Tag Archives: Dewsbury

Mother-in-Law Murderer – Unlucky Friday 13th

Friday 13 June 1794 proved an unfortunate day for both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Both ultimately paid with their lives. One suffered a slow, agonising death. The other’s head was subsequently placed in a noose. Mary and Ann Scalberd are names long since forgotten, but in the summer of 1794 they must have been the talk of Batley and Dewsbury, if not Yorkshire.

The unusual name “Scalberd” has a number of spelling variations in the records, including Scalbird, Scalbirt and Scalbert. But, to avoid confusion, I will stick with “Scalberd”.

On 6 April 1760 Benjamin Scalberd, from Batley, married Mary Milnes at Dewsbury Parish Church. It appears clothier Benjamin and Mary had four children – John baptised on 16 January 1761, Mary on 21 March 1762 and Moses on 7 October 1764; there is also a burial for a second daughter, Sarah, on 4 May 1772, but I have not traced her baptism. All these events took place at Batley Parish Church. The same church hosted the marriage on 22 January 1787 of their son Moses to Nancy Oldroyd, daughter of Joseph Oldroyd. Like his father, Moses worked as a clothier.

Seven years later his wife faced accusations of murdering his mother.

Batley Parish Church – by Jane Roberts

Coroner Richard Linnecar heard evidence of the circumstances surrounding Mary’s death at the Batley Carr inquest on 21 June 1794. Witnesses included Mary’s son John and unmarried daughter Mary, along with Sarah Newsham, two surgeons and two employees of a third surgeon. Although none of the witnesses actually saw the incident, the dying woman told several of them what occurred.

Witnesses stated Mary Scalberd was very well on the morning of 13 June. That afternoon Ann, known to the family as Nance, begged Mary to come to her house to look after her children whilst she went out on an errand. Batley parish church records show the baptism of one child to Moses and Ann, a daughter Sally, born on 23 May 1793. However the statements imply the couple had at least one other child.

When Ann returned from her outing she insisted Mary eat some warm milk and sops she had prepared for the children. Initially Mary refused, saying the children needed it more. Ann continued to press her until eventually Mary gave in. When she reached the bottom of the pot containing the concoction she noticed a gritty substance. Challenged by Mary as to what it was, Ann claimed perhaps some lime had fallen into the container. One witness, John, stated his mother told him when she accused Ann of poisoning her, Ann left the room without uttering a word.

Within half an hour of having the milk Mary was taken ill. Her daughter, who lived in Batley Carr, and confusingly also called Mary, told the inquest she saw her mother later that afternoon by which time her now swollen body was wracked by violent bouts of sickness and diarrhoea. Her mother accused Ann of poisoning her. Mary stayed with her throughout these final agonising days, during which her mother suffered “the utmost misery and pain”.

The horror of her decline is unimaginable, both for Mary and those witnessing the scene. No indoor flushing toilets, plentiful clean water and disinfectants. Instead sparsely furnished, basic houses with few rooms and comforts, possibly not even a bed per person. And all the time unremitting episodes of vomiting and diarrhoea, with no treatment other than possibly pain relief.

Other visitors to the sickbed included Sarah Newsham, a married woman from Batley Carr. According to her, the rapidly declining Mary “constantly said that Nance Scalberd had poisoned her and if she died at that time she ought to be hanged”.

Son John Scalberd, residing in the Chapel Fold area of Batley, gave similar evidence. He saw his seriously ill mother on 15 June and her condition, combined with her allegations, caused him so much concern he immediately sent for a Dewsbury surgeon, George Swinton. The circumstances and her symptoms, including the uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea, led the experienced doctor to suspect ingestion of arsenic.

