Friday, 1 May 2020

The Case of Elizabeth Mary Louisa Kirkbride of Helton, Westmorland, in 1877





Elizabeth Mary Louisa Hayton was born in West Derby, Liverpool, on 24th May 1834 and baptised on 13th August at nearby Sefton, Lancaster. The parents of Mrs. Kirkbride were very respectable people. Her father was the late Mr. John Hayton, a former surveyor in Her Majesty's Customs in Liverpool, who lived at Everton until he retired. Elizabeth got a very good start in life and was privately educated at a lady’s boarding school called Owlet Ash, at Milnthorpe, Westmorland. The head mistress was a Hannah Hayton, a widow, who due to the surname, could well have been a relation of Elizabeth’s father’s family.
Elizabeth’s parents then went to reside in the small village of Helton, near Penrith, in a property her father owned; he was originally from the parish of Barton, Westmorland. This was where he was to die, aged 79 on 26th November 1860 and left probate to the value of under £1,000. Elizabeth Kirkbride was an only child, and after her father's death her mother, Mary Ann (nee Peters Coxon), became afflicted with an illness that confined her to the house. Thomas Kirkbride, who was to marry Elizabeth, had held a situation in the Liverpool borough gaol, and resided in Litherland Park in that city. Their marriage date is unknown, although this was most likely prior to 1856 as they are shown in the 1861 census as living in the Kirkdale area of Liverpool. By then they had three children, Marian, aged 5 years (who would later die), Sydney, than aged 3 years, and Thomas aged 8 months. The husband Thomas’s occupation was given as an ‘Agent of Reformation.’
On 20th August 1864, Thomas, at the age of 35 years, died in the West Ward area of Westmorland, so most likely Helton. It suggests he had a known ailment and had come to the cleaner air of Helton to either recuperate or knew he was dying. Elizabeth had then continued to live with her mother Mary Ann Hayton at Helton, Westmorland until Candlemas 1876, a period of 12 years.
Following her husband’s death, she had most likely fallen upon increasingly hard times and had gone to Langwathby to try and begin a school but had only obtained one pupil and this venture closed; her mother died in February that year. That strain on the family budget may have been caused by an attempt to live a similar lifestyle, rather than cutting the cloth to suit, as a young servant girl called Mary Agnes Forsyth also moved with the family. Whilst at Langwathby she asked a favour of a Mr. Jameson who was the landlord of The Griffin Inn at Penrith. Elizabeth was to eventually return to Liverpool, but just prior to doing so she had paid a carter to take two boxes, a cask, and a hamper, to Penrith and they were stored by Mr and Mrs Jameson, at The Griffin Inn in agreement to that favour.
In the first week of June she arrived at Aintree Station, Liverpool, and left four boxes and a basket at the station whilst she stayed short term at Aughton, near Ormskirk, then Walton, and finally at the premises of Emma Oberti at 21 Sutton Street, Tuebrook, where she joined with her son John Sydney Kirkbride; her other son William was also in lodgings there with her. She returned to Aintree Station on 29th July for the luggage, paying 14s 2d for the warehousing of it.
Some of the trunks at Liverpool were from the Griffin but at least one had been left there. On 25th January 1877 Mr. Jameson and a servant had become concerned at an increasingly bad odour coming from the remaining trunk he had put in the lumber room and because of this it was broken open. What was revealed caused a chain of events that would shock the nation, particularly the communities around North Cumbria and Liverpool. Discovered within an internal box which was opened, was something wrapped up in six or seven different coverings; it was the decomposed remains of an infant, the features of which were not recognisable, but the head was covered with an abundance of white hair. The linen it was wrapped in was very dirty, being saturated with blood. Since June last Mr Jameson has received two letters from Mrs. Kirkbride, addressed from Liverpool. Information was given to the police, and the box from within and body was removed to the police station by Sergeant Fraser. He was present when an inquest was commenced, and the mummified infant on examination appeared to have a tight knotted ligature round its neck which the doctor could not put his fingers behind. After the conclusion of the inquest, and at the request if the doctor, Sergeant Fraser then emptied the remaining contents of the trunk and examined the rest of the property within. On doing so, and to his horror, a second mummified body was found in another section which appeared to have had its throat cut and a heavy weight appearing to have crushed the infant. A second inquest was then held and a verdict of, ‘Found Dead’ was recorded. A warrant was issued for Mrs. Kirkbride’s arrest for having concealed the birth of a child.
At 10:45pm on 28th January 1877 Elizabeth Kirkbride was detained by Sergeant Robinson at 21 Sutton Street, Tuebrook, on the warrant issued at Penrith. She had said, “There must be a mistake as to the date.” but asked if she could leave a note to her son, which told him to do as well as he could while she returned to Penrith and she would be back in a few days. She told the sergeant that she would go quietly, as she expected the matter would be hushed up when she got to Penrith, and she also wished to keep it as secret as possible at Tuebrook, as no one knew anything about it there. He then held her at the police station at Old Swan, Liverpool.
On 29th January Mrs Oberti found that Mrs. Kirkbride had unexpectedly left, although her luggage was still on the premises. Originally, when she had arrived in June, she did not have it and appeared to Mrs Oberti to be unsettled until it arrived in July. Mrs. Kirkbride’s two sons had gone about their business and on the return of Sydney she questioned him as to the whereabouts of his mother and he informed her that she had needed to go to Penrith. Mrs. Oberti was missing a coat and he said he would see that she was righted. The son broke open one of the boxes and found a strong smell and rags inside. He then took it into his bedroom, had dinner and then broke open the other box; again, no coat of his landlady was inside. Later, Mrs. Oberti saw the boxes in the room and opened one and a terrible stench was revealed to her. She took it into the yard and, calling Sydney they turned the box out. On seeing the contents, they were horrified and quickly replaced them, and a police officer was called. When Sergeant Shepherd and Constable Griffiths attended, at the bottom was revealed a quantity of small bones and a shelly substance. They then undid a bundle of rags and a package of wrapped paper; inside was what appeared to be a small doll; it was a further mummified infant corpse. Without disturbing the contents further, the officers removed the box to the mortuary and Dr. Pitts was called to examine the bodies.
