An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 42 (of 92 parts) - Sutton Tragedy Part 3

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 42 (of 92 parts) - Sutton Tragedy Part 3
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Sutton Tragedy Part 3
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII

This Page Describes Tragic and Unusual Deaths in the Sutton District in Brief

(N.b. these are not described elsewhere within this website)
DEATH FROM OPENING A TIN OF MUSTARD - On December 16th 1894, Richard Pemberton of 42 Lancots Lane, Sutton, used a pair of scissors to cut open a tin of mustard. The scissors slipped and he scratched his thumb against the rough edge of the tin. Nothing was thought at the time but about a fortnight later the thumb began to swell and Dr. Casey was called in. The injury grew worse and the 65-years-old former timekeeper at Sutton Glass Works died from blood poisoning. On March 16th 1914, Catherine Roberts from 35 Waterdale Crescent died after pricking her thumb with a pin, which caused blood poisoning. This along with a weak heart led to her death. Then on 8th June 1914, 39-years-old Samuel Rigby from Edgeworth Street died from septic poisoning from a cut in the palm of his hand.

DEATH FROM EATING TINNED MEAT - On November 16th 1892, Ellen Brown of Watery Lane died five days after buying tinned meat from her local shop. The 42-years-old ate some for her dinner but was soon vomiting and complaining of stomach pains. Curiously others who ate portions of the same meat suffered no ill effects. Ellen's death occurred in the same week that Inspector Smirthwaite, the St.Helens borough meat inspector, delivered his annual report. He revealed that a massive amount of food in the town had been condemned as unfit for consumption.

CALLOUS INDIFFERENCE On May 26th 1888, Catherine Hussey fell down the stairs of her home at 19 Baxters Lane. She suffered serious injuries and died on the following day. However Catherine's husband James Hussey and her 21-years-old daughter Alice, never called a doctor. The coroner at Catherine's inquest described their conduct as "callous indifference." Her family said she often had fainting bouts and they thought it unnecessary to call a doctor. However one person said that they really wanted to "get shut of the woman".

SAD DEATHS OF EPILEPTICS - On November 20th 1893, 24-years-old Kate Molyneux suffered an epileptic fit at home and fell on the fire. The blacksmith's wife from Baxter's Lane was found by her mother on her hands and knees and with her head burning in the fire. Kate died from her injuries five months later. Sutton glassmaker Robert Tinsley was also thought to have died from a fit in May 1858 while fishing in a large pond called Hope's Pit.

DEATH IN SHERDLEY PARK - On August 10th 1900, eight-years-old John Fazakerley died in an unusual accident in Sherdley Park. The boy was the son of Thomas Fazakerley, who acted as farm bailiff on the Sherdley farm. The boy was running as kids do and tripped over some freshly-cut grass. John's head went under the wheel of a horse-driven 'lurry' and he died shortly afterwards.

ELLAMSBRIDGE ROAD DROWNINGS - On August 10th 1889, two boys from Fisher Street in Sutton were drowned in a pit off Ellamsbridge Road belonging to Sutton Glassworks. Nine-years-old Llewelyn Jones and his pal Thomas Smith (8) were leaning against wire fencing along one side of the sand pit throwing stones into the water. Suddenly the wire gave way, throwing both boys into the water and to their deaths. Llewelyn’s collier father Thomas jumped into the pit – which was over 6 feet deep – to attempt a rescue but was only able to retrieve the bodies of both boys. The coroner’s jury requested that the glassworks improve the fencing by the pit, although Charles Crouch of the company said they had great difficulty in keeping children away from the fence.

MORRIS STREET MOTHER'S SAD DEATH - On March 6th 1914, Margaret Rogers of 34 Morris Street, Sutton, succumbed to a fractured skull in St.Helens Hospital. The 29-years-old had given birth on February 26th and while her midwife was distracted, threw herself out of the bedroom window. Dr. Robert Cook attended her but she couldn't be saved. Margaret was probably suffering from post-natal depression, which wasn't then properly understood.

TRAGEDY OF A JUNCTION LANE MILKMAN - On November 13th 1887, milkman Edwin Challinor of 89 Junction Lane rose at four to prepare for his Sunday morning milk round. At breakfast he complained of pains in his heart and remarked to his wife that no one knew the pain he was suffering. The 37 years-old then went to an outhouse where hung himself from a rafter.

