Murder on Marsden moor 1903

The date was  September  9th 1903 .It was still dark,  being only 3:00 A.M, when James Kenyon, and his son Robert, known as Bob, left Buckstones  House, to go out onto Marsden  moor to look out for poachers.  Although James was an old man, about seventy years old, he was head gamekeeper of Marsden moor; Robert his only child by his second wife, was twenty six years old, and a former soldier who had served in India. Robert was not officially employed as a gamekeeper, he had a job as a carter in Oldham,  but would often stay at his father’s house in the shooting season to assist with the gamekeeping.  The under gamekeeper, who lived at the opposite side of the moor was William Henry Uttley aged fifty eight.   James Kenyon’s wife Fanny, and William Uttley’s wife  Emily were in fact sisters, making James and William brothers in law. Buckstones house, as well as providing a home for the gamekeeper’s family, was also used as a shooting box, in the hunting season.

A Shooting box being  a small building which provided accommodation for people out shooting on the moors.  Buckstones House stood on the  A640 Rochdale Road out of Huddersfield, also known as New Hey Road. The building, later used an inn, fell into disrepair over the years and was left derelict and falling down, Someone bought the building and has  radically altered and extended it, reusing a lot of the old stone.

Buckstones House -Inn?
Buckstones House -Inn?

Above is a picture of Buckstones House, probably when it was being used as an inn.

Buckstones Lodge
Buckstones Lodge

Here is the building that stands there today. For sale when I took this picture ( offers over £500,000 ).       Let me see what I’ve got in my wallet .  James Kenyon, and his son Robert, found nobody wandering the moor in the early hours, and returned home about six or seven o’clock, no doubt to get a couple of hours sleep before going back out. James Kenyon, and William Uttley were gamekeepers for Mr Joseph Crowther , Mr John Crowther, ( textile mill owners) and Mr Thomas Ramsden ( solicitor),  the three of them leased the shooting rights from the Lord of the Manor ( Sir Everard Joseph Radcliffe of Rudding  Park House ) . Later in the morning they ventured out again ,  seeing nobody on Marsden moor, but hearing six or seven shots coming from the direction of  the nearby Friarmere moor in the Saddleworth area. Friarmere moor had some ” free shooting” as it had never been enclosed, so James Kenyon was not really concerned about hearing the shooting from that direction and so they carried on with their gamekeeping round of Marsden Moor.

Google Earth Buckstones
Google Earth Buckstones

Above is a Google Earth shot of Buckstones lodge  – former site of buckstones house ( click on the pictures to enlarge) looking over Marsden Moor. Below is a picture of March Hill , it was the moor behind the hill that the Kenyons were watching over that  morning.

March Hill
March Hill

Round about 3 o’clock(?) [ different times given in different reports ]

in the afternoon, at the Lancashire  end of the moor, they saw a man about 600 yards away on the moor, at a place known as ” Benn cut”, James Kenyon stated at the inquest,  that the man had a gun , and had strayed over the boundary onto Marsden moor. James Kenyon sent his son Robert, to watch a road , known as Old Gate, which would take him out of sight of the man; while James Kenyon went up another ” gruff” – a sort of gully – where he could watch the man, who was in a gully called the “River Gully” which was ten or twelve feet deep. The River Gully was about a mile long, so any poacher would be well concealed on the moor when walking up the gully.  Unfortunately these names of the landscape features, mentioned by James Kenyon, are not shown on any map I can find, so are virtually impossible to pinpoint; walking on Marsden moor you will find there are many “gruffs”, or gullies, many of them quite deep.