The next day the box was inspected by the doctor and Inspector Walsh. They first found the body of an intact but mummified child, then a second headless body and separate skull, and finally bones in the base of the box, a total of three dead children. The inspector then went to the police station where Elizabeth Kirkbride was still detained and said to her, “In addition to the charge already against you, namely, that of concealing the birth of two children found in a box at Penrith, you will be further charged with concealing the birth of three other children, which we have found in a box at your lodgings in Sutton Street”. She replied, "Yes. they are all my children; I admit that I concealed them and neglected them, but I deny that I murdered any of them”. The inspector would tell the courts that he had made no mention to her of murder. An inquest was held at Liverpool and an Open Verdict was recorded.
On the night of 1st February Inspector Walsh received a message that she wished to speak to him in the cell, so accompanied by two other officers he did so. She said to him, "Yes; I want to tell you the father of all the children I am here about. His name is Thomas Moss; he is a tea and ham and bacon dealer at Askham, near Penrith. He is the only man I have had anything to do with in any way, and I think it is only right that he should be exposed, as it is entirely by his persuasion that I am placed as I am. He has always promised me that he would make me his wife and instead of doing so, when he was in a position, he married another." He took the statement into writing, read it to her, and she agreed it was correct.
In the Magistrates hearing at Penrith in early February the above evidence and inquest results and statements of Mrs. Kirkbride were given. Present was Mr. Smith, a solicitor who was acting on the interests of Thomas Moss. He asked to say something on his behalf, namely to prevent the press prejudicing public opinion against his client, but the magistrates stopped this saying that at present, it was not evidence against him, but it was so against Mrs. Kirkbride.
At the Magistrates hearing at Penrith, Dr. Pitts had attended and said he had found that the first body was that of a child who had been dead at least two years. Around its neck was a tightly tied rag. The second body had the head detached, and the third was just bones and had clearly been dead longer than the other two corpses. It was impossible for him to give an age to the first mummy, but the other skeletal remains were of a newborn child. Crucially, he could not confirm if any of the children had actually lived.
Mary Agnes Forsyth was a domestic servant, and at the time of the magisterial hearings she was residing near Burnley. She said that about eleven or twelve years ago she was in the service of Mrs. Hayton of Helton for about twelve months and had moved with them to Langwathby. The prisoner (Mrs. Kirkbride, nee Hayton) at that time resided with her mother and kept a school. She remembered one Sunday evening at Helton when the prisoner was in bed with a child. She could not state the age of that child, but it was a young child and able to walk about. The other inmates were not in bed at the time. She could not remember what time in the evening it was. The prisoner was not well during the day and was in bed. She herself heard a cry, and the sound was like the cry of an infant. Mary said she was very young at the time, about twelve years of age. She mentioned the circumstance to her mother soon after. The Chairman questioned this point, asking whether she meant to say it was the voice of a child other than the one which could walk? She replied, ‘I think so, but it is so long since I can’t remember very well’.
William Ernest Kirkbride, another son now 18 years old, gave the court some family background following his father’s death. He lived at Helton with his paternal grandmother Mrs. Hayton. He occasionally visited his mother at Helton, who lived in the village with her mother also. About 5 or 6 years ago he and his brother Alfred had found a tied white bag on a midden heap at his mother’s garden and when he had opened it there was the mummified body of an infant inside. He told his grandmother and two aunts, but they said not to speak of it and not to go back. He disobeyed and did return, where found the body now under a little earth; they mounded more soil over it. When they went to reside at Langwathby, his mother had taken a tin box in the cab with her. After the discoveries of these bodies at Penrith, then Liverpool, he was visited by the police and he then showed them the place in the garden at Helton where he had last seen the infant’s body. Constable Reid said that he had dug up some bones, but on medical examination they were not the bones of a child.
This concluded the evidence and after the prisoner declined to call any witnesses, or make any statement on her own behalf, she was then committed on the concealment charge to Westmorland Assizes, which were to be held on Wednesday 21st of the month.
At the Assizes court the judge Mr. Baron Huddleston opened the court and commented in particular on the contrast to 1875 when there were neither any matters of crime, nor civil litigation. Here however were four people on serious charges, three were of bigamy, arson, and forgery. The fourth case against Elizabeth Kirkbride was the most serious and was of the concealment of five infant bodies in her luggage boxes and most likely the further concealment of another, which had not been found at the home at Helton. He took particular time to describe to the Grand Jury the circumstances and that the bodies were so far decomposed that the medical men had been unable to say how they had met their deaths, or whether any were born and lived separate lives from the mother. He accepted that it was only due to this vagueness of evidence that the magistrates had put her forward on a charge of concealment of births only, and not a far more serious charge. It was decided to go ahead with three charges of concealment, one being the undiscovered child at Helton, one being a body found concealed in a box at The Griffin, Penrith, and one being found at Tuebrook, Liverpool. She wore a thick veil over her face, which the judge told her to remove, and she did but kept her eyes locked to the floor. The case itself was to be heard by Mr. Justice Manisty the next day but after discussion with the counsel for the defence, Elizabeth Mary Louisa Kirkbride, aged 41 years, pleaded Guilty there and then to all three charges.
The next day Mr. Justice Manisty sentenced her saying,
“You have pleaded guilty of concealing the bodies of three of your children. You have done so no doubt because you knew perfectly well that there was not a shadow of doubt as to the course you had pursued, at all events, as regards concealing their birth, and I much fear you know a great deal more. About twelve years ago your husband died, and you would then be not quite thirty years of age, and during the interval that has elapsed since that event, you have perpetrated crime after crime with regard to your own offspring. You have acted as a mother so inhuman that the case is almost without a parallel, and you confess that you have acted in a manner which no humane person, still less a mother of her own offspring, could possibly have acted - at least one would have thought so. Well, during that short period of time it is clear upon the evidence that has been given that you have acted in that manner towards at least five of your children. It may be that is not all in respect of whom you have so conducted yourself, and it has been a matter of grave and serious consideration by my brother judge, Mr Baron Huddleston, and by myself, as to whether this was not a case in which you should have been tried for murder. It is only after grave considerations and seeing the difficulties, technical