Arsenic was cheap and readily available during this period. Used around the house for vermin control, it was also popular with those owning sheep as a sheep scab treatment. In the 18th century this involved applying hand washes containing lime, mercury, nicotine, turpentine or arsenic. As a poison, it resulted in an excruciating death over a number of days. The symptoms included fluid accumulation, nausea, constant vomiting, diarrhoea which was often blood-streaked, excessive thirst, a feeling of pressure and swelling in the stomach, intense pain and distressingly, up until the end stages, the victim remained lucid. However many of these symptoms could equally apply to common illnesses such as English cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea. This, combined with the lack of a definitive test and rudimentary medical expertise about poisoning, resulted in only a small number of trials and convictions in this period.

The doctor was unable to do anything to save Mary. She endured agonising suffering for six days, before she finally died on 19 June. However, his suspicions meant he referred the case. Another eminent local surgeon was sent for, Benjamin Sykes of Gomersal. Both he and Dr Swinton opened up Mary for the inquest on 21 June. They concluded her death was the result of arsenic.

Collection: Wellcome Images Library reference no.: Science Museum A600213 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The final two inquest witnesses worked in the shop of Dewsbury surgeon Robert Rockley Batty. They claimed that on, or just before 13 June, Ann Scalberd attempted to buy a penny-worth of white mercury (the name by which arsenic was known in Yorkshire) from the surgeon’s assistant, Henry Hudson. She claimed she wanted it for sheep. Hudson explained that they never sold it. His evidence was backed up by Peter Cannings, a book-keeper for the surgeon. Was this the errand Ann did whilst her mother-in-law looked after the children? To buy the poison with which to commit murder.

Mary was buried the day after the inquest, on 22 June, at Batley Parish Church. As a result of the inquest Ann Scalberd was committed to York Castle, charged with the wilful murder of Mary Scalberd. She would appear at the York Summer Assizes at the beginning of August. They took place in front of Sir Giles Rooke and Sir Soulden Lawrence.

Ann’s trial contained a very curious incident, subsequently cited in case law. During examination of one of the first witnesses a juror, Thomas Davison, fell down in a fit. The trial was halted and the juror carried off to a public house to recover. He failed to return and eventually another juror, accompanied by a bailiff, were dispatched to enquire as to his health. The juror duly reported back. Mr Davison would not be well enough to continue. Justice Lawrence discharged the jury and ordered the swearing in of another. This comprised the initial 11 well jurors plus another. The trial continued.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, including that Ann visited several shops attempting to procure the poison, the jury had no hesitation in delivering a guilty verdict to an impassive Ann. She was sentenced to death.

A second trial twist then occurred. Ann “pleaded the belly”. In other words she declared she was pregnant, knowing this could be a chance to evade the death penalty. The authorities would not execute a pregnant woman, as this would take an innocent life. If a woman was deemed “quick with child”, that is the foetus could be felt to move which was deemed the point when the unborn child had a soul, the execution would be delayed till after birth. Inevitably this meant it would not take place at all, the sentence probably commuted to imprisonment.

In order to establish the validity of this, a jury of matrons was convened. It comprised 12 older women, pulled together from those within the court room, with experience of pregnancy. They adjourned to a private room to conduct the examination.

Ann’s last-minute ploy failed. The women reported back – Ann was not pregnant.  She would face the death penalty. One newspaper, the “Leeds Intelligencer” stated she now confessed her guilt. However the motive for murder remains shrouded in mystery.

Between 1735-1799, 703 death sentences were passed at York Assizes, resulting in 217 executions. Ann’s execution took place on 12 August 1794 at Tyburn, south of the city and the Knavesmire area which now forms part of York racecourse. This is the spot where highwayman Dick Turpin met the same fate in 1739. Ann was one of only three people hung there in 1794, and her execution is a rare occurrence of a woman receiving the death penalty. Her body was given to surgeons for dissection. Her husband Moses died within months and was buried on 7 December 1794 at Batley.

Site of York Gallows – Jeremy Howat. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

This is my final post about Batley in my March focus on local history.

