A Murder in the Buckholt?
There has long been a legend in The Buckholt that one of the ruined cottages in the wood had been the site of a historical murder in the 1820s. Being sceptical, I did not think that this story could be anything more than a fanciful local myth invented by children to scare other children who dared to venture into the creepy abandoned houses in the darkest corner of the wood. However, I could not attempt to research the history of the wood without giving credence to this famous local tale.
My first task was to find out if there had ever been a murder in the village, and so I turned to the British Newspaper Archives and began a laborious trawl through half a century of local news. Although I found a whole archive of fascinating, poignant human stories about the village (many of which will be added to this website in time), the nearest I came to finding a murder was the report of a notorious local called John James, who lived in ruin number 7, who drunkenly fired a gun through the windows of the Plough Inn in 1893. I had also found a short reference to a body having been found in a ditch near the Manson Cross Inn. This sounded more promising so I began a new search focussing on Manson’s Cross and this quickly turned up the detailed story of a murder that had occurred in the Buckholt in 1817. Below is a synopsis of the newspaper reports of August 1817. The full reports are transcribed at the end of this page.
Below the headline, the Evening Mail of Wednesday, 20 August 1817, reported:
“James Harry, alias Harris, stood capitally indicted for the wilful murder of Elizabeth his wife on the 30th of March last, in the parish of Dixstone, in the county of Monmouth…. The prisoner, who is an athletic man of 45 years of age, pleaded not guilty”.
Neighbours were called to give testimony, and various facts emerged during the trial.
Margaret Goff said that Harry abused his wife a lot, and that the wife had ‘a very aggravating tongue’. Goff also witnessed Harry threatening his wife both verbally and with raised fist.
Various neighbours and friends saw Elizabeth Harry at various times on Sunday 30th March, Palm Sunday. But nobody saw her after that. William Jones got a visit from Harry early Monday morning. Harry told Jones a story that he was to reiterate to several other neighbours over the coming days. He said that his wife had been called in the night by a woman, who asked her to go to the assizes. Elizabeth told him she would not be returning home for some time. Not only did Harry repeat this story, but he usually prefaced it by the question ‘Have you seen my wife?’ The answer from the neighbours was always no.
On Thursday, 10th April, a farm labourer, Joseph Meredith, went towards Cross Wood to fix a fence broken by cattle. Near the wood he observed what looked like a grave. The soil had been dug to about the length of a human figure, and was covered over with leaves and grass. The ground looked to have been recently disturbed, so he went to neighbour James James’s house, borrowed a spade, and returned to the spot and dug the soil up. He saw a bare human knee, and next a leg and foot. He then went to fetch James, who scraped the soil off the face. They both recognised Elizabeth Harry. They covered the body, borrowed a gun and found Harry, who was hedging on the roadside. James pointed the gun at him and effected a citizen’s arrest, informing Harry that ‘we both know she’s murdered and buried in the ditch.’ Harry feigned surprise and proclaimed his innocence, but James and Meredith immediately took him before the mayor, the Rev. T. Prosser, in Monmouth town. After that, Meredith went back with several other people to fetch the body, which was covered only by a shift. A cap lay near her cheek saturated with blood, and Meredith noticed a wound on the right ear about 1½ inches long, and severe marks on the collar-bone. They wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her back to her own house.
On cross-examination, Meredith said the body was found about half a mile from the prisoner’s house. From the grave to the high road it was nearly half a mile. (Actually it’s more like 150 metres.) The body was of a blueish colour. How long it had lain he couldn’t judge. The earth had not been moved for a week or ten days. Mrs Harry was between 40 and 50 years of age: a small figure. He concluded by saying that the prisoner had offered no resistance.
James James corroborated Meredith’s testimony.
Another key witness, Ann Evans, said Elizabeth had a trunk in which she kept all her clothes. She would never let her husband have the key, but this key was found in Harry’s box, with a silk handkerchief that Elizabeth had worn to church. Evans had been back to the house with others. She had observed a number of bloodstains inside, and that some of the white-wash on the wall seemed to have been rubbed off. She had seen Harry hanging out some clothes to dry on the Tuesday after his wife’s disappearance. The shoes and all the clothes which Ann Evans had ever seen her wear were in the house.