After watching the man for a short time, a terrible thunderstorm erupted, and James Kenyon, called his son Robert by firing his shotgun, ( this was a pre -arranged  way of calling each other),and they sheltered from the storm. [ again reports differ – some reports state that they sheltered under a wall – there are very few walls on the moor, and some reports say that they sheltered in a workman’s hut] (?)  After the rain and hail storm had passed over young Robert Kenyon said to his father ” Dad  He’s a long time showing himself ” To which James Kenyon replied ” No man can shift in this storm” . Shortly afterwards the man appeared, this time he was almost a mile within the moor boundary. Young Robert Kenyon turned to his father and said ” Let me go after him dad ; let me go” James Kenyon replied  ” No , wait a bit ; tha munna go yet.” After waiting a short while, and discussing it between themselves, James decided to let his son pursue the man , but told him ” Bob if tha catches him, tha wants him to go as quietly as he will.” James also warned his son that; “If he came to close quarters with the him , he must do the best he could; but not give any cross words, as he is such a desperate man. “( James Kenyon thought that he had recognised the man)   Robert handed his gun to his father, so that he could move faster,  and set off in pursuit . Sadly these were the last words that James would say to his only surviving offspring. James watched his son set off running towards the trespasser  on the moor, he saw his son run for about half a mile; the man apparently not seeing either James, or Robert in pursuit. James went to put both guns in a workman’s hut –  [ I believe that there was some ongoing road repairs, and also a new shooting box was under construction so the “workman’s hut ” could have belonged to either.] After placing the guns in the hut, he went to check where the man had got onto the moor, having lost sight of both the man, and Bob , his son, due to the geography (small  peaks and gullies) of the moor.  If you walk on the moor, you will be able to see how sombody could soon be  lost from sight,

Marsden moor
Marsden moor
Marsden moor
Marsden moor
Marsden Moor
Marsden Moor
Marsden moor
Marsden moor

After watching and waiting for about an hour, James Kenyon, collected both guns from the cabin and returned home to Buckstones  house. When Robert did not return, James having had something to eat, went back out onto the moor, instructing his wife , Fanny to tell Bob to fire three single shots from his gun when he got home, to signal to his father that he was back home. James returned to the Benn Cut area on the moor, where they had seen the intruder.  As dusk approached , James was leaning on a railing , on a high ridge overlooking Benn Cut, gazing into the darkening landscape, when he saw a face peering out of Benn Cut. James knew that the man could see him, with him being on the higher ground. The white face disappeared back into the darkening Benn Cut, and James cautiously made his way down to where he had seen the face, but could find nobody. It was by then too dark to make out any footprints and the person had vanished into the darkness. James Kenyon stayed on the moor for a while longer , then made his way back home, thinking that his son Robert had probably met up with his uncle , William Uttley, the under-gamekeeper.   When Robert had not returned by midnight, James went out on the moor again, taking his gun, some brandy and some food. He wandered the moor all night, searching and calling his son, but to no avail.    Early next morning James Kenyon made his way to the shooting box that was under construction, and spoke to the builder, who suggested  that they should arrange a search party.  Word was sent to William Uttley’s  house . William , who was described as a giant of a man, lived in a small farmhouse at ” Far Owlers” between  Manchester road, and Marsden Moor . The 1901 census gives William Uttley’s address as  ” Owlers Farm “, and there is an “Owlers Farm ” on Manchester Road today, but William did not live there , he lived  at “Far Owlers ” higher up and across the other side of the road.

Gate post - far Owlers
Gate post – far Owlers

far Owlers farm is surrounded by trees , down a private drive, the building cannot be seen from the road for the trees – lets Google  Earth it.

Far Owlers
Far Owlers
Far Owlers
Far Owlers

 

