Yorkshire Oddities, Incidents and Strange Events/The One-Pound Note

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THE ONE-POUND NOTE.[1]

Samuel Sutcliffe lived at Hebden Hay, or Hawden Hole, about a quarter of a mile west of Newbridge, nearly at the bottom of the steep slope which descends from Whitehill Nook to the river Hebden. The house is still standing, easy to be recognised by its whitewash and by the yew-tree which grows between the door and the path leading to Upper Hepton and Tommy Rocky's. Beside the farmhouse there is under the same roof a cottage at the east end. In the field at the west end, and below the house, stretching down to the stream, were formerly some mounds, where it was said that the Heptonstall people during the plague buried their dead. Crabtree says (p. 15): "Of that dreadful epidemic, the plague, one hundred and seventeen persons are said to have died at Heptonstall in 1631, several of whom were buried at home, but all entered in the register there." In the old barn near the house, pulled down a few years ago, since 1817, an old man cut his throat. The yew-tree is no inapt symbol of the melancholy associations of this secluded spot—a cemetery, a suicide, and a murder.

Samuel Sutcliffe, commonly called Sammy o' Kattie's, lived there to the age of eighty, a bachelor. He was a manufacturer of worsted pieces, and for several years farmed the small farm. The only person living with him was his nephew, William Sutcliffe. On Saturdays, sometimes the uncle, sometimes the nephew, attended Halifax market; sometimes both. On Saturdays, towards evening, the old man might have been seen crossing the old bridge at Hebden Bridge, and calling at the "Hole in the Wall" to take a single glass of ale and hear the news, while he gave himself a very brief rest after his walk from Halifax, before passing on. He was a stout, active man for his age; sober, steady, and industrious; and by economy, but without penuriousness, had saved a considerable sum of money. The cottage adjoining Sammy's dwelling was inhabited by a weaver named William Greenwood.

For five or six years the nephew, William Sutcliffe, had carried on a little business in the fustian trade on his own account; and for two years he had the take of the farm, on which he kept a couple of cows. His business led him to travel into Lancashire, Craven, and even Westmoreland. His journeys were taken three times a year: he started on Monday morning, and returned usually on Friday evening, sometimes on Saturday. He left Hawden Hole on one of these journeys on Monday, February 3rd, 1817, and was this time expected home on the Thursday night following, but circumstances prevented his return till the Saturday.

