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ON MY SHELF . . . Late September 2021

OMS HEADER

Where should I be in late September? Back at school, obviously! I can’t ‘steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool’, so I will have to tackle a shelf groaning under the weight of new books. Anyone baffled by the references in the previous couple of sentences should, perhaps, do some research into songs written by Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton, but in your own time,obviously. Alphabetically heading up the book pile is Without Let or Hindrance by Geoffrey Charin.

WITHOUT LET

HUNT

BLINK

BLIND EYE

APPARITION

SAFE

NEIGHBOURS

DEADLY

HORROR IN HOLLY STREET . . . A shocking murder in 1901 Leamington (3)

HIHS HEADER

SO FAR – Bessie Lockyer has been sentenced for committing murder while insane. She virtually decapitated her baby son with her husband’s cut-throat razor, and has been sent to Broadmoor. Normally, with these true crime cases, that is the end of the matter, and the killers invariably die in captivity, either by their own hand or other illnesses. Here, though we have something of a turn up for the books. I found a record listing a number of prisoners detained in mental institutions. There are four columns at the right hand side of the page, and they are headed Recovd. (recovered) Reld. (released) Not impd (?) and Died. Against Bessie Lockyer’s name there is written 4th September ’04, and a tick in the Recovd. column.

Broadmoor

‘Recovered’, just three years after murdering her baby? I thought there must be an error, but looked for the Lockyers in the 1911 census. Astonishingly, Bessie and Thomas were reunited and living at 6,Park Drive, Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Not only that, they had two young children, Stanley Walter Lockyer, aged 5 and born in Fulham, and Edward Norman Lockyer, aged 1 and born there in Ilkeston.

Ilkeston 1911
Redemption is not something often found in these stories, but it seems to have happened here. What became of the family after that is not so clear. There is a Bessie Lockyer recorded as dying in Spen Valley, Yorkshire in 1949 at the age of 74, and also a Stanley W Lockyer dying in the same district in 1968, at the age of 62. Both of these records fit what we know of the family. As for Thomas, there is little certainty about what happened to him. Searching the 1939 register proved fruitless.

All we can be thankful for is that Thomas and Bessie Lockyer had the chance to rebuild their lives together – and took it –  after that terrible morning in Holly Street, back in September 1901.

HORROR IN HOLLY STREET . . . A shocking murder in 1901 Leamington (2)

HIHS HEADER

Brighton CottageSO FAR – Thomas and Bessie Lockyer, a young couple originally from Bridport in Dorset, have settled in Leamington Spa, where Thomas is working as a reporter for The Leamington Chronicle. They live in a rented house in Holly Street, and have a six-months old son, Arnold Edward. It is Sunday morning, 1st September 1901. Thomas has gone to sing at the morning service at Spencer Street chapel. Bessie, in a state of extreme distress, has gone to her her next door neighbour, Mrs Wiggins, to tell her that she has harmed her baby. Mrs Wiggins can’t believe that Bessie has hurt Edward, but she goes with Bessie back to No. 17.

On the floor, in the back room of 17 Holly Street, was a large enamel basin. In the basin was the dead body of little Arnold Edward Lockyer. His head had been all but severed from his body. The horrified Mrs Wiggins immediately sent for the police, and found someone to go and summon Thomas Lockyer from his chapel service. Let The Leamington Spa Courier take up the story in its edition of Friday 6th September 1901, when it reported on the appearance of Bessie Lockyer at Leamington Magistrates’Court.

“About a quarter twelve he (Thomas Lockyer) was informed in chapel that was required at home. He went home fast as could. When got there he found his wife in the care of two ladies. They were Miss Wiggins and Mrs. Makins, as far as he could remember. His wife was in state of partial collapse, and having been informed of what had occurred did what he could to comfort his wife. She did not seem to realise what had happened. After some reflection, she seemed to have a dim recollection of what had taken plaoe. Dr. West arrived about the same time and jointly they put questions to the accused. She said she had injured the baby, and added she had cut it. She also drew attention to blood-stains on her right wrist.

Thomas Lockyer was so much upset that he hardly knew what he was asking her. The body of the child was afterwards removed by the police. Dr. West informed him that the baby’s head had been all but severed from the body, only a small quantity of flesh being untouched. P.C. Cope and P.C. Hobley were in the house when he came home. P.C. Hollands came up with him, having met him in Holly Walk. His wife was taken to the Police Station and charged.”

These two extracts, again from The Courier, make for painful reading, 120 years since they were first written. First, the evidence from the policeman who was called to the house.

PC Hobley

Then Dr. West addressed the court.

Dr West

When in police custody, Bessie Lockyer had made an extraordinary statement, which had been transcribed verbatim. It was read to the court.

