Category Archives: Stafford

Spotlight on Staffordshire’s Asylums – Charles Seymour, Highwayman?

Amongst the early cases at Stafford asylum, there are few with details as strange as that of Charles Thomas Seymour. Charles was 25 when he was admitted to Stafford in June 1823, but this new patient was unlike most others. Charles had been tried at Warwickshire Assizes for highway robbery and had been kept in […]

via Charles Seymour, Highwayman? — Staffordshire’s Asylums

Spotlight on Stafford – John Garrett, the first Superintendent of Stafford Asylum

stafford asylum

Stafford Asylum

Staffordshire's Asylums

Finding the right staff to supervise the new asylum was a
major task in 1818. After some debate, 28 year old John Garrett was appointed Superintendent
(full title House Surgeon, Apothecary & Superintendent). He had worked at
Bethlem Hospital, and so was not new to asylums. Another applicant was James
Bakewell, whose brother Thomas was a vociferous opponent of the new county
asylum, and who ran Spring Vale asylum at Tittensor. Edward Knight was
appointed physician to work alongside Garrett.

John Garrett was a qualified surgeon and remained in post
until 1841. He managed the asylum and reported annually to a committee of three
trustees and twelve visiting justices. In the asylum’s early days, John Garrett
fought back against Thomas Bakewell’s anti-Stafford campaign, which went on
into the 1820s. Garrett dismissed Bakewell’s claims that the asylum would be
viewed by the mentally ill and others alike as ‘an object of…

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Spotlight on Stafford – Do You Remember Woolworths?

Woolies Buildings - Then and Now

18 Market Square, Stafford

Woolworths opened their 320th store  in Stafford on 23rd June 1928. It was at 18 Market Square, in a building full of character. You can see the store on the right here, next to the building works.

Stafford Woolworths 1934 Stafford Woolworths 1934

Source: Staffordshire Past Track

In 1962, it was intended for Woolworths to move to a bigger purpose-built store at Gaolgate Street and for the Market Square store to close. (Source: Soult’s Retail View)

The store number of 320 was transferred to the new store. But for some reason Woolworths decided to keep the old store open. With the store number given to the new branch, the Market Square store had to be assigned a new number, and that was store number 1067. You can see the original store open in this 1972 photo.

Stafford Woolworths (Market Square) 1972

Stafford Woolworths (Market Square) 1972

Source: Stoke on Trent Live

The Market…

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NewsDesk: Stafford’s Old Library Could Be Turned into Flats

The old library building in Stafford’s town centre could be turned into flats and a restaurant if plans for its development are approved by the borough council.

If the development plans are approved, the interior of the Grade II listed building, which housed the town’s main library, will be regenerated and transformed into ten single bedroom flats and a bar-restaurant with two sports television lounges.

A design and access statement submitted with the application says: “This new proposed use for the building will offer a vibrant addition to the food and leisure facilities of the town centre. The accommodation will offer young and retired alike a maintenance-free lifestyle within a quality building.”

Comment: MPs Want Towns of Culture

MPs want Town of Culture competitions to be held in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to give each country its own town of culture.

During a debate on the proposal in the House of Commons, MPs from towns throughout the UK spoke about the cultural activities in their constituencies and the potential for cultural development. Members expressed their frustration that there had been hardly any discussion about the beneficial effect of culture on towns despite the long-term cultural and economic benefits the title UK City of Culture had brought to cities.

Spotlight on North Staffordshire and The Potteries believes there should be competitions in all parts of the UK to create national towns of culture. These competitions would give local towns like Congleton, Leek, Nantwich, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stafford the opportunity to bid to become England’s town of culture.

A child murder in Kidsgrove

On Friday, July 31st, 1868, a 40-year-old furnaceman, William Hancock, stood in the dock at Stafford Assizes charged with the wilful murder of Mary Ann Whitehurst at Kidsgrove on June 10th, 1868.

The court heard that Mary, a little girl about ten years old, was the daughter of one of William’s neighbours.

On the evening of June 9th, she was playing with William’s children and obtained permission from her father to sleep at the accused’s house overnight.

Mary went to bed at about 9.30pm. In the early hours of the morning, the household was woken by William who being in a state of uncontrollable violence was shouting, cursing and attempting to attack his wife. Terror-stricken, William’s wife and children ran out of the house leaving Mary there.

William jumped out of his bedroom window into the street. Being unable to find his wife and children who had taken refuge with their next-door neighbour, William went back into the house where he saw Mary.