The house is currently surrounded by trees, in a lonely spot. William Uttley  probably got the house with the gamekeepers job.         Word came back to the search party that William Uttley had also been out all night, and had not been seen since the previous afternoon.  The search party(s) , which included  James kenyon, the building contractor and labourers, and mill workers from Marsden village began searching.  It was about  09:45 when a dog was heard yapping and popped it’s head out of a gully, the party approached the gully and saw William Uttley’s dog  standing watch over the still, cold body of his master. William was lying on his right shoulder, with a gunshot wound in the back, and a wound  under the left ear; wadding from shotgun shells was found nearby. The discovery of Uttley’s body sent a great trepidation through James Kenyon, as James kenyon stayed with his brother in law’s body, the search parties went on. When word got back to the village about Uttley’s  body, and young Bob Kenyon still missing, the search party grew to about fifty or sixty people in groups, combing the moor. It was around Midday, that a party of three men named Ellis Sykes, John Marsden, and Harry Allen [ information from the book “Hue and Cry ”  by Stanley Chadwick  1951 ] passed a clough or gully about a mile from where Uttley was found , noticing that the grass was downtrodden, Ellis Sykes turned to his companions and said ” Let us go back and check that drift again. ”  Checking the clough again , they found a heap of earth and stones had been placed over young kenyon’s body, the mound had been arranged in a most careful way, and except for the clogs sticking out, it might have been unnoticed for a long time. (Stanley Chadwick names this clough  “Deep Clough ” in his 1951 publication  ” Hue and Cry”.)  James Kenyon broke down with grief over the discovery of his son’s body. I have scanned a picture  of  ” Deep Clough ” from the book,  sorry for the quality.

Deep Clough
Deep Clough

The police were of course called from Huddersfield ( being the nearest large town), and Saddleworth   ( Saddleworth  is an area containing a number of villages of varying sizes). The bodies were taken back to Far Owlers and Buckstones House respectively,  to be examined by a doctor.

Buckstones House
Buckstones House

The murder created a lot of interest, the inquest was held in the Marsden Mechanics  institute building on Monday the 14th September, between thirty or forty press reporters turned up, so the inquest had to be moved to a larger room upstairs. Mrs  Emily Uttley was the first person to give evidence, dressed in funeral clothes , as her husband was being buried that day, she told the court that William had left home about half past one to go up on the moor towards Buckstones ; he had not taken his gun , which was not unusual, and she expected him home about  six o’clock. The doctor brought in William’s blood soaked and scorched shirt to be examined . stating that the wound in his back was caused by being shot from not more than twelve feet away ( per the scorch marks) , and the shot under the ear from about three feet away. Mrs Uttley told the court that William was on good terms with the other keepers, and had not been threatened by anyone that she knew of. After giving her evidence Mrs Uttley left the inquest and walked the hundred yards to St Bartholomew’s Church to see her husband buried .  James Kenyon then gave evidence, he was described as ” A strong featured and weather beaten old man , He pulled his forelock dutifully to Mr Crowther , and Mr Ramsden , two of the lessees of the shooting, who were present. In his official role of gamekeeper, Kenyon wore a dark green coat,with large gilt buttons, and the orthodox pepper and salt breeches and gaiters.

Breeches
Breeches
Gaiters
Gaiters

James kenyon gave his evidence, most of which I have already related, but he did say that he may not have heard any gunshots because of the direction of the strong wind , he also asked if he could name the person who he thought he recognized, although he could not be absolutely certain. The coroner told him that he should not name him at the inquest, but should write the name down and pass it on to the coroner, who in turn would pass it on to the police. This is what old Mr Kenyon did. The inquest found unlawful killing caused by person or persons unknown.  When the story hit the newspapers, hundreds of people started to visit, catching the train to Saddleworth station (  which was in the area of Dobcross and Uppermill) , the local people, not wanting to miss an opportunity began offering themselves as guides, charging one shilling to take the people up to Buckstones house, and onto the moor to show them where the bodies were found, and those visitors who found their way back to Saddleworth were also taken up to view Bill o’Jacks grave in Uppermill.  A good murder it seems  drew a good crowd .

Bill o'Jacks
Bill o’Jacks

The name that James Kenyon had written down was passed from the coroner  onto the police. The name he had written was  Henry Buckley ; Buckley was a farmer ,who lived in Moorside, which was about seven or eight miles away over the county boundary ( Yorkshire / Lancashire ) . Moorside , has over the last hundred years or so has been enveloped by the 20th century expansion of the town of  Oldham. Henry Buckley was well known to Kenyon , as they had crossed paths many times in the twenty or so years that Kenyon had been at Marsden Moor, Buckley was often on neighbouring Friarmere moor, and Kenyon had, on more than one occasion accused him of shooting over the boundary of Marsden Moor; they seemed to have a mutual contempt and dislike of each other. Henry Buckley had a small dairy farm , he had formally been employed as a lamp lighter for Oldham council, and was known to be an eloquent speaker for an uneducated man, he was the man who would speak to the council on behalf of the lamplighters , when any dispute arose, he was also a temperance man.  Henry Buckley’s address is given as ” Sholver Farm ” Moorside, and in the 1901 census he is described as a farmer , at Sholver Fold – so presumably Sholver Farm  may have been at Sholver Fold . My research showed that the original hamlet of Sholver  was demolished in the 1960’s , and the area that was Sholver Fold has been used for housing , with no sign of ” Sholver Farm”.  I did find ” Sholver MOOR Farm ” about half a mile away , this was also used as a dairy farm in the 1890’s – it would be tempting to say that this was Buckley’s farm – but I think not, as Sholver Moor and Sholver Fold are distinctly shown as separate areas on the 1900 map of Sholver

Sholver Moor Farm
Sholver Moor Farm

Above is Sholver Moor Farm, which is just off the Ripponden Road. Below is a couple of pictures of the area that was known as Sholver Fold in 1903,

The Northgate
The Northgate

This is The Northgate public house , looking onto Sholver Green , Sholver Fold was the area behind and adjacent to The Northgate.

Playground on the Former Sholver Fold
Playground on the Former Sholver Fold

I was not able to find Sholver Farm , but the police certainly found it in 1903, at the farm they found shotgun cartridges, wadding , and lead shot,  wadding similar to what had been found by the body of William Uttley, and the lead shot found in the body , and head of William Uttley . Henry Buckley obviously assembled his own shotgun shells, as did a lot of people . William Uttley was detained in a police cell overnight to stand before the magistrates the following day. Uttley was brought to the court on Princess Street , Huddersfield, from the police station which was just across the road . The Market hall stands where the police station once stood , but I believe the former courthouse may be this building, that is still standing.

Former court room ?
Former court room ?

The court hearing started late because the magistrates wanted James kenyon  present to testify. James Kenyon was brought down from Buckstones house, and reached the court room about five o’clock in the afternoon, drawing attention because he was again wearing the traditional gamekeeper outfit. James Kenyon was given a seat , because of his age, and when  Henry Buckley was brought into the courtroom, James Kenyon waved his fist at Buckley ; Buckley either did not see this gesture , or chose to ignore it. When Buckley was detained by the police , his associates, and fellow temperance society members started to raise money to pay for a good solicitor for Buckley ; they hired a Mr G B Fripp of Oldham. In a statement to the police Henry Buckley stated that he had only been on Friarmere moor on the day of the shooting , he also said that he had seen two men about quarter past or half past three , neither who he recognised, , one going on the flat towards “Jockey Gruff” , the other going up towards ” Benn Cut”. He then said that his wife and son, came to collect him about four  o’clock in a pony and trap, and took him home – ( this was witnessed by independent witnesses ),  after eating his tea at half past five he attended a meeting of the Greenacres temperance Society, of which he was the president. Henry Buckley was remanded several times , his solicitor , constantly objecting to him being remanded, as all the evidence was circumstantial, and claiming that James Kenyon held a grudge against Buckley. One piece of evidence that was found during the hearing was Robert Kenyon’s watch, which was missing when his body was found, was found later by three workmen crossing the moor  under some heather wrapped up in a red  handkerchief near to where Uttley was found ( James kenyon knew his son’s watch, but he could not recognize the handkerchief).   On October the 12th after the sixth hearing of the court, the body of William Uttley was exhumed, to obtain further evidence about the gunpowder used in the shell that was used by the killer, from marks on the skin, and also to remove more lead shot from the brain. The outcome was inconclusive as one ” expert” for the prosecution said one thing, and the “expert” for the defence  said the other. – stalemate. On Friday October 16th Henry Buckley was released from custody by the magistrates, with no compelling evidence to keep him detained any longer, and around the same time posters were released by police offering £300 reward for information.   James kenyon always believed that Henry Buckley was  responsible for the murder of his son , and in the spring of 1905 Kenyon was summoned by Buckley in Oldham magistrates court, Kenyon is described as ” former gamekeeper of Marsden moor , now of Bob’s farm ” . James Kenyon, and his friend Ben Holroyd , a retired farmer, kept going to  Sholver Fold and were harassing  the Buckley family to give information about what they knew about the killings, – no information was forthcoming, the charge was withdrawn but kenyon was told to not contact the Buckley’s again. James kenyon died in 1923 at the grand old age of 90 years old, never finding out who killed his son  and brother in law. The murders are still unsolved.

Here are a few thoughts , and snippets of information, which I thought may be useful; Firstly Neither William Uttley or Robert kenyon were armed when they were killed, and Robert kenyon was not officially a gamekeeper.  Henry Buckley and Robert Kenyon had never met, so were not known to each other, so although William Uttley was known to be a gamekeeper, by those who trespassed and poached on the moor, Robert Kenyon would not be known as a gamekeeper, in fact he could have been a poacher himself for all anyone else knew.  I feel that it is possible that one witnessed the other being shot , and fled, to be then chased and caught by killer(s), who then shot them to stop them identifying who the killer(s) were. I also feel that Henry Buckley knew a lot more about what went on that day on the moor, than what he told the court . I do not know whether Buckley was responsible or not, as it was suggested at the time that more than one person was responsible , as the weight of the stones used to cover Robert Kenyon would need more than one man to lift and carry them.

William Uttley is buried in Marsden churchyard , he has no gravestone. His son Sidney died in 1915  in France caused by wounds he received at Ypres, Sidney is buried at Lijssenthoek military cemetery in Belgium

Robert Kenyon is buried in a churchyard in Hurst, Ashton Under Lyne, his father’s hometown, and perhaps Robert’s  birthplace too.  The sisters who married William Uttley, and James kenyon  were born in Horwich near Bolton. William Uttley was from Halifax Yorkshire.

Those are my few thoughts on the case – I welcome yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments on “Murder on Marsden moor 1903

  1. I read this last night and I kept thinking about it throughout today.

    Shocking tale, and I see it features on the Marsden History Group website as well.

    I am mildly disappointed that the place names can not be found on any modern map. These formations on the landscape must of been of some (local) significance at one point, otherwise they wouldn’t have have had a name. It seems the exact locations are now extremely difficult to pinpoint. I guess though that’s the problem with the Pennine moors. The landscape is always changing.

    On a side note, Owlers is a very interesting place name, and I wonder where this originated from.

  2. The Henry / Harry Buckley you write about is probably an ancestor of mine and stories about his involvement in the murder feature in our family history. My mother used to tell of us of a relative of hers who was a suspect in the murder of a gamekeeper on the moors but he was never found guilty of the crime. My mother came from Shaw which is on the edge of the moors on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. Her mother (my grandmother) was born on a farm on Crompton Moor and her name was Nora Buckley. It may be, because of the difference in ages (my grandma, who died 20 years or so before I was born) was born in the 1880s and the article I have found (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/92722952) puts Henry Buckley as being born in the 1850s, he was my grandma’s uncle. The area of Sholver is about a mile as the crow flies from my grandma’s first home and less than that from where my mother was brought up. In other words, at a time when families stayed close, there is a high chance of this gentleman being my great, great uncle. The family story goes that Harry Buckley had to have some dental treatment but refused an anaesthetic because he was afraid he would talk whilst under this. This may be linked to the circumstances of his death as given in the article to which I have provided a link. He may have taken his own life rather than have an operation for the internal injuries he suffered as a result of the accident. I have only just found this article so it will be added to our family archives.
    I enjoyed reading your article and looking at the photographs. What mysteries those moors have provided!

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