Sunday, 6 January 2013

6th January 1813: The trial of Mellor, Thorpe & Smith - Part 3: witnesses for the defence

The last part of the trial of George Mellor, William Thorpe & Thomas Smith consisted of numerous witnesses for the defence who spoke to state that they had spent time with either Mellor, Thorpe or Smith at or around the time Horsfall was shot. It’s not clear whose idea this was, or even if the defendants wanted it: there is evidence that George Mellor had been clear on a number of occasions that he wanted witnesses who had appeared for the prosecution – principally the household of Joseph Mellor – to tell the truth about what had happened that night. The witnesses that were to speak for him at the trial put him nowhere near his cousin’s house: had he changed his mind, or did his defence team insist this was now his best chance?

William Hansard, spoke for George Mellor, stating that he met him at 6.45 p.m. on the evening in question about a quarter of a mile from Huddersfield going towards Longroyd Bridge,

Jonathan Womersley, a clock-maker from Huddersfield, said he saw Mellor between 6.00 and 6.15 p.m. at the corner of Cloth Hall Street in Huddersfield, and that they went to the White Hart public house & drank 2 pints of beer and settled an account of Mellor’s. Womersley said he left 20 minutes later, leaving Mellor there with a William Battersby. He went to another pub, the Brown Cow, and heard there what had happened to Horsfall.

A cobbler, William Battersby, had been drinking in the White Hart with Mellor and Womerlsey that evening, and he estimated they stayed there for 30 minutes, when they heard about Horsfall and afterwards parted.

John Thorpe of Castle Street, Huddersfield, said he had known George Mellor 16 or 17 years, and stated that he had met him opposite the George Inn in Huddersfield at about 5.50 p.m. He was precise about the time because he said he had a watch he wanted to sell Mellor and showed in to him at that time.

Jonathan Battersby, another cobbler from Huddersfield, said he had met and talked to George Mellor  in the market place at Huddersfield before 6.00 p.m.

George Armitage, a blacksmith at Lockwood, said George Mellor had walked past his workshop from the direction of Joseph Mellor’s house towards Huddersfield between 5.00 and 6.00 p.m. that evening, when they had briefly spoken to each other. When cross-examined by Park for the prosecution, Armitage said that Mellor had said he had been to his brother’s house with a man that wanted work.

George Armitage’s brother, Joseph Armitage, also said he had seen George Mellor at the workshop between 5.00 and 6.00 p.m.

Charles Ratcliffe, a cropper from Huddersfield, worked in the workshop of Mr Fisher at Longroyd Bridge, the same place that William Thorpe worked at the time. He had been there at 5.30 p.m. on the day in question, and had seen Thorpe there and talked to him for 15 minutes before leaving for Huddersfield, where he heard of Horsfall being shot at 6.50 p.m.

Frances Midwood lived with her father at Longroyd Bridge and had gone to fetch water from Mr Fisher’s workshop. She made several trips, and estimated she saw William Thorpe there at 5.10 p.m., and then later, talking to Charles Ratcliffe. She stopped going back when she heard Horsfall had been shot, but stated that on each occasion she had been, Thorpe had been there, and she had also seen the next witness, Abraham Pilling.

Abraham Pilling, a cobbler from Huddersfield, had set out for Longroyd Bridge at 5.45 p.m. to take some shoes he had made for Frances Midwood to her. He lived around a mile from Longroyd Bridge, and arriving there after 6.00 p.m. he saw Midwood crossing the road with a can and going into Mr Fisher’s workshop for water. Pilling said he stayed and talked with Thorpe for some time whilst Midwood fetched him the money for the shoes. When he left the workshop to go elsewhere, some of the neighbours told him that Horsfall had been shot.

John Bower was a 17 year-old apprentice at John Wood’s cropping shop. He stated that on the evening in question, he had been working there with George Mellor, Thomas Smith, Benjamin Walker, James Varley and John Walker before 7.00 p.m. that evening. He said that Smith had left at 6.00 p.m. to go drinking before returning, and that Mellor had been absent from 3.00 p.m. until they worked together before 7.00 p.m.

Mary Thorpe, a servant of John Wood, stated she saw Thomas Smith and the last witness Bower come into the kitchen at 6.00 p.m., the clock striking the time.

William Hirst, was a lodger at John Wood’s house. He said he met Benjamin Walker at the workshop at 7.00 p.m. Having already heard about Horsfall being shot in Huddersfield earlier, when he gave Walker the news, he said Walker had said “That is too good news to be true”. The prosecution objected to the latter revelation, and the Judges agreed.

The final witness, Joseph Rushworth from Cowcliffe, said that he had been to Joseph Radcliffe’s on 12th October when he saw William Hall, who had been there to talk to the magistrate. He said he had had no further conversation with the informer after that time.

The evidence concluded, the case was summed up, with the Judge underlining the clear differences between the evidence of witnesses for the prosecution and defence.

The Jury retired at 7.30 p.m. to consider their verdict.

This is based on Howell (1823, pp.1027-1033) and the Leeds Mercury Extraordinary Edition of 9th January 1813.

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