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Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths In & Around Carlisle
Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths In & Around Carlisle
Included are the barbaric execution of Andrew de Harcla in 1323, and the truth behind the Croglin vampire some 362 years later, the frenzied murder of Mary Brown in St Nicholas in 1826 and that of William Horsley in 1861, strangled by his possessive lady friend who also happened to be his mother-in-law.
Ian Ashbridge has selected 32 shocking, spine-chilling and unforgettable episodes from the criminal history of the city of Carlisle and the area surrounding it, dating from the medieval times to the twentieth century. Included are the barbaric execution of Andrew de Harcla in 1323, and the truth behind the Croglin vampire some 362 years later, the frenzied murder of Mary Brown in St Nicholas in 1826 and that of William Horsley in 1861, strangled by his possessive lady friend who also happened to be his mother-in-law. Other more familiar incidents are recalled - the Durranhill Murder of 1861, the shooting of PC Byrnes at Plumpton in 1885 - but most of the murders and misdeeds recorded here are less well known. All reflect the hardship and brutality of those distant times, when most forms of crime were dealt with ruthlessly. And yet sometimes there were merciful acquittals that reveal much about the attitudes of a remote age.
Ian's meticulously researched and fluently written book will be fascinating reading for anyone who is interested in the history of Carlisle and the dark side of life. He is a historian and novelist who has established himself as an authority on the criminal history of the area.
155mm x 233mm paperback
B&W photographs & line drawings
Modern day Carlisle presents a peaceful, prosperous face to the world. Throughout the centuries it has, perhaps, had a somewhat more troubled history than most comparable cities.
However, for Ian Ashbridge, Carlisle’s history “has been one of violent death, deprivation and ill-fortune over the centuries”. Ian is a great enthusiast for the lurid, depraved and macabre, and, in this, his latest book on Crime in Cumbria, he sets out to prove his statement.
Certainly in terms of individual cases he is able to marshal plenty of evidence. He begins with the execution of Andrew de Haecla for high treason in 1323, and supplies the graphic details. The Earl, it appears, “was only allowed to hang for a few moments, before being cut down still alive. Then he was disembowelled, and his entrails burnt in a brazier before his eyes”. The unfortunate man was then beheaded and quartered, the four quarters being displayed in Carlisle, Newcastle, York and Shrewsbury and, for good measure, his head was to be seen on a spike on London Bridge.
A more recent conviction for treason was that of Carlisle’s very own Lady Haw Haw during the Second World War. William Joyce who was mockingly known as Lord Haw Haw was notorious for his radio broadcasts – “Germany calling” – which were designed to undermine British morale. He’d married a girl from Denton Holme, Margaret Cairns White, and they’d both fled to Germany at the start of the war and volunteered to assist the German war effort. Margaret also made broadcasts, talking about how a woman’s life in Germany was superior to her counterpart’s in Britain.
Margaret had been born in Manchester, but her father became manager of Morton Sundour, the quality textile manufacturer on Denton Hill. She spent her childhood in Nelson Street in Denton Holme, went to Carlisle High School for Girls and left to work in her father’s firm. But in her spare time she distributed Fascist literature around the streets of Carlisle and, wearing her black shirt and skirt, she was to be found speaking from Carel Cross.
She organized a trip for Joyce to speak in Dumfries in 1935 and sometime after that Joyce divorced his wife to marry Margaret.
After the war Joyce was hanged for treason, in Wandsworth Prison in 1946. Margaret returned to Germany, and later went to live in London where she died an alcoholic in 1972.
There have, of course, been many murders, over the centuries. One of the most disturbing and tragic was the case of Margaret Messenger. She was a fourteen year old girl from Howrigg, Wigton. On 9th June 1881 she was hired as a nanny by Mr and Mrs John Palliser of Sprunston Farm, Durdar. Barely a fortnight later, on 25th June, one of her charges, two year-old Mark, was found drowned in the farm well. The death was seen as an accident and there was little investigation. Margaret remarked at the time that they wouldn’t need to clean little Mark’s clogs any more.
Just a week later, Mr and Mrs Palliser left Margaret in charge of their two daughters, Margaret and Elsie. There were cries for help from Margaret Messenger and a neighbour came to find the six-month old Elsie with her mouth full of soil. She had died from suffocation. Margaret Messenger claimed she had found Elsie lying face down in a bog with a heavy stone on her head. This time Margaret was questioned intensively. She confessed and was committed for trial. After an extended period of imprisonment, the murderess lived out her long life in Thursby where she became a staunch church-goer.
Ian examines many more cases – there are well over thirty in total. Each is presented with the same close attention to detail, but whether our city’s history, dreadful as many of the incidents have been, is “one of violent death, deprivation and ill-fortune over the centuries” remains open to question.
Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths In and Around Carlisle is available from Bookends, 56 Castle Street, Carlisle, and 66 Main Street, Keswick, and from www.bookscumbria.com
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