Search

fullybooked2017

Tag

Foxlydiate

“SHE WOULD HAVE BIT ME TO PIECES, SO I HAD TO FINISH HER”. . . The murder of Hannah Middleton (2)

Middleton header

HannahSO FAR: On the evening of 10th/11th May 1902, Foxlydiate couple Samuel and Hannah Middleton had been having a protracted and violent argument. At 3.30 am the alarm was given that their cottage was on fire. When the police were eventually able to enter what was left of the cottage there was little left of Hannah Middleton (left, in a newspaper likeness) but a charred corpse. Samuel Middleton was arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife. The coroner’s inquest heard that one of the technical problems was that Hannah Middleton’s body had been so destroyed by the fire that a proper examination was impossible.

Inquest
Screen Shot 2023-01-07 at 19.18.43Samuel Middleton was sent for trial at the summer assizes in Worcester. Assize courts were normally held three or four times a year in the county towns around the country, and were presided over by a senior judge. These courts were were for the more serious crimes which could not be dealt with my local magistrate courts. At the end of June, Samuel Middleton stood before Mr Justice Wright (left) and the proceedings were relatively short. The only fragile straw Middleton’s defence barristers could cling to was the lesser charge of manslaughter. Middleton had repeatedly said, in various versions, that his wife had clung to him with the intention of doing him harm – “She would have bit me to pieces, so I had to finish her.” It was clear to both judge and jury, however, that Middleton had battered his wife over the head with a poker, and then set fire to the cottage in an attempt to hide the evidence.  Mr Justice Wright delivered the inevitable verdict with due solemnity.

Verdict

On the morning of Tuesday 15th July 1902, within the walls of Worcester gaol, the wheels of British justice, with the assistance of executioner John Billington, made their final turn in the case of Samuel Middleton. Public executions ended in 1867, but newspaper reporters were granted certain levels of access, and what they couldn’t actually see, they made sure their readers had full access to their imaginative skills.

“The Press representatives had full leisure to observe all these details while they were waiting for the arrival of tbe procession. The time went slowly for the waiters, but too fast, alas, for the wretched criminal awaiting his doom in the condemned cell. The minutes went by, till at length the warder flung open the huge gates, which extend the whole length of the wall, and let in a flood of summer sunshine. The sad procession made its appearance by a door on the opposite side of the yard, descended the few steps, and slowly crossed to the place of execution. The Chaplain, the Rev. R. R. Needham, headed the cortege, and was closely followed by the condemned man, his arms pinioned behind him, and supported by a warder on either side. His face was deathly pale, and his eyes had a terrified expression, but otherwise he appeared quite calm. Others in the procession were the Governor of the Prison (Mr. H. B. Lethbridge), tbe Under-Sheriff of the County (Mr. W. P. Hughes), the surgeon (Mr. L. J. Wilding), Ald. J. Millington (one of the Visiting Justices), Chief Warder Gibson, and other warders, and the Sheriff’s officer.”

“Arriving at the death-chamber, Middleton was assisted on to the trap doors, and in a moment Billington and his assistants, two young, active men, had the noose affixed and the strap securely bound round the man’s legs. All this while Middleton made no sound or sign. The white cap was pulled down over his head, Billington sprang to the lever, gave a sharp pull, the doors flew open, and the miserable man’s body plunged down into the pit. There was a jerk, the rope vibrated for a few seconds, and then all was still. Middleton had paid the penalty of his crime.”

“As soon as the body disappeared, the Rev. R. R. Needham read a few sentences from the Burial Service, while the prison bell tolled, conveying to the waiting throng outside an intimation that the last act in the tragedy had been accomplished. The Chaplain’s voice sounded unsteady as he read the words of awful import, but he proceeded to the end. Then slowly the spectators filed out, giving one glance down the pit as they passed at the motionless, white-capped figure, the rope taut round the neck, and the head bent on to the shoulder a a horrible angle.”

