Home Crime Murder Wilful Murder at Darfield – The Trial

Wilful Murder at Darfield – The Trial

19 March 1842

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 19 March 1842

The Darfield Murder

JOSEPH LODGE (24,) and WM. LODGE (32,) were indicted, for that they, on the 11th of October last, at Darfield, did wilfully murder Thomas Depledge. JOHN LODGE (21,) was charged as accessory before the fact.

The prisoners were very smartly dressed in new clothes, suitable to their station in life— being what are termed horse marines. They were rather good looking, with ruddy complexions. On being arraigned, they all pleaded Not Guilty.

Mr. Knowles, Mr. Pashley, and Mr. Overend were for the prosecution ; Mr. Wilkins defended the two principals, and Mr. Roebuck appeared for the accessory.

Mr. Knowles opened the case at some length, the particulars of which are fully developed in the following evidence : —

Joseph Jessop, of Ardsley, near Barnsley, was reTurning home from Barnsley fair on the 11th of Oct. ; he got to Mearsbrough hill, about a mile and a half from Barnsley, at eight o’clock. He saw three men on horseback, and some men on the causeway besides them. Joseph Lodge was one of the men on horseback. He rode on the causeway, and began to flog two young men, named Marsden and Mills, with a whip. He then got off his horse, when the young men ran away. He caught one of them, and knocked him down. He screamed for assistance, and witness went to the rescue. He told Joseph Lodge he knew him, and he was using the men very badly. Lodge offered to fight the witness. Afterwards he attacked the other man, and on witness again interfering, the prisoner left them and went on towards Barnsley. Witness then went to Charles Green’s beer-shop; while there, Joseph Lodge and four men came in; Joseph Lodge pointed at witness, and said he was the man who pulled him off. Lodge came behind the long-settle, and struck at witness, when the landlord ordered them away.

Cross-examined: — The prisoner Joseph Lodge had a child behind him on horseback ; there were two women on the road ; witness did not strike at Joseph Lodge or at any other man. Witness afterwards saw Marsden and Milnes at Stairfoot.

Charles Milnes lives at Goldthorpe, on the road between Barnsley and Doncaster. Was at Barnsley fair on the 11th of October, with George Marsden. when they got to Mearsbrough hill, they overtook two men on horseback, with some women and a child. The child was on the horse with Joseph Lodge, who horsewhipped Marsden. The first that witness saw was Joseph Lodge whipping his horse ; the woman said something to him, and witness remarked — ” Never mind, let him flog him.” Joseph Lodge then rode up to the causeway, and began to horsewhip the man. Witness said, he ought to have the whip laid about him. Joseph Lodge then got off his horse, and knocked witness down. He then ran after Marsden, and knocked him down. He knocked witness down a second time, and bit two of his fingers with his teeth. Jessop and the woman helped to pull Joseph Lodge off. Witness and Marsden then went to the Ring of- Bells public-house, kept by Smith Machell, at Dar- field bridge. They found Joseph Lodge’s hat at Mearsbrough hill, and carried it to the Ring of Bells, where they put it on the kitchen table. Soon after, the three prisoners came into the house. Witness and Marsden were in the back kitchen. The prisoners went into the front kitchen, and immediately afterwards they came to where, witness was sitting. Wm. Lodge asked where the hat was ? No answer was given, and Joseph Lodge took up the hat; he said, “This is my hat — my name is in it — l’ll make it a dear hat for you.” They then went into the front kitchen ; witness and his friend remained in the back kitchen. When the door is open, parties can see from one room into the other. Every time the door was shut one of the men got up and opened it. The prisoners left the house first.

About eleven o’clock, witness left the house along with Matthew Parkinson, James Johnson, Thomas Depledge, Wm. Briggs, Geo. Denton, Jane Denton, Elizabeth Briggs, and two more. Depledge and his party had been by themselves whilst in the public-house, but joined witness and Marsden on leaving. Mr. Parkinson was on horseback, and left the party at Millhouse. Witness and Marsden at this place went in advance of the rest, on the road leading to Goldthorpe and Doncaster. When they got nearly to the Four lane ends, one of which leads to Wombwell, two men ran past on the right hand side. Each of them had a large stick in his hand. It was a starlight night. These men were Joseph and Wm. Lodge. One had a fustian jacket on, and the other wore a light coloured waistcoat. One of them dropped a stick as he ran past. Witness did not see or hear anything further that night.

