Murder at Foxholes 1895


Murder at Foxholes I am indebted to Elaine and John Jordan of
Castleford for a copy of the following extract from the Wakefield
Express of 10th August 1895. Elaine took up the search for the
story from her ancestors who were the Illingworth family in Methley.

Some of the Jury of local men that were summoned for the

preliminary inquest were :-



George Risker 40 from Staffordshire then Landlord of Bay Horse PH

 :- Main St. Mickletown.





             Phillip Connell 61- Landlord Lord.  Lord Nelson PH

:- Main Street, Methley.





             Thomas Green - Landlord Mexborough Arms PH

 :- Scholey Hill, Methley.





              John Allison - Dairyman Coney Moor Farm

:- Lower Mickletown.




Thos Asquith - Grocer, :- Junction, Methley.  


     Levi Winterburn - Grocer, :- Mickletown.  

Thos Thompson _ Surveyor, :- to the Local Board.          


A great sensation was caused early in the week by the mysterious
disappearance of John Illingworth, a hanger-on employed at Foxholes
Colliery, near Methley
. It appears that Illingworth, who had a wife
and three children, was twenty-six years old, and lived in Foxholes Pit yard.
On Saturday evening August 3rd 1895 he left home, telling his wife he was going for a walk
and would return about ten o'clock. Where he went at first is not known
but at 9.45 he turned up at the Fox Inn, Altofts, and soon afterwards    
Alfred Beaumont, who lodges at the inn came in.

 There seems no doubt
that Illingworth had had a good deal to drink, and he got a bottle filled
with half a pint of whisky. Owing to his beginning an altercation with some of
the customers the landlord got him to leave about 10.45, and Beaumont went
after him to see him safe over the bridge. Beaumont, it would seem was far
from sober. What took place outside is not known, further than that.
Beaumont on his return said Illingworth was a queer chap, and wanted to
fight, but he had seen him on his way all right.

As Illingworth did not turn up at home that night inquiries were
instituted and the river was dragged.
Meanwhile the police, hearing that Beaumont had spoken about having
     Illingworth's watch, went to the Fox Inn, and found the watch and chain 
in the bed in which Beaumont sleeps. Beaumont was at once apprehended and
taken to Wakefield on a charge of stealing the watch.

 No tidings being
still forthcoming as to Illingworth the matter assumed a very grave aspect.
The dragging of the river was continued, and at 1.30 on Thursday afternoon
the body was found about 150 yards from Foxholes Lock, which is not far
from where Beaumont said he left Illingworth
on Saturday night.
The body which was much decomposed, was conveyed to deceased's late residence.

     Yesterday at noon Major Taylor held an inquest at the

Mexborough Arms Inn, Scholey Hill, Methley.

The jury was composed as follows:-

 Messrs James Mathers, foreman, John
Riley, Levi Winterburn, George Risker, Philip Connell, Thomas Asquith
George Rooke, George Wood, Thomas Green, John Allison, Thomas Thompson,
and Joseph Taylor. Seargeant Asquith
was in attendance on the coroner.

Considerable interest was manifest in the proceedings, in the circumstances
surrounding the death of the deceased causing no little exitement in the
district. The man Alfred Beaumont who is charged with having stolen the
deceased's watch and chain, was present at the inquiry. He was
brought from Wakefield gaol in a cab under the care of Supt Shepley and Inspecter
. It was considered best to bring him in this manner to avoid a scene
very few persons witnessed his arrival.

     The jury proceeded to view the body, which lay at the house in Foxholes  
Pit -yard
, and they were away about three-quarters of an hour. On their
return evidence was called, the first witness being deceased's wife.
Mrs Illingworth appeared to be in a delicate condition and was
over whelmed with grief. While giving her evidence she repeatedly exclaimed
"Lord help me" and "My poor Jack" and she was specially distressed when
her husbands watch and chain and cap were produced.

The evidence given was as follows:-
Mrs Nancy Illingworth said deceased was her husband. His name was
John Illingworth, and he was 26 years old on the 8th July. He lived
at Foxholes Pit-yard, and was employed as a hanger-on at the pit bottom at
Foxholes Colliery. He had been strong and healthy and always cheerful,
he had nothing to trouble him. She last saw him alive about 6.30 last
Saturday. He was then at home.

