Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Chapter 6. 1830: Suspicions of Murder

The summer of 1830 had been an eventful one in the village.  Not only had old Lady Amherst died and the vicar fallen seriously ill, but in August the inhabitants of Hutton had been shaken by the disappearance of one of the weavers.

The people of East Side were absorbed with the affair for weeks – and their memories of the time were to be revived unexpectedly when the discovery of a skeleton eleven years later led to a murder trial.

In the newspaper reports of the trial [1] we can hear the actual voices of the villagers themselves, and their testimonies reveal a vivid picture of life at the time – lived under the scrutiny of close neighbours, often outside the houses, in the street.

The past is brought alive: rising at dawn; shared loomshops in the yards; men drinking late at night in the kitchen of a public house; a labourer breaking stones at the roadside in return for parish relief; the local habit of poaching in the Crathorne game preserves; the little shops run by the women of the village in their own homes; the long distances people were accustomed to walk; the clothes they wore; how the village governed and policed itself; the emigration ships sailing from Whitby.

The missing man's name was William Huntley.  He had a very odd appearance, his head being large and strangely-shaped.  William Jackson, draper and hatter, said of him:
he had rather a particular shaped face, and a large head.  He took a very large hat, and the last time he came to me I had some difficulty to fit him.
Mr Garbutt, the solicitor, gave this description to the court:
Very low between the eyes; very long behind in the head; his head sloped off particularly from the forehead.
A tooth protruded from his bottom jaw and pushed out his lower lip; the village boys used to make fun of him.

Huntley had been waiting for years for his inheritance from his father, who had been a farmer in Hutton, but problems with the Will had led to a Chancery suit and payment had been long delayed.  While he waited, he had learned the trade of a weaver, but it seems he was not a hard worker, as when he married and moved to Eaglescliffe he left his loom at Hutton.

He seems to have spent his time waiting for the Chancery case to end so that his real life could begin, like the young Richard Carstone in Dickens' Bleak House, and he several times spoke of leaving for America.  When he had money he was reluctant to part with it, and he had a curious fondness for half-crowns, for which he would often change smaller coins at Mrs Richardson's shop on East Side.

Robert Braithwaite, the East Side tailor, explained to the Court:
I have known the prisoner ever since he was a boy;  he was in poor circumstances.  I wrought for him, and he did not pay me;  I found great difficulty in getting the money.
Consequently, there was a great deal of interest in the village when Huntley at last came into his inheritance.

On Thursday 22 July 1830, the Stockton solicitor Mr William Garbutt – who not many months afterwards would be drawing up the mortgage deeds for Lord Falkland – paid Huntley £85-16s-4d, in seventeen £5 notes on the bank of Backhouse & Company, and sixteen shillings and fourpence in silver and copper.  This was a substantial sum of money for Huntley, at least eighteen months' good wages, and he took it with him to pay one of his frequent visits to his friend Robert Goldsborough in Hutton.

Goldsborough was a weaver from a local family, whose wife had died two years earlier leaving him with boys aged ten and eight.  He had known hard times, once hiring himself into the Militia to raise the money to buy a cow, and earlier in the year he had been on parish relief.  The two men were seen together on several occasions during the following days, and then Huntley was seen no more.

The tailor Joseph Dalkin had been anxiously waiting for Huntley to pay the debt he owed.  Dalkin was a man of thirty with a growing family to keep.  When he heard that Huntley was gone, he went on Sunday 1 August to Goldsborough's house on East Side and asked him (as he told the court later at Goldsborough's trial)
… what he had made of William Huntley.  He said he had set him along Stokesley lane;  he was going to take shipping for America;  he said he was going to sail from Whitby at four o’clock on Monday morning. 
Huntley owed me four pounds for a suit of clothes which I made him.  I said if he was going to America I would stop him.  Prisoner said 'me and Huntley have had that matter talked over about the money he owes you, and it's no use thee going, as he never intends paying thee.'  I went to Whitby that day, and made search for Huntley all around, but did not find him.
The wheelwright John Kaye had watched Dalkin go into Goldsborough's house and come out again.