In a bizarre postscript, Middleton’s official criminal record includes the  charge of destroying the cottage in which he lived, and the one occupied by Mrs Hassall.

Screen Shot 2023-01-06 at 18.50.48

FOR MORE HISTORICAL MURDER CASES, CLICK HERE

“SHE WOULD HAVE BIT ME TO PIECES, SO I HAD TO FINISH HER”. . . The murder of Hannah Middleton (1)

Middleton header

The hamlets of Foxlydiate and Webheath were, in 1902, still separate entities, but are now just part of Redditch. The word ‘lydiate’ is not uncommon in English place names, and it comes from Old English Hlid-geat, pronounced Lidyat, meaning swing-gate. The 1901 census shows that near to Springhill Farm, three adjacent cottages housed three people who were to lay significant roles in events a year later.

Screen Shot 2023-01-06 at 18.32.50

At 164 lived Samuel Middleton, his wife Hannah and their adult son William. Next door was an elderly widow, Harriet Hassall, and at 166 were Thomas and Lara Drew and their five children. Samuel Middleton was 47, and his wife 50. She was from Stow in Oxfordshire, and had married Samuel in 1879. He was born in Bentley, just a mile away from Foxlydiate. On the evening of 10th May 1902 the Middletons were in the middle of one of the violent arguments which had become all too common in recent months. Crockery was thrown and, fearing for her safety, Hannah Middleton ran the few hundred yards up the road to The Fox and Goose Inn. Landlord Herbert Chambers took Hannah back to the cottage, and later testified that the exchange was along these lines:
Middleton, “He’d better not come in here, or I’ll serve him the same.”
Chambers, “You’d better not do that, Sam.”
Middleton, “Come on then ..”
Chambers, “You’d be best governing your temper, Sam”.
Middleton, “No, I’ll do for the lot.”
Chambers later testified that Middleton was not drunk, and that he was normally a peaceable man, but rather eccentric. Such was the proximity of the neighbouring cottages that the rows between the Middletons were something of a public event, and Laura Drew was concerned about Hannah’s safety. A newspaper reported her version of events.

Mrs Drew

Both cottages – back to back as they were – were destroyed by the fire, as was Hannah Middleton. A few days later, at the coroner’s inquest, witnesses were able to piece together the events.

Joseph Worskett, gamekeeper to Lord Windsor, said Middleton came to his house (where William Middleton was living) at Bentley at 3.30 am and called him through the window. Middleton called out, “Tell Will his mother’s nearly dead,” and went off.

William Middleton said he had heard Middleton frequently threaten his mother during the last two or three months. Inspector Hayes said the police, and fire brigade arrived at the cottages at five am on the morning of 11th May. Loose straw was littered in a continuous trail from the pig-stye to the house, and there were burnt ends around the door. Witness and two firemen discovered what they thought were human remains, on the brick floor. Portions of a woman’s clothing were buttoned at the back. Police Constable Lyes said a pair of tongs and part of a poker were lying about two feet from the body. The head of a large axe (weighing five or six pounds) was found on the floor in a room adjoining. The broken end of the poker lay close to it. A bill-hook was near the axe-head in the front room.

Later in the day, a roadman called James Tyler, was working in Trench lane, between Himbleton and Droitwich, when Middleton came and said, “Where am I going?”
Tyler said Where do you want to go?”
Middleton replied, “Anywhere, anywhere. I have killed the wife; they will soon catch me.”

Police Constable Bird found the prisoner the same evening sitting in Trench lane, and asked him what time he left Foxlydiate. He said had not left it, but when asked if his name were not Samuel Middleton he said, “I suppose it must be,” and asked where he was be taken. Police Sergeant Howard said prisoner while being taken from Bromsgrove to Redditch pointed to a scratch on the right side his cheek, and said, “That woman done this. She would not leave me and followed me downstairs. We had been rowing. She would have bit me to pieces, but I hit her on the head with the poker. They say it was all my fault.”

IN PART TWO
More details emerge
Trial and retribution

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