Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sawyer Brow, Newton 1829

On Sunday, 19th July. 1829. 39 year old John Woodhouse, of Sawyer Brow raped his 10 year old daughter..., He was described by newspapers of the time as "a most determined looking wretch, with a saturnine countenance, with long black hair combed down on his forehead." The child, Maria Woodhouse, was not quite 11 years old, and she is described as a pretty child. The trial took place at the Chester Assizes, on Friday September 4th, 1829. The prisoner was found guilty, and sentenced to death.


Woodhouse was executed on Saturday, September 27th, 1829. along with a man named John Henshall, who was only 20 years old. Henshall had "broken the game laws," or in other words had been poaching, and it was proved that he had procured powder and shot for his companions one of whom shot at and missed a game-keeper. In reporting the executions the newspapers say that the hanging of Henshall was a disgrace to the country, but all alike state that there was no commiseration for the rapist Woodhouse.


After the execution the bodies were taken away by the relatives, which was customary at that time if relatives desired. In a report by the Stockport Advertiser it stated; "The wretch Woodhouse, who was hung on Saturday last, was conveyed in a cart from Chester to Newton Moor, his last place of residence, on Saturday last," ... it then went on to announce that his relatives had been exhibiting him to the curious for a small charge of 2 pennies, and had made considerable sum from doing so.


Thomas Middleton author of many local history books including The Annals Of Hyde, and A History Of Hyde And Its Neighbourhood wrote the following....

" Towards the close of the nineteenth century I came across old people who well remembered the case. One old lady said that: Woodhouse's body was bought back to Newton by his wife, who sat upon the coffin as it lay in the cart. The old lady I spoke to, was a girl of 14 years at the time, and was one of those who paid to see the body which was laid out on a large table in the front room, the charge being two-pence each person. The old lady stated that she well remembered seeing the black ring around the dead mans neck where the hangman's rope had left its mark."


It is said that the body remained at the family home until the smell was to much and the local authorities got involved and threatened action. Woodhouse's decaying body was eventually buried at Mottram, and the funeral party adjourned to a local inn after interment, and there spent some hours drinking.... It is said that whilst walking back to Newton they were passed by a man, a body-snatcher, who had the body hidden in sacking on a donkeys back, and was taking it to sell to a well known local surgeon who bought such things. After the Woodhouse family left the house in Sawyer Brow, it was said to be haunted, and was empty for years.... All the houses have now gone from Sawyer Brow apart from the top corner plot where the van is parked... the story is still told to children to this day by some but is greatly changed.... kids still dare each other to camp out on the fields where the house once stood..


Tom said...

The bottom picture shows the cottages on the corner of Garden Street and Hallbottom Street, Sawyer Brow was a continuation of Hallbottom Street by the looks of the picture.

Hydonian said...

That's a very interesting story and one I was completely unaware of. It beggars belief that anyone would bring a dead relatives body home and charge people to view it. It's even more mindboggling that that people would want to see it AND pay for the privilige - can't imagine that these days with all the PC brigade about. haha!

imac said...

Most interesting, it seems he was good for something then.

Tom said...

I think I might have paid my penny's to have a view... I'd have been one of the ones who would have gone to watch the hangings.... I could have took my knitting with me.. ha! There's one or two that I can think of who I would have pulled the lever on and rushed down and swung on their feet just to make sure ..

ian... said...

Interesting story. Not the most palatable but fascinating all the same. Once he got whiffy, I would've had to be paid to see his corpse, never mind pay!

The last pic is a familiar one, and not much different today except for a lack of stone walling.

Anonymous said...

Barry in Aussie here, I was born in Goodier House which fronted onto Sawyer Brow in 1946. At the top of Sawyer Brew is now 'Goodier House Fold'.

Tom said...

Hi Barry
I don't remember the house Barry... but my mate Jack Cheetham dose... he was here today and I showed him this... he told me to say hello to you.