more than substantial, but difficulties of such a nature and in all probability a conviction—in point of law and with regard to the rules of evidence—could not have been obtained, that it was deemed wiser and more prudent not to prepare a bill for murder. But I have read the depositions carefully, and l am bound to say that morally I have no doubt, neither has the learned judge before whom you were arraigned yesterday any doubt morally, that you have been guilty of violence towards those children, when they were alive. In three cases out of five it is perfectly clear that violence was resorted to, and in two cases there is evidence and there are clear marks of violence which would have caused death, and it is difficult to arrive at the conclusion that that violence was not used and resorted to while they were alive, because one can scarcely find, in fact, I cannot discover any reason why in two cases cord was tied around the necks of those children deep enough and tight enough to cause death. You must answer to your own conscience whether you did tie those cords and did cause the death of those children. The punishment which I am about to inflict is far short of that which would have been inflicted had you been tried for and convicted of murder. At the same time l am going to pass a severe sentence. In another of the cases there are marks of fearful and awful violence, the head severed front the body of the child, and you know that the umbilical cord had been improperly tied. Again it may be that circumstances would have prevented a conviction for murder of that child, but what I cannot for a moment doubt is that you are party to the most inhuman act of which a human being can be capable. I therefore feel that it is a case in which I ought to pronounce a sentence upon each of the three indictments to which you have pleaded guilty, and the sentence will be one of imprisonment with hard labour, for a period of time which makes it a sentence of great severity. I have come to the conclusion, and my learned brother judge entirely agrees with me, that we ought in this case to mark it by something more than the extreme punishment which is awarded in the case of a conviction for one of concealment,—the extreme punishment for one case being two years' imprisonment with hard labour. But to mark the sense we entertain of this case we must add something to that. Two years is a very severe sentence; but to mark the sense we entertain of this case, I now pass sentence on you of nine months' imprisonment in the case of each of the three indictments to which you plead guilty. That in the aggregate will be two years and three months with hard labour. The second term will commence at the expiration of the first, and the third will commence at the expiration of the second. I only wish to make one observation, which, perhaps, I ought to make not with respect to you, but what is reported to have fallen from my brother yesterday. He did not for a moment mean to convey the notion that he had not read the depositions sufficiently to deal with the case, because he was prepared to deal with it to the extent of sending in a bill for murder, if it had been found advisable, but it was not the right course to take, unless it had been in some manner suggested by the grand jury, who carefully investigated the case. It must not be thought for a moment that he and I had not studied the case with the greatest anxiety”.
The prisoner, who maintained a demeanour of greatest composure throughout, was then removed.
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The mitigation put forward by Mrs Kirkbride was that Thomas Moss of Askham had promised to marry her and in the end disregarded this promise and married another woman. Quite rightly the courts of the day would have been wrong to have accepted this at its face value, made by a woman who the evidence showed had most likely killed at least six of her own offspring, many newborn. Following the passage of time, it is now perhaps worth dispassionately and logically considering the evidence for the likelihood of that allegation. Thomas appears to have been born in the second quarter of 1838 the son of the head blacksmith to the Lowther Estate and himself moved into that trade. Due to eye trouble he had to relinquish this and instead took up the tea and bacon trade, taking on a premise in Askham and erecting a grocery establishment. He would later add to this with a newsagents and post office; Askham is only one mile from Helton. He was a 25 or 26-year-old single man when Thomas Kirkbride had died in 1864; Elizabeth would have been around 28 years old and of course well educated, so would have borne herself well and was of good education. The circumstances were certainly there for a relationship to develop in a close community and Elizabeth would find advantage in re-marrying with a man to provide for her and her family; she was a widow, but a young widow. Against this of course is that any promise of marriage, one would have expected to have been honourably carried out upon her becoming pregnant with her first illegitimate child; no marriage occurred of course, yet the pregnancies continued. It is possible however, that Thomas, as a provisions dealer, was aiding Elizabeth in the maintenance of her and her children, perhaps also her extended family, and himself gained a personal ‘benefit’ for that. It has to be considered that Elizabeth would fall upon hard times, with her children, mother, and mother-in-law, dependant on anything she could obtain. Her mother-in-law and the aunts had cautioned the boy William Ernest about returning to the body he had found, so were fully aware of the deaths, and acquiesced to them; her own mother had to be similarly aware and remain quiet about the births and deaths. Why would they do that unless they all benefitted from any immoral, but perhaps necessary arrangement for their wellbeing and provision? It was either that or possibly the workhouse for them all if this possible state of affairs ended. The other notable point to consider is that finally Thomas married another woman in the second quarter of 1875 and any association with Elizabeth would likely end, as would any assistance he had provided her. It is just after this time that she tries to gain remuneration by teaching, although that failed; perhaps that was out of dire need. Finally, she reached the stage of living with her two sons, John Sydney, and William Ernest, who was now 18 years old, in Tuebrook.
Thomas Moss’s marriage did not last long, his first wife, Jessie Loban died at Askham on 27th May 1877; they had no children. He remarried Frances (Fanny) Rose in November 1887 and they had one daughter, Annie Rebecca, born in the first quarter of 1889. He outlived his second wife Fanny, who died in the second quarter of 1920 aged 72 years; he also outlived their only child who had earlier died in the third quarter of 1914 aged 25 years. He died on 24th April 1924 at the age of 85 years and was buried at Askham on Monday 28th.
Of Elizabeth Mary Louisa Kirkbride, (nee Hayton) it is difficult to conclusively establish what happened to her. An Elizabeth Kirkbride died at West Derby (Liverpool area) in the first quarter of 1881, aged 41 years. The age is perhaps younger than expected, but that discrepancy was not uncommon for those early days of registration, which began nationally in 1837.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Margaret Messenger 1881 – Sprunston, Durdar.


