Poisoning Mystery At Godley
From the book
By Thomas Middleton
Godley Hill was the scene of a brutal poisoning case during the 1840s, which resulted in the death of a man named Brook. This man and his sons were coal miners, and lived in a small house on Godley Hill. Brook’s wife became intimate with a pedlar, and some time after the commencement of this intimacy Brook died suddenly. Then the widow married the pedlar, and the two lived very unhappily for several years. At length the pedlar went to Chief Constable Little, of Hyde, and made a confession. He stated that Brooks’s death was the result of poison, and that he (the pedlar) had purchased arsenic from a druggist in Stalybridge; that Mrs. Brook administered the poison to her husband by mixing it with a pudding which he ate, and that a piece of the pudding which was left was afterwards thrown away, and eaten by some hens belonging to Israel Stott, who at that time kept the Olive Tree Inn – the hens all dying from the effects of poison. Brooks body was exhumed, and an inquiry instituted. Mr. Lancashire, the coffin maker, testified that the coffin exhumed was the one which he had buried Brooks; Israel Stott testified to the loss of his poultry; a potion of Brook’s stomach was given to Dr. Alcock, of Hyde, and another potion to Prof. Calvert, Analytical Chemist, of Manchester, and both these gentlemen testified that the stomach contained arsenic. The evidence against the pedlar and his wife seemed condemning, but at trial both prisoners were acquitted on a point of law as to the testimony of the husband against the wife, and the wife against the husband. The public however, were convinced of their guilt. There was a ballad composed concerning the above tragedy, which runs as follows:
Oh, give attention, both young and old,
To these few verses which I unfold,
It’s of a murder, as you know,
Which was committed six years ago.
The neighbours all do remember still
That one J. Brooks lived on Godley Hill
For many years free from pain and strife,
Till he was poisoned by his own wife.
This wretched women, you’ll understand,
Kept company with another man;
Her faithful husband she did betray,
And cruelly took his life away.
How could she harbour it in her mind
to slay a husband so good and kind?
He was respected by each degree,
And laboured hard in a colliery.
‘Twas Satan tempted his wretched wife.
With deadly poison to take his life,
Of which she gave him, good people all,
But no suspicion on her did fall.
Poor Brooks was buried, you’ll understand,
And she got wed to this other man;
Robert Thornley is his name,
And he assisted her in the same.
They had been parted a year or more,
His guilty conscience being wounded sore
By night or day he could find no rest,
So to the murder he now confessed.
Then she was taken and brought to Hyde,
The dreadful murder she has denied,
But Thornley has confessed the whole
And God above knows her guilty soul.
In Mottram Churchyard, as I have heard,
His moldered body was disinterred,
The stomach carefully was analysed,
At which result you will be surprised.
The poison found by the medical men,
As much, they say, as would poison ten;
What a wretched partner must she be
To slay the father of her family.
They’re both committed, in woe and wail,
For wilful murder to Chester Jail,
To stand their trial for the horrid deed
Which causes their wicked hearts to bleed.