Tunnard Street in Grimsby is in the East Marsh area of the town, cited recently as the most dangerous areas in Lincolnshire in terms of reported crime. Many of the houses just wouldn’t be built today. They are tiny two up-two down terraces, built by 19thC profiteering builders and financiers, eager to make a quick profit. Perhaps violence is embedded in the very ground beneath residents’ feet. But that violence isn’t a recent phenomenon. One of the town’s most infamous murders took place there.
As far as I can judge, the house that was numbered 124 Tunnard Street no longer exists. Along with its neighbouring houses, it has been demolished and replaced by more modern – and spacious – dwellings. The old chapel on the corner still stands, but rather than being a place where Grimsby’s Pentecostal congregation worshiped, it is now a boxing club.
The old 124 Tunnard Street was, in November 1893, witness to a brutal murder that shocked townsfolk and attracted attention across England.The two leading players in this fatal drama were Harriet Rushby and Henry Rumbold.
The early life *(see footnote) of Harriet Rushby has been difficult to trace. One newspaper report says that she was 24 in 1893, while another says she was 20. There is a death record for December 1893, where a Harriet Rushby was buried in Caistor, aged 22, and a census record for 1881 which gives us a Harriet Rushby living in Lower Burgess Street with her grandparents, but she is listed as being born in 1874.
Henry Rumbold proved just as problematic, until I realised that his actual surname was Rumbell, and that his family were well known seafarers from Yarmouth. On the night of Sunday 3rd April 1881 he was listed in the census as being on board the ship Tempus Fugit, moored off the Suffolk Coast. It looks as though he was described as Master, while his younger brother Walter was Mate
By 1893, Rumbell was master of Nightingale, a fishing smack operating out of Grimsby. Later reports stated that he had previously been married in Yarmouth, but that the union was an unhappy one and had not lasted long. In Grimsby, Rumbell had become enchanted by Harriet Rushby, almost half his age, and described as being of ‘very pleasing appearance’. The problem for Rumbell was, however, that his trade meant lengthy absences from Grimsby, and it seems that Harriet Rushby was ready neither to settle down nor to remain faithful to her lover. A contemporary newspaper report primly stated:
“She came of an old Grimsby family, was very respectably connected, but she fell into evil ways, and was the habitual associate of bad men and women. At what time she made the acquaintance of Rumbold is not clear, but at all events an illicit intimacy had existed between them before his last fishing cruise, from which he returned unexpectedly on the fatal 7th of November. “
The pitiful scenario of an older man becoming entranced by a younger woman, and then possessiveness and jealousy leading to tragedy, is as old as humanity itself. It seems that Rumbell had become aware that he was not the only person in Harriet’s life, and in late October, as he prepared to take Nightingale out into the wintry North Sea for another trip, he had made arrangements. This, from a contemporary newspaper report:
“He had expected being way at sea for eight weeks, and from motives probably of a personal kind had arranged that she should lodge in his absence at the house of her own cousin, Charles Rushby, in Ayscough Street. She did not, however, fall in with his plans. ”
IN PART TWO
a surprise return
a revolver is purchased
a job for Mr Billington
* Of the many such cases I have written about over the years, this has been the hardest to research in terms of the people involved. Normally it is possible to trace participants through census and birth/marriage/death records, after picking up the gist of the story from old newspaper reports. This time, however names either don’t exist at all, or don’t match addresses. I suspect, as with Henry Rumbell, names were either miss-spelled or misheard by court reporters and other journalists.