The name of the murderer was Michael Pickles, commonly designated "Old Mike." He lived at Northwell, near Heptonstall, on the road leading from Heptonstall by Newbridge to Haworth. His cottage, since pulled down, was of one storey: it contained two rooms—one towards the valley and the township of Wadsworth, into which the door entered, formed the dwelling or "house;" the other, trenching back into the hill-side, was called the "shop," and contained the looms. Some portion of the walls of the shop are still visible. Approached from the road, Old Mike's cottage stood a little below and a little beyond the principal house now standing at Northwell. A small garden was attached, in the walls of which are still to be seen the recesses which contained Mike's bee-hives. The plump-looking navel-wort, possibly introduced by him, may be seen peeping from crevices in the walls. Like Hawden Hole, Northwell has also its characteristic tree. The sombre Scotch pine which stands prominently forward in front of Northwell is in the corner of Mike's garden, and is said to have been planted by him. He lived at this cottage fifteen years. His age was forty-one. He is described as a strong, broad-set, but not a tall man, with rather dark hair, pale, cadaverous face, no whiskers, and large rolling eyes. He was left-handed, his hands being very large: he often made exhibition of the power of his left hand in grasping and crushing anything placed within it, in which exploit he surpassed all competitors. He had a very large, flat foot; his knees inclined very much inwards. He had the reputation of being "double-jointed," whatever may be meant by that term. His occupation was sometimes that of weaving at Northwell, sometimes of gardening for his neighbours, but more frequently that of an out-door labourer in dry-walling, and especially in constructing, of large stones, what is called "weiring," for preventing the river-edge from encroaching on the neighbouring fields; for which his great strength qualified him. He had the reputation of being light-fingered. In dressing the gardens of his neighbours he not unfrequently helped himself to some of the contents. His house was generally very well supplied with milk in summer, which was considered to have been obtained by milking the cows in the fields. Above all, he had the reputation of stealing bee-hives, to which the fact of his being a bee-keeper was a sort of cover. As a gentleman was one night riding along the "Needless Road" when not quite dark, he and his horse were suddenly startled, on coming in view of the steep field stretching from that road up to Northwell, by the sight of a strange figure moving slowly and heavily up the field: it was Mike with his not uncommon night burden, a hive of bees on his head. Another gentleman, stopping late at Kebcote Inn because of the rain, saw Mike and a companion take shelter there about an hour after midnight, the former being loaded with the customary "hive-piche" on his head. In the floor of his house, under the bed, he had excavated a secret hiding-place for stolen goods, covered by a moveable flag-stone. The paving before his door had been raised by the earth taken from this so-called "cave." Notwithstanding these dishonest practices, Mike made a considerable profession of religion. He was a joined member at Birchcliffe Chapel, having, with his wife, received adult baptism. Whether he was originally sincere in his profession and afterwards fell away, is more than doubtful when we consider that, notwithstanding his mal-practices, he continued to make great religious profession. In conversation he would expound at large the doctrines of Christianity. To approach him with the view of holding short discourse with him on general topics while he was gardening for you, was to incur the risk of a sermon from him. He fetched milk from old Sammy's at Hawden Hole, and was in the habit of sitting and conversing with him, not unfrequently of reading to him during the long evenings. They had been acquainted many years.

Mike's accomplice was John Greenwood, a weaver, a tallish, slender man, aged twenty-nine years, with lightish hair, whose features gave the impression of a weak and undecided, rather than a depraved and wicked disposition. His characteristic want of firmness rendered him the easy dupe of any deeper adept in villany who might throw temptation into his way. It is believed that he would not have been connected with the murder but for the persuasion of Mike. His character does not appear to have lain under any suspicion, although, as his confession afterwards showed, he was already addicted to dishonest practices. He and Mike married sisters. He lived in a cottage attached to a remote farm in Wadsworth called Bog-eggs, above Old Town, a little below the moorland prominence called Tomtitiman from which so noble a prospect of this district may be obtained. His cottage, now unoccupied, forms the upper part of the building at Bog-eggs, being contiguous to the farm-house.

On Thursday, the 6th of February, 1817, "Joan o' t' Bog-eggs" went over to Northwell to try to obtain some money from Old Mike, saying that he was "pinned." Times were very hard just now, and doubtless there was much suffering among the poor. Flour was selling at eight shillings per stone, and meal at four and sixpence to five shillings. Old Mike said that he had no money, but that he knew of a place where they could get some. This was just the sort of temptation in which Joan's (John's) weak principles were likely to fail; and Mike was exactly the sort of man to attempt to turn Joan's infirmities to his own advantage. Mike's plausible speech soon prevailed over Joan's scruples; and it was agreed that that night they should sally forth and rob Old Sammy.

