BUTTON PIT MURDER 1863

Jan 31st,1863

THE MURDER AND BURNING OF THE BODY NEAR WIGAN

The police being of the opinion that further retention of the remains of the fireman James BARTON, who was murdered at Haigh on the 2nd or 3rd inst, his body then burned in the furnace of the colliery at which he worked, will not be of further service to them, made arrangements for the opening of the inquest this day.

The enquiry took place at New Springs about two miles from the scene of the murder, before C. DRIFFIELD Esq, the district coroner. The deceased James BARTON, was in the employ of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, at the Bawkhouse or Button Pit, Haigh, near Wigan, and was left performing his usual duties on the night of Friday the 2nd inst. When the workmen arrived at the pit the following morning, BARTON was missing, and the only discoveries that were made after a search of several hours, were some bits of bones, buckles and nails, which were found in the furnace. Some of these articles were similar to those worn by BARTON, and chemical analysis has since shown that the bones in the fire and blood on the clinkers are unquestionably human. No clue has yet been obtained to the murderer of murderers. The whole of the facts known will be shown below. Mr MAYHEW, solicitor to the Earl of Crawford, and Chief Constable KING of Bootle were in attendance at the inquest.

The first witness, Edward WATMOUGH, a pony tenter at Bawkhouse Pit, said he last saw the deceased at 6pm Friday evening the 2nd inst. The following morning he reached the pit at 3.30 am and found the pumping engine stopped, the cabin fire out and lumps of coal on the floor of the cabin. On not finding BARTON he went into the boiler house and shouted but received no reply. He returned to the cabin and put coal on the fire, and in doing so noticed a muffler belonging to BARTON, lying in the grate half burnt. In order to break the coal he took up a bar which lay in the cabin [similar to one produced], he sat for two or three minutes then the fireman Mathew RODEN came in to the cabin and he showed him part of old Jim’s muffler which was burnt. They both wondered were BARTON had gone but found nothing.

Mathew RODEN confirmed the evidence of, Edward WATMOUGH.

John BARTON, of Haigh son of the deceased said, he was an engine tenter at Bawkhouse Pit, James BARTON was his father, aged 55, he had worked the two engines of the pit. On Friday night the 2nd of the month his father was on night turn, he met him at the stile on coming away, he was coming to work, he looked well and was dressed as usual with his muffler on. The next morning WATMOUGH knocked him up and told him his father was missing. He went to the pit and found the engine stopped The first trace of his father were marks in the fire hole, impressions of his fingers on the dirty wall opposite the fire holes. The first thing he saw at daylight was a crowbar with blood on and at daylight he noticed spots of blood near the cabin. His father wore a belt around his body, to which there was a buckle, the strap about an inch broad. The door plate of the furnace is about 16 inches wide, and it runs back about four feet, the doors fold, meeting in the middle, each door 16 by 18 inches.

Coroner said, from the state in which he found the fires he would think they had been left 3 to 4 hours.

Mr KING, said he was in the habit of working the night shift, and said, men both friends and strangers, were in the habit of calling at the cabin to smoke their pipes.

John BARTON, first thought his father was in the furnace from the discovery by ARMSTRONG of blood on the plates against which the furnace doors shut. He did not know of any person who his father had any grudge, he was on good terms with all the persons about the colliery. He could not think of any reason his life would be taken except for the sake of his watch, which was missing. He was in good circumstances for a working man. He never took any money to his work. He never heard his father say he knew anything about the men who attacked the watchman at the Standish paper mills. He was not on duty that night

John Baker EDWARDS of Liverpool, analytical chemist and lecturer on medical jurisprudence at the Royal Infirmary School of medicine, Liverpool said, that on the 5th inst he received from Police Sergeant GARDINER, some pieces of bone, some pieces of clinker, a piece of wool and an iron crowbar. He selected portions which he produced and believed them to be human, they had been submitted to a high temperature and their internal structure had been destroyed, but the external structure had been well preserved. He made a chemical and microscopic examination of the clinker and found it caked together with blood, and under the microscope found the corpascules as of human blood. The blood on the coal and bench was also human and there was no blood on the crowbar.

