Friday, 5 June 2015

Tales of Bradford`s Past

I have been living here for over ten years now and I do like to dig up tales of a dark past for this city.  But this is not going to be a comprehensive look at a case or two, but more, a montage of events and people.  Bradford produced the most famous hangmen in British history.  The Pierrepoint family lived in the Clayton district(BD14), whilst James Berry, before becoming an executioner, was a Bradford Policeman.  After he quit his job, he ran a pub on Cutler Heights Lane, The Travellers Rest.  A private investigator and former Policeman in Bradford, William Lane, had the ultimate downfall.  He was hanged for murdering his lover, Elizabeth Dyson.  She worked in theatres around London, but as her jobs dried up, she worked as a pianist in pubs around Bradford.  But Lane was married with two children and lived in one of the better districts of the city.  But, as ever, events get out of hand and Lane slashed the throat of Elizabeth, resulting in an appointment with executioner James Billington.  He was hanged at Stafford Prison on August 11th 1902.  Lane had moved his family to West Bromwich and Elizabeth showed her private eye skills by turning up on his doorstep.....

    Doing some research, I discovered four unsolved murders from decades gone by.  A young girl of 11 was murdered in Little Horton Green in 1938, taxi driver Harry Graham in 1944, Catherine Ogden in Bowling park in 1953, and one that happened in Garner Street in 1955.  Bradford Police had a good detection rate for murder but since the 70`s there have been 40 unsolved cases - I have covered a number of them.  We know the famous cases such as Sutcliffe, Sams, Griffiths, but we have had Ernie Wright, Mark Rowntree, Neal Adamson.  The cops who fitted up Stefan Kisko for the murder of Lesley Molseed, were from here.

    But what about tough guys?  The most well known is actually a shock to people; wrestler Les Kellett.  Everybody knew he was a clown in the ring, but in reality, he took no shit from anybody.  Inside the ring and out of it.  He was the man you avoided trouble with.  He was a real hard man.  Other names include Frank Birkin, a former rugby player and later, pub landlord.  He was convicted a number of times for violence whilst running the Blue Lion.  He hospitalised one of his barmen, for the audacious crime of kissing his sister.  I have heard a couple of tales about Birkin trying his hand at boxing but could not find any evidence of it.  Birkin was about 6`4" and built like a tree trunk.  Ken Jubb was another former rugby player who ran pubs in town.  He had a reputation as a hard nut.  Then there was Big John Amelia.  He was an old style, hard punching doorman.  If you started trouble where he was on the door, you got a smack.  Simple as that. But this did not make him very popular.  Later on, I was told that he became a minder for a popular tenor of the 40`s and 50`s, Josef Locke, and moved to Blackpool.  Locke had a regular seasonal spot there in the 50`s.

    Local history has shown a proliferation of brothels in the 19th century.  We even had female boxing just before WW1.  I found this out doing research in the archives, looking into the fight career of Jerry Delaney.  He and his boxing brothers lived in what was then called Broomfields, but is now called East Bowling.  A century ago, this was an extremely rough area where Police walked in twos and threes.  Poverty was very rife so kids growing up either turned to crime or as the Delaneys did, turned to boxing.  Jerry was thought to be a potential World Champion but died in France in 1916.  There has been bare knuckle fighting throughout the centuries and it still goes on.  There was a fight behind the disused Delacey pub on the corner of Prince Street, a couple of years ago.  Fights can be for money or to settle an argument.  Just a few tales from the darkside.  Enjoy.