Elizabeth Rayner

Elizabeth Rayner of Clifton – also known as Liz – was the daughter of William Rayner.

She was murdered in Clifton Wood on New Year's Eve 1832.

Her body was discovered the following day by 3 children, including her brothers John and Simeon.

The murder weapon was never found. It is said that the identity of the murderer was known, but the murder was never officially solved and no-one was ever charged with her death.

William Parry wrote a poem about her murder

Contributor Anna Best writes

Elizabeth Rayner was an ancestor of mine.

She was born in 1812 and baptised at Hartshead church during the time that the Reverend Patrick Brontë was incumbent there.

Reports of the murder are given in the Halifax Guardian and the Huddersfield & Bradford Advertiser.

The first article on January 6th 1833, is about the actual murder which took place on New Year's Eve 1832:

On Tuesday afternoon inst, an unmarried woman about twenty years of age, named Elizabeth Rayner, was found in Clifton wood, about 200 yards from her own residence, with her throat cut.

She was last seen alive on the preceding evening and was in a state of pregnancy.

No weapon or instrument was found near her by which the wound could have been inflicted.

An inquest was held yesterday afternoon, but the particulars have not transpired

The next mention of the murder is a report about the inquest.

On Thursday last, another investigation into this mysterious affair took place before Sir George Armytage at the house of Mr Samuel Middleham, the Armytage Arms, Clifton, and after a tedious enquiry, the evidence in many instances varying from the deposition given before the Coroner, we are sorry that no clue has been found to the perpetrators

The paper also carried an announcement that there was a £100 reward available for information leading to the discovery of the perpetrator(s) and gives a more specific time frame for the crime, namely a period

betwixt nine o'clock on Monday night the 31st of December last and three o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesday the 1st of January

However, despite this tempting amount, which was raised to £200 in a later edition, no one was ever tried for the crime


Family oral history adds the following points, though I have been unable to verify them

  • Elizabeth was a striking red head
  • The evening before she was murdered, she had been attending a New Year's Eve party and left it saying she was going to check on an elderly neighbour who had been unwell
  • Evidence suggested the assailant was a left handed butcher
  • One of her brothers, Crispin, was variously said to be a strong man in a circus and a grenadier guard

Other points are

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:24 / 24th May 2021 / 6068

Page Ref: X325

search tips advanced search
site search by freefind