Kaye was then a man of forty-five.  His sister was married to the Wesleyan Methodist linen manufacturer George Bewick of North End; Kaye himself was married to Susannah Bainbridge, a Catholic, and they lived in the newly-built Barker's Row.  When Dalkin paid his visit to Goldsborough, Kaye was sitting nearby on the step of Edmund Taylor's house on East Side.  Goldsborough followed Dalkin out of his house, and, said Kaye,
stood against the door cheek and said to me – 'That gentleman's been at my house asking for Huntley.  He'll neither find him at my house, nor at Whitby, nor nowhere else.'
Dalkin had made a hasty journey across the moors to Whitby, had searched for Huntley through the town, which was then an important and busy port, and had walked home having achieved nothing.

The episode deepened suspicion of Goldsborough in the village, where he was attracting attention by his own behaviour.

He now had money in his pockets after months of penury, and he talked of buying a cow for £5, with money that someone owed him.  He rented pasture from George Farnaby at 2s 6d a week to pasture a "quey" (a heifer) that he bought.  He was seen by Anthony Wiles, who lived next door to his half-sister Mrs Richardson on Barker's Row, 
at Scotson's, public-house [2], at Hutton Rudby. – Thomas Grundy, William Patterson, and George Sanderson were with him [3].  They were sitting in the front kitchen drinking.  They might have 'teens' of pints of ale.  The prisoner paid for them; he paid half-a-crown every two or three pints.  They remained there till about four in the morning; they came in at twelve o'clock at night.
Goldsborough showed his money to the Borrowby-born labourer James Gears, when they were looking at some potatoes together:
The prisoner put his hand into his right-side pocket, and pulled out four five-pound Bank of England notes;  he then put his hand into his left-side pocket, and took out a quantity of silver.  I know the notes were £5 notes by the stamp;  he told me they were. 
I said, 'Robert, thou's well off – thou's better than me;  I work hard for my family, and never have a penny I can call my own.'  He said he got it out of Stockton-on-Tees Bank.  The prisoner was at one time badly off, and has borrowed a bit of meal of me.
Gears had lived on poor relief from the Rudby overseers for ten years or more; in 1829 they had paid his rent and his doctor's bill.

Goldsborough was seen with clothes that people were sure had belonged to Huntley ("see what nice clothes I've got" he remarked), and more than one person found it strange when he lit a large fire in his hearth one evening.

James Bainbridge was a bricklayer and builder who lived at the north end of East Side; the houses there were built by him.  By the time of the trial he had moved to Middlesbrough.  He remembered:
I was passing Goldsbrough's house, about ten in the evening.  As I passed by I was struck by a strong smell of burning.  I went into the prisoner's house; and told him I felt a curious sort of smell like woollen burning.  He said he had been burning some old rags.  There was a large fire.  I said it was about bed-time, and asked him if he was not going to bed.  He said 'no, he could not sleep'.
Elizabeth Shaw had also noticed the fire:
I went to the prisoner’s house; he was sitting by the fire reading.  I said – 'Dear me you’ve a very large fire on for summer time.'  He said he had been putting some old rubbish from under the stairs, to burn in the fire;  there was a smell of woollen burning.  I mentioned to him the report about Huntley.  I said it was a very sad thing if he was murdered.  The prisoner replied – 'You’ll all see by and bye whether he was murdered.'  The prisoner seemed to be greatly agitated in his mind.
Strange reports of blood seen near Foxton Bridge on the way between Rudby and Yarm added to the mystery.

The blood was noticed by two respectable men of the parish on their way to Yarm Fair, which was held that year on Monday 2 August.  One was the builder James Bainbridge, who remembered seeing the blood fifty or sixty yards from the bridge, and the other was Bartholomew Goldsborough [4] who farmed at Middleton Grange.  His attention was attracted by a good quantity of blood on the side of the road in Middleton Wood.  Furthermore, John Ridley Sanderson who farmed near Crathorne Wood, which adjoins Middleton Wood, had heard a shot the night before, as he told the trial:
the report came from the wood. As soon as I heard the report I got up, when I heard a second report. I opened the window and looked out, but I saw nothing. There is game in this wood; it is a preserve. We are not free from poachers in our part of the country.
These stories worried the people of East Side considerably.  Rumours abounded, but particularly disquieting was the fact that the last time Huntley was seen, he had been in Robert Goldsborough's company.

