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THE MURDER OF LUCY LINGARD . . . A Grimsby tragedy (part two)

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SO FAR: Grimsby, 18th November 1902. Lucy Lingard is separated from her husband John. She and her children live in Hope Street, and she has been in a relationship with Samuel Harold Smith (Harry), a trawlerman. He has returned from sea, and the couple have spent the afternoon and evening drinking and arguing. Smith has hit Lucy several times, but they return to their house, both drunk. A newspaper reported what happened next.

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InquestThe report was overly optimistic. Lucy Lingard hovered between life and death for a while, but on the Sunday, four days after the attack, she died of her injuries, described below at the subsequent inquest.

Dr Harold Freeth, house surgeon at the Hospital, gave evidence to the effect that the deceased died in the Hospital from exhaustion, following on from injuries, which he described. There were eleven incised wounds in all, chiefly on the chest and the left arm. One of the most serious wounds was that on the upper side of the left breast, and penetrated through the first rib into the chest cavity. The deceased had lost a great deal of blood. Witness had made a post-mortem examination. The wound which penetrated the chest had set up acute inflammation, and there was also inflammation of the pericardium. In reply to a juryman, the witness said the deceased’s organs were quite healthy before the injuries were inflicted.”

Bizarrely, despite the eye-witness testimony of Lucy Lingard’s daughter, who had witnessed the attack, and the fact that he had admitted his guilt when arrested, Smith pleaded not guilty. Another newspaper reported on young Rose’s demeanour.

Rose

Sir_William_Rann_Kennedy_1915Inevitably, the Coroner’s court, convened at the beginning of December, declared Smith to be guilty of murder, and now it would be up to the Lincoln Assizes court, Judge and Jury, to determine his fate. Smith spent the rest of December – including Christmas – and the greater part of February in Lincoln gaol. On Wednesday 25th February 1903, before Mr Justice Kennedy (right), Samuel Henry Smith  ‘had his hour in court’. Despite the suggestion to the jury that the charge should be reduced to one of manslaughter, it all went badly for Smith.

“The Lincolnshire Assizes were resumed yesterday before Justice Kennedy. Samuel Henry Smith, aged 45, fisherman, was indicted for the wilful murder of Lucy Margaret Lingard. at Grimsby, on the 18th November last. Mr Etherington Smith and Mr Lawrence appeared for the prosecution, and at the request of the Judge Mr Bonner undertook the defence. The case was sordid one. The deceased woman lived apart from her husband at 3, Taylor’s Terrace, Hope Street, Grimsby, and the accused had been in the habit of staying with her. On November 18th last the couple were out together during the afternoon, and on their return had some words, and the prisoner struck the woman. Afterwards they again went out, and when they returned late at night with a lodger and another woman, they were the worse for drink. The quarrel was resumed after a time, and, according to the evidence of the woman’s thirteen-year-old daughter, the accused took out a knife, and, rushing at the deceased, stabbed her several times. She died in the hospital on the following Sunday. On the prisoner’s behalf, Mr Bonner suggested that the jury would be justified in finding him guilty of manslaughter. The crime was undoubtedly due to drink, and he submitted that at the time of its commission the prisoner was not in condition to exercise any discretion as to the result of what he was doing. The jury found the prisoner guilty of Wilful Murder,” and he was sentenced to death.”

William-Billington copy

Smith’s legal team had applied to the Home Secretary, Viscount Chilston, for a reprieve, but he was not minded to be merciful. Likewise a petition set up by residents of Smith’s home town, Brixham, was ignored. On Tuesday 10th March, Samuel Henry Smith was marched to the scaffold by the executioner, William Billington (left). The role of state executioners was often kept within families. Just as the Pierrepoint family had several hangmen – Henry, Thomas and Albert, William Billington took over the job – along with brothers John and Thomas – when their father, James, died in 1901. Newspaper reporters, at this time, were still officially allowed to witness executions first hand, but in practice, most prison governors (and the hangmen) preferred if they didn’t, due to sensationalised and lurid accounts of the prisoners’ last moments. Whether the reporter from the LIncolnshire Chronicle saw the end of Samuel Henry Smith with his own eyes, or simply used his imagination, we do not know:

