Murders Part 1

KINGSWOOD & SOUNDWELL Local History Site

In 1824 an infamous murder took place after a drinking session at the Tennis Court Inn, Warmley. The trial was reported in the Bristol Mirror dated 16 April 1825, reproduced courtesy of The British Newspaper Archive. The defendants were associated with the Cock Road Gang which terrorised the area in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

The pub is pictured above. The front part was re-built in about 1900, but the rear of the building was there in 1824.

 

TRIAL FOR THE MURDER AT BITTON

 

On Friday se'nnight came on the trial of Mark Whiting, aged 24, Jas. Caines alias Bush,20, Isaac Britton, 18, Robert England, 23, Saml. Peacock, 23, and Francis Britton, 40, charged with the wilful murder of Isaac Gorden, at Bitton, on the 27th Nov. last. The bill against Thomas Wilmot, committed with the above, was thrown out by the Grand Jury. The case for the prosecution was conducted by Messrs. Ludlow and Cross; attorney, Mr. Harmer; and the four last-named prisoners were ably defended by Mr. Philpotts.

 

It appeared that the deceased, who was in the employ of Mr. John Brain of Bitton, had orders in Nov. last, to impound cattle found trespassing, and in the execution of that duty, on the 21st, he impounded a horse belonging to Fras. Britton. On Saturday night, the 27th of Nov., the deceased was at a public-house called the Tennis-Court, where, likewise, amongst a number of other persons drinking there, were assembled the whole of the prisoners. In the course of the evening, in consequence of Caines having thrown pieces of tobacco pipe at the deceased, words ensued between them, in the course of which Caines swore that he would knock Gorden's brains out. England was also proved to have said, that the deceased ought to have a good hiding: and that it was "a d--d shame for him to impound Britton's horse", in which observation Caines joined. The deceased, after this, left the house to go home, but when he came outside the door he was knocked down by T. Wilmot, which induced him to return; and it would appear, that immediately upon this Wilmot went away. About ten minutes past eleven eleven o'clock, Caines and Isaac Britton left the house, and the other four prisoners only waited for six quarts of beer, which they were to carry in a jar to Fras. Britton's house. The deceased remained about a quarter of an hour longer, when he left, intending to go home. In going to Britton's house from the Tennis-Court, there were two ways, one along the turn-pike-road, and turning up Grimsbury Lane, and the other, which was the nearest, by a foot-path through a ground called Gibbett-Patch, which lay in the angle between the road and the lane. On the opposite side of the turn-pike-road, and about twenty yards from the stile leading to the foot-path through Gibbett-Patch, were situated two houses, inhabited by the names of Ponting and Lewis.

 

 

The lane (right nearground) is still there today.

 

 

A female inmate of each of these houses deposed, that between eleven and twelve o'clock that night, a noise of several persons laughing and talking proceeded from near that stile: that a silence then ensued of a few minutes, when they heard a faint cry of "murder!" followed by the sound of several blows, not very heavy at first, as though a person had struggled against them, but at last, in the language of one of the women, "very heavy indeed, as if they had been struck upon a dead thing". After the blows, one of the witnesses deposed that she heard a voice say "there thee be'st;" that subsequently another voice cried "Bob;" and that very soon after, she heard a laugh, which seemed to proceed from the upper stile leading into Grimsbury Lane, and in the direct line to Britton's house. It was almost immediately after this, that that the body of the deceased was found on the road-side, near the stile, by a person returning home, who giving an alarm, it was conveyed back to the Tennis-Court. The deceased was found lying on his face in a gore of blood, with his arms extended, dead, but quite warm. There were two stabs, apparently from a knife, upon the forehead, and a dreadful fracture upon the back part of the head, extending from the right ear to the centre of the skull. Near the body were found a clasp knife, with one blade open, and nearly half an inch of the point broken off, and a heavy garden-post, which had been used for hanging clothes-lines upon, both marked with blood.

 

It may be right here to mention, that two witnesses who were at Britton's house on the night of the 27th, swore that between eleven and twelve o'clock, the two Brittons, England, and Peacock came in together, bringing with them the six quarts of beer; that Fras. Britton was completely drunk, and was obliged to be led; and that, after some interval, the other two prisoners, Whiting and Caines, also came in.

