This is a true story of a murder which took place in Earby in the year 1892. It has been written by consulting the following contemporary newspaper accounts:-
Bradford Clarion, Bradford Daily Telegraph. Bradford Observer, Burnley Gazette, Colne Times, Craven Herald, Keighley News, Nelson Express & Advertiser, Nelson Chronicle, Yorkshire Evening Post
Come all gather round and listen unto me, The like was not recorder in all of Earby’s history: For this is a true tale I am about to tell, So sit thee down and listen to it well.
It’s of a dreadful murder, O listen to my tale, By one, Moses Cudworth, and all for a gallon of ale. He sent his wife Eliza to an untimely tomb, Which meant that he too would shortly meet his doom.
THE MAN WHO CAME TO EARBY
They’re taking me to the gallows – they mean to hang me high: They’re going to gather round me there, and watch me till I die; All earthly joy has vanished now, and gone each mortal hope – They’ll draw a cap across my eyes, and round my neck a rope; The crazy mob will shout and groan – the priest will read a prayer, The drop will fall beneath my feet and leave me in the air. I murdered my wife Eliza, for so the judge has said, And they’ll hang me on the gallows – hang me till I’m dead!
The air is fresh and bracing; the sun shines bright and high; It is a pleasant day to live – and a gloomy one to die! It is a bright a glorious day the joys of earth to grasp – It is a sad and wretched one to strangle, choke and grasp! But I have to pay the penalty, and I’ll face it like a man, For I murdered my wife Eliza, so the judge has said, And they’ll hang me on the gallows – hang me till I’m dead!
“A rather strange, wild looking figure, while beneath the prominent Roman nose set in a thin face, was a long sandy beard tinged with grey and on his neck was a noticeable and disfiguring large growth” this was the description given by a fellow weaver who worked ‘corner beams’ to him, of the man who came to Earby late in the year 1890.His height of 5 ft and 7 ins was to be measured and recorded by the public hangman at Leeds just a couple of years later.
In Amrley Gaol in the town of Leeds There is a pit of shame And in it lies a wretched man Eaten by teeth of flame In a burning winding-sheet he lies And his grave has got no name.
And there, till Christ call forth the dead, In silence let him lie: No need to waste his foolish tear, Or heave the windy sigh: The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die.
Map of Earby
Moses Cudworth was his name and he arrived, together with his wife and four children, first from Whitworth near Rochdale, and then nelson where they had been employed as weavers at Lomeshaw Bridge Mill, although Moses was actually a native of Shawforth near Manchester and his wife came from Hyde. Eliza Cudworth was forty years of age, the same as her husband, and they must have looked an odd couple as she was depicted by the same person as being “a thin, undersized shrivelled-up-mortal,” and was four inches less in height than her husband. They had been married for nineteen years, and by the time of our story in 1892 the eldest daughter, Mary Alice, a sickly-looking girl and never in good health, was eighteen. Their eldest boy, John Willie was fourteen, James was nine, while little Katie, a pretty curly-haired youngster of four, was to be an eye-witness to the brutal murder of her mother by her father. (The word murder comes from the A.S moodhur, meaning death). They rented a three story house, no.5 Melrose Street, which was a cul-de-sac, a street with neither yards or gardens, back and front doors leading straight on to the narrow pavements. this street was built in an area commonly known by the name ‘Wesley Place’ on account of the Wesleyan Chapel close by,( which had been built in 1862).All of the houses in this area were pulled down about 1966, and the ground has reverted to its original appearance as a village green, facing the old White Lion Hotel. One of the old village wells is still there somewhere; it was in the cellar of one of the houses in Melrose Street. The six rows of houses in this neighbourhood had been built in the period 1875 – 1880. Nor is the smithy of the village blacksmith to be seen, which stood by this well for centuries. One of these Earby blacksmiths in the 18th century was known as a ‘mighty man’ at wrestling, holding the championship for Yorkshire against all comers. Contestants from all over the north of England would arrive here, some of them champions in there own right, some accompanied by their wealthy sponsors in their carriages. Off would come the leather apron and the battle would commence, the Earby man invariably being the winner, to the great delight of the locals, with the victory being celebrated in the usual way at the sign of the White Lion, conveniently just 100 yards away.
In 1892 Wesley Place was started to be ‘The abode of the poorer people of the village,’ although when first built Melrose Street and the rows on either side of it, Esmond Street and Aspen Lane were occupied by the ‘better class.’ .the Cudworths paid a rent of 2s. 1d. (10p) a week, the same amount that was paid for the former hand-loom weavers cottages known as Cobblers Row at Green End. The average wage of a weaver at this time was 20s. (£1) a week. About the middle of 1891 James Fylon, Mrs. Cudworths brother, and his wife Ellen, also got work in the village, and together with their two children came to lodge with them. With the four parents and six children the house must have been seriously overcrowded as the houses in this street were at the time back-to-back. This meant there was only one room downstairs serving as living room and kitchen, with four small bedrooms above on two floors. There was a great demand for mill workers, particularly weavers in Earby at this time, the building of more mills during the later part of the 19th century was responsible for the big increase in population and therefore house building in the later part of the 19th century. The first full-sized weaving mill in Earby was Green End Shed built by Christopher Bracewell of Green End House in 1839 with 140 looms (later 200).’Old Billycock’ as he was known, had acquired the Green End Estate in 1813 in which hand-loom weaving was carried on in a row of cottages known by the nickname of ‘Cobble Row’, because of the cobbled pavement outside. Up till then the weavers had carried their finished cloth to Colne or Keighley, but Old Billycock used the end house as a warehouse and had a cart house built opposite, supplying the weavers with yarn and then carting the ‘pieces’ to Colne cloth hall. If you look carefully you will find a ‘wuzzing hole’ used by these hand-loom weavers for drying their woollen yarn, in the wall opposite the Cobble Row. The old corn mill which stood below the waterfalls at Mill Row had earlier been converted to a small weaving mill, run by the water wheel, but this did not last long. The working day then was form six in the morning to eight at night including Saturday, and the children started work at the age of eight. These hours were reduced by Factory Acts so that by 1856 weavers worked only 10 hours a day! On the 16th of august 1842 a mob of 3,000 passed through Earby, bent on destruction. These came from colne, and were protesting amongst other things about the installation of power looms which were causing great poverty amongst the hand loom weavers, who were compelled to accept lower and lower wages. Power looms were introduced in colne in 1829. (On 25th March 1842 the number of paupers in Britain was 1,427,187!). These men were the ‘Plug Drawers.’ They were also known as Luddites, So named from the leader of earlier bands of rioter, whose leader was known as ‘King Ludd’. Their policy was to smash the new machine; the men were armed with heavy clubs, and walked four abreast. They got their name of ‘Plug Drawers’ because it was their plan to draw the plugs from the boilers of all the factories they visited, and so put an end to work. Boilers at that time had an iron plug in the bottom, and if this was knocked out, the water escaped. They went into the boiler house of Green End Shed and stopped production by drawing the plug from the boiler a raking out the fire. They then compelled some of the Earby weavers to accompany them to Skipton to do the same there. They entered the shops and houses, taking away any possessions they could find, Infantry finally quelled the riot at Skipton, one solider being killed by a stone. Green End Shed, later to be known as ‘The Old Mill’, was next to the private road leading to Green End House. This is now New Road, but it was known as Mill Lane. An old Earby person put down what happened in the village that day:-“Jack o’ Doads” was standing in this lane he thought he’d like to watch them. But the plug drawers were too quick for him, and they ‘pressed’ him to go along with them to Skipton to pull the plugs out there. Jack did not like this one bit and hung back behind the mob. One of the scouts at the back said “what are ta barn ter do?” Jack said he was “Getting a cudgel because all t’ others hev cudgels and I want one” When the scouts were not looking he “took off inter Earby as fast as his legs would carry him” The steam engine in the Old Mill was called, like so many others in the West Riding ‘Owd Ned’ after Neddy Hall, who was the first to install a steam engine (of six horse power) in his spinning mill near Ashton-under-Lyne in 1792.The poem ‘Wensleydale Lad’ tells us of a boy, who, for a special days outing went to Leeds Fair. Whilst in the town he paid a visit to the first steam engine in a factory that he had ever seen, and describing his experience says;
Owd Ned turn’d iv’ry wheel, An’ iv’ry wheel a strap, “Begore!” says I to the maister-man, “Owd Ned’s a rare strong chap.”
Next to be built was Victoria Mill in 1850, (for both weaving and spinning); then Grove Shed 1886 and in 1890 the Albion Mill. Because Grove mill had absorbed most of the old Earby weavers and those from the nearest villages, the new Albion Mill depended on these newcomers, like the Cudworths and Fylons, who came mainly from east Lancashire, but people also came from as far away as London to seek work. My grandfather was one – he came from London, where work was difficult to find and poorly paid. On his starting work at the mill, he was given a kitchen table as a present from the mill owner, and we will meet him again at the end of this book, when he played a small part in this tragedy. One of his sisters made a bare living in London by making matchboxes at home; another sister came to Earby with him and married Mathew Briden, the Earby Bellman. One street, Albert Street (demolished and now used as a public car park), gained the nickname of ‘Dockyard’ through being occupied almost entirely by people who came form Liverpool. In 1820 the population of the parish was about 300 with less than 60 houses, not much different to its size in the 14th century when sixty-one families had to pay the poll tax. In 18881, with the building of the mills the population was 1,400 and 20 years later it had reached 6,200.
These newcomers into Earby were called by the locals ‘off-cumdens’ though Harrison in his ‘Description of England’ written in about 1580 used two endearing terms for describing ‘foreigners’ and ‘locals’- ‘comelings’ and ‘homelings’ –“a nice pair as the writer puts it”
Moses, Eliza, Mary Alice and john Willie, all obtained employment at the newly built Albion Mill, owned by Messer’s H Bracewell and Son, which had a total of 1,300 looms. Father and daughter shared eight looms while Mrs. Cudworth ‘ran’ four. John Willie at 14, had left school at the age of 13 and was ‘tenting’, that is, helping an adult weaver in watching there looms, until he was allowed two looms of his own. Previous to that from the age of 11 he had been a ‘half-timer’ working at the mill from 6 till 12.30 in the morning for six days of the week, the afternoons being spent at school, and for this he had been rewarded with the pricely sum of 3s(15p). Children, who were backward and could not make the grade for School Inspector, had to remain at school until they were 14. Conditions were very strict in the mills of a hundred years ago, and Mary Alice, by reason of being absent from work to often due to ill health, was dismissed, and her father then ‘followed’ six of the looms on his own. He must have been of above average ability, for the usual complement of looms at that time was four, and these only after many years. A fellow weaver spoke of him as being ‘quick at his work’. Mary managed to get three looms shortly afterwards, but once more lost her job through illness. Because of this her father became very spiteful towards her, saying that hey could not afford to lose her wages, and she ought to be contributing towards the household expenses. For in those days no provision was made for people out of work, except as a last resort the workhouse, a thought that struck terror into all, for everyone knew “You were better off dead than in Bastille.”
It is a prison with a milder name Which few inhabit without dead or shame. George Crabbe, 1783
Here husbands were separated from their wives, the sick had to look after themselves and the dead were buried in the cheapest coffins. As late as 1923 an Earby inmate of Skipton Union Workhouse was buried in Earby Wheatland’s Cemetery at a reduced fee of £1 (A History of the Earby Baptists – J Walker).Mary’s mother was often forced to come to the unfortunate girls defence, as she feared that Moses might strike her in his anger. This bitterness between them was not be reconciled until two days before the father’s execution Typical of ‘RULES AND REGULATIONS’ posted up on mill notice boards in those days would be the following; Any one employed in these mills, and not on the premises when the hours for working commence, will not only be subject to a fine of from 2d. to 6d. for each offence, but to the loss of his or her employment, in which case all wage previously due will be forfeited. any person staying at home, or quitting the premises during work hours without permission of his or her overlooker, will either be fined double the value of time lost, or immediately discharged, in which case all wages previously due will be forfeited.
There was also a system in operation known as the ‘Slate System’, which was a very insidious method of driving the weavers, by publishing their wages upon a slate exhibited in the shed. Alongside some names would be the words “This wont do” or “This must be improved upon.” An inquiry into working conditions about this time included this paragraph:
“The overlooker is simulating and driving weavers all day long, and on making-up day(wage were paid by the amount of cloth they each produced in the week)’ he goes round to each weaver with a slate and asks the amount of the week’s earnings, and everyone who was not up to a certain amount would receive a severe chastisement. There were numerous suicides due to this system.”
Complaints about ‘driving’ were so numerous that the General Council of the Weavers Amalgamation put out the following letter to all District Associations:
DRIVING AND HUMBUGGING IN WEAVING SHEDS In consequence of the obnoxious system of driving and humbugging operatives in weaving sheds, practiced by some overlookers, it has become absolutely necessary that some protection be made against your mental depression. Which we believe in some instances has ended in the destruction of life, should any tackler speak to a weaver about his earnings, or speak unjustly when fetched to tackle a loom, we request such weaver at once to report the same to a member of the Weaver’s Committee…..