Sprunston, just south of Durdar, near Carlisle
 At 1pm on the afternoon of Tuesday 28th June 1881, at Sprunston, Blackwell High, near Durdar, Carlisle, it was realised that three-year-old John Mark Pallister was missing from the family home. He had been with his father in the kitchen, but Mr. Pallister had dozed after dinner and when he woke the child was no longer present. A search was quickly mounted by the family. The servant, 13-year-old Margaret Messenger went to the well with a water tin to fetch water. She found the child drowned at the bottom and quickly alerted Mr. Pallister. An inquest was convened that afternoon at Sprunston and after hearing the circumstances the jury reached a verdict of ‘Accidentally Drowned’.

Margaret was the daughter of the foreman at the nearby chalk quarries and had worked for the Pallister family only from 9th June; she was regarded as an intelligent girl who was engaged to look after the three children and do minor household chores. They had one other servant, a lad called George Haffen, who did farm work.

At about 8am on 2nd July Mr. and Mrs. Pallister left the children, Margaret Hodgson (5yrs) and an infant Mary Elizabeth Pallister, in the care of Margaret while they went into Carlisle. She was instructed to strictly care for the children and not to do any work. George was working in a field approximately 100 yards from the house hoeing potatoes, and at about 10am he heard the baby cry, which he placed little importance to. Shortly, five-year-old Margaret Hodgson, the oldest child, shouted that he had to come, saying a man had taken the baby. He then spoke to Margaret Messenger who repeated this account saying the man had left and went in the direction of the orchard and well. He himself thought they were joking, but checked and found no man, nor any sight of the child. He continued with his work. About half an hour later he then saw Margaret Messenger carrying the body of the infant across a field called Lamb Close, with the five-year-old following her. It was now around 11:30am and a neighbour called Mrs. Story, was quickly called from her house 300 yards away. She found Margaret Messenger stood over the body in a yard and also noticed the front of the body was dirty and wet, but the back was dry; the body was still warm to touch. She asked Messenger what had happened and was told the same account of the man by her. When asked, she added that the baby was found near the well in a pool with a big stone on top of its head. Mrs. Story accused her of lying, saying that she had done this. Mr. Story had returned from Carlisle and guarded her in the house, which he had now locked her in. He also questioned Messenger she now stated that she had fallen asleep while nursing the child in the Lamb Close field and when she woke the child was not there. This further alerted his suspicions as the child could not have walked to where it was ‘found’ by Messenger. She showed him the place, which was a boggy piece of ground just below the well. He confronted her, stating that there were a lot of footprints of her clogs, but none made by any man, and a mark existed where a stone had been lifted, with further clog marks of hers present at that location. She then burst out crying, saying she would tell him the truth, but he warned her to keep it for the authorities. The Pallister’s later returned to learn of this second tragic death of another child.

Superintendent Sempill was called and attended at 6pm. He asked Mrs. Story to retrieve the clogs and clothing worn by Messenger that day. She went with the servant to her room and asked her to tell her the truth. After hesitating, Margaret Messenger then admitted that she had done this terrible deed. The Superintendent was called to the room and Mrs Story told Messenger to repeat to him what she had told her. The Superintendent realised something significant would be said and cautioned her; she then repeated her admission to causing the death of the infant, which he took down into writing. She stated that she had put the child in the bog and no one helped her. He then had plaster casts made of the clog prints near the scene, for later production at court as evidence. Margaret Messenger was then arrested on suspicion of murder.

On Monday 4th July an inquest was commenced at the family home, but adjourned, awaiting the result of the post-mortem. Messenger was further remanded by the magistrates after the inquest adjournment. Doctors. Moffat and Brown conducted a post-mortem and were able to later state that the cause of death was suffocation when immersed in mud. The inquest was reconvened on Monday 11th at The White Quey Inn, Durdar and the verdict was one of Murder of the infant. She remained on remand at the gaol and her mother allowed to pay her a visit.

The trial took place at the Assizes court which sat on Wednesday 2nd November 1881 and the above evidence was given. Mr. Page was one of the prosecuting barristers and then went on to outline the possible defences to a charge of murder. Three were quickly discounted as not feasible:

·        If a man took the child where were his footprints?

·        The child could have fallen into the pool and drowned, but no water was in the lungs.

·        If the child had fallen from someone’s arms into the bog, who had carried it there? If it were the prisoner, why had she not merely lifted it back out?

He then paid particular attention to a fourth defence in that it had not been proved that the child had Guilty Knowledge’. He had earlier spoken at the start of the trial on this subject. A person under seven years could not have such Guilty Knowledge to commit a crime, neither could a child between seven and fourteen but in this older child that was only a prima facie presumption that could be rebutted, if such Guilty Knowledge could be shown. Had the child done the deed and then openly stated she had killed the infant then Guilty Knowledge would be difficult to show. In this case a murder had taken place and means had been used to prevent the truth being found out. The question for the jury was one whether this constituted that Guilty Knowledge to what she was doing was wrong.

The Messenger family were from the parish of Rosley, near Wigton, and the vicar and also the schoolteacher gave good character references for Margaret as an attentive and kindly girl, the schoolmaster had placed her in charge of his own children.

