Monday, 15 February 2016

A Dangerous Road

William Wood

The murder of William Wood in July 1823 is well recorded. He was killed at a lonely spot on Buxton Old Road at Longside on Whaley Moor. This is the old roman road between Disley and Whaley Bridge and at that time was in Cheshire. The spot is marked by a commemorative "Murder Stone".  

Wood, a cotton weaver from Eyam, was returning home from Manchester where he had sold his cloth and had received about £100 in payment. He travelled on foot and at Disley, called at a pub for refreshment. He got into conversation with three men and later continued on his way. After about ten minutes, the three left the pub and followed in Wood's direction catching up with him after a mile or two. Wood was beaten to death with stones and left at the roadside where his partly concealed body was later discovered. Wood's body was taken to the Cock Inn in Whaley Bridge where the coroners inquest was held a few days later.

The following day, three men appeared in Macclesfield where they bought new sets of clothes and gave away their old outfits. When news of the murder reached the town, suspicions were raised but the three had already left for Manchester by coach. When the old clothes were examined they were found to be stained with blood. The police followed to Manchester where one of the men was arrested in a public house. His companions had already left and there was no further trace of them.  The arrested assailant was Charles Taylor, 17 years of age. He committed suicide at the New Bailey Prison in Salford. His companions, of a similar age were known to the authorities, having only recently been released from a term of imprisonment. 

 The New Bailey Prison
Taylor had left prison just a day before the murder.  On 12th August of 1823 it was reported that Joseph Dale had been arrested in Liverpool whilst trying to enlist on a ship. On 24th April 1824, Dale was sentenced to death and was hanged on the following Wednesday. The third man was named as John Platt but it seems that he was never apprehended.

James (or John) Ellis

Just three years later, at almost the same spot, history was almost repeated. 

John Ellis of Parwich near Ashbourne was on his way  to visit his brother in Gorton to whom he was carrying a bundle of clothes. He spent the night at the White Horse in Horwich End.  

Another man, calling himself Michael Murray had also spent the night at the inn. Murray was described as being about 30 years of age with a thin face, dark hair and whiskers. Setting out the next day, Ellis saw that Murray was sitting on a wall at the roadside.. Murray changed the clogs that he wore for shoes and joined Ellis on the road towards Disley.  On reaching a lonely part of the road Ellis was hit with a blackthorn stick that Murray carried and beaten until defenceless. This assault took place at Longside on Whaley Moor very close to the spot where William Wood had been murdered in similar circumstances just three years before. His pockets were rifled for a silver watch and a few shillings and a bundle containing a waistcoat, shirt and stockings, tied in a plaid handkerchief was taken.

A description of the robber and of the stolen items was sent by Mr Newton, the Whaley Bridge magistrate to police in Liverpool and a notice was given to several pawnbrokers in the City. A few days later, a man answering the description of the robber presented a  silver watch to Mrs Fox, pawnbroker in St Thomas's buildings.  Mr Miller, the Superintendant of Police was immediately informed and Murray taken into custody.

Ellis had been taken to Disley where he lay in a state of imminent danger.  The prisoner was brought before him and unable to speak, he indicated by gestures that Murray was the perpetrator of the crime. Seeing no chance of escape, the prisoner said "Yes I am the man that did it and I am very sorry for it now"  He offered to shake Ellis by the hand but the gesture was declined.

The prisoner was taken to Stockport and later committed for trial at Chester Castle.  He gave his real name as Philip McGoveron, an Irishman

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