Moses was illiterate, and one of the tacklers whose job it was to maintain the looms at the mill), Jack Eastwood, finally persuaded him to attend bible meetings at the nearby Wesleyan Chapel and also evening classes at the Wesleyan School (built 1872). To learn to read. These evening classes were conducted by the schoolmaster James Lindley, who had come to Earby from Wigan in 1885. But Moses soon gave these up – there was the White Lion to pass on the way to the classes and a pipe and glass of beer with his cronies in the Tap-room seemed an altogether more agreeable way of spending the evening than in the schoolroom. At the age of forty we can hardly blame him for that. And besides the two pence to pay for an evenings lesson would buy him half a pint of that beer! The picture of a white lion hanging outside that inn was a reminder of earlier times when reading was a rare accomplishment. Such signs were then a necessity, not just for inns, but to tell the public what wares were for sale there. A tailor would exhibit a pair of shears; a butcher, a cleaver; a bookmaker, a boot, etc... So even though Moses was illiterate, he could tell the White Lion from the Red Lion in Earby. Mr. Lindley required the boys to salute him in the street by raising their caps t him, (just as the mill owners required of their employees). For everyone in those days “knew their place” as the Church Catechism ordered people “to order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters.” This greeting was called ‘Hat Honour’ and Mr. Lindley would respond back with a salute, or raise him umbrella. Any boy failing to do this would be made to stand in the passage for two days, looking at the cane which was very prominently displayed on two nails level with his eyes. He tried, without much success to improve the manners and speech of the children outside school hours, sternly saying “Good neet” to him when they met in the street. He was a great user of the cane, a fact he later admitted with regret. He was the first headmaster of Alder Hill School when it opened in 1911, and retired in 1921.
“In 1918 I was one of six boys caned in school at South Molton, Devon, because we failed to salute the Rector when we met him in the street. He identified us and witnessed our punishment, which was given to teach us due respect for the Parson and the Squire. It failed in that objective.”
Frank Figg, Luton (Letter in Daily Telegraph 23/3/90)
Everyone in those days baked their own bread in the oven on one side of the coal fireplace, when the blazing fire would be banked up against the side of the oven to provide maximum heat. On the opposite side was a boiler for supplying constant hot water which could be ladled out and these two facilities were provided by the coal fire in the middle which heated the room as well. Are we efficient today? This fireplace was called “the range” and great pride was taken by the housewife in making it shine. Once a week the black parts were black-leaded with Zebo and cleaning cloths, whilst the bright metal parts were polished with fine emery cloth. “The houses usually contain five rooms and a scullery…the real living room is the kitchen, rendered cheerful by the large open grate and the good oven, unknown in the south, but familiar in the north of England where coal is cheap, and where the thrifty housewife bakes her own bread” On one day of the week Eliza stayed away from work on baking day, with a part-time weaver looking after her looms for the afternoon. If it happened that one of her neighbours was not available, there was always a ‘tramp’ weaver to be had from Padgett’s a Lodging House in Ireland Square (now Shaw Square). But Moses, on arriving home from the mill would more often than not find her lying dead drunk on the floor, with all the next weeks bread burnt to a cinder. And to rub it in, there would be no meal ready. As a consequence quarrels were fairly frequent, and the married life of the couple was far from tranquil, though according to his neighbours Moses was not usually given to physical violence on his wife. Indeed they and his fellow workmates described him as having a quiet disposition until the beginning of 1892. but early in that year their pattern of life changed, and this eventually led to a transformation in his character, which was to turn him into a brutal monster for on brief but fatal instant.
Due to Mary Alice being out of work they decided to take in a lodger so as to supplement their diminished income. He was a young man who had come to work at the mill and was looking for fresh lodgings, but who soon afterwards began to show a good deal of affection for Mrs. Cudworth. Moses quite naturally became enraged by this, and got himself in such a state that one day at the mill he left his workplace and went into the warehouse, away from the deafening clatter of the looms, sending a message to one of the twisters (who fitted healds and reeds to warps before they were put in the loom) asking him to come and see him as he had something important to discuss. John Booth was his neighbour and a regular drinking companion, living at the end house in the same street, a few doors away at no.1, and as he appeared Moses said, “Jack, come here I want thee,” and standing by the office window continued,” I’ve something to tell thee, and I want thy advice” . His problem was that at mealtimes, his wife when setting the table would put her and that of her young lodger together, and the two pf them always sat side by side. He had deliberately changed the positions of the cups round on occasions to show his disapproval, but Eliza defiantly changed them back again. He said that this show of affection had also been noticed at the mill, and people were beginning to talk about it. But John however seemed quite surprised at Moses concern and enquired light-heartedly. “Oh! Is that all?” To this Moses replied, “That’s enough. He once ordered me to bed one neet, so as to be on his own wi’ Eliza. Tha knows he once went away wi’ grocer’s wife an’ he might do the same wi’mine.” John’s advice to this was “If I were thee I’d mek him flit. Tha doesn’t need to hev any lodgers; tha can do bout ‘em...” Moses took his friends advice and the lodger was made to leave, though only after some furious arguments between him and his wife.
The lodger he’s not wanted, We’re better bout him lass. So tell him to be gone from here, We can do without his brass
You know that’s not all there is, There hasn’t been fair play, And so he has to quickly go Before the end of May.
I’ve seen you and him too often, Having a loving cuddle, And ever since he’s been here There’s been nowt else but trouble.
The neighbours they are talking Of what is plain to see, And I’ll not be made a fool of By such as him and thee.
So let’s have no more argument, My mind it’s now made up. He goes within a week or two, Or our marriage will break up...
This happened about the middle of 1892, and Eliza continually kept on at him about the lodger’s removal. There were angry scenes, and Moses took drinking a good deal more than usual, though in any case “a large portion of their earnings was squandered in satisfying their craving.” His attitude had changed markedly, and Eliza was to remark to the wife of John Booth that “Moses was behaving rather queer.” His jealousy had reached such a pitch that he would not let her out of his sight, and now compelled her to accompany him whenever he went out, despite her protestations that she had housework to do. On the evening of Friday 3rd June, the Cudworths and Fylons went as usual to their favourite pub, which was just round the corner, the White Lion. Here they took their glasses of beer as usual into the taproom. Shortly afterwards the innkeeper, Mathew Gaunt, heard the sound of a disturbance there, and on investigating found Mr and Mrs Fylon having a violent argument. They were both immediately ejected into the street with orders not to return. On going back to the same room, where the sound of scuffling could be heard, the innkeeper saw Eliza Cudworth lying on her back on the floor and the husband in a drunken rage, thrashing her. He attempted to put them both outside, but was fiercely set upon by Moses in the passageway leading to the outer door. Calling for assistance from other customers the two Cudworths were also sent on their way – never to be seen there again.
The Cudworths and the Fylons went, Into the tap room and spent money need for rent, But before very long they were fighting and brawling, Instead of just sitting there talking. So the landlord he said “This is a house of good cheer It’s not meant for fighting over glasses of beer. The White Lion sign, just over the door Is not there for the benefit just of you four, My other customers should have no cause for fear, So out you must go – all of you – out on your ear.”
Moses was evidently in one of his ‘queer moods’ that evening, for on retiring for the night he took into bed a large clasp knife with its blade open, and hid this under his pillow. From the state he was in, he clearly intended to murder his wife while she was asleep. During the past few weeks the jealous husband had been heard by a number of witnesses, to say that she was still “carrying on” with the former lodger, and that he was going to “do her in for it.” During the night he took it from underneath the pillow, and put it ready for immediate use by the side of his head. Maybe he was too much the worse for drink that evening, or perhaps he had not nerved himself to the deed, as the knife remained untouched all that night. But it was seen lying in the pillow by Eliza as she woke the following morning at 5.00am for work(work was from 6am to 6pm, with half an hour for breakfast and an hour for dinner except for Saturday, which was half day).
Up in the morning at five It’s a wonder that we stay alive, Tired and yawning on a cold morning, It’s back to the long dreary drive. (Verse from a Lancashire folk song)
she was naturally very frighten in seeing this, and Mrs. Fylon, whose bedroom was next door, heard her say in a loud agitated voice “Moses, what is this knife doing on the bolster open?.” To this Moses was heard to reply, “Come stile me dead if I know anything about it.” At which Eliza was heard to say “That sort of work won’t do.” Moses then rather lamely tried to explain that he had “only been cutting baccy with it” This was not good enough excuse to satisfy the frightened wife however, and fearfully she told her sister-in-law what all the commotion had been about.
MOSES ASKS FOR BEER MONEY
The family went to their work as normal at 6am, and Moses was later to be described by his workmates as being in a sullen mood that morning. They had been called to the mill as usual by the tolling of the great bell on top of Victoria Mill, urging them reluctantly with its call of “work,” ”work,” ”work”. This bell had in former time’s summoned worshippers to the first Wesleyan Church in Earby, built in 1821 next to Stoopes Hill in Stoneybank Lane (as it was then called). With the opening of their new church in 1861 the bell was installed on top of Victoria Mill, and in the year 1900 it rang out joyfully to tell of the relief of Mafeking. Another bell was shortly to call for Moses, with a different and this time terrible four letter word – as we shall see. On that Saturday Moses and Eliza had taken a wedding present to the mill for Clarissa Pickles, their next-door neighbour, who was getting married on the Whit Monday in two days time to Jack Nichol. The red tablecloth, with an embroidered flower design, was spread out on an adjoining empty loom with presents from her other workmates as was the usual practice, for all too see. The colour would prove to be singularly appropriate one for that day, and Clarissa, who took it home with her when the mill shut for the weekend, would have a wedding present to look on with horror a few hours later. In 1892 the recognized holidays in Earby were ,’Good Friday and Saturday, Whit Monday, Monday and Tuesday of Earby Feast, and Friday afternoon and Saturday for Skipton Agricultural Show, plus two days at Christmas’ The three Cudworths came out of the mill together at one o’ clock, but it was noticed that Moses and Eliza were not on speaking terms, while John Willie trudged morosely behind them. On arriving home John Willie was sent across to the White Lion for two pints of beer, which the parents quickly consumed between them. This was not nearly sufficient for Moses, and so he asked his wife for some more money to fetch another two pints. But Eliza refused to give him any, as she said that Katie was badly in need of some new clogs, and she intended to buy a pair that afternoon. In fact there could be no more money for drinking that weekend, for there would be a days less wage for each of them, with the mill shut on the Whit Monday. At this Moses left home in a vile temper, and went to visit his neighbour John Booth, to whom he only had a few weeks before confided his troubles. It was just 2 o’ clock as he entered John’s house, and he was fairly dying for a drink on that hot summer’s afternoon. On the table was a full glass of beer and without saying a word he drank it, going out straight away. John was very surprised at this, and said to his wife, “What’s up wi’ Moses today? He’s been acting very strange all morning at t’mill.” The funeral of a child was just taking place; an altogether too common a scene in those days and Moses paused to watch, even to the extent of assisting forming up the procession into proper order. All funerals are distressing, but four days later a much more tragic one was to take place in that short cobbled street of six houses on either side. But this time he would not be able to participate in the ceremony, for it would be that of his wife – and he would be awaiting trial for her murder.
THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I SAW MY MOTHER
Turning back indoors he asked John if there was any more drink, but John was also hard up from the drinking session the night before, and said he had only 2d (1p) on him, and did Moses have a penny to make this up into the price of a pint? At this Moses turned glumly and left the house for the second time, with the parting remark in an irate tone of voice, that he had nothing but that he would have when he came back. An hour was to elapse before his return, and by that time he had enough money to be able to afford not just a pint, but a whole gallon of ale. On returning home we went upstairs to change out of his working clothes – cloth cap, red neckerchief, fustian trousers, waistcoat and clogs. There he found that the only suit he possessed was missing – Eliza had pawned it yet again at the ‘Pop Shop’! This had happened two weeks running now. Since the departure of the paying lodger Eliza had kept on about how hard up they were and it was all his fault. This had been another reason for the many arguments they had been having over the past few weeks. He was in an even fouler temper as he went downstairs in search of his wife; he had no money and she would have to give him some or there would be trouble, however much Katie needed her new clogs. She was not to be found however, for Mrs. Fylon told him that Eliza had gone down to Muck Street, and he was too late. The mother and daughter had been seen of by Mary Alice at about 2.30pm, who a little later on that day was to say tearfully during questioning by a policeman, “That was the last time I saw my mother.”
Muck Street was the original name for Espen Lane, later to become Aspen Lane, for in the wet weather it was a veritable morass. It is marked by this name on the first ordnance survey map of 1848, and is so called in The Surveyors Account Book for Earby, 1864 when it was repaired:
“Paid to Jas. Crowther: 6 ½ yds at 1/- Muck Street 6s. 6d.”
Eliza had first of all on that Whit Saturday afternoon, gone to the clogger’s shop of Tommy Pickles at the bottom of Muck Street. This was the second of a first floor pair of houses reached by means of outside stone stairs and a short walkway of stone flags known as “The Landing.” Two years later Willow Cottage, now the Central Club, was built on to them by Thomas Dove.