Sources:  

  • The National Archives, Northern & North-Eastern Assize Papers, Reference ASSI 45/38/2/84B-84C – Ann Scalbird (Depositions) – Thanks to Carole Steers
  • Batley All Saints Parish Registers
  • Dewsbury All Saints Parish Registers
  • Newspapers via the British Newspaper Archive, FindMyPast – Bury & Norwich Post 6 August 1794, Derby Mercury 14 & 21 August 1794, Kentish Weekly Post & Canterbury Journal 17 August 1794 and Leeds Intelligencer 30 June & 18 August 1794
  • Poisoned Lives – Katherine Watson
  • Capital Punishment UK – http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/
  • British Executions – http://www.britishexecutions.co.uk/
  • The New and Complete Newgate Calendar: Or Villany Displayed in All its Branches, Vol 6
  • Cases in Crown Law, Vol 2 (1815)
  • A Short History of Sheep Scab – J D Bezuidenhout
  • Wellcome Images, Library reference no.: Science Museum A600213, Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
  • Wikimedia Commons – site of York Gallows by Jeremy Howat

WW1 Remembrance in Verse: “In Memoriam” and “Roll of Honour” Newspaper Columns

This is the last of my three blog posts in this period of Remembrance. It focuses on the WW1 period.

Batley War Memorial

Batley War Memorial

As the Great War progressed and the anniversaries of the Fallen came and went, the local newspaper “In Memoriam” and, later, dedicated “Roll of Honour” columns were increasingly filled with moving tributes to lost husbands, sons, fathers, brothers and fiancées. Although less frequent in late 1915 and throughout 1916, this phenomenon became particularly notable from 1917 onwards and endured in the years beyond the end of the conflict.

Many were recurrent standard verses, or variations on standard themes: grief; absence; young lives cut short; a mother’s pain; religious sentiments; Remembrance; doing one’s duty; sacrifice; wooden crosses; graves overseas far from home, or no known grave; not being present in their loved one’s dying moments; occasionally the difficulty of seeing others return; and even reproach for those who caused the war.

Although not war poetry, they are powerful representations of family grief and loss which echo across the ages.

My mother’s brother died in Aden whilst on National Service in 1955. These family tributes from another era are the ones which, in all my St Mary’s War Memorial research, left the greatest impression on her, resonating with her emotions 60 years later.

These “In Memoriam” and “Roll of Honour” notices provide an accessible window into this aspect of the War, the emotions of those left behind. They are also a continuing legacy for family historians. They can provide service details, place and even circumstances of death, names and addresses of family members (including married sisters) and details of fiancées all of which can aid research.

Here is a selection from the local Batley newspapers[1].

Remembrance 1

Remembrance 2

Remembrance 3

Remembrance 4

Remembrance 5

Remembrance 6

Remembrance 7

Remembrance 8

Sources:

  • Batley News – various dates
  • Batley War Memorial photo by Jane Roberts

[1] These are not confined to those servicemen on the St Mary’s War Memorial

A Family Casualty: 12 October 1915 Dewsbury Tram Disaster – “It’s just like Ypres”

Tuesday 12 October 1915: the day when the runaway 4.10 afternoon tram from Earlsheaton wreaked havoc in Dewsbury town centre, eliciting comparisons to war-torn Belgium. One soldier witnessing the aftermath exclaimed “It’s just like Ypres”, whilst other sightseers observed it was “A bit of Belgium” or likened it to a Zeppelin raid.

Losing control on the steep incline of Wakefield Road, the tram shot past the Dewsbury terminus, careered past the end of the lines and over the setts, before finally crashing into buildings on Market Square. Here it demolished Messrs Hiltons Boot Shop, several upper rooms of the popular Scarborough Hotel hostelry and badly damaged the neighbouring Messrs Lidbetter, Sons and Co., provision merchants. In the course of its destructive path the tram also collided with two horse-drawn vehicles near the Town Hall.

