Bills o’ Jacks

 

Here lies the dreadfully bruised and lacerated bodies of William Bradbury and Thomas, His son, both of Greenfield, who were together savagely murdered in an unusually horrid manner, on Monday night, April 2nd. 1832, William being 84 and Thomas 46 years old.

These are the first words on a stone slab which covers a grave, in the bottom corner of the overgrown burial ground of St Chads church in the Saddleworth village of Uppermill.

St Chads uppermill
St Chads –  Uppermill

The grave is in the burial ground over the road from the church – it is pretty overgrown, but go through the gate and head to the bottom left corner.

Overgrown burial ground
Overgrown burial ground

Bottom left

There it is
There it is

It is the last one in the corner. Lets have a closer look.

That's the one
That’s the one

To read the inscription you have to stand on the stone itself.

The stone
The stone

So here is the final resting place of Bill o’Jacks, and his son, Tom o’Bills . We will of course have to have a closer look at this event, by looking at the old newspaper reports, the print is not always easy to read so I will add a (?) when something could have been misread or spelled; there are also other small pieces of writing on the internet which I will gather information from . Surprisingly there are very few local history booklets etc covering the murders – one out of print and one fictional story and not much else really; so this is my attempt to relate this tale to a wider audience. The first question may be ” Why was William Bradbury known as Bill o’ Jacks ?” .  The answer of course is that around this time , in this part of the world people were known by their christian name, and who they were the offspring of – IE William ( or Bill) son of Jack – so he was William of Jacks or Bill o’ Jacks. So his son Thomas would be known as ” Tom o’ Bills”, easy eh?.  Right lets do a short History on the inn where the murder took place.

In the beginning of the 19th century  William Bradbury and his wife Mary lived in a sturdy farmhouse just outside the village of Greenfield in the area of Saddleworth  in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Historically Saddleworth still belongs to the county of Yorkshire , though the local government reorganization  in the mid 1970s put Saddleworth under the control of Oldham borough council, ( Oldham  being a Lancashire town) This local government reorganization did not change the traditional county boundaries and the” White Rose Society ” is still quite strong in Saddleworth today, clinging onto their Yorkshire roots like a shipwrecked mariner clinging onto a liferaft. Right  back to William and Thomas ; Roundabout the year 1810 when a new road from Greenfield to Holmfirth was planned, the farmhouse that William and Mary were living in was within 100 yards of the planned road so William (not a young man – then in his sixties) applied for (and got) an alcohol license,  He then renamed the Farmhouse ( now an alehouse)  ” The Shooters Arms “, one of his sons Thomas at some point lived about a mile away  with his wife and family in a cottage at Sidebank

Sidebank
Sidebank

I suspect that this place is where the cottages may have been, and could possibly be the same buildings, but now made  into one premise.

Sidebank house
Sidebank house

The style of the buildings look contemporary with the first part of the 19th century

Front building Sidebank House
Front building Sidebank House

I suspect that it was two rows of cottages , one behind the other, but the dividing walls between adjoining cottages removed to make larger houses. In the year 1828, Mary died , and Tom moved into the pub now officially called “The Cherry Tree” but better known as “Bills o’Jacks “, to help is father with the running of the pub and the brewing of the ale because Bill was now 81 years old. Thomas was about 40 years old , and was also a gamekeeper on the adjoining Saddleworth moor, he was a tall, strong man and could certainly take care of himself, in fact you get the impression that he could be a bit of a bully. Roundabout 1830  The Cherry Tree lost it’s full license, possibly due to a legal dispute over William Bradbury’s  right to occupy the building, so it became just a beerhouse, not licensed to sell spirits or wine. It was not until about 1840 when the inn was being run by Tom’s son  Augustus Bradbury, that it was renamed   “The Moorcock”, but it was still better known by all as ” Bill’s o’Jacks”     The Moorcock was eventually demolished 1n July 1937, I would have called in for a swift one if it was still open today.