On Thursday evening, February 6th, 1817, "Old Mike" and "Joan o' t' Bog-Eggs" were sitting by Old Mike's fire-side at Northwell. The night was wearing late, and the family had been sometime in bed. It was clearly understood between Mike and Joan, that after waiting till the hour was sufficiently advanced, they should sally out and rob "Sammy o' Kattie's." The hour agreed upon was midnight. Mike was smoking his pipe, and thinking over the circumstances of the intended burglary. Simple, unthinking Joan had fallen asleep under the influence of the warm fire. At length the clock struck twelve, and Mike aroused his companion, saying, "Come, it's time to be going." They took with them Mike's gun, and left the house, proceeding towards Whitehill Nook, along a field called Adcock, which is to the left of and above the public road leading to Whitehill Nook. They then travelled down the steep rough wood to Hawden Hole. Thrice Joan's heart failed him as he thought of the possible consequences to them both of the meditated robbery. Reassured by Mike's arguments, he proceeded to Old Sammy's. Half-past twelve was the hour for the moon to rise; but the night was cloudy, though without rain. Arrived at the house, Joan was placed as sentry before the door, with the gun in his hand, and directed to shoot any person who should offer interruption. Mike, perfectly familiar with the premises, took out a window at the west end of the house. There were more than one window at that end. He took out the larger one, being that nearest to the river. He then entered the house, and undid the door, and opened it. Besides a lock, the door was also fastened by a stout wooden bar placed across it, with the ends inserted in holes in the masonry. Coming out of the house through the now opened door, he fastened the door of William Greenwood, the neighbouring cottager, by placing the wooden bar across the doorway, and fastening the latch to the bar with string. Probably they both entered Sammy's cottage. Mike mounted the stairs into the room where Old Sammy was sleeping alone. About a month before, the old man had bought a small oak box, in which he placed such of his papers and documents as were of value, and most of his money. The box was placed in a bucket which stood in one corner of his bedroom. Mike secured this bucket, with its contents. Three cotton pieces and four warps were also taken from the bedroom: the pieces were marked by William Greenwood. A cloth-coat, and a pair of shoes belonging to William Sutcliffe, which wanted soling, were also taken, and a new shirt of Sammy's.

But old men sleep lightly. Before these things were secured and got away, Sammy awoke. Sitting up in bed to listen, he heard footsteps in the house. He endeavoured to alarm his neighbour in the adjoining cottage, and called out, "William! William! William!" Fearful of being disturbed or detected, Mike approached the bed and seized his old friend and companion by the throat with his terrible left hand. Gripping him as in a vice, he held him down; nor did he quit his grasp till the spark of life was extinguished.

William Greenwood was disturbed during the night. He fancied he heard a noise in Sammy's house, but could not be sure. He called out, but received no answer. He conjectured that the old man might be talking in his sleep; at any rate, he took no more notice of the matter, and fell asleep again. The wind was very strong, and roared terrible in the yew-tree. Probably the noise which he heard was Sammy's voice calling out "William" the third and last time. The silence which ensued was, as Mr. Hardy eloquently described it at York, "the silence of death."

I have a short document drawn up at Halifax for the satisfaction of William Sutcliffe, on the 17th or 18th of February, 1817, that he might possess some account of the manner of his uncle's last struggles, in which is recorded the substance of what Mike confessed on the subject at Halifax, February 17th. It is as follows:—"The further examination of William Sutcliffe, of Hawden Hole, in Heptonstall, who saith that on Monday, the 17th day of February, 1817, Michael Pickles, the prisoner, told this examinant that after he had entered the dwelling-house of his late uncle, Samuel Sutcliffe, and had got into the bedroom, the said Samuel Sutcliffe rose up on the bed and called out, 'William! William! William!' on which the said Michael Pickles seized the said Samuel Sutcliffe by the throat, and heard no more from him, except that he sobbed, as it was soon over with him, and he bore very little. And saith that the cause of his asking the question of the said Michael Pickles as to his uncle's death was to know what his said uncle said previous to his death, and if he suffered much."

Mike now descended the stairs, and greatly alarmed his companion by telling him he was afraid he had killed Sammy. Leaving the bucket outside the house, they made off to Northwell with their booty—the cotton pieces, the warps, the shoes, the cloth-coat, the shirt, and, above all, the oak box with its contents.

Having arrived at Northwell, Mike deposited the cotton pieces and warps in the hiding-place under the flag-stone. Joan took the shoes. The oak box they at once burnt to prevent detection, but preserved the contents. Mike told his wife he was afraid he had killed Sammy, and she began to cry. He also charged Joan to keep it a secret, even from his wife, for his revealing it would cause them both to be hanged. In dividing the money Joan contrived to take advantage of his more crafty companion; for he pocketed one note unknown to Mike. Mike's "Confession" says respecting the remaining notes—"John Greenwood took the guinea-note, and gave me the two Bank of England notes, and I gave him nine shillings and sixpence in silver, which made it equal—one pound ten shillings and sixpence each."

