Foreword – I do not usually write a foreword to a post , but with this post I thought I should. When working on a post I have a method – find a subject that interests me, – research that subject, then most importantly , visit the area to try and get ” a feel for the area/subject” – try to relive it. When working on this post, I found it very frustrating because I realised ( prior to visiting) ,that what I would really want to see and photograph (relevant buildings and streets), have all been demolished in the post war ” slum clearance” “improvements” of the latter half of the twentieth century. No doubt , they were improvements, but each crash of the wrecking ball took away a piece of our history and background . If we do not know where we have come from – where do we know where we are going ? – Sorry – gone off on a tangent again. So to the post.
It is December 1888 and a young John Gill , 7 years old , told his mother Mary that he was ” Going to go with Bill , on his cart”. John was a boy , living in Thorncliffe Road, Manningham , Bradford in the West Riding of Yorkshire, he lived at number 41 (long gone) with his mother , Mary and his father Thomas, who was a cabbie. John was probably born at 729 Bolton Road , Bradford in 1881. John was the first, and much loved son of Mary and Thomas. Bill was William Barrett, a local “milkman ” who lived on the adjoining Bateman Street ( again all demolished)
look at the map , and you can see Bateman street running across the bottom of Thorncliffe Road .
The name still remains , but the houses have gone.
The same applies to Thorncliffe Road – the name remains but the houses are gone.
Somewhere down on this road , stood the house where young John Gill lived , with his family, and I must point out that he wasn’t a Ragamuffin street urchin, but a much loved and wanted child.
Young John Gill would often ” tag onto ” William Barrett, as he went along Thorncliffe Road , then accompany him on his milk round, and it would seem that William Barrett didn’t mind this fairly regular happening, putting up with the chattering from the young boy, and quite enjoying the company. we cannot know what William’s cart looked like, but we will look at some from that era that I found on line.
The next couple of pictures are from 1925 , and rural Ireland 1n the 1960’s
Gives us a good idea of what William’s milk cart might have been like, the normal practice was to visit houses and ladle the milk from the churn into a container , like a jug or similar, brought by the householder ( or often a servant) to the cart; hygiene was near the bottom of priorities.
Little did Mary Gill know, as she watched her son go off with William Barrett, that she would never see him alive again. As the winter gloom descended on Thorncliffe Road, and young John Gill had not been seen since early morning, his mother Mary, was obviously concerned, so went to find William Barrett, at the dairy on Manningham Lane, that employed him. William said that he had not seen John since about half past eight that morning, when he had jumped off of the cart and said he was going home for breakfast. Mary told William that if John did not show up that she would ” Get the detectives onto him”. The dairy was at 100 Manningham Lane – guess what -now gone, but 102 is still there ( fast food)
I guess the dairy was where the fenced area is now. The following day Friday 28th of December William went about his business as normal, leaving his house on Batemen Street, at about 7 o’ clock, going to his stable to feed his horse, then returning home for breakfast at about twenty past seven, when passing Mrs Gill’s house, he knocked on the door, to inquire about John, and was told by Mrs Gill that the police had been informed , and would be coming to see him. William seemed unperturbed on hearing this, and carried on his normal day’s work. Saturday 29th of December, Joseph Bucke , a 15 year old butcher’s apprentice, had been sent by his master, to clear out a stable on a property he rented out, as Joseph went along Back Mellor Street, adjoining Thorncliffe road about 07:30, , he came across a bundle of clothes in a recess , next to William Barrett’s stable. On lifting a corner of what was later found to be John’s jacket, Joseph found the dismembered body of John Gill. A horrified Joseph ran down the street yelling ” Jack the Ripper’s been.!!! Jack the Ripper’s been!!! ” Remember it was only weeks after the horrific murder of Mary Kelly in Whitechapel.
Somewhere on this track , or perhaps where the buildings are, is where the child’s body was found, only about 50 yards away from where he lived. Mellor Street can be seen on the 1906 street map , lets look at the map again.
