Ingleby murder most foul

Good Friday 1753 and Thomas Harper, a farmer, was at home at Ingleby Manor and ready to receive his neighbouring farmers as guests for dinner as was the custom at Easter. Amongst the guests was to be his son-in-law, William Smith who had a farm in Great Broughton, a few miles south. It was also the custom for one of the guests to bring the cake. William offered. It may have been a Simnel Cake, a cake traditionally eaten to break Lent but which is since more attributed to Easter but the local superstition was the Good Friday cake brought luck and anyone who had a slice should never want money or “victuals” all the year round.

It so happened that only William and one other guest, the local butcher, came to dinner, for one reason or other the other farmers could not make it so only Thomas Harper and his two children, William and Anne, had a share of the cake. The maid servant was also invited to a piece but she did not like the taste and Thomas laughed at her for saying so.

Soon Thomas and both the children became severely ill. Thomas died at six o’clock, Annie three hors later and young William lingered until six o’clock in the morning. A Coroner’s Jury was held later that day and recorded a verdict of “Wilful murder by persons unknown”. William Smith was not a suspect until he disappeared on Easter Day and a orders was sent out for him to be apprehended.

Smith was 22 years old and had a wife (Harper’s other daughter) and a child. He had intended to flee to Ireland but got as far as Liverpool before his conscience got the better of him He returned to North Yorkshire where he confessed. The motive was money, he wanted the inheritance of Harper’s estate. He therefore devised his plan to mix arsenic with the flour used in the cake; at that time the poison could be brought opening over the counter for use in killing rats.

At York assizes that Autumn, Smith was found guilty of poisoning Thomas Harper and his two children, William and Anne Harper, and received the death sentence. He was subsequently hanged at York on 14th August, 1753. Before he died he left a final letter to his wife:

“My Dear Betty, I am an undone man; I have brought shame on myself, and on you, and my dear infant. But do not think any more of such an unworthy person as I am. It is well I am dead, for who knows I might have poisoned you and my child. Think no more of me. Look on me as quite lost, and as though there never had been such a person. But let me recommend to you farmer Alcock’s son, who courted you before I did. Marry him and carry on the farm, and as my son grows up, pray do not let him know there ever was such an unhappy person as I am. Farewell! Walk in the paths of virtue and sobriety; go to church, and mind what is good. You know I did not love to go to Church, and you see now what is come of it.”

In the photo, taken from Turkey Nab, Ingleby Manor is hidden away left of centre in the trees. More than likely parts of it date from the 16th century but substantially modifications have been undertaken in intervening centuries. According British History Online in the 18th Century it was the residence of the Foullis family. It likely that Harper did not actually live in the manor house but on one of the farms on the estate.


Poultry Crossing, Bank Foot

In his classic book Round and About the North Yorkshire Moors, Tom Scott Burns writes:

“One could never imagine an evil deed ever being committed within the quiet hamlet of Bank Foot, yet under the sheltering gaze of Turkey Nab a callous deed was committed on the night of Friday the 3rd October 1924. In the modest railway cottage at the incline foot, Hannah Ward and her younger brother waited long and patiently for their father’s return from the Dudley Arms pub at Ingleby Greenhow. Fearing something may have happened to her father, Hannah called at their neighbour’s, Medd Carpenter. With candle-lantern in hand, Medd stepped out into the blackness to appease Hannah’s fears. A brief search, and then a trail of blood was followed to a haystack near Bank Foot where the partially-concealed body of Frank Ward lay dead. The police called the following morning at Poultry House Crossing, the home of Jerry Dalton, near Bank Foot Farm. His wife said he had left the house to check some rabbit snares. In the process of scouring hedgerows and fields in the immediate area, police discovered Dalton with a self-inflicted wound slumped in a culvert. Dalton was convicted for the brutal murder and robbery of his best friend Frank Ward, and subsequently hanged for his crime.”