Martha Evans also examined the house, and found all the clothes she had ever seen Elizabeth wear. She saw as well that the ticking of the bed was very damp down the side, and reddish; it appeared to have been sponged over. There was a shirt on the bed that had been partly washed. In addition to other bloodstains, she saw three bloody finger marks on the staircase banister. .
Mr. Fairfax-Moresby, an ex-naval captain, went to the Harrys’ cottage on April 11th and saw various marks that looked like blood. The floor looked as if a mop dipped in blood had been dragged along. He too saw a shirt partly washed, with stains. Mr. Lorimer, and John Jones, sergeant of mace to the corporation of Monmouth, gave similar evidence. Mr. Prosser, a surgeon, proved that the wound on the head was sufficient to cause death.
The case for the prosecution was here closed.
The judge, Mr. Justice Park then asked the prisoner what he had to say in his defence. A paper was read out, written by Harry’s attorney; it had his mark, witnessed by the gaoler. The judge summed up, and the jury, after a few minutes’ consultation, returned a verdict of guilty. James Harry was ordered to be executed on Monday, 25th August. The trial had lasted from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
The prisoner, it appears, was absent from his wife for 14 years. He was a labourer in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and had amassed £300. The remainder of his property was worth about £800 more, which he assigned to his brother, his sister, and his son, aged 20. It is slightly puzzling as to why Harry had not destroyed all of his wife’s clothing.
Execution of James Harry
Staffordshire Advertiser Saturday, 30 August 1817
On Monday morning last this wretched man paid the forfeit of his existence at the gaol of Monmouth, in the presence of several thousand spectators,
For a time he railed against his brother, whom he had asked to swear that the blood that was found in his cottage at Dixton had come from his nose, and that he had suffered nosebleeds since infancy. The brother, however, resisted his entreaties, and this sealed his fate.
At length the chaplain of the gaol persuaded him to confess his guilt. Harry acknowledged having murdered his hapless wife, under circumstances, however, of great aggravation from her. It appeared that he killed her on the Sunday night by a blow on the temple with some heavy instrument, but not the stone produced at the trial; and afterwards he tried hard to clear up the traces of blood . Having at length partially accomplished this work, he secreted the body under the bed, and buried some of the stained clothes in the garden. The succeeding night he went to the edge of Cross Wood and dug a grave in which he immediately deposited the remains of the deceased.
Finding Murder Cottage
Unfortunately, the knowledge of the exact location of Murder Cottage had been lost to history and so my next task was to try and rediscover which cottage it could be. The first of the newspaper articles was extremely lengthy and documented the entire court hearing, giving a tremendous amount of useful information.
I extracted from this account a list of clues, which I hoped would pinpoint the location of the cottage and the grave:
Murder Cottage Clues gathered from the witness statements;
- The body was buried in a ditch near Cross Wood, opposite the Manson’s Cross Inn.
- The body was buried half a mile from the cottage.
- To get from the cottage to the grave site the murderer had to cross through 3 hedges.
- It is half a mile from the grave to the “High Road” (presumably the main road through the village, although if this is the road they mean, half a mile would be a wild exaggeration – more like 150 yards!).
- A person could cross to the grave from the High Road.
- The grave site can be seen from the cottage.
- Anne Evans lived opposite the cottage (the Evans’ lived at Keystones).
- Legend states the house was in Buckholt Wood.
- Hannah Howell saw the murderer on Mr Philips’ ’14 Acre’. (14 Acre is the name of the field on the northern boundary of Cross Wood, marked 122 on the ‘Moving the Body’ map below).
- After Hannah Howell spoke to the murderer in the field he walked towards the site where the body was later found, although there was no path in that direction. She thought it was strange he should go that way.
- William Jones was another close neighbour to the cottage. (William Jones lived in the first of the 3 terraced cottages that are now The Laurels).
- Martha Evans saw the victim going to fetch water on the night she was murdered. (The village well was behind the schoolhouse on Mr Philips’ farmland).