There then followed a spirited plea to the jury by the defence, before the judge summarised the case. He reminded the jury it was not their prerogative to show mercy, but that it was their sworn duty to ensure justice was done, based upon the evidence presented. He then summarised the evidence, touching on the issue of possible motives and defences. The jury retired for only ten minutes and returned to the courtroom with a verdict of Guilty with a plea to mercy on account of her age. The learned judge then had a terrible duty to perform, for there was only one sentence he could pass. He donned the black cap and said:

‘Margaret Messenger, you have been found Guilty, after a very careful and long trial, of the heinous crime of murder. Your life is now at the mercy of the Queen’s prerogative alone. I shall not prolong the misery, agony, and pain of you and all who have heard this case by one word of reproach to you. My solemn oath is to pass upon you the dread sentence of the law. That is, that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and that your body be afterwards buried in the precincts of the prison in which you shall have been last confined after your conviction, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.’

The judge himself was much affected by the sentence he had to pass on this fourteen-year-old girl. Margaret was removed to the goal and appeals were submitted to the Home Office, for consideration by the Crown. The early appeal pointed out that Margaret now showed remorse for her deeds and had written a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Pallister for murdering two of their children, saying also that God had forgiven her as she now hoped they would also. She also said that she hoped a new servant would serve them better than she had done.  She was examined by Dr. Orange, of the Broadmoor Asylum and Dr. MacDougall, the Carlisle Gaol surgeon, with a view to ascertain her state of mind. Dr. Orange reported to the Home Office and on Tuesday 13th December Mr. Haverfield, the Carlisle Gaol Governor, received that commutation of the death sentence to one of penal servitude for life.

The Messenger family had lived at Chalk Foot, Cumdivock, between Curthwaite and Dalston; Margaret was born there in 1867 and spent her childhood in that area. After penal servitude she was released in December 1891 from Woking prison and is then known to have lived with her younger brothers, George and Joseph, at Howrigg, at Woodside, Rosley, and was employed as a dressmaker. In 1939 she is known to be living about a mile from that location at Howend Cottages, Thursby, now on her own. It is believed she lived to the age of 91, dying as a spinster in 1959 in the Wigton area, which Howend would be part of.

Further information has been volunteered from local people and the house is believed to have been the second one at Howend, as you travel towards Thursby roundabout, from Cockermouth. It was said that the only book she read was the Holy Bible. Children who passed on the way to school were told to hurry by her house, which they did, but never knew why.

Howrigg and Howend, near Thursby, west of Carlisle.


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Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The 1854 visitation of a shoal of whales to the Solway Firth coastline


On Saturday 16th December 1854 an event of marine nature began to unfold which would culminate in a gruesome but welcome harvest for both the Scottish and English communities of the Solway Firth coastline. On that day, fishermen were plying their trade in the Irish sea when they became surrounded by masses of whales, up to 30 feet in length, and these sailors were in fear of being capsized. The creatures, which were visible as far as the eye could see and estimated in news reports as in their thousands, appeared to be in a state of exhaustion.
 Through the night they were swept by the tide into the Solway Firth and the coastal residents were alarmed by the sounds emanating across the shores of Dumfriesshire and Cumberland. The Crimean war was underway and local people even speculated to the sound being a Russian invasion. The morning however was to enlighten them to an unlooked for but welcome bounty of meat and oil, which would both feed the communities and lighten their lamps for years to come. The greatest number were thrashing at the ebb of the tide and in a state of exhaustion, and were stretched out from Annan Waterfoot, to Sarkfoot, although the greatest number were near Browhouses, Eastriggs; the largest was estimated at 40 feet in length. The local population fell upon the creatures, described as 'conductor' or 'calling' toothed whales from the northern oceans, with any form of cutting tool that could be utilised to kill, then strip the skin and blubber from the carcasses. The largest fought against the impending death and resisted the crowds eager to kill it. One man unwisely climbed onto its tail to prevent the animal from thrashing about and was thrown 20 yards along the shoreline from a single flick. The slaughter continued despite there initially being insufficient horses to draw the creatures higher up the beach, and many were left in the sea with their throats cut to be thrown onto the sands with the next incoming tides, when more horses had by then been acquired. The oil bounty was estimated at a quart for every 4Ibs of blubber rendered in the cooking pots. 
By the Tuesday over 200 of the creatures had been slaughtered in Annan and other places, with the subsequent rendered oil selling at between 4 and 6 shillings a gallon, dependent on quality. This was valued at £600, a typical wage of the time would have been £1. In Silloth Bay alone 20 were killed, with others being taken at Port Carlisle, Bowness, Cardornock, and several other places along the coast. It was said that had more people been at hand many more could have been killed, although between 300 and 400 people had been engaged in the Annan harvest. One whale, presumably that had been landed at Port Carlisle, was exhibited at Carlisle and drew large crowds, unused to such a sighting of a creature of the depths.

Image taken from The Illustrated London News depicting Silloth Bay.


On Thursday 28th December a business opportunity presented itself when one of the whales, which was 20 feet in length, was seen floating dead off the West Pier. The tug brought it on shore at the old quay and it was put on public display in a temporary shed at a fee of 2d per head, from which the tug owners recouped a considerable sum of money. A further whale was washed ashore at the ship building yard of the town.
This mass beaching was considered as one of, if not the greatest, landing of whales upon the shores of the nation that had ever been encountered. Scientific speculation abounded at the reasons for such a beaching. One was that they had followed the herrings which were, some time previous, found in abundance in the Firth, but none were found in the stomach contents. Another was that they had been frightened from the native grounds by tremendous storms that had recently passed over India and the Crimea. The most likely theory settled upon was that of some submerged volcano would have stunned and stupefied them, only to be caught in the current which sets around the Isle of Man, which would speedily carry them into the Solway. 
Further whale sightings would occur in the firth; four of 30 feet length, were sighted in July 1860 between Ross and Abbeyburn, but returned back to sea; on Sunday 13th July 1862 a number were seen at Brow Pow (Powfoot?), near Brow Well, Dumfries, although they returned to the ocean. In July 1863 the shores of Dumfriesshire were again visited by whales, with 6 beaching near Priestside; all 6 were killed and rendered to extract the valuable oil. A further one was landed a month later at nearby Waterfoot. Single whales or small shoals continued to be sighted in the late 1800's, but none ever came close to matching the huge shoal of December 1854.

