I’ve already had some great contributions on the subject of the 1908 Anchor Inn shootings. I’m pleased and relieved to see that the subject is of some interest and readers haven’t been unduly upset. I try to tread carefully around these things. Paul Ford – top archivist at Walsall Local History centre, and Brian Stringer, The Clayhanger Kid, have both written excellent contributions, so over to them… The subject is still open, it would be nice to see if we can get a copy of the postcard somehow, just for completeness. If you have anything to add, please do drop me a line – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.
I found this in the Burntwood FHS newsletter – if you haven’t seen it already. The Ruth referred to was my former colleague at the Lichfield Record Office; Ruth Hanslow (I knew this rang a bell, Ruth told me about it some 10 years back).
Meanwhile, a book about Brownhills revealed a Maria Hanslow as licensee of the Anchor Inn, Catshill, so Ruth began to do some digging about Maria, who had been born Maria Seedhouse in 1867. She had married Thomas Humphries in 1887 and had six children. Thomas died in 1906 of cirrhosis of the liver. In his will he left everything to Maria, so long as she remained a widow. Nevertheless, in 1907 she married Hyla George Hanslow.
When Ruth finally received the death certificates, Maria’s certificate showed she had died of a gunshot wound, wilfully murdered by Hyla George! George’s revealed that he had ‘suicidally shot himself with a gun while of unsound mind’! There had been an inquest for both, so Ruth, in great excitement, investigated the local newspapers for that time.
She found the event recorded in June 1908 as a domestic tragedy in Brownhills in which a husband and wife had been shot. They had quarrelled the previous day because Maria wanted to visit the grave of her first husband at Stonnall and George could not understand why she wanted to do this. They had only been married the previous November.
A very self-pitying letter was found after George’s death. It suggested he had meant to commit suicide, so the shooting of his wife must have been on impulse. In the letter he stated that he had known no peace since his marriage; he apologised for his ‘rash act’, but insisted he could not help it. His wife was said to be ‘the best on earth if she would keep herself right’. She would not let him go back to work, though people said he was a ‘rodney brother’ (an idler). He felt hated and thought he ‘would settle it’. He believed himself to be ‘put on by everybody’, and signed the letter ‘George Nobody’.
The Coroner summed up that both had been in a hysterical state, and George had, in the spirit of the moment, ‘shot his wife whilst suffering from a temporary insanity’.
Ruth managed to obtain two excellent photographs of the hearse setting off for Maria’s funeral from outside the Anchor. One newspaper photo, from the Brownhills Gazette, December 1992, was labelled ‘The Brownhills Tragedy’. The other had been used to illustrate a postcard, with the comment that ‘it is the picture of Mrs Hanslow’s funeral’. Rather a tasteless subject for a postcard, we thought!
Hyla George and Maria were buried at Stonnall, and Ruth later discovered that the murder is still a subject of conversation in the Anchor Inn today.
There is nothing in the Walsall Observer, so next time I am in Staffs RO I will chase this up. The original Coroner papers don’t survive for the SE Staffs District – but will see if I can unearth anymore.
Paul has, as usual, has excelled himself. I’m beginning to wonder what I’d do without him!
I also had this interesting comment from Brian Stringer, whom I didn’t know had been the editor of the legendary Brownhills Gazette. I must talk to him about that. It was the first publication I’m aware of that covered solely Brownhills, and in many ways influenced a younger BrownhillsBob. It was a campaigning publication, which is sadly missed. Brian has this to say:
I think I can shed some light on the Anchor pub tragedy. When I was editor of the Brownhills Gazette 88 – 93, one of our most popular pages was The Archives.
One edition featured a postcard sent to me by a Mrs Hollender of Brownhills. It was a scene of a double funeral at the Anchor pub. It appears that postcards were made on any subject in those days and this one was made by Albert Mills studios in Brownhills High St.
With the help of Walsall Local History Centre and the diary of George Fullelove provided by his nephew Reg, we discovered the date as March 30 1908.
With the right date, Chris Latimer who worked at Essex St at that time, soon delved into the archives and sent me the press report of the whole event.
George Hanslow did in fact fatally shoot his wife Maria,in the pub bar, and later himself in the kitchen. The quarrel was over his wifes insistence that she visited the grave of her first husband who was buried in Stonnall.
According to the press report Hanslow was also incensed because his wife had called him a ‘rodney’ which was an term used in those days to describe someone as idle.
I can’t lay my hand on the press report but I’m sure Stuart or Paul would soon be able to find it for you.
I don’t know what happened to the postcard but I remember it showing two horse drawn hearses, and a crowd of people watching, 3 of which was described by the sender, to Mrs Hollender mother as, “mother is on it, and Rose and the baby”.
Fascinating stuff, hope it helps.