19 March 1904

Before the Ashton County Magistrates
Distress Warrants in Seven Days

Messrs B C SELLARS, Paul GRUNDY, John WOOD, T BROMLEY, and T MOORES, the magistrates sitting at the County Police Court, at Ashton, had before them several cases in which defendants were charged with not paying their rates. On the list were the names of Messrs Stephen MASSEY and George SHAW.

Mr Francis COOPER, the rate collector, explained that, after notice had been served, Mr MASSEY had paid all the rates with the exception of 13s 2d education rate, he wanted distress in seven days.

Mr MASSEY: May I be allowed_______

The Clerk: Have you any legal objection?

Mr MASSEY: I want to raise a point; I am sorry to stand before your Worships and give trouble to the overseers and police, but I respectfully submit that this is opposed to the King’s declaration to Parliament and his Majesty the King’s Corporation Oath. If I were to pay this rate I should be paying what Parliament declares to be “blasphemous” and “wrong.”

Here the chairman interrupted Mr MASSEY by intimating that distress would be allowed, but Mr MASSEY continued reading the Coronation Oath until the next case was called.

Mr George SHAW then rose. He had precisely the same objections to paying the rate, he said, as had Mr MASSEY. He had paid his poor rate, but objected to pay his sectarian education rate. If the law was unjust he had a right to disobey. — Distress in seven days was allowed.

Drunk on Licensed Premises.— At the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, Charles SPARROW was fined 10s for being drunk on licensed premises at Hurst.

Drunk and Disorderly.— At the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, Adam GRUNDY was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Hurst on the 27th of February. He pleaded not guilty. — Constable ORMROD said he was drunk, shouting and swearing in Hillgate-street. — Sergeant SHEA corroborated. — Defendant was fined 5s for costs.

Pigeon Flying.— At the Oddfellows’ Arms Hotel, a belt was flown on Saturday from Knott Hill. Result:— MARLAND’s, 1min 19½, 1; HYDE’s Weary Willie, 1min 26sec, 2; WOLSTENHOLME’s Owd Mark’s, 1min 36sec, 3; WALLWORK’s Chucked It, 2min 1sec, 4. Referee and timers, Messrs A BOWKER and B COOPER; mapper, S STAFFORD (Stalybridge).

Effect of the Wedding and Honeymoon

On Thursday, Paul LAWTON, of 46 Field-street, Fairfield-road, maker-up in a cotton mill, appeared at the Ashton Bankruptcy Court for public examination. His statement of affairs disclosed liabilities of £98 10s, the only asset being £20 worth of furniture, and the deficiency £78 10s. He alleged as the causes of his failure “borrowing money to furnish my house, and to pay the expenses of my wedding and honeymoon, and the subsequent failure of my father and uncle, by which I sustained a bad debt of £65.”

The Official Receiver stated that the receiving order was made on bankrupt’s own petition. There was one execution in process of levy at the date thereof. He had never been in business on his own account since; July 1990, he had been in the employ of cotton spinners as a maker-up at about 25s a week. He attributed his deficiency to bad debt, £60 1s, and anticipated loss on forced realization of household furniture, £18 9s.

He first became aware of his insolvency in 1900, when his father and uncle became bankrupt. He had since contracted one debt of £1 10s for clothing. His wife claimed a few articles of furniture, etc, as gifts from her aunt at various times within the last three years. The unsecured liabilities were for money borrowed and interest, £97 and clothing £1 10s. — The examination was closed.

Slowly but surely the old is giving place to the new in the Gorton district. At the behest of the modern builder the demolition of old and historic buildings goes on apace, and already the ancient features of the parish have been almost entirely obliterated. Within the last ten years such changes have taken place as would render portions of the district unrecognisable to those who had not visited it in the meantime.

The latest addition to the list of doomed buildings is the substantially four-square built residences situated on the Highfield Estate, Denton-road, and known and Highfield House. For a period of 150 years the house has stood the silent witnesser of the events which have transpired in the district during the whole of that time.

It was built long before the new Manchester-road was made, and an observer will notice that it faces Debdale-lane, the old turnpike road. Originally it was a public house, and in the course of its history its grounds were converted into nursery gardens which supplied produce to the Manchester market. When its walls were raised there was no reservoirs opposite, no canal made, no mill and works chimneys to be seen from its windows, the latter now such a notable feature of the immediate district.

Past the doors of Highfield House have rolled in historic succession the stage coach, the omnibus, the horse car, and finally the electric car, all of them harbingers of great social and political changes, and the last named the harbinger of the doom of the house itself. All around it have sprung modern dwellings of such character as to justly earn for the estate the title of suburban Gorton.

And now the site of the old house itself is needed for the new residence of a local medical practitioner, and in the course of a few days we shall know it no more. Like the hosts of travellers who have passed its doors for nearly 150 years, and to whom it has been a notable landmark, it is called to close its history. One can only hope that the edifice which takes its place will shelter as long and as well those who shall be privileged to dwell beneath its roof.

An exciting scene was witnessed in Blackburn-street, Openshaw, a few days ago. Walter BARKER, a native of Preston, obtained nearly £40 worth of goods at Preston under false pretences, and absconded. It was thought he had come to Manchester, and a warrant was obtained, and Detective-sergeant MOSS and the prosecutor, Mr Joseph KELN, of Friargate, Preston, came to the city Town Hall, and obtained the assistance of Detectives ALLAN, DURHAM, and LINGARD.

