The Murder of James Page [1850]

James Smith was the toll collector at King Street Bar, Hebden Bridge.

On the morning of 29th September 1850, his battered body – with his throat cut and the head almost severed – was found in bed by the 9 year-old milk delivery boy.

Smith was last seen shortly before midnight on the 28th by a youth, William Holt, who was late back from his journey. Drawers had been ransacked and blood was found in several parts of the house. The motive was not robbery, as the toll money of £3 and £15 in Smith's own savings was still on the premises.

The magistrate Rev James Armytage Rhodes and Dr Robert Howard took part in the inquest.

Enoch Helliwell, of Burnley, was one of the suspects because he had threatened Smith after being fined £8 10/- after failing to pay the toll a few weeks earlier.

Smith had given evidence at Helliwell's trial, and Helliwell had stated that

he would be the end of Smith

William Green, a 22 year-old labourer of Heptonstall, was also suspected, because he had been seen near the toll house around midnight, and blood was found on his pillow at home. Green said that he had been at the toll house waiting for William Holt to give him a lift home, but since Holt had been late, Green had walked home alone. The blood was said to be from a nose-bleed.

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.

The murder is unsolved

The murder was reported in many national newspapers.

The Leeds Intelligencer [Saturday 12th October 1850] reported

The Hebden Bridge Murder

The adjourned inquest into the cause of the death of James Smith, toll keeper, who is supposed to have been murdered on the morning of the 8th September took place in Mytholm school room.

Last week two men, Helliwell and Green, were in custody but Helliwell was discharged because there was no evidence against him,but there was the curious circumstance that he had been summoned by Smith, the murdered man, for non payment of toll and having been convicted in the highest penalty, has appealed to the sessions which is to come on at Leeds next week. It was rumoured that he had said

If anything particular happens to Smith let me know by first post

Rev J. A. Rhodes, a county magistrate, said he wished to make some suggestions

  1. That Helliwell had an object in disposing of this man's evidence and committed or procured the murder
  2. That it is probable that there was more than one person involved as so much violence could not have been done by one person
  3. That the man who actually committed the murder was himself wounded on the left hand, probably the left thumb
  4. That he got in the house door when Smith was shutting the gate and concealed himself until Smith had gone to bed

A mark on the outer door shows the bloody stain of a man's wet elbow with the folds of a sleeve strongly depicted, and probably of a man below the middle size or else of one stooping.

The Coroner made no remark upon this circumstance.

Mr Crossley, magistrate, asked if the Coroner could not bring in a general verdict, and appeared to ask for time to collect more evidence. The Coroner said he would be willing to wait and keep the jury waiting whilst he continued taking evidence from other witnesses.

Mr Rhodes and Mr Crossley, then left the room with some policemen. They returned about one hour later but had not been successful in meeting any parties on which suspicion had alighted.

Witness John Spencer said he knew Enoch Helliwell who was a tailor from Burnley where they met two men, one of whom said

What art thou with the constable?

He said

I know

and the man said

Yes, thou doest know

Green then told the constable that he was at the toll house late at night waiting for Holt's carts to come through, and he made a practice of going home with them.

Did you go home with them that night?

and Green said

No, I got home before them. I heard Holt's cart pass as I got into bed

It had been alleged that Helliwell had said

If anything particular happens to Smith, send me word

but Spencer said Helliwell actually said

If anything particular happens send me word

Betty Spencer (wife of last witness) also gave evidence.

Edward Heap, a constable, said

He had examined Helliwell but found no marks on his hands. The milk lad had seen Helliwell at his home after the murder wearing only his trousers and shoes.

Enoch Horsfall, a constable, said

I thought it my duty to see William Green and met him in York Street some hours after the murder. He said

I called at the toll house where Smith lived and got a bottle of pop from him and a penn'orth of sweet parkin (gingerbread).

He left about half past eleven.

The constable asked Green to go with him to the White Hart.

At this stage a conversation took place between the Coroner and the jury as to whether the case should be adjourned, or whether they would agree to an open verdict.

There was a good deal of evidence against the prisoner, but not enough to warrant a verdict of murder. They ultimately determined on the latter course and returned a verdict of

Wilful Murder Against Some Person Unknown

Green, however, was to be detained in custody, to be brought before the magistrates again on Saturday (this day) 


The Halifax Guardian [Saturday 12th October 1850] reported

Witness William Crossley, a butcher of Rawtonstall Wood-end (also called King Street) said he was in the bar house at about 6 am on Saturday.

I went there because I thought something was wrong. I opened the door and called out but nothing answered. I came back again and saw William Speak and he returned to the house with me. When I got back a little boy Richard Greenwood was in the house and I told him

Go upstairs and wake Jimmy

He went up but came back immediately and said Smith had cut his throat.

Witness John Norminton of King Street said he was in the bar house at 6 o'clock on Friday night and dated Smith some bar tickets. Richard Speak, a young man, had come to the bar with Joseph Berry, the man with the ass, but he had seen nobody else.

Witness J. Lister Horsfall, one of the jury who had gone out to find witnesses who had seen Green near the scene of the murder (the precept constable having declared his inability to find anyone) now returned to say he had been successful.

