Earlier this week I visited the Hull History Centre with a view to searching for a few loose ends that needed tying up. Whilst there I thought I would search for one last time for the criminal papers that covered the trial of Frederick Bailey Deeming in Hull in 1890. In the past I had unearthed a rather short one line snippet from the calendar of prisoners that stated that Deeming, under the alias of Harry Lawson was sent to Hull Prison for 9 months, however, a search of the actual papers pertaining to this period did not hold any information on Deeming/Lawson.
Despite this the search continued and for the past 5 years I have discovered that the case was covered in the Hull and Beverley press as well as some national publications. The case also made it into the Hull Watch Committee’s Minutes book when at two meetings the Hull Corporation discussed financial compensation for the capture of Deeming. These records alluded to the decision being made by the Finances Committee, but a search of their records turned up nothing.
This week for the final time I searched and found the Harry Lawson card, taking the unique number and handing it over. Moments later I was presented with a large bound file, plus an even larger file. The Harry Lawson material was a part of a bigger haul that was neither here, nor there, so I laid it all out and began searching.
After a short period of time I uncovered the files on Deeming/Lawson, and set about recording them, and putting them back into their own file in numerical order so that future researchers can find the material. I was surprised at the amount of material inside.
There are in total around 77 pages of material, which includes,
Eyewitness testimonies on large A4 sheets,
Eyewitness recording papers on small A5 sheets,
Harry Lawson letter to Miss Matheson,
Harry Lawson letter to Reynoldsons Jewellers,
Reynoldsons Jewellers letter to Harry Lawson,
Telegrams between Hull and the following destinations, Southampton, London, Beverley, and Portsmouth on A5 sheets,
Harry Lawson’s defence statements,
Correspondence from police officials,
And much much more.
I have spent the week prepping the work and cataloguing it and still have much to do but as you can imagine this is a lovely haul with lots of new information about Frederick Bailey Deeming and his criminal lifestyle.
On Thursday 12th May 2011 I was fortunate enough to visit the Hull Prison exhibition, “Within these Walls.” I had thought that the exhibition was just about Hull Prison, so was quiet surprised to see that the exhibition covered the long history of prisons in Hull, their creation and the people they catered for. Former prisons, including the Castle-street Gaol, the House of Correction, and a number of other pertinent sites are included, along with sketches and maps illustrating their locations around Hull.
Moving along the wall we see the creation of Hull Prison, a location that has housed in the past Charles Bronson, Frankie Fraser, Frank “The Mad Axe Man” Mitchell, Ian Brady, and members of the Kray firm and Richardson gang. The prison has also served as a fire station, prisoner of war camp, and borstal, and during the War suffered when several bombs hit the prison.
The exhibition, set up by Rob Nicholson, is amazing, and whilst the room in which it is contained is only a small room, there is enough information present to please everyone from the historian, to people with a curiosity for what goes on at the prison.
A selection of weapons created by the prisoners are also on display including toothbrush knives, knuckle dusters and many other imaginative weapons. There is also a collection of weapons created using the bones from various meals which was fascinating. Also on display is the lock mechanism from the condemned cell!
Among the most interesting items was a burial map of the 10 prisoners who were executed at the prison. For some years I was always informed that the ghost of Ethel Major is restless because the prison authorities had forgotten where she was buried, but this document, along with a list of graves, proves this local historical legend.
The 10 executions include, Arthur Richardson, William James Bolton, Charles William Aston, Thomas Siddle, John Freeman, William George Smith, Hubert Ernest Dalton, George Emanuel Michael, Roy Gregory and Ethel Lillie Major.
I visited the museum with a view to donating some of my historical research to the exhibition and hope to send material along regarding the first governor Henry Webster, the man responsible for Frederick Bailey Deeming whilst he was locked up in 1890, and who subsequently identified Deeming in Australia in 1892.
Whilst the exhibition is only taking up one room it is hoped, and I hope so too, that it will eventually take up more space and feature more information and exhibits.
All in all it was a wonderful trip, eye opening, thought provoking, and an opportunity for a rare glimpse within the walls of one of Hull’s most notorious buildings.
Thank you for the invite Rob, and good luck with the exhibition.