William Sutcliffe in his evidence at York said that on going from home on Monday, February 3rd, "he left his uncle four one-pound notes and some silver, to pay wages with in his absence. His uncle had also some notes of his own; among others, one of Mytholm Bank, which had been issued without the signature of Turner, Bent, and Co. It was No. 63. His attention had been called to this note on the 1st of February (the preceding Saturday); his uncle had brought it down-stairs in an old book: there were also in this book another pound-note and a guinea-note"—in all seven notes. William Sutcliffe on his return said that Sammy's three notes were pinned in a ready reckoner. Now, on examining the house the following morning, among some loose papers in the window down-stairs, there were found three one-pound notes which had escaped the notice of the robbers. These three which were left being added to the four which Mike and Joan took away, made seven notes. It would seem that Sammy had separated one of William's four notes from the remaining three; that this note he had placed in his box up-stairs with the three notes belonging to himself; and that thus his three notes and one of William's were taken away, while three of William's notes had been left in the pocket-book in the window down-stairs. The note which Joan appropriated to himself, unknown to Mike, was the unsigned Mytholm note. Had this note fallen into Mike's hands, he would probably have observed the danger arising from the circumstance, and destroyed the note; but the ignorant and unsuspecting Joan was not aware of the danger.

There was at this time a set of men in the Cragg valley who went by a bad name. In order to shift the suspicion of the murder and robbery from himself and Mike, Joan, on his way home to Bog-eggs, instead of crossing the valley at Foster Mill, travelled down towards Mytholmroyd, and crossing the Calder at Carr Bridge, threw down the papers and documents obtained from Sammy's box at Carr Green, hoping thereby to induce suspicion that some of the Cragg band were the robbers and murderers.

And now for the events of the following morning. During the week Sammy had paid some money for work to a man named James Greenwood, of Lobbmill; but a balance of four shillings was left unpaid. Before daylight on Friday morning James Greenwood presented himself at Sammy's door, having come for his four shillings. He was surprised to find the door wide open. This excited his fears that some mischief had taken place during the night. He knocked at William Greenwood's door, stated the suspicious circumstance, and desired him to come out. On attempting to do so, he found that the door would not open. James Greenwood then discovered (it was still dark) that the door was fastened by means of the wooden bar. It was now ascertained that Sammy's house had been entered by robbers through the window, and that he lay lifeless in his bed. His mouth was full of blood, and some had run out upon the bed-clothes. The empty bucket was found outside the door. William Greenwood, who had seen Sammy at half-past ten the night before in good health, looked for the cotton pieces which he had taken in the previous day, but they were gone. He observed one footstep leading to the window which had been removed. It was the mark of a bare foot.

There was great consternation in the neighbourhood as soon as the murder was known. Mr. Thomas Dineley, surgeon, of Hebden Bridge, was called in. He gave his opinion that the deceased died of strangulation. It is commonly said that he also pronounced Sammy to have been strangled by a left-handed person; but some persons very likely to know most of the facts have no remembrance of this circumstance.

The papers and documents were found at Carr Green early in the morning by Olive Heyhirst, who was going to fetch milk.

Several persons expressed to each other their suspicions that Old Mike was the criminal. A woman met him in Northwell Lane on Friday morning. He said, "Have you heard that Old Sammy's murdered?" She replied, "If he is, it's thee that's done it."

Mike afterwards confessed that the day after the murder he could neither eat, drink, nor sleep, and was always uneasy wherever he was. On Friday evening he went to Heptonstall to be shaved. He was in such a state of restless agitation that the barber had much difficulty in fulfilling his office, and when Mike was gone out, the barber said to some bystanders, "Yon's the man that's murdered Sammy."