Aftermath of Collision

Aftermath of Collision

One early theory for the accident was the slight  drizzle on Tuesday afternoon caused the Number 3 tram to skid – greasy tracks had caused an incident in the same spot previously. But this was discounted by an eye-witness account from one of the injured. Mrs Oldroyd said that the trolley pole had left the overhead wire higher up the hill leaving the driver with no means of braking.

A notoriously treacherous location, it was counted fortunate that the latest mishap occurred in the late afternoon of what was half-day closing in the usually busy town. At 4.20pm the shops were shut and only a few people were around. As a result only seven people were injured. These were listed in the newspapers as:

  • John James Callaghan (21), living in Ossett. The tramcar driver gallantly stuck to his post until the very last before he was either violently thrown, or jumped, from his platform into the road. He suffered head cuts and concussion. Born in Falls of Schuylkill, Philadelphia he moved to Ossett with his family when about six months old. He worked for the tram company from the age of 13, becoming a driver less than a year prior to the accident;
  • Maggie Saddler (28), living in Ossett. The tramcar conductress also incurred head wounds and concussion. She too stuck to her post as the vehicle hurtled out of control. She had been in the role for under three months, a change brought about by the war. Prior to that she worked as a domestic in Bridlington. But the downturn in trade in the seaside resort as a result of the war, combined with job opportunities afforded by it with men serving with the military, led to this change ;
  • Ethel Oldroyd and her daughters Edith (7) and Phyllis (3) from Earlsheaton were the only three tramcar passengers. Ethel sustained cuts on her right leg, hand and shoulder, a sprained ankle and bruises. Edith received head and knee cuts. Whilst Phyllis incurred cuts and abrasions. Fortunately these injuries were only minor. Her husband, away in Uxbridge with the 5th West Yorkshires, was granted permission to return home as soon as news reached him that evening;
  • Mrs Violet Pinder (49) of Purwell Lane, Batley fractured her leg in the incident;
  • Mrs Ethel Noble (25) of Wakefield Road, Dewsbury, the daughter of Violet Pinder, suffered bruising and shock.

Callaghan and Saddler

It is the latter two passengers who link to my family history. Violet Pinder was the youngest daughter of my 3x great grandmother Ann Hallas and her husband, the wonderfully named Herod Jennings. A large family of 12 children Violet was born in Heckmondwike in 1866. Along with her siblings William, Eliza and Rose she was baptised at Staincliffe Chirst Church on 5 November 1868. The family seemed to go for mass baptisms or none at all![1]

Staincliffe Church (with Halloween guest)

Staincliffe Church (with Halloween guest)

Violet worked as a cloth weaver prior to her marriage, and this continued intermittently afterwards. She married coal miner Samuel Pinder on 4 August 1886 at Batley Parish Church. Subsequently Samuel worked as a fish salesman. Ethel, the daughter caught up in the runaway tram incident, was the second of their six children.

Violet Pinder

Violet Pinder

At 4pm that Tuesday afternoon Violet and her recently married daughter decided to go for a walk. Some discussion ensued as to the route to take before, arm-in-arm, the pair decided to look at shop windows in town. They had not gone very far, just above the Town Hall, when they heard the noise of the approaching tram and screaming. Before they could take any action the tram smashed into the back of the pony and cart of general carrier, Mr Benjamin Buckley. He had tried, but failed to avoid the collision by turning into Rishworth Street, at the corner of the Town Hall. It was too late. His cart, carrying a load of rags, was sent flying and knocked down the mother and daughter.

Ethel came round to find herself lying in Wakefield Road near to the pony. There was some suggestion her injuries were caused by the pounding of the horse’s hooves as she lay unconscious in the initial aftermath. Violet lay prostrate some distance away in Rishworth Street, her left boot badly cut and torn with the heels of both taken clean off by the force of the accident. Ethel summoned up enough strength to run over to her mother where she promptly collapsed, unable to move any further.

