Saville’s Spinney – Chapter 5 Black and White, no shades of Grey (First Draft)


News of the savage murders at Colwick had first spread from house to house on Wednesday afternoon in the village that lay close to the spinney. By Thursday morning the news was spreading from street to street in the nearby villages of Carlton, Arnold and Calverton. It was also circulating quickly through Sneinton, Nottingham and into Radford. The story of the slaughter of a mother and children had then drawn crowds of thousands to Colwick on the Thursday afternoon. Those who had managed to explore the murder scene and then go on to view the bodies that day only excited more interest. On the Friday morning many thousands more had tried to reach Colwick. Only a strong police presence had stopped Colwick being swamped yet again by a huge and unruly crowd. The appetite for news and information was intense. What had been lacking was a total lack of firm information. Who could have been responsible? How did the family die? What could have sparked the slaughter? Whose family was this? As with all stories, the tale grew longer in the telling. Some people still thought another family was also missing, presumed drowned in the River Trent. What was needed was a proper account of events in Colwick.  That was finally about to happen.

Three newspapermen were now racing back to Nottingham from Colwick with most important and previously unknown information. The Coroner’s Inquisition had not disappointed them. It was quite simply the story of the year and now they all had some amazing new facts and details . They all sought to quickly return to their offices so their newspapers could print the story first. All three carriages containing the newspapermen were held up by the Colwick Lodge gates and a large crowd sought news from them. Each Fly carriage then managed to slowly ease down Colwick Lane and approach Sneinton. As they reached Manvers Street the carriages containing men from the Review and Journal were pulling ahead of the Mercury carriage. The gap grew as the carriages turned right then sharp left and made their way up the hill over Hockley and down into the centre of Nottingham. Now the Mercury carriage was nowhere in sight. As the first two carriages reached the Market Square in front of the Exchange building they noticed numerous groups of people gathered around newspaper sellers. To their delight and amusement they noticed the paper being sold was the Mercury. Why would the Mercury go to print without the biggest story of the year – the Colwick murders? It hadn’t! The enterprising editor of the Nottingham Newark Mercury had stolen a march on both of his rivals and had printed the story early. He had told his reporter to make absolutely sure he came back first with news from the Colwick Inquest. If he did he would be richly rewarded. His man did not let him down. During the afternoon adjournment the reporter had quietly passed his notes from the Inquest to his driver and gave instructions to take them directly to the newspaper office, then return and wait for him. Importantly he had also told his driver to leave when all were back inside the Constable’s farmhouse, to drive away very quietly and make some good excuse if challenged for leaving. In this way his notes about the inquest made their way to Nottingham by three thirty in the afternoon and were quickly set into blocks of lead type. The Editor had actually gone to print early and had printed double the usual number of newspapers. Now the other newspapers responded and did so in different ways. The editors of both the Nottingham Review and Nottingham Journal were quickly made aware of the success of the Mercury; neither were happy to be beaten into print. The Editor of the Review decided to run the story as quickly as possible, realising there would be a strong demand for the newspapers. If the copies of the Mercury sold out then the Review would meet the demand. The Editor of the Journal took a different line. The Journal was seen as Nottingham’s premier newspaper and was popular with the highest of Nottingham’s society. There was an old story that the owner of Colwick Hall, John Musters would challenge anyone trespassing on his land and ask them which newspaper their fathers took? If they replied the Journal, he would let them pass and go on their way. If they replied the Review, Mercury or worse, no newspaper at all, then the Squire would give them a good beating.  Realising the race into printing the full story was lost, the Journal’s editor took a bold decision. If his paper could not be the first into print then it would have another angle. The Journal would inform its readers who was responsible for the murders! Given that the inquisition was not yet complete and the prisoner had not been committed for trial yet this was indeed a bold step!  The Journal went to press with no details of the Inquisition and the  Review was printed late but now they both had their presses working.  The editor of the Mercury meanwhile spotted another opportunity. Sales of his early first edition were so great many vendors were returning to his office seeking more papers to sell. He took the reporter’s second set of notes with accounts from the final few witnesses at the inquest.  He hastened into the printing room to find the typeset pages of  his paper. An old column block of type was removed and small column of new type was then created in the press block. This was done hastily and the column contained adduced evidence and a condensed version of the testimony of the final two witnesses.  The Mercury press then ran again to produce an unprecedented  second edition. He now had the story covered from start to finish and hoped to cash in with the biggest story he had ever known in Nottingham! That Friday provided the best sales figures the Mercury had ever known!

The Mercury ran the story under a headline,

Murder of a female and her three children near Nottingham.

The story was then introduced.

With feelings of horror we have this week to record the murder of a poor woman, named Ann Saville, and her three children Mary, seven years old, Harriet aged five years, and Thomas, aged four years.

The article then went on to explain how someone had been apprehended for the crime.

Yesterday ( Thursday afternoon), a man¸named William Saville, the husband of the unfortunate woman, and the father of the children, underwent a long examination before the Mayor and Alderman Heard.

Details were given of the examination finishing with Saville being arrested.

Thomas Stevenson, police officer, then charged him with having murdered Ann his wife and three children.

The Mercury thoughtfully provided their readers with a picture, painted in words of the villain in police custody.

He is about five feet five inches high, very sallow complexion, bordering upon olive, dark eyes and hair, nose long and rather prominent, widish mouth and thick lips, forehead low and has a very gloomy countenance.

A sub-heading came next as did more important details of the story ,

Discovery of the Bodies.

Mr. Swann Coroner for the County, communicated to the magistrates previous to the conclusion of the examination that the bodies of the man’s wife and three children had been discovered this afternoon, in a spinney between Colwick and Carlton.

