Victorian murder in Linthwaite

At about 2 o’clock onAugust 21st 1891 Margaret Brooke the widowed landlady of the Ivy Hotel told her live in servant girl Catherine (Kate) Dennis  that she was going into Huddersfield town centre on business  and Kate would be in charge while she was gone. Catherine had been at the Ivy Hotel for almost a year and Mrs Brooke had found her to be a trustworthy and honest girl, she was 15 years old and weighed only 5 stones – ( less than 32kg for the people who don’t do english) Mrs Brooke told catherine that she would be back at about 4 o’clock  or half past , Catherine stood at the door and watched her off as a carrier helped her aboard to take her into town.

The Ivy Hotel is no longer open , and is now private dwellings with the upper rooms now having their own door and external  metal staircase, lets have a look.

The Ivy Hotel
The Ivy Hotel

The start of the metal staircase can just be seen behind the trees. lets have a look from the other side

The Ivy Hotel
The Ivy Hotel

We are facing up Manchester Road with our back towards Huddersfield here. For those of you who are familier with the area the Ivy is just across the road from Harry Heywoods fish and chip shop near the junction of Yew Tree lane.

Catherine was from Flintshire in North Wales, and the 1891 census shows her living at The Ivy and gives her birthplace as Hawarden Wales (probably not quite accurate as the 1881 census gives her birthplace as Bagilit) You can Imagine the 1891 Census man asking her where she was born  and when he couldn’t spell Bagilit he would say “so where is that near?”. I actually hadn’t looked at the 1881 census when I  was in Wales so  I called in at Hawarden but not bagilit that is only about 8 miles away . lets have a look at Hawarden so I  didn’t  completely waste my time and petrol.

various 229

Hawarden

Hawarden

Nothing much here really

Interesting old buildings though
Interesting old buildings though

One day I may visit Bagilit – then again maybe not.

Now back to the tale. An obvious question to ask would be ” Why was a girl from North Wales working in the Ivy Hotel in linthwaite ?”- well it seems that an aunty of hers ( Her fathers sister) had married  a Mr George Ramsden who was employed at the nearby Ramsden Mill, and they had put a good word in for her when the job became available.  Right back to  Friday 21st August. Roundabout  4 o’clock in the afternoon the delivery boy from the local co-op butchers rode his safety bicycle down the road to the Ivy to make a delivery ( which was usual practise for the ivy on a friday). He walked in the front door, went to the kitchen  and put the meat down on the table. When no one showed up he called out ” HELLO”.but got no response. He said at the inquest that in the past that they always heard him when he went in and Mrs Brooke would usually pay him for the meat. feeling quite worried at getting no response he went back out of the door and called to a Dry stone waller ( Mr Edwin Hoyle) who he had seen going into a field at the back of the ivy , Mr Hoyle said that he could see no one at the back , then carried on with his work. The delivery boy  David  Beevers was really getting concerned at this point and having already checked the public rooms decided to go to a neighbours about 50 yards up the road to see what they knew. The neighbours a Mrs Bailey a Mr Bedford, Mrs Carter and Mrs pearson all came down to the Ivy,  called the waller Edwin Hoyle to join them and went to investigate. The delivery boy and the waller went to check the cellar while the neighbours began to check elswhere. Mrs Bailey went upstairs and let out a scream – there on the landing lay poor kate Dennis dead. Her clothes disarranged showing her underclothing. She was only 15 years old  “she was just a slip of a girl”. A medical man was sent for  a Mr Thomas Hinchliffe Haigh  of Golcar , he arrived at about quarter to five and examined the girl, her body was still warm , he found her lying on her back with her head inclined to the left resting on her left arm ( her arms oustretched) her face and lips pale , her mouth partially open with her tongue protruding through the teeth, her feet were facing towards the front of the building and she had a wound about an inch long in the  right hand side of her neck.

