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By Daniel K. Longman
The History PressCopyright © 2013 Daniel K. Longman
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WITH A VIEW TO MATRIMONY
Rose Griffiths was a shy and demure domestic servant from Liverpool. In the year 1905, she travelled across to West Kirby to begin new employment as a maid. Rose was an intelligent woman and enjoyed reading the newspapers of her home town. One afternoon, Miss Griffiths was casually scanning the broadsheets when an unusual notice caught her eye. It was an advertisement, a rather sweet one at that, from a young man wishing to become acquainted with a woman of similar age in the hope of a possible marriage. Rose was intrigued. She was single and had not had much luck with the game of courtship. The advertisement further stated that this lonely bachelor was an electrician earning 3 guineas and 3s a week and was currently staying at the Church Army Home in Bridge Street, Birkenhead. On 22 November, Rose eagerly penned a letter in answer to the advert, enclosing her 'Girl's Friendly Society' card, and was thrilled to receive a swift reply:
Referring to your answer to my advertisement, for which I thank you, I will in confidence give you a few particulars of myself. I wish you to clearly understand that my advert is genuine and honourable and would be pleased to hear from you. I am an electrical engineer and on the engineering staff on the electric light company here, where I have been since my father's death.
Rose's interest in Frederick Ward, her new pen pal, increased, and she was pleased to read further of his well-furnished home in Seacombe. Mr Ward also mentioned that he earned a little bit extra by holding the saintly job of organist at Holy Trinity Church and was also an avid member of several societies.
The smitten maid wrote back, but for several days heard no reply. She decided to pay Frederick a surprise visit and went along to the Church Army Home in the hope of finding him. To his utter shock Mr Ward was approached by the young woman and was immediately questioned.
'Are you Mr Ward?' Rose asked politely.
'Erm, yes,' answered the man hesitantly. 'I'm sorry for not replying. I have been working late.' He said that she would have to go as he was still working and followed her to the door. Frederick did however wish to speak with Rose again and made arrangements for the two of them to go out the following Saturday night.
The date went as well as could be hoped and as the evening went on Rose became even more infatuated with the charming Mr Ward. As the pair walked along the moonlit streets, the evening's conversation turned to the future, and Mr Ward spoke of how he had been left quite a quantity of furniture in his mother's will and was planning to set up a home. He sweetly asked Miss Griffiths if she would be interested in starting it with him. Rose couldn't help but smile and her stomach filled with butterflies. Frederick told her how he owned a house on the promenade at Seacombe but was currently renting it out. 'It's called 'Rose-Lea,' said Fred, and from his pocket he produced an ivy leaf, plucked from the very wall of the cottage itself. Rose was only too happy to say yes to the proposal and ecstatically threw her arms round her new fiancé. The pair continued to meet and exchange affectionate letters for some time, one in which Mr Ward wrote, 'I would only be too proud to make you my wife.' Rose was overjoyed at the prospect and said that she would do anything that she could to make their dream a reality. Not long afterwards Rose received another letter from her beau. It read:
Now I have started with our home, and little expenses will keep coming, but it must be done now. My brother-in-law will help me with a few pounds on the 21st November. Do you think you could help me a little more? I'm sorry to trouble you, my loved one. I promise to share all with you. You shall have a nice present.
In December Frederick asked her to come over to see him as he wished to see her cheerful face as he was feeling low spirited. The pair met and went for a walk, during which the electrician told Rose that he had been having some money troubles. He had incurred some doctor's expenses and had been sent a larger-than-expected invoice by the company storing his dead mother's furniture. He asked Rose if she could help him out.
'I'll pay you back when I get my quarter salary for playing the organ,' he promised.
For the first time, a sense of suspicion overcame Rose and she began to wonder why she, a mere domestic servant, had to help someone who had two jobs and a rental income. 'So how much will you be getting then, Fred?' asked the young maid inquisitively.
He said that the Holy Trinity Church paid him £25 a year. Not only did he again promise to pay back the money, Frederick reverted back to the house at Seacombe and reminded Rose he was in the process of getting it ready for them both so that they could start living happily ever after. It would have electric lighting throughout and even a telephone!
Rose was once again blinded by Mr Ward's wonderfully idyllic words and his verbal painting of what would soon be her life swept away any misgivings she may have had about her fabulous fiancé. Later that month Rose had a change of situation and began working at a house in Seaforth. On Boxing Night she met her ardent lover and handed him 15s while walking to Liverpool. A week later Rose gave Frederick a further £1, but made it clear to him that she had no more savings or disposable income. Fred felt guilty. He reached into his pocket and gave her 11d. The marriage he had promised was still on course and was set for February. He professed that the curate at their marriage ceremony was to be the same man who officiated over his sister's nuptials, and the cottage was almost ready for them to move into. Furthermore, Frederick's employer was apparently planning to promote him, meaning a better wage and better hours. All this, he claimed, was to be just the start of a wonderful life for them both.
They arranged to meet later in the week at College Road, Seaforth. With a warm embrace, the couple parted with a kiss. That was to be the last time the beautiful Rose Griffiths would ever see the audacious Mr Ward. She arrived at College Road as planned, and waited. Time passed and Fred was nowhere to be seen. A tear crept down Rose's cheek as the painful realisation of how stupid she had been finally hit her. She had been duped.