For a lark one day some lads managed to get a donkey up these stairs and onto the landing, and tied it to Tommy’s door. What a job he had to get it down! For there wasn’t enough room to turn it round, and he had to back the stubborn animal all the way down into the street, the donkey actually belonged to the woman who lived next door to Tommy, and it was stabled at he ‘Donkey Hoil’, in Cemetery Road. She was a widow and the donkey had belonged to her husband a ‘rag and bone man’ and it pulled his cart. On another occasion the same gang of lads glued cockle shells to its feet to and made it climb the stone steps to her door. The noise it made frightened the poor woman out of her senses. In 1923 John Sanderson, writing in the Craven Herald tells about a “startling incident” involving Tommy Pickles:
“I was born at Hill top in 1848…I remember when I was playing in the street with a lot of other lads, and we so annoyed a woman by ‘striking fire’ on the flags in front of her house, that she ran after us, and struck one of the lads to the ground. She was filled with horror when he lay on the road like someone dead, and my uncle (Tommy Pickles) came running out if his cobblers shop to see what was up and he was the lad had got his neck knocked out. Fortunately he was able to put it in. we were quiet enough for a time after that.2
Tommy was to tell reporters that Eliza had asked him if he had a pair of second-hand clogs for Katie, as that was all she could afford. But he told her he had none available in her small size, and suggested that she might get a pair from ‘Toddy’ at Hill Top.’ Toddy’ was the nickname of Thomas Williamson Cowgill, and he too was a clogger but mainly a shoemaker, who lived at one of the cottages at Hill Top Farm, for like many of the local tradesmen, including Tommy Pickles he carried on his business from his own home. The real reason why Tommy would not let her have any clogs was not told to reporters – she still owed him for the last pair she had obtained on ‘tick’ Tick shops were a way of life in those days. Goods were obtained and paid for later, after pay-day at the mill. So Eliza slowly walked with Katie towards Hill Top Lane – better known as the “Old Lane to Barlick” (Barnoldswick). Before evening that rough and lonely track had acquired the sinister name of “Murder Lane,” for this is was to be the last walk in this world for Eliza Cudworth. Moses had by this time set off to find her, and reaching the bottom of Muck Street he saw Mrs. Pickles cleaning the windows, and he said he was looking for his missus. On being informed that she had only just left and was on her way to Hill Top, he set off after her. It took him only a few minutes to catch up with his wife and daughter, who were walking slowly along Seal Lane, in fact just outside the mill that they both worked, and Katie was jumping for joy as she told her father about the ducks they had both been watching in the beck, from the Mill Brig:
You’ll never guess what we saw dad, Just underneath Mill Brig; We stopped to look when we got there And I nearly danced a jig.
For seven little ducklings, Were swimming in the beck today, Until a big brown doggie came, And tried to join them in their play.
But he was so disappointed When he jumped in amongst them there. They didn’t understand him at all, And he gave them such a scare.
For off they swam in panic, As quickly as they could, To get away to safety, Well of course – they would.
DON’T DO IT DADDY, DON’T DO IT
On his way from the shop of Tommy Pickles an idea had probably formed in Moses’ mind, and so he managed to keep his temper under control and suggested that as it was a fine summer’s day, they might as well walk over the hills to Barnoldswick, to buy some clogs there. His real motive of course would have been to get Eliza to a lonely spot, where there would be no one around to trouble him, as they had done the previous evening in the White Lion, and then ask her for some money. Eliza must have been very relieved by this attitude of her husband, instead of the expected violent row. So with Katie between them and all holding hands, they turned into that little dark green lane that looked so cool and inviting in the heat of the sun (they had summers then). They were seen by a boy who was playing on the edge of the old Earby cricket field, on which was to be built later Victoria Shed. This was 18 year old Henry Gaunt, son of the innkeeper who had thrown them out. He saw them go past the row of old cottages and barn Known as Anne Scott’s Row, from a woman that lived there (these were pulled down about 1925 and Lane Ends Garage now occupies the spot). They turned into the Old Lane passing the wheelwrights shop of Frank Smith just before disappearing from view under the railway bridge. There was a new road just being completed that year from Seal Bridge to the junction of the present day New Road, and this was a little later on to be named Victoria Road. The houses along here were built two or three years after, and made into shops at a later date.
Seal Bridge, which was always known then as Mill Brig, crosses over the Seal Beck, which is the proper name for Earby Beck. The land to the east of this Bridge at least as early as the 16th century was called Selcroft, meaning a croft by y the Seal. Albion Mill had been built on part of this land. Selbourne Terrace, near Windle (Keb) Bridge is also named after the Seal Beck, “Seal-bourne” – from the Old English or Anglo-Saxon “bourne” meaning a brook. But the original and ancient name for this beck was the “Eure,” Earby being the village by the Eure beck (Eurebi in the Doomsday Book), from the Anglo-Saxon ‘ea’ meaning water and the Danish “by” meaning a dwelling or farm.
The road to Barnoldswick
And so they set off up towards the hills for what should have been a pleasant walk to Barnoldswick.
And what a host of song birds Are singing all around; From every tree and hedge-top I hear their notes resound. From yonder sky comes music, The lark is singing there; O! How it cheers my spirit To hear him high in air.
But dark clouds were looming ahead. For according to the evidence of Moses at his trial, on the way up the lane he again asked his wife for some money for beer. She in turn once again obstinately refused to give him any, and then a violent quarrel ensued in which he said that Eliza grabbed him by the whiskers with one hand, and then attempted to stab him with a clasp knife she held in the other. He was so maddened by this “unreasonable” conduct that on a blind impulse he picked up a large stone and stuck her to the ground with it.
He said that to him she did take a knife, And in defence he had to strike his wife. Numberless times he hit her with a stone, No one there to see him, for he was all alone But for his youngest daughter who did implore, “Please daddy do not hit my mammie any more!”
As mentioned earlier one of the cottages at Hill Top was occupied by Thomas Williamson Cowgill. He had just finished making some shoes and clogs and was at this time hurrying down into Earby to sell them. The footpath from Hill Top joins Old Lane part way down, and it was as he neared this junction that he heard a couple quarrelling further up. Looking in that direction all he could see was a little girl 65 yards away (the distance was afterwards measured), and heard her scream, “Don’t do it daddy, don’t do it.”
Moses knelt over her, Beating her skull with a stone, While Eliza helplessly lay there, Giving out a most dreadful moan.
At this very instant the wife lay on her back, staring helplessly up at her husband kneeling over her, who then began to brutally batter her face with the stone, until every bone was broken and the eyes completely smashed in. “Toddy” Cowgill had not seen him do this in that overgrown lane, but he then saw a man get up near the little girl, and lean against the fence. However, as he was in a hurry to sell his shoes, he ignored the child’s screams and proceeded on his way into the village. At the trial of Cudworths Mr. Justice Grantham severely reprimanded him for this conduct, and remarked that if Cowgill had investigated he might have saved the life of the unfortunate woman.
Judge: “But you heard the child crying out, “Don’t do it Daddy,” didn’t that make you think the child or someone might be injured?” Toddy: “I never had a thought about it at the time” Judge: “Well I hope you have not got a mind that can think – to act in that way. It is a disgrace to humanity for a strong man to hear a child cry out like that, sixty five yards off, and not take the trouble to go back. You might have saved the life of this woman”
Tommy left Hill Top shortly afterwards, for he could not face up to passing that spot almost daily in light of the judges remarks. He went to live at Station Terrace, the first row of house to be built on Colne Road, opposite the railway station. But his conscience troubled him ever after, to such a degree that a few years later he committed suicide, by hanging himself in the fields near Kelbrook. The top part of this overgrown sunken lane, where the deed was committed was narrow and lined with trees, and even then very bad to walk on. Water ran down it, and it was littered with loose stones – the perfect place indeed for such a crime.
The murder scene
So many times he struck her head, The blood flowed profusely – she was dead He then dropped the stone amid pools of blood, Which were gathering there as thick as mud. So; leaving the wounds deep upon her face and head, Moses then back into Earby hurriedly fled.
Some twenty minutes after seeing the family go into the lane, young Harry Gaunt, from the cinder path leading to Alfred Dodgson’s Smithy, again saw the Cudworth family – or at least two of them – there was no sign of Eliza, little Katie on his back as he made his way home. A small boy was the first to come across the dead woman’s body, and he at once ran back and told the first person he met. Who the boy was will always remain a mystery as his name is not given in any of the many newspaper accounts, and he was not required to give evidence at the inquest or trial. The road here a Lane Ends had formed part of a turnpike road until1879. In 1824 an Act of Parliament was passed for making and maintaining this as a turnpike road, parts of which were “very narrow, steep, and incommodious,” form colne to meet the Clitheroe to Skipton road, with a tollgate at Thornton (Thornton Bar). In 1827 permission was obtained for coaches to run on it from Skipton to Blackburn (the toll at Thornton was 9d (4p)), but twenty years later the coming of the railway to Earby killed these off. The condition of the road here used to be terrible in wet weather, coaches and wagons struggled along with water reaching their axels. Samuel Heap came to Earby at the age of 24 in 1896, to be interviewed for the position of first headmaster at the newly built school in New Road. He described what the road was then (he got the post, although he was the youngest applicant);
“I picked my way through mud in Colne Road, which was then narrow and bounded by a Hawthorn hedge. Proceeding along Victoria Road I noticed active sign of building, many of the houses just ready for occupation…”
An eight year old girl, Elizabeth Ann Edmondson also discovered the body, but she was also spared the ordeal of having to give evidence in court at Skipton. The man who was first told the gory news was a weaver, James Metcalf, and he ran up the lane where he discovered the body of Eliza lying straight on her back, the head wedged firmly in a cart rut, while a large pool of blood had formed from the terrible injuries sustained in the savage attack. The head was beaten to a pulp, and horrified by the gruesome sight he hastened to inform the police. A short time later an insurance named Brennand was also shocked by the discovery – the walk over the hills to Barnoldswick was a popular one in those days. But this lane was in such a state that almost everyone used the footpath by the side of the lane, just as they do today.
LET ME HAVE AS MUCH BEER AS I CAN GET
In the meantime Moses had arrived home, and settling Katie down he coolly asked where Liza was. Ellen Fylon was very surprised by this question and replied that as he had brought Katie back with him, she had assumed they had all been together. Moses did not reply to this, leaving the house but returning shortly afterwards, again enquiring after his wife’s whereabouts, saying “hasn’t she come in yet? Where can she have got to?” Leaving again. And taking Katie with him, he called on his friend John Booth, where throwing a florin, (10p), which he had taken from his dead wife, on to the table, he exclaimed, “Fetch me a gallon of beer. Let me have as much beer as I can get before they fetch me. Ive killed t’wife”
My name alas, is Moses Cudworth My race on earth is nearly run, For a most cruel and shocking murder Soon to the gallows I must come.
John was rather amused by this, for I appeared that Moses had asserted himself, thus winning the battle with his wife for some beer money. He laughed as he said “We don’t believe thee” (there was some company in the house at the time), and asked where Eliza was. Moses was a little put out by this apparent lack of interest on John’s part, and pointing to his little daughter said “The child knows” and then addressing Katie asked, “Katie, where’s thi mammie?.” The child however took no notice at all of this question, and those in the house continued with their normal conversation. They were still in the belief that there was nothing wrong, and that Moses was just “having them on” as one of them put it afterwards. On being questioned later however, Katie was to say that she had seen “daddy licking mammie.” Moses persisted further saying “You don’t believe me?” and John getting rather exasperated asked, “What did tha do? How’d thi din; what will people think if they hear thee talking like that?” Moses then sat down while they continued with their conversation, for still nobody would listen and take him seriously, although he was becoming very insistent in his statements saying, “I’ve done for Liza. You think I haven’t done it but I have. At this John said “What have you done at her?” “Liza clicked a knife at me and I punched her I’th head and took it off her. I didn’t know what I was doing then, I got so mad, but I think I cut her throat with it,” replied Moses. To prove his point he then took a silk handkerchief which had been knotted round his neck, and handing it to John said “Jack, tak’ this handkicher and keep it for my sake. I’ve killed t’wife, who’s dead enough.”
In remembrance of me pray keep this handkicheer, We’ve had good times, but now I must leave here; For this is the day we must both take farewell, It will soon be my journey to heaven or to hell.
And think of me kindly, Jack my good friend, For I tried hard enough my marriage to mend; It wasn’t sufficient as now you all know, As I’ve ended her life by giving blow after blow.