SUTTON MILL DAM DEATHS - On October 24th 1895, 52-years-old Louis Rigby was found floating in Sutton Mill Dam. He had been the foreman of Dam House Farm at Marshalls Cross, owned by his father. Three days earlier Louis had been drinking in a Sutton beerhouse and was heard to say that he had several bills to pay, but didn't have the money. An accident was ruled out as he had to climb over railings to get to the water. A boy called James Davies also drowned on the dam on January 10th 1881, while sliding on the ice. Just four weeks later, on February 6th, seven-years-old Josiah Green from Leach Lane drowned after leaving the Sunday school at Marshalls Cross to skate on the ice.

STILL-BORN TRAGEDY - On May 14th 1846, an inquest was held at the Griffin Inn on the body of a newly-born male infant that had been found in a stone quarry on the Sherdley estate. St.Helens surgeon Mr. Blundell, who had carried out a post-mortem, told the inquiry, conducted by coroner John Heyes, that he thought the child had been still-born 6 or 7 weeks previously and then dumped in the quarry.

DEATH ON A STUFF ROOK - On March 9th 1893, a lad named James Hill found a dead body on a Sutton Heath colliery waste heap, known locally as a 'stuff rook'. The unknown man was about 35 and stoutly built and his face had been badly scorched by smouldering rubbish. He'd been seen begging in the vicinity of the colliery earlier that day and had told a woman that he'd walked from Barrow. Vagrants were in the habit of sleeping on the heap as it was constantly burning and so quite warm.

DIED PICKING BLACKBERRIES - On August 22nd 1911, Margaret Cropper of 5 Graces Square off New Street set out to deliver a letter to a house in Rainhill but never arrived. Instead the eighteen-year-old's body was discovered in a pond near Micklehead Green. There were a large number of blackberry bushes round the water's edge and Margaret was seen picking some. At her inquest It was supposed that she had overbalanced and accidentally fallen into the pond and drowned.

SUTTON GRANGE TRAGEDY - On September 1st 1881, John Leigh was painting what was described as a cucumber house at Sutton Grange by Sherdley Park, the home of Sutton Glasswork's manager William Blinkhorn. The 29-years-old painter overbalanced and fell right through the glass roof onto his head, dying two days later at his parent's home.

STRANGE SUFFOCATION CASE - Early on August 18th 1897, farm labourer Lawrence Hester was found lying dead in Mill Lane by collier John Smith. The 40-years-old had worked for John Lowe on Elton Head Farm and had last been seen on the previous night in the Black Horse pub, although he'd only drank a pint of beer and a small whiskey. After undertaking a post-mortem examination, Dr. Fred Knowles told Hester's inquest that he'd died from suffocation and it was believed that Hester had fallen and accidentally suffocated on the road.

DEAD BABY IN WASHING MYSTERY - On April 9th 1892, an inquest was held at St.Helens Town Hall on the body of an unknown child. Alice Birchall claimed she'd found the baby's remains within what she thought was a parcel of washing that had been wrapped in a St.Helens newspaper. A mysterious woman wearing a heavy veil and with very polite manners had left it at her home, claiming the parcel contained a pair of her brother's white trousers. Oddly Birchall was both a midwife and washerwoman, living at 15 Peasley Cross Lane. There were discrepancies in her evidence and she was given a severe cross-examination by Chief Constable Wood. Dr. Fred Knowles had conducted a post-mortem and said it was impossible to know if the child had lived and the jury returned an open verdict.

Buried within Sutton Parish graveyard at St.Nicholas are many sad stories and tragedies

Buried within Sutton Parish graveyard are many sad stories and tragedies

Buried within Sutton Parish graveyard are many sad and tragic stories

FOUND DEAD COINCIDENCE - On the morning of December 20th 1891, two little girls in separate Sutton homes were found dead in bed. One was Martha Jones of 3 Providence Place, the daughter of collier Robert Jones and the other was Sarah Gutteridge of Back School Street, daughter of glassworks labourer John Gutteridge. The police reported no suspicious circumstances and the coroner's jury's verdict in both cases was 'Found dead'. It can't have been much of a happy Christmas for either family.