She made enquiries at the Church Army Home as to the whereabouts of the wicked absconder, but could only find a smouldering trail of his lies. Joseph Davies, captain of the home, told the Liverpool lady that the man she was looking for came to him on 11 November 1905, and, as far as Mr Davies knew, had previously been a confectioner in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. He also stated that Frederick mentioned something about working with a cousin in Belfast and had left, possibly to go there. The inmates of the home worshipped at Holy Trinity, but the organist certainly hadn't been Frederick Ward. In fact, Frederick was paid 8s a week for chopping sticks.
The case was taken to court and on 13 September, the runaway husbandto-be was tracked down and forced to stand trial before magistrates. Evidence from Rose Griffiths and Mr Davies was heard, as well as from a book keeper from a Liverpool furniture company. He stated that the prisoner had ordered no services from the company and – contrary to his claims – that they had never stored any items belonging to him at all. Detective Sergeant Mountfield deposed that he had received Mr Ward from the Stockport police where, it seems, he was trying to commit similar crimes. Indeed, both the Liverpool and Norwich constabularies had a warrant out for Frederick's arrest for past attempts at matrimonial deception. On investigation it was discovered that even the dream cottage, 'Rose-Lea', did not exist. Frederick did not try to defend himself but stood in the dock calmly, seemingly oblivious to the upset that his crimes had caused. The charge against him (that of obtaining money through false pretences) was deemed too severe for a police court, so the prisoner was sent to the sessions. It was there that he was found guilty by the deputy recorder, who took a very serious view of the case. It was decided that Frederick Ward would be sent to prison for twelve months with hard labour in the hope of persuading him to give up his culpable lifestyle on his eventual release. It is unknown whether the heartbroken Rose Griffiths went on to find a true, honest love.CHAPTER 2
THE TOXTETH TOT
On 30 January 1893, the county coroner, Mr Brighouse, held an inquest into the rather gruesome discovery made by two local lads. It was heard that at midday the previous Friday, fourteen-year-old Alexander Browne and his friend Reginald McGeorge had been playing on some wasteland in Marmion Road, Toxteth Park. The two boys were happily playing in the fresh air when Reginald's attention was suddenly caught by something unusual in the mud. The friends decided to take a closer look.
The curiosity that lay before them was round and stumpy, not unlike a turnip. Keen to find out exactly what it was, Alex and Reggie beckoned a passing butcher boy and asked for his opinion on their bizarre find. The apprentice knelt down and peered into the ground. It did not take long for a sick sense of realisation to overcome him and the boy fell back in horror. The half-buried globular mass was no turnip. It was a head!
Sergeant Foster was contacted by the trio and he and a constable headed to Toxteth Park to investigate the lads' revolting claims. There in the waste ground sat the head, hidden in a dirt hole approximately 1ft deep. Its features were unrecognisable due to the natural decomposition and weathering that had obviously taken place. Nevertheless, it was clear that this was the head of a young child. Not far from the head lay several pieces of burnt canvas and, on inspecting the blackened materials, Sergeant Foster and his colleague found more remains of the body: the back of the abdomen, the tiny left leg and several other body parts were all strewn about the area. Despite a thorough search, the right leg, the chest and one of the arms could not be located. From what could be found, the two men were left in no doubt that this was the corpse of a very young child.
Nine-year-old Reginald, of 12 Ivanhoe Road, told the court that he could recall witnessing some boys playing with a fire on the wasteland one day in December, but had thought nothing of it.
Margaret Joyce, a domestic servant from 35 Marmion Road, attested that she, also, could remember seeing a small fire burning in the exact location in question about month previously and that it had smouldered for the greater portion of the day.
Dr Oliver of Lark Lane stated that he had examined the remains and from the unusually hard state of the charred bones was of the opinion that the child was between three and six months old. He also believed that the remains had been in the ground for approximately five or six weeks, but pointed out that the missing parts would not have been destroyed by fire and would not have decomposed so rapidly. The doctor could offer no explanation as to the cause of death.
The jury retuned an open verdict; neither the identity of the baby nor the circumstances surrounding its repulsive fate were ever discovered.CHAPTER 3
In the year 1877, forty-five-year-old Elizabeth Kirkbride lodged at a small and unremarkable house in the suburb of Tuebrook, West Derby. With the help of her two sons she was able to earn a paltry living selling her skills in fancy needlework. Things had changed considerably for Elizabeth, who had been a schoolmistress for a number of years in the village of Lonworthby in Penrith. The daughter of a customs surveyor, she had been born in Liverpool and was an only child. She had received a high standard of education and one of her many accomplishments was fluency in several languages. The middleaged woman had once enjoyed a relatively comfortable lifestyle but an unfortunate change of circumstance brought all of that to an end. Elizabeth's husband, a government collector of reformatory fees, passed away, leaving her widowed. She moved away from Penrith to live with her parents in Helton, Westmoreland and to start her life again.