The Ivy
The Ivy
Newspaper artist grawing of mrs Bailey
Newspaper artist drawing of mrs Bailey

Here is a drawing of Mrs Bailey from the Yorkshire Post newspaper, drawn in August 1891. The police were informed of course, and following reports by various witnesses and a very shocked mrs Brooke who had returned from Huddersfield town centre, two men were arrested in the nearby village of Slaithwaite – they were local men ( from lockwood) and had been in The Ivy Hotel earlier that day, canvassing for business for a local photographer. The two men were held all weekend, but everyone that knew them knew that they were good men and enquiries by the authorities showed they had no case to answer to.  On Saturday 22nd august after a sleepless night turning events of the previous day over in her head , Mrs Brooke remembered that before she left The Ivy Hotel there was also someone else there ; sat in the kitchen eating potato pie was James Stockwell a farm labourer who had been out of work for almost two weeks and was spending quite a bit of time  in the local watering holes. A witness coming down Yew Tree Lane who knew Stockwell had seen him leave the ivy just before 4′ o clock looking quite anxious to get away from the area. the witness actually greeted Stockwell – ” How do Jim” and stockwell replied “How do”.

Yew Tree Lane (road)
Yew Tree Lane (road)

This is Yew Tree lane just across from the Ivy where the witness encountered and spoke to Stockwell.

The inquest was held in the front upstairs room of the Ivy, this was a large room and usually used as a band room for the local band ( Linthwaite Brass band  perhaps ?) at the back were three bedrooms, the smallest  room( the middle room) was Catherine’s room outside which the girl was found. At the inquest mrs Brooke described Catherine as ” A good, honest, cheerful girl, she had no Gentleman callers nor a sweetheart” on the friday morning ( 21st August) she was  going about her work quite happily ” with the joy of youth” singing welsh songs and melodies. The inquest collected all the evidence and statements from the witnesses including Thomas Hinchliffe Haigh the Golcar surgeon who did a post mortem ( no government pathologist in them days) The surgeon stated that ” An outrage had been attempted but was not successful” .Stockwell  – who had not been seen since the day of the murder was now a wanted man and a watch was put on his house , and his known haunts. Stockwell lived with his wife and sister in law in a place called  ” Delph Terrace” on the opposite side of the road to the Ivy ” Hidden from the Ivy round a bend about 400 yards away”

Stockwells House
Stockwells House

Here again is a newspaper drawing ( again from The Yorkshire Post).  Now going down the road I cannot find any sign saying Delph Terrace and most of the houses round there would probably have been built about 1890 to 1900. But hang on  – look at this round the bend , about 400 yards away. Looks very likely

Stockwell's house ?
Stockwell’s house ?

Its got to be hasn’t it?  Now lets look at a description of Stockwell ” A teamer of Milnsbridge 5 feet 5inches  tall , stout build, coarse ginger hair – inclined to curl, with side whiskers and moustache, he is fond of boxing ad likes the company of low loose women. Thanks to the Yorkshire Post here is another drawing

James Stockwell
James Stockwell

With hat

James Stockwell wearing a billycock hat
James Stockwell wearing a billycock hat

Unfortunately I have not been able to find a drawing of Catherine in any of the old newspapers  that I have read to get information  for this post; but I have a written description of her when in her coffin- fine girl for her age with remarkably good features and forehead. Fair brownish hair, her eyes bordered by long dark lashes with finely shaped arched eyebrows. The nose was an almost perfect aquiline ( Roman nose to you and me). It was a good face with a sweet calm expression on it.

After the murder the news  soon got around ( mainly by word of mouth)  , remember no television, radio , phones or facebook in those days, and hundreds of people began to turn up outside the Ivy ( rubberneckers as we would call them). A subscription fund was started by the local people and a sheet was laid out in the road for people to toss coins into. Small groups were allowed in to see the murder scene and into the bedroom where Catherine was laid out ( for a small donation no doubt). Catherines parents and grandmother also arrived from their home in wales.For the funeral Prayers were said in the hotel , then the hearse carried Catherine’s coffin up the hill to Christ Church Linthwaite Broadoak ( the church is next  to Colne Valley High School)

A pleasant spot
A pleasant spot

This is where poor Catherine lies – as you can see it is somewhat neglected.