“According to recent Home Office regulations the black flag is not now displayed and all that told of the end was the tolling of the prison bell just after hour had struck. Inside the Prison, where there were only officials, the scene was impressively quiet. Wm. Billington the executioner, and his brother John, had arrived on the previous night. Early on the fateful morn the Rev. C.H. Scott visited the condemned man, who listened to his ministrations with attention and apparent gratitude. At ten minutes to eight o’clock County Under-Sheriff (Mr. Chas. Scorer) entered the cell, and approaching Smith requested him to prepare for execution. To all appearance he remained quite calm, and with a steady voice intimated that he was prepared to meet his death. Quietly he submitted himself to the executioner for the necessary pinioning process, and walked unfalteringly to the scaffold, and within two minutes all was over. Billington allowed a drop of 7ft. 3in. To the witnesses death appeared to be absolutely instantaneous and there was scarce a motion of the rope after the body disappeared from sight in the space below the drop.”

All that remained was for Samuel Henry Smith’s body to be buried in the gaol cemetery, along with dozens of other executed killers, and his name to be entered in the official record book.

Prison record

FOR MORE LINCOLNSHIRE MURDERS, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOWramblers-church-small-thin

THE MURDER OF LUCY LINGARD . . . A Grimsby tragedy (part one)

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Lucy Margaret Mullins was born in the village of Worlaby in 1869. Her father James was Irish, and worked as a groom. Her mother Jane was from the Lincolnshire village of Great Limber. In the 1881 census the family had moved to Little Limber Grange, near Brocklesby. In April 1889, Lucy married John Lingard in St James Church, Grimsby, and the census two years later shows that they were living at 6 Vesey’s Buildings in Grimsby, and they already had two children, Rose (2) and William (10 months). By 1901 they had moved to Sixth Terrace, Hope Street, and had two more children, Nellie (8) and Arthur (4). Also living in the house were two of Lucy’s adult relatives.

The 1901 census was taken on 1st April, and by the autumn of the next year John and Lucy Lingard had separated, Lucy remaining in Hope Street with the children. By the autumn of 1902 she had given birth to another child, born earlier in the year. The census also tells us that a fisherman named Samuel Henry Smith was also living in Hope Street, apparently on his own. His background has been difficult to track. The census records that he was born in Norfolk, but later newspaper reports suggest that his home town was Brixham in Devon.

It is not clear if Harry Smith was in any way responsible for the break up of the Lingards’ marriage, but by November 1902 it was clear that Lucy Lingard and Harry Smith (also separated from his spouse) were in a relationship, when he was not out on the North Sea on a trawler.

At this point, it is worth pausing the story to compare how people lived – in terms of house occupancy – back in the day. It was very common for ordinary working people to share houses with others. I was born in 1947, and my parents rented a room in a Victorian terraced house, which was shared with another couple and the owner, a single man. Each had a bedroom to themselves, and the kitchen and scullery were shared. There was no bathroom. There was running water, but also a pump in the scullery which drew water from a well. There was no electricity until, I think, 1951 and lighting was from gas lamps which were lit by pulling a little chain, which struck a flint, rather like the mechanics of a cigarette lighter.

Before demolition

Screen Shot 2022-09-10 at 18.37.47Hope Street in Grimsby was cleared of its terraces in the late 1960s (pictured above, thanks to Hope Street History), but a late 19th century map shows back-to-back houses opening directly onto the street, and every so often there would courtyards, each open area being surrounded on three sides by further dwellings. For those interested in the history of Hope Street, there is a Facebook page that gives access to an excellent pdf document describing the history of the street. That link is here. It is also worth pointing out that house ownership, certainly in 1902, would have been in the hands of landlords. The great majority of people in streets like Hope Street would be tenants.

We must now move on to the events of 18th November 1902. Harry Smith’s trawler docked that morning, and he had spent the best part of the afternoon and early evening in the company of Lucy Lingard. Smith at one point went down to the docks to collect his wages from his latest voyage. He and Lucy Lingard were at each other’s throats, perhaps because she had refused him ‘conjugal rights’, and he had struck her several times, giving her two black eyes. In spite of this, they went out drinking again, but what happened when they returned to Hope Street later that evening was to send a shiver of revulsion through the whole area.