He said he was going for a walk.
He went out alone. He was in the habit of going for a walk on Saturdays
He said he would be back about half past ten. Witness heard nothing about
him or from him that night. She heard from his uncle on Sunday morning
that he had been seen at Wakefield. She had seen deceased's watch
and chain. (pointing to it on the table. witness said "That is my poor Jacks")
She could tell his watch and chain it had Perkin on it.
                             (The watch was a silver lever. no 15649. Perkin Watchmakers
1 Cross Square, Wakefield, WF1 1PD.)

Witness continued that she
was shown the watch and chain on Tuesday by P.C. Scott. She saw nothing
else at the time but she saw his cap on Thursday. Looking at a cap produced
she said "That is my poor Jacks cap" She did not know how much
money he had, she knew he had a shilling but did not know how much more.
She was quite sure her husband had a watch and chain on him when he left
the house on the Saturday, he would not go out without it and he would
not give it away. He had bought it at Mr Perkins at Wakefield.

Mary Ann Plimmer wife of Eli Plimmer landlord of the Fox Inn,
Altofts, said she did not know John Illingworth the deceased. She saw a
stranger a little before 10 o'clock on Saturday. He came in alone and another
man was just behind. The second man was Alfred Beaumont. They came into
the filling bar. Tey came very friendly up to the counter. She heard
deceased called Jack and they all called him Jack.

Beaumont said he did not
know deceased, but Illingworth said he knew Beaumont. There were several
customers in, she was behind the counter, and the stranger (Illingworth) said
"Fill me a pint of beer missis" and addressing Beaumont he said "Will you
have a pint" He said "No I will only have a glass." Afterwards he put down
a half-pint bottle and said "Fill me this with whisky." Illingworth said
"What is it." and she told him, and he put a coin down-either a florin or a
half crown and said "That will pay for it." Beaumont and Illingworth were
talking to a man named Robert Woodhead and asked him if he would have a
glass, but he declined as he said he always paid for his own.

Illingworth then asked Woodhead if he knew "Soldier Jack" Woodhead said he did
not know Soldier Jack, and that he did not know him. Illingworth then said "You
are a liar, you do know him. Your wife and Soldier Jacks wife are sisters."
Woodhead said "Sit you down I don't want to have anything to say to you."
Witness's husband who was sitting by Beaumont said "You go and sit you down
I will have no disturbance here." Witness also said "YOung man, you go and
sit you down, and give over talking to the gentleman. I don't think you know
him" Illingworth he did know him. Witness said "You are mistaken about his
wife she is a Methley woman." and Illingworth said "So is the woman I mean"

Witness asked if he had to go over the river and he said he had.
Looking at the clock she said it was time he was going, as they did not put people
over the river very late. He replied he should not want them to put him over
the river as he had a boat of his own. She said "Then you are a boatman?"
and he made no reply to that. Witness then said "Where is your boat?" He
then replied "This side the river." She thought he was a sand boatman, and
told him to be careful how he got into his boat, and he replied" You need not
be afraid of me getting into the water. If I get in I can get out."
She said "There are plenty of good swimmers who get into the water and cannot
get out"

 In the meantime he was haggling Robert Woodhead. He called for
another pint of beer Which she served. He asked the company if they would
have a song, and one man said "Lets have a song and lets have a bit of
quietness." Illingworth sang two songs and the company joined in the chorus.

About quarter to eleven Witness's husband took hold of Illingworth quietly
by the coat and told him he would have to go out and said "You should not
go against that man (Beaumont) and Illingworth replied "I was only kidding
him" If he had been quiet he could have stopped. She recognised deceased
coat by the shape of the collar, and she noticed he had a watch chain on.

Supt Shepley: who left at the same time as Illingworth?  Witness:
Alfred Beaumont left at the same time. Beaumont lodged with them six months
the last time, he was with them a good bit before that. He was in the house
all day on Saturday after he had finished his work, which is sand getting.
Beaumont left at 10-45 and she saw him again at about 11-15. She asked
Beaumont if he had seen that man (Illingworth) over the bridge safe, as she
was very particular when they left her place to see them safe away.
Beaumont replied "Yes missis I have." She asked how far he had taken him
and he said "I have taken him just over the bridge. and watched as far as
I could see him." She asked him if he could do and the young man said he
could do alright. Beaumont said the man who had left was a queer man for he
was wanting to fight.

Alfred had been drinking all the afternoon, but he
was a man who could take a lot of drink. Beaumont was the drunker of the two,
and the other was bad enough.