Catherines headstone
Catherines headstone

Here are a couple of  a closer shots of the headstone

Catherines headstone
Catherines headstone

If anyone is interested I have scanned a copy of the death certificate

death certificate - Catherine Dennis
death certificate – Catherine Dennis

James Stockwell was of course still on the run, his description was issued to all the police forces in the country and rumours were rife that he had commited suicide, people were checking mill dams , rivers and lakes for his body , but to no avail. He had allegedly been seen in nearby Crosland Hill , and also in the village of Marsden but not apprehended. Stockwell it seems had disapeared. Stockwell had in fact been living rough on Crosland  Moor and Meltham wood sleeping in haystacks and barns , he later claimed that he had never been more than 3 miles away.

It was on morning of the 7th september that Stockwell’s mother , who lived at 2 Lower Brow Road , Paddock, awoke to find her son James in her house, she asked him about the murdered girl, to which he denied any wrong doing, he then went to rest on the bed. Mrs Stockwell then went to fetch the local police constable – as she had sworn she would do if her son showed up. PC Taylor lived on nearby  Church Street and returned with Mrs stockwell to arrest James stockwell.  Lower Brow Road is shown on a local street map – we shall have a look  at it 120 years or so later

Upper Brow Road
Upper Brow Road

I am stood on Brow road now , looking at Wren street going to the right and Upper Brow road to the left – looking at the street plan Lower Brow Road is off to the left off Upper Brow Road – Here we go

Site of lower Brow Road
Site of lower Brow Road

Gone !

Where is it ?
Where is it ?

Definitely no longer there – very likely flattened in the 1960s when a lot of poor quality housing  was demolished in these parts. The rule seemed to be that if you did not have an inside toilet you were up for demolition. – back to the Yorkshire Post artist then.

2 Lower Brow Road
2 Lower Brow Road

As the caption on the drawing  says – ” Where Stockwell was arrested”.

Stockwell offered no resistance he was exhausted and he’d  had virtually nothing to eat all the time he had been on the run, he seemed almost relieved that he had been caught. He was taken to Huddersfield police Station where he was fed and watered then taken to the police court  where he pleaded guilty to the charge of murder – it is claimed that he said that is was all down to drink and that the girl was teasing him – pulling his hair and moustache. [ did you just see that pig fly over?] Stockwell was sent to Wakefield  Prison to await trial , he admitted commiting the  murder to another prisoner and claimed that he turned into a maniac after drinking, he said he was laying down on a bench trying to sleep when the girl knocked his hat off and started pulling his hair, he ran to get hold of her and she ran upstairs. When the other Prisoner asked him if anything immoral  had taken place , Stockwell said no , then refused to talk about it anymore. Stockwell was of course found guilty of murder and sentenced to death , the judge ordered a private execution i.e just the minimum number of officials required, no reporters or witnesses.  Stockwell’s solicitor sent a plea to the home office of stockwells hereditary insanity , for in the Stockwell family several members including his own mother had spent time in the Wadsley asylum

wadsley asylum
wadsley asylum
Wadsley asylum
Wadsley asylum

The appeal was turned down.  On a cold grey  morning of Tuesday January  5th  James Billington  the executioner for Armley prison earned his fee of £10 – 8/6 ( £10. 42 1/2 p) , he gave stockwell a drop of 8ft 6 inches  and the report says Stockwell died “almost” instantaneously.

James Billington
James Billington

James Stockwell’s mother did spend further time in Wadsley asylum both before and after his execution, Contrary to contemporary reports in the newspapers Catherines mother did not die in an asylum prior  to Stockwell’s execution, although she was very upset about it all she was still living with the rest of her family in Wales.  Also Catherines age is given as 16 on her headstone  – in fact she was killed on the Friday  before her 16th birthday  the following week.

RIP Catherine  you have not been Forgotten.

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3 comments on “Victorian murder in Linthwaite

  1. Great post and good investigation.

    Well done find locating Stockwell’s house as well. It must be it.

    Imagine having the inquest in the very building where she died. Seems like madness!

    Will reblog this later, onto my site 😉

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