The tailor, Robert Braithwaite, later told the court:
The last time I saw [Huntley] was on the last Friday in July, 1830; it was about five o'clock in the morning.  Yarm fair that year was on Monday, the 2nd of August.  I saw him in Passman's holm [5]; he made up to George Farnaby's door. He then went to Goldsbrough's yard …
I had made some clothes for Huntley not long before his disappearance; I made him a pair of patent cord trowsers, with a yellow sandy cast; the rib was broadish; I also made him a coat and waistcoat; the coat was dark green, with yellow round buttons, raised in the centre; the waistcoat was a yellowish striped one, with yellow buttons. Huntley had a blue coat.  On the last morning I saw him I perceived he had on the trowsers which I made him.
James Gears said:
I was breaking stones at Hutton Rudby, when Huntley, the prisoner, and Garbutt came up; they lighted their pipes, and then went down the lane northwards – that was towards Middleton.  This was between three and four o'clock on the afternoon of the 30th of July.
James Bainbridge said:
I saw Huntley in Robert Goldsbrough's house, on the 30th of July, about eight o'clock in the evening; he was sitting on a box near the fireside, and had his face towards me.
James Maw, who then lived in Hutton Rudby, said of Huntley:
I last saw him on Friday, the 30th of July, about nine o'clock in the evening, near to the Bridle-lane, leading to Crathorne, on the Middleton and Rudby road [6].  At that time he would be about 100 yards from Rudby, and about a quarter of a mile from Hutton township.  Robert Goldsbrough and George Garbutt were with him.  
Huntley spoke to me.  He said 'Where has thou been thou caffey [7] dog?'  I said I had been at Mr Brigham's.  He said 'Will thou go along with us to try a new gun?'  I said 'no, you’ll be getting into some mischief with your poaching,' or something of that sort.  The prisoner had a gun with him.  After he had spoke of the gun, Huntley said, 'if we get a hare we'll go to Crathorne and have it stewed, and get some ale.'  He then put his hand in his pocket, and drew out some notes, saying 'See thee I have got plenty of money;  I have been at Mr Garbutt's, and have drawn part of my fortune.'  I saw the notes.  Goldsbrough said, 'Put up thy money, thou fool, why art thou exposing them that way – we’ll have nobody with us.'  They then went on through the gate on Crathorne Bridle-road, I went home immediately;  I was at home before ten o’clock. 
Some days after Huntley's disappearance – James Maw thought it was a week later – the villagers finally took action.  It was described by James Maw at the trial in 1842:
I met Bewick [8] on Saturday, the 7th of August in the town-street of Hutton.  We went to Robert Hall's butcher's shop [9];  we afterwards went to the prisoner's house;  we did not go into the house at that time;  but we went in on the same night with several others.
Bewick said, 'Goldey, here is strange reports about Huntley, what hast thou really done with him?' 
The prisoner appeared to be much agitated, and got his hat off his head.  He was two or three minutes before he made any answer whatever.  He then said that he had set him on the Whitby road, as far as Easby Bridge, to take shipping for America.  I made answer and said that it was a very unlikely thing that he should go to Whitby to take shipping for America, as there had been no ships advertised. 
After a little time he said he had set him on the Tontine road to take the coach for Liverpool;  that is in an opposite direction to the road to Whitby.  The prisoner said Huntley got on to the coach beyond the Tontine.  Bewick and all of us said that these were two opposite tales. 

When Goldsbrough took his hat off he was so agitated that he could not get it on again;  his whole body shook. 

We went again to his house, where we found him pacing backward and forward in front of a row of houses. 

Bewick said to the prisoner 'Now, really tell us what thou hast done with Huntley?' 

He said he had set him up Carlton Bank to go into Bilsdale, to see some of his friends.  We said that was another different tale.  He answered something but I really forget the words.  We then went home. 

On the same night I went to the prisoner's house a third time, accompanied by James and Stephen Catchasides, John Cook, and others, who all died in the cholera.  We proceeded to search;  the prisoner did not object.  We found some old clothes.  I could almost have sworn they were Huntley's clothes.  There was a pair of woollen-corded trowsers, an old waistcoat, and an old coat;  we also found six new shirts;  they were marked "W.H.", and numbered 1 to 6.  There was a silver watch hanging up on the chimney piece, and Stephen Catchasides took it down;  and he and Cook examined it.  On the back side of the case there were the initials "W.H."  We saw a gun which appeared to be a new one. 