The first she heard of the man being missing was on Monday morning: she did
not see him early on Sunday. Beaumont was out early on Sunday: He told
witness he went our early, but he did not tell her any particular time he
went out. Beaumont was at home all Sunday. He was seen to bed on Saturday:
they never left him up. She was up the last, but did not know when Beaumont
went to bed. She never saw Beaumont on Monday.

 On Monday a young man asked
"Had you a stranger in here on Saturday night?" and she said "Yes" and the
man then told her Illingworth was missing. The first she said to Beaumont
about the matter was to tell him there was a man missing and remarked" I
should think it is not the young man you saw over the bridge on Saturday
night. He went off right enough." Beaumont said nothing about a watch or
chain or cap.

She was present when the chain was found, which was on Tuesday
about eight o'clock. When she got home a policeman came and asked if anyone
had been in the bedroom (Beaumont's) since he was there. He said he wished
to go up again, and he did so. He lifted up the bedclothes in a particular
place and found the watch and chain between upper and lower sheets.
That was the bed Beaumont always slept in. The officer asked her if it was
like the chain deceased wore, and she said she thought Illingworth wore a
chain like it.

Witness went to the wash-house on the Wednesday and found
two coats hung up. She examined the pockets and found two caps. She did not
know whose they were, but believed they belonged to Beaumont his working caps.
She did not know whether deceased was wearing one of the caps on Saturday

Illingworth was not drunk but he was not sober: the two men were
about alike. Alfred Beaumont was as nice a man as walks.

     Dr Taylor of Oaklands, Methley, said he knew John Illingworth very well.    
He last saw him a few weeks ago. He saw the dead body at 10 O'clock that
morning at deceased's home at Foxholes Colliery-yard. He judged that he had
been dead five or six days. There was a bruise on the bridge of the nose
and one behind the right ear, which had been caused prior to death.
The body was well nourished, but very much decomposed. Witness's son John
William Taylor, M.R.C.S.E, L.R.C.P.E. assisted him in making a post-mortem
examination. First opening the head, they found the brain healthy.
There was no frothy matter in the larynx to indicate drowning: the lungs, larynx,
trachea and bronchial tubes were healthy. he found no blood in the heart.
The stomach was empty and healthy, also all the abdominal organs were healthy.

Cutting down to the spine they found the sixth vertibra fractured, and came
to the conclusion that, that was the cause of death. It would cause instant
death. It could have been caused by a fall from a height on to the head, or
by a sudden push from behind causing him to fall forward.

In witness's opinion the cause of death was not drowning: he thought the man
must have been dead before he got into the water. In reply to the foreman
witness said he did not think falling down the bank would cause the fracture.
The body was empty of food but any quantity of gas was present. He could not
say how long it would take to absorb the liquor taken by the deceased.

Eli Plimmer, landlord of the Fox Inn Altofts, corroborated his wife's
evidence. He also said Illingworth knocked Mr Woodhead's hat off as he sat
on the form, and picked up a pint pot in his left hand with intention of
throwing it at Mr Woodhead. He did not think the two men (Beaumont and
deceased) were much amiss for drink and there was not too much difference
between them. The man who walked over the bridge did not seem to have any-
thing the matter with him. It was not necessary for Beaumont to go over the
bridge with Illingworth. Beaumont was out early on Sunday morning but could
not say the time.

 P.C. Scott came and found a watch under the matress of
Beaumonts bed. the officer asked where he had got it, and Beaumont said his
brother gave him it six months ago.

         Mr Robert Woodhead, farmer, Foxholes Farm, Altofts
, stated that he was 
atthe Fox Inn, Altofts on Saturday. It was about 9.10 when he went in.
A Stranger came in, and someone followed him just after-which was Beaumont-
the time being about a quarter to ten. later on the landlord asked
the stranger to go out. He could walk right enough: he was not what he should
call fresh. He saw them on the bridge. On Sunday morning about 8 or 9 he
saw Beaumont on the bridge. He asked him how he got on with that man on
Saturday night and he replied "I took him through your gates and then left
him, as he said he could manage. He was a man who came over in Mr Woods
boat. The boat was on this side of the river and the oars in Winess's turnips.