 

On the following day, all the prisoners and Wilmot were taken into custody; and upon examining their clothes there was an appearance of spots of blood upon the flap of Caine's coat, which he said was occasioned by pitch from a boiler. Two "dabs" of blood were likewise observed upon Whiting's coat; and it was proved that, subsequently, whilst being conveyed before the magistrates, his nose having been scratched by a briar, he took the opportunity of wiping off the blood with the same flap; but this being seen by one of the constables, the latter immediately cut off the part so stained. There was likewise an appearance of blood upon Peacock's breeches, but it did not seem recent, and the evidence upon this point was by no means conclusive. On the persons of the others nothing was found to implicate them.

 

We now come to as extraordinary a train of circumstancial evidence as was ever, perhaps, exhibited in a court of justice. The knife which was found near the body was proved, by a boy to whom he had offered it for sale, to have been in the possession of the prisoner England on the morning of the murder. The pole or post, with which there can be no doubt the fatal blows were inflicted, was proved by the landlady of the Tennis Court to have been taken from her garden, in which she herself used it on the Saturday evening; and upon examination the tracks of two pairs of shoes were distinctly followed to and from the spot whence it was taken; and which tracks were satisfactorily identified as having been produced by the shoes worn on the night by Caines and Isaac Britton. Close to the hedge, in the gibbet patch, immediately opposite where the body was found, were seen the marks where two persons had sat down on the ground; and here the track of one of Caine's shoes was again perfectly visible. But the most extraordinary circumstancial proof was found on the roadside, close to the fatal spot. Here was seen the place where a man had set down on the bank under the hedge, with his feet resting against the inside of the ditch; the marks made by the shoes, although they were effaced before an opportunity could be had for fitting them, were doubtless produced by those worn by Whiting; this was fully substantiated by a perculiarity in the mending of the shoes, which was pointed out upon the first examination of the track by one of the witnesses, before Whiting was taken into custody. But, as an unquestionable corroboration of his presence, an inspection of the mark on the bank showed, that the person who sat there had worn cord breeches, upon the seat of which there was a patch of a broader stripe than that of the material with which the garment was made, and that part of Whiting's dress corresponded with the impression in every minute particular!!! [The earth, with this impression upon it, had been dug up, and having been placed in a sieve full of saw-dust, was kept in a damp place ever since the day of the muder. It retained the print of the stripes of the breeches, and quite showed the size of the stripe, and also that the breeches had been patched with a piece of a larger pattern. The sieve and the piece of earth were examined by the Jury, and compared with the breeches worn by the prisoner Whiting.]

 

 

The above comprehends the substance of the evidence of twenty-two witnesses who were examined for the prosecution. The prisoners were severally called upon for their defence, when Whiting and caines each put in a written paper. The first denied any participation in the murder, or having entertained any animosity towards the deceased, at the same time calling the attention of the court to the quarrel which had taken place between the latter and his fellow prisoner, Caines, at the Tennis-Court public-house. On the other hand, he stated, that it had been proved that he (Whiting) had been drinking with the deceased on that evening. He had been in habits of intimacy with him for twelve years, and had had no mis-words with him; and he concluded his defence by alluding to the improbability, that, under such circumstances, he should have been induced to take away the life of the deceased.

 

The defence of Caines likewise declared his entire innocence of the charge; and in a narrative which he gave of the circumstances of the fatal evening, he stated that he was at a distance from the spot where the murder was committed, near which place he had left Whiting, when he was on his way home from the public-house; and he strongly denied all knowledge of the transaction.

 

Whiting also called a witness to speak to his character, but it appearing that he could say nothing in his favour, his examination wa not pursued.

 

In behalf of Isaac Britton, Joseph Parker, Esq., one of the magistrates who committed the prisoners, was called, who stated, that he only knew the prisoner by sight; but that, since this transaction, he had taken great pains to inquire about him, and the result of those inquiries had been highly favourable to his general character. He had likewise reason to believe, that Isaac Britton was comparitively a stranger to the other prisoners, and that he had not been in the habit of associating with them.

