Wednesday, November 28, 2018
The Cropton Lane Farm Murders - Rosemary Pardoe
The Cropton Lane Farm Murders by Rosemary Pardoe is a new booklet just issued by the eminent editor of the M R James journal Ghosts & Scholars, in a similar format. And it is a James connection that begins this engrossing account of an obscure Victorian mystery.
As Rosemary explains, “In his 1926 memoir, Eton and King’s, M R James, the famous writer of ghost stories, tells of a trip to Yorkshire in the Easter vacation of 1885, when he was aged 22.” Staying at a moorland inn, James noticed a mourning card commemorating the double murder of a father and son at a farm about eighteen miles away to the east, some thirteen years earlier. This included a brief verse about the affair, which James says he memorised, and reproduces in his account.
James was, as he admitted, often “absorbed” by real-life murder mysteries, and it is not surprising this curious memento mori caught his attention. But what was the story behind it? Although it was for a time of some local notoriety, Rosemary discovered that the case is one which is now largely unknown, and so decided to look into it further. Her fascinating study expertly unravels what proves to be a quite peculiar matter, a bleak rustic tragedy that would not be out of place in a Thomas Hardy novel.
This clear and detailed account of a rather bizarre sequence of events covers the initial “disappearance” of the victims, the grisly discovery of (some of) their remains, the inquest, the police investigation, the trial, the verdict and the aftermath. Rosemary also gives her own considered verdict on the case, in a fair and judicious conclusion.
This thorough study of a grim episode will be of great interest not only to those who want to know more about an unusual M R James anecdote, but to all readers who relish Victorian mysteries and macabre history.
Copies are available from Rosemary Pardoe at 36 Hamilton Street, Hoole, Chester, CH2 3JQ for £3.50 including postage (cheques payable to R A Pardoe). For overseas orders, please email dandrpardoe[at]gmail[dot]com, replacing the words in square brackets with the appropriate symbols. The edition is very limited.