Fountain Wilson, miner, Calder Terrace Bottom-boat, said he had
known John Illingworth ever since he was a child. He heard on Monday that
he was missing, and along with others dragged the river till six o'clock, and
agoan on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday they found the body about
1.30. It was found floating, and at a point which had been dragged several
times. he helped to get the body out of the water and assisted to lay it out.
Alfred Beaumont, river sand getter, who lodges at the Fox Inn, Altofts, was
asked if he desired to give any evidence, and having said he would do
so, was duly sworn. This having been done, he after further consideration,
decided not to say anything.

P.C. Scott, who apprehended Beaumont and found the watch and chain
in his bedroom, was present and ready to give evidence, but as the enquiry
had been carried on from 12o'clock until nearly five, it was decided not to
call him, as he could only corroborate the evidence given by Mr & Mrs Plimmer.
The Coroner then briefly summed up, pointing out that the cause of
death was not drowning, but a fracture of the spine before deceased got
into the water. If death was not caused by drowning the surroundings pointed
to his having fallen down the bank and injured himself in that way.

The circumstances were altered by the three articles belonging to
Illingworth being found, and which had been got from the deceased before he
got into the water. The men seem to have been on friendly terms, and were
seen to go in the direction of the boat intended to carry Illingworth home.

They were seen after eleven going over the first bridge, and then over the
second one. When Beaumont came back to the Fox Inn he seems to have
remarked that the man was queer, as he wanted to fight. The Coroner reminded the
jury that the watch was found under the mattress of the bed on which
Beaumont slept, and to which no one has access but him, and that the watch
chain was also found in the same bed, and that the cap of Illingworth was
discovered in a coat belonging to Beaumont. The question was how had they got

If Beaumont had given an explanation it might have cleared up the
matter, but he declined to say anything. They were asked to say what they
thought of such transactions as that. If Beaumont broke the mans back and put
him into the water, then he was guilty of murder.
The jury then deliberated for nearly half-an-hour, and returned a
verdict of "Wilful murder" against Alfred Beaumont-the man in custody.

On Wednesday Alfred Beaumont, aged 40, a boatman, residing at the Fox Inn,
Foxholes Lane Altofts, was charged before Mr Thos Hargreaves, at the
West Riding Police Court, Wakefield, with stealing a silver lever watch and
steel chain, the property of John Illingworth, a hanger-on at Foxholes
Colliery, near Methley, on August 3rd, Supt Shepley, in stating the case, said
the prisoner was found in possession of a watch and chain belonging to
Illingworth, who at present was missing, but who was last seen in
company with the prisoner, near the bridge over the Calder leading from
Altofts to Foxholes a little before eleven O'clock on Saturday night last.

On account of prisoner being the last person seen in the company of
the missing man, an enquiry was made. which led to the house being searched
where prisoner lived. (The Fox Inn), and the watch was found between the
bedding and the mattress of the bed used by him; he was accordingly
arrested. The watch and chain produced had been fully identified as the property
of the missing man, and seen in his possession when he left home at half
past four on Saturday afternoon, last.

P.C. John Scott, stationed at Methley Junction, deposed from
enquiries made yesterday. I proceeded to the Fox Inn, Altofts, and there saw the
I put several questions to him, and asked him if he would allow me to
search him and his belongings. This he refused to let me do, and I then told
him he would have to go with me to Methley. I took him to the boat that
goes across to Foxholes colliery yard, and then he said he would allow me to
search his things. so I took him back to the Fox Inn.

In a garret/attic of the house
between the bedding and the mattress, I found the watch produced. Prisoner
said his brother gave it him six months ago. I took him and the watch across
the river to Methley.

 The wife of the missing man, Illingworth, having
identified the watch. I charged the prisoner with stealing it. he afterwards said
the watch had been given him by Illingworth at ten minutes to eleven on
Saturday night.
I returned to the Fox Inn and found the steel watch chain produced, in one
of the sheets in prisoners bed. I know the prisoner by sight.
Prisoner had no questions to ask the witness.

Mrs Illingworth was evidently much affected, and sat while giving
her evidence. She said this watch and chain are my husbands. He bought
the watch at Mr Perkins in Wakefield, Watchmakers ,
1 Cross Square, Wakefield, WF1 1PD, and we have the number down.
Mr Shepley said Mr Perkin had a memorandum that the watch was sold
to Illingworth in March 1893 The officer stated that it was believed
the missing man was in the river, and men had been continually dragging
for the body which it was hoped to find soon.

Mr Hargreaves (to prisoner) Have you anything to say why you should
not be remanded?
Prisoner: No
The prisoner was remanded till Monday next.