Screen Shot 2021-09-22 at 18.59.38“Yes. I did it Why did I do it? I believe I was cutting the beans. I undressed him. I cut him there (pointing to her throat). I could not get on with my work. As regards my little baby, I cannot tell. I can look back; I cut him, Tom. What made do it Tom ? It was in a bowl. Yes, it was, Tom. It seemed as though I had pressure like a cap all round here (pointing to her head). Sometimes mother fidgetted me. Some times I cannot keep him clean, and you know we cannot pay. When the baby was born they wanted me to go to chapel. Now when I was going to Chapel at Bridport. I had such a pressure round my head. When I went to chapel father always took me. Why did he take me, Tom? Why didn’t he let me go alone?”

The magistrates had no other option but to indict Bessie Lockyer for murder, and sent her back to prison to await trial at the next Warwick Assizes. When that came round in December, the presiding judge was Mr Justice Bigham (right). Despite his forbidding appearance, he was not a monster and, recognising that at the time of the murder, Bessie Lockyer was insane, he judged that she was unfit to plead and ordered her to be confined “during His Majesty’s pleasure.” Bessie was sent to Broadmoor.

Court record

TO FOLLOW – the case takes a remarkable turn

HORROR IN HOLLY STREET . . . a shocking murder in 1901 Leamington (1)

HIHS HEADER

Bessie Farr was born at 92 West Street, Bridport, Dorset, in 1875. She was the seventh of the eight children of Edward and Jane Farr. The main industry in Bridport was making twine for fishing nets, and the 1881 census tells us that Edward Farr was the foreman at one of the mills. Not far away, in the village of Allington lived the Lockyer family, Thomas, Mary, and their three sons of which Thomas Alexander, the youngest, had been born in 1874. The 1891 census has Bessie, then 16 years-old, apprentice to a dressmaker while, Thomas, still with his family in Allington was training to be a journalist.

Bessie 1891

We know nothing of the courtship between Bessie and Thomas, but in April 1900 they were married in Bridport. By the following year they had moved far away from their Dorset home, and were living in the bustling Warwickshire town of Royal Leamington Spa, and they had a young son, Arnold Edward, born in February 1901. Thomas had served his apprenticeship and was now working as a full time journalist for The Leamington Chronicle. They rented a house, 17 Holly Street East, also known as Brighton Cottage. The 1901 census, taken on 1st April, also shows Bessie’s mother Mary as being in the house.

1901 census

Bessie, who had been a bright and lively young woman before the birth of their son, seems to be have suffering from some form of post-natal depression. She had tried to breastfeed the little boy, but had to resort to giving him artificial milk, which increased her anxiety thus, in turn, further diminishing the chances of her feeding him naturally. She had also become worried about keeping the house clean, and fretted constantly that there was insufficient money coming into the home to keep them all safe. She had taken the baby, with Thomas’s blessing for a holiday back in Dorset over the summer, and had returned, so it was thought, in brighter spirits.

MWA2401On the morning of 1st September, Thomas Lockyer left the house in Holly Street to walk the mile to the church where he sang in the choir – the Congregationalist Chapel in Spencer Street (left). At about 11.30, Mrs Alice Wiggins, the Lockyers’ next door neighbour at No. 16 was surprised to answer the door to a clearly upset Bessie Lockyer. The Leamington Spa Courier later reported:

“About half past eleven on Sunday morning Mrs. Lockyer came into her house. She knocked at the front door and then came through the house to. the back room, which was a kitchen, where Mrs Wiggins was was. She seemed excited and said,
Oh Wiggins I’ve hurt my baby.”
Mrs Wiggins replied “You could not have hurt him. In what way?
Mrs Lockyer said, ” I’ve cut him.
Mts Wiggins answered, “ I don’t think you would hurt him, but let’s go and and see.

Mrs Wiggins accompanied Bessie Lockyer to her house, and went into the back room. She could not see the child at first, and asked where it was. Bessie Lockyer pointed to the floor, and it was a sight that would haunt the neighbour for the rest of her life.

TO BE CONTINUED

THE BURNING . . . Between the covers

Burning027 copy

The Kellerman family – Jonathan, Faye and now Jesse – seem to be able to turn out highly readable thrillers at the flick of a switch. My personal favourites are the Alex Delaware novels, but this is the second Clay Edison book I’ve read, and it’s excellent. The Burning is billed as 4 of 4, so the series will come nowhere near the astonishing 36 books books of the Delaware series (with the 37th due next year) You can read my review of the 36th, Serpentine, by clicking the link. My review of the third Clay Edison book, Lost Souls is here.