 

Mr. Justice Littledale now commenced his summing up, which occupied upwards of three hours, and through which we have neither the space nor power to follow him. His Lordship took more than common pains in dwelling on every point which could operate in favour of any of the prisoners; and having concluded his charge, the jury, after about ten minutes deliberation, returned a charge of GUILTY against Caines and Whiting, and acquitted the other four.

 

Whiting being asked what he had to say why judgement of Death should not be given, replied, "Nothing at all." On the same question being put to Caines, he made answer, "Only that I am innocent".

 

The learned Judge, after very few words, in which he advised the convicted prisoners to prepare for speedy death, passed on them the sentence of the law, to be executed on Monday.

 

The prisoners appeared unapprehensive till towards the close of the trial, when Whiting became pale and haggard, and Caines accasionally muttered to himself, and played, as if unconsciously with his fingers on the bar. No alteration was observable in Whiting when the verdict was given, but the face of Caines became more palid and livid about the mouth. He was a short, thick-set, and very stupid looking man. We understand that Whiting, as he went down, said that he alone gave the fatal blow, but that Caines was with him, and that all the others were innocent.

 

The brother of the unfortunate man who was murdered had his pocket picked, in the hall, of his pocket-book, containing two 10/. notes, a promissory note for 25/., and a letter which was entrusted to his care containing money!

 

EXECUTION. - On Monday last, at one o'clock, the criminals terminated their earthly career on the scaffold, at Gloucester. Whiting ascended to the scaffold first with a firm step; Caines was obliged to be assisted. The latter shook hands with the executioner, but Whiting refused to do so. He appeared very hardened, and when turned off, struggled very much; but Caines died without a struggle. The parties made no confession on the scaffold.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

 

 

 

 

Another murder took place in Kingswood in 1842, with the killer committing suicide as well. This report appeared in the Bristol Mercury of 2 April that year.

 

DREADFUL MURDER & SUICIDE AT KINGSWOOD HILL

 

The neighbourhood of Kingswood Hill, near the city, was, on Thursday morning, thrown into a state of great excitement by the discovery that the heinous crime of murder had been committed, and that the horrid deed had been followed by the suicide of the murderer, the victim being his own sister. The scene of the murder was a cottage, situate near Kingswood church. Here the brother and sister, Samuel and Edith Cook, had resided for several years, and the same dwelling had been occupied by members of their family for the last hundred years. The murderer, Samuel Cook, was about 55 years of age, and his sister, Edith, about 46 or 48. It appears that Cook formerly followed the trade of a timber hewer, a description of work belonging to the collieries; but having; together with his sister, been attacked with typhus fever, some years ago, which left him in a state of great nervous depression, he had declined his trade for the last five years; and having some small houses of his own, which brought him in sufficient to maintain himself, his only occupation during that time has been a little work in the garden. It is said that his sister and himself lived very comfortably together, and that he was a man of religious habits, and a very regular attendant at the methodist chapel in the parish.

 

About half-past 6 o'clock, Thursday morning, a Mr. Peacock, the next door neighbour, being alarmed by a cry of murder proceeded from Cook's house, he immediately entered it and found the man, Samuel Cook, lying on the floor with his throat cut, weltering in his blood, his head being towards the outer door, and the door of the staircase leading to the sleeping apartments standing wide open. Not seeing the sister, Edith Cook, Peacock was very much alarmed, and supposing that thieves had broken open he house, and murdered both brother and sister, he ran away to give further alarm, but was met by a milkman, who had also been alarmed, and on their way back to the premises they discovered the body of the sister, quite dead, her throat being cut completely through the side, lying in the garden. They then again entered the house, and finding Samuel Cook still alive, they despatched persons for medical assistance, and in the mean time supported the body of the dying man in the best way they could. They still imagined that the house had been robbed, and that both parties had been murdered; but on placing Cook in a sitting position, Peacock discovered that he had his razor, which was covered in blood, in his hand. Mr. Biggs, the surgeon, arrived shortly after, and sewed up the wound in Cook's throat, when he was enabled, during the short time he lived, to mumble out a few words, and once said, distinctly, "It was I who did it: I murdered her first, and then myself," Every effort which surgical skill could direct, was made to preserve the wretched man's life, but he continued sinking, and died in about two hours.