THAT’S LIZA’S BLOOD
The conversation by now had dried up as John, who was looking visibly shocked, took the ‘handkicher’ from him without speaking, and put it in his jacket pocket. Moses then repeated, “let me have as much beer as I can get before they come for me,” by this time it had dawned on everyone present that something very serious was amiss, and Mr. and Mrs. Booth, in a terrified state, ran to the Cudworth’s house, four doors away up the street, shouting for all the neighbours to hear, “where’s Liza? Moses say’s he’s murdered her.” Mary Alice hurried back with her, and from just inside the doorway of the Booth’s house asked fearfully of her father, “Where’s my mother? What have you done to her?,” “Where you’ll be if I get at you,” he shouted from the high wooden chair by the fireplace; then making a sudden move as if he was about to attack her. Mrs. Booth caught hold of him by the arm and tried to pull him out of the chair then out of the house, but her husband told Mary Alice to go out instead. They ran to alert Mrs. Fylon as to what was happening. Clutching her shawl around her shoulders, Ellen Fylon was the one now to run in alarm, and for the second time in minutes the chilling cry of “Where’s Liza” rang out around the street. The commotion caused by all this shouting and the hurried clattering of three pairs of iron shod clogs on the narrow pavement, had brought out all the neighbours on each side. Who were wondering what it all meant. Moses was sitting calmly in the chair again, with Katie on his knee, and as he held his arm around her, blood could be seen on his right hand. When Ellen also asked where Liza was he replied. “Thou’ll find her if thou’ll go and look for her.” She repeated the question, at he same time telling Moses that she would go and look for her, if he would only tell her where to she was. At which he said in a quiet tone of voice “Thou’ll not believe me Nellie, but that’s Liza’s blood. I’ve killed her.” At this point he showed her the blood on his hand. Ellen froze with fear, words would not come, and her face went a ghastly white. With her black shawl clutched even tighter about her, she now hurried off in the direction of the centre of the village. She made her way down the Hill of Muck Street as quickly as the deep ruts would let her, heading for the clogger’s shop to which Eliza had said she was going, to buy Katie some clogs. Reaching the bottom of the hill she saw James Metcalfe who was just then hammering frantically on the door of the local policeman who lived almost opposite Tommy Pickles house and shop. When Ellen told Mr. Metcalfe what was happening he said he feared he had bad news for her, as he had just seen a woman dead and murdered near the top of Old Lane. Shawls were worn by all the mill women. Made of wool usually black and fringed, they were large and warm, covering the head, kept in place by a large safety pin. Police constable Simon White was not in, and the pair of them ran towards Hill Top Lane, Ellen’s knees trembling, as she was now shaking all over with fear. As they were going past the cricket field they were fortunate enough to see P.C. White watching a match being played by Earby second eleven (the first eleven were playing away that afternoon). The land belonged to C. Bracewell of Green End House, owner of Green End Mill, and was one of the best cricket grounds in Yorkshire, being absolutely dead level. Earby Cricket Club had been formed in about 1858 and the tackle was stored at this mill until the erection of a pavilion and refreshment and changing room at the edge of the field. James and Ellen, who were both breathless with running, told the policeman what they knew, and an ambulance stretcher was sent for from its position on the wall outside the Conservative Club, (The Albion Hall built in 1887). In the meantime the three of them, together with a small number of curious bystanders, who had been watching the cricket, set off up the nearby lane. Young Harry Gaunt, together with some other boys ran on ahead, and saw Mrs. Fylon when she arrived at the scene drop down on her knees to take one of the dead woman’s hands in hers. And there to her horror, Mrs. Fylon found tightly clutched in Eliza’s left hand – some of Moses Cudworth’s sandy and grey coloured whiskers. P.C. white was due to marry Sarah Crowther of Earby only two days later, on the Whit-Monday, the sixth of June. This was to be pit off for a few weeks however. He married her on the first of July (Craven Herald). He was promoted to sergeant later on.
Earby Conservative Club
I’VE DONE THE DEED, I WILL SWING LIKE A MAN
Back at the home of john booth, the murderer appeared quite unconcerned by his callous deed, and quietly awaited the arrival of the police, nothing further being said among the shocked neighbours, apart from a few whispers, until their arrival. P.C. White eventually appeared and took Moses in to custody with the words, “I want you.” Moses gave no trouble and was surprised as the handcuffs were put on him saying, “What are you putting them on for? I would have gone without. I’ve done the deed; I’ve killed her; I shall never repent it, and I will swing like a man.” The constable was taking no chances however, and it was fortunate he did for there was now a wild look about his prisoner, nor could he fail to notice he had blood on his right hand. Fortunately the request for a gallon of beer had been ignored due to the company in the house being busy talking when he first asked, and the second time they were all to shocked, and so Moses was quite sober. It was at this point that the eldest son, who had only just heard of the tragedy, made his way through the scores of people thronging White Lion Street at the end of Melrose Street; he was just in time to see his father being escorted out of John Booth’s doorway. In a faltering voice he said “What have you done, what have you killed my mother for?” the reply to John Willie’s question was. “You know what I’ve killed her for, and I am not sorry for it.” My uncle , Mathew Briden lived in White Lion Street, He was the Earby Bellman, and people paid him to go round all the streets ringing his bell an shouting out notices such as “There is a play at the Wesleyans tonight starting at seven o’ clock,” always ending with “and don’t forget!” I can remember him when he had long retired, sitting on the high backed settee by the fireplace, with the bell on the sideboard. This bell went on loan to Skipton Museum, but it now appears to be lost. Earby was a quirt little village, nothing exciting ever happened, but all that rapidly changed, because by now it seemed that everyone knew what had taken place. The mills had shut down at one o’ clock for the weekend, and so people came running out of their houses and headed towards that of the murderer in Wesley Place. They saw P.C. White leading his prisoner down Muck Street, and the cry went up “Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper!” Three and a half years earlier, Jack the Ripper had carried out his gruesome deeds in the Whitechapel district of the East End of London, thus becoming known as the Whitechapel Murderer, and now Moses Cudworth was to have the questionable distinction of sharing the same name. So also the area in which he lived. From that day Wesley Place got its new name, one which people used for over seventy years, right up to the whole of the area being demolished – that of ‘Whitechapel’ At a meeting of the Earby Housing and Planning Committee on Wednesday October 13th 1954, a letter read out from Mr. Peasy, who lived at! Melrose Street, the former house of John Booth. In it he applied for alternative accommodation because “queer things” were happening at his home, which had compelled him to bring all the beds downstairs. He claimed that for three years doors had opened o their own account, footsteps had been heard overhead, crockery had flown into the air, and pictures had gone crooked on the wall. Mr. Peasy further went on to say. “I cannot stand it much longer. I will walk the streets first. I am living on my nerves. “The Council asked the sanitary inspector to carry out some investigations. Mr. Peasy was a chimney sweep and had a donkey and cart to carry his bags of soot, which were stored in one of the bedrooms. There was neither garden no yard on Melrose Street, and the donkey was stabled in the living room! Fastened to the fireplace, where I saw it myself. The sanitary inspector called and Mr. Peasy left Earby shortly after. Earby had no police station or lock up so it was necessary for him to be taken to Skipton by train. Assisting the policeman in his duty were Thomas Waddington and John Dodgson, and they were sorely needed. For by now Moses had become very violent indeed, and they struggled with him as he hung to the iron railings outside each house down Muck Street (these being taken down all over Earby during the Second World War to be used as scrap metal, the Baptists being the only ones allowed to keep theirs, as the unfenced drop on to the pavement would have been dangerous) Nellie Austerbury appeared at the doorway of her house when she heard the shouting when the noisy throng turned the corner into Water Street. Here at number sixteen, Nellie and her mother kept a Dame School, where, for the sum of 1d. a week they taught their infants ABC and to read a little, before passing on to the Grammar or Riley Street schools at the age of five. This little school would be typical of thousands of others in villages around the country. It closed down the following year. “The usual scene of these schools is a cottage kitchen, in which the mistress divides her time between her pupils and domestic duties. The children sit round the room, often so thickly stowed as to occupy every available corner, and spend the greater part of their time in knitting and sewing.”
Yet one there is, that small regard to rule, Or study pays, and still is doom’d a school That where a deaf, poor, patient widow sits, And awes some thirty infants as she knits; Infants of humble, busy wives, who pay, Some thrifling price, for freedom through the day. At this good matrons hut the children meet, Who thus becomes the mother of the street; Her room is small they cannot widely stray’ Her threshold high, they cannot run away: Though deaf, she sees the rebel-hero shout, Though lame, her white rod nimbly walks about; With bands of yarn she keeps offenders in, And to her gown the sturdiest rogue can pin; Aided by these, and spells, and tell tale birds, Her power they dread and reverence her words. ‘School Dame’ George Crabbe, 1780
After only another hundred yards, and with legs being bruised by the kicking of the prisoner, they reached the old Earby Fire Station in Water Street, which was a wooden building built on the end of Victoria Mill. The fire appliance at that time consisting simply of fire hoses on a handcart. Here they were compelled to take Moses into a small yard there, and tie his legs together, while sending for Tommy Waite to fetch his milk float, for it was half a mile to the railway station. Moses was placed in the cart and the journey then continued, passing the site of Thursdays market and fairground (now the bus station); the crowd which followed them hooting and yelling all the way. The main road out of Earby to colne, leading to the isolated railway station, was nothing better than a narrow tree lined lane, with not a house along the whole length, apart from a single row called Station Row, which had only recently been built. Still struggling violently Moses was carried on to the station platform and forced into an empty compartment of the train which had been kept waiting for them, the angry mob crowding round the platform. Mr Ellis, the stationmaster had to stand in front of the compartment door as they tried to get at Moses, who could be seen struggling like a madman inside the carriage. Despite the fact that his hands and feet were secured he sprang at the policeman while in the carriage and shouted to the stationmaster, “Open the door and let them have a gradely (good) look at me. I’m fit to look at. I done it, and done it right.” He continued his violent behaviour, and the policeman and two helpers had the greatest difficulty in stopping him from jumping out of the train, one of the windows being broken in the fighting. Word had been sent on ahead to Skipton and a large crowd waited at the railway station there as Moses was lifted bodily out of the train. The Ship Hotel bus was awaiting them as they arrived at 5.55pm, and the prisoner continued to give a great deal of trouble all the way to Skipton police station. There he was formally charged with his crime. On being asked “are you sorry for what you have done?” he replied “Yes, I am sorry for what I’ve done, but I am not the first that has been done for murder, and I can only die once.” When asked the cause of his deed he replied, “Oh we’ve been wrong for two or three weeks.” During all the questioning he adopted “a most callous deportment” and showed no sign of remorse for what he had done
GUILTY OF WILFUL MURDER
Back in Earby the body of the dead woman had been placed on the ambulance litter and taken to her late residence. On its journey more and more people gathered behind as the news spread abroad. The stretcher was put on the table, with the shawl of the deceased woman over it, and the Earby doctor called to examine the corpse and give a death certificate (He had a favourite remedy for most ailments, cod-liver-oil which he called, “A most wonderful cure”). Doctors were to be treated with awe then, whenever they entered a house, attired as they were with, silk hat, walking cane, white gloves, and a Gladstone Bag, in which was kept his stethoscope and other items. As he entered the room Dr. Hunter met with a dreadful sight. A quantity of blood had flowed from the mangled head, and this had spread and congealed in a large pool over the bare, flagged floor.
The surgeon describes the scene presented to his view, A more appalling case than this he says he never knew, A woman’s body there he saw all weltering in her gore, The sight was sickening to behold on entering the door
But it was by now late in the evening, as he had been dealing with another emergency and it was beginning to get dark, the only illumination being an oil lamp. So it was not until Monday that he performed the post mortem in that same dreary kitchen-cum- living room, with its bare flagged floor. It was common practice then for the local G.P. to perform his own post mortems, and as there no special building put aside for that purpose, this operation was usually performed where the body had been laid out. Until dark, late that frightful Saturday night, hundreds of inhabitants made there way up “Murder Lane” as it was quickly christened, to visit the scene of the crime. One of these, a cotton spinner named Ralph Pawson, found a closed clasp knife with a bone handle, a few feet from where the deceased had been found. There was blood on the handle, and he handed the knife to the police. Later, at the inquest Mrs. Fylon was able too identify this as belonging to Moses Cudworth. About 6.30 that summers evening P.C. Thomas Spencer from Thornton also went up the lane, to see if he could discover the murder stone as evidence. This he soon found as it was quite large and covered in clotted blood near to the blood-saturated ground, and there was also a noticeable hole in the lane from which it had been dislodged. It was found to weigh about 6 pounds and was 8 inches long, 6 inches broad, and 2 inches thick. Over the following weeks, so many clippings were to be taken as souvenirs from the tree beside where Eliza’s body was found that it eventually died and had to be cut down. The Coroners Inquest took place in the upper room of the Conservative Club, Earby, on the Tuesday morning, the Coroner being Mr T.P. Brown. The village postmaster, James Brown, was elected foreman of the jury, and the others were: George Andrews, Sylvester Lowcock, Richard Edmondson, R. Demain, George Hartley, John Wilkinson, William Gill, Charles Watson, J. Wilkinson, E Shuttleworth, R. Snowdon, James Dodgson and J. Watson. Almost all the villagers turned out to watch the arrival of those concerned in the proceedings, many of them leaving their looms to do so. Moses Cudworth was not present or represented. The Conservative Club stood on part of the site of ‘Doffer’s Croft’. It was so called because when the full bobbins had been doffed (changed) on the spinning frames for empty ones by the young lads, and they had time on their hands, amounting to half an hour or more, these “doffers” at Victoria Mill, immediately opposite, used to play there. The land also used to be the site of the annual Earby pot fair, which gave once a year chance to buy crockery at a cheap price, and even full tea service sets, which would be carried home in triumph in a clothes basket. Lit up at night with naptha lamps, giving glowing flares from the crude petroleum mixture, the ‘grafters’ or ‘spielers’ would banter good-humouredly with the crowd who gathered round to buy and join in the fun. There was a great deal of excitement and wonder when, as my mother told me, they heard a gramophone demonstrated in the upper room of the club some years later in 1910. A Parliamentary report on child labour in 1833 includes an account from a girl doffer from Leeds:-
“I began to work when I was six years old; I was then a little ‘doffer’. We worked from five in the morning till nine at night when they were throng (busy). Time allowed for our meals was 40 minutes at noon, not any time was allowed for breakfast or for drinking. I was kept constantly on my feet; there were so many frames, and they ran so quick. When the ‘doffers flagged a little they were strapped. Those who were last at ‘doffing ‘were constantly strapped – girls as well as boys. I have seen the overlooker go to the top end of the room, he has taken a strap and a whistle in his mouth, and sometimes he has got a chain and chained them and strapped them all down the room. I was middling strong when I went there….i have the experience of wet spinning – it is very uncomfortable. I have stood before the frames till I have been wet through to my skin; and in winter time our clothes have been frozen…I am now 23 years of age, and am now in the poor house at Hunslet.”
