Chapter 4 The Inquisition Begins Part 1 (First Draft)
Dawn came too soon for William Parr on Friday 24th May. In truth he had barely slept at all in the night. Now a difficult day lay ahead. He was troubled by the shame of being unable to maintain order in his own parish. This day would see another Coroner’s Inquisition take place at Manor Farm. Parr knew he would also face an Inquisition of his own and he must prepare both himself and his farmhouse. More than the usual number of visitors would arrive today. He would be expected to provide hay and oats and water for the many horses and also refreshments for the jury, witness and the coroner’s party. The bodies still needed to be undressed and clothes examined and this must be done before the coroner arrived. Parr had barely finished breakfast when his first visitor arrived. Superintendent Whitworth was about unusually early but had called in on Parr to make sure he was alright and was ready to stage the inquisition. Parr briefly explained the outrage of the previous day and took his superintendent into his barn to check the bodies. Whitworth assured Parr there would be no repeat of the previous day’s events; he was on his way by carriage now to collect more parish constables from outlying villages, then place them at strategic points to prevent any access to Colwick village without police authority. He further told Parr that a detachment of Nottingham police would also attend the inquisition and that would include none other than the Chief Constable himself. Christopher Swann the coroner was likely to arrive early to make sure his jury had arrived and the coroner had appointed one of the Nottingham Dispensary surgeons to examine the bodies. He shook Parr’s hand firmly before he left and told Parr he had every confidence in him. That was exactly what Parr needed to hear.
Parr now busied himself and sent out his servant boy to the home of Mary Watson to bring her back to Manor Farm. When she arrived Parr showed her into the barn. He asked her to carefully remove all clothing from the bodies, place it carefully to one side in four piles then cover the bodies completely with blankets. The inquisition itself would be held in Parr’s parlour so he now made this ready. He pulled the large refectory table from the middle of the room and placed it against the back of the wood-panelled wall leaving space for chairs. He added chairs from his kitchen to those in the parlour and placed them at the back and both sides of the table. He hoped that his local farmer friends would bring along a few chairs and benches from their nearby farms as his supply would not be sufficient this time. The depositions he already had were taken up from his box and placed on the table. Parr’s wife advised him that farmer William Stanley had just arrived in the farmyard and had three people with him. Parr rushed out to meet his first visitors and William quickly explained all of his party had some new information for him. Parr welcomed them into his kitchen and then took them out in turn to his parlour to take down their depositions. More and more carts started to arrive and John Blackner told Parr upon his arrival that the jury would be formed of local farmers and landowners whom he already knew. Three people who Parr did not recognise arrived next. They explained that they all lived in Wood Street, Sneinton and were looking for their missing friend and three children. Having heard of three bodies being found in Colwick they had told the Nottingham Police and they had been allowed through the police cordon to visit the farm and provide statements. Parr quickly realised that this party might possibly identify the bodies and provide names for the victims. He asked if they would be willing to carry out this task. One of the women, Lucy Wardle agreed to do so. Parr had the presence of mind to take down all of their statements first. He then took Lucy into his barn and removed the blankets to reveal just the face of each victim one by one, starting with the woman. Lucy Wardle became overcome and through sobs and tears confirmed this was her friend and her three children. She identified the woman as Ann Saville, her daughters. Mary aged seven, Harriet aged five and son Thomas aged just four. Parr now knew the identities of the victims.
County Coroner Christopher Swann and his clerk arrived at nine-thirty. He was no stranger to Manor Farm; he had attended many previous inquisitions here before. He wished to speak with Parr privately so he was taken into the parlour. Parr explained the events of the previous days and showed his pile of depositions all ready for him. Swann asked if he had seen the surgeon yet and Parr explained he was yet to arrive. He asked to see the bodies in the barn, then returned to see the depositions in the Parlour. Parr found John Blackner and asked him to start rounding up the jury and take them into the parlour to speak with the coroner. There had never been so many carts and carriages at Manor Farm; the lane leading down to the farm was now hard to pass and so many carts were parked up. Parr realised there were at least three more important sets of visitors still to arrive. A commotion at the lane end caught his attention and when he saw three Fly carriages approaching he thought his final visitors had arrived. It proved not to be; these were newspaper men, all of whom had raced to be first at Colwick, now each one badgered Parr to be first to go see the bodies. Parr would have none of it and told them in no uncertain terms to keep out of his barn or end up in the lock-up. He also refused their driver’s permission to park in his farmyard; they had to take their chances of finding a place in the lane or even beyond.
The Inquistion was set to begin at eleven o’clock. The Coroner and his jury were all present and ready, talking excitedly in his parlour. The witnesses had all arrived now including old John Swinscoe; he was the only person allowed to travel down the Carlton to Colwick path that day. Still no sign however of the prisoner, the Nottingham police and the surgeon’s party. With time almost running out Parr heard a commotion outside and the sound of hooves in the lane by his farm. He rushed outside just in time to see a number of carriages arrive.