**Taking into account the image, the whales were toothed and from the 'northern oceans', their main size of up to 30 feet in length and the name of conductor or calling whales, there seems little doubt that these were sperm whales. This was a term not commonly referred to in the early and mid 1800's, although some references exist. The term comes from an oily waxy substance within the whales head used for echo location called spermaceti and could be up to 1,900 litres. That 'echo' was most likely the 'conductor' or 'calling' sound the creatures made.**
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Sunday, 12 January 2020

The Fatal Seathwaite Tarn Riot of 1904

The Duddon Valley was eulogised by Wordsworth in his 33 sonnets that tracked the Duddon from its source to its estuary in the Irish Sea, finishing then with a valedictory one that was voted as one of the BBC viewers favourite 100 poems. Along its journey he describes the beauty of the river, its surroundings, the tranquillity of its setting, and the people who live on its banks; Particular reference is inferred to Robert Walker 1709 - 1802, the vicar at Seathwaite Church.

The Stepping Stones, near Seathwaite village, the subject of the 9th sonnet, which continues into the 10th.
Seathwaite Tarn, Duddon Valley, looking northwest. The curve at the far end is caused by the dam.


The River Duddon near Seathwaite
It was however not always to be so tranquil as the events of 25 July 1904 show. A large number of navvies were employed in the Barrow Waterworks dam construction at Seathwaite Tarn, in the Duddon Valley. It was to supply drinking water for the Furness area and was to be nearly 400 yards long. A serious disturbance occurred, three men were reported being seriously injured and special drafts of the North Lancashire Constabulary were sent to Ulpha to quell the riot, leading to six persons being arrested. The incident was apparently started when the landlord of the Newfield Hotel refused to serve alcoholic drink to about seven navvies who then threatened to kill him, smashing the windows to the premises and later to the church, vicarage and school. Although now in the county of Cumbria this area was Lancashire at the time, Cumbria being an amalgamation in 1972, following boundary changes of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire of which Barrow, Ulverston and Duddon were part; hence the references to prisoners of Lancashire Constabulary.

On the morning of 27 July 1904, at the Police Courts at Ulverston Thomas Dawson(the landlord of The Newfield Inn at Seathwaite, Duddon Valley) stood in the dock with James Greenhow, a young barman at those premises and Henry Knox Dodd, an engineer of Glasgow and the assistant engineer at the namesake's tarn dam. All were charged with offences following a serious disturbance on 25th at Seathwaite. Dawson was charged with unlawfully wounding James Foy, 33 years by shooting him in the leg, Greenhow was alleged to have shot Garrett Kinsella, 23 years, in the shoulder; and Dodd with shooting in the leg a 25 year old Millom Labourer named Owen Kavanagh; he died of the injury the next day at around noon. Owen was a native of Millom, the son of John and Jane Kavanagh, both parents originated from Ireland. In 1899 Owen had joined the North Lancashire Regiment and in 1901 had been based Southampton. He had minor brushes with the police in Millom for drunkenness. These offences were in April 1899, July 1901, and March 1902.
The three accused had been charged at Broughton Police Station and transferred to Ulverston by train under the escort of Inspector Hume and a contingent of officers. They were accompanied by Mr Butler, a solicitor from Broughton, who oversaw their interests. All three stood in the dock although the charges against Greenhow and Dawson stood separately to the one Dodd faced. Only one witness, John Thomas Standing, a driver at Seathwaite Waterworks was called to initially give evidence. He stated that at about 2:40 pm on the afternoon of Monday 25 July he had seen six or seven men damaging the windows at Seathwaite Church and School. He was tackled by them but managed to break away and fled to the Newfield Hotel where he found that damage had previously been caused to the hotel windows. Few were left undamaged and the rioters then returned. He went on to give evidence that the rioters shouted 'If you do not open the door we will bash it in' and Foy threw a huge cobble through a glass pane. He stated the position was so serious that Greenhow fired a shot from a distance of ten yards which felled Kinsella. This did not stop the attack and Foy threatened the landlord Dawson who then fired from a distance of only five yards, hitting Foy in the leg, and Foy was carried into an out-house to be attended to.
Their solicitors (Dawson was represented by Mr Wilson Butler of Broughton) in their defence, pointed out that this was an important piece of evidence in that it showed that despite the use of a gun and the subsequent injury to Kinsella, the rioters had not been put off their concerted attack on the premises. Present in the hotel bar at the time was Mrs Dawson, also Miss Dawson, and some girls who were at serious risk of being killed by missiles flung through the windows. When stones were not readily to hand, wood and iron spouting was used. Thomas Standing said that the use of guns was the last resort for those defending the hotel.
Standing was further cross examined by Mr Bradshaw who represented Dodd. Through this cross examination Standing summarised the whole of the event stating that Greenhow fired the first shot, then Dodd shot, and later Dawson. Greenhow's shot felled Kinsella and although he lay on the ground wounded, the attack continued. He further stated that Kavanagh was a dangerous man, and he was leading the attack. Dodd asked him repeatedly to desist but Kavanagh continued with his threats and stone throwing. Dodd was simply protecting the premises, and it was necessary to use a firearm. Two other Millom men arrested at that time were discharged as no evidence of identification was offered to the court. It was also clear from later events in the tale that other men were wanted but had not yet been apprehended; this would later transpire to be a considerable period of time.
After an hours' evidence Superintendent Whittaker asked for a remand for a fortnight due to Foy's injury and further stated that it may be necessary to amputate his leg; however, the three accused were remanded on bail to the sum of £50 and two sureties of £25 each.