Who dunnit - looks to me like Beaumont took a liking to the gold
watch and followed Illingworth across Stephensons bridge. My
theory is that he hit him on the head in order to get the watch and
chain and found that the poor chap had expired, at which I suspect
he tumbled the body into the river below and made a run for it.


My name is Rebecca Spence and for the past two years I have been
researching my family tree and found links with Methley. My great,
great grandfather William Spence moved to Methley where he was a
ship's carpenter from either Knottingley or Pontefract, where his
parents lived. Through the 1881 and 1901 census I have traced his
sister, my great, great aunt Selina who was married to a Levi
Winterburn who was a grocer in Mickeltown, and is listed as being on
the jury in your murder at Foxholes article. Their son Fred is
listed as being a methodist minister. Any further information anyone
has on these families would be greatly appreciated and I look
forward to finding out more at the heritage days.
Miss. R. Spence


Remains of the Foxholes Mine Shafts are to be found in fields just south and west of the M62 crossing the B6135, Newmarket Lane/Methley Lanes behind the two rows of houses formally known as Foxholes Rows here in brown. The two sets of mines shown ringed in pink. The turquoise lane is Pit Lane now leading to the East Foxholes Mines but then was only approachable by the tram road from the west mines, the green marked lane is old Bottomboat Lane once a thoroughfare to Bottomboat and still passable by foot, the red marked lane was once farms & or mine houses leading to the west Foxholes mines.

 The purple track is the Leeds Country way that was once the Newmarket Silkstone Mine rail line & Stanley Station main line, took up in the late 50's.

The Fox Inn was at Altofts side of the river and the canal just south of the Methley Foxholes staiths shown below the new Leeds country way. The Fox Inn in its latter years was Dog Kennels before eventually had a dangerous list at the north east corner gradually falling  into the south bank of the Air Calder Navigation, in the end the occupants moved away about year 2000 & was demolished to make way for the New House built further to the East side of the property now called Foxholes House on Foxholes Lane Atofts accessible from Altofts Church, their is still a small piece of the Foxholes Inn’s original garden  near the canal fence of the property kept up be the new owners and visible from the old bridge.

 The second bridge mentioned above Stephenson's bridge was spanning a connecting lock between the river and the canal then for coal boats to pass threw from Foxholes Staiths and Altofts Staiths to the canal, The connecting lock is now filled in and grassed over, the small bridge is recognised by the white side rails as it use to look in it's day of, the lock walls at the water edges are still their both on the river side and the canal side with the lock gate marks worn on top of the lock walls still visible, the area has being well restored by the water ways.

         Fox Holes Lane Entrance on Church Road, Altofts.  -  First Canal Bridge & Gate to now Foxholes House.          

                     Foxholes House Gates.  ---------------- A remaining part of Fox Inn Garden.

Canal Walk looking from canal bridge into old Fox Inn grounds. - The new Foxholes House on Fox Inn Grounds.                             


            View of Stephenson's bridge - Foxholes Lock canal side.    -  View of Stephenson's bridge looking east from first canal bridge.

  View of Stephenson's bridge looking east. -  View of Stephenson's bridge looking west.

------View of Foxholes Lock river&canal linkup lock now filled in, looking north to river.

 ----  Stephenson's river Foxholes lock pivot north to river.

 ---- Stephenson's Bridge, Foxholes lock south canal side now filled in.

                                                   Foxholes House View now on Fox Inn grounds 






Eli Plimmer, Fox Inn 1895 Demolished 2000, view over canal & river

towards Foxholes mines.


Robert Woodhead Farmer of Foxholes Farm Altofts south over canal.

John Allison - Dairyman Coney Moor Farm :- Lower Mickletown.   

       Thomas Green - Landlord Mexborough Arms PH :- Scholey Hill, Methley.

George Risker 40 - Landlord Old Bay Horse PH :- Mickletown.

         Phillip Connell 61 - Landlord Lord Nelson PH :- Main St, Methley. 

  Dr Taylor of :- Oaklands, Pinfold Lane, Mickletown, Methley.         

          Flowers still growing in the gardens of demolished Foxholes Pit Houses.

Foxholes Pit Shaft Danger Sign.                                        

                 Then Perkin's Watchmaker shop Wakefield now closed down.

Collated by Graham Waite - 6th June 2009.

Please anyone that can add to this event please contact me below.

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