William Sutcliffe, the nephew, returned from his journey on Saturday afternoon. A messenger had been sent to expedite his return; but he was not able to get back more than a couple of hours earlier than he would otherwise have done. He now privately made known to several neighbours, and among others to Mr. John Sutcliffe, of The Lee, that among the missing property there was an unsigned Mytholm note. It had been entered by Mr. Barker, the clerk to Turner, Bent, and Co., but was not signed by them. Having been pinned in the ready reckoner, it would show the marks of pin-holes. At that time several firms near Hebden Bridge issued private notes of various values. Messrs. Turner, Bent, and Co. issued both guinea and one-pound notes, printed in black ink. Messrs. Rawden, of Callis Mill, issued both guinea-notes and five-shilling cards, printed in blue ink, and therefore called "blue-backs." Mr. John Sutcliffe, of The Lee, issued cards, value three shillings and sixpence, printed red. Mr. Edmondson issued seven-shilling notes. Mr. Richard Chatburn, of Sprutts, issued three and sixpenny cards. Mr. Robert Sutcliffe, of New Shop, put out five-shilling notes. Silver was very scarce just then; the smooth shillings which had been current were being called in by Government, and stamped ones were being issued instead.

Monday, February 10th, Mike attended service at Birchcliffe Chapel. The minister, Mr. Hollinrake, during his sermon made some strong remarks about the murder. His text was Matthew xxiv., 43—"But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up." This smote Mike's conscience so severely that he afterwards declared that, if any one had looked him earnestly in the face, he might have discovered that he was the man. An inquest was held at Heptonstall; and poor old Sammy's remains were interred at Heptonstall church. Standing outside the churchyard, at the east end, near the street, you may read his epitaph through the rails:—"In memory of Samuel Sutcliffe, of Hebden Hay, in Heptonstall, who died February 7, 1817, aged eighty-one years."

John Greenwood had a brother living at Luddenden, named William. John went to him, and gave the unsigned note into his hand. He then received the note back again from his brother. This farce was enacted between them to enable John to give an evasive answer to any one who should make troublesome inquiries as to how he became possessed of the note. John now went to the house of Thomas Greenwood, of Birchcliffe, and completed the purchase of a clock from him, giving him in payment the unsigned note, with some other money. Another version of the story is that given by William Greenwood, the brother, at York, viz., that "John Greenwood came to his father's house on Tuesday, February 11th, and on going home, desired William to 'go agatards' with him; when he told him that he had bought a clock of Thomas Greenwood that came to forty-two shillings; that he would give him a note which the witness was to give to Thomas Greenwood on John's account, and say that he had lent it to John. This William did; but he then began to think that John had not come by the note in an honest manner."

A woman named Betty Wadsworth, having had an illegitimate child, had been disowned by her relatives, and was now living "afore t' friend" at Rawholme with another William Greenwood, commonly known by the name of "Will o' t' shop." She possessed a chest of drawers, which, to raise money, she disposed of to Thomas Greenwood, of Birchcliffe, who in payment handed over to her the unsigned note on Tuesday, February 11th. The same evening she went to the shop of John Hoyle, of Woodend, to buy groceries, and offered the unsigned note in payment. Hoyle refused to receive it, seeing it was unsigned. She took it back to Rawholme. Wednesday morning, the 12th, she sent it up to Thomas Greenwood by Sarah, wife of "Will o' t' shop," complaining that he had paid to her a note which was not genuine. Now this Thomas Greenwood[2] was a weaver for Mr. John Sutcliffe, of The Lee; and on the day before Tuesday he had received from Mr. John Sutcliffe, for wages, a Halifax bank-note. Not being able to read, he was not aware whether the rejected note was that which he had received from William Greenwood, of Luddenden, or from Mr. John Sutcliffe. Doubting whether he should be able to get a good note from John or William Greenwood in exchange for it, he decided to try The Lee first, and hope for a successful issue of the experiment. He went immediately to The Lee, and found in the warehouse Mr. Richard Aked, who was learning the business with Mr. Sutcliffe. To him he gave the note, saying that Mr. Sutcliffe must have given him an unsigned note by mistake the day before. Mr. Aked took the note to Mr. Sutcliffe, who was breakfasting. He at once saw that this note was the key to the discovery of Sammy's murderer. He sent for some constables, and meanwhile learned from Thomas Greenwood that the note had come from "Joan o' t' Bog-eggs." James Wilson, the constable, sizer, of Hebden Bridge Lanes, soon made his appearance, and with him three others—viz., George Hargreaves, John o' Paul's (Greenwood), and John Uttley, commonly called John Clerk, being the clerk of Heptonstall church. Mr. John Sutcliffe and Thomas Greenwood accompany the officers to Bog-eggs, and Joan is apprehended. He declares that the note was paid to him by his brother William. Joan is therefore set at liberty, and William is apprehended at Luddenden, and taken to Halifax in proper custody the same day. He is brought before Thomas Horton, Esq., J.P., at the justice-room, Copper Street. He refuses to give any account of the note, being afraid of criminating his brother, till Friday, February 14th. On that day William Greenwood confesses the hoax as to the passing of the note from Joan to him, and back again. The same day Joan is re-apprehended, and declares before Mr. Horton that he received the unsigned note from Old Mike. William Greenwood is set at liberty. Old Mike is looked for, but cannot be found, his wife stating that he is gone off seeking for work.

