Follow us on Twitter

The Murder Stone

The Manchester Mercury (published Tuesday)
22 July 1823
Highway Robbery and Murder.

On Wednesday last, about seven o'clock, Mr William Wood, of Eyam, Derbyshire, was discovered robbed and murdered by the road side, between Disley and Whaley-bridge, on his return from Manchester Tuesday's market. This atrocious murder, there is every reason to suppose, was committed by three men, dressed in sailor's clothes, who were observed to follow him through Disley, up the old road, both parties having, it appears, previously met by accident at a public-house, in How-lane.

Mr Wood, having refreshed himself, (being on foot,) left the house, and was followed in about ten minutes by the three men, who taking the same road, came up with him within a short distance of Whaley, where he was found his pockets turned inside out, and his head beaten in the most dreadful manner possible. The villains, not content with using their own bludgeons, had even taken the stones from the wall, and used them for their hellish purpose; as a large basket-full have been picked up and removed along with the body to the Cock Inn, for the decision of the Coroner's Jury.
(Macclesfield Courier.)

On Thursday morning, three young men, two rather shabbily dressed, and the third in a new fustian jacket and trowsers, came into this town (Macclesfield) and went to the Golden Lion public-house. The youngest of the three then proceeded to Mr. Burgess's in Chestergate and purchased three complete suits of cloathes, he also bought shoes &c. from Mr. Wainwright, in the same street, and then returned to his companions, who stated they were related to Mr. David Browne, and wished to change their cloathes before they saw him. Having done so, they had some beef steaks, &c. and left the house, one of them leaving his old cloathes behind him.

The youngest of the three then went into Chestergate, and offered the remainder of the old things to two lads carrying in coals for Mr. Wainwright, who accepted of them: they then proceeded by the Telegraph coach to Manchester. Shortly afterwards intelligence of the murder having reached Macclesfield, a suspicion arose that these three fellows had been concerned in the deed, and upon examining their old cloathes, they were found much stained with blood.

Mr. Frost, the constable, immediately proceeded to Manchester by the Mail. We have seen the cloathes of these men, they are much smeared with dirt (evidently from a lime road,) to conceal the blood on them, which in many places is very visible in the inside, and we have not the smallest doubt that the owners of them are the perpetrators of the bloody deed.
(Macclesfield Courier.)

In addition to the above we have to state, that on Thursday afternoon, about six o'clock, the three fellows against whom there is so strong a presumption of their having perpetrated the horrid deed, proceeded to the Greyhounds public-house, in Oak-street in this town, and called for some liquor. The landlord observing that the same persons had been at his house the day before, and presenting a very different appearance, being cloathed from head to foot with altogether new cloathes, and having plenty of money in their pockets, a suspicion was awakened in his mind that the men had committed some robbery, and he immediately dispatched his son to the Police-office, from whence, after communicating the intelligence, two Officers accompanied him to the house, but unfortunately before they got there two of them had left; the third was, however, luckily taken into custody, who, having first given information of some consequence upon the subject, was conveyed to the New Bailey Prison. Intelligent search was made in all directions during the night in quest of the other two, but without success.

On Friday morning, they were seen drinking with some women at the Coach and Horses public-house, in St. George's-road, and the landlord being struck with their appearance, sent to the Police-office, where Officers were immediately forwarded, but before they had reached the house they were suffered to leave, and were observed to proceed rather hastily over the fields which led into Oldham. And, since which time we are sorry to learn no trace whatever has been discovered of them.

We cannot help thinking that if Mr. Frost, the constable from Macclesfield, had immediately on his arrival here communicated with Mr. Lavender, at our Police-office, where he might have expected much important assistance, the result would have been far more satisfactory; instead of which he arrived by the Mail, and without giving any information whatever, stopped about an hour in town, and then returned home.
Manchester Mercury

29 July 1823

Inquest on Mr Wood, of Eyam.