This column finished by providing more detail about the prisoner.

The prisoner is a native of Blidworth, in this county, and has been convicted of felony.

The Mercury  then explained how thousands of people had made their way  to the spinney on the Thursday afternoon. It then went on to explain exactly where this spinney was located.

Our local readers know there is a foot-way from Colwick to Carlton, and at the foot of the high hill, which commands singularly beautiful and extensive views, comprising Newark and Lincoln Minster, is the plantation where the murdered victims of this miserable man were found; there is a gate at the commencement of the plantation, which is the identical gate where the witnesses saw him standing with his arms folded. The foot-path for a short distance, runs parallel with the plantation, it then diverges to the right and leads up the hill mentioned above. From the angle where it diverges runs another path which goes along the plantation, and within twelve yards of the spot where the bodied were found, and leads to the close where the witness Hannah Boot was hoeing the beans. This description will enable our readers  to know almost the precise spot of the murder.

The remainder of the article then dealt with details of the Inquest but stopped at the time of the adjournment and the important evidence from Lucy Wardle and Mary Miller was missing from the first edition but appeared in a small separate column in the second edition.

The Nottingham Review carried much the same story and information as the Mercury though there were some interesting differences. Whilst the Mercury had informed its readers that Saville was a known felon, the Review informed that Saville had an alias of Nicholson. The paper also gave a description of Saville and some more background information.

The prisoner is a thin, spare man of rather dark complexion of about thirty years of age. He has suffered a term of imprisonment at the House of Correction for a felony committed on premises known as the Railway Tavern on Carrington Street.

There was an initial reference to the Inquest,

The Inquest is to be held at the house of Mr Parr this morning Friday at eleven o’clock. There are about thirteen or fourteen witnesses.

However the Inquest was also presented in full detail including all witness testimony up until the evening adjournment. It would seem the Nottingham Review was overtaken by events and decided to put out a rushed edition containing some obvious errors but did have a full and uninterrupted account of the Inquisition

The Nottingham Journal took the story to press with a most definite decision about who was responsible for the murders. Its main headline proclaimed,

Murder of a Wife and Three Children by her husband

The article was short and sweet and gave nothing like the detail to be found in both the Mercury and the Review. It provided a few facts concerning the arrest of the main suspect, some details from the examination before the Mayor and importantly some precise detail about the discovery of the body of woman found a short distance away from her children and with a razor in her left hand.

The supposition that she had committed  the bloody and remorseless deed  which this fact might warrant is destroyed by traces on the grass as her body had been dragged some yards. The body was found lying with her head down towards the bottom of the hill on which  the plantation is situated, on the right hand of the main path and a few yards from a diverging track which leads to a ploughed field. The razor was not clasped at all by the thumb or finger of the dead woman but had obviously been placed in her hand after death.

The Journal made no attempt to even mention the Inquest, let alone carry any detail of important witness testimony. Instead it focussed on providing its readers with a brief account which challenged any possibility the mother could have been responsible and put the blame for the bloody deed firmly on the shoulders of her husband.

The newspapers were selling quickly all around Nottingham and by nightfall the detailed news had spread far and wide. In some Nottingham Inns and Taverns copies of either the Mercury or Review were pasted up to read on wooden boards. Those able to read were soon surrounded by crowds who could not and the print was read out to astonished drinkers who insisted on parts of the story being told over and over. In homes all around Nottingham and its outlying villages the Colwick murders were the most popular topic of conversation. On Saturday newspapers were conveyed on the numerous coaches leaving Nottingham and so spread the news to the four winds. What had thus far been a local story would soon become national news. In the afternoons of both Saturday and Sunday large crowds again began journeying out to Colwick in search of the Spinney with no name. Most journeyed on foot though there were more than a few carriages setting off down Manvers Street and Colwick Lane and setting their occupants down close to a high green hill near Colwick. A number carried Friday editions of the Nottingham and Newark Mercury, complete with its handy guide to locating the murder spot. Some of the drivers reported good sales in selling copies of Friday newspapers to their customers!

A short distance away at Manor Farm, Constable Parr was relaxing after a very busy week. He had his own copy of the Mercury and noted they had not quite reported the murder spot correctly. No matter, he hoped the crowds would soon drift away. Indeed he knew that in the morning the crowds would be moving in the opposite direction as they journeyed into Nottingham and towards Shire hall for the adjourned inquest. He knew there were a number of new witnesses still to testify not least the surgeon who had examined the bodies before they were buried. He recalled how he had first seen the bodies of the children and the eldest girl with her eyes still open as if she was still staring at the sky. Parr had read the surgeon’s report and discussed it with him. He shuddered as he recalled the details of the eldest girl’s examination. What those poor eyes must have seen! On the morrow new depositions would be read out and Parr hoped the surgeons testimony would help commit the man responsible for the dreadful murders for an assizes trial. Although Parr did not have a copy of the Journal, he had reached exactly the same conclusion as its Friday headline.

To be continued……..

Copyright@Michael Sheridan 2013     All Rights Reserved

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About bakersfieldlad

July 2015...... I published my first book on Amazon - "Savilles Spinnney". On April 1st 2015 I published my second book - "Arsenic Sally". Christmas Day 2015 I published my third book " Murder Mystery and Mayhem on the Railways 1830-1899. That's 3 books in roughly 18 months. I enjoy researching and see no reason to stop writing. There will be many many more books and while I would love to be taken in by a publisher I am content to make my books available via Amazon. Keep checking my blogs for updates about my upcoming projects......
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