The Moorcock around about 1930
The Moorcock around about 1930

This is a poor picture I have found of The Moorcock, I will take one from roughly the same place – ( I couldn’t get far enough up the banking to try and get it from the exact spot). you can see a light mist blowing across.

site of The Moorcock
site of The Moorcock

We will go down for a closer look a little bit later 🙂 But now lets step back to April  2nd, 1832 and look at the events ; We will start with Reuben Platt’s account – Reuben was a friend of Tom Bradbury, and was one of the last people to see him before the attack. Reuben Platt , lived at “Primrose(?)” in Greenfield and had called in at Bill’s o’Jacks about 6:30 pm and had a drink,( the old man was out), Tom Bradbury needed to go down into the village to get some tea ,candles  and sugar or coffee( accounts vary between sugar or coffee – but it’s not really relevant anyway). They both set off together to walk down into the village – Tom to the shop ( in the Spring grove, Road end area) and Reuben to go home. They had not got far when they met Bill returning home, Tom gave his father the door key, and some money for accommodation(?) if required in his son’s absence, the approximate time was about 7:30 pm. They had gone about half a mile down the road when they saw three men resting at the side of the road, one of the men asked how far it was to Holmfirth when told it was about eight miles, set off on their way. Reuben claims that from their accent the men were Irish( there were numerous itinerant workers in those days the majority of them Irish labourers building roads, canals etc) Tom said he felt uneasy about leaving his father alone , as he suspected that one of these men had previously stolen from them, but carried on to the shop and Reuben went home. We do not know which shop Tom went to,  but he did pass the cottage where is wife was living, both going down and coming back. Lets look at Roadend  anyway.

Milestone
Milestone
Butchers Shop Roadend
Butchers Shop Roadend

Was This the Shop ? Probably not.

Possible shop
Possible shop

Maybe or maybe not  – it was almost 200 years ago – a lot of things have changed ,

We know nothing about Tom’s return to the inn – apart from the fact that at some point he did return, and it must be said that apart from Reuben Platt, nobody else reported seeing the three Irishmen, but a witness Mr James Whitehead who lived in the closest house to Bill o’Jacks ,about half a mile away saw Tom and Reuben walking down the road together,and spoke a few words to them, but did not see the Irishmen.     The following day Tues 3rd April Bill’s grandaughter , Tom’s Niece, Amelia Winterbottom was sent to fetch some yeast from her grandfather’s.She opened the door and saw someone ( she could not recognise him) lying on the floor in ” his own gore” , she ran upstairs and found her grandfather Bill lying in bed, also covered in blood. She ran outside and headed to the nearest house (James Whitehead’s) and informed them what she had found, The house is at “Binn Green ” ( about half a mile away.) There is a Car Park now called Binn Green ( Pay and Display 😦 ) and some later houses at the bottom of the hill,  called ” Binn Green cottages”

Binn Green carpark
Binn Green carpark
Binn Green cottages gate
Binn Green cottages gate
Binn Green cottages from the A635 Holmfirth road
Binn Green cottages from the A635 Holmfirth road
B inn Green cottages  from the A635 Holmfirth rd
Binn Green cottages from the A635 Holmfirth rd

Here are is an old picture of The Moorcock Inn from between 1902 and 1910.

Moorcock  1902 - 1909
Moorcock 1902 – 1909

James Whitehead and family quickly came to Bills o ‘Jacks  and finding that Amelia was telling the truth,  sent a messenger across the moor to the neighbouring village of  Uppermill, to fetch the surgeon Mr Higginbottom. This is what Mr Higginbottom  found “ Thomas bradbury was still on the floor, for such was the terror created by the spectacle, that those who had  before arrived, were incapable of affording him any assistance. He was lying on his face in a pool of blood ,with which his clothes were soaked; his head and face appeared to be a mass of clotted gore. Though apparently  unconscious he made frequent attempts to rise from the floor, but each time sunk again into the pool of blood in which he had been lying. At this time pulsation had ceased at the wrist, and  he was in fact struggling in the agonies of death. This report was from a newspaper written at the time, so may be exaggerated but you certainly get the idea, it goes on to say.”In the chamber ( bedroom) was the old man, who, from the marks on the floor and the staircase, appeared to have waded through the blood in his stockings, and made his way upstairs to bed. He was insensible and talking incoherentlly. There was a deep cut to the left side of the head down to the parietal bone, which was considerably depressed. the fingers on the left hand were cut to pieces; the wrist and elbow of the left arm were cut and mangled in a shocking manner, the muscle being cut through to the bone, which was broken to pieces; and the body from head to foot was covered in bruises.  The son Tom who they knew was beyond help was taken to bed and was found to have sixteen wounds to the head , two of which had fractured his skull , and bruises all over his body, he died before they could finish dressing his wounds., the old man died in the early hours of the following morning . I have found a sketch made of the plan of the pub when the bodies were found