Frank Ward had worked as a banksman on the Rosedale mineral railway for 40 years. He lived in one of the cottages at the foot of the incline and was due to go on a holiday to Whitby the following day. His work colleague and so called friend,  Hubert (Jerry) Dalton ,was a platelayer on the same line. He lived a mile and a half or so from Ward at Poultry House Crossing.

In the photo the course of the old railway is on the left. The lady who lives at the cottage confirms it was previously known as Poultry House Cottage and was where Dalton lived. Incidentally Roseberry Topping can be seen just poking above the horizon on the right.

But I digress. At the bottom of the incline the men received their weekly pay packets and parted company at Ward’s cottage while Dalton walked along the railway to Poultry House Cottage.

That evening Ward set off on the three mile walk in the dark to Ingleby Greenhow. His intention was to pay his debts to village tradesmen, then later to call in at The Dudley Arms for a well deserved pint of beer.  He mistrusted banks and always carried with him his savings which amounted to about £100. His route would have taken him past Dalton’s cottage. It seems that Ward never arrived and his body was found in the early hours of the morning. Dalton was arrested for his murder for which  he was convicted at the Yorkshire Assizes in Leeds, and subsequently hanged.

For an excellent, more detailed account see the online edition of Now & Then magazine which is a freebie magazine delivered locally.

Lady Mary’s Seat

Located near a muddy forest track in Battersby Plantation this seat has been carved out of a large boulder. It is inscribed “LADY MARY ROSS 1837”. The area must have changed considerably since the seat was carved. In 1837 there would have been no forestry plantation. Instead a wood called Park Plantation with views overlooking Ingleby Manor. Lady Mary Ross was the mother of Mary Foulis of Ingleby Manor and the wife of Sir Charles Lockhart-Ross 7th Baronet and although their family estate was at Balnagowan in Ross-shire, she must have been a frequent visitor to Ingleby. This was said to be her favourite walk. Lady Mary Ross died in 1842.

Greenhow Botton

This north facing dale is locally known as Midnight Corner supposedly because the sun never shines in the depths of winter on account of the steep valley sides. But the name more than likely comes the name of the farm in the photo, Midnight Farm, which in the 1850s had the slightly more upmarket name of Midnight House. There was also a Midnight Wood nearby, but this has been absorbed now into the forestry commission plantation along the dale side. Bill Cowley in his book of the Lyke Wake Walk records the tale of a Methodist preacher visiting Ingleby being told that the next service was on Sunday at Midnight.

The correct name though is Greenhow Botton. It comes from the Scandinavian word botn meaning the head of lake or dale. A similar word is used in modern Icelandic.

Ingleby Bank

A steep tortuous climb onto Battersby Moor. Ascending 600′ in about a mile. A favourite of 4 wheeled drive enthusiasts. The boulder by the side of the track is called Dorothy’s Stone. An old gentleman told me so a few years ago. I wished I’d asked him why now.

Link to map.

Turkey Nab

So much for the Indian Summer the tabloids were headlining on Sunday for this week. A dull evening, losing light rapidly but the heather still adds a bit of colour. A gentle reminder that autumn is just around the corner.

The Cleveland Hills are full of nabs. Rocky crags of Jurassic sandstone overlying softer mudstone and shales. Turkey Nab probably derives from the local name for grouse: ‘wild turkeys’. An old beacon site offering splendid views over the Tees Valley. Such views would not have been appreciated by William Parkingson who, in 1729, became the last man to be hanged at Turkey Nab. For murder. Thereafter Sir William Foulis, 8th Baronet of Ingleby Manor, had the gallows removed.

Ancient Oak Tree, Greenhow Botton

Thought I would pop along and see how this old oak tree is doing. Its been designated an “Ancient Tree” by The Woodland Trust, see Link. The gnarled trunk has hollowed and split into three but this is quite normal for a tree of this age. It appears to be well as there’s plenty of new leaves and is classed as a “maiden” tree. This means it hasn’t been pollarded or coppiced. The oak has a girth of well over 10m which means it could well be over 600 years old, making it a young sapling in the time of Elizabeth I.