DEAD IN A DITCH - On January 2nd 1895, 29-years-old Alfred Johnson, a 'gentleman farmer' of Heath House in Bold, was found dead in a ditch by his wife. He'd spent the previous evening with William Johnson of Bold Old Hall who at 10.30pm saw Alfred safely over the moat surrounding his home. Alfred was also a Bold councillor and had a mile to walk home along a cart road. However his body was found the next morning just 200 yards from where he had left William. Although the ditch at the side of a bridge was eight or nine feet deep, it only held two or three inches of water. At Alfred Johnson's inquest at the Griffin in Bold, the jury brought in a verdict of death from exposure brought on by an accidental fall into the ditch. The Foreman said the spot was a death trap and ought to be condemned.

A TRAMP'S SAD END - At 11:30am on Sunday August 27th 1876, the body of an unknown man of around 65 years of age was found in the sandpits of the Sutton Glass Works. On the Friday evening he'd been begging in Sutton and Mrs. Clark, caretaker of the National Schools, found him sat in a doorway when she arrived to lock up the buildings. The supposition was that after leaving Ellamsbridge Road, the tramp had walked towards the sandpits and in the darkness had stumbled into one and drowned.

FATHER AND SON GASSED – On October 17th 1871, James Burrows, senior and junior, died together down Peasley Cross Colliery. They were working near a disused part of the pit when the 42-years-old father sent his son a short distance to tap a wall to see if it was covering a cavity. The 14-years-old didn't come back and his Dad went to find him but also failed to return. Their bodies were subsequently found having both been gassed by 'choke damp' and it took some time to extricate them because of the poisonous atmosphere.

CRUSHED BY A TREE TRUNK - On March 31st 1894, 44-years-old William Langton from Higher Parr Street was crushed to death in Sherdley Park when a tree trunk weighing 25 cwt, that was being raised onto a lorry, fell on top of him. Langton worked for contractor Peter Kay who was criticised by the inquest jury for not employing a guide rope or snatch block.

TRAGIC BOTTLE ACCIDENT - On July 16th 1929, 3-years-old Marie Greenhall of Bentinck Street, Sutton fell in the street with a bottle in her hand. The bottle smashed and severed the arteries of her leg. A woman picked up the bleeding child and ran with her to St.Helens Hospital but within a few minutes Marie was dead.

TERRIBLE PULLEY DEATH - On July 11th 1891, the parents of 9-years-old Thomas Ashcroft of Three Jockeys’ Brow, Ravenhead, in the township of Sutton, went on a day trip to Llandudno. Their son was left at home and he decided to walk to Phoenix Colliery nearby. Thomas began playing by a hauling pulley. After standing on it, the pulley suddenly started up and threw the boy into its wheel, decapitating him.

SUFFOCATED IN A DITCH - On April 20th 1865, an inquest was held on William Meadows at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, then in Lionel Street. The 47-years-old's body had been found in Sutton, lying in a ditch underneath his own two-wheeled, one-horse carriage. The manufacturing chemist had ridden in the gig after drinking heavily at Mrs. Hesketh's beerhouse in Bold with a friend called Poulson. Just how the gig had come to grief wasn't known and Poulson told the inquest that he'd rambled about the fields all night and was so drunk he couldn't recollect anything. In fact he'd taken the 6:20am train from St.Helens Junction not knowing of Meadows' untimely end. The jury's verdict was 'Accidentally suffocated in a ditch'.

SHOE THEFT TRAGEDY - On July 22nd 1896, 23-years-old Louisa Hunt drowned herself and her 6-months-old daughter Elizabeth in the waters of a sandpit at the Ravenhead Glass Works. Louisa had been arrested the day before and accused of stealing a pair of boots that she had pawned. She left a letter to her husband Thomas denying her guilt but saying she was better off dead than endure disgrace.

SCALDED TO DEATH - On January 10th 1860, a group of lads were messing about in the yard of the Sutton Glass Works. 14-years-old William Kirkham was running backwards when he fell into a vat of boiling water and was so severely scalded that he died the following morning.