On Saturday week, an Inquest was held at the house of Mr Sykes, the Cock Inn, Whaley, before John Hollins, Esq., Coroner, and a respectable Jury, on the body of this unfortunate man, who, as we stated in our last, was found barbarously murdered, at a place called Longside, on the old road from Disley to Whaley-Bridge, on the previous Wednesday evening, about half-past seven, on his return from Manchester Tuesday's market, whither he had attended as a cotton manufacturer, and had received, as near as can be ascertained, £100, no part of which was found upon him. The Jury and witnesses proceeded to view the body, which presented a horrid spectacle the face and head being savagely mutilated, and covered with gore. On the head were ten wounds, inflicted by some blunt instrument, many of a mortal kind, but the one which apparently produced death, was on the back of the head, by which the skull was severely fractured, and a part of it forced into the brain.

The following examinations were taken:

John Johnson, of Disley, stonemason, sworn.
“I live near the Bull's Head Inn, on the old road between Disley and Whaley, about half a mile from the place where the body was found. About seven o'clock last Wednesday evening, I saw two young men going towards Whaley; and behind them (at about 18 or 20 yards distance) the deceased and another man, going the same way; the first two had dark coloured coats on, were below the middle size, and appeared about 18 or 19 years of age; the man with the deceased, had a light-coloured coat, a jacket, and trowsers of the same colour; he was taller than the other two. They were all going towards the place where the deceased was found”.

Joseph Hadfield, of Disley, sworn.
“I live on the side of the old road between Disley and Whaley. On Wednesday evening last, about seven o'clock, I was standing at my door, and observed the deceased walk by, towards Whaley, with an umbrella in his right hand and a bundle or basket, on his left arm; about two or three minutes afterwards, I saw three young men walking after him; I cannot recollect their dress. The distance from my house to the place where the body was found, is about a quarter of a mile, and they were all going in that direction”.

Edmund Pott, of Kettleshulme, labourer, sworn.

“On Wednesday evening last, I was returning back from Stockport with my cart and horses. I returned along the old road from Disley to Whaley. When I came opposite to William Goodwin's house (which is about a quarter of a mile from the road,) I saw the body of the deceased, lying by the lower side of the road, quite dead, but warm; the blood then still flowing from the head. He could not have been dead many minutes. It was then about eight o'clock. The head was very ill cut, and very bloody. Several stones lay at the back of the head, and they were very bloody. I lifted the body up, and brought it in my cart to the Cock Inn, in Whaley. Blood ran from the body in the cart”.

(The stones were produced; they were pieces of rock stone, were all very bloody, with hair still sticking to them; one was of an oblong shape, and had the appearance of bloody finger marks at one end.) John Mellor, who was with the last witness, confirmed his testimony.
Thomas Etchells, of Whaley, sworn.
“About half-past seven, or twenty minutes before eight (as near as I can judge,) last Wednesday evening, I was
coming very slowly along the old road from Whaley to Disley, when I saw three men running along the road towards Whaley. When they came within about forty yards of me, they ceased running, and walked; one of them asked me, how far it was to Chapel-en-le-Frith. I replied "four miles." One of them said "thank you Sir." As soon as they passed me, they ran again, and continued to run till I ceased to look after them. One of the men was a little taller than the other two; he wore a jean jacket, and had trowsers of the same. On his left arm, between the shoulder and the elbow, I saw a mark four or five inches long, the colour of blood. The other two were rather lower than the other, and of about the same size of each other; they had darkish coats, and one had lightish coloured trowsers, narrow stripe; they were all very young men. The place where I first saw these men is about half a mile from the place where the deceased was found; and they were running in a direction from that place”.

John Johnson, of Whaley, wheelwright, sworn.
“On Wednesday evening last, about eight o'clock, I was standing at the side of the Smithy, at Whaley, opposite the end of the old road from Disley. I saw three men running down that road towards me. I concluded they were running a race. They ran about a quarter of a mile in my sight; and ceased to run when they got near the Whaley Toll-gate. They went along the road towards Buxton. Two of the men were about five feet seven or eight inches high, had dark coloured coats; I took them to be blue, I cannot say whether they had trowsers or not. The other man was about two or three inches taller, had on a light coloured jacket, like jean; and trowsers of the same colour, with a white apron round his waist. He was thin. They all appeared about twenty years of age”.