He caught hold of Mary and dragged her into the kitchen. He picked her up by the legs, held her upside down and battered her head on the kitchen floor until she was dead.

Medical evidence presented to the court showed that William was suffering from delirium tremens and did not know what he was doing when he killed Mary. The jury said he was insane and the judge ordered him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

The first passenger train from Stoke

Stone Station

Isolated from the main railway network that was constructed in the 1830s, North Staffordshire’s pottery industry had to rely on canals for raw materials and to distribute its products.

During 1835, leading industrialists made plans to build a railway linking The Potteries to the national network.

These plans were forgotten when North Staffordshire was hit by a recession. Factories and mines closed. There were strikes and lockouts culminating in the Chartist Riots and the Battle of Burslem in 1842.

Two years later, pottery manufacturer William Copeland, who was a Member of Parliament, called a series of meetings to discuss building railway links to Manchester, Liverpool and Birkenhead.

The North Staffordshire Railway Company was formed to construct the Churnet Valley Line and lines running from Macclesfield and Crewe through The Potteries to Norton Bridge, Colwich and Burton-on-Trent.

The company’s first line ran from Stoke to Norton Bridge. Opened for goods traffic on April 3rd, 1848, the line started carrying passengers shortly afterwards.

Between 7.30am and 8.00am on Monday, April 17th about 80 people made their way, by carriage and horse-drawn omnibus, to the 18th-century mansion in Fenton built by Thomas Whieldon which had been turned into a temporary railway station.

They entered the building and bought tickets to travel on the first passenger train from Stoke-on-Trent to Norton Bridge which stopped at Trentham and Stone.

Just before 8.00am, a bell rang. The passengers got on the train. The engine driver blew the locomotive’s whistle. He opened the throttle. Clouds of steam engulfed the platform. Smoke poured out of the locomotive’s funnel and the train began to move slowly. It quickly gathered speed and was soon travelling at 25 miles an hour, terrifying cattle and sheep grazing in trackside pastures.

A temporary station had been built at Stone, where the train stopped for several minutes enabling passengers to get out and view the construction work taking place there. They saw men constructing a line from Stone to the Trent Valley Railway’s mainline at Colwich that would provide a direct route for express trains running between Stoke and London. At the junction, where the Colwich line joined the Norton Bridge line, an Elizabethan style station, with corn and cheese warehouses, coal yards and cattle pens, was being built.

A bell rang and the passengers rejoined the train. The train left Stone and arrived at Norton Bridge just half an hour after it had left Fenton. Passengers got off and caught a mail train that took them to Stafford which they reached before 9.00am.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2012

Photograph © Copyright Maurice Pullin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

PH/BC

Spotlight on Kidsgrove – The Avenue Villa Murders

L0004829 Asylum for Criminal Lunatics, Broadmoor, Berkshire.

THE CRIMINAL LUNATIC ASYLUM AT BROARDMOOR

On October 2nd, 1911, people living in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire were shocked when they read in the Sentinel that a burglar had murdered widow Mrs Mary Weir, her four-year-old daughter, Margaret, and Mary Hambleton, the family’s 17-year-old maid.

The victims lived at Avenue Villa, a large detached house in Liverpool Road, Kidsgrove which stood in its own grounds overlooking the Victoria Hall and the cemetery. Surrounded by trees, the secluded villa (now demolished) was approached by a long, winding drive. At about ten o’ clock in the morning, Mrs Eliza Stanfield, who lived across the road, was looking out of her window and saw a man walking up the drive towards the house.

Two hours later, Mrs Weir’s eight-year-old daughter Jennie, came home from school for dinner. She saw an empty cash box lying on the floor in the hall. Going upstairs, she found the three bodies lying in pools of blood. They had all been stunned by blows to the head before being stabbed four or five times with a chisels or a stiletto – a short dagger with a tapering blade.

The cash box belonged to William Lehr, a German civil engineer who was erecting a battery of German designed Carl Still coke ovens at Birchenwood Colliery. He had been living with the Weirs for eight days when the murders were committed. The burglar took £30 in gold sovereigns and silver coins from a draw in William’s bedroom where he kept the cash box and a leather bag containing £15. The bag was missing and suspicion fell on Karl Kramer, a German construction worker at Birchenwood, who had helped William move his possessions to Avenue Villa a few days previously.