Cross-examined : He went to the fair in the morning, and met with Marsden at Barnsley. Was at two public -houses — the Red Lion and the Three Crowns, where they had some ale. He saw John Lodge at the fair that day. When he and Marsden first saw Joseph Lodge, at Mearsbro’ hill, he had a child before him on the horse; he afterwards gave it to one of the women. He gave no provocation to Joseph Lodge, nor did Marsden. He did not see any person strike Joseph Lodge, nor throw him down, nor kick him. An old man did not ask witness to give up Lodge’s hat. They did not run away with it. Witness and Marsden were sober when they parted at night. It is two or three hundred yards from the Mill Houses to the Four lane ends. It might be twenty or thirty yards from the lane ends where the Lodges passed the witness. They never spoke. Witness lives at Goldthorpe. Marsden lives at Billingsley. They did not call at any public-house after leaving the Ring of Bells.

Mr. William Billington, surveyor, proved the plan. The distance from Barnsley to Mearsbro’ hill is little above a mile; it is a mile and a quarter more to the Coach and Horses ; it is not half a mile from there to Green’s ; from Green’s to the Ring of Bells is about two miles ; it is about three quarters of a mile from ‘ Darfield Bridge to the Four lane ends ; from Mearsbro’ hill to. Wombwell is about two miles and a quarter ; to go round by the Ring of Bells to Wombwell is five miles and a quarter.

George Marsden, of Billingsley, labourer, was at Barnsley fair on the 11th of October. Saw Charles Milnes there. Left Barnsley about half-past seven o’clock in the evening. At Mearsbro’ hill, saw John and Joseph Lodge on horseback. Joseph Lodge was paying his horse, when one of the women said something to him. Milnes said, “Never mind him” upon which he rode up to Milnes and struck him with his whip. He got off his horse and knocked down both Milnes and witness. He hit witness on the cheek. A man came to witness’s assistance, when Joseph Lodge went towards Barnsley. Afterwards they found a hat, and carried it to the Ring of Bells. All the prisoners came there about ten minutes after. Joseph Lodge took up the hat. He said, “This is my hat; I’ll make “it a dear one to you.” The Lodges left the house first, and witness and their party followed soon after. When at Miln’ House, Milnes and witness went in advance of the deceased and his companions. When near the Lane ends, William and Josh. Lodge ran past them. He did not notice them carrying anything, but just after they passed, he heard one of them drop something.

Cross-examined : James Johnson went to Barnsley fair with witness. They met with Milnes at the Three Crowns. They staid there about an hour, and then went into the fair. They were at the Spotted Dog together, and were at a dram-shop, where they had a glass of rum. They did not go to the Red Lion. When they were at Mearsbro’ hill, he did not strike at any one. He did not see Milnes or Jessop do so. He did not hear Lodge’s wife call out, for God’s sake, to let her husband alone. Lodge’s face was bleeding. When the hat was found, he never thought as to whose it was, and never heard any person ask them to restore it.

George Rodgers, constable of Ardsley, was at the Coach and Horses public house on the 11th of October, in the evening. William and John Lodge came into the house. William said, “Where are they?” Witness asked who they wanted. He said they wanted some chaps that had stolen his hat. He  said his nephew knew who the man was, and if they did not find him in the public houses on their way home, they would go to his house and pull his liver out. Witness told them not to be rash, or they would get into trouble. As this was going on, Joseph Lodge came in ; his face was bloody and his shirt sleeves were turned up. William had a fustian jacket on. Joseph said he had been badly used on the road at Mearsbro’ hill; that some men had thrown stones at him, and stolen his hat. They went away towards Darfield; it was then before nine o’clock. They did not ail much for liquor.

