A dead highwayman murdered my ancestors

Two of my distant ancestors were murdered in their kitchen reputedly for the money in the teapot.  This was 1750 when William Spurret and his wife Elizabeth ran the local alehouse, Hobcroft’s Holt. Standing on the site today is the Holt Hotel, its sign depicting a highwayman said to haunt the hotel.

Now nobody wants to point a finger at friends and relatives but it was obviously an inside job so what did the authorities do?  Blame the atrocity on the local highwayman, a French chap called Claude Duval, who was hanged at Tyburn on the 21 January 1670 – 80 years earlier.   As you have probably guessed, I enjoy art galleries and not too long ago, I was delighted to find a painting of this very rascal hanging on the wall of Manchester Art Gallery – sadly replaced by a another painting a month or so ago.

There is obviously no way Claude could have been responsible for the beerhouse murders.  Apparently, he was a gallant rogue; when he stopped a stagecoach, if a pretty female passenger danced with him, she could keep her belongings.    

This painting, thank you Manchester Art Gallery Collections, is by William Powell Frith RA (1819-1909) donated in 1917 by the James Gresham Bequest.  Claude, in his scarlet jacket, is clearly expecting the lady in white to dance…. If you look closely just between the arms of the  two masked robbers to the left of the painting, you can see a tiny gibbet on the horizon whence dangles a convicted highwayman.

After his execution at Tyburn in London, legend has him buried in St Paul’s church, Covent Garden; the parish register records the burial of Peter Duval in January 1670.

A memorial in the church reads:

Here lies DuVall: Reder, if male thou art,

Look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.

Much havoc has he made of both; for all

Men he made to stand, and women he made to fall

The second Conqueror of the Norman race,

Knights to his arm did yield, and ladies to his face.

Old Tyburn’s glory; England’s illustrious Thief,

Du Vall, the ladies’ joy; Du Vall, the ladies’ grief.

A gruesome description of the murder –not a whiff of Claude Duval – can be found here under  the title Murder at the Holt on Steeple Aston Village Archive website.

Resources for U3A lecture Buxton

Suggested resources other than censuses. Good luck.

  • Andy Alston’s Repository www.andrewalston.co.uk/cottonindustryjobs.html
  • Local archives, CROs/Mechanic Institutes – local
  • Court records
  • Unions/apprenticeship records
  • Cotton Famine (1861-1865); records includes
    • CROs – sewing schools
    • Minutes for the relief committees
    • Other relief work – including for men
  • Directories and trade directories
  • Bankruptcy courts;  The London Gazette etc www.thegazette.co.uk
  • Newspapers, BNA
  • Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire
  • Family History Societies

1842 Mines Act and records online

My Ancestors worked in Textile Mills

Moorside worsted spinning mill built 1875 now Bradford Industrial Museum © Adèle Emm

Good news, this latest addition to my ‘oeuvres’ will be published in the near future by the Society of Genealogists.  I’m currently revising, proof reading and indexing – indexing is not a job I particularly like but someone has to do it.  Another of  my skillsets….

The book covers the history behind England’s wealth – in the Middle Ages…  I’m sure you’ve guessed by now…  wool!  Even today, the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords sits on a woolsack – its weight three times more than me.    My book explains the process of cloth production from pre-industrialisation through the industrial revolution and on.   If your ancestors lived in the North West, Yorkshire or Scotland from the 18th Century, I bet one of them worked in the textile industry.  My great great grandfather was an Oxfordshire baker who migrated northwards to Ashton under Lyne.  He never worked in the cotton mills – but all his children did.

Read about working conditions, what mill-workers actually did and how much they were paid.  Found great auntie Aggie working as a lapper or frame tenter and wondered exactly what she did?  Easy.  Read my book…    It’s due out towards the end of this year, perhaps the beginning of 2020.  I’ll keep you updated.   In the meantime, whet your appetite by reading Tracing your Trade and Craftsman Ancestors and Tracing your Female Ancestors,   both available now….