Mrs. Fylon was the first witness to give evidence at the inquest, and during questioning she broke down completely, sobbing and rocking herself to and fro in her chair. Others gave their evidence as described further back in this account, and finally Dr. James Fullerton Hunter gave the result s of the post mortem examination which had been witnessed by P.C. White – this on the policeman’s wedding day! The external injuries were a dislocated under-jaw bone, while the bone of the upper jaw were broken and fractured. The bones of the nose were completely shattered and the nose caved in. the right eye was displaced downwards and backwards, the left eyeball was crushed in and burst, while the right cheek was a mass of contusions, and also some teeth were broken off. There was not a whole bone in the face that was not more or less splintered and broken. When told of these injuries that same day, and asked for the police for his comments on them, Moses was to say that Eliza must have got them by falling down! He told the Skipton magistrates the previous day that he did not use a stone, and first of all had said in the house of John Booth that he had “done for Liza” by cutting her throat. Dr. Hunter however told the inquest that only one injury on the deceased could have been caused by the knife, but that was only a small scratch. The coroner’s jury retired, taking only three minutes to return with their verdict which was “Guilty of wilful murder” Mrs. Fylon on being interviewed by a reporter said,” They used to be so happy together, but they have lived on the wrong side of three or four months, and I think Moses has been a bit light-hearted as far as I can make out…It is my opinion that he wanted her to go to Barnoldswick as an excuse to get her on a quiet road” Only two days after this tragedy it seemed there might be a second local murder, a newspaper reporting this story the following weekend:
Another sensation at Earby, Late on Monday night another sensation was created near Earby, the scene of the fearful tragedy on Saturday. It appears that Thomas Brackbury a tramping (one who travelled looking for work) twister and Joseph Cook had been drinking together. They afterwards adjourned to the canal bank to wrestle for a pint of beer, and somehow they managed to roll into the canal and Brackbry was drowned. Cook was at once arrested and is now in custody in Skipton. (This was later judged to be an accidental death)
The funeral of Eliza was on the following day. She had been a Roman Catholic, but for some unknown reason it was James Brown (foreman of the coroners jury), a much respected local Wesleyan lay preacher, who performed the last religious offices, and to tender consolation in times of bereavement. There are many stories about James Brown, then 64 years of age, who was “short and spare in appearance, but a terror for his size.” Rising at four o’ clock one Sunday morning he once walked to Silsden to conduct a service. Noticing a man having a nap in a gallery pew he called out “Nay! Nay! Nay! Nay! I think if anybody here has a reight to sit down and sleep it’s me. I got up at four this morning and have spent several hours on the road, and I expect you to give me your attention.” There was no more going to sleep in the chapel that morning. On another occasion in Earby, the congregation was startled to hear him shout, in the tones of a drill sergeant “Stand up!” which they all did. But he then continued by announcing the next hymn, which was “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the Cross.” He once asked some children he was reading to, “What is an earthquake?” On getting no response he said “Why, it’s nature sneezing,” and gave a great sneeze himself. Over the past few days collections had been made in Earby, Thornton and Kelbrook, and with the proceeds the funeral expenses were met. The four unhappy Cudworth children, soon to be orphans, were either bought suitable clothing for the day or wore borrowed items. Even so the funeral was one such as was generally arranged by people in humble circumstances. The grave itself, in the Baptist cemetery cost £2, but no hearse or funeral trappings could be afforded, though the coffin did have brass handles on its simple pitch pine exterior, and on a brass plate was the inscription:
ELIZA CUDWORTH DIED JUNE 4TH, 1892 AGED 41 YEARS
Undertakers could rarely be afforded by the working class, but there was great neighbourly spirit in those days, and the preparation of Eliza’s corpse was performed as was the usual practice by a few of the womenfolk. After a short service at home, the coffin was borne in a mournful procession, shoulder high, and “feet foremost to its long home,” on the shoulders of four of her neighbours, R and J Illingworth, James Bailey and John Booth.
“Nature, which headlong into life did throng us, With our feet foremost to our grave doth bring us; What is less ours than this our borrowed breath? We stumble into life, we go to death”
It was then custom for members of the funeral party to sing before the corpse left the house; there were three different verses depending on whether the corpse was young, middle-aged or aged. For Eliza they sang:
Farewell dear friend, a long farewell, For we shall meet no more, Till we are raised with Christ to dwell, On Zion’s happy shore.
If the deceased was young they would sing:
The morning flowers display there sweets, And gay there silken leaves unfold As careless as the noontide heats, As fearless of the evening cold.
For the aged the following was preferred:
Thee we adore, eternal name, And humbly own to thee, How feeble is our mortal frame, What dying worms are we?
As a mark of respect and following the usual custom, all the houses had their curtains drawn until the funeral had departed, and two little girls who were skipping in the middle of the street were hurriedly called in. All those who were not at work looked on at the tragic sight, either from their doorways or huddled in small groups, all the way to the cemetery. It went past the White Lion; down Catgate (Riley Street); past the old bull baiting stone opposite Bailey’s shop; along Water Street; then turned to go over the bridge on to the cemetery at Wheatland’s.
Catgate got its name either from the A.S. ‘geat’ meaning an opening into a field, which the cattle would pass through to the common land, where the villagers had grazing rights. Or from the Danish ‘gata’ meaning a street which the cattle would pass along, again on to the common land for pasture.
This cemetery (from the Low Latin ‘coemeterium’ – a sleeping place), had only been in use for five years, the land being purchased by the Earby Baptist Church in 1887 for use as a burial ground for all to use, and it derived its name from the fact it had previously been a wheat field. Where the library stands now was the Victoria Institute built in 1878, used for meetings and recreation, with daily and other newspapers provided. Penny Readings were held here and were very popular, for some of the older generation were unable to read themselves. The price of admission was one penny. Readings from Dickens and Shakespeare were augmented by singers, and there were also spelling bees. It was also the headquarters of Earby Brass Band. Magic Lantern shows were given here in the early 1900’s, and with the gramophone heard at the Albion Hall, plus an occasional car passing through to attempt the climb at Wysick, this was truly a modern age! The bridge over the beck was known as the “Stootian Bridge.” The bull baiting stone (from the Middle English ‘baiten’ – to torment) was in the centre of the Bull Ring at the bottom of Stoneybank, and into this stone flag was fixed the ring by which the bull was tethered. It was still there in 1892, near the Water Street end of Garden Street. It used to be law that a bull had to be baited before its flesh could be sold as food, as it was believed that this rendered the beef ‘tender’. At Skipton Court Leet on May 5th 1742. Samuel Goodgion and Benjamin Shire were each fined 3s. 4d. (17p) “for exposing to sale in the market-place within this manor bull beefe not being bated.” Bull baiting was made illegal in 1835. To arouse the bull’s temper he was prodded with sharp-pointed sticks then a dog or dogs were set on him.
Like a wylde bull, that, being at bay, Is bayted of mastiffe and hound, And a curre-dog, that doe him shap assay, On every side, and beat him round; But most that curre, barking with a bitter sound, And creeping still behinde, doth him encumber, That in his chauffe he digs the trampled ground, And threats his horns, and bellowes like the thunder. Edmund Spencer “Faerie Queen”
Facing the Bull Ring was by far the largest shop in the village, built in 1860 by John Bailey, where even today can be seen with difficulty a large sign painted on the wall, SUNLIGHT SOAP, and underneath, LARGEST GROCER. In 1896 he built Spring Mill.
A garland shall be framed By art and nature’s skill, Of sundry-coloured flowers. In token of Alice’s good-will.
I’ll deck her tomb with flowers, The rarest ever seen: And with my tears as showers, I’ll keep them fresh and green.
Wearing a new black dress and immediately following the coffin was the eldest daughter. She was clasping with one hand the tiny hand of four year old Katie. Wreaths or flowers could not be afforded, and in her free hand Mary Alice carried a simple and pathetic wreath of wild flowers which she had gathered from the field next to the White Lion; an arrangement of hyacinth, primroses, buttercups these being the sad and only floral tributes. Before there were house built in this field I remember that it used to be absolutely full of buttercups in the summertime. The field was called the ‘Tipsy (Tipping) Field’ as it was then use for the game of knurr and spell, locally known as ‘tipping’ which used to be a very popular game in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It was played with a wooden ball called a knurr. This ball was released by means of a spring from a little brass cup at the end of a tongue of steel called a spell. After the player had touched the spring the ball flew into the air, and it was then struck with a bat, bets being placed on the longest hit. After the village green had all been built on about 1880, lads used to play cricket in the road near the White Lion. The keeper of the inn, Bill Edmondson, proved a terror to them. If a cricket ball went into the ‘Tipsy Field’ meadow, which all belonged to the White Lion, he used to make a raid on the lads, and carry off all their tackle he could lay his hands on. This was never seen again, and consequently he earned the nickname of ‘Owd Grab All’. The meadow next to it was called ‘Tranmires’, being a corruption of tarn mires, for it was a very boggy piece of ground. The owner was Christopher Bracewell (‘Owd Kit’) of Green End House. He was even more of a terror to the lads, for he used to use his stick on them, and did it with some force. Rushton Avenue was built on part of tarn mires, and the foundations having sunk alarmingly was always referred to as the ‘Earthquake Row’. The houses in Wentcliffe Drive had to be built on concrete rafts to stop them sinking. But back to our story: then followed the two sons of the deceased, James and John, James Fylon and Ellen, with her other brother and his wife, her husband’s sister and a few friends. The streets were lined with onlookers, some of them followed silently in the rear of the procession, to gather round the graveside. Eliza’s mother had been present at the house for the service there, but she did not feel able to go on to the cemetery, where, at the graveside just inside the gates, Mr. Brown completed the burial service after heading the funeral procession from the house. This was a concession granted by the Baptist Church due to the tragic nature of this funeral, as they did not then allow ministers other than their own to officiate in their cemetery. The cost of the grave was £2. During these proceedings little Katie playfully handled the wreath of flowers at the graveside, trying in her childish way to re-arrange them, so as to fit in her posy of buttercups, which caused many of the onlookers to be moved to tears. As the coffin was slowly lowered into the ground Mary Alice could no longer hold back her own tears. She now broke down completely, and sobbed bitterly. The four of them were shortly to be made orphans in the most tragic manner possible, for their father would surely be the next to enter a ‘bed of death’, and what was to become of them now?
Poor loving daughter Alice, Who wept as she kissed me goodbye, Kiss her twice and thrice for me, And tell her not to cry; Tell her to weave a bright, gay garland, and crown me as of yore, Then plant a lily on my grave, And think of me no more. For now her time has come To care for James and john And my little darling Katie, Now that I am gone.
Due to pressure of space other bodies have been interred on top of one another in this cemetery. Where Eliza body lies there were originally three graves in a row. From 1910 three interments were allowed in each grave, provided there was room, and now, where there were three graves, four mounds are seen. As the tearful Alice was leaving the cemetery she turned in wonder, for wasn’t that her mother calling. Yes there it was – she heard it now:
Farewell, farewell, the four of you, We shall meet in heaven above, It grieves my heart, that I should part, From all the ones I love.
But Alice dear, just one more tear, Remembering you and me, And James and John and Katie, my dear With whom I can no longer be. See to them all, my love recall, Do that – just for me.
I AM NOT FRETTING FOR YOU
Moses Cudworth was brought before Skipton magistrates on the Monday morning following the murder. A large crowd had collected in anticipation of seeing the murderer, but they were to be disappointed however, as the remanding ceremony was transacted in the clerk’s office at the police station where he had been held. Superintendent Crawshaw told the presiding magistrates that the prisoner was charged with the murder of his wife, Eliza Cudworth, in Old Lane, Hill Top, Earby, and asked for a formal remand. Moses appeared very subdued as he stood before the magistrates; his demeanour seemed by this time changed into that of resignation as to his fate, and totally different to his truculent manner on the day he was arrested. The presiding magistrate, the Rev. Morris, rector of Thornton, said to the prisoner, “You hear that the charge against you is one of wilful murder of your wife. Have you anything to say why you should not be remanded?” Moses Cudworth replied “If I murdered my wife I cannot remember it. I don’t know that I left her murdered when I went away.” Now Cudworth was asked if he had any reason to offer why he should not be remanded to Armley Gaol. “Where is Armley?” he asked the magistrate. “Leeds” was the reply. “I am not particular whether I am sent off or stop here” said Moses. He was then taken to that prison for the remand period. On Wednesday the 15th June he was brought back to Skipton, this time to the Town Hall. Excitement ran high in the town, and immediately the doors of the town hall were thrown open to the public a large crowd of eager spectators thronged in. on his appearance in court Moses asked one of the officers in attendance if he would read him the newspaper account of his crime, as he had not been allowed a newspaper in prison, and in any case he could not read. He was naturally interested to know what had been written about him, but this simple request was met with refusal. The presiding magistrate was J.B.Dewhurst, and one of the other four magistrates on the bench with him was again the rector of Thornton. Mr.G.M.Robinson prosecuted on behalf of the Crown, but the prisoner was undefended. Mr. Robinson told the court that the murder was premeditated as Cudworth had been heard to threaten his wife a short time previously. Also on the morning of the murder he had been found to have a knife in bed with him, therefore the charge must be one of wilful murder. Evidence was then given by witnesses, at the conclusion of which the prisoner was formally charged with: “Feloniously wilfully, and of malice aforethought,” killing his wife. The chairman then asked, “Have you anything to say in answer to the charge?” To this Cudworth said “No, not here I haven’t.” During the evidence given by P.C. White Moses asked him “Did I say I had done the deed?” and the constable said “Yes.” But Moses disputed this, as he claimed he had actually said “I have killed my missus by knocking her down,” He continued to the magistrates, “That’s what I said. I didn’t know I had killed her, but she must have fallen on a stone. I never used any stone your worship to her; I am sure I didn’t.” The chairman then remanded Cudworth for trial at the next assizes to be held at Leeds in the course of the following month.