Murder Cottage Location
Route for Moving the Body
Site of Murder Cottage
Whodunnit? – Or rather, Wherewuzit?…
Several of these facts proved very useful, especially that the body had been buried in a ditch that could be seen from the cottage, and that the cottage was opposite Keystones. The location of the body was very specific – Cross Wood, which is well documented – and the only woodland ruins that would have had a view of Cross Wood were the two houses that once stood at the start of the forest track. Of these two cottages, the one on the right (if facing up the track), was the larger and we know from the newspaper reports that James and Elizabeth Harry were comfortably well-off and well-respected. According to the historic maps, this house had once been a substantial cottage for its time, yet a section of the house had clearly been demolished by the latter half of the 19th century. The murder had occurred in a bedroom of the cottage and I wonder if the room had been subsequently destroyed because of its macabre associations. The image to the left is a sketch of how the cottage may have looked based on historical maps and plans, and the architectural style of its neighbouring cottages.
Ominously, this cottage was one of the first of the woodland cottages to be abandoned, although seemingly for no apparent reason as it stood close to the high road near the centre of the village, and the similar properties in its immediate vicinity are all still occupied today. Nothing at all now remains of this cottage. Not even the familiar pile of mossy stones found elsewhere in the wood. It has utterly disappeared.
I can not say with 100% confidence that Murder Cottage has been rediscovered, but I might say I am 99.9% sure, and if I was a betting woman I would certainly hazard a fiver. What I can now say with absolute certainty, is that there was once a murder in the Buckholt, so dreadful that it made national headline news, and now that I know the story I shall be sure to spare a kind thought for tragic Elizabeth Harry and her wretched husband James the next time I go into the wood.
The Original Headlines
Evening Mail – Wednesday, 20 August 1817
James Harry, alias Harris, stood capitally indicted for the wilful murder of Elizabeth his wife on the 30th of March last, in the parish of Dixstone, in the county of Monmouth; and the indictment charged the murder to have been committed in 3 ways; first, by striking her on the temple with a large stone; secondly, by thrusting a cap into her throat; and lastly, by throwing her into a certain pit and covering her over with earth, thereby producing suffocation. The prisoner, who is an athletic man of 45 years of age, on being arraigned by Mr. Tomes, the clerk of the indictment, pleaded not guilty.
Margaret Goff deposed, that she lives at the Buckholt, about 300 yards from the prisoner’s house; she remembered the deceased ever since she was a child. In the summer of last year the prisoner came home to the deceased; previous to that time she had lived alone; she gained her living by attending persons lying in, and by sewing. Witness met her at Monmouth in January last; she went before a magistrate; on her return home witness and Ann Evans sat up with her; she did not go to bed. The prisoner abused her very much; the deceased had a very aggravating tongue. In the morning, when the prisoner came down, he went towards the deceased and doubling his fist put it up in her face; he told her to fetch all her clothes home, and show then to him when he came in at night. He also told her to fetch her wheat home, take it to the mill, and get in ground, and make him some bread by 12 o’clock, or he would kick her to pieces; he knew his duty, and he would make her know hers. He would make her better or worse, or he would go to gaol or to —- (Hell). He then went to his work.
Mrs Hannah Howell, on the evening of last Palm Sunday, about 6 o’clock, saw him on Mr. Philips land near her house; he stood there from half an hour to three quarters of an hour. She talked with him. Knows the place where the body of the deceased was found; when the prisoner went away, he went in that direction. There was no path that way.
William Jones lives close to the cottage of the prisoner. Saw the deceased on Sunday 30th March, coming from (Welsh Newton) church about 3 o’clock. Did not see her again that evening, nor did he hear any noise that night. The following morning witness heard the prisoner at work in his garden between three and four. Never before heard him at work so early. It was moonlight. About 5 o’clock the prisoner came to witnesses house, and asked him if he had heard any noise in the night, or heard any body calling; he told him “No.”. He said then that his wife had been called in the night by some woman or girl, who asked her go to the assizes. Previous to her going she went up to him, and told him to do what he could in the garden, for she should not be at home for some time. On the Tuesday or Wednesday night following, witness met the prisoner in the road; they got talking about his wife. The prisoner said he did not know what to think had become of her. Witness said, “James, it looks very awkward;”. He replied “I don’t know what to do about it.”. He added, “She went on the Sunday night to the fourteen acres of Mr. Phillips, to see what ground was to be had to set potatoes; and afterwards, coming back from there, she net with a girl on the road; she came up to his [the prisoner’s] house, and going into the garden said to him, “There’s a girl coming to look for me; I must go out either to-night or in the morning. “James,” said witness, “Did you not know where she was going?” and he replied he did not. Witness said that was very odd; upon which the prisoner said he did not go into the house to see. Witness then asked him if she had taken any clothes with her? He said he did not know, but there were some of her foul clothes littering about. Witness then asked him what time she went; when he said, “as near as 8 o’clock as I can judge.”