Burning028But back to Clay Edison. He is a Deputy US Coroner in Berkeley, California, and The Burning begins, quite topically, with a destructive bush fire that has knocked out power supplies for everyone except those with their own generators. When Edison and his partner are summoned to retrieve a corpse from a mansion up in the hills, they find that Rory Vandervelde – a multi millionaire – has died from gunshot wounds. He was an avid collector. Rare baseball and basketball memorabilia, Swiss watches, antique knives – you name it, and Vandervelde had bought it. It is when Edison is inspecting the dead man’s astonishing collection of classic cars, stored in a huge garage, that he discovers something that sends a shiver down his spine, and not in a pleasant way.

“I’d missed the Camaro on my way in. So much to gawk at. Eyes not yet adjusted. I saw it now. It was, to be specific, a 1969 SS/Z28. V8 engine, concealed headlights, black racing stripes, custom leather upholstery.

A hell of a car. One that I recognised specifically. I had seen it before. Not once, but many times.

It was my brother’s.”

Edison muses that there has to be an innocent explanation why his brother’s prize possession – a car he had restored from near junk – is in the murdered man’s garage. He surely wouldn’t have sold it to him? Luke Edison is a reformed addict who has done jail time for killing two women in a drug fuelled car theft, but he has rebuilt not only the car, but his life. Simple solution – call Luke on his cell phone. No answer. Repeated calls just go to voice mail. Clay Edison has the black feeling that something is very, very wrong, but in an instinct for family protection, he tries to prevent any of his law enforcement colleagues from identifying the vehicle’s owner and linking him with the murder.

No-one – Luke’s neurotic hippy partner, his parents, his boss at a marijuana-based therapy start-up – has seen or heard of Luke for several days. Working off the record, explaining to no-one what he is doing, and sensing that his brother is a victim rather than a perpetrator, Clay Edison finally discovers that his brother is being used as bait by some seriously evil characters who – as payback for deaths in their family for which they hold him, Clay, responsible – are prepared to stop at nothing to exact their revenge.

I finished this book during a return train journey and a quick hour before bedtime. It is ridiculously readable. Yes, it’s slick, unmistakably American, and probably formulaic but, as the late, great British film reviewer Barry Norman used to say, “And why not?” Just shy of 300 pages, it is everything that is good about American thriller fiction – fast, exciting and  – like Luke Edison’s Camaro – a bumpy but exhilarating ride. I have no idea who wrote what in the Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman partnership, but who cares? Published by Century, The Burning is out on 21st September in Kindle and hardback, and will be available next year in paperback.

Camaro

DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (4) The 20th century

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1900

The 1891 census reveals that living in Alvingham was a family headed by Henry Mason. Henry Mason was not destined to survive until the next census. On 1st June 1900, The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported:
“An inquiry was held at the Iron Bridge House, Alvingham, on Saturday by the Deputy-Coroner touching the death of Henry Mason, a carrier and cottager, aged 48 years, whose body was found in the Louth Canal, in tbe parish of Alvingham, early that morning. Mr. George Bett was foreman of the jury. The deceased had been a healthy and strong man to last September, when he developed mental trouble and in consequence of then attempting suicide he was removed to the county Asylum. Having spent three months in this institution be had sufficiently recovered to justify his discharge, and he returned home and followed his occupation. On Thursday Dr. Higgins, of Louth, was called in to advise as to his bodily more than mental condition, several boils having broken out. He then seemed a little depressed, and complained of not sleeping well, but in other respects the doctor could not detect any mental trouble. He, however, impressed upon the family the importance of keeping an eye upon him for fear of the return of a fit of depression. The deceased continued to go about his work as usual, and on Saturday morning he intimated that as the man and boy were busy he would go and shepherd, which he had done alone before that week. The sheep were in a field near the canal, and as he did not return for some time search was instituted, with the result that the body was found in the canal. The jury returned a verdict of ‘Suicide whilst of unsound mind.'”

1909

horror-creepy-face-under-ice-layer-horror-creepy-face-under-ice-layer-168350714The freezing weather at the beginning of 1909 – and the resulting ice – drew people to the canal, with fatal results. The wording used by The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, ‘The Face Under The Ice’ is horrifyingly graphic as it headed up a report on an event which occurred on Monday, 25th January.

Face

Hard on the heels of this was the tragic death of Ida Brewer, which I featured in Part One of this story. Click this link and scroll down the page for the full story.

Better weather, as was natural for June, but the canal was still doubling as a mortuary. In this case, no-one knew if it was a case of murder, or a matter of illegally disposing of a body. The only certainty is that it wasn’t suicide.