Plan of the murder scene
Plan of the murder scene

So basically both men were beaten to death and the inn was robbed  of  ” anything of any value that could be carried away”. We will take a little break now , and wander down to the site where the inn once stood,  I got up early on a grey and drizzly Sunday morning and made my way to Greenfield. I will also add some old pictures I have found along with some pictures I took myself.

Track down to Bills o'Jacks
Track down to Bills o’Jacks

The sign on the gate said private , but the gate was open so down I walked. – sometimes you’ve got to be a rebel 🙂 – I believe its Water board land anyway.

moorcock circa 1905
moorcock circa 1905
2014 site of Moorcock
2014 site of Moorcock

Tried to take this shot from a similar position as the old photo ( this was from memory  of the older photo, I was not carrying a copy – not bad eh?). The site does not look as big on the ground as you would expect, lets go round to where the bottom wall of the inn would be.

An old cellar
An old cellar

WOW look at that , this must be the cellar that was under The Moorcock – do you think we should go in ? of course we should ! Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Ooh err
Ooh err

Its a bit of a sludgy floor, and water dripping from the above, but I’ve got my booits on so in we go! – spooky.

Back wall
Back wall
looking out
looking out

I must apologize  for the pictures – water kept dripping on my lens,      and my head, down my shirt etc. Could not see an entrance from the inn, possibly had to enter from outside , but I did find this blocked door(?)

Blocked door (?)
Blocked door (?)

I will show you a photo I believe to be from 1862 ( If I am reading the sign correctly) I think it says Joseph Waterhouse, who had The Moorcock 1862 – 1863, then presumably he died , because Martha Waterhouse had the inn from 1864  to 1876, again I am assuming that Joseph and Martha may be the couple standing in the doorway, This is the earliest photo I could find

Moorcock 1862
Moorcock 1862

Now lets go back thirty years before the above photo to 1832 – back to the slaying of Bill and Tom. The weapons used were still on site, -an old spade, a poker, an auger, and a cavalry pistol !. The cavalry pistol was found by Mr Hibbert the surgeon, thrown onto the side of the track by the inn, although it was loaded, it had not been fired , but the blood and hair found on (the now ) broken handle suggested it had been used to club someone ( probably Tom).  The old man they thought had been beaten with the spade. Tom was found with the candles he had bought earlier, still in his pocket, covered in blood which again suggests that perhaps he disturbed a robbery on his return to the inn. We will never know; there are several suspects – the three Irishmen that Reuben Platt saw, but nobody else did, Reuben Platt  himself trying to shift suspicion by suggesting the Irishmen, there was also a local poacher(and son) – also called  Bradbury who Tom was supposed to testify against in Pontefract court the following day. This poacher was claimed to have said, when going through Meltham on his way to Pontefract that “Thomas Bradbury would not turn up to give evidence and would by now be rotting in hell” – We do not know if this is actually true , but you can see it would make a good rumour for villagers  to pass around at the time .The inquest was held in the William iv public house (still there) in an upstairs room; after hearing from several people the verdict was ” murder against some person or persons as yet unknown”. A reward of £100 was offered but never claimed. The  Thursday after the murder an Irishman was seen by a Mr Benjamin Broadbent, walking past the Hare and Hounds in Marsden, heading towards Saddleworth , he had blackened eyes and blood on his shirt, Mr Broadbent , suspecting he may have been involved in the murder, asked to walk with him over Standedge,( which he did ), They parted where the road forks , Mr Broadbent headed to Dobcross, The Irishman, called Charles Mullen headed to Delph, Mr Broadbent got to Dobcross , informed some people about The Irishman and they headed off to apprehend him. They found Mullen sat at the side of the road, he saw the group and said to them ” I am not the man you want. “He was taken to Dobcross, and Questioned by a Magistrate, he appeared to be quite candid with his answers, and claimed to have been employed in Methley , Wakefield, building a road, and having got into a fight with a fellow worker had been dismissed. Having sent someone to Methley this account was found to be true and the man was released.

