Number 13 Oxford Street is a narrow three-story terraced house used these days, I believe, for student accommodation. It was advertised recently as a six bedroom let, a snip (!) at £3,360 pcm. The Bank of England inflation calculator tells me that in 1891, Edward Moore and his family would have been paying just under £26 a month. He had a large family comprising his wife Fanny Adelaide (36) and children Edwin James Moore (16), Fanny A Moore (14), William A Moore (13), Joseph C Moore (11), Rose Hannah Moore (10), Percy E Moore (8), Leonard J Moore (7) and Ernest F Moore (4).
Edward Moore was a cab-driver – horse drawn in those days, of course – and what became of seven of his eight children is a fascinating investigation for another day, but our story focuses on Edwin James Moore and, to a lesser extent, his youngest brother Ernest Moore, known as Bertie. Born in 1875, Edwin Moore appears to have become the black sheep of the family. Court records tell us that he had served time in prison for stealing potatoes, and between 1903 and 1906 had been convicted of minor offences such as drunkenness, using foul language and assault.
It also seems he had found time to join the army, and had served in India, but in the spring of 1907, this prodigal son was back in Leamington. On the evening of Saturday 3nd March, at about 8.00p, Moore returned to the family home, the worse for drink. The only people in the house were his mother and brother Bertie, by then aged eleven. Mrs Moore has been cooking Edwin’s supper – herrings – in the oven, and she put the plate in front of him on the table. He was far from impressed. Complaining that the fish was “stinking the place out”, he first pushed the plate aside and then flung it to the floor, where it shattered. He kicked the broken pieces of pottery and the remains of his dinner across the kitchen, and in his rage, picked up a nearby oil lamp and hurled it at his mother. She fended off the lamp, and it broke against the wall, bursting into flames. Mrs Moore made to escape, but her son snatched a piece of newspaper from the table, twisted it into a spill, lit it from the burning oil lamp and having seized his mother by the arm thrust it like a sword at her body. Her flanelette blouse immediately caught fire, and she rushed into the scullery to try to put out the flames with tap water.
Young Bertie, understandably terrified by what he had seen, ran to the door and screamed “Help! Murder! He’s setting my mother on fire!” Neighbours Henry Beeby and a Mr Phillips rushed into the house, and saw Edwin Moore flapping at the flames that were devouring his mother’s upper body with his bare hands. Beeby managed to put out the flames and, having been cursed at and struck by Edwin Moore, later testified that the younger man ran from the house. Fanny Adelaide Moore was beyond help, however, and was pronounced dead when medical help arrived in the person of Dr Bernard Rice, who later carried out a post-mortem on the poor woman. His findings were reported in The Leamington Spa Courier.
IN PART TWO – ARREST, TRIAL AND SWIFT RETRIBUTION