Infant

1910

The North Lincolnshire Advertiser of Saturday 26th march carried this sombre report:

“The body of Charles Dobbs, aged 65, of Kidgate, Louth, formerly a farm foreman and subsequently a carrier at Swaby, was recovered from the Louth Canal on Monday afternoon, under circumstances pointing to suicide. An inquest was conducted by the Coroner for the Louth District (Herbert Sharpley, Esq.) at the Woolpack Inn on Tuesday afternoon.

The Coroner said when the jury had heard the evidence be thought they would come to the conclusion that deceased put himself into the water, and that he did not get there by any accidental means. Wm. Ashton, shoemaker, said he had lodged with the deceased for about six months. Deceased had a complaint which troubled him very much, and he had been very upset the last few days. He said there was no help for him since Dr. Higgins’ death. He had his dinner with witness the previous afternoon, and when witness remarked to him that he did not seem to be enjoying his dinner, deceased said ” must die ; it will kill me, the pain at the back of my head.’

Witness was not surprised when he heard afterwards what hail occurred, although he had never heard deceased threaten to take his life. John Melton, employed by Mr. White, coal merchant, said he was with his employer in Thames Street the previous afternoon about a quarter past one, and met deceased about thirty yards from Harvey’s yard gate. Witness spoke to him and deceased replied. About three quarters of an hour afterwards Mr. Harvey called him, and witness assisted get deceased out of the water. Joseph Harvey said he left his wharf a little after twelve the previous day, and returned about a quarter-past one. He went into the office, and came out again about a quarter-past two.

A young man named Finney called his attention to a coat hanging on the crane, and when witness examined it he found an envelope the pocket with ” Charles Dobbs, Louth,’ written on it. He looked in the water and noticed something, and, although be could not reach it with the boat hook at first, the wind shifted it, and he was able to get it to the side. Mr. W. R. Higgins said deceased was subject attacks which were attended by mental depression. He was one of his late father’s oldest patients, and was greatly attached to him. Witness was not surprised when he heard what had occurred. He thought his trouble had temporarily unhinged hi.s mind. The Foreman said thirty-five years ago deceased told him that he thought the pain would drive him mad. A verdict of suicide whilst of unsound mind was returned.”

1913

From the Sleaford and South Lincolnshire Advertiser, 25th October. The sub heading was probably made up ready and put to one side due to its frequent usage.

BODY FOUND


“An inquest was held on Monday at Louth on the body of an unknown man. apparently 23 of years of age which was found in the Louth Canal near Fulstow Bridge on Sunday. On October 10th a man who lives at Thoresby Bridge found a cycle on the canal bank and took it to the police. No trace of the owner could be found. On Sunday morning the body of the man was recovered. There were cycle clips in his pockets and tools, which led to the belief that be was a mechanic. There was, however, nothing to identify the body. A witness said he did not think the deceased fell into the water, owing to the way in which the cycle was lying. The deceased was wearing a black coat and vest, light cord trousers with a pair of boots marked “The Yorkshire Hero,” nearly new. A verdict of ‘Found drowned” was returned.”
Fulstow

1915

A new century, and a new way for people to kill themselves

Car crash

crash report

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1923

Walking

With a slightly disrespectful subheading, the Halifax Evening News reported the sad death of a seven year-old boy:

“Well-known Minister’s Son Drowned. On Saturday afternoon, Bernard Spurr, aged seven, younger son of the Rev. F. C. Spurr, the well-known Baptist minister and author, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, was drowned in the canal near Louth. He was on a visit to his grandparents, Ald. and Mrs. F. Thompson, of Louth, and went for a walk with two other small boys. When near a bathing pool, formerly a dry dock, in the canal, he took off his boots, and said he would walk along a plank which was suspended by chains over the pool, and is used as a diving board. As he was walking across the plank overbalanced, and the lad was thrown into the water. A man named Wray attempted to get the lad out, but was unable to do so until some of the water had been run off. P.C. Cook tried artificial respiration for 2O minutes, but the lad did not recover.”

1931

Tailor

The Hull Daily Mail, on Tuesday 25th August, reported:

