Attempted murder at Upholland

Liverpool Mercury 21st Jan 1899



On Saturday a tragic occurrence took place at Upholland near Wigan. The principal persons concerned by the affair were, Henry BENNETT, a detaller, 35/40 yrs old and lived in Bickershaw Lane, Abram, 10 miles from Upholland and Jane ECKERSLEY a young widow, Martha GOODALL, her mother and Henry BANKS a collier living in Grimshaw Lane, Upholland.

Mrs ECKERSLEY formerly lived with her husband at Hindley, near Wigan, and on his death went to live in West Houghton, subsequently removing to Coppull and Crawford Village, Upholland.

It was whilst at West Houghton she became acquainted with the man BENNETT and afterwards acted as his housekeeper, Mrs GOODALL joining the couple. BENNETT seems to have become attached in a certain way to the widow, who continued to live with him till a few months ago.

In the meantime BANKS had similar feelings towards Mrs ECKERSLEY, whilst she was with BENNETT, BANKS was paying her frequent visits.

3mths ago BENNETT, Mrs ECKERSLEY and Mrs GOODALL were living together at Crawford Village, but owing to the ill-treatment on the part of BENNETT, the woman parted company with him and went to live with BANKS who was also widowed, BENNETT was enraged at the separation.

The woman and BANKS took up residence at Tawd Bridge Cottages, and here BENNETT called several times, and did his utmost to persuade Mrs ECKERSLEY to return to him. She however, refused to have anything more to do with him.

BENNETT recently heard that BANKS and Mrs ECKERSLEY were about to be married, and from all indications he seems to have made up his mind the event should not take place. The police have ascertained that during last week BENNETT visited a pawnbrokers in Wigan, where he bought a six-chambered revolver and a large quantity of cartridges, which were found on him after the crime was committed.

Early on Saturday morning he was seen in Upholland hurrying towards Skelmersdale, and in the direction of the house BANKS tenanted. He arrived about 10 and went around to the back door. Mrs GOODALL answered his knock, in his hand he had three books, which afterwards proved to be shop-dept books, and his first words were, “What about these? Can you tell me the names that belong to these books?”.

Mrs ECKERSLEY hearing BENNETT’S questions, passed through the kitchen to the back door, her son [James ECKERSLEY a lad of about 12yrs] and BANKS immediately joined her.

BANKS, however, when he saw it was BENNETT immediately withdrew.

BENNETT again asked, “Do you know these names?” and Mrs ECKERSLEY took the books and said they belonged to a man named GARDNER. Without further ado BENNETT whipped out the revolver and pointing it at Mrs ECKERSLEY, fired one shot. The young woman was wearing a cotton sun bonnet, and the bullet struck the portion of the headgear that covered the left temple.

She exclaimed, “Oh Harry, he’s shot me.”

BANKS came to her assistance, and hurried her out of the house by the front door, and took her to his parent’s house a short distance away.

BENNETT had stepped into the scullery, and proceeded to the entance of the kitchen, where, seeing Mrs GOODALL he fired two shots at her. The old woman fortunately, stooped each time he pointed the revolver at her, and the bullets went over her and struck the wall.

The lad, James ECKERSLEY had in the meantime scrambled under the kitchen table, and, unseen by BENNETT he crawled on his hands and knees out of the house.

Mrs GOODALL and the lad then made their escape and took refuge in the house Mrs ECKERSLEY and BANKS had entered, and, where they were locked in for the best part of an hour.

A provision dealer named WHITTLE, attracted by the report of the firearms, proceeded to Bank’s cottage and discovered BENNETT lying in a pool of blood, which was oozing from three wounds in his head.

WHITTLE at once raised the alarm and Police Sgt COOPER, and PC. LAMBERT were soon on the scene, being followed by Dr RILEY of Skelmersdale, who attended to BENNETT and Mrs ECKERSLEY.

BENNETT was in a critical condition and after his wounds were dressed was taken by horse ambulance to the Wigan Infirmary, Mrs ECKERSLEY was taken there shortly afterwards by cab.

On the way to the infirmary BENNETT was fully conscious and made a statement from which it appeared he was under the impression he had dangerously injured the two women, and is reported to have said, “I hope they both die.”

On arrival at the institution both patients were examined by Dr MACDONALD, Senior House Surgeon.

Three bullets were extracted from BENNETT, one embedded in the scalp soft tissue, another probed in the tissue on the other side of the head, the third was found in his mouth at the junction of the soft palate and roof of his mouth. One of his molar teeth was shattered and part of his jaw was blown away.

BANKS afterwards stated he had been, “courting Mrs ECKERSLEY for 12 months.” that he was, “courting” her when she lived with BENNETT, and that he intended to marry her.

From inquiries at the Wigan Infirmary on Sunday afternoon, it was ascertained the two parties had passed a restful night and there was improvement in their condition. In regard to the woman the bullet did not enter her head, the thick bonnet prevented the bullet embedding in her flesh. Mrs ECKERSLEY, however, is suffering terribly from the shock, but her stay in the institution is not likely to be lengthy.

Kindly donated by John Molyneux

Wigan Observer of January 18th 1899.

The same newspaper has more detail on January 20th.

In one of the memorandum books a message was found;

‘Jan 14th 1899. Dear mother and brother-in-law, I write these few lines to you hoping that you are all well for this will be the last time that I shall write to you and I hope none of you will trouble yourselves about me when I have gone for I have been troubles at much myself and I am going to put them out of the way that has troubled me and myself and all for I will shoot them both if they are at Tawd Bridge when I get there for I can’t see nothing worth living for now. So good bye to you all from your lost brother Henry Bennett.’

From the same edition;

Cornelius McManus assistant at Messrs. Wilson and Harwood’s, pawnbrokers, Wigan, said on Friday January 13th prisoner came to the shop about four o’clock in the afternoon and asked for a revolver. He sold him the one produced for 6s-11d, and also half a box of cartridges, for which he paid 1s-3d. Prisoner said he wanted to get his Sunday’s dinner with the revolver, as there was game in his garden. He was sober.

On the way to the Infirmary Bennett said to the police guard;

Is Jane dead? Do’st ta’ think I’ll get better? because if I do I’ll do it for both of us the next time I see her’.

The surgeon took x-rays of Jane's head only four years after they had been discovered.

A brief followup on the characters of the attempted murder.

Henry Banks and Jane Eckersley married soon afterwards, the marriage being recorded in Wigan in the September Quarter of 1899.

The 1901 census has Henry and Jane Banks living at 40 Field Street, Skelmersdale with Jane’s two younger sons, John and Thomas. Four houses away at number 32 are Martha Goodall and her grandson James Eckersley who had scrambled under the table on the fateful day.

In 1901 Henry Bennett is a convict in Portland Prison, Dorset.


Copyright 2002 / To date