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Frank Fowler

THE WHITE HORSE MURDER . . . A brutal killing in a Lincolnshire market town (2)

WHITE HORSE HEADER

SO FAR – Market Deeping, Lincolnshire. September 1922. On Wednesday 20th, 18 year-old Ivy Dora D’Arcy had married her sweetheart, George Prentice. On the following Monday, her widowed mother Edith – landlady of The White Horse – was to remarry. At around 9.00pm on Saturday 23rd, Edith, Ivy, her sister Gertrude, and Edith’s soon-to-be daughter in law Eva are examining wedding presents in a back parlour, lit only by a candle. As ever, what happened next is vividly described by a local newspaper:

Blurb 1

At the coroner’s inquest on Monday 25th September, Edith D’Arcy explained that she was now Mrs Kitchener. Her new husband’s rather hard-hearted employers The Great Northern Railway Company, had refused to extend his leave of absence despite the tragedy, and so they had been married just an hour or so before arriving at the inquest. They are pictured below.

Mum arrives

Barely managing to keep her composure, she told the court that in the darkness, no-one realised what had actually happened. She said:

“Gertrude cried, “Bring a light, Ivy has been shot. I got some matches and lit the gas, and I saw them lifting Ivy onto a chair. She was smothered in blood, and a big clot of blood as big as my hand lay on her lap.”

What she saw was described in more chillingly anatomical terms by the doctor who was called to the scene:

“Dr. Benson stated that he was called to The White Horse Hotel soon after 9.20, on Saturday evening. Deceased was dead on his arrival. Her clothing was saturated with blood, and there was a 2½ inches by 3 inches wound on the left breast, whilst several ribs were smashed. A large cavity was formed In the thorax. The full charge from the gun had entered her chest at close range, from close range. Death was instantaneous, and due to haemorrage and shock. The wound was consistent with having been caused by the charge of a sporting gun such as that produced.”

It is almost impossible to imagine the devastating effect this murder would have had on George Prentice. For three days he had a lovely young wife with the promise of children and years of happiness. Because of an instant of jealous rage, those dreams lay in tatters. He is pictured below, the man on the right, supported by a friend, arriving at the inquest.

George arrives cropped

Worse was to come for George Prentice. He had to watch as his young wife was lowered into the ground on Wednesday 27th September while the solemn words of the burial sentences were intoned.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord : he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet Shall He live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shalt stand at the latter day upon the earth.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.

It is hardly surprising that the occasion was too much for George Prentice to bear.

Husbands Collapse

Ivy’s grave is very weathered, but can still be found in Market Deeping cemetery.

Ivy Dora Prentice smaller

FRANK FOWLERScreen Shot 2022-06-07 at 20.39.30

As for Fowler, (pictured left, leaving the inquest) he was clearly as guilty as sin. In his mind he had painted a picture in which he and Ivy D’Arcy were destined to be man and wife, despite the lack of any encouragement on her part. He was sent for trial at the autumn assizes in Lincoln, and it wasn’t until the jury found him guilty of murder, and the death sentence had been imposed by Mr Justice Lush  that his defence team  decided to ask for a  a repeal on the grounds of insanity. This was rejected, and Fowler was booked in for an appointment with the formidable Thomas Pierrepoint, (right). 13th December 1922 was a bad day for Lincolnshire, as the double execution despatched two men of the county, Fowler and a man called George Robinson who had murdered another 18 year-old girl in Dorrington.

Double Execution

As for Fowler’s motivation, one has to accept Edith Kitchener’s statement that there was never anything between Fowler and her late daughter. Whatever relationship there was must have existed purely in his own head. At the time of the shooting he was heard to say, “Now I’ve had my revenge.” He had determined that if he couldn’t have Ivy Dora D’Arcy, then no-one would.

These stories would wander interminably if we followed the future lives of the surviving participants, but thanks to Chris Berry, whose family tree Ivy D’Arcy is part of, I can add that George Prentice married again in 1927, to a woman called Florence Taylor. He died in October 1960, leaving the tidy sum of £20315 which is close on £330000 in today’s money. Edith and William Kitchener were recorded as living in Tallington in the 1939 register. She died in the spring of 1945, aged 75, while William died in the spring of 1951.

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THE WHITE HORSE MURDER . . . A brutal killing in a Lincolnshire Market town (1)

WHITE HORSE HEADER

The ancient Lincolnshire town of Market Deeping sits on the north bank of the River Welland, and its many 17th century buildings would have appeared, in 1922, pretty much as they do today. The census tells us that its population had steadily declined from a peak of nearly 1300 in 1871, to 888 in 1921. A small part of this decline was due to the sacrifice paid by the men of the town – in common with almost every other community across the land – during The Great War. 25 men of the town went to war and never returned, and a plaque in their honour was dedicated in St Guthlac’s church in December 1920.

One of the most elegant buildings in the town is The White Horse on Church Street. In 1922 the hotel was run by Edith Caroline D’Arcy, helped by her daughters. She was a widow, her husband William George having died in 1915 at the age of 53. There was great anticipation in the household that September, as there was to be a double wedding. Edith’s youngest daughter, Ivy Dora, was to marry local hairdresser George Prentice on Wednesday 20th, while Edith herself was to end her widowhood by marrying William Kitchener – a signalman from Tallington – on Monday 25th.

The Darcy family had moved around over the years. The 1891 census has George and Edith (and daughter Winifred) living in Penge, with George registered as a jobbing gardener. 1901 has them living in Halfleet, Market Deeping, and they are still there – but with Lucy, Gertrude and Ivy – in 1911. It appears they are living at The Oddfellows’ Arms, a Market Deeping pub long since gone.

1911 census

The D’Arcys seemed to be hardworking and a close family. Perhaps the same could not be said of Frank Fowler’s background. He was born in 1886, in  Langtoft, just a couple of miles north of Market Deeping. The 1891 census has him living with his parents Francis and Alice.

Fowler 1891

Frank FowlerBy 1901, however, he is still living in Langtoft, but with his grandparents Henry and Alice Rosling. His parents, along with daughter Henrietta and a younger son, Robert, had moved to Pickworth, 8 miles east of Grantham. One can only speculate why they left Frank – still only fourteen – behind. It is possible that there was no sinister reason behind this, as by then he may have been working, but it is not mentioned on the census return. In 1911 he is still living with his grandfather – now a widower – and certainly working on a farm. It seems he was either conscripted or joined up to fight in The Great War (pictured left), survived, and returned to Lincolnshire. In 1922 he was managing a farm owned by his aunt, a Mrs Ormer, and was a regular customer at The White Horse. It also seems he had developed an interest in the landlady’s daughter – Ivy Dora D’Arcy.

With all the characters in place, we must now move on to the events of the third week of September 1922. On the Wednesday, Ivy and George were married. They had not yet set up house together, but were staying in one of the guest rooms of The White Horse, helping prepare for Edith’s own wedding, scheduled for Monday 25th September. On the evening of Saturday 23rd, Edith and two of her daughters – Gertrude and Ivy (below) were in a candle-lit back parlour of the hotel, looking at some of Edith’s wedding presents. Suddenly, the door was violently kicked open, and a deafening blast of a shotgun doused the candle and plunged the room into darkness.

IVY DORA

IN PART TWO

A grisly discovery
A wedding and a funeral
Trial and retribution

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