Lake

1938

TysonThis tragic story, from the Louth Standard of Saturday 13th August, is made even more macabre by the fact that it attracted a huge crowd of spectators:
“After her son had been missing for twenty-eight hours and the police had dragged the canal at Riverhead unceasingly, a Tetney mother arrived on the scene at the tragic moment when the body her seven-year-old child was being dragged from the water. Scores of Louth people, mostly women, were on the canal banks as the child?s body was brought to light, and their gay dresses and the blazing sunshine made a strangely unreal setting to the tragedy that was revealed.
The victim of the tragedy was seven year-old John Tyson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tyson, of Bishopthorpe, Tetney. He had been staying at 117. Eastfield Road. Louth, with his married sister. Mrs. Kirkby. It is understood that after dinner on Tuesday, which was to have been the last day of his holidav. the lad went out to the canal behind the house, telling his sister that it would not be long before he was back, as he was only going to fetch a jam jar which he had left at the side of the canal when he had been fishing before.
But he did not return either in a few minutes or a few hours even, and in the evening they notified the police. The police at once searched the canal banks, but could find no clue, and the fact that neither the lad’s cap nor his jam jar could be found led them to believe that the lad might have strayed. However, from midnight until about 1.30 on Thursday, the police dragged the canal behind the house, but without success.
Dragging operations were recommenced at 9 a.m. Later in the morning a search was also made in Hubbard?s Hills and a huge crowd of men. armed with sticks, walked through reeds and shallow water in lower reaches of the canal, working on the theory that the lad might have been wading in the shallow water and fallen down.
In the afternoon a big crowd gathered to see the police continue their search, which embraced the canal from Riverhead to Ticklepenny’s lock. The lock gates at the top of the canal were opened for the first time for many years ir an attempt to lower the level of the water at the places where it was thought that the lad might have fallen.
Later, the police worked their way back to the starting place, just behind the house where the lad had been staying, and it was here that the body was found at a quarter to four.
P.C. Storr was stirring the mud at the side of the canal with a grappling iron, when he touched the body, which rose immediately, and was fetched out of the water by another constable.
To add to the tragedy, the boy’s mother arrived on the scene at the fatal moment. She collapsed immediately and had to be carried indoors. A few minutes later, the boy’s father, who had stationed himself further down the canal, arrived at the scene and performed the sad act of identification.”

I am sure there were more suicides and more fatal accidents after the tragic death of John Tyson, but enough is enough, at least for this story. In a dry summer, the waters of the Louth Navigation are now generally shallow, placid and harmless. The waterway’s dark past tells a very different story and, if there are such things as ghosts and phantoms who have died in torment, then this would be the place to find them.

Willows Sketch

DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (3) 1879 – 1897

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Two surnames repeatedly crop up in these 19th century accounts. One is the Coroner, Dr Sharpley, and the other is Alfred Ticklepenny, the lock-keeper, whose house often played host to the melancholy duties of Dr Sharpley. Where was the house? I am told that there were only two lock-keeper’s cottages actually built beside the canal, and they were at Tetney and Top Lock. Old maps show a building just to the east of the lock, but nothing remains of it now.

This is from Stuart Sizer, who is the archivist of the Louth Navigation Trust:

When the Louth Navigation Canal was built, one of the locks of the canal was built on the land farmed by Joseph Ticklepenny.  This lock subsequently became known as “Ticklepenny Lock”.  Joseph’s youngest son, Thomas, became the lockkeeper at Ticklepenny Lock.  In addition, he farmed the land inherited from his father (the death/burial of Joseph has not been found).  For the next 115 years the family was associated with the canal in one way or another, either sailing the canal, (one became captain of a sea-going vessel which plied as far as Scarborough and Grimsby), or as lockkeepers, and one became overlooker of the canal.

Meanwhile, the tragedies continued to happen.

1879

The Stamford Mercury of Friday 16th May reported “a very painful case of self-destruction.

1880

On Friday 17th September, The Hull Packet reported this strange story:

Last week Dr. Sharpley, coroner, and a jury composed of gentlemen from Louth and Keddington, met at the house of Mr. Ticklepenny, near the Keddington lock and bridge on the Louth canal, to inquire into the death of Thomas Swaby, aged 31, unmarried, son of Mr. Swaby, clothier, Eastgate. John Gray said he was passing along the bank on Sunday morning before ten o’clock when he saw a man’s coat lying on the footpath and a hat floating on the water. He at once went to the house of Mr Ticklepenny close by, and got a drag, with which, however, he failed to secure the body he supposed to be under the water.

He then hurried to the police-station and gave an alarm. John Robinson, labourer, Louth, said he was passing by on the morning in question when he was told by some persons about the coat and the hat. He at once plunged into the water and dived, but did not discover anything. On diving a second time he came in contact with the body of deceased. Life was extinct. Mr. Alfred Ticklepenny said he was on his way to the Sunday school about 8.40 when he met Swaby between a quarter and half a mile from his house, and coming from Louth. He did not then know who he was, but he noticed that he looked very peculiar. He did not look like a tradesman on a Sunday morning’s walk, as his boots were very dirty, and his general appearance was that of a man of dissolute habits.