Charles Edward Dunbar SHEPARD of Wigan, surgeon, also spoke of the blood being human.

Thomas BARTON, living in Haigh, son of the deceased, said about 5am he heard his father was missing, WATMOUGH told them and he went to the pit immediately afterwards. He fired up all three fires and saw white ashes in all. It had been suggested to him that his father might have been put in one of the furnaces, and that if he had been placed there fat would be dropped through the ash hole, he examined all the grids and found a hard cake of fat. George ARMSTRONG and a young woman were with him at the time, he informed them of finding the fat and asked why they had put him in there. He did not know who suggested his father was in the furnace, and did not notice anything in the fire hole on Saturday morning. He had been over night at the house of Betty DITCHFIELD and had a couple of glasses of ale there, but was quite sober. The piece of burnt scarf he recognised has having been worn by his father.

George ARMSTRONG of Blackrod, fireman in the pit, said, he missed the deceased he arrived at the pit at 4.30am and went to look for the deceased, accompanied by Matthew RODEN and James WATMOUGH and others who were also at the pit. I could not find him so came up again Thomas BARTON remarked in the cabin that he could smell something about the fire hole and was sure they put his father in there. I looked about and saw what I thought was blood on the furnace door, it looked like stuff that had run out of a pie in the oven. I went back in the cabin and said, I thought it unnecessary to search anymore as BARTON would be in the furnace. Thomas BARTON the son was with me and said he thought his father had been there from the first. Thomas went under the fire hole and found a cake of what looked like blood, he thought he could smell burnt grease. He also saw blood in the cabin on a form.

William WHALLEY, of Haigh labourer, said he worked for James MONKS and remembers the night before BARTON was missed, he saw him in the fire hole. WHALLEY was in company about 8pm, with William WETHERBY, they went to the cabin together. The pumping engine was working all the time he was there, and he went straight home afterwards. BARTON looked as well as ever, dressed as usual, he noticed the muffler belonging to BARTON hanging on a rail in the cabin. While we were there BARTON took out his watch, WETHERBY said his watch was not working. The engine was going all the time, we left him alone, and met no one as we came way.

Daniel THORNLEY of Haigh, police constable, said, that George BARTON, the son of James BARTON came to the station about seven and told him his father was missing. He went with him to the William WHALLEY, of Haigh labourer, said he worked for James MONKS and remembers the night before BARTON was missed, he saw him in the fire hole. WHALLEY was in company about 8pm, with William WETHERBY, they went to the cabin together. The pumping engine was working all the time he was there, and he went straight home afterwards. BARTON looked as well as ever, dressed as usual, he noticed the muffler belonging to BARTON hanging on a rail in the cabin. While we were there BARTON took out his watch, WETHERBY said his watch was not working. The engine was going all the time, we left him alone, and met no one as we came way.

Daniel THORNLEY of Haigh, police constable, said, that George BARTON, the son of James BARTON came to the station about seven and told him his father was missing. He went with him to the colliery about 7.30am, there were many people dragging THE LODGES, Thomas BARTON said he thought his father was in the furnace as he found a cake of blood beneath, the fire. PC THORNLEY also confirmed he found a cake of blood there and streaks of blood on the plate which had run from the fire. He went for Sergeant GARDINER, and they riddled the ashes under the furnace, they found nothing there but in the ashes in the fire they found, bones, buttons and nails, the nails were found at the end of the furnace 7 feet from the door. Sergeant GARDINER took charge of the remains. He confirmed the statement of THORNLEY.

The Coroner in addressing the jury, stating the fact that the remains were human and that a man was missing were, sufficient to justify him holding an inquest. The medical evidence was satisfactory and could not see that the jury would come to any other conclusion than that, the remains were those of BARTON, nor that they could return any other verdict than one of wilful murder against some person of persons unknown. Verdict accordingly.

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Considerable excitement was created at Wigan on Wednesday and Thursday arising from a report that a man had been apprehended on his own confession that he was one of accomplices in the murder of BARTON at Haigh pit. It turned out the fellow had made the statement while under the influence of intoxication, and as a punishment was charged with drunkenness and find 5s and costs.

Thomas GRIME hanged at Kirkdale

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