Sunday, February 16th, Mike is apprehended at his brother's at Cowside, near Blackshaw Head. He is kept in custody at an inn in Heptonstall for the night. He declared to the Rev. J. Charnock, who visited him, "I am as innocent as you are; I am as innocent as a child unborn."

Monday morning, February 17th, Mike was taken to Halifax, before Justice Horton, with many other persons who had by this time been apprehended on suspicion. (Some had already been brought before Mr. Horton at Halifax. As many as sixteen or seventeen persons in all were taken up. Some of these confessed other crimes, being, however, unconnected with this murder, as of stealing meal and flour, and a gun from Handganroyd Mill, sheep-stealing, &c. I believe that one or two persons were convicted of sheep-stealing. The rest escaped, partly from the unwillingness of the parties robbed to prosecute.) Mike is confronted with Joan, and denies Joan's accusation. Joan contradicts himself by some blunder as to the day of the week and day in the month when he went to Old Mike's to borrow money. Hereupon Mike appears to be cleared, and is set at liberty. Joan's father comes to Joan, and entreats him, if he knows anything about the robbery, to confess it. At length he yields to this persuasion, and unreservedly confesses all about both the robbery and the murder. John Uttley, the constable, is in court, and having a horse at the inn, he volunteers to pursue Old Mike on his way back to Heptonstall. He overtakes him in King's Cross Lane, walking quickly homewards, and eating "sweet parkin." Uttley calls out, "You must come back with me." Mike, off his guard, asks, "What! has he been telling something?" Uttley brings him quietly back to the magistrates' room. Mike no longer denies the crimes of murder and burglary. When he and Joan were confronted by each other there occurred such a scene of crimination and recrimination that it was found necessary to place Joan in the cell (or cellar) until the minutes of Joan's confession had been read over to Mike. After Mike had confessed many circumstances connected with the affair, the prisoners exchanged places, and the minutes of Mike's confession were read over to Joan. Both were now consigned to their cells.

Tuesday, February 18th, the prisoners were again before Mr. Horton, but nothing new was elicited. They were this day committed to York Castle. The same day James Wilson, the constable, searched Mike's house for the third time. His evidence at York is that "he found, concealed under a flag, under the bed, three fustian pieces and four warps, and some other articles, and above the fireplace a gun. The cotton pieces were identified by William Greenwood, Sammy's neighbour, who had taken them into the house of the deceased and marked them; the other articles were identified by William Sutcliffe."

The Leeds Mercury of Saturday, Feb. 22nd, says that on Wednesday, the 13th, the two prisoners passed through that town, strongly ironed, on their way to York Castle.