William Beard, of Disley, labourer, confirmed the last witness.

Henry Scott, toll bar keeper, at Whaley, sworn.
“On Wednesday evening last, between seven and eight o'clock, I saw three young men after they had passed a few yards through the bar; they were walking quick, along the road towards Buxton. They were of a moderate size, but I cannot say whether one was taller than the other. One had a jacket and trowsers on, both light coloured; and he was without stockings. On the leg of his trowsers, towards the bottom, I saw blood, as well as upon his leg below the trowsers. The coats of the other two, were dark coloured”.

William Wright, of Disley, surgeon, sworn. “I have examined the body of the deceased and find ten wounds on the head--three on the forehead, and seven at the back. They are made by some blunt instrument. One blow on the back of the head, has fractured the skull in three directions; the one an inch and a half long, and the others rather less; part of the skull is forced into the brain. This wound is calculated to produce instant death. The four stones now produced, or any of them, would inflict such wounds as those I have found upon the deceased”.

No other evidence appearing to identify the murderers, the Jury returned a verdict of wilful murder, against some person or persons unknown. We are informed that several benevolent and well-disposed individuals, in consideration of the deep distress and poverty which the widow and an orphan child have been thrown into by the loss of a good husband and kind father, who had industriously and anxiously endeavoured to maintain his family comfortably and respectably, are soliciting subscriptions from the charitable and kind hearted; and the smallest donation, if left at our Office, will be transferred to the Rev. Gentleman of Eyam, who has kindly undertaken to become the treasurer for the disconsolate widow and helpless orphan.  
Closing Speeches

Mr Law : Your lordship forgets that he is not identified until he comes to Macclesfield.
I do not lose sight of it. You must consider whether he was with these men at the time--whether the money which he paid was part of that which belonged to the deceased. With respect to what the prisoner had said by way of accounting for his absence at the commission of the crime, you will compare his statement with that of the witnesses. He says that he was in a public-house, where he waited for them. This is an evident falsehood.

If there were such a public-house where he says he waited so long, and to which he says Taylor and Platt came up to him, somebody might have been called. There must have been someone who would know him. Why was not the landlord or some person belonging to the house brought to prove this most important fact? It is for you to decide on the credulity and consistency of his statement. We find that he had a great proportion of the money himself. We have him running and stopping, and running with these two men again.

The money which has been traced to him is clearly the money that belonged to Wood. He who was guilty of the robbery was also undoubtedly guilty of the murder. How came this man in possession of the money? The very existence of the public-house itself has not been proved, which if his statement can be taken, might easily be done. If he were present at the robbery, then he is guilty of the murder. The evidence which has been adduced in his behalf is only to character, but where the facts of a case are so distinct as to be conclusive of guilt, evidence of this nature neither can or ought to be of avail; and with respect to such evidence, you must consider that contrariety of opinion may exist. It is merely a matter of opinion opposed to decisive facts.     

Taking all the circumstances of the case together, you will weigh them in your minds, and according to your judgment you will pronounce whether in your opinion the prisoner be guilty of the crime alleged against him or not. After a consultation of about two minutes' duration, the jury returned a verdict of "Guilty."

The prisoner heard the awful decision without any apparent emotion; and shortly afterwards a glass of water or lemonade was brought, which he drank off at a draught. During the trial he now and then ate something which he took from his jacket pocket. He wore what the witness termed a round pillow fustian jacket (a waistcoat with sleeves) and a yellow waistcoat.

Manchester Mercury

2 September 1823

As soon as the Clerk for the Crown had recorded the verdict, Mr Jones moved an arrest of judgment, on account of certain flaws in the indictment.

These objections were argued with great ability and at considerable length by Mr Jones and Mr Law, counsel for the prisoner on one side, and by Mr Hill, Attorney-General and Mr Park, for the prosecution on the other. The judges fixed Wednesday for deciding upon the argument.
Macclesfield Courier, Stockport Express and Cheshire General Advertiser.