DOUBLE TRAGEDY IN LEACH LANE - On March 14th 1956 two 3-year-old children, Barry Jones and Linda Rigby from Leach Lane, were found drowned in an ornamental pond in a builder's yard not far from their homes. The two toddlers were found by builder Stan Leyland lying in just a couple of feet of water, which contained goldfish and carp. Mr. Leyland told an inquest that his pond had proved an attraction to youngsters and he had often chased children away from it.

RIDDLING TRAGEDY - On July 13th 1864, an 8-years-old boy called James Holton was taken to Ravenhead Colliery by his mother. She worked there ‘riddling’ (a.k.a. screening) the coal from the dirt that came up from the pit. James’s mother left her son alone for a few minutes and he began to play with the chain that was attached to the circular screen that was used to riddle coal. The screen was revolving at a high speed and the boy was dragged into the machinery and almost instantly killed.

DEATH OF A PAINTER - On June 8th 1861, 36-years-old William Page of St. Helens Road, Peasley Cross, in the township of Sutton, met his death at Eccleston Hall. He was painting a skylight at the home of William Pilkington when the scaffolding that he was stood on gave way, precipitating him to the floor. A boy who was assisting Page received serious injuries.

SHOCKING MINING TRAGEDY - On July 9th 1838, two workers at Burtonhead Colliery in Sutton, including a young boy, lost their lives through the reckless behaviour of a man called Reece Rigby. An engineer named Hilton had left the engine-house to get some coal to feed a furnace. In the engineer’s absence, Rigby took it upon himself to haul up to the surface four workers in a tub. This was despite being instructed by a banksman to not touch the engine. Rigby turned the engine on full power, which propelled the tub over the headgears at great speed. Henry Adamson, who was aged about 10, fell more than 70 yards down the pit and was dashed to pieces. The boy’s brains were later brought up to the surface in a basin. Robert Roughley - a married man with a pregnant wife - was also thrown out of the basket and killed. A man called John Marsh suffered broken bones but survived and a female miner was uninjured.

TRIPLE TRAGEDY IN CLOCK FACE - On January 15th 1958 glass worker William Miller (37), wife Ethel (34) and daughter Marion (3) were found dead in their bedroom in Bentley Street off Gartons Lane, Clock Face. The terrible tragedy was believed to have been caused by fumes from a paraffin heater.

TRAGEDY ON A FROZEN POND - On November 21st 1915, two 16-year-old boys from Cairne Street in Sutton, Thomas Gore and Hugh Saunders, drowned in a frozen pond. They were in a group of 50 boys who were sliding on the ice on a clay pit in Ravenhead, when the ice suddenly broke. A boy called Jacob Pye was heroically saved by Samuel Freeman, the assistant manager at Pilkington’s Boys’ Hostel. Freeman went into the water and supported Jacob for almost 20 minutes until a ladder had been obtained and the ice between the pair and the side of the pond had been broken. A boy named John Barnes then swam out to Freeman with a rope in his mouth. Samuel and Jacob were then dragged out and after receiving medical attention, the unconscious boy recovered.

SUICIDE NOTE OF A MINER - On March 6th 1914 at the inquest of Aaron Collier, coroner Samuel Brighouse read out the suicide note that the miner from 36 Fox Street had left on his breakfast table for his wife. It read ‘Dear Annie. I bid you and the children all good bye, for I am no use in the world after what I have been through, enough of trouble with my health, and I think it is time I left this earth’. Mrs. Collier told the inquest that 5 or 6 years earlier her husband had suffered an accident at Sutton Heath Colliery after a shot (explosive) had misfired and since then had endured pains in his head. The 37-year-old had latterly been working as a hewer at Lea Green Colliery and was very depressed. Aaron Collier had left home early on February 14th leaving his note behind, but it took three weeks before his body was recovered from the canal.

DEATH DOWN A MANHOLE - On November 15th 1957, 40-year-old Albert Forsyth was found trapped down a manhole in Sherdley Road within 4 to 5 feet of water. The highways labourer was released by firemen using breathing apparatus but tragically was dead on arrival at the hospital.