Robert Jones, son of the last witness, deposed much to the same effect.
John Jones lives at the Buckholt: remembers on Monday, 31st March, returning from Monmouth towards home; he passed the prisoner, who was at work by the road-side hedging. As he passed by, he asked witness if he had seen his old woman: witness said “No;” and asked him if she was gone out. The prisoner said, that after she came out from Newton Church, she went to look at a headland of ground to set potatoes on, and that she was going from thence to Monmouth to help Mr. Barlow, an innkeeper, at the assizes. On the Wednesday morning following he saw him again, as he was going to Monmouth, when he asked him again if he had seen his old woman, and he said, “No.” On the Monday following witness saw him at the Priory Farm, when he repeated the same question, and witness said, “No; in the name of God hasn’t she come home yet?” the prisoner answered in the negative, when witness asked what sort of humour she was in when she went away, and he replied “as good as she ever was.” Witness then said, “there’s no fear of her coming home.”
Mary Meredith knew the deceased; saw her on Palm Sunday at Newton-church, about half-past three; observed the gown, bonnet, and shawl, she had on; she saw these things since, when she was examined before the Coroner’s jury; she walked with her about half-way down the Buckholt. On the Sunday after [Easter Sunday] saw the prisoner at his own door; he called to her, and said he wanted to speak with her. She went to him, and he went in and sat on a chair. She asked him what he wanted? And he said he had lost his old woman, and could not think what was become of her. He then repeated the same tale to this witness which he had to the others, respecting her having gone to the assizes.
Joseph Meredith is employed to take care of the fences in the Cross-wood. On Thursday, 10th April last, he went towards that wood (to fix a fence broken by cattle). As he passed close to the wood, he observed some trampling near a bit of a gap in the hedge. He looked down into the ditch, and saw the appearance of a grave. The mould had been dug to about the length of a human figure, and was covered over with leaves and grass. He had a hacker in his hand; and on descending into the ditch, he pushed the hacker into the mould to see if it had been lately moved; he found that it had, and he went up to James James’s house, and borrowed a spade, with which he went to the spot, and dug the mould up and at last came to a person’s bare knee, about a foot and a half in the ground; he went on till he saw the leg and foot. He then went to see for James James, and on finding him, they returned to the wood together, and witness showed James what he had discovered. James took the spade to see if he knew the person. He dug until he came in sight of the hair. He then with his hands pulled the mould off the face, when they both recognised it to be Elizabeth Harry, the deceased. They then covered the body up again and went in search of the prisoner. They borrowed a gun and went up to the prisoner, who was hedging on the road side. James, pointing the gun at him, said, “You’re my prisoner.” The prisoner said, “Have you been to Plough (The Plough Inn) today?” James said, “That’s not what I want with you.” The prisoner rejoined, “Have you been to Plough for all that?” James said, “I have not; you are my prisoner.” The prisoner said, “You’re in Inn, be’ent you?” James said, “You have lost your wife, ha’nt you?” “Yes,” said the prisoner, “I have.” James then exclaimed, “We both know where to find her; she’s murdered and buried in the ditch.” “Buried in the ditch! Dear my heart,” said the prisoner, “who could have put her there?” witness then went round, and said to the prisoner, “you must come along with me to Monmouth.” He said, “I’ll take my tools to the house; do you go on down the road, and I’ll meet you.” Witness said they would go with him, on which he said, “I am innocent. I can take my oath I am innocent; I can clear myself; I have put your mother and several of the neighbours to look after her (look for her). They can clear me.” He added, “when I went up from dinner on Sunday evening from the Priory, I gave her a pound note to buy some stuff to make a pair of breeches. She was to have the remainder for herself. She seemed to be well pleased with it, and went away in as good a humour as ever I saw her. It was about 20 minutes before eight, as near as I can judge.” Witness and Jones (James) then took him down before the mayor (Rev. T. Prosser). After that, witness went back with several other people to take the body up. Witness dug the mould off. There was nothing on the body but the shift, which was drawn half-way up her waist. A cap lay near her cheek saturated with blood. It was rumpled up. On taking her out of the ground, he observed a wound upon the right ear about an inch and a half long (also her “collar-bone exhibited marks of great violence”). They then wrapped her up in a blanket, and carried her back to her own house.