J. Smurthwaite, carpet weaver, 72, James Street, said that about a quarter to 12 on Saturday night a neighbour of his named Brookes, living in Ramsgate, brought Swaby to his house to see if he would give him a night’s lodging. Brookes said he would have taken him in, but his wife was ill. He agreed to do so, and Brookes paid sixpence for the lodging. Swaby told witness he had been locked out. He saw nothing particular in his manner or appearance; he was as bright and sober as possible. Deceased had not been to his house before.

On Sunday morning he called to witness, and asked him if he knew what o’clock it was. He answered he did not, when Swaby said it was just eight o’clock, and wished he would come down and open the door, as he could not manage the queer old lock. He left the house without breakfast. A man named Sanderson deposed to having noticed deceased early on Sunday morning. He saw him coming along towards Mr. Smith’s gate and then turn back again. He took hold of a gate-post and turned round two or three times, and at, last turned off into the road leading to Louth. He thought the man did not look quite right. Thomas Padman, of the county policed, stated that on his being acquainted with the affair he at once went to the scene. In deceased’s pockets were a bunch of keys and a knife,  but no money. Gray gave him a letter which he had found, and 22 photographic, cards of celebrated sports- men, actor; and actresses.

The Coroner said the letter “did not throw ‘any light on’ the matter in hand.” It alluded to family matters and disputes with friends and relatives. It contained the ominous words, “they may I regret it when it is too late.” It was written apparently on the preceding Tuesday. He should be glad if he could advise the jury to deliver a verdict of accidental death or found drowned, but they must take into consideration the surroundings of the case. There was the coat deliberately taken off and laid on the bank, and as to the hat, it might probably have been placed by it . and been blown into the water. Isaac Swaby said his brother was always irritable and excitable after having been drunk; he could not at such times bear a word of a reproof, and had at such times repeatedly talked of putting an end to his existence.

On the following Bank Holiday last year the deceased told his friends he should make an end of himself. His brothers often remarked that he must be going crazed. He had for some time past been irregular in his habits. He had latterly paid his addresses to a respectable young woman, a servant in a gentleman’s family, and was in her company at the Mablethorpe regatta on the preceding Thursday. The jury returned a verdict of “Suicide whilst temporarily insane.” The Coroner said it was remarkable that when he held an inquest a few years ago on one who committed suicide by drowning in the canal be had been called upon to hold four inquests within a few days, and that this case was one of a similar multiplicity of inquests.

1882

Reynolds News, in January, reported on what it called “a Singular Suicide.”

“Dr. Sharpley, the district coroner, hold an inquest at Louth, Lincoliishire, on Monday, on the body of William Barton, aged fifty-live, a publican. The deceased sent for his doctor on Saturday night, who found him evidently suffering from the effects of drink, and prescribed for him an opiate. Deceased then went to bed at midnight, but on Sunday morning he was seen by several persons walking rapidly from his garden into the country. It appeared he walked for two miles to the Louth Canal, into which he precipitated himself. When the body was recovered life was extinct. A verdict of ” Temporary insanity ” was returned.”

1884

James Ingoldby was a disturbed young man whose mental frailty combined fatally with a liking for drink. He was found in the canal basin in March, and the inquest determined that he had taken his own life while temporarily insane.

1886

From the Lincolnshire Chronicle, 18th June:

“On Friday second, inquest was held before the Deputy Coroner, respecting the death of man named Charles Turner, whose body was found in the canal, near Ticklepenny’s lock, on Thursday afternoon. Deceased, who was a Louth man, kept the Bell Inn, at South Somercotes, some years ago; recently he has been living at Hull. Thursday morning he left the Woolpack Inn, River Head, which is kept by his mother in-law, Mrs. Hewson. Some time afterwards, in consequence of his coat being found on the bank of the canal, a search was made for him; his body was soon found in the water, and on being taken out, life was quite extinct. After hearing the evidence, the jury returned verdict of “Drowned himself whilst of unsound mind.”

And there was this, from the Stamford Mercury, published on the same day:

William Robinson 1886

1890

The Boston Guardian just had three lines to spare here in June. A married woman named Grantham committed suicide at Louth on Wednesday. Her dead body was found in the Louth canal.” There were several Grantham families in Louth, and the census information gives us Fanny, aged 43, MA, aged 34 and Elizabeth, aged 18. In the 1891 census there is no mention of Fanny, so perhaps she was the unfortunate soul.

1896

This was a bad year for accidents, with deaths in April and December  .

1896

1897

Mr Watson

IN THE FINAL PART OF THIS FEATURE WE WILL
LOOK AT 20th CENTURY DEATHS IN THE CANAL

THE WRECKING STORM . . . Between the covers

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In the early summer of 1641, London is one of the most dangerous places in Europe. King Charles is facing growing challenges from Parliament and many of London’s people, stirred up by firebrand politicians such as John Pym, sense change is in the air. For Roman Catholics – such as the Tallant family – the mood is doubly dangerous. The Tallants are spice merchants, importing the precious condiments and selling them to those wealthy enough to afford to disguise badly-kept meat with pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. When two Jesuit priests disappear, Thomas Tallant is asked to investigate. When their bodies are found, it is obvious that they have been executed.