24 April 1824

Sentence of death on Joseph Dale.
The Judges took their seats precisely at eight o'clock, and immediately the prisoner was placed at the bar to receive the judgement of the Court. He is a young man, apparently about eighteen years of age, and has evidently been suffering much illness since his imprisonment. He was borne into the Court by the Governor of the gaol, and was so weak and tottering, as to make it necessary to support him the whole of the time the Judge was addressing him.

A solemn silence having prevailed, Mr Justice warren addressed the prisoner in nearly the following words: "Joseph Dale, you were tried at the last Assizes on an indictment charging you, together with John Platt and Charles Taylor, with the wilful murder of William Wood on the 16th July, 1823, at Whaley, by casting stones on his head, by which he was so dreadfully wounded as to occasion his death.

At the time you were tried, Platt was not taken into custody, and another of your associates, named Charles Taylor, who was apprehended, destroyed himself in prison before he was brought into Court. You were, therefore, the only person tried, and after a minute and painful investigation of many hours, the Jury found you guilty of the crime with which you were charged.

Upon your guilt being established, the Court were about to pass that awful sentence on you which the law had said that persons convicted of the high crime of murder should suffer when your Counsel submitted, in arrest of judgement, that the indictment had not stated, with sufficient legal accuracy, the precise
manner in which the murder had been committed.  The Court considering that the life of a fellow creature depended on the objection, thought proper to submit the point of law to the judgement of a higher authority, and having made a communication to the proper quarter, the opinion of twelve Judges had been obtained, which opinion was, that there was no validity in the objection, and that the indictment was good. You are now, therefore, brought up to be informed of that decision, and to receive the sentence of the law.

The learned Judge who assisted me on that trial is now no more, but it is, perhaps, correct that you should know that he was fully persuaded by the Jury, as men of sense and honour, and could return no other verdict that than that which they had done.

The Learned Judge who now sits with me has also most minutely and attentively read over the depositions and evidence which were brought forward on your trial, and he concurs in the opinion that no other verdict could with justice be found.

It appears that the barbarous murder was perpetrated by beating the unfortunate Mr Wood's head with stones, taken either from the ground, or from a wall made of loose stones, near which the unhappy man was attacked. Some of those Stones were produced in Court, clotted with blood, and having still the hair of the deceased sticking about them, and the whole circumstances developed in the course of the evidence marked as being, perhaps, the most horrible murder that was ever committed.  A short time before the murder was effected you were seen with your two companions, in the company of the deceased, and soon after you were seen running from the spot where the foul deed had been done, and
traced to your retreat, and there you were taken with some of the property of the murdered man in your possession: for it appears that you had in view the double crime of murder and robbery.

You and your companions were also proved to have purchased clothes in Macclesfield with part of the money you had taken from the deceased's pockets; and as a further confirmation of the evidence, you prevaricated so much in the statements you made, as to make it impossible not to believe you were guilty of the crime you were charged with. It is a painful and most lamentable thing to observe a young man of your early life thus broken from your present existence, through you having associated with the most abandoned characters; and your unhappy and disgraceful fate, will, it is hoped, be a warning to all young men to take care of the company they fall into.
The last advice that can be given to you is seriously to prepare yourself for your transit to another world, for no hopes of mercy can be given you in this. A Clergyman will attend you to give you that spiritual assistance which your unfortunate situation requires. In this world your hopes are closed, and on Wednesday next your mortal existence must end”.

The Judge then, in the solemn words of the law, sentenced him to be hung on Wednesday, and his body to be given over to the surgeons for dissection.

When the concluding words of "the Lord have mercy on your soul" were pronounced, the prisoner looked fervently up to Heaven, and in a trembling voice said “Amen”.  
Macclesfield Courier, Stockport Express and Cheshire General Advertiser.

24 April 1824

Execution of Dale.

On Wednesday morning at about five o'clock this unfortunate young man was delivered up by the Sheriff of the County to the Sheriffs of the City, to be executed according to his sentence.