Now he’s taken for this deed, Bound down in irons strong. In Leeds jail he now does lie. Till his trial it comes on.
The prisoner was remover from the dock to a side seat, where his emotions finally got the better of him, and he broke down, as up till then he had listened to the evidence and cross-examination of witnesses with remarkable coolness. He remained in the hall for nearly an hour, and was allowed to converse with Mrs. Fylon and his four children who had all been in court during the hearing. Mrs. Fylon sobbed while reproaching Moses for what he had done, and Moses said sympathetically, “Don’t fret like that for me.” Ellen replied sharply, for all the court to hear, “I am not fretting for you, its Eliza I’m thinking about, and of what you did to her. And what is to become of your four children? John is the only one working, with a wage barely enough to pay the rent. I can’t look after them that’s for sure, you know we have to scrimp and save as it is.” His departure to Armley Gaol was by train from Skipton railway station and the large crowd which had gathered on the platform there were to witness a moving scene, as Moses was allowed to kiss each of his four children through the carriage window. A reporter who witnessed this wrote that “he had about him an air of utter dejection.”
On the platform spectators saw, Four children quite forlorn, As through the carriage window came, A face so tense and worn
And then they saw, and cried to see, Hugs and kisses of great sorrow, As one by one goodbye was said, To the dad they would ne’er see tomorrow.
And last of all around his neck Katie’s little arms held tight, She cried and cried, the tears fell down Her face so wan and white.
For never more would she hear his voice In that house on Melrose Street, Nor that of mam who was now laid, In her coffin and winding sheet.
I MUST NOW PASS ON YOU THE SENTENCE OF DEATH
When at the bar of justice I did stand, With guilty conscience and uplifted hand, The court strait way then unto me did say, “What say you Cudworth, to the charge here laid?”
In my defence I for a while did plead, Sad sentence to evade (which I did dread), But my efforts did me no kind of good, For I must suffer and pay blood for blood.
To take her life I did premeditate, Which now has brought me to this wretched fate; And may my death on all a terror strike, That none may ever after do the like.
Murder prepense it is the worst of crimes, And calls aloud for vengeance at all times; May none hereafter be like me undone, But always strive the tempter’s snares to shun!
The case was heard before Mr. Justice Grantham at West Riding Assizes in Leeds Town Hall, on Thursday 28th June, 1892. Moses presented a rough and untidy appearance, as he was wearing the same clothes as when he was arrested. The prisoner on being formally charged with murder, on being asked if he admitted the charge, pleaded in a firm voice “Not guilty, sir” The prosecutors for the Crown were Mr Banks and Mr. Edmondson, but still Moses still had no one to defend him, and the judge instructed a Mr. Wilberforce to act for the defendant at less than an hours notice. For the defence Mr. Wilberforce said it could not be suggested that the prisoner did not kill his wife, and the only question was to the circumstances under which he did it. He had to suggest that in the road the parties quarrelled because the woman would not give him money for drink; that a struggle took place; that the woman tried to use a knife upon her husband; and that he then picked up a stone and struck her. If that was what occurred the crime was not murder but one of manslaughter. The learned counsel argued that there had been no motive for the crime, the parties having lived happily together for nearly twenty years. His lordship in summing up, said the case was a bad one, and the only question in the case was whether anything had been put forward which could reduce the crime from murder to manslaughter. Defending counsel had suggested that the parties quarrelled because the wife would not give the prisoner money to spend on beer. It was a shocking thing to think that a mere desire to get money to spend on drink was enough to induce a man to take his wife’s life. A crime inn such as case could not be reduced from murder to manslaughter unless the person killing the other had been obliged to do it in self-preservation. The judge also went on to say that jealousy, which had been put forward as a defence could not be considered a motive, there could be nothing more barbaric than the sentiment the prisoner expressed when he would be prepared to be hanged just as soon as he had had his fill of beer. The jury did not even retire to consider their verdict, and after only four minutes deliberation announced a verdict of “Guilty of wilful murder. “The prisoner on being asked if had anything to say why the sentence of death should not be passed upon him made no reply. But as his Lordship assumed the black cap and began to address him, he piteously cried out, “My good lord have mercy, I did not do it on purpose, have mercy.” The judge responded, “That a man I a good position as apparently you were, with good work and receiving good wages, and having everything to make life comfortable….Moses again, “I didn’t know what I was doing my great lord.” The judge’s only response was “I must now pass on you the sentence of death” The black cap worn by the judge when pronouncing the death sentence was put on to make it more forbidding. It was used because from ancient times covering the head was regarded as a sign of mourning. The first judges were almost always ecclesiastics, and the red robe which judges still wear was originally a cassock (red for a cardinal).
“The ancient English drew their hoods over their heads at funerals.” Fosbrook.
“The sentence of the the court upon you is that taken from this place to a lawful prison and thence to a place of execution and that you shall there suffer death by hanging, and that your body be afterwards buried within the precincts of the prison in which you shall have been confined before your execution. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
When I in the felon’s dock was standing, To answer for that crime I’d done, Justice the law was soon demanding, For the cruel crime that I had done. The jury they soon found me guilty, For crimes I alas, cannot deny, The judge upon me passed the sentence, That on the gallows I should die.
On the conclusion of the words “And may the lord have mercy on your soul,” the prisoner, looking upwards, gave vent to his feelings and said “Aye, he will have mercy on me, and them that have sworn against me will be there before me. And you all (meaning the judge).” On Saturday 1st august the High Sheriff of Yorkshire fixed Thursday the 18th as the date for the execution.
The man in red who reads the law Gave him two weeks of life, Two little weeks in which to heal His soul of his soul’s strife, And cleanse from every blot of blood The hand that killed his wife
Moses slept soundly on the first night after the sentence; the worries of the trial were now over. He was visited at Armley (built in 1847) by three of his children, a distressing experience for all of them, but his 18 year old daughter had steadfastly refused to go because of her father’s attitude towards her. Moses was by now in the depth of despondency and wished to heal the rift between them while there was still time. He therefore sent a letter to her, the prison chaplain putting down his words on paper for him:
Dear Daughter, I hope that you are well. ’How’s it that you have not wrote to me, nor yet been to see me? I have had your uncle and aunt (Mr. and Mrs. Fylon) and the other children to see me in gaol, all except you. I have had a letter from Peter Driver, and he tells me that Fylon has left the house and moved to Kelbrook. I intended all the furniture to be sold and the money divided between you and your brothers and sisters, whatever you thought about it. I hope you will try and look to God for help. I hope you will not forget to write to me, or come and see me, and remember that I forgive you all, and may God bless you. I am as well as can be under the circumstances, and if I do not see you on earth again, may ‘God grant we may meet in heaven’
With fondest love from your sorrowing father,
p.s. if you can come to see me you must get an order from a magistrate in Leeds.
In response to this, Mary Alice relented and visited him on the 16th of august, just two days before the date of his execution. She brought him what she thought was good news, that a petition had been sent to the Home Office asking for a reprieve. But on hearing of this her father said he did not wish for one of them. He would rather be hanged than suffer penal servitude for the rest of his life, for then all his troubles would soon be over. The following day, on the Wednesday, Moses spent a lot of time in dictating letters to his friends, saying how sorry he was for what he had done. He said that drink was at the bottom of it all. And urged them to take warning by his awful fate not to be led into such habits. He did not fear death; he rather welcomed it as a relief from the terrible suffering of mind he had endured.
THE EXECUTIONER WAS BILLINGTON OF BOLTON
This petition to the Home Secretary had been organised by Rev. L.B. Morris, vicar of Thornton, who had first remanded him into custody at Skipton, (Earby at that time was still in the parish of Thornton); the text being as follows:
“It is the humble petition of residents in and near the township of Earby” – and then set forth that “Moses Cudworth was a resident in Earby for a period of twelve months prior to the charge upon which he has been convicted, and during that time his character was god and no criminal charge had been brought against him; that the petitioners are of the opinion that the act of which he has been convicted was unpremeditated; that when he and his wife and child set out to walk to a neighbouring town there was no design on his part of taking his wife’s life, as shown by the fact that he had provided no instrument of violence with which to commit such a deed; that the petitioners are of the opinion that the mans mind became suddenly unsettled, and he committed the deed in a moment of frenzy or delirium, or uncontrollable impulse; and that the prisoner was practically undefended at the trial, his counsel not being instructed by a solicitor”
The petition had received little support at first. In Earby and Skipton the combined signatures appended to it amounted for some time to only half a dozen. But after the initial horror and anger at the crime a large number or Earby inhabitants came round to the opinion that had the conditions under which Moses had to live through been fairly put before the jury, they would have recommended him to mercy. Eventually the number of those signing this reached the very respectable number of 846, practically the whole adult population of Earby putting their names to it. This was too no avail however. A letter addressed to the Rev. L.B. Morris, The Rectory, Thornton-in-Craven, which was put on exhibition in the window of postmaster James Brown in Water Street, sealed Moses Cudworths fate:
Whitehall, 15th august 1892 Sir,
With reference to your application on behalf of Moses Cudworth, who is now lying under sentence of death, I am directed by Mr. Secretary Mathews to inform you that he has given very careful consideration to the case, but he regrets that he has not been able to discover any grounds on which he could consistently with his public duty recommend Her Majesty to interfere with the due course of law.
I am Sir, Your Obedient Servant, Godraby Lushington.
There was a stone landing outside this shop, used at times for speech making, particularly during elections. It was called “James Brown’s Corner” and was still there until recently, at the corner of Water Street and Aspen Lane. In later years the Wesleyan schoolmaster James Lindley, who had for a short time tried to get Moses to read, was to tell his scholars that in his opinion Moses had indeed been driven by the behaviour of his wife to commit the deed, and that he should have never been hanged, but given a life sentence instead. In the meantime while waiting in the condemned cell at Armley Gaol, Moses had been allowed to keep his pipe with an allowance of half an ounce of tobacco a day. This, together with two pints of beer, was a favour he greatly appreciated. This privilege had been arranged by the prison chaplain, for smoking in most prisons was banned altogether then, and for about thirty years after. In prisons where smoking was allowed tobacco was called “snout” a term originating from the days of silent labour, when the sign to ask a mate for a cigarette was to lay one finger along the nose – or snout.
And twice a day he smoked his pipe, And drank a quart of beer: His soul was resolute, and held No hiding place for fear; He often said that he was glad The hangman’s day was near.
One of the unluckiest chaplains ever must have been Jeremiah White, the chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. He fell in love with one of his daughters, without the consent (or knowledge, so he thought) of the general. Being caught on his knees before her, he had the wit to say that he was seeking her help in the suit for the hand of one of her servants. Whereupon Cromwell, equally resourceful and knowing the truth of the matter, sent for the servant and another chaplain, and married Jeremiah and the truly bewildered serving girl on the spot.
Within a dark and dreary dungeon, I for mercy now do cry, For killing of my dear Liza At Armley Jail I am doomed to die. Cursed drink and aggravation That have brought me to the tree; I deprived of life my loving wife And I a wretch must hanged be.
Oh! Men, pray never let temptation Lead you on to cursed drink; That, and wicked aggravation Have brought me to the gallows brink. Twenty years with my dear Liza, We struggled on through life, Until that fatal day in June When I killed my wedded wife.
Moses also had a proper bed as opposed to three planks for normal prisoners. The cell itself was lit at night by the dim flame of a single gas-jet outside the door. But one thing he didn’t like however was having to wear convict clothes. Until his trial he had been allowed to have his own, and even though they were the ones he had used at the mill, they were much preferable to the fantastic costume he now had to assume, which was common to all prisoners of the time:
A short loose jacket and vest of a coarse grey material, with matching baggy knickerbockers. These tucked into blue worsted stockings, with three bright red rings round them; on the feet a pair of low shoes; and on the closely cropped head a bright grey and red worsted cap. To this fetching outfit, the designer had added the very latest fashion. Which for some reason did not catch on with the general public – stamped all over the clothing were huge black impressions of the ‘broad arrow.’ These (Known as ‘crow’s feet’ and discontinued in 1919), denoted that the articles belonged to Her Majesty, though I don’t recollect her ever wearing them The Broad Arrow and convict ‘crop’ disappeared about 1922. In this outfit, which would put a macaw to shame, Moses received daily morning visits from the priest at the prison, Dr. Martin Bolan. Now quiet and resigned, Moses thankfully received the Chaplain’s ministrations, being anxious to make his peace with before God. They talked together, and on one of his visits Moses, who by now was resigned to his fate, freely admitted the justice of his sentence, saying that drink had been his downfall. Dr. Bolan offered him spiritual comfort, and then just before he left each day, they would both kneel at the side of the bed and pray.