William Barrett was of course arrested later that day, some clothes that the police claimed had ” blood spots ” on were taken, a knife’ and various tools also taken, along with items from his stable. William Barrett was locked up in a cell, in the town hall, ( town halls often had cells in the basement, to hold prisoners), and a hearing at the magistrates court was planned for the following week. When William Barrett was asked if he had a message for his wife , he replied ” Tell her I have a clear conscience, and that I will come out of this alright in the end.” So he was hardly confessing his guilt, but the police were sure that they had got their man; perhaps they should have stepped back and taken a broader view. It was the 11th of January when William Barrett appeared before the magistrates; Mr Freeman was acting for the prosecution, and Mr Waugh. and Mr Craven for the defence. I do not know who paid for the defence lawyers, but most of the people of the area, including Barrett’s employer Mr Wolfenden, thought Barrett to be a totally innocent man, and they must have known him far better than we could know him looking back from the 21st century. We should perhaps look at some of the statements made in court, and I will copy them verbatim as I read them . From Mr Rimmington borough analyst -He said he had examined various articles which had been handed to him by the police, and he had applied tests for blood. on the piece of coarse wrapper he did not find any trace of blood. As to the small piece of rag, the result of his test was doubtful. There was a strong suspicion of blood stains, but he could not speak positively. On the piece of coarse harding (?) there was only one spot indicative of the presence of blood, but the result of the test was not conclusive. It’s not looking very good for the prosecution is it ? No blood was found on the knife , other tools removed, or the clothing. We should also look at the evidence from the police surgeon too, Mr S Lodge. Mr Lodge described briefly to the bench the condition in which he found the remains of the deceased , about 9 o’clock , on the morning of Saturday December 29th, when he was called to the yard in Back Mellor Street, where they were lying. He said the parcel looked like a soldier’s knapsack, neatly made up. The body was face downwards, the thighs being up by the face on each side.The feet protruded beyond the bottom of the back, at which point the limbs had been severed. The heart was under the chin, and the boots were in the cavity of the abdomen. He made a post mortem examination the same afternoon, Dr Major , and Mr Miall, surgeon, being present. I will cover the post mortem a little later, William Barrett, kept to his story that he and young John Gill, had gone down to Manningham Railway station, to collect the milk from the train and go on his rounds, William leading the horse, and John sat on the cart. ( This was well witnessed). Manningham only lost its Station relatively recently, so I have borrowed a picture.
William claimed that, as he was nearing his last morning delivery at 13 Walmer Villas, John jumped off of the cart, saying he was going for breakfast, an ran off, down the street, towards some other youngsters. William Barrett claimed the boy was running, then sliding on the frosty patches, down the road, and that was the last he saw of him. Sadly we will never know the true story of John’s grisly end.
Hurray – Walmer Villas still stands – better houses you see, for the new middle classes, not peasant hovels to be demolished.
It’s almost the only place still standing that is relevant to this tale, so lets take a few more shots.
Did John Gill run down this road, or was William Barrett lying ? William Barrett allegedly returned to the dairy at 08:35 , loaded up with more milk, and carried on with his milk round, leaving the dairy about 09:00, visiting his usual customers, in Blenheim- mount , Lindum Terrace, Mount Royd, St Paul’s Road, etc.
Now to the post mortem; again I will copy verbatim – There were two stabs in the chest, which included the area filled by the heart, but the stabs did not touch it. all the blood-vessels were cut through, but the vessel which had been stabbed in two was the aorta . There were certain parts of the body missing – a part of the ihac (?) bone , part of the pubic bone on the left hand side, and the fleshy attachments. The knife shown to him by the police would glide into the wound on the chest, and any other knife of the same size would do the same. In his opinion the boy was not murdered where the remains were found. Death would practically be instantaneous, because of the division of the larger blood vessels of the chest. He was of the opinion that the mutilations took place after death. The body was bloodless; it had the appearance of having being washed externally and internally, and then allowed to dry or drain. The mutations could not have been effected with on e instrument; there must have been used a sharp strong knife, well tempered, and perhaps with a point; force would be required to sever some of the parts, such as could be applied by a mallet or hammer being struck at the back of the knife blade. There was no blood on the boy’s clothing, except that his collar was saturated with blood. A peculiarity ab out the collar was the blood seemed to be much more moist than the body. On the lining of the cap was coagulated blood.
Mr Lodge was now cross examined , and stated that he believed the boy had been dead for less than 24 hours when he examined him on Saturday morning, but could not be certain of this. He also stated that all the blood had gone from the body, and there would have been about 5lbs of blood ( a strange way to measure blood ! ). When asked ” would you think it possible, that where the murder took place, seeing that the body had been drained, all traces of blood would have been removed ? Special provision must have been made for the deed.” Mr Lodge replied ” Yes very special indeed “. Another question was asked ” Are you of the opinion that the removing of the ears of the boy was done by a person possessing considerable skill ? ” Mr Lodge answered ” It was done as cleanly as I could have done it ” Q/ ” May I take it that the same applies to the missing parts ?” A/ ” Yes” Q/ ” you found the body tipped up ?” A/ ” Yes cut right down from the breastbone. Only a part of the breast bone was cut through. From the middle of the second rib where the knife had entered ” The bench then stated that either of the two wounds in the chest would cause death – one instantly, and one very quickly. Dr Major stated that the chest wounds caused the death, an Mr Miall the surgeon thought it was he uppermost wound in the chest. At this point the court adjourned. We can see at this point that NO proof of any blood had been found on William Barrett’s, clothes, knife, hammer or mallet, cloths taken from his stable, and also the location of where the boy was killed and butchered. The police were searching Mr Wolfenden’s ( Williams’s employer) stable at Back Belle Vue. William Barrett’s solicitors said that they could call twenty seven witnesses to testify that William Barrett was indeed where he was when he said he was. When the Magistrates returned after deliberation they announced that ” No prima facie case had been made out and William Barrett was free to go” . In other words – there has been no evidence shown to incriminate this man in any way. The people in the courtroom burst out into cheers and applause , they believed he was being persecuted.