 

On examining the room, our reporter found a pool of blood on the floor, near the fire place, and stains of blood on the fire-place itself, close to the arm-chair in which the sister, Edith Cook, used to sit; and the razor belonging to the murderer was also found lying on the table in its sheath, from which it is conjectured that he must have cut his sister's throat while she was sitting in her chair, and that, on her making her escape into the garden, he followed her - and no doubt it was her cries in the garden which alarmed the neighbours; finding discovery inevitable, he must have then rushed back into the house, and cut his own throat.

 

The excitement in the neighbourhood, as we have before said, was immense, every one being surprised at the fatal occurrrence, the parties (both murderer and victim) being highly esteemed as religious characters

 

THE INQUEST

 

Was held at twelve o'clock, yesterday, at the King's Arms, Kingswood, before W. Joyner Ellis, 'Esq., Coroner, and a respectable jury.

 

The first witness called was Abraham Fry, a milkman, who served Cook with milk, and who, on going to the house on Thursday morning, about 7 o'clock, saw the body of Edith Cook lying in the barton of the house at about 8 or 10 feet from the door, with her throat cut. Witnes and a man named Peacock then went into the house, and saw Samuel Cook lying on the floor on his back, with his throat also cut; there was a good deal of blood about the room; he spoke, and said "I did it - I cut her throat and then my own;" Peacock was the first in the house.

 

Isaac Peacock gave somewhat similar testimon, and stated his belief that the two deceased persons did not live very happily together. This witness asked jeeringly, "which of you be going to shave with the razor?" and was reproved by the coroner for his levity and improper conduct.

 

Mary Brittan described Samuel Cook as a near, careful man, and his sister as being hot tempered. When witness saw her dead she had a cloak over her, which she had never seen her with before.

 

Mr. Biggs, surgeon, deposed to the injuries - the sister's throat was cut, and the carotid artery and the jugular vein divided. Cook's throat was quite cut through, and exposed the vertebrae; had attended him, and never saw any symptoms of insanity betrayed by him. The sister must have died almost instantaneously; as she might have staggered to the place where she was found; the brother could not have carried her.

 

Heather Peacock deposed to having heard a cry of murder at 6 o'clock in the morning, and also described the state of the room and bodies; there was a razor in Samuel Cook's right hand..

 

Elizabeth Ridell and Eliza Joy, neices of the deceased, and Samuel Joy, husband of the latter, stated, that on the Sunday the manners of their uncle were very strange; he groaned and looked very wild, and kept talking about his rents.

 

The room was then cleared, and the jury, after deliberating an hour, adjourned the inquest till Tuesday next.

 

FURTHER PARTICULARS

 

There was a report in the city, yesterday, that deceased had lately sold the property, and it was suggested that some other hand had committed the dreadful deed, in the expectation of finding the money in the house. Our reporter has ascertained that the property has not been sold, and with regard to what there was in the house, nothing appears to have been disturbed.

 

On searching the boxes, there was found in that of Edith Cook, eight sovereigns, and 41/. 12s. 9d. in silver, all neatly packed and tied up in pounds. In another box was found 2/. 19s. in silver, and 3s. 10d. in copper. In the trousers pocket of Samuel Cook, there was 1s. in silver, and in his best waistcoat pocket, 6d in copper, all of which has been taken possession of by the trustees named in the will of the deceased Samuel Cook, in which he had bequeathed his property to his late sister, and at her death to be divided amongst his relations.

 

As soon as the report of this dreadful occurrence reached our city, it created a great sensation, and during yesterday afternoon and the whole of this day (Friday) great numbers from Bristol, as well as from the immediate neighbourhood, visited the scene of the tragedy, which is situated about half a mile from Kingswood church, near a place called the "Batch"*, in a by-lane leading out of the main road on the right hand side. The cottage consists of but two rooms, and stands by itself, about 100 yards from any other dwelling.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

The Bristol Mercury for 9 April 1842 reported the conclusion of the inquest and I may add this later. Mr Cook was found guilty of murdering his sister.

 

*It would be interesting to know where the the "Batch" was.

 

Thanks again to The British Newspaper Archive for the article.

The inquest was held at the KIng's Arms, still looking much the same today.