Cross-examined.- The body was found about half a mile from the prisoners house. In going from the house to the place in which the body was deposited, they had to cross three hedges. From the grave to the high road it was also nearly half a mile. A person might have come across from the high road to the grave. The body was of a blueish colour. How long it had lain he could not judge. The prisoner made no resistance; but immediately surrendered.
Re-examined. – The spot where the body was found could be seen from the prisoners house. The earth had the appearance of not having been moved for a week or ten days. Mrs. Harry was between 40 and 50 years of age: a small figure.
James James corroborated the testimony of last witness.
Ann Evans sat up with the deceased, with Margaret Goff, on the night stated by her; she lived with her father in a cottage opposite to that of the deceased; On Palm Sunday morning she heard some scolding in the prisoners house, but heard no voice but that of the deceased; she called on witness between 2 and 3 o’clock to go to the church with her; witness noticed her gown, bonnet, and shawl: should know these things if she saw them again: she often saw the clothes of the deceased, and knew her to have 3 bonnets, 8 gowns, 8 petticoats, and other articles; the deceased called witness to show her the shawl she wore on the day in question, when she bought it; she had another shawl, which was now in court; witness was looking at her clothes in the house, before the body was bought home; the deceased always kept the key of her trunk, in which she kept her clothes, in her own possession; she never would let the prisoner have it; this key was found in the prisoners box; witness found in the house all the gowns she had ever seen with the deceased, as well as the shawl she had been wearing on Palm Sunday; the latter was folded up in the box of the prisoner, with a silk handkerchief that she had worn to church. Witness missed nothing except a flannel petticoat and a blanket. Witness knew that deceased slept without sheets; witness knew that the deceased did not sleep with her husband: witness examined the floor of the room in which the deceased usually slept when she slept with her husband: she observed several spots of blood- one very large spot which appeared to have been wiped: there was enough of the colour remaining, however, to convince her that it was blood: this was about a foot from the end of the bed: there was blood in two or three places beside: there was a spot about the size of a pea, near the bed’s head, upon the wall: there was also a spot and a bit of a streak against the door-post and wall, about a foot from the ground. That door was close at the head of the stairs. It was plain blood. There was also a bloody place on the stairs, about half-way down, that appeared to have been wiped. The wall was white-washed, and the wash seemed to have been rubbed off. Saw the prisoner hanging out some clothes to dry on the Tuesday after the disappearance of the deceased. The shoes which the deceased wore to church were under the bed; and all the clothes which witness had ever seen her wear were found in the house. The marks of blood were very fresh.
Martha Evans lived with her father at the Buckholt at the time alluded to; was well aquainted with the deceased previous to the prisoner coming home; heard the deceased give the prisoner a great scolding on the morning of Palm Sunday; heard no other voice but hers; saw her at 6 o’clock the same evening going for a pitcher of water; she was then dressed as she had seen her going to church in the afternoon, with the exception of her shawl. Saw her again 10th April last, dead. Witness examined the house, and found all the clothes she had ever seen her wear, and especially those which she had seen her wear on Palm Sunday – her bonnets as well as her shawls. Witness examined the ticking of the bed in the inner room; it was very damp down the side, and rather redder where the dampness was than elsewhere; it appeared to have been spunged over. There was a shirt on the bed in the outer room, the sleeves and bosom were very damp; there was blood upon the gusset under the arm; the bosom and sleeves had been washed, and there were still marks of blood visible: the gusset had not been washed. Examined the room the next morning by daylight, and saw stains of blood on the wall, near the head of the bed, in the outer room. There were no curtains to the bed: on the posts of the banister, going down the stairs, she saw the marks of 3 bloody fingers.
