Archive for the ‘Police’ Category

The junction of Stafford Road/Cemetery Road, Cannock, and the White Lion pub, close to Lycett’s bayonet charge of March 1916! 2017.


This, the third part, looks at three bizarre, alcohol-fuelled incidents that date to February and March 1916 and involve Cannock, Hednesford, Rugeley and Heath Hays. They involve theft, as well as threatening behaviour and the physical assault of policemen… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/february-march-1916-the-dark-side-of-the-cannock-chase-camps-part-3/

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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).

2 Heath Street, Hednesford.Home of the Rushtons and scene of the tragic fire. 2016.

2 Heath Street, Hednesford.Home of the Rushtons and scene of the tragic fire. 2016.


Rushton seems the ideal patriot: he was a volunteer that joined-up in 1914, getting himself passed as fit to serve despite there being evidence that suggests he was not. While training, his family went through a trauma which left him, understandably, petitioning the officer-in-charge to be able to go home. That permission was refused… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/ernest-rushton-of-hednesford-crying-wolf/

A food economy exhibition at the Temperance Hall during WWI (Walsall Local History Centre)

A food economy exhibition at the Temperance Hall during WWI (Walsall Local History Centre)


This is the tale of the unfortunately named John Thomas, who was charged in December 1917 with food hoarding by the Walsall Food Control Committee. Thomas’ house had been raided by the Walsall Police on 14 December and the Council decided to prosecute a few days later. Found guilty, Thomas was given leave to appeal and appeal he did. What seemed to be a tuppeny-ha’penny food hoarder from the back of beyond was to be defended at the Quarter Sessions by Sir Edward Marshall Hall, arguably the greatest barrister in the country at that time…
https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/edward-marshall-hall-and-the-case-of-the-walsall-food-hoarder-1918/

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… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/tales-from-the-walsall-coroner/a-state-of-mind-george-loake-and-the-butts-murder-walsall-1911/

The Bridge. Lloyd's Chambers is on the right. The last place Minnie was seen at 11.10 pm (Walsall Local History Centre)

The Bridge. Lloyd’s Chambers is on the right. The last place Minnie was seen at 11.10 pm
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Over the past year I have recounted a few tales that drew my attention while listing the cases of the Walsall Coroner some years back. Several further stories have since sprang to mind for a re-telling, but none so mysterious and bizarre as that of Minnie Mills. This story revolves around a horrific event that took place in 1912. Maud Minnie Mills was a 36 year-old woman who was fond of a drink and separated from her husband by court order. On the night of the 29 April, Minnie was to be shot four times in the face and at close range; it was an act that the Coroner described as ‘one of the foullest crimes of murder they have heard of in the annals of Walsall’. Despite the bullets being lodged in her head, it took several days for her to die; indeed, she tried to carry on life as if nothing had happened. Despite the fact it was obvious to the doctors that she had been shot, right up to the last she maintained it was her fault – claiming her injuries were simply the result of a fall. By the time she received medical help, it was too late. A verdict of ‘willful murder’ was passed, but nobody was brought to justice for the crime… Click the link to read more… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/tales-from-the-walsall-coroner/the-curious-case-of-maud-minnie-mills-walsall-1912/

The Pleck, Walsall (Walsall Local History Centre)

The Pleck, Walsall
(Walsall Local History Centre)


The story of Harriet, which acts as a warning on stress, worry, vulnerability and simple family communication that seem as relevant today as it was then. https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/suffering-in-silence-harriets-story-1913/

The Scarborough Rd Canal Bridge, from around the point where 'N' was pulled from the water. 2014.

The Scarborough Rd Canal Bridge, from around the point where ‘N’ was pulled from the water. 2014.

This story revolves around the unidentified body of a woman found in the canal, by the Scarborough Road bridge, in the Pleck area of Walsall. This body was discovered by a child on 31 July 1915, so 99 years ago this very day. Just how did the police try to discover who she was?.. https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/finding-n-the-pleck-canal-mystery-1915/