BARKER was traced to the above street, and the detectives proceeded to search a house, and found their man but no stolen property. Suspicion fell on another house where one of the detectives had seen a man of similar description leaving. The house was at once raided, and all the stolen property found, but only just in time, as, on going back to the back of the house, Detective ALLAN found a cart belonging to a brother, who had brought the goods and was about to remove them.

A horse and cart was obtained, and the loading of goods commenced. This attracted a great crowd of people, who, thinking it the work of the bailiffs, became rowdy. However, on later observing that Manchester detectives were really on the scene, they came to the conclusion that it was something more serious. They at once commenced to joke with the staff during the removal of the goods.

This process having been completed, the detectives drove off (with much cheering from the crowd) with the prisoner and goods to the Town Hall, where they were detained, and afterwards conveyed to Exchange Station for Preston, where BARKER was brought before the borough court there, and sentenced to one calendar month’s hard labour.

Mother Drowns Herself and Child
Wilful Murder and Suicide

It is a long time since the people of Gorton were thrown into so much excitement as that this week by the shocking deaths which have come to light in the case of the wilful murder of a child by its mother and the latter’s suicide, both by drowning. The circumstances surrounding the affair were most mysterious for a day or two, but the Coroner’s inquiry revealed a state of things which has since created no little sensation in the Gorton and Levenshulme districts.

The first part of this painful tragedy came to light on Sunday by the discovery of the lifeless body of a child in the canal, the circumstances of which strongly point to a suspicion of murder. The discovery was made shortly after six o’clock on Sunday morning, when it was seen by a signalman, in the employ of the Great Central Railway Co, floating in the Manchester and Stockport Canal, some distance from Hyde-road bridge at the junction of Hyde-road and Reddish-lane.

The signalman, whose name is BIRTWISTLE, immediately informed the police, and the body of the child, a little boy aged two years, was at once removed from the water and conveyed to the mortuary at the Gorton Town Hall. Once the matter was in the hands of the police the latter were not long in making further investigation, and it was thought that all the circumstances pointed to murder.

The body was still warm when discovered, and it was found to be that of a child well dressed. The county police were soon active making the most diligent inquiries, but up to Tuesday morning it had not been identified, and no information was forthcoming as to how it had got in the water, although there was a strong suspicion of murder. There was no hat or cap found, and there were no marks of violence observable on the body when it was recovered from the water.

The point at which the discovery was made is well known to local people at being an exceedingly quiet one, and is about 500 yards from the main road. It is immediately beneath an iron bridge, forming a private footway to the house of the waterman in charge of the Manchester Corporation Waterworks at Denton, and just at a point where the canal sweeps in a semi-circular fashion.

Suspicion of murder was strengthened by the fact that the water is still, and a more favourable spot could hardly have been found. There is no probability of the body having been carried any distance down the waterway, and the assumption would seem correct that it entered the water at the point where it was discovered and where the canal is only about two feet deep.

The signalman who found the body was seen on Monday by a press representative, and he explained that after working all night on Saturday, he left his box at Hyde-road junction signal box about five minutes past six on Sunday morning. He was making a short cut along the canal bank when he noticed something in the water. A closer examination revealed the arms and legs of a human being. The head and body were submerged, the child lying on its back.

The body was in the middle of the canal and being unable to fetch it from the towing path, he went to the Gorton police station.. A constable was quickly despatched to the scene, and the body was recovered. It transpired later that it was well developed, and it was quite evident the child had probably been cared for. Not a few thought the mother might have committed suicide, but this had not been overlooked by the police, and the canal had been dragged for some distance, but nothing had been discovered.

The Child Identified — Mother’s Body Recovered
Interesting developments, as had been expected, occurred on Tuesday in connection with the Gorton drowning mystery. The dead child has been identified, and has been claimed by Mr Joseph MATTHEWS, of 35 Agnes-street, Levenshulme, as that of his child.

MATTHEWS, who is a painter, states that his wife, Edith May MATTHEWS, left home on Friday night after a few words with him over some family matters, taking with her the little one, since found in the canal. He had not since heard of her whereabouts, or even those of the child, until he saw in the papers on Monday a description of the little one.

It was expected, after what the husband had said to the police, that the mother had committed suicide, and the canal was again dragged on Tuesday by the county police. Great crowds assembled to watch the police, and about dinner time they were successful in recovering the body of a woman answering the description of Mrs MATTHEWS. This was found at a spot close to where the body of the child was found on Sunday.

It transpired that when the wife of MATTHEWS went out of the house after the “tiff” with him, she left a note in which it was stated that “it was the last time her husband would see her or the child.”

She was a demure little woman with a baby. As the open car was crowded, she did not put the little one, who was old enough to sit up, on the seat beside her. She carried it on her lap, and made room for a fierce looking big man with a newspaper. The child kicked its tiny feet in delight at the strange things it saw while riding along, and its shoes rubbed against the man’s trousers. “Perhaps, madam,” he exclaimed, “you imagine that this conveyance is your private carriage?” “Oh, no, I don’t,” was the prompt reply, “If it were you wouldn’t be riding in it.”

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