Under the direction of Superintendent Whitworth a detachment of rural police was early on the spot. No-one was allowed to approach the barn or the spot where the bodies lay. Immense numbers crowded Colwick Lane as far as the Colwick Park Lodge gates. A little before eleven o’clock the wretch arrived in a Fly, handcuffed to Inspector Wilkinson and attended by Mr Barnes and several Nottingham police. The commotion in all the streets where the vehicle passed was extreme and the excitement displayed was of the most intense description as they waited to catch a glimpse of the prisoner.
Inspector Wilkinson helped the prisoner to leave the Fly and Parr motioned for him to come straight into the farmhouse. All present were anxious to see the prisoner for themselves and crowded around, most especially the newspaper men. With the prisoner safely in his parlour Parr went out to join his police comrades from Nottingham. They were all gathered around Chief Constable Barnes, each man resplendent in his smart Nottingham Borough Police uniform. This consisted of a single-breasted blue suit complete with white buttons marked “Crown” and “Police”. Their collars were worn over a high leather stock and fastened with a brass buckle. They all wore tall chimney top hats with leather tops and leather supports. Each office carried both a truncheon and a rattle, attached to their belts. By contrast Parr was wearing his ancient black parish constable tunic and hat, once the property of his own father. Barnes and Parr stood in conversation for a while, speaking of the disturbance caused by recent events. Parr explained his concern over the absence of the surgeon. Barnes explained the delay was undoubtedly due to the huge crowds backed up against the Colwick Lodge Gates. Barnes was in the process of handing over the deposition taken from the prisoner in the Police Watch House when a Phaeton came rushing down the lane. It pulled up quickly and a number of well-dressed gentlemen stepped out, at least two carrying small leather bags. The surgeon’s party had finally arrived. With eleven o’clock fast approaching Parr directed the Davison brothers and their medical friends into his barn and pointed out where the bodies lay. He left them all to carry on with their examination of the bodies and said he must now leave them as the inquisition was about to start.
At precisely eleven o’clock County Coroner Christopher Swann rose from his chair by the fireplace and called the meeting to order. Parr’s elegant but small wood-panelled parlour was simply packed. The twelve jurors were seated around three sides of a long table and at the very end nearest the fire was the foreman, John Blackner. Almost next to him was Christopher Swann and his clerk. Present in the room was Chief Constable Barnes and Inspector Wilkinson plus a number of newspaper men seated on a low bench . Parish constable Parr was acting as a runner to collect witnesses from his kitchen as and when required. Standing stock still in the centre of the room was the prisoner, looking down at the ground. The parlour windows had been opened and outside a large number of heads fought for space to see what they could of the proceedings inside. The coroner decided the first order of business was for the jury to go see the bodies in the barn. They all filed out after the coroner and Inspector Wilkinson brought up the rear handcuffed to the prisoner. The jury, formed of men from Sneinton, Colwick, Carlton and Gedling filed slowly past each body, many deeply upset by what they saw. They stood to one side and all watched as Inspector Wilkinson made the prisoner walk slowly past the four bodies. As he did so he put his hand before his face and burst into tears. On being asked by the coroner if the bodies were those of his wife and children he groaned out yes!
Having all returned to the farmhouse the inquisition began in earnest and the first witness was called. Parr brought John Swinscoe from his kitchen and bid him stand by the door and face the jury. Swinscoe could not read so the jury took turns in reading out his deposition. His statement explained how the bodies were first discovered and how he had run out of the spinney to tell his son Abraham “ Abraham, Abraham, what a shocking sight I have just seen” . The deposition continued and explained how John had sent his son to seek out Inspector Parr and how the parish constable had discovered a woman’s body behind a bush with an open razor in her left hand then taken the bodies to his farm.
The coroner and jury then went to the spot where the murders were perpetrated. The spot is at the foot of a hill where there is a narrow strip of plantation The plantation is overgrown with nettles¸ rye grass and weeds . It is intersected by a cart road to the fields beyond and a footpath to Carlton. In this spot a few yards from the footpath the unfortunate victims were discovered.
At the time the jury visited the spot, the large bush against which the body of the woman was found had been completely carried away by the multitude who had visited the spot on Thursday afternoon to furnish relics for the worship of the horrible. The large trees around the spot had been stripped of bark for the same purpose. The grass and weeds were trodden down and the four pools of blood were nearly obliterated by the thousands of footsteps curiosity had brought to the plantation. That same afternoon not less than ten thousand gazed upon the butchered corpses in Mr Parr’s barn and the usually quiet village of Colwick was as noisy as the arena of a pugilistic encounter.
The jury then returned to Parr’s farmhouse, to their seats and it was now time for the next witness to be called. Parr had no need to look in his kitchen, it was his turn to give testimony……….
To be continued…..
Copyright@Michael Sheridan 2013 All rights reserved