Both Sir Robert Tallant and his son Thomas are Members of Parliament, and they are about to witness one of the most famous scenes in British history, but first they must discover who is behind attacks on their premises – both their warehouse beside the River Thames, and their family home out in what was then countryside beyond the City. Are the attacks at the behest of rival merchants, jealous of the Tallants’ connections to the powerful Dutch East India Company, or is something more personal involved? And who is fomenting the violent activism of the Apprentice Boys?

These days we might think of The Apprentice Boys as purely a phenomenon of the political divide in Northern Ireland, but the Apprentice Boys in London predate the Derry incident by over forty years. The London Apprentices in the 1640s were a loosely organised group of many hundreds of young men who took to the street in protest at what they saw as exploitation by their masters. Inevitably but not necessarily correctly, they equated what they saw as their own servitude with the Royalist cause.

The author gives us a brilliantly described account (albeit moved a few months earlier) of the celebrated visit to the House of Commons by King Charles on 4th January 1642 in order to arrest the five members – John Hampden, Arthur Haselrig, Denzil Hollies, John Pym and William Strode – who he saw as central to the plot to bring him down. In this novel, their absence is attributed to a secret message passed earlier in the day to John Pym, and results in the King declaring ruefully, “All my birds have flown.

Birds

Michael Ward does a sterling job of recreating the political and social tensions on the streets of London during what was, arguably, the most turbulent period of British history. The Wrecking Storm is published by Sharpe Books and is available now.

DARK WATER AND LOST SOULS – The tragic waters of the Louth Canal (2) 1834 – 1877

Canal header

Readers of my posts about Louth will probably be aware that most of my information comes from old newspapers, bet the first mention of a fatality connected to the Louth Canal that I could find is dated 1834, many decades after the canal opened in the 1760s. One must assume that there were accidents and suicides during that period, but they don’t appear to have made it into the newspapers. This, then, was the brief but melancholy report in The Stamford Mercury on 15th August 1834.

1834 Huby

Temporarily back in the present day, a summer doesn’t go by without a few scorching hot days, and these are inevitably accompanied by reports of people drowning while swimming in rivers or pits. It is nothing new, however, and in June 1841, The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported:
“We regret to record a fatal accident which happened to Mr. Boys, an assistant in the shop of Messrs. Sutton and Pettinger, drapers, Louth, and son to Mr. Boys, of Epworth, joiner. The young man, early on Saturday morning last, in company with three of his brother shopmen, repaired to the Louth canal, near thee third lock, for the purpose of bathing, but, within a few minutes after entering the destructive element, he sunk, and before assistance could be procured life was extinct. The other young men used every effort to rescue him from his fate; but, alas, proved of no avail. An inquest was held over his body the same day, and his remains were interred in St. Mary’s burying ground on Tuesday last. The spot where this unfortunate young man breathed his last, has long been a bathing resort for the young men of the town; but we hope this, added to many previous fatal occurrences, will tend to make others more careful in future.”

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“The third lock” would be Ticklepenny’s Lock, and its dark reputation was beginning to be established. In February 1855, The Stamford Mercury, in its report into local inquests included an incident which would have a fatal echo over half a century later (see Part 1 of this feature).

1841 hardcastle

Grimoldby 1861

The 24th August 1861 edition of The Louth and North Lincolnshire advertiser devoted just six lines to the death of a Tetney lad, but a search in the 1861 census records reveal that he was Matthias Richard Grimoldby, third son of Benjamin and Elizabeth. The same newspaper, in its edition of Saturday 14th December, reported at greater length:

“A melancholy event was brought to light yesterday about two o’clock p.m., by the discovery that a gentleman who formerly resided at Louth, Mr. Thomas Grant, and who was related to several families of the highest respectability in the town and neighbourhood, had committed suicide by drowning himself in Louth canal. The unfortunate gentleman had some time past resided with his family in Jersey, and about a week ago came over to Louth on a visit, but suddenly disappeared on Sunday evening last, leaving his father’s residence at about eight o’clock. On Wednesday, the most painful apprehensions were aroused at his prolonged and mysterious absence, and a bill was issued offering reward to any person who could give information where he might be found.