During the previous night he enjoyed sound repose for about an hour and a half--Mr Keeling sat up with him. Before he slept he was particularly anxious to be awake again at three o'clock "because you know" said he to Mr Keeling "we should devote as much as possible of our time to devotion."

Early as was his removal from the County gaol to the city, many persons were there to witness his transit, and with as many as came within his reach he cordially shook hands, bidding them an affectionate farewell. He did not appear so badly in health as was generally expected.
Arrival at the city gaol, the whole morning was spent in conversation and devotional exercises with Mr Keeling, in which Dale gave Mr Keeling, well grounded assurances of his hope in death, and expressed his surprise that death could be met with so much happiness as he then felt in its contemplation. As the time for the execution began to approach, Dale expressed an anxiety almost amounting to impatience for the arrival of the officers, and as soon they arrived he begged to be immediately led out to the place of execution, which request was complied with, by which means the execution was over earlier than usual, notwithstanding which a great crowd of spectators was present.

According to the declaration of Dale made at a time when he could have no earthly motive for concealing the truth or uttering a falsehood, he was not the actual murderer of Mr Wood.

He says that he had little or no previous acquaintance with the two men he met with on the road, Taylor and Platt, (the latter name he says should be Pratt, a person who was discharged from the Castle of Chester only a few days before,) and he believes that when they overtook Mr Wood, none of them contemplated murder, and if robbery was contemplated by the others it was unknown to him. When he saw them use Wood roughly, he begged of them to desist, and was answered by a threat, that they would serve him in the same way. He then attempted to leave them but was threatened again, and by threats and ridicule was induced to remain in their company, partake of their booty, and be, as it appeared upon the trial, their servant. The sum of four shillings and sixpence is all the other two allowed him of the spoil. He says he was not aware that Wood was killed for some time after. Wood had engaged him as a workman.
11 April 1874

Disley : Memorial stone of a murder

The ceremony of uncovering an indication stone, got up by subscription, in memory of the murder at Higher Disley, of a man named William Wood, some 57 years ago, took place last Saturday, in the presence of a large assemblage of persons who had gathered to witness the event. The place near the spot is called Longside, situated in the higher parts of Disley township. After the stone had been uncovered, Mr W.T. Moore ascended it, and proper audience being given, he remarked that he was sorry that no one had come forward to take his position. He felt but too keenly his inability to do justice to the subject ; however, they must take the will for the dead.

It was not for him to explain what was their object, or the purpose of their being present that day, as they were all aware of that. He would only simply state the facts how the stone came to be erected. A few gentlemen opened a subscription, which was so nobly responded to that the matter was taken in hand and all completed within four weeks. Many opinions had been expressed on the course taken, but he could hurl back the imputations cast upon the committee respecting their object and motives in the erection of that stone.

To his mind there were many which might be advanced, and with justice and right considered worthy of it. One was its being made a terror to evildoers. Strangers, when viewing such an object in the landscape of nature, would naturally have their thoughts diverted perhaps from viewing nature up to Nature’s God. That stone would also remind them of the importance of being prepared to meet Him, “for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” Little would William Wood have thought when he left his home and little family behind him in the morning, that he would never see them again. Such was the uncertainty of life that they could not be too often or in too many places of the fact, and be prepared to meet their god.

Those were the sincere motives which prompted the gentlemen contributing to place that stone which he stood upon. Stone after stone had been put on the wall, but often destroyed or removed, and wrong dates put on, leading the traveller or visitor wrong about the time the deed was committed. This stone, he believed, would put all right on that point, and he hoped would answer the good intentions of the committee. He trusted that when their names were written in the dust, there would still arise a strong feeling to protect it as there had been that day, as they all knew its purpose ; and as it was public property, so it required public attention. A collection, which realised a handsome sum, was made, and the surplus will be devoted to repair the village fountain.
Glossopdale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter

Disley : The Indication Stone

A vast number of persons from all quarters have visited the spot where the man, Wood, was murdered, now pointed out at Longside, Higher Disley, by an indication stone.

High Peak News

25 Jul 1874

Scholars’ Visit to Longside.