IN PART TWO
A daughter’s testimony
Denial, trial – and the black cap

A SEA CAPTAIN SPURNED . . . A Grimsby murder, 1893 (part two)

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SO FAR – It is November 1893. 39 year-old Grimsby fishing smack captain Henry Rumbell (widely called Rumbold in press reports) has been having an affair with a young Grimsby girl, Harriet Rushby. Rumbell, fearing that Rushby was ‘playing the field’ had arranged for her to stay under the watchful eye of one of her relatives while he and his ship set to sea for a long trip.

Rumbell’s fishing trips normally lasted eight weeks, but Harriet Rushby was clearly playing on his mind, and after just two weeks at sea, he turned Nightingale round and headed back to Grimsby. On reaching port on the afternoon of Tuesday 7th November, Rumbell made straight for the house in Ayscough Street where he had hoped that that Harriet had been staying under the watchful eye of her cousin Charles. The news that he had seen neither hide nor hair of the young woman sent Rumbell into a barely controlled rage. He set off for Victoria Street where he purchased a revolver and a box of cartridges from a gunsmith’s shop.

He visited a woman called Ann Widall in Emmerson’s Terrace, and she told him that Harriet had been seen heading for what the press called The Empire Music Hall. This is another of the mysteries in this story. Where it was, I don’t know, as what became known as the Empire Theatre in Cleethorpes wasn’t built until 1895. Eventually Rumbell caught up with Harriet on the Cleethorpes Road. She was in the company of a woman called Mrs Bowdidge and a man called William Burns, who lodged with her at 124 Tunnard Street. The four of them continued an evening’s drinking, ending up at a long-since-closed pub, The Barrel in Lock Hill. At about eleven o’clock, Rumbell and Rushby went to the house in Tunnard Street, where Rumbell demanded to know what the girl had been doing behind his back. When Bowdidge and Burns arrived at the house a short time after, what they heard was reported in a local newspaper:

The Killing

From here, the path from Grimsby police station to the gallows at Lincoln Gaol was straight and smooth. This, once again from a contemporary newspaper:

“Rumbold was tried at Lincoln Assizes on Wednesday, November 29th, before Mr. Justice Charles. There was practically no defence, the only efforts of counsel on behalf of the prisoner being directed to obtain a verdict on the less serious charge of manslaughter. The summing up of the judge was distinctly unfavourable to this view of the case. His Lordship said he did not suppose anyone could have any doubt of the sort of life led at the woman Bowdidge’s house, and there it was that the girl took up her abode whilst the prisoner was away at sea, but in point of law nothing took place that would justify them in reducing the criminality of the charge After nine or ten minutes consideration the jury returned a verdict of guilty, and then it was that the prisoner, who had presented a calm demeanour throughout the four hours’ trial, made most extraordinary statement. He expressed his satisfaction with the verdict, and asked his Lordship to grant him, as he was a great smoker, as many cigars and cigarettes as he wished for between then and the day of his death. ” I want to die an English hero,” said the wretched culprit, ” though,” he added, ” I know it is a disgrace to my country and my friends and comrades.”

Henry Rumbell’s demise on 19th December 1893 was described graphically in a Grimsby newspaper report:

Execution

Tragically, male on female violence, whether fueled by jealous rage or not, shows no sign of abating as we supposedly become more civilised. The list of men who have murdered women is a long one, and includes such infamous names as Dr Crippen, Reginald Christie, John Haigh, Fred West, Harold Shipman, Levi Bellfield and Wayne Couzens. It remains a matter of debate whether the death penalty would have acted as any deterrent in the more recent cases.

FOR OTHER LINCOLNSHIRE MURDERS, FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW

The Killing of Minnie Kirby

Death comes to Newmarket

The madness of a daughter

A chapter of horrors

The Spalding poisoner

The strange death of Catherine Gear

A SEA CAPTAIN SPURNED . . . A Grimsby murder, 1893 (part one)

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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.

HarrietThe 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.

RumboldHenry 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

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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

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* 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.

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