To take a step back and consider how this must have appeared to the residents of High Duddon in such a sleepy backwater of the nation; to have been the scene of a riot where their hotel, school, beloved church and vicarage, had suffered such riotous damage was incredulous. Coupled with the fact that shotguns had been fired, one man seriously injured with one dead, was beyond belief but for the evidence of their own eyes in seeing this trail of devastation. Great sympathy went out for the men charged, yet it was also extended to John Kavanagh, the father of Owen, who had travelled the road to Seathwaite, following news of his sons death. 
Accounts at the time further noted that the Newfield Hotel was also the Post Office for the area, and any attack upon the Royal Mail was a serious matter.

Police proceedings could not continue on 27th July without the opening of the inquest which was to commence an hour later, at Newfield Hotel, Seathwaite, Duddon. The coroner and the jury had the opportunity of viewing at first hand the damage in the hamlet caused by the riot. John Kavanagh identified the body of his son, along with a Patrick Delaney. Dr Fawcett of Broughton gave evidence to the inquest that the thigh bone had been shattered by No. 6 shot, stating that Owen had been conscious almost to the last but had never made a statement. The inquest was then adjourned until 16 August.
When the coroner recommenced the inquest, the Magistrates court hearing had by this time decided that Henry Knox Dodd should be acquitted of the charge of shooting Kavanagh dead. He now gave evidence to the inquest that he was cycling by the Newfield Hotel when he dismounted to enquire why the windows were broken. He was told by Miss Dawson that some men had done it and it was at this point four ruffians came out of the kitchen and demanded a sovereign from him. After  going home he returned, got a gun from the kitchen, and went into a new room being built on the side of the hotel. He was questioned:
Q 'Why did you shoot the man in the hip?'
A 'I could not get any lower'
Q 'Why did you not shoot his hand, or where you would not have killed him?'
A 'I was not quite sure where I was going to hit him'
Q You could have shot his right hand'
A 'No sir, he was swinging it'

In the inquest summary the coroner he was clearly critical of the Lancashire Constabulary when he said it was extraordinary that those responsible for the peace in the county, knowing that a licensed house and the number of men working in the district posed an obvious disorder risk, did not take better precautions to prevent such a rising. He then informed the jury on a point of law, stating that if Dodd fired in protecting the house and inmates against rioting and felony it would be justified, but if carelessly, recklessly or wantonly, then he must be committed for manslaughter (At the Assizes.)
The jury returned a similar verdict to that of the Magistrates, namely one of 'Justifiable Homicide.'

On September 13th Garrett Kinsella was released from hospital where he had been treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder. On Saturday 5th November 1904, he pleaded guilty at Lancaster Assizes to the offence of riotous conduct and was sentenced to 9 months hard labour by Mr. Justice Phillimore. The Judge stated that had it not been for the injuries the rioters had suffered, he would have sentenced him to penal servitude. Garrett had been in trouble with the police in the course of his young life. At the age of 16 he had been sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for breaking into Phillips greengrocers in Millom, with two others. In March 1902 he and Owen Kavanagh failed to answer to a drunk and disorderly offence in Millom and warrants were issued. At Lancaster Quarter Sessions in October 1903 he had absconded when wanted for a burglary offence in the Broughton area and was apprehended and sentenced in February 1904. Even after the riot he was still failing to answer to his bail for a Drunk and Disorderly in March 1909.

On Thursday 26 January 1905 at Lancaster Assizes Court, James Foy appeared charged in connection with the riot at Seathwaite. He had since had the injured leg amputated at Ulverston Union Infirmary on Wednesday 10th August and was now to shortly undergo another operation as the first was not a great success. He pleaded Guilty and recognised that the offence was caused by alcoholic drink; he had since taken The Pledge, whilst in hospital. He was sentenced to one day's imprisonment, the judge recognising that he had to pass a lawful sentence of imprisonment, but the calamity he had brought upon himself by his criminal act, was more punishment than he should pass on him, by use of the law. 

On 13 July 1905 members of the Barrow Corporation visited the Duddon Valley to inspect the waterworks, noting the good progress that had been made in the laying of over 17 miles of pipes from the intake works. It was expected that the dam would be fully constructed and in operation by the autumn of 1906. This would give the tarn an area of 30 acres. An added advantage to the dam construction was the new road from Seathwaite to the tarn itself. The dam builders, Messrs. Kennedy's Limited of Glasgow, had constructed this and it was appreciated by the carters of the area. 