A keen cyclist, Kramer who was 28 years old had been an infantryman in the German army. He cycled all the way from Wakefield to The Potteries looking for work. He came to Kidsgrove, where German workers were building a battery of 72 Carl Still coke ovens at Birchenwood, on September 14th, 1911. William gave him a job and he found lodgings with Esther Shufflebotham, an elderly woman who kept a shop in Goldenhill. Kramer left Birchenwood on Wednesday, September 27th, after a row with William and two days later walked out of his lodgings owing Mrs Shufflebotham eleven shillings (55p) rent. Everyone thought he had left the district but on the morning of Monday, October 2nd, he cycled from Red Bull to Kidsgrove. Leaving his cycle at a stonemason’s yard near the Harecastle Hotel, he walked into town. When he returned about an hour later to collect his cycle, Kramer seemed agitated and anxious to get away quickly.

When the murders were discovered, Staffordshire Police organised a nationwide manhunt for Kramer. A watch was kept on ports in case he tried to get back to Germany. His description was given to the newspapers and the public was asked to help find a 5 foot 7 inches tall German in his early 30s, with nut brown hair and a bristly moustache, wearing a green striped peaked cap, a dark green suit and black shoes.

On leaving Kidsgrove, Kramer cycled to Macclesfield. Stopping for a drink at the Bleeding Wolf, an old coaching inn on the A34 at Hall Green, he kept going outside to see if anyone was following him. By two o’ clock Kramer had arrived in Macclesfield and went to a hairdresser, where barber Samuel Rider shaved him and took off his moustache. Taking his bike with him, he caught a train to Leeds. Arriving there at about five o’ clock, he purchased a rolled gold chain from a jeweller. Realising that his suit was bloodstained, Kramer went to a clothes shop and bought the first ready to wear suit the assistant showed him. The suit needed altering and he left the shop while the alterations were made. When he collected the suit two hours later, Kramer paid for it with silver coins and purchased a hat. He changed into his new suit and left the shop carrying the bloodstained one in a box, which one of the assistants had given him. He booked a room for the night at the Phoenix Temperance Hotel paying four shillings (20p) for bed and breakfast.

Before going to bed, Kramer went to a public-house, the Prince of Wale, and started buying drinks for everyone in the smoke room. He bought several rounds and paid for them with gold and silver coins taken out of a leather bag that he kept in his hip pocket. A woman, Dora Goldstone, approached Kramer. He bought her a drink and asked if she would like to dance. While they were dancing, Goldstone put her hands in his pocket and stole the leather bag which contained £27. She left the public-house and shared the money with two men who followed her out. When he realised the money was missing, Kramer reported the theft to the police saying his name was John Reuter.

The following day, Kramer made his way to York where he offered to sell his bicycle to George King a cycle dealer. King was suspicious. He believed the cycle had been stolen and called the police. Kramer told them his name was Alfred Woltman and that he had travelled by bicycle and train from London to York looking for work. The police believed him and King bought the cycle for fifteen shillings (75p).

Kramer left York the next morning and went to Bentley, a small mining village near Doncaster. Saying he was a fitter from Glasgow who had come to work at a local colliery, Kramer found lodgings at William Bradshaw’s fish and chip shop. That evening, Bradshaw read a report of the murders in his newspaper which gave a description of the wanted man. Realising that his lodger was the murderer, Bradshaw informed the police and Kramer was arrested. He said his name was Ainfred Woltmann and when charged replied, “Me no understand”. The West Riding Constabulary, who had made the arrest, handed him over to Staffordshire Police and he was brought back to Kidsgrove where bloodstains were found on his underclothes.

On Saturday, October 7th, Kramer was remanded in custody by the Magistrates and taken to Stafford Prison. A few days later an inquest was held at the Victoria Hall, Kidsgrove into the deaths of Mary Weir, her daughter Margaret and the maid Mary Hambleton. The jury said they had been wilfully murdered by Kramer and the Coroner committed him for trial to Stafford Assizes.

While he was awaiting trial, the prison authorities discovered that Kramer was mentally ill. He became withdrawn and lost interest in everything. On Tuesday, November 14th, two prison officers carried him into the dock at Stafford Assizes and placed his seemingly lifeless body on a chair. He sat with his head in his hands while the court clerk read the indictment. Kramer remained silent when asked whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty. Two doctors told the court he was insane and unable to understand the proceedings. Accepting their evidence, the jury found that he was unfit to plead and the judge, Mr Justice Pickford, ordered him to be detained in custody during His Majesty’s pleasure. Kramer was taken back to Stafford Prison and shortly afterwards transferred to the criminal lunatic asylum at Broadmoor.

Copyright Betty Cooper 2010