The Surgeon and the Poisoner

Claudius Galen WHEELHOUSE, towards the end of his eventful life, filled his “retirement” hours serving the people of Filey in a variety of ways – JP, magistrate, and chairman (I think) of the Lifeboat Committee. He was also a churchwarden at St Oswald’s, Filey (Today’s Image). His compassion for humankind, or “peoplekind” if you prefer, was probably instilled into him as a child, but an early, and very public, demonstration of it occurred in 1856. Aged thirty and building his career and reputation as a surgeon, he added his name to a petition, pleading that the life of “The Leeds Poisoner” should not be taken by the hangman.

Your petitioners…humbly pray that your most gracious Majesty will be pleased to spare the life of…William Dove.

Claudius and about twenty other citizens were of the opinion that:

…if persons of such unsound and defective intellect as…William Dove are to suffer the extreme penalty of the law, the effect upon the public mind will be most injurious, and will tend more than any other cause to bring capital punishment, under whatever circumstances imposed, into general odium and disrepute.

They seem to have believed that locking him up for the rest of his life would be “the most just and adequate punishment”.

The woman who sent her armies to slaughter people in the hundreds of thousands was unmoved, and a large crowd gathered in York on Saturday, 9th August, to watch “the drop”. A novice hangman added a certain amount of extra drama to the terrible occasion but William was eventually dispatched. He didn’t struggle much.

His family was, apparently, of “the Wesleyan persuasion” and he had been attended by several religious gentlemen in his last days. He had admitted his guilt but, from my reading of the case thus far, he didn’t seem to care for his wife much. I doubt they diagnosed “borderline personality disorders” 150 years ago but that section of the DSM-5 would be my first port of call in an attempt to understand the wretched fellow.

Poor Harriet JENKINS. She had met and married the handsome northern man of limited, but independent, means in Plymouth in the summer of 1852. She was from a good family. A  clergyman brother was also a professor of mathematics in Madras, and her mother and sister, traveling up from Devon to look after her, crossed the letter announcing Harriet’s death. A saving grace, perhaps – there were no children born to the unhappy couple.

You will find the Poisoner and his victim on FamilySearch Treeand there is a lengthy PDF of the inquest, trial and execution online that can be freely downloaded.

 

Kicked to Death

On this day 1894, at about seven o’clock in the evening, thirteen-year-old Samuel Dixon STONEHOUSE ran to his half-brother, William PROCTER, for help. When they reached the cottage in Barnett’s Yard, off Queen Street, accompanied a relative, Amos DANBY, and Police Sergeant CLARKSON, William was shocked to see his mother’s bruised and bleeding face. Maria said to him, “He has kicked me to death, I am dying.” William rushed away to seek medical help. Dr. ORR came quickly with parish nurse, Frances JENKINSON, and attempted to revive the woman, but she died within twenty minutes. All the while, Maria’s husband, Samuel STONEHOUSE, sat in a corner chair, proclaiming his innocence.

He was initially charged with wilful murder but at trial the jury quickly arrived at a verdict of manslaughter and the judge handed down a 14-year sentence. Samuel was not a stranger to prison. He had served a six-month sentence for battering his wife, not long before the final assault. He must, however, have behaved himself inside because he was released after nine years, initially into the care of the Filey “Church Army Society”, if the official documentation is a reliable guide. (Source: Prison Register, via Find My Past.)

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I have never had any truck with men hitting women, even though there ain’t no limit to the amount of trouble they bring (B. Dylan), and had imagined Samuel to have been a hulking brute. I was surprised to see he was a “short-arse”.

Before his trial, he wrote to his mother, Elizabeth, and sister Elizabeth Annie, from his cell in Hull Prison:-

Dear mother, and sister and all, – Just a few lines to you, hoping to find you all well, as it leaves me well at present. Thank God for it. I hope my two children are both well. Remember me to them, and by God’s help I hope I may soon be with them again. My aunt was here yesterday, and told me that mother had gone to Filey, and I hope you will all do what you can for me. Will you write and let me know what you have done for me? I do not know whether I shall have anyone to help me at York or not, but I hope that I shall. I do not know when I shall be going from here, but I have been told that they (the Assizes) do commence next Wednesday. Will you let me know if my brother William or Abraham is going to York, and who is going to look after my children this year? It might be a long job for me at York, but I hope it will not. – Your son, SAMUEL STONEHOUSE.

At trial, the children gave evidence. The boy said his mother had asked for his assistance to help her on to the couch and his father had said that if he touched her he would “kick his bowels in”. But this exchange followed:-

Mr. Mellor: Your father was kind to you?