Thomas Akroyd of Calderside said he had seen Green on Saturday morning wearing a fustian jacket and a smock (believed to be a white one). He heard Green singing when he was at the top of King Street


The Halifax Guardian [Saturday 5th October 1850] reported

William Crowther who lives near Charlestown saw Green going up Rawtonstall Wood, wearing a fustian jacket but whether it was a shirt or a smock he could not tell.

Maria Wilkinson said she had stopped up late that night to do some whitewashing. She heard William Green come home but did not see him. She had heard William Green's foot so often that she could not be mistaken.

Susy Hodgson gave a long statement of all her movements that morning. She had been in the room and seen the body. She noticed numerous blood spots in the room including some on some parkin and gingerbread in the drawers.

Mrs Whitaker, the mother of the wife of Green's brother, Henry, said Green had called at their house as he often did, and they discussed taking a job from Mr Newton, railway contractor, Todmorden, but Henry said he did not think Newton would take them on so they did not go to Todmorden.

William Dugdale, a constable, a whitesmith said he lived about a mile from the deceased's house, and was the first constable to get there. There were many people in the house so he took no writing down of what he saw. He then described the scene in the bedroom.

George Wilkinson of King Street spoke of being near Green when he (Wilkinson) was with Richard Speak. Speak asked Green if he was at the toll bar on Friday night. He said

Yes, I was; I stopped there while Holt's carts came

Speak asked

How was Jimmy?

Green replied

He was cheerful when I went

John Womersley, a boatman, said he had a boat standing by the canal here on Friday night week, nearly opposite the toll bar.

We had intended to haul to Wood-mill but it was too rough to go further. We had no bed on board and I got up in the middle of the night and looked into the sump-hole. I struck the pump three or four times and heard a scrike (cry). I heard nothing more. I continued pumping until all the water was nearly out. Just before I went below I heard the clock strike two. The scrike I heard sounded to come from the bar house.

Edward John Brierley, Superintendent of Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway police, went to Green's house with Green's father.

He asked the prisoner if that was his bed and the prisoner said it was. There were marks of blood on the sheets and a mark of blood on the pillow but it had been in water. Green's mother said he did not sleep in the bed on Friday night but slept downstairs in her bed. When asked where she slept she said she slept there too.

The prisoner said the blood was from him having a nose bleed


Newspaper report October 1850, added

Our readers will not have forgotten that the origin of the suspicion against Enoch Helliwell in connection with this murder, was a conversation with a person by the name of Spencer at Hebden Bridge.

On the day previous to the murder, in reference to an appeal case to be tried last Leeds sessions, one Helliwell having been fined £5 and costs for riding through King Street bar without paying the toll. Helliwell paid the £5 and £3 /10/- costs and the appeal was withdrawn.

On Monday, Helliwell was again apprehended on suspicion of the murder under somewhat extraordinary circumstances. A man of respectable appearance who gave his name as Thomas Adkinson said that he was a provision dealer in Rochdale and had gone to the police in Burnley and requested the Helliwell might be apprehended as he had sufficient evidence to connect him with the murder. Orders were given to re-apprehend Helliwell.

Sgt Heap went as early as possible to Burnley and Adkinson was confronted with Helliwell and desired to communicate the information which he stated to have. He said that if the magistrate remand Helliwell for a few days there would be sufficient evidence against him. The magistrate, however, first asked Sgt Heap to state the circumstances under which the prisoner had already been apprehended and discharged by the magistrate at Todmorden. Heap stated that from all the information he could gather he found that Helliwell went home to Burnley on the night of the murder and was seen there very early next morning, but that Todmorden may have only discharged him on his entering into recognisance of £100 to appear when called upon. Adkinson then stated that if he had known the latter fact he would not have ordered the police to re-apprehend him as he was only afraid he would abscond. The magistrate then discharged Helliwell, reprimanding Adkinson for having caused his re-apprehension and detention a whole night without any grounds. The reprimand did not appear to have any effect of Adkinson, and on Sgt Heap and others following him to the Bull Inn they saw no reason to suspect the man was of unsound mind. Adkinson was a man of about 30 years of age, of low stature and has a rather crooked leg.

Helliwell's troubles did not end there. He was summoned to appear before Todmorden magistrates to answer to a charge of having cruelly beat, ill-treated, over-ridden and abused an animal, to wit a horse, a crime punishable by a fine not exceeding £3. Helliwell was ill at home but sent his wife to court on his behalf to plead not guilty and ask the magistrate to be merciful. Sgt Heap produced three witnesses to say that Helliwell galloped the horse almost all the way from Portsmouth (near Todmorden) to Todmorden, and kept beating it although it was galloping and sweating excessively. The magistrates dealt leniently with the case, only inflicting a penalty of 5s plus expenses, but expressing a hope that the offence would not be repeated Mrs Helliwell applied for the restoration of a scarf belonging to her husband which the prisoner Green had told the police was at a beer shop in Todmorden and which had therefore come into the hands of Sgt Heap.

The magistrates directed that it be returned to her


© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 13:13 / 19th January 2022 / 16614

Page Ref: X481

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