On Sunday afternoon last the scholars, teachers and friends connected with the Wesleyan Sunday School, at Whaley Bridge, went in a body to Wood’s memorial stone, Longside, Higher Disley, where they were joined by the scholars from Kettleshulme Wesleyan Schools, making up about 700 persons. Addresses were given by the Rev. Chas. Heap, Mr Sparkes, and others. The proceedings were very quiet and orderly throughout.
The Murder Stone
Mr Wood is a married man, about 30 years of age, and has a family of three children; and there is too much reason to fear, the murderers have had a considerable booty, as he received a large sum in Manchester, though he had paid several accounts on the day of the murder, one to a gentleman in Stockport. We had forgotten to state, that the unfortunate man, when found, was buried under the stones of the wall, which they had pulled upon him to conceal him. No trace has yet been made of the assassins, though they were observed to take the road leading to Buxton.  
Manchester Mercury

29 July 1823

Self destruction of one of the Murderers!!

Charles Tayor, the person apprehended at the Greyhounds public-house, was discovered about one o'clock on Friday afternoon, by Mr Evans, the turnkey, at the New Bailey, suspended on the stove-pipe, which crosses the room where he was confined.

The wretched murderer, it appears, had tied his stockings together, and with the assistance of his gaiters, was enabled to make them sufficient for the fatal purpose. He was not quite dead when found, but had so far effected his fatal purpose, that he had not been able to speak since, and he died on Sunday morning, about three o'clock.

He was a native of Salford and has lived for some time in Oldfield Road, is 17 years of age, and has been twice convicted of felony. The other characters are equally young and have but a short time since left the New Bailey; they are so well known that they cannot with any degree of probability remain long at liberty.

Last night, an Inquest was held before John Milne, Esq. Coroner, at the Dangerous Corner public-house, Long Millgate, and a verdict returned of "," the Coroner therefore issued his precept, to dispose of the body agreeable to the new Act of Parliament, which will be found in another part of this Paper .
Manchester Mercury

5 August 1823

The late Mr Wood, of Eyam.

On Sunday week, after a short notice given in the Sunday Schools of Disley, and the neighbouring places, an excellent and appropriate sermon was delivered by the Rev. Luke Barlow, of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, of New Mills, on the spot where the unfortunate Mr Wood, of Eyam, was so barbarously and inhumanly put to death, from the very suitable text, "Be ye also ready; for in such and hour as ye think not, the son of Man cometh." Matt. c.24 v.44.

The scholars belonging to the Disley and Furness Sunday Schools, met at the place about five o'clock in the evening; and their admirable and exemplary behaviour on this memorable occasion, justly entitles them to their well-earned praise.

It is calculated that there were not less than 2,000 persons present. After the sermon, a collection was made for the widow of this unfortunate man, amounting to the sum of £4 10s. 4d. a handsome sum, considering the class of the population of the neighbourhood.
Manchester Mercury

12 August 1823

Late Murder of Mr Wood, near Disley.

We are happy to inform our Readers, that another of the miscreants, (Joseph Dale), supposed to be concerned in this cruel and barbarous murder, has been apprehended at Liverpool.

It appears he had attempted to enlist, and was taken on board the Mary, of Great Yarmouth, lying in the Salthouse Dock, by the active and laudable exertions of Serjeant-Major Eyre, of the recruiting staff at Liverpool. On Friday, Mr Lavender, our worthy Deputy-Constable, went over, and on Saturday returned with his prisoner, and lodged him in our New Bailey Prison.

Yesterday he was removed to Whaley, where he will undergo an examination before a Magistrate of that district, and from thence be conveyed to Chester Castle, to take his trial. Platt, the other accomplice, has not yet been taken.
It is worthy of notice that Charles Taylor, who assisted in the murder of Mr Wood, and afterwards hung himself in the New Bailey, Manchester, on the 18th ult. as mentioned in our last, had been confined in Chester Castle, six months for felony, and was only liberated the day before the horrid murder was committed. Whilst under confinement he was thought by some of the discriminating part of his fellow-prisoners, to be a very evil-disposed youth.