Emily Littlewood (1876-1892)

Emily Littlewood lived in Honley and was murdered by her father in 1892.


She was born on 26 May 1876, the daughter of sizing manufacturer Wright Charlesworth Littlewood and his wife Helen, and was baptised on 23 July 1876 at St. Mary's Church, Honley.

The 1891 Census listed the family residing on Hawthorn Terrace, Thirstin, Honley.

Emily suffered from epileptic fits and "was never allowed to leave the house alone". It was also reported that she walked in a peculiar manner and was of a "weak intellect".

Emily's Murder

Yorkshire Evening Post (11/Oct/1892)

On Monday 10 October 1892, Helen Littlewood heard her daughter screaming from upstairs and rushed up the stairs to see what had happened. In a bedroom, she found her husband attempting to cut his own throat. Lying on the bed nearby was Emily — her throat had been cut so deeply that her "head was almost severed from the body".[1]

Messages were quickly sent to Dr. Thomas Smailes and to the local police station. Smailes attended to Wright's self-inflicted injury, whilst Police Sergeant Anthony and Police Constable Marshall examined the murder scene. When the policemen then confronted Wright, he asked them "Have you come to fetch me? I'm quite ready to go — I've done it." The prisoner was then escorted to Wakefield Prison.

An inquest was held at 3pm on 11 October in Honley, where it was stated the prisoner "had been drinking heavily of late." The murder weapon was reportedly an "ordinary carving knife" with a nine inch blade and Dr. Smailes stated that Emily's injuries were not "inflicted by one straight clear cut, but by the knife being drawn across the throat two or three times." The doctor also reported that he had examined Emily's brain and found a softening in the left lobe which might have explained her difficulty walking. He was also of the opinion that the softening would have worsened over time and likely have led to Emily being institutionalised.

It was also noted that the prisoner's father had committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train, and that insanity may therefore have been hereditary.

Emily was buried on 13 October 1892 at St. Mary's in Honley. A large number of locals lined the route to the cemetery to pay their respects and the service was conducted by the Rev. E. Lionel Walsh, the Vicar of Honley.[2]

The Trial

Yorkshire Evening Post (18/Oct/1892)

Wright Charlesworth Littlewood was brought in front of the magistrates at Huddersfield on 18 October. It was reported that he had been drinking heavily in the week leading up to the murder and eating little. After hearing evidence, the prisoner was committed to trial at the next assizes.[3]

Wright was tried at Leeds Assizes on 12 December 1892. When charged, he initially pleaded "guilty" but then immediately changed his plea to "not guilty." His defence lawyer claimed that Wright had been "carried away by some monstrous impulse, determined to destroy the life of his own child" to whom he had previously only ever shown the "tenderest solicitude." It was stated the prisoner "from time to time" indulged in "prolonged and continued" drinking bouts.[4]

Dr. W. Bevan Lewis, the medical supervisor at Wakefield Prison, testified that he thought the murder had been committed during a "melancholic frenzy" brought about by alcohol and a "congestion [of blood] on the brain" which had been relieved by the blood loss when the prisoner cut his own throat.

The jury found the Wright guilty, but added "that at the time of the murder [he] was not in his right mind":[5]

The Grand Jury having returned a true Bill of Indictment for wilful murder and the Petty Jury having found that the accused was guilty of the Act changed against him but was insane at the time he committed the Act. Ordered that he be detained in strict custody until Her Majesty's pleasure shall be known respecting him.

Wright was admitted to Broadmoor on 19 December 1892. He was later transferred to Rampton on 31 October 1912. He appears to have been released from Rampton on 27 September 1915 and died in 1918 in London, aged 70.[6]

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "The Honley Murder" in Yorkshire Evening Post (11/Oct/1892).
  2. "The Honley Tragedy: Funeral of the Victim" in Yorkshire Evening Post (13/Oct/1892).
  3. "The Honley Murder" in Yorkshire Evening Post (18/Oct/1892).
  4. "The Honley Murder" in Yorkshire Evening Post (12/Dec/1892).
  5. Ancestry: England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892
  6. Ancestry: UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912