The riot investigation was to continue and on 29 November 1905 at North Lonsdale Magistrates Court, James Burns and Thomas Burns (they bore the same surname but were not related) were placed in the dock on a charge of rioting on 25 July 1904. Superintendent Whittaker told the court that the police had scoured the country for the two men and Thomas had given himself up at Newcastle; James Burns had been arrested the previous day at Askam-in-Furness, Lancashire. It was noted that both looked to be in a poor and haggard state. They were each remanded for a week.
Evidence of identification had been provided by no less than eight witnesses, one of whom was Miss Dawson.
A PC Demmsey of Newcastle gave evidence that he had been approached on the street by Thomas Burns who said to him "I am sick of it" The officer asked what he meant by it and Burns stated that he was wanted on warrant by Lancashire County Police in connection with the Seathwaite Riot adding further "I have been out of work and am afraid to go back. When handed over to PC Dunn of Askam, he said to this officer on the train "I remember being at the public house, but I don't remember rioting, I was so drunk. I had gone to Seathwaite to seek work when I met Foy and my brother, and I went back to the public house."
At 1 am  on 28 November, James Burns was arrested by Inspector Hogg of Millom (Cumberland) at the Ironwork's Pier, Millom. He said to the inspector, "I can soon clear myself of the Seathwaite job if I can only get my witnesses. I should like to know who has given me away."  James Burns was handed over to Inspector Hulme (Lancashire).
When asked at the Magistrates Court whether they wished to say anything, Thomas replied 'No' but James asked that his brother John be called as a witness. John's evidence was that he and James had gone to Seathwaite to look for work, leaving Millom at about 7:30 am and arriving at Seathwaite at about ten to one. They went into the Newfield Hotel and had one pint of beer and after about ten minutes the landlord came into the room and put Foy out. He went on to say that Foy went quietly but returned again for his beer. Thomas Burns, himself and brother went out quietly but Foy was struggling with another person who went back into the Hotel. Foy asked him to return and fight. Mr Dawson came to the door and went back again and they all followed. Kavanagh then got a two gallon tin and filled it with beer, throwing it into the yard. John Burns then picked up the tin and carried it back into the hotel when stones then came in through the windows. He stated that he and another person named Carlton then went to the navvies huts and his brother came after them. It was after about half an hour that he heard shots and he returned to the hotel, finding Foy shot in the leg. He covered him with bracken until help came. 
He was cross examined by Superintendent Whittaker and he stated that he could not tell who threw the stones. He was unaware of any damage to the church, vicarage or school and Kavanagh, Foy and several others were present when he was first in the hotel. The prisoners were then committed for trial at the next Lancaster Assizes Court.
On Monday  29 January 1906, before Justice Grantham, Thomas Burns, 23, and James Burns, 27, were indicted for riotous assembly and damage at Seathwaite that fateful day. Mr John Sharpe was the prosecutor and Mr Greaves Lord the defence. The two defendants pleaded 'Not Guilty'. Mr Sharpe laid out a summary of the affray that took place on 25 July 1904, including the alleged behaviour, the buildings damaged, and the death of Kavanagh and injury to others. 
The specific events laid by the prosecution were that the landlord went into the house and brought back a pint of beer and handed it to Foy outside. Foy had stated that it was not his pint and insisted on entering the house, but was prevented from doing so by the landlord and a scuffle broke out. Four others came out of the house and joined Foy in the scuffle and so began the chain of events that led to the eventual riot and fatality. The landlord was then aided by a joiner called Wilkinson, but the five men then set upon him and he ran into a barn where he managed to bolt the door and looked on the future proceedings from a hole in it. The alleged offenders then ran into the inn and Wilkinson could hear the sound of breaking glass.
Miss Dawson had gone off to a hay-field about half a mile away for assistance. She returned at about 2:30 pm and saw the men throwing stones at the windows. Miss Dawson had no difficulty picking out these men from nine, some sixteen months later. They were seen to run into the kitchen and broke a spirit vessel of rum and also brandy. After wrecking the place they then left. 
They threatened Thomas Hodge,  Roger Postlethwaite, Emmanuel Jackson and George Wilson with beer bottles, one taking hold of Postlethwaite's horse bridle. Each in turn saw evidence of damage by the men to the church, vicarage and school. In total there were 104 panes of glass broken. The witnesses gave evidence that the men returned then to the hotel. Dawson the landlord had saddled his horse and set out for assistance, but on hearing shots, returned and defended the premises, himself firing a weapon. After summarising the arrests and previous sentences against the other offenders, Mr Sharpe pointed out that the prisoners before the court may not have actually thrown stones as individuals, but provided that they stood about with approval, having regard to the seriousness, they were guilty of riot.
James Burns, who was defended under the Poor Prisoners Defence Act, admitted being present from beginning to end but on the two vital occasions he had gone round a corner. Since the death of Kavanagh, the landlord Mr Dawson was in no fit condition to give evidence as a witness. The evidence of a large number of witnesses was cross examined to try and show that it was by no means conclusive. 
It was at this point the evidence of PS Dunn was given where he informed the court that Thomas Burns had said:
'I suppose I shall get more than Kinsella, as he was wounded. I remember being in the public house but I was so drunk I don't remember the row, I went up that day to seek work.' 
Inspector Hogg then gave evidence for the arrest of James Burns and his reply on arrest was:
 'I can get out of that job if I can get my witnesses.'
This concluded the case for the prosecution.

Mr Lord for the defence then called Thomas Burns who stated he had gone from his home town of Millom to Seathwaite to obtain work. He met Foy, who was his cousin. After going with him to the Newfield Hotel and after the start of the disturbance, he said that he tried to get Foy away and played no part in any damage to any building. He stated his reason for not remaining at Seathwaite after the incident was that the remuneration of the work was not sufficient. When cross examined by the prosecution with reference to the amount of evidence from other witnesses stating that he did indeed riot, Thomas Burns stated that their minds were unclear after the evidence they gave, both here and at Ulverston. He was questioned why he had kept away for 16 months and he stated he had been in South Wales and had only found out a month before he gave himself up that there had been a warrant for his arrest.
James Burns said he finished at the waterworks and took his 'sub' on the day in question. He stated that his only part in the events of the day was trying to assist Thomas Burns and John Burns to remove Foy from the hotel and that Foy was acting like a madman.  When he heard the landlord was going for assistance he actually helped to yoke and saddle the horse.
Mr Lord in final summary for the defence then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoners and informed them that it was not sufficient that the accused were merely standing passively by, but to be guilty of riot they must have been throwing stones, committing damage, or encouraging others in concert to do so. 
Mr Justice Grantham then summarised, concluding by saying that he regretted  that good and reliable workmen should give way to drink, and so make themselves guilty of excesses. The landlord did his duty, and Foy's folly had precipitated the trouble. 
The jury did not leave the box and found the men guilty. Thomas Burns had previously been in trouble and was given 12 months hard labour, James Burns was given nine months.

So finally ended the riot of Seathwaite Tarn and Wordsworth's peace and tranquillity settled once again on the Duddon Valley.

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