Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Jan/1892) - The Linthwaite Murder

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.




At eight o'clock on Tuesday morning James Stockwell (32), farm labourer, paid the full penalty of the law at Armley Gaol, for the murder, on August 21st, of Catherine Dennis, 16 years old, a servant girl, at the Ivy Hotel Linthwaite. Since his conviction Stockwell has been most earnest and attentive to the chaplain. He always slept and eat well, and had breakfast as usual this morning. Stockwell was hanged on the permanent scaffold, Billington being the executioner. He walked firmly to the scaffold, and death appeared to be almost instantaneous. A drop of eight feet was given. The condemned man had a final interview with his friends on Monday, and before his execution made a full confession of his guilt to the chaplain.

Another account states :— The execution was carried out privately, the High Sheriff having decided that no reporters should be admitted, and the first intimation that the death sentence had been carried into effect was the hoisting of the black flag, which was witnessed by a small crowd of persons. On being told by the chaplain that he would have to suffer the extreme penalty of the law he was somewhat overcome, having hoped that the plea that insanity existed in the family would save him from the gallows ; but, speedily recovering himself, he said that he was prepared to die, and that he was drunk when he killed the girl. Subsequently to this he paid great attention to the chaplain's ministrations, and on Sunday attended service in the prison chapel He also wrote letters to his relatives cautioning them against the evils of drink. The chaplain (the Rev. Dr. Bolan) went to Stockwell's cell at six o'clock on Tuesday morning. Shortly before eight Billington entered the cell and pinioned the culprit. He then led him to the corridor, whence the procession started for the scaffold. Stockwell walked with a firm step and took his place on the trap door, the chaplain meanwhile reading the burial service. In a few moments the bolt was drawn and all was over. Death was instantaneous.


At 10 o'clock the jury were sworn before the borough coroner (Mr. J.C. Malcolm).

Mr. Malcolm said he thought it was hardly necessary to explain the painful duty the jury had to perform. They had first to satisfy themselves that the deceased person was the man sentenced to death ; and, secondly, to find that the sentence of the law had been duly carried out.

The jury then viewed the body, and, on their return,

Major Lane was called, and, in answer to the Coroner, said he was the governor of the prison.

Mr. Malcolm — Is the body now viewed the body of James Stockwell ? — It is.

What age ? — Thirty-two.

A farm labourer ? — A farm labourer, and married.

When was he first placed in your custody ? — On December 8th, 1891, from the Wakefield Prison

On a commitment, charged with wilful murder ? Yes.

Were you present at the trial at the last assizes held in Leeds ? I was.

Was he then tried for the murder of Catherine Dennis ? — Yes. He was convicted and sentenced to be hanged.

Has he remained in your custody till this morning ? — He has.

Then you handed him over to the Sheriff ? — I did.

Did you see the sentence carried out ? — I did.

Mr. E. Gray (the Under-Sheriff) was then sworn.

The Coroner — Were you present at the trial of the deceased ? — I was.

Is he the same person then found guilty and sentenced to be hanged ? — Yes.

Did you receive the person of the deceased from the Governor this morning ? — I did.

At eight o'clock? — Yes.

Did you cause the sentence to be duly carried out ? — I did.

Dr Hargreaves (the medical officer of the gaol)

Mr. Malcolm — Were you present when the execution was carried out ? — I was.

Was death instantaneous? — Instantaneous.

And by hanging? — By hanging.

What was the immediate cause ? — Dislocation, and fracture of the neck.

As a matter of satisfaction, Doctor, this death was instantaneous and there would be no pain whatever ? — No.

Mr. Malcolm then read the statute, and the jury returned a verdict of "Death by hanging."


My dear Father and Mother, Brothers, and Sister,

I write this short letter to you in the hope that you will bear your troubles which have so greatly distressed you of late. I was very pleased to see you all to-day, although I felt greatly troubled at the time. Many a prayer have I offered to God both on behalf of you and myself. Has He not said, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ?" I leave with you my most affectionate love to mv dear mother. May God have mercy on her, and if it be His will, return to her her health and strength again. Grant, Oh Lord, Thy protection and mercy to all those from whom I am about to be separated in this world, especially to my father, mother, sister, and brother, and graciously supply all their needs. Comfort and support them in all their troubles. Deliver them from all temptation, and bring them to everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Remember me kindly to Abraham Lassey and Joe Sharp. So now I will bid you all a loving and affectionate farewell, hoping to met you all hereafter.

From your affectionate son and brother,

James Stockwell

P.S. — God Bless you all.



The following official communication was handed by Major Lane to the press representatives shortly after eight o'clock :—

H. M. Prison, Leeds, 5-1-1892.

Since his conviction Stockwell has been most earnest and attentive to the chaplain.

He always slept and ate well, and had his breakfast as usual this morning.

He was hanged in the same place that Turner was, and on the permanent gallows, which worked all right. Billington was the executioner, and he gave him a drop of 8ft. 6in.

Death appeared to be almost instantaneous, and all was carried out in an orderly and regular manner.

He was visited yesterday by his father, brothers, and sisters.

He has admitted his guilt to the chaplain.



Since receiving the news that the Home Secretary had refused to grant a reprieve for Stockwell, the culprit appeared to resign himself entirely to his fate. He attended service in the Prison Chapel on Sunday, and occupied a stall in the gallery, which was so draped in calico as to hide the condemned man from the view of the other prisoners attending the service. He made no statement with reference to the crime, and at his request he had a final interview with his relations on Monday afternoon. His father, Mark Stockwell his two brothers, John and Samuel, and his sister Ada were all present, in addition to his two married sisters and their husbands. The little party of eight were admitted to the prison soon after one o'clock, and were permitted to remain with Stockwell for an hour and a half. Stockwell seemed pleased to see his friends, but he maintained the calm and impassive demeanour that has distinguished him from the outset, He conversed freely with his friends, and the interview was not of a very painful character. No direct allusion was made to the murder, although of course it was more or less present in the minds of all, but Stockwell occasionally let fall an expression which obviously referred to the day of the crime, and from which it was seen that he wished his friends to believe that, through drink he did not know what he was doing. He hinted that he had not the slightest recollection of killing the poor girl. He did not mention her name, "Kate Dennis," throughout the interview. Indeed the conversation was mainly of a desultory character, and scarcely any feeling was betrayed either on the side of the doomed man or on that of the relations, who were taking their last farewell of him. As they left, there were some murmured exhortations to him to keep up his courage, to which Stockwell responded with a faint smile.


Mrs. Stockwell, who was still in bed on Monday, had not received any further communication from the prisoner. Her letter to him was a short, affectionate farewell, addressed to "Dear Jim." She told him how troubled she was at the fate which was impending, but expressed a hope that a reprieve might come. She asked him to prepare to meet his God. She added that she would try to bring up their son Harry in the fear of the Lord. She then bade him an affectionate farewell, and signed herself his "affectionate wife, Sarah Ann." The hope that a reprieve would be sent was cherished by the family of Stockwell generally, and by his wife in particular. The banishment of this last hope caused her great distress, and she expresses a fear that "She will not see over it."

The prisoner's mother is said to have recovered somewhat, but the members of the family who have visited her have not made any reference to her son. She has not made any enquiries concerning him, and does not seem to remember any of the incidents since the murder of Kate Dennis. She has not been informed of her son's fate, nor is it intended that shall be.