As luck would have it in the motor vehicle behind the tram was trained nurse, Miss Maude Kaye. She rendered first aid to the victims until medical assistance arrived. Ethel and Violet were conveyed initially to the Town Hall before a horse-drawn ambulance took them, the conductor and conductress to Dewsbury Infirmary. The Oldroyd family were less seriously injured and returned home after receiving treatment at the scene of the accident.

Ethel was able to leave hospital the following day, and the newspapers reported early in November that John James and Maggie had also left hospital to recuperate at home. Violet was less fortunate though spending several weeks in hospital recovering from her injury.

She did recover and died in 1938, aged 71.

A century on all the locations are very familiar to me. I walk past Staincliffe Church regularly. And only tonight I drove down the very steep incline of Wakefield Road from Earlsheaton to Dewsbury.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.co.uk – Staincliffe Chirst Church baptism register http://home.ancestry.co.uk/
  • Batley News 16 October 1915
  • Dewsbury District News 15 October 1915
  • Hartshead St Peter’s Parish Register – baptisms
  • Batley All Saints Parish Register – marriages
  • FindMyPast – Censuses http://www.findmypast.co.uk/

[1] 16 June 1857 marked the baptisms at Hartshead of children Henry, Ellen and Louisa. Henry was 13 at the time, and not the son of Herod. My 2x gt grandmother, Elizabeth, was not baptised until 1901. Other children do not appear to have been baptised. I’ve not traced any non conformist records either, so perhaps an indication of religious ambivalence.

The Mysterious Wartime Disappearance of Sweethearts in Bridlington & the Batley Cemetery Link

An intriguing inscription on a Batley cemetery headstone led me to discover the story behind Lottie Oddy and her fiancé James Purdy.

Born in around 1892 Charlotte Emma Oddy, known as Lottie, was the daughter of butcher George Henry Oddy and his wife Emma (neé Popplewell). They lived at Staincliffe Road, Dewsbury. Lottie worked as a sewing machinist making blouses at Carrbrooke Manufacturing Co. She left her employers during the war to take over the book keeping and clerical duties at Oddy and Fox rag merchants based at Common Road, Staincliffe. This change was caused by the absence of her brother, Spedding. A partner in the firm, he was away serving in as a despatch rider in the Royal Tank Corps.

Lottie’s fiancé, James Purdy was born on 13 August 1890. He was one of four sons of Batley Carr residents Walter and Susanna Purdy (nee Raspin). James’ father worked as a foreman rag grinder at Messers Thomas Purdy and Sons, a mungo and shoddy manufacturer located on Bradford Road, Batley Carr. Initially James also worked in the rag and shoddy warehouse but he found manual labour a struggle due to his delicate health. He therefore established his own rag merchants business in around 1913 which, according to newspapers, was flourishing. His delicate health meant he was exempt from military service, although this was due for review in January 1919.

The sweethearts were from the nonconformist tradition. James was connected with the Batley Carr Primitive Methodist Chapel; Lottie with the Staincliffe Wesleyan Church. Described as a devoted couple, they had known each other for a number of years and, according to some newspapers, had been engaged for about five or six.[1]

On 7 September 1918 they joined Lottie’s widowed mother[2] and her sister, Gertie, for a two week holiday to Bridlington. The Oddy family were frequent visitors to the town, holidaying in the resort for several years.

On the afternoon of Friday 13 September Lottie and James went out for a walk but promised to join Gertie and some friends later that afternoon on the sea front. They failed to turn up. There then followed a frantic search involving police from Bridlington and Batley Carr, the harbour master, boatmen and friends and family of the couple, including James’ father who travelled to Bridlington to assist.

Their mysterious disappearance was covered nationwide. They had no known worries; their engagement had family approval; they did not boat, and indeed investigations had found no craft missing; their baggage remained in their Horsforth Avenue apartments; and they normally stayed around the area of the sea front, occasionally walking towards Flamborough. An accident was always recognised as a distinct possibility. Fears of a landslide due to the recent wet weather formed one suggested line of investigation. But even this direction had proved fruitless. They had in effect vanished without trace from a busy seaside town.