Yesterday it was resolved to run off the water out of the canal, and at the same time drags were employed; in a short time a hat was found which left no doubt on the minds of those engaged to the poor gentleman’s fate. Messrs. Phillipson and Sugden succeeded in recovering the body just outside the first lock, which they placed in shed at the River-head, and on examination it was found that the gold watch in possession of the deceased stood at 8-45, proving at what hour Sunday evening the painful event transpired. A young man named Easting, remembered seeing Mr. Grant, at about half-past eight the same evening, not many yards from the spot, and before he had got out of the neighbourhood heard a splash in the water, but he had no suspicion as to the cause. Evidence was adduced on the inquest, held yesterday at the Lock Tavern, which fully established the fact that the fatal act was committed when the deceased was in an unsound state of mind. Verdict temporary insanity.”

Sad to relate, in the decades up to the turn of the century, a further seventeen people (at least) died in the unforgiving waters of the Louth canal.

1869

The death of 23-year-old James Davey in April was particularly horrific. He was mate of the sloop “Hawk” and was negotiating the boat’s passage through Willow’s Lock . He was drawing up the dam of the gates to let water into the lock when the handle slipped all of a sudden and he fell into the river. The force of the current rushing strongly into the lock, he was dashed against the gates and washed in therewith. The lock is very deep and had no appliances to render help, he sank and his body was not recovered until 30 minutes later.

In November George Ward went missing. He was not a happy man, and feared he was about to become the victim of a conspiracy. His housekeeper observed him at his house in James Street near Ramsgate, burning documents and papers, but his disappearance remained a mystery, until he was finally found in the depths of Ticklepenny’s Lock. The informative website called Death On Your Doorstep says:
“His body was taken to the Woolpack Inn, Riverhead and placed in an outhouse. His corpse was in an amazing condition and the coroner had just received that day a most vile and scandalous anonymous letter implicating certain people in his disappearance. When discovered, Ward’s face was caked in mud and in his pockets were a comb, seven keys, a knife, handkerchief and rather oddly, a pair of nutcrackers. There is no doubt that the body had laid in a hollow made by machines that scoop out the mud from the canal bed and there must have been thirty of these machines pass over, thus embedding the corpse in the mud.”

1870

From The Lincolnshire Chronicle Friday 16th December:

On Saturday last an inquest was held at the Woolpack Inn, before Dr. Sharpley, coroner, on the body of Thomas Lidgett, of North Somercotes, aged 65, which had been taken out of the Louth Canal, near the first lock, the day before. The jury having viewed the body, the following evidence was taken. John Spoonser, Somercotes, said about half-past 12 o’clock on the night of Wednesday, the 23rd of November, Louth Martinmas fair day, the deceased and he left the Pack Horse Irnn together. “When near the Railway-bridge deceased said he should not go home that night, he would stop at the Woolpack Inn (River Head). Although the deceased was not sober he thought he was quite capable of taking care of himself. Witness himself had had some drink during the day. Samuel Dixon to a certain extent corroborated the statement of Spoonser, whom he joined at the Railway-bridge, but as he had not been in company with either of the parties during the day he knew very little beyond what Spoonser had told him on the road home. John Face, a sailor, said on the preceding day a man’s hat came under the quarter of a vessel he was aboard of, and he had heard that the deceased was missing and was supposed to be drowned in the canal, he and three others grappled for the body, which they found near the first lock, about 100 yards lower down than where the hat was found Having recovered the body they at once communicated with  the police. Mr. E.D. Ditchett had made a superficial examination of the body, upon which had not found the slightest trace of injury. The jury after a short consultation, pronounced the deceased “Accidentally drowned. “

1875 

In July, eight year-old Joseph Proctor was found dead, floating in the canal. His father, Thomas Proctor, said he had been sent to Mrs Nell’s garden to fetch some vegetables in a basket. At the spot he was discovered, he must have bent down to get a drink from the spring and somehow, whether, by the wind blowing him in or a dizzy spell, he ended up in the water. He was found near a stone trough into which water is conducted from a spring in order to supply vessels, adjoining the wall of the canal basin.

1877

In September, Betsy Carritt, aged 51, was found dead in the Louth canal near to Willows Lock. Her husband, Edward Carritt, saw her on Saturday afternoon when she went to the market. Later on that evening a man came and told him that he could hear his wife screaming. They got a lantern and went to search for her. They went to Ticklepenny’s Lock and got the drag, but in the meantime, her corpse had been found further on in the canal. She was pulled out around 9-30 p.m., with the basket of food in the centre of the lock. She had been drinking in the Marquis of Granby pub earlier that evening and this, coupled with her short-sightedness, and also the fact that she was tired and it being dark, were adjudged to have contributed to her accidental death.

1878

From The Lincolnshire Chronicle, 14th June:

Sarah Brown

NEXT: 1879 – 1897

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