, and today, he may have got away with pleading temporary insanity, but because of the sheer callous nature of his actions, I believe he got exactly what he deserved.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 15, 2012 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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