When the hour is near me, Terrible to all, By thy love for sinners, hear me, When to Thee I call, Through the darkness of that night Be my comfort and my light. From the victory of the grave Thou canst rescue, Thou canst save. When my trembling spirit, In that direful day, Waits the judgement, may Thy merit Plead for me, I pray.
On the Sunday before the date fixed for the execution, the Condemned Sermon was preached to about 380 of the inmates in the prison chapel. Moses himself was in a position where he could not be seen by the rest of the congregation. Dr. Bolan had chosen his text, Luke xxiii, 43 – “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Dr. Bolan now addressed Moses directly. “Moses Cudworth, this is the last Lord’s day which you can expect to spend on earth: when another Sabbath morn shall dawn you will be numbered with the dead: you will be where there can be no repentance, no seeking for salvation. You will then be either saved or lost; with the Christian Paradise, or tormented in never-quenching flames. How all-important to you is it that a similar salvation to that which was sought and found by the condemned and dying thief, should be sought and found by you. In the way of repentance, in the way of confession, in the way of prayer, he obtained pardon and peace; his last moments were cheered by a most precious promise, and he died, condemned on earth, to be accepted and welcomed in Paradise and Heaven. No other path of safety lies open before you; there is no other Saviour than his Saviour. Do not delay, then, do not hesitate, do not neglect to seek Jesus. I solemnly ask each one of you to pray this day and every day of this week, to pray for yourselves, and for the one condemned to die. ‘Lord remember me; remember them, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.’ – ‘In the hour of death and in the day of judgement, good Lord, deliver me; good Lord deliver them.’” Moses was not told the result of the petition sent to the Home Secretary for a reprieve until the morning of Thursday, 18th August, when he was informed after breakfast (which he had refused), that it had been to no avail, and that the execution would take place as planned within the hour. This was given to him by the prison chaplain with the words, “Moses Cudworth, I am sorry to tell you that the petition has been unsuccessful.” Moses however had dreaded facing up to twenty years of harsh prison life, and is said to have appeared “very relieved.”
I know not whether Laws be right, Or whether Laws be wrong: All that we know who lie in gaol Is that the wall is strong; And that each day is like a year, A year whose days are long.
Each narrow cell in which we dwell Is a foul and dark latrine, And the fetid breath of living Death Chokes up each grated screen, And all, but Lust, is turned to dust In humanity’s machine.
The brackish water that we drink Creeps with a loathsome slime, And the bitter bread they weigh in scales Is full of chalk and lime, And Sleep will not lie down, but walks Wide-eyed, and cries to Time.
And never a human voice comes near To speak a gentle word; And the eye that watches through the door Is pitiless and hard: And by all forgot, we rot and rot, With soul and body marred.
And thus we rust Life’s iron chain Degraded and alone: And some men curse, and some men weep, And some men make no moan; But God’s eternal Laws are kind And break the heart of stone.
Execution day at Leeds was normally at the beginning of the week, but the public hangman, Billington of Bolton, had been performing his duties a two other prisons earlier in the week, and so the routine had been changed to the Thursday. A grave had been dug close by the prison wall, and near this was wheeled the little wooden mortuary building which was to be the last resting place of Moses before his burial.
With yawning mouth and horrid hole Gaped for a living thing; The very mud cried out for blood To the thirsty asphalt ring: And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair A fellow had to swing
The scaffold itself was reported to have been ‘fitted with a new apparatus’ – this was an improved system of ropes and pulleys, and Moses Cudworth was to have the dubious honour of being its first victim.
Two weeks Moses walked the yard In the suit of shabby grey: His cricket cap was on his head, And his step was light and gay, But I never saw a man who looked So wistfully at the day
I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky, And at every drifting cloud that went With sails of silver by.
I walked, with other souls in pain, Within another ring, And was wondering if the man had done A great or little thing. When a voice behind me whispered low, “That fellows got to swing.”
Dear Christ! The very prison walls Suddenly seemed so real, And the sky above my head became Like a casque of scorching steel; And, though I was a soul in pain, My pain I could not feel.
He did not wring his hands nor weep, Nor did he peek or pine, But he drank the air as though it held Some healthful anodyne; With open mouth he drank the sun As though it had been wine.
I only knew what hunted thought Quickened his step, and why He looked upon the garish day With such a wistful eye; The man who killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die.
In Debtor’s Yard the stones are hard, And the dripping wall is high, So it was there he took the air Beneath the leaden sky, And by each side a warder walked, For fear the man might die.
He had to sit with silent men Who watched him night and day; Who watch him when he tries to weep, And when he tries to pray; Who watch him lest himself should rob The prison of his pray.
For he to whom a watcher’s doom Is given as his task, Must set a lock upon his lips, And make his face a mask.
Or else he might be moved and try To comfort or console: And what should Human Pity do Pent up in Murderers Hole? What word of grace in such a place Could help a brother’s soul?
He lay as one who lies and dreams In a pleasant meadow-land, The watchers watched him as he slept, And could not understand How one could sleep so sweet a sleep With a hangman close at hand.
And I and all the souls in pain, Who tramped the other ring, Forgot if we ourselves had done A great or little thing. And watched with gaze of dull amaze The man who had to swing.
For strange it was to see him pass With a step so light and gay, And strange it was to see him look So wistful at the day, And strange it was to think that he Had such a debt to pay.
The loftiest place is that seat of grace For which all worldings try: But who would stand in hempen band Upon a scaffold high, And through a murderer’s collar take His last look at the sky?
It is sweet to dance to violins When love and life are fair: To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes Is delicate and rare: But it is not sweet with nimble feet To dance upon the air!
So with curious eyes and sick surmise We watched him day by day, And wondered if each one of us Would end the self-same way, For none can tell to what red Hell His sightless soul may stray.
We tore the tarry rope to shreds With blunt and bleeding nails: We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors And cleaned the shining rails: And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank, And clattered with the pails.
We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones, We turned the dusty drill: We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns, And sweated on the mill:* But in the heart of every man Terror was lying still.
* Mill – This was the tread wheel, which could be the same as climbing 12,000 steps. The first one was at Brixton prison in 1817. At Coldbath Fields Prison, Middlesex it revolved at 32ft a minute and prisoners worked it for six hours a day, divided into two periods. They were on the wheel for 15 minutes then rested for 5 minutes. This was equal to walking upstairs more than 900 times. The wheels turned an axel attached to a set of air vanes that allowed it to revolve at exactly the right speed. The men could get no firm tread, because the steps were always sinking away from under their feet making it very tiring.
The last evening on earth had now arrived for Moses, and he saw the setting sun through the bars of his cell for the last time. Now came the longest night of his life, the sands of time were fast running out.
“Now is the sun withdrawn into his bedchamber, the windows of heaven are shut up, and silence with darkness have made a walk over the whole earth. “Will sleep never come for it is one o’ clock?
“It is now the first hour and time is, as it were stepping out of darkness and stealing towards the day.”
Two of the Clock “It is now the second hour and the point of the dial hath stepped over the first stroke, and now time begins to draw back the curtain of the night.”
“It is now the third hour, and the windows of heaven begin to open, and the sun begins to colour the clouds in the sky, before he shows his face to the world.”
“It is now five of the clock, and the sun is going apace upon his journey, and fie sluggards who would be asleep.”
“It is now the sixth hour, the sweet time of the morning, and the sun at every window calls the sleepers from their bed.”
Nicholas Breton, “Fantastickes” 1626
LORD HAVE MERCY ON THE SOUL
A great chill and depression descended on the prison on the last night:
That night the empty corridors Were full of forms of Fear, And up and down the iron town Stole feet we could not hear, And through the bars that hide the stars White faces seemed to peer.
He lay as one who lies and dreams In a pleasant meadow-land, The watchers watched him as he slept, And could not understand How one could sleep so sweet a sleep With a hangman close at hand.
But there is no sleep when men must weep Who never yet have wept: So we – the fool, the fraud, the knave – That endless vigil kept, And through each brain on hands of pain Another’s terror crept.
The warders with their shoes of felt Crept by each padlocked door, And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe, Grey figures on the floor, And wondered why men knelt to pray Who never prayed before?
The grey cock crew, the red cock crew, But never came the day: And crooked shapes of terror crouched, In the corners where we lay: And each evil sprite that walks by night Before us seemed to play.
They glided past, they glided fast, Like travellers through the mist: They mocked the moon in a rigadoon Of delicate turn and twist, And wit formal pace and loathsome grace The phantoms kept their tryst
The morning wind began to moan, But still the night went on: Through its giant loom the web of gloom Crept till each thread was spun: And, as we prayed, we grew afraid Of the justice of the Sun.
The moaning wind went wandering round The weeping prison wall: Till like a wheel of turning steel We felt the minutes crawl: O moaning wind! What have we done To have such a seneschal.
At last I saw the shadowed bars, Like a lattice wrought in lead, Move right across the whitewashed wall That faced my three-plank bed, And I knew that somewhere in the world God’s dreadful dawn was red.
We were as men who through a fen Of filthy darkness grope: We did not dare to breathe a prayer, Or to give our anguish scope: Something was dead in each of us, And what was dead was Hope.
At six o’ clock we cleaned our cells, At seven all was still, But the sough and swing of a mighty wing The prison seemed to fill, For the Lord of Death with icy breath Had entered in to kill.
He did not pass in purple pomp, Nor ride a moon-white steed. Three yards of cord and a sliding board Are all the gallows need: So with a rope of shame the Herald came To do the secret deed.
We waited for the stroke of eight: Each tongue was thick with thirst: For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate. That makes a man accursed, And Fate will use a running noose For the best man and the worst.
We had no other thing to do, Save to wait for the sign to come: So, like things of stone in valley lone, Quiet we sat and dumb: But each man’s heart beat thick and quick, Like a madman on a drum!
The prison chaplain had been with Moses in the condemned cell since seven o’ clock. He administered for the last time the soothing consolation that there was a God both able and willing to save all true penitents. Now the last few minutes had arrived and three minutes before eight o’ clock Moses received his visitors as,
The time had come, and through the door Dread figures thronged his room The shivering Chaplain robed in white, The Sheriff stern with gloom, And the Governor all in shiny black, With the yellow face of doom.
Moses felt the sickening thirst That sands one’s throat before The hangman with his gardener’s gloves Comes through the padded door, And binds one with three leathern thongs That the throat may thirst no more.
The hangman shook hands with Moses, who would normally be dressed in his own clothes (which the hangman used to be allowed to keep). But as they were his working clothes they were considered unfitting, and he was to go to the gallows in his prison uniform. Then very quickly a strong leather belt was fastened round his waist by the executioner. Two straps which were fixed to it now secured his arms to this belt, and finally his wrists were strapped together in front of him. During these proceedings Moses is said to have had a “Dazed look about him”
“When one is passing out of this life a bell shall be tolled” 69th Canon of the Church of England.
Moses was taken outside into the prison yard, and walked the sixty yards from the condemned cell to the scaffold shed situated just outside the prison kitchen, a warder on either side of him, with what a watching reporter described as “considerable firmness.” Immediately in front of him was the prison chaplain, who was leading the dreadful procession “with a slow measured tread,” all the while, reciting the prayer for those about to die. Moses calmly and quietly responded as the words were spoken. The prison bell which had been ringing from a quarter to eight, and seeming to get ever louder, called on Moses as they sounded,
Doom! DOOM! DOOM!
When the bell begins to toll, Lord have mercy on the soul! When thou dost hear a toll or knell Then think upon thy Passing Bell.
This ‘Passing Bell’ was to scare away the evil spirits from the soul of the departed. The newly dead were in great danger, for hordes of these evil spirits were believed to be lying in wait to seize their departed souls. It was thought that the devil hated the sound of bells because they were used to call people to church to pray. Those who were condemned at Tyburn also used to be preceded by a priest, with the prayer:
You that are condemned to die, repent with lamentable tears; ask mercy of the Lord for the salvation of your own soul, through the merits of death, and passion of Jesus Christ, who now sits on the right hand of God, to make intercession for you that penitently return to him.
Lord have mercy upon you, Christ have mercy upon you, Lord have mercy upon you, Christ have mercy upon you, - and so on till the end.
Before this, just on midnight the sexton had to wake the prisoner and recite this verse to him:
All that you have in the Condemned Hold to lie, Prepare you, for tomorrow you shall die: Watch all and pray; the hour is drawing near That you before the Almighty must appear; Examine well yourselves: in time repent; That you may not to eternal flames be sent. And when St. Sepulchre’s bell tomorrow tolls, The Lord above have mercy on your souls!