Caroline Wake was at Green’s beer house on Monday, the 11th of October. Five men came in about half-past nine o’clock ; three of them were the prisoners. They looked round, and said the men they wanted were not there, and they would go to Darfield bridge. One of the Lodges said, if they lighted on the men they would kill them. The prisoners then went towards Darfield bridge, and the other two men went back. One of the Lodges was in his shirt sleeves ; his face was bloody.

Smith Machell, landlord of the Ring- of- Bells, at Darfield bridge, saw the prisoners at his house about ten o’clock in the evening. Joseph Lodge appeared very bloody on the face. Charles Milnes was in the back kitchen; his face was very bloody. One of the Lodges went into the back kitchen. He then went into the front kitchen, where the three prisoners remained for some time. Thomas Depledge, the deceased, was in another room in the house. The prisoners sat in the window, and by having the door open, they could see into the back kitchen, where Milnes and Marsden were seated. They were very particular about the door, and one of them opened it several times.

George Cooper, of Miln House, carrier, was at the Ring-of-Bells on the evening in question. He was in the front kitchen, and the three Lodges came in. They were whispering together very much. There was a disturbance between William Lodge and Marsden and Milnes. Mrs. Machell called witness to keep peace, and he ordered the prisoners to go away. When they were seated in the kitchen, they kept opening the door into the back kitchen. In consequence of something witness heard afterwards, he went on the road towards the Four lane ends. About 60 yards from that point he met William Briggs and George Denton carrying the dead body of Thomas Depledge.

Cross-examined : He saw the prisoners during the whole time they were there. Depledge wanted Marsden to sup with him ; he replied, ” Go thy way — thou does not know what I know.” Machell’s is a small house.

Matthew Parkinson, butcher, of Billingley, saw the three prisoners at Darfield bridge on the night in question. They left the public house together, and witness saw them standing at the Pinfold lane end. Witness left the house a little after ten. He was on horseback, as were two other persons. There were also several persons on foot including the deceased and Milnes and Marsden. They were together about a quarter of a mile, when those on horseback went in advance. Witness had just crossed the Four lane ends when he heard a whistle. He turned back, when he met Marsden and Milnes. He spoke to them, and then went forward on his way home.

George Denton, carpenter, of Billingley, knew the deceased, Depledge ; he was farming servant to Mr. Heptonstall. Witness was at Barnsley fair with Wm. Briggs, Depledge, and several others. They called at the Ring of Bells about nine o’clock. They left there at eleven o’clock on their way home. They were joined by Milnes and Marsden. At Miln houses the horsemen and Milnes and Marsden went in advance. Witness and the remainder of the party followed in the same route. After they had gone some distance, Thomas Depledge also went in advance. About a minute afterwards, two men passed by, one of whom was the prisoner Joseph Lodge. They were walking very quickly. One of the two men said to William Briggs, ” How go, my hearty ?” On leaving the public honse, something was said which induced witness to pay particular attention to what passed. Soon after the men passed, he heard a blow struck, in the direction just before them. They hastened forward for about a hundred yards, when they found Depledge laid on his back, in the middle of the road. He was bleeding much from the nose and mouth ; he appeared to be dead. His body was removed to a place called the Plough. He appeared to have been struck over the face and nose. After the blow was struck he heard footsteps of two men running very quickly down the Wombwell road.

William Briggs, one of the party, who had been at Barnsley fair, and was with them on their way home, corroborated the evidence of the last witness. He swore distinctly that Wm. and Joseph Lodge were the two men that passed them just before Depledge was murdered. William had a large hedge-stake. They walked very sharply past, and in about a minute witness heard a blow. On going a hundred yards further, they found Depledge laid on the road. There was no sign of life, only a ruttling in the throat. The witness was also examined to show that the deceased was in dress and figure very similar to witness Milnes, and to raise the presumption, that he had been murdered in mistake for that person.

Elizabeth Briggs, sister to the last witness, gave similar evidence. She also distinctly swore to Wm. and Joseph Lodge, