Archive for the ‘Murder’ Category

The Castle Mill basin from the mouth of the mine. 2019.

This is a sad tale, which starts 59 years ago today. The purpose in writing it is to set the record straight, give a little dignity to the lady involved, and to highlight the limitations of memory: to show how individual and collective memory, rumour and simple acceptance of truth have, in this case through no planned deception, given birth to a series of exaggerated events that have seen the colloquial naming of a geological feature within Dudley as ‘Murder Mine’…

The terminus of the Wyrley Branch Canal at the Nook, adjacent was the old mineral railway – perhaps where James reloaded before heading off along the canal. 2017.

This story has a personal edge. It has grown out of a paragraph that was within an earlier article I wrote on the lost pubs of Great Wyrley and is the story is about a fatal shooting that took place within the Great Wyrley, Cheslyn Hay and Essington areas in 1870…

Whispers From The Past is available from the Walsall Local History Centre – £8

Unable to promote or advertise it at the time, some months back I put into book form a collection of cases I had written-up from the records of the Walsall Coroner: Lost Leamore – Death at the Black Horse; Suffering in Silence – Harriet’s Story; A State of Mind – The Butts Murder; Run! – The Ryecroft Plane Crash; Finding N – The Pleck Canal Mystery and, perhaps the strangest of all, the Curious Death of Maud Minnie Mills.

The cases, which date between 1911-1917, are of course under-pinned by tragedy, but they have so much more to tell us about what life was like at the time: they not only show us the warming reaction of the community of Ryecroft to a grief-stricken family and help us understand the problems of the Walsall Police in an age of basic communications and forensic techniques, but also act as a warning by revisiting a world with no National Health Service, little understanding of mental health and no recourse to help through institutions like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Reflections at Woodward’s Bridge: scene of the death of Harriet and a few yards from the discovery of ‘N’

The book costs £8. It is available from the Walsall Local History Centre, or through myself (contact me via the Blog’s Facebook/Twitter accounts).

Aerial photo of the Butts pre-1935. The western half of Warwick St (now demolished for the School) leads from the bottom right to Teddesley St. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Aerial photo of the Butts pre-1935. The western half of Warwick St (now demolished for the School) leads from the bottom right to Teddesley St.
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Regular readers of Wyrleyblog will know that every few months or so I dip into the Walsall Coroner’s records to recount an old tale, especially if it has a relevance in some way to today. The story that I have picked for this article centres on the Butts area of Walsall; it tells the story of one George Loake, who inexplicably took his pocket-knife to his estranged wife’s throat and left her for dead on the August Bank Holiday of 1911. Loake offered no resistance on his arrest and ultimately no explanation when questioned. Make no bones about it, at the heart of this story lies a shocking death and all the brutality of the subsequent execution; but laying the crime aside for the moment, the questions remain as to what really was George Loake’s state of mind at the time of the killing, did a lack of money to pay for ‘skilled witnesses’ have a baring and, had it still been a capital offence, would he have hanged today? The issues of what constitutes diminished responsibility, rights to legal aid and the death penalty as a whole are still hotly debated today – and as Loake shows, there are no easy answers…