The trial took place at York Castle on Friday, March 14th, 1817. The prisoners were arraigned on an indictment of murdering Samuel Sutcliffe, and also on an indictment of burglary. Both admitted the burglary; both denied the murder. By the recommendation of the judge they pleaded "Not guilty" to both indictments. No fewer than 22 witnesses were taken to York, including all the individuals whose names have been given above; with Mr. William Sutcliffe, of Heptonstall, who made Sammy's writings; Mr. John Barker and Mr. Jas. Bent, of Mytholm, and Mr. Henry Sutcliffe, of Pendle Forest, &c. Mr. Hardy, in a very eloquent and perspicuous opening, stated the facts of the case. The names of the witnesses whose evidence is given in the Leeds Mercury (Saturday, March 22, 1817), are William Sutcliffe, William Greenwood (the neighbouring cottager), Thomas Dyneley, Betty Wadsworth, John Hoyle, Sarah Greenwood, Thomas Greenwood, William Greenwood, of Luddenden, Thomas Horton, Esq., Olive Heyhirst, John Thomas, of Midgley, and James Wilson. John Thomas "was a shoemaker, and received a pair of shoes from the prisoner, John Greenwood, on the 8th of February, which he delivered to the constable, and which, being produced in court, were identified by William Sutcliffe as the shoes which he had left in the house" when he went on his journey. The other witnesses gave evidence agreeing in most particulars with the facts stated above.

The remainder of the proceedings at York we give in the words of the Leeds Mercury of Saturday, March 22nd, 1817. "The prisoners being called upon for their defence, Michael Pickles said—John Greenwood came to my house and said he was pined, and asked me to go with him to Sammy's, of Hawden Hole, which I did, and he took the gun with him. When we got to the old man's house, we got in at the window, and we both went into the chamber where the old man was. He started up in bed when he heard us, and we both ran away, and I never touched the man.

"John Greenwood said—The robbery was proposed by Michael Pickles, for I did not know that there was such a house—I had never been there in my life. When we got to the house, Pickles went in at the window, but I stayed at the outside. I was never in the biggin' at all, but stood at the shop-end all the time, and Pickles brought out all the goods to me that he had taken out of the biggin.' He then told me that he had taken the old man by the neck, and was afraid he had killed him; and I said, 'Surely thou hast not hurt the old man?' Michael Pickles gave me the gun to carry, but I tied my handkerchief in two knots over the lock, for fear I should do some mischief with it. When we got back to Pickles' house, he told his wife he was afraid he had killed the old man; and his wife began to cry. Pickles charged me that I should keep it a secret from every one, even from my wife, for if I told I should be hanged.

"Three witnesses were called. Two of them spoke favourably of the character of John Greenwood. The third stated that he had a wife and three children, but that he did not know much about his character.

"His Lordship, in his charge to the jury, stated that where two or more persons were jointly engaged in the commission of any burglary or other felonious act, and one of the party killed a person in furtherance of their common object, every one of the party would in law be guilty of the crime of murder. And it was necessary, continued his Lordship, for the safety of society, that it should be so, that associations in guilt might be as much as possible prevented. If indeed an individual of any such party should put a person to death to gratify his own private revenge, and not for the furtherance of their common object, in that case he alone would be answerable for the murder. His Lordship explained that this furtherance comprises all acts done to prevent or overpower resistance and to prevent discovery. Applying this rule to the case before them, his Lordship said that if the jury were satisfied that both the prisoners had gone to the house of the deceased for the purpose of committing a robbery, and that one of them, to prevent any alarm or discovery, had by violence occasioned the death of the deceased, it would be murder in them both, though one of the prisoners should not have been within the house at the time, and should have given no consent to the murderous deed, or even not have known of its being committed. That a burglary had been committed in the house was too evident to admit of a doubt. It also appeared from all the circumstances of the case that the death of Samuel Sutcliffe had been produced by strangulation, and it was admitted by Pickles that he had seized him by the throat, and that when he quitted his grasp he had reason to suppose he was dead. If the jury were satisfied of these facts, and further thought that Michael Pickles had committed this violence, not from any personal enmity (of which there was not the least proof), but with a view to prevent alarm and secure the accomplishment of their design of robbing the house, it would be the duty of the jury to find both the prisoners guilty.