William decided not to return to his home in Bateman Street, but to move in with his in laws in the Village of Cononley near Keighley, about 15 miles away, until all the excitement died down. The inquest on John Gill was to follow a few days later, an inquest is held by the coroner, in a court, and is a court of inquiry , to investigate unexpected, or suspicious deaths. The police still thought that William Barrett was the guilty party , ( they may well have been right) , they went about trying to prove that there was insanity in the family, visiting the Barrett family’s home village of Kildwick – sling enough mud and some of it will stick !
The police also carried on searching the Stable in Back Belle vue, two witnesses who lived at Belle vue , Lizzie Jefferson, a servant girl, and Benjamin Abbott, a draper, both claimed to have seen a light on Friday night 28th in the stable ( presumably the stable in Back Belle Vue, belonging to Mr Wolfenden, dairy owner, and not the stable in Back Mellor Street) . They even went as far as searching the drains , looking for blood – nothing found. My suspicion is that this may well be a red herring, and nothing to do with the crime. Belle Vue is still there , lets take a walk.
Certainly a very nice place in the victorian era, but its elegance now fading. We need to look round the back where Mr Wolfenden’s stable was.
Take your pick, could be any of them. Prior to the inquest John’s remains were photographed post- mortem so a good likeness could be had, then released for burial. I do not intend to publish these images for a couple of reasons. 1/ I have not got his families permission, and 2/ I haven’t got the pictures either 🙂 -back to the Inquest.
Monday 4th february 1889 they inquest jury , believing the evidence of a man named Dyer, who claimed to have seen William Barrett, carrying what appeared to be a bundle of loose clothing under his arm to the stable area where the body was found., came to the verdict of wilfull murder against Barrett, and a coroner’s warrant was then issued to the police. ( the people in Manningham were astounded) The power of the coroner to name a suspect for trial has since been removed and in today’s world the coroner’s verdict is delayed until after the criminal case has been heard. At the earlier magistrates hearing a woman witness had seen ” A rather broad man carrying a bundle into Thorncliffe Road”. William Barrett was not a broad man and the witness could not identify him, but she did say it was half past six in the morning (dark) and she did not take too much notice. On receiving the coroner’s warrant, they caught the train up to Cononley where Barrett was staying to arrest him.
William Barrett was arrested and after the police had managed to calm the angry mob of villagers and Barrett’s family, by letting William wash his hands and face and have supper, they then took him in a cab to Skipton, waited several hours for a train to Bradford where he was charged at 04:20 in the morning to stand trial at the next Leeds Assizes.
John Gill was buried January 4th at the cemetery at Windhill , his father’s birthplace. Mrs Gill had an insurance policy of £5 which paid for the funeral. The funeral attracted a large number of spectators both in the Manningham area , and in Windhill, and as a mark of respect the blinds of the houses in the area were drawn.
This is quite a grand hearse , I don’t know if the Insurance would cover that, but it paid for the gravestone. A short service was held in the Wesleyan chapel, then to the cemetery where a large number of people had gathered, the police had to step in and persuade the large crowd to make way for the funeral party. To find the grave go to Windhill Cemetery. stand at the entrance and look about 10 or 11 o’clock direction ( if you were stood at no 6) and about 30 yards away is the grave, the stone has been laid flat ( must have been loose). Mrs Gill visited the grave until the 1930’s when sadly she herself joined her son and husband. Perhaps now she finally knows the truth.
William Barrett was in Armley Prison waiting to go on trial, but he still claimed to have a clear conscience , and never confessed any guilt. On Tuesday 12th March 1889 William Barrett pleaded not guilty, the council for the prosecution did not propose to call any evidence, so the jury were instructed to find a not guilty verdict. The prisoner was discharged and again there was some applause in court( which was promptly suppressed). In this day and age with all the forensic science, DNA and whatnot, this case would probably have been a very easy one to solve, but as it stands it does leave several questions – 1/ The police claimed they could prove William Barrett was not where he said he was on the Thursday when John went missing – but could not provide a witness, William could provide 27 witnesses, I mean that is almost taking the ####( provide your own word here). 2/ The police had a witness at the inquest who claimed to have seen William Barrett, carrying a bundle near where the body was found – what happened to him? 3/ If you had murdered a child last seen in your company, would you dump the body outside your own stable in the street where everybody knows you? 4/ Why was there no proof of any blood found William Barrett or in his stable etc. Yes it might have been William Barrett but his neighbours, and everyone who knew him didn’t think so, I will remain non committal on this – you can make your own mind up , I have a theory which I will keep to myself – tell me what you think !!.
Incidentally a short time after the autopsy report had been printed in the newspapers the London police received a letter from Jack the ripper (what a surprise !) claiming to have “riped (sic) a little boys heart out in Bradford”
While wandering round urban Manningham I did catch this ruthless killer disposing of a victim. – it made my day 🙂