The hope remained that they would turn up alive and well, although James’ father did say that he felt as though his son was calling to him for help.

Police issued their descriptions. 5’2” Lottie was brown-haired, blue-eyed, fresh complexioned and of robust appearance. When she left her apartment she wore a gold and brown woollen sports coat, grey mixture frieze skirt, white blouse, black stockings, black shoes, black felt hat and a raincoat. She carried a black moiré bag and had a diamond ring. She also left the apartments with a book.

James stood at 5’1”[3]. Of medium build, he had a slight stoop, a pale complexion and was clean-shaven with rich brown hair. He wore a grey suit, black tie with a gold pin in it, brown mackintosh, light cap and black boots. He had a gold signet ring on his left hand.

No sign of the couple could be found and their disappearance remained a mystery until Saturday 21 September. First thing that morning a retired farmer, Arthur Mason, took a stroll along the South Sands. It was a route he walked regularly. Over recent days he had noticed a cliff fall. The day before his latest walk the sea had been rough with a higher tide than in previous days, reaching right up to the cliffs. Mr Mason noticed it had washed away part of the clay from the fall, exposing a man’s blood-covered head and shoulders. He immediately notified the authorities. Soldiers and police extracted the couple’s bodies from the clay in which they were entombed.

The inquest later that day concluded Lottie and James had been sitting beneath the cliff on James’ coat, when 10-12 tons of overhanging clay broke free and fell on them. James apparently heard something and was in the process of getting up in an effort to protect his fiancée. He had his hand outstretched towards Lottie. She had been sitting on the coat reading her book. Her right hand reached out towards James, and beside her left hand was the open book. This was Alice and Claude Askew’s “The Tocsin: A Romance of the Great War”.[4]

This stretch of beach had been the scene of a previous accident in September 1904, when a Bridlington Grammar School junior master and pupil died as the result of a cliff fall whilst out fossil hunting[5]. A noticeboard erected warning people about the danger of sitting under the cliffs had been washed away several years ago and never replaced.

The Coroner, Mr Herbert Brown, recorded a verdict of accidental death due to a fall of the cliff. This caused the suffocation of Lottie and James. He said he would call the authorities about the necessity of erecting warning signs.

Lottie Oddy's Batley cemetery headstone -

Lottie Oddy’s Batley cemetery headstone – “who met her death by the fall of the cliffs at Bridlington”

James’ funeral took place on 24 September and Lottie’s the following day. They are buried in family graves in separate areas of Batley cemetery.

Ironically at the beginning of October 1918 the papers reported yet another Bridlington cliff tragedy, with the death of 22 year old Bradford woman Ethel Keal. She fell over the cliffs at Sewerby.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.co.uk: Baptism and Marriage Records (West Yorkshire Non-Conformist records) http://home.ancestry.co.uk/
  • Batley Cemetery Burial Register
  • Batley News 21 and 28 September 1918
  • Batley Reporter and Guardian 20 and 27 September 1918
  • FindMyPast: BMD and Census record, plus newspapers ( Hull Daily Mail 16 September 1918, 21 September 1918, 23 September 1918, Yorkshire Evening Post 20 September 1918, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 23 September 1918, Driffield Times 28 September 1918), http://www.findmypast.co.uk/

[1] One report indicates an eight year engagement.
[2] Lottie’s father, George, died in 1916.
[3] Again newspapers varied, some stating 5’3”
[4] Alice and Claude Askew were extremely popular husband and wife authors. Associated with the Serbian Campaign, the couple drowned in October 1917 when the boat they were sailing in from Italy to Corfu sank following German submarine torpedo attack.
[5] Mr A Graham Allen and Jack Broomhead. Another pupil, Joseph Baker, escaped.

Copyright

© Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.