SAND BED TRAGEDY - On July 30th 1930 three children were killed on the old sand beds at Ravenhead, when a cliff of sand, loosened by a storm, collapsed upon a group of twenty youngsters who had been burrowing into it. Tons of sand buried the children, killing 1-year-old Jane Martindale, 4-year-old Jennie Wright and 12-year-old William Ball. The sand pit was the residue of sand that had been used in glassmaking at Ravenhead for 150 years and was so big that football matches took place on its top. It was level with the roofs of the town and was surrounded by hills of chemical waste, some of which were 100 feet high. Thousands of people gathered on top of the waste hills to watch the rescue operation unfold, with tragic results.

SAD SUICIDE IN MONASTERY DAM - On March 2nd 1921 collier James Williams of 3 Edgeworth Street, Sutton, threw himself into the Monastery Dam. A couple of weeks earlier the 58-year-old had been stopped from his job at Sutton Manor Colliery, which greatly upset him and he turned to drink. Farmer John Rimmer was passing the reservoir in Monastery Lane at about 10.30pm and heard a splash and a cry. He went for a rope but was unable to rescue Williams, who was in deep water. Later his body was recovered by grappling irons and it was found that there was only 4d. in his pockets.

KILLED BY PIECE OF STRAW - That was the headline of a report in the Lancashire Evening Post of September 11th 1909, which described the death of Samuel Owen of Elizabeth Street in Sutton. The 28-year-old had been bringing in the harvest in John Willis’s fields off Reginald Road, when somehow the end of a straw of wheat entered his nostrils and caused a wound. Erysipelas set in, followed by septic pneumonia and within a few days Owen was dead.

SHOCKING GAS TRAGEDY IN JUNCTION LANE - Early on December 3rd 1941 P.C. Shepherd of St.Helens police forced an entry into the Baron family’s house and tobacconist’s shop at 6 Junction Lane and discovered it full of gas. Inside, dressed in their night clothes, were the bodies of Frederick Baron, his wife Elizabeth and their 16-year-old son Fred. Artificial respiration was given to all three, but it was too late. The latter’s 78-year-old grandmother Margaret Fielding was still alive but died in hospital a few days later. Their next-door neighbour Jeannie Douglas, who kept a fish and chips shop, had noticed a strong smell of gas when she rose early that morning to go to Mass and had found her canary lying on the floor of its cage. She alerted the authorities and Mr. McVitty, a St.Helens gas works official, traced the leak to the shop next door. The family had been bombed out of their home in Bootle only a year earlier and had bought the tobacconist’s off the Heckle family. It was the same tobacconists that the controversial Alderman Boscow had previously owned.

DOUBLE SHOOTING TRAGEDY IN BOLD - On September 2nd 1942 two Bold farmers were found shot dead. The two men were 75-year-old Henry Heathcote of Heath House Farm and his 30-year-old son-in-law Walter Norcott, of the nearby South Lane Farm. Men working on Heathcote’s farm heard two shots and rushed into the house where they found Norcott lying beside the telephone in the hall with gunshot wounds. Heathcote, also severely wounded, was in another room with a sporting gun beside him.

STAIRS WITHOUT HANDRAILS - At Mary Jones’s inquest on April 3rd 1945, the coroner Cornelius Bolton said he hoped that after the war steep stairs without handrails would be done away with. Two days earlier the 60-year-old had gone upstairs to make the beds in her Baxters Lane home and somehow lost her footing and fell down the stairs and died.

SAD FOOTBALL DEATH - On November 1st 1941 Norman Grace from Robins Lane collapsed whilst playing football for Sutton United and died soon afterwards. Norman was only 24-year-old and the colliery surface worker had got married less than six months earlier.

- Richard Meadows was employed by Sutton Glassworks as a carter and on January 16th 1903 he went to Liverpool with his horse-driven cart. During the return journey at Sutton Heath he fell while getting onto his vehicle and was run over receiving a severe flesh wound to his thigh and a compound fracture of the left ankle. The horses took off and the 48-year-old from School Lane in Rainhill was left for some time lying in the roadway during severe weather. Meadows was found around 11pm by PC Staveley but died in hospital three days later.
Next:  Part 43)  Sutton at War Part 1  |  Back To Top of Page
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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