Sophia Goldsbrough, his sister-in-law, was in the house, and said 'Oh, Robin, this is the thing that thou's either hurt or killed Huntley with!' 

The prisoner said, 'Hold thy tongue, thou fool.' 
… When I saw Huntley last, he had a green coat on, yellow neckcloth, and darkish trowsers and waistcoat.  I particularly noticed his neckcloth.
Other stories were told at the trial, which may have gained in the telling.

According to Hannah Best, who did Robert Goldsborough's washing for him and used to put his children to bed, on the night of Friday 30 July he had told her he would put the boys to bed himself – and she had seen him bring a sack to his house and put it upstairs.  George Farnaby remembered seeing the sack – and Hannah Best's son-in-law Thomas Richardson said that before Yarm fair he had sold Goldsborough a single-barrelled gun for eight shillings, and that:
A day or two after the fair, I went to the prisoner to get pay.  I saw him in his own house.  When I went in he was in a chest among some clothes.  There was a pair of woollen cord trowsers, broad striped, and a yellow cast with them, a yellow waistcoat with a dark stripe, with gilt buttons.  There were other clothes in the chest of a dark colour, and a pair of boots.

I told the prisoner I had come for pay for my gun.  He said he had never used it, and I told him it had been used, and I took it up, and brought it away.  The trowsers and waistcoat belonged to William Huntley.  I know them by having seen him wear them.  I have seen him wear a green coat, with buttons having a nob on them …
His wife Maria said the same: 
Huntley wore woollen cord trousers, with a broad rib, and a yellow cast;  he had a yellow waistcoat, with a dark coloured stripe in it.  I saw these things about a week or a fortnight after Huntley’s disappearance.  I know they were Huntley’s clothes.
However, the Best family evidently had something of a reputation.

Hannah had been widowed in 1819 and had borne a child four years later, and all her family had been in trouble with the law.  At the trial, Thomas Richardson had to admit to the defence counsel that he had been twice in prison for poaching, and once for felony, and his sister-in-law Elizabeth Shaw that she had been in jail on a charge of stealing geese and was the mother of two children born out of wedlock.

Such was the alarm in the village in the days following Huntley's disappearance that they had instituted a search.

They had gone along the riverbank looking for signs of him and had even been ready to take apart the haystacks.  It was said that Goldsborough had cried out to them at this point,
What are you doing there – you fools – if you’ll only wait, I’ll bring him forward in a fortnight.
Goldsborough's story later was that Huntley planned to cheat his creditors by leaving for America with his debts unpaid.

When he came over to visit Goldsborough with the money in his pocket, they had sat down together in Wearybank wood near Foxton Bridge, and Huntley had urged his friend to accompany him to America.  Goldsborough had refused, because he had the children to look after, but eventually he agreed to help Huntley cheat his neighbours and in return was given Huntley's watch and shirts, as part payment of a debt he was owed.

Huntley never reappeared, no body was found, and the villagers had to let the matter drop – but Robert Goldsborough's position in the village was now impossible.  He left some weeks later to live in Barnsley, where there was work for linen-weavers.

George Garbutt, who had been with him and Huntley when they went on their poaching expedition to Crathorne, left the area entirely and could not be found eleven years later in the months leading up to the trial.


[1]   Yorkshire Gazette: 21 August 1841 and 12 March 1842

[2]   the identity of this public house is not known

[3]  Grundy was aged 27, married to George Farnaby's niece, and Patterson was his brother-in-law.  The 1841 Census records two George Sandersons:  George Sanderson the weaver, who was born c1801, married Ann Goldsbrough, and lived on South Side, and who left the village after 1841; and George Sanderson the shoemaker who lived in the East Side area, was born c1792 and died in 1860. One of these George Sandersons lived on Barkers Row in 1829.

 [4]  not apparently related to Robert Goldsborough

[5]  the field that ran down from the northern end of East Side towards the river – possibly Huntley was avoiding the road up the bank in the hope he would not be seen by his creditors.  Farnaby lived at that end of East Side

[6]  that is, Blue Barn Lane. The gate at the end of the lane is shown on the 1894 map

[7]  tender-hearted, squeamish, "soft"

[8]  George Bewick, linen manufacturer, Constable of Hutton township

[9]  Robert Hall lived on Barker's Row in 1829; he may have had his shop on East Side, near the present doctors' surgery

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