Witness: Yes, a lot better than my mother. Drunk or not, he was always kind to me.

Mr. Mellor: Have you ever seen her lying on the floor before?

Yes.

In what state?

She had been drunk. (Some sensation was caused in court by this statement, and the Judge said he must have silence or he would have the gallery cleared.)

Witness said on this occasion he supposed that his mother was drunk. She had formerly cursed his father when he came home to dinner, and she had thrown pots at him. (The poor lad burst into tears as he left the box.)

Born in Scalby, just outside Scarborough, Samuel Snr returned home after leaving Portsea  Prison. (He may also have spent time in Dartmoor.) His death was registered in the last quarter of 1920. He was 73 years old.

He outlived his son by four years. Samuel Dixon STONEHOUSE was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and is remembered in Fricourt New Military Cemetery.

Samuel Jnr had married before he went to war. Maria Louise was living at 32 St James Street in 1916 and at 44 James Street when the Second World War began. She died a Stonehouse in 1960, aged 82. I haven’t been able to find the marriage record or any children she may have had. Sam Jnr’s sister, Sarah, has eluded me too.

The Wayback Machine seems to be working again – it should be safe to access The Woman Who Cried Murder.

The blighted family can be found on Filey Genealogy & Connections and FamilySearch Tree.

The Doctor’s Daughter

Elizabeth Mary PRITCHARD was born this day 1860 in East Kirk Parish, Edinburgh. She had five older siblings who had entered the world in Hunmanby or Filey. One sister, Zillah Catherine, hadn’t survived infancy but at the 1861 census, four of the children were with their parents in Berkeley Terrace, Glasgow while the eldest girl Jane Frances, age 9, was at the home of her maternal grandparents in Newington, Midlothian. Michael Taylor was a silk merchant and judging from Google Street View owning a property in Minto Street today shows that you are “comfortable”.

Edward William PRITCHARD informed the enumerator in 1861 that he was an “MD University of Erlangen (General Practitioner)”. As a young man he had acquitted himself well as a navy doctor but after winning the hand of Mary Jane TAYLOR while serving on HMS Hecate he decided to resign his commission and enter general practice. His qualification from Erlangen was purchased rather than earned but it must have impressed the folk at the Bridlington Union because he was employed as the medical officer to the No. 3 District based at Hunmanby. The family lived there for some years but later moved to Rutland Street, Filey. A Glasgow Morning Journal report in July 1865 had this to say about the bad doctor:-

Those who knew Dr Pritchard in Filey say that he left that place with an indifferent reputation – that he was fluent, plausible, licentious, politely impudent and singularly untruthful. With regard to the last named characteristic, one who knew him intimately states that he was “the prettiest liar” he had ever known. In Filey as well as Hunmanby his lascivious disposition, manifested in some disgraceful amours, as well as his untruthfulness, became so notorious that all confidence in him as a professional man was destroyed. It may, therefore, be supposed that when he left Filey in 1859 it was because Yorkshire was too hot to hold him.

Glasgow society soon realized that “a perfect Baron Munchausen” had appeared in their midst. When the Pritchard’s servant girl died in a bedroom fire at their house he came under suspicion. Sometime later, on the 21st March 1865, gossip flew that “a medical gentleman belonging to Glasgow” had been apprehended following the death of his wife by poisoning and Dr Pritchard’s name was common currency before he was formally charged. Investigations proved that he had killed his mother-in-law too. He was tried and the day after his youngest daughter Elizabeth Mary turned five he was hanged in Glasgow, watched by 100,000 people according to one estimate.

What became of the murderer’s children? Horatio Michael married Amelia Rebecca MILLMAN in 1887 and they had at least one child, Violet Eola Robertson who married Edward Atherstone WALMISLEY in 1912. William Kenneth married Gertrude Hannah CREESER in 1904. But Jane Frances, Charles Edward and birthday girl Elizabeth Mary seem to have kept the lowest of profiles.

Filey Genealogy & Connections can give you a substantial cast of PRITCHARD characters – and Kath supplies several notes relating to the Doctor’s crimes but, as I write this the Search engine is playing silly beggars so I can’t give a link.  On FamilySearch Tree the Pritchard clan is all over the place. Here is Elizabeth Mary on FST:-

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The last four lines of  A Lament for Dr Pritchard’s Children:-

Oh think of his orphans you kind hearted people,

And I hope there is none that so heartless will be,

As point with the finger of scorn towards them,

And say that their father he died on a tree.

PritchardLament

And here is Elizabeth Mary sitting on her mother’s knee in the Cramb Brothers studio portrait of the doctor and his family, Glasgow 1861.

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