Years passed, and Elizabeth once again found herself settled in Liverpool and struggling to earn a wage. In the month of January 1877, Mrs Kirkbride's life was thrown into turmoil. At six o'clock on Sunday the 29th, Sergeant Robinson arrived at her lodgings, 21 Sutton Street, and informed her that he had a warrant for her arrest.
'I am charging you with the concealment of child birth at Penrith,' he told her. Elizabeth seemed confused and stated that there must be some sort of mistake. She made no attempt to get ready, forcing the officer to repeat his instructions.
'Could you put on your shawl and bonnet, Mrs Kirkbride?' asked Sergeant Robinson. This she did, but first Elizabeth asked if she could write a note to her sons explaining the situation; they were asleep upstairs and she did not wish to disturb them. Once this was done, the officer escorted the bewildered woman away for questioning.
She was told that the previous week a body had been discovered in a box at the Griffin Inn, Penrith, where Mrs Kirkbride had stayed some months previously. Staff at the premises found the box left by the woman and stored it away, expecting her to call to collect it. After some time and with still no news, employees began to notice a malodorous and sickly scent emanating from the lumber room where the item was being held. The decision was made to open the mysterious bundle and at once the cause of the odour became clear: a body, that of a small child, lay crooked and deformed under several layers of discoloured material. Staff recoiled in shock at the sight of the tiny corpse. A clean red slash was clearly visible across its minuscule neck.
An inquest failed to determine exactly who or what brought the child's short existence to an end, but the investigation did bring to light the remains of a second child which had also been in the box but which staff had failed to notice. This second baby had evidently been dead for a considerably longer period than its presumed sibling and was in a most rancid state of decomposition. This baby had a length of cord or the hem of a garment bound tightly around its throat.
The following morning the Kirkbride sons came down from their room, with their friend. They left quickly as they were late for work and they wanted to avoid their landlady Emma Orbeti who would ask them awkward questions about the outstanding rent payment. Later that day however Mrs Orbeti met John, the elder brother, as he returned home from work and she was told about his mother's note.
'Did she not leave any rent?' enquired the landlady.
'No,' said Mr Kirkbride awkwardly, 'but I'll settle it.'
Mrs Orbeti also explained that she was missing a few items from the house and wondered if he knew what may have happened to them. John replied that he did not, but would find some things to give her as security until his mother returned.
The two of them made their way upstairs so John could rummage around for anything of value. The nineteen-year-old kicked a large heavy box which they had acquired shortly after moving in. The lid fell open and a horrible aroma began to fill the landing. John imagined the cause of the stench to be nothing but old damp clothes, so closed the lid and moved on to another trunk to see what he could find. On the top was a gummed paper label. It read, 'Stockport, Mrs Hayton, Miss Laws, Hazel Grove'.
Alas, this box was shut tight, and Mr Kirkbride could not muster enough strength to open it. He shrugged and repeated that his mother would be back in a few days and that he was sure that the rent would be settled as soon as she returned. The disgruntled landlady accepted that the young man had tried his best and let him go about his business.
Later Mrs Orbeti's curiosity, coupled with her need for the rent, got the better of her. She casually returned to the landing and tried again to crack open the sealed box. A wry smile beamed across her face as the lid loosened. A fearful stench was released. She was not smiling now. Emma put her hand to her mouth and retched. Inside she could see wrappings and sheets that caused alarm bells to ring inside her head. She closed the hellish container and dragged it down the stair. The heartbeat-like thump echoed throughout the property as the troubled woman slowly but surely heaved the trunk down the staircase and out into the backyard.
'Sidney!' she shouted. Her son soon came over to see what the matter was. Emma asked him to investigate the putrid stench and upon opening the coverings an unspeakable sight was revealed.
They closed the box and Mrs Orbeti went to inform the authorities. At Tuebrook police station two officers listened to Emma's concerns and returned to Sutton Street with her to look into the matter. They knelt down to examine the foul-smelling chest and began to unwrap the pieces of carpet and wallpaper. One item appeared to be a small doll covered in rotten rags; the other was obviously a child in a ghastly state of decay. What was in another parcel was falling to pieces but the policemen could see part of the mass was a slice of skull. Superintendent Sheppard shook his head and closed the box tight. He told Mrs Orbeti that he and his colleague would have to take the box to the station for further examination and with that, the two men carried the trunk from the house.
Excerpted from Criminal Liverpool by Daniel K. Longman. Copyright © 2013 Daniel K. Longman. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Martin Edwards,
With a View to Matrimony,
The Toxteth Tot,
A Heated Argument,
Revenge of a Pimp,
A Suspicious Son-In-Law,
A Charred Concealment,
The Solicitor Shooting,
The Wrong Class,
Depression of a Corn Dealer,
Nudity at Lancelot's Hey,
A Day at the Dentist,
A Fiery Feline,
The Die-hard Marketers,
A Bit on the Side,
Tragedy at Upholland,
Coppers in the Dock,
Death of a Sweetheart,
A Measurable Offence,
A Question of Sanity,
A Remarkable Capture,
The Chocolate Box,
The Mummy of Hope Place,
An Unfortunate Hurry,
No. 22 Mount Pleasant,