Whilst looking through local newspapers from the nineteenth century, PhD student Grant Collier from the University of Manchester has discovered the dark side of Styal. You might be surprised by what he found…
‘Strange dog’ spreads ‘a most lamentable case of Hydrophobia’
According to an edition of the Berkshire Chronicle, printed in December 1827, the bite of a ‘strange dog’ caused chaos in Styal. John Murray, a mechanic who worked for Samuel Greg, attended a public house in Styal and allowed this dog to sit on his lap for the evening. The dog gave him a friendly nip on the finger during their acquaintance, but John took no notice.
The very next day John woke up to an aching arm and a general feeling of unease. Placing his hand in a basin of water to soothe it, John felt panic stricken, and in total agony declaring that it was ‘as if his intestines were quitting his body’. John was diagnosed with ‘hydrophobia’, a terrible disease that is rarely seen in the modern developed world, where it is better known by its modern name – rabies! This ‘strange dog’ had passed the rabies virus to John through the tip of his finger and having fallen into a mad rage, the man was dead within 48 hours!
The very same dog went on to bite another fellow named Mr Travis who, like John thought nothing of it, but took it upon himself to ‘kick the little animal’s brains out’. Mr Travis went on to cauterise his wound, although whether this was effective at preventing the disease remains unknown. We hope Mr Travis did not suffer the awful fate of the unfortunate John Murray!
Brutal Murder at Styal
On 9th July, 1842, Manchester Times and Gazette reported the inquest into the ‘brutal and inhumane’ murder of a Henry Lockett of Styal Village.
Henry Lockett was a ‘blower tenter’ at Quarry Bank, someone who tended to the machines that cleaned cotton before spinning and weaving. On the 4th of July Henry walked to a pub in Wilmslow in order to join the society of ‘Foresters.’ The Ancient Order of Foresters was a ‘friendly society’ set up in 1834 that a charged membership fee in return for payments if the member was sick and unable to work. Having attended the annual meeting of the local branch in Wilmslow, he returned home in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately, Henry Lockett never completed the roughly 40 minute walk home from his meeting, and at 2am he was found dead by a traveller on the road with marks on his neck and a head wound.
He was seen leaving the public house with two men – Samuel Lowe who worked as a bricklayer and Horatio Walsh, a factory operative – both of whom became immediate suspects. Horatio was taken into custody to be questioned, but when the police went to arrest Samuel they found that he had left town that very morning – quite the suspicious move!
Nightingale and Moores, surgeons of Wilmslow, came to the conclusion that death had been caused by strangulation. Though they found that the fracture of the skull was severe enough that it would most probably have ultimately caused death, had it not been effected by strangulation. The jury, after a lengthy investigation, returned a verdict of ‘Wilful Murder’.
But who did it? Was it the factory operative? Or was the powerful head wound perhaps inflicted by the hands of a bricklayer?
I’m afraid I don’t have the answer but will continue to search the local papers for the verdict.
In the meantime… who do you suspect?
Later this year, No. 13 Oak Cottages in Styal Village will be open to visitors. Keep up with developments here https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/quarry-bank/features/explore-a-mill-workers-cottage