On the morning of January 30th 2013 I made my way to the Hull History Centre with a view to carrying out some research into the Hull Watch Committee and their views on the still unsolved murder of Mary Jane Langley, who was found brutally done to death in a ditch between Preston and Marfleet. The reports in the Hull Press of September 1891 hinted at a rift between the Hull Police, the Borough Police and the Hull Watch Committee on account of the two police forces seemingly employing the work of a psychic. The newspaper report read like a comical interchange with members of the Hull Watch Committee making fun of the Hull Police Force. It was certainly a very interesting series of articles and I was interested in tracing the primary sources at the Hull History Centre. Sadly, the Hull Corporation’s Hull Watch Committee Minutes books for the period are missing and only the typed up versions are available. I was soon to discover that these offered very little information on the case, so I consulted the Hull History Centre Catalogue and found a reference to the Hull Watch Committee files. Whilst these might not include the 1891 minutes, they do hold other interesting snippets of information on other crimes and topics that bear some relation on the case.
One particular area of interest was a file that stated “Police Reports: Regina Vs Henry Lawson.”
Previously I had uncovered the typed up version of this file which was more of a summary, but at the time I had searched for more information and found nothing. The typed up version of this document covered less than half a page and simply asked for funds in the extradition of Deeming from Monte Video. The second section of this typed up document again was short and sweet and stated that funds would be laid out on the pretext that someone else would foot the bill. It seemed to me as if there was more to this issue, but as the file on Deeming’s trial for fraud had been unearthed, and made no mention of this issue I was at a loss. Luckily perseverance (and a bit of luck) paid off and I was able to secure a look at a previously unseen file of material on Frederick Bailey Deeming and his time in Hull.
The file is essentially a 23 page file of material relating to the manhunt from Hull to Monte Video to track, and bring to justice, Frederick Bailey Deeming for the crime of fraud, and covers the principle police officials, the town clerk, Deeming’s legal team, and the Home Office, as they struggle to recoup money spent on the manhunt.
The file comprises of several pages of the Hull Watch Committee Minutes from their meeting at the Hull Town Hall on December 23rd 1891, it features:
As you can imagine this is a wonderful piece of the jigsaw that has been missing for some years. The material falls before and after the massive trial file on Frederick Bailey Deeming, uncovered some years ago, and casts more light on Deeming’s time and illustrious career in Kingston upon Hull. It shows more on the workings of the Victorian Hull police force, the Hull Watch Committee, and the lengths they, along with the Home Office, went to in order to recuperate the money spent on an international manhunt for one of the world’s worst criminals throughout history.
I would just like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to everyone who has contacted me in the last week.
The fantastic article in The Hull Daily Mail came as a lovely surprise, as I was awaiting a call for another article, and the speed in which the article came out was so quickly that I couldn’t believe it had been published already. The online article can be viewed here:
The article also came at a time when Yesterday TV was showing reruns of Prime Suspect – Jack the Ripper, which covered the life and criminal career of Frederick Bailey Deeming. It also featured footage of me sat at home, and on location on Hull’s Prince-street, and at Hull Prison.
As you can imagine it has been a busy week but a pleasurable one, with lots of new contacts being made.
It was also a week which started with me being rushed into hospital again on account of my heart. For six years I have battled ectopic beats, palpitations, and chest pains, and this Monday afternoon resulted in pains so severe that an ambulance was called. Hopefully the problem will now be sorted but I cannot thank everyone who sent me messages, emails, tweets, and posts on social media to say “get well soon.”
This is just a quick post to say “Thank you.”
It is with hand on heart that I must reveal the sad news that parts of Hull Prison are to close.
The prison, which has a long history in Hull, was an improvement on the existing prison that was situated in Hull City Centre. The foundation stone of the prison, or Hull Borough Gaol as it was originally known, was laid by the Mayor, Mr. H. J. Atkinson on the 9th of October 1865, with the prison opening in 1869. It cost the Hull Corporation £89,000 and became the property of the government under the Government under the Prisons Act in 1878. Initially the prison occupied 15 acres of land and was designed with the main corridors with cells were built as a cruciform. This would enable the governor of the prison to stand in the centre and see down all the corridors. At the time it was erected it consisted of cells to hold 347 prisoners, but this soon expanded to 505 cells, with 130 of these being used for females. The architect who designed the prison died just one week before the prison was opened!
The original Governor of Hull Borough Gaol was one Henry Webster, occasionally called Harry, who served at the Gaol from 1869 until August 1891 when he resigned due to ill health and moved to Australia.
Webster gave evidence during the Mary Jane Langley murder trial, and was also the Governor responsible for keeping Frederick Bailey Deeming in order during his nine months at the prison for defrauding Reynoldsons Jewellers on Whitefriargate in Hull.
Webster left Hull for Australia shortly after his resignation and lived down under until 1934. Despite leaving Hull Borough Gaol on grounds of ill health, he lived to the ripe old age of 96.
Whilst Webster was in Australia he heard newspaper reports on Frederick Bailey Deeming and later identified Deeming as being known in Hull as Harry Lawson. It was through Webster’s observations that the authorities in Rainhill were alerted to the fact that Deeming had been in the region, and through their swift acts they revealed that he had murdered his first wife and four children.
Another notorious rogue during Henry Webster’s time at the prison was Joseph Dawber. Dawber was the cousin of Robert D’Onston Stephenson, and was a Hull based solicitor. He defrauded Hull residents out of their money with dodgy land deals and was eventually caught out and sent to Hull Gaol, appearing on the 1891 Census alongside Frederick Bailey Deeming.
Over the years the prison has played host to a wide range of criminals including Charles Bronson, Frankie Fraser, and Frank “The Mad Axe Man” Mitchell.
Most Hull readers will be well aware of Ethel Major’s stay at the Gaol. Major was sentenced to death after poisoning her husband (and her dog) with her execution taking place on December 19th 1934. Her body is buried in the prison along with Arthur Richardson, William James Bolton, Charles William, Thomas Siddle, John Freeman, William George Smith, Robert Ernest Dalton, George Michael, and Roy Gregory.
As you can imagine the site has a long history associated with Hull, and little by little we are in danger of losing it.
Hull Prison – Hull Daily Mail http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/history-Hull-Prison/story-17819213-detail/story.html
Hull Prison – Hull Daily Mail http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/Hull-Prison-partially-closed/story-17817494-detail/story.html