I wonder how long it was after that cheerful soul had departed before he managed to get back to sleep? And so Dr. Bolan crossed the prison yard, the watching reporters who had been invited by special permission of the prison governor noting that his voice trembled slightly, as he recited the words of psalm 39: Hear my prayer, O Lord, and with thine ears consider my calling: hold not thy peace at my tears. For I am a stranger with thee: and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength: before I go hence, and be no more seen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen
Waiting for Moses was the ‘New apparatus.’ Up till this time any shortening of the rope which was required had to be done by tying a knot or knots in it. But now the rope was fastened to a chain which could be shortened easily and precisely by altering the position of a pin which went through the chain and any one of a number of holes in a metal plate. Also the pulleys and ropes were to lift up the body while the noose was taken off, and then lower it to the ground. James Billington (1892-1901) was also fairly new to the position of executioner, for he had only been appointed earlier the same year. He had worked out, partly from a new formulae provided by the Home Office what length of drop (known as ‘the long drop’) to set for Moses; this he had calculated to be 7ft. 9 ins. (2.37 metres). The formula was for guidance purposes only, as both the age and build of the prisoner had also to be taken into account. A heavy man or one with a weak neck had to have a shorter drop; if the length had been correctly set then the neck would be broken instantly. In 1885 at Norwich Castle the executioner Berry had miscalculated, giving a 5ft. 9 ins. drop for 15 stone Robert Goodall, and the mans head had been pulled off. Others had been given too short a drop in years past, the man spending many minutes in agony before death came. A writer described James Berry, executioner from 1884 to 1892, as “nonconformist preacher, who was allowed to press condemned men not only for a confession of guilt, but also an assurance that they repented their crime. He had a reputation of mentioning to prisoners whose alleged crimes he disliked, that he could easily alter the drop to provide a painful rather than an instantaneous death, if they would not ask God for forgiveness.” In a disgraceful incident at another prison, when the condemned man was already on the scaffold, hooded and with the noose around his neck, the prison chaplain, the Rev. J.W. Blakemore waved away the executioner and said to the prisoner “Samuel Herbert Dougal, are you guilty or not guilty?” there was no response from the hooded, haltered man on the drop. “Samuel Herbert Dougal,” the chaplain repeated, “Are you guilty or not guilty?” the question was put a third time, and this torturing of prisoners as a means of saving their souls was put before Parliament who ordered such practices to cease. James Billington himself also made a serious error when he was conducting a triple execution at Newgate in 1896. The drop was crowded with eight men standing on it (four warders being on boards to prevent them falling when the trap opened). Billington was unable to see that his assistant Warbrook was not out of the way, and when he pulled the lever Warbrook went down with the prisoners, just managing to hold on to one of their legs to save himself. The reporters and other invited spectators heard the tolling of the prison bell as they watched the approach of the solemn procession from outside the execution shed. Moses must have been reminded of hearing much too early in the morning the hated mill bell, calling the sleepy workers from their homes. How he wished that he was just leaving Wesley Place at its bidding, for this one now calling him to eternity. And now, just as they reached ‘Death’s Door,’ as the entrance to the execution shed was called, adding to the clamour was heard the first stroke of eight from the prison clock:
With sudden shock the prison clock Smote on shivering air, And from all the gaol rose up a wail Of impotent despair.
And as one sees most fearful things In the crystal of a dream, We saw the greasy hempen rope Hooked to the blackened beam, And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare Strangled into a scream.
Moses had now entered the execution shed, climbing the fifteen stairs to the platform. This shed was actually the treadmill house, half the building being set apart for the trap. Only the officials immediately concerned with the execution were permitted to be present, the reporters having to wait outside. Billington led him to the trap, with the words “Stand there, “pointing to a chalk mark directly under the noose. The white hood was swiftly placed over his head, and Moses felt ‘the cold fingers of death’ about his throat as the hempen collar was placed around his neck and tightened. The noose was kept in place by a rubber ring being pushed up against the steel eye fitted to the rope, with the executioner’s assistant at the same time fastening legs. On either side and slightly behind Moses stood a warder, standing on a plank straddling the drop; lightly supporting him with one hand each, to prevent any movement.
HE DIED BY THE BRIDPORT DAGGER
“Lord have mercy on my soul” were the last words of Moses, as the hangman moved quickly to the trap lever. Safety pin out, pull lever and the thud of the trap-doors proclaimed the departure of the soul of the murderer. In an instant the quivering rope was all that could now be seen – a rope which had been stretched on the scaffold all night by a weighted sandbag, thereby taking out the elasticity, to prevent the victim from bouncing up and down with the shock of the fall. Moses had indeed caught the dreaded ‘hempen fever’ – death on the gallows. The two warders, unnerved by the suddenness of it all, now held on grimly with one hand to the ropes above them, else they might have overbalanced and plunged thirty feet below; this being the height of the scaffold and then the depth of the basement below ground.
With a noose about his neck, And a cloth upon his face, He dropped feet foremost, Through the floor, Into an empty space.
The hangman’s ropes were all made in Bridport, Dorset. It used to be said of anyone who had been hanged that “He died by the Bridport Dagger.”
Before the Capital Punishment Amendment Act of 1868 executions were carried out in public outside prison gates before large gatherings. (Public execution by guillotine in France was carried out for the last time as recently as 18th June, 1939, outside the Palais de Justice in Versailles). But on this day the crowds who gathered outside Armley, including some from Earby, could experience the sense of occasion, but see nothing. Some were laughing, some were crying, most of them chattering. AT a quarter to eight the noise ceased; there was a sudden silence as the prison bell began to toll. Now they were waiting for the final signal that the execution had been carried out, by the hoisting of a black flag on one of the prison towers. And still that awful bell rang out, would it ever stop? As if to say; “Men’s deaths I tell by doleful knell.”
Did’st hear the toll Of that solemn bell? It said, “A soul Is gone to heaven or hell.”
An act of 1868 ruled that executions should take place at 8am on the first Monday after three Sundays had passed from the day on which sentence was delivered. A black flag was to be hoisted and displayed for one hour after the execution. The prison bell, or one from the nearest church, was to toll for fifteen minutes before, and for fifteen minutes after the execution. At three minutes past eight a warder came out and nailed a note to the main gate of the prison:
DECLARATION OF THE GOVERNOR “I, the undersigned, declare that judgement of death was this day executed on Moses Cudworth in Armley in my presence.”
After hanging for an hour, the body was taken down and placed on a bier in the ‘death house’ the little wooden mortuary on wheels, near to where the grave had been dug. In this place it was seen by members of the coroner’s jury, who had been summoned to the holding of the required inquest on anyone who had died an unnatural death. The body was covered by a rough-looking rug, the head was thrown right back, the mouth was wide open, and the eyes were tightly closed. By the side of the bier a rude black pine coffin awaited its occupant. The jury then examined the scaffold, and a warder there told them that due to the victim’s slight weight he did not die instantaneously, but lived for a few seconds. There had been a momentary spasmodic twitching of the body, and then all had become quiet. The inquest was held at 9.30am. medical evidence gave the cause of death as being “injuries to the spinal column, with a mark of suspension consequent upon judicial hanging.” No chaplain was present when the body was committed in unhallowed ground to its last resting place, in the shadow of that high forbidding wall. A shadow which also fell on the grave of all murderers, when as custom demanded they were buried on the north or ‘Devil’s’ side of a church – on which the sun hardly ever shone. That ground belonged to the Devil, and was the domain of evil spirits. There was not even the decency of burial in a simple coffin for Moses; this had only been used to convey the corpse to the graveside. Nor was there even any clothing, for the body had been stripped. Just the naked body in a shroud, followed by quicklime. This by an Act of 1832. Finally the governor, Major Lane, gave his report to the press which was as follows:
Her Majesty’s Prison, Leeds, 18th August 1892
Moses Cudworth was hanged this morning in the scaffold shed near the kitchen. He died immediately. A drop of 7ft. 9 ins. was given. He slept well from one to five am. He ate no breakfast. The new hanging apparatus was used and all worked well. Billington received £40 for his services, his assistant getting five guineas of this.
At last the dead man walked no more Amongst the Trial Men, And we knew that he was standing up In the black dock’s dreadful pen, And that never would we see his face For weal or woe again.
The name of a celebrated hangman of Tyburn early in the 17th century was a man called Derrick, and this is why those cranes which have the appearance of a gibbet have been called Derricks ever since. For a long time all public hangmen were referred to as Derrick and the name was even given to the gallows itself. Public executions ended in 1868, and the death penalty was abolished in 1964, except for treason and mutiny. The gallows at Wandsworth prison are still tested every six months, and are the only ones now in existence. It was not until everything had been carried out that normal prison life was resumed, and the prisoners at Armley allowed out of their cells:
There is no chapel on the day On which they hang a man: The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick, Or his face is far too wan, Or there is that written in his eyes Which none should look upon.
So they kept us close till nigh on noon, And then they rang the bell, And the Warders with their jingling keys Opened each listening cell, And down the iron stair we tramped, Each from his separate Hell
Out into God’s sweet air we went, But not in wonted (the usual) way, For this man’s face was white with fear, And that mans face was grey, And I never saw sad men who looked So wistfully at the day.
Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb With crooked arrows starred, Silently we went round and round The slippery asphalt yard; Silently we went round and round, And no man spoke a word.
Silently we went round and round And through each hollow mind The memory of dreadful things Rushed like a dreadful wind, And horror stalked before each man, And Terror crept behind.
The warders strutted up and down And watched their herd of brutes, Their uniform was spick and span, And they wore their Sunday suits, But we know the work they had been at, By the quicklime on their boots.
For where a grave had opened wide, There was no grave at all: Only a stretch of mud and sand By the hideous prison wall, And a little heap of burning lime, That the man should have his pall.
For he has a pall, this wretched man, Such as few can claim; Deep down below the prison yard, Naked for greater shame, He lies, with fetters on each foot, Wrapt in a sheet of flame!
And all the while the burning lime Eats flesh and bone away, It eats the brittle bone by night, And the soft flesh by day, It eats the flesh and bones by turns, But it eats the heart away.
For three long years they will not sow Or root or seedling there: For three long years the unblessed spot Will sterile be and bare, And look upon the wondering sky With un-reproachful stare.
They think a murderer’s heart would taint Each simple seed they sow It is not true! God’s kindly earth Is kindlier than men know, And the red rose would but blow more red, The white rose whiter blow.
Out of his mouth a red, red rose! Out of his heart a white! For who can say by what strange way, Christ brings His will to light, Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?
So never will wine-red rose or white, Petal but petal, fall On the stretch of mud and sand that lies By the hideous prison-wall, To tell the men who tramped the yard That God’s Son died for all.
He is at peace – this wretched man - At peace, or will be soon; There is no thing to make him mad, Nor does Terror walk at noon, For the lamp less Earth in which he lies Has neither Sun nor Moon.
They hanged him as a beast is hanged: They did not even toll A requiem that might have bought Rest to his startled soul, But hurriedly they took him out, And hid him in a hole.
The warders stripped him of his clothes, A gave him to the flies: They mocked the swollen purple throat, And the stark and staring eyes: And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud In which the convict lies.
The chaplain would not kneel to pray By his dishonoured grave: Nor mark it with that blessed Cross That Christ for sinners gave, Because the man was one of those Whom Christ came down to save.
And he of the swollen purple throat, And the stark and staring eyes, Waits for the holy hands that took The Thief to Paradise; And a broken and a contrite heart The Lord will not despise.[/red][/b]
But not all people were so cruel, for a memorial service was held for the troubled soul of Moses Cudworth. Back in Earby. In a little house in Back Water Street (now demolished), was the home of Alfred Austin aged 29 and his wife Emma, members of the Wesleyan Chapel. This house was approached by means of ‘The Shelf’, large stone slabs fixed to the side of the house and over the beck. Here on the morning of the execution prayers were said, with James Brown once again officiating. (Mr. Austin was a lay preacher).
Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live… He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow…
Alfred Austin had taken into his own home the youngest of the orphaned Cudworth brothers, James, aged nine, who stayed with him for a time. The elder brother, John Willie went to live with a fairly well-to-do family at Broughton, and eventually became a minister somewhere in Wales. Katie went to live with relations and Mary Alice stayed in Earby. The Nelson Chronicle reporting on this crime gave some details of another Earby murderer, but did not give any date, though it must have been a good deal earlier. A previous Earby murderer was Walker Moore, who was to have been executed at Lancaster Castle, and boasted that the rope had not been spun that could hang him. On the night before the day of execution he succeeded in frustrating the ends of Justice in a very peculiar manner. He retired to a closet and remained there for a considerable time. The warder on duty on several occasions looked under the door and could see the condemned man’s boots, and thought of course that he was all right. At length however, his absence was so protracted that the door was burst open. It was then found that Moore had climbed up to the cistern and suffocated himself by holding his head under the water, having previously left his boots on the floor where the warder would catch a glimpse of them, and thus deceived him. After all the excitement of the trial, a man from Earby named Barry Stirk, a chimney sweep, applied for the position as public hangman. He used to practice for it by hanging cats in Jessie Turner’s stables in Cemetery Road, but this was discovered after numerous cats had gone missing. He was described as being a man of fearsome appearance. Terrible enough. As one man put it “not to need a rope at all, for one look at him would be enough to frighten to death the convicted man.” He didn’t get the position of hangman, though he was one of two finalists, which pleased just about all those in the village. But what he did get was a nickname – “Neckem”.
23,346 Words Transcribed By R. Starkie December 2004