William iv Greenfield
William iv Greenfield

No television or radio , but word soon got around , and the following Sunday – a clear and cold day thousands of people turned up, two policemen(?) had to be placed at the door of Bill o’Jacks, and groups of ten or fifteen people were let in at a time to view the gory scene – That was entertainment. Some days later a newspaper wrote criticising the Bradbury Family for making money from the murders; Toms widow retorted that she had made very little from the Bills o’Jacks  exhibition. On the 27th April , an auction was held at Bills  o’Jacks, for the entire contents of the premise – brewing equipment, glasses, earthenware, tables, chairs, etc, “for the benefit of the widow of  Tom o’Bills ”

Former Hare and Hounds , Marsden
Former Hare and Hounds , Marsden

This was the Hare and Hounds , Marsden, where Charles Mullen was seen walking past by Benjamin Broadbent.

The Murderer(S) were never caught but in 1853, 21 years after the murder, Mr Robert Whitehead, in Australia, wrote a letter to his brother in Huddersfield; and I will pick the relevant pieces out here – “I was in a public house at Port fary (sic); a man came in and said, I know you and knew your uncles. There was a Murder committed in Saddleworth .Was it ever found out?”when told it wasn’t the man carried on “it was a young man hawking tape in a basket in saddleworth, who murdered  Bill and Tom o’Jacks himself . I was working at repairing the canal, in saddleworth myself at the time”. then he carried on “Soon after the murder at Bill o’Jacks  the man went down to Leicester  where he committed a robbery on a drover for which he was  transported to Sydney. Since coming here , he has committed a murder for which he was hung in Hobart town . Before being hung he confessed to me that he had murdered Bill and Tom Bradbury of Greenfield. He said he had no intention to murder, only to rob the house, and sent the old man upstairs – but he came down again, so he struck him on the head which disabled him. Then after the man had searched the place, and just left he saw tom returning. “ As Tom entered the door he knocked him down with a firepoker”    The truth is we will never know, but to this day Everyone in Saddleworth knows the dark story  of Bills o, Jacks !

One final note I  found this postcard of Bill o’ Jacks with their picture on it  – They were murdered several years before the first photograph was ever produced- so this is just artistic license to sell more postcards 🙂

Not Bill and Tom Bradbury
Not Bill and Tom Bradbury
Bills o' Jacks
Bills o’ Jacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15 comments on “Bills o’ Jacks

  1. Interesting read! I never heard of this grisly story before, but nice research and photos.

    wonder how much truth was in that letter with the man confessing the murders before he was executed? Quite an interesting twist at the end.

  2. Good story, I was wondering how you came across it, do you live nearby or did you notice the headstone and took it from there? And by any chance is there a map of the area from that time, it would help to place people, buildings, and so on.
    And from what sources did you pull the details from. Right, one last question, do you think it was the gentleman sent off to Australia who was responsible?

    • Thanks Noreen for the comment on Bills o’Jacks – I live within 20 miles of here, and heard the story many years ago, I have found it best to visit the places , then you get a feel for it. I get a lot of my information from old newspapers, inquests etc. I do not know the culprit, but I have my doubts about the Australian connection, from something I did read about the case, but hey who knows? Wessyman

      • I’ve been researching my family tree and am directly related to both! My 4th and 5th Grandfarthers (my name is Victoria Bradbury). Curious to learn more about the case…

  3. Victoria Bradbury my friend Christine Bradbury is also related to William and Tom would it be possible for her to email you please

  4. I am currently researching my family tree and understand I am also related to William and Tom.
    I was told by my family many years ago about the murders and that there was a book about it.
    Have ordered it and look forward to reading it.

  5. Good research. Have been looking in to this family tree and everything from William onwards falls into place. However William from Fairbanks is difficult to place. Plenty of Bradbury’s living at Running Hill and Fairbanks circa 1750, but being Bills o Jacks sugests his dad is called John. In Latin John is Johanis and James is Jacobus. So could his dad be called James. This would still not give a definate fit but gives some possiblities.
    Regards Barriepits@aol.com

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