"The jury turned round in the box for a moment, and then pronounced against both prisoners the fatal verdict of 'Guilty.' His Lordship proceeded, after a most solemn and affecting address, to pass the sentence of the law, which was, that they were both of them to be hung by the neck on Monday until they were dead, and that their bodies should be delivered to the surgeons for dissection.

"John Greenwood fell on his knees, begging for mercy, and protesting his innocence of the murder.

"It is understood that since his conviction he has acknowledged to the chaplain that he was in the house, and stood at the foot of the steps with the gun.

"The sentence of the law was carried into execution on Monday, March 17th, a few minutes after eleven o'clock, and their bodies, after being suspended the usual time, were delivered to the surgeons for dissection. The body of Pickles has been sent to the Dispensary at Halifax."


  1. The circumstances of the murder and the discovery of the murderer were collected with great care by the brother of a friend of the author, now dead, and were communicated by him to the Hebden Bridge Chronicle in 1856. The papers of the compiler have been kindly sent to the author, and placed at his disposal. The facts of this extraordinary story were collected partly from individuals now surviving, who lived in the neighbourhood at the time, especially from one who was a principal witness at the trial at York, and partly from documents. Of the latter the principal are a good report of the trial given in the Leeds Mercury of Saturday, March 22nd, 1817, and a confession by the condemned parties drawn up in the usual style of confessions, and printed at Leeds for the purpose of being hawked about the streets. The Manchester Mercury of Tuesday, March, 18th, 1817, gives a short account of the trial and condemnation of the prisoners, and concludes with a confession of the principal prisoner; being a long verbatim extract from the confession printed at Leeds for sale by hawkers. One of the official books belonging to Heptonstall church contains a copy of the charge of the judge to the jury at York, taken verbatim from the Leeds Mercury of March 22nd.
  2. Greenwood is probably the most prevalent name in the neighbourhood. Out of 755 entries in a public register in the neighbourhood, the name Greenwood occurs 48 times, Helliwell 34, Sutcliffe 33, Cockcroft 18, Smith 18, Akroyd 15, Crabtree, 15, Mitchell 14, Stansfield 13, Uttley 13, Horsfall, 12, Midgley 12, Gibson 11, Taylor 11, Pickles 9, Fielden 9, Gill 9, &c. We may here remark on the prevalence of patronymic names, which sometimes are really useful, however inelegant, in a district where the same names recur so frequently. Thus "John o' Abbie's" and "Joan o' Jim's" were the ordinary names of two individuals who were each legally designated John Stansfield. By how many useful variations is the name John Sutcliffe represented! To strangers this practice is the more puzzling from the frequent use of abbreviations, such as Eam, Tham, Lol, Abbie, Jooas, Kit (or Katie), Joan, Tim, and Tum; for Edmund, Nathaniel, Lawrence, Abraham, Joseph, Catherine, John, Timothy, Thomas. There was formerly a "Jimmie, o' Jamie, o' James, o'th Jumps." "George o' my Gronny's" and "Will o' Nobody's" are bold specimens of what may be done by the principle in question carried out with a little licence. Not unfrequently, also, people are named from their residences, as "John up th' steps," and "Old Ann o' th' Hinging Royd." Bye-names also become sometimes attached as if they were real family surnames. If it were not personal, many singular instances might be given. Persons are frequently unable, without some consideration, to recognise the legal names of their neighbours. Upon the hillside at Jumps, near Todmorden, I once asked a little girl who was her father. "Will o' th' Jumps," she replied. "And who's Will o' th' Jumps?" I again inquired. "He's Ailse o' th' Jumps, fellie," replied the girl; and I doubt whether she had any idea whatever of her legal surname.