Mr. Fairfax-Moresby was formerly a captain in the Navy. On the day the deceased was found he went to the cottage of the prisoner, and made some examinations. He returned the next morning, and renewed his observations. In the first chamber he saw various marks: only one was decisive. It was about 3 feet from the foot of the bed: it was about the circumference of a sixpence, with several smaller splashes about it; that he was of opinion was blood. There were other marks much larger. On the wall, going up, there was one very vivid mark of blood, about the size of a pea. It was a small spot of congealed blood, and had not been there above 24 hours. The whole of that face of the wall had clearly been whitewashed, and this spot seems to have been cast there by accident. On the door posts were streaks of blood. He should say on going into the house that it had the appearance of a mop dipped in blood having been dragged along. The floor was much trodden on by people who had gone up the night before. Saw a shirt, the sleeves and breast of which had been washed. There were stains on both sleeves and bosom. Saw a piece of rug that was shown to him. The marks of blood near the middle of the room had apparently been there some days.
Mr. Lorimer, and John Jones, sergeant of mace to the corporation of Monmouth, gave similar evidence.
Richard Price produced a shirt, which he saw picked up by John Roberts in the prisoners bed-room on 10th April. He also produced the piece of rug already described, a cap, and some cotton stockings. These he received from W. Combs, the beadle. He also had a gown, a shawl, a bonnet, and a pair of shoes, which he saw taken from the prisoners house; and a piece of ticking which Mr. Lorimer cut from the bed. – William Combs was at the prisoners house on the Friday, and found a pair of stockings in a box along with some damp linen. These stocking he gave the last witness. When he saw them, the lower part of the leg alone was damp. There were spots on those stockings.
Mr. Lorimer, Ann Evans, and other witnesses, on examining the articles, said they were the same which they had described in their testimony.
Mr. Moresby looked at the shirt; it was the same he saw on the bed; it was stained both on the sleeve and bosom.
Mr. Prosser, a surgeon, proved that the wound on the head was sufficient to cause death.
The case for the prosecution was here closed.
Mr. Justice PARK now asked the prisoner what he had to say in his defence. He put in a written paper, which was read. It was evidently written by the attorney of the prisoner – it had the prisoners mark to it, and was witnessed by the gaoler.
Mr. Justice PARK, in summing up, directed the attention of the Jury to the conduct of the prisoner when he was apprehended; instead of exhibiting those feelings of horror, which the discovery that was made to him, for the first time, might have been expected to excite, he seemed anxious alone to assert his own innocence; and to advert to those enquiries which he had been previously making respecting the deceased, and which he now seemed to think would operate as conclusive testimony that he could not have been the murderer.
The jury, after a few minutes’ consultation, returned a verdict of Guilty.
Mr. Justice PARK immediately proceeded to pass the dreadful sentence of the law in the most awful and impressive manner, pressing his approbation of the verdict of the jury, which he said was most righteous, as no person who had heard the long and painful inquiry in which they had been engaged could entertain a doubt of the prisoners guilt. The prisoner was ordered to be executed on Monday (yesterday).
Throughout the pathetic and impressive address of the judge he remained unmoved, except by an occasional inclination of his head. The Duke of Beaufort and Lord Somerset were upon the bench, and the court throughout was crowded to excess.
The trial lasted from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
The prisoner, it appears, during the 14 years he was absent from his wife, was a labourer in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and had amassed upwards of £300, which he had placed in the Worcestershire Bank, in the name if James Harris, which led to his being indicted in this name. the remainder of his property was worth about £800 more, which he assigned, previous to his trial, to his brother, his sister, and his son, a young man of good character, almost 20 years of age. He was extremely avaricious, and it is supposed his avarice induced him to preserve those evidences of his guilt which were found in his house. Had they been destroyed, his guilt would not have been so apparent.
Execution of James Harry
Staffordshire Advertiser Saturday, 30 August 1817
On Monday morning last this wretched man paid the forfeit of his existence at the gaol of Monmouth, in the presence of several thousand spectators, who by his fate were confirmed in the belief, that murder, however secretly it may be committed, and however cautiously the murderer may attempt to disguise his guilt, is sure to be brought to light at one period or another by the inscrutable ways of Providence.
No sooner was the unhappy culprit, to whom we are now alluding, convinced that he had no mode of escape in this world, than he sunk into a sullen apathy, and the whole of Saturday resisted every attempt to awaken his mind to a due sense of the dreadful situation in which he stood. His brother, his son, and his friends, were alike regarded as obtrusive, and were forbade his presence. Avarice, as we before stated, seemed to be his ruling passion, and the loss of the trifling property, in amassing which he had derived so much pleasure, seemed to have solely occupied his mind.
For a time, too, he expressed great indignation against his brother, whom he had asked to swear that the blood that was found in his cottage at Dixton, had come from his nose, to a bleeding from which, he wished him to say, he had been subject from his infancy. The brother, however, convinced of the falsehood of such a statement, resisted his entreaties, and this, as he supposed, sealed his fate.
From the first of his apprehension so much reliance did he place on the all powerful influence of money, and so confident was he that ‘Gold from law would take out the sting’, that he declared his confident expectation of escape; a confidence which was strengthened by the promise of some minor practitioner of the law, who assured him that for money he would procure witnesses to swear a clear and unquestionable alibi. When Mr. Stokes, the attorney, of Claremont, was called in to his aid, he unfolded the plan which had been suggested to him; but that gentleman, with those feelings of honour which are known to attach to his professional character, instantly deprecated so foul a scheme, and expressed, in becoming terms of indignation, his horror at the conduct of the man by whom it had been suggested. The prisoner at length placed himself entirely at the disposal of Mr. Stokes, and resolved to rest upon what he considered the self-evident proofs of his innocence, which his feigned anxiety for the loss of his wife had furnished. The verdict of the Jury, however, blasted his hopes, and in proportion to the belief which he cherished of certain acquittal, his condemnation produced a corresponding depression.
At length by the unremitting exertions of the chaplain of the gaol, his soul was awakened to a sense of futurity, and he was induced to confess his guilt. He admitted the justice of his sentence, and acknowledged the fact of his having murdered his hapless wife, under circumstances, however, he said, on her part, of great aggravation; a circumstance which is by no means improbable, from the temper with which it was known she was afflicted. It appeared from his statement that he killed her on the Sunday night by a blow on the temple with some heavy instrument, but not the stone produced on the trial; and that when her spirit had fled forever, he employed himself in clearing up those traces of the deed which her flowing blood produced. Having at length partially accomplished this work, he secreted the body under the bed, and in the garden buried some of those clothes with which he had been performing his terrific labours. Thus matters rested until the succeeding night, when he went forth to the Cross Wood side and there dug the grave in which he immediately deposited the remains of the deceased, hoping that by the course of conduct which he had adopted, he should avert suspicion, until he should be enabled to depart from a spot which his conscience now rendered peculiarly terrible. The all-seeing eye of God, however, had witnessed his crime, and by its detection brought him to that punishment in this world which is justly due to such an offence; and we have only to hope, by a sincere repentance he had averted the wrath of that dread Judge before whom he had yet to render an account of his misdeeds.
The place in which the murder was committed is extremely wild and picturesque; situated in the bosom of several lofty hills, and surrounded by wood, it affords ample food for visionary speculation, in which the few inhabitants of the county are but too much disposed to indulge. A strong degree of superstition seems still to prevail among these poor people, and even now scarce a lone cott is to be met, in the front of which may not be seen nailed a rude cross, which the occupant imagines is an invincible barrier against evil spirits. The cottage of Harry at the present remains closed, and as the storm occasionally rides through the Buckholt, a name derived from antiquity, in consequence of the place having been celebrated as a retreat for deer, the surrounding cottagers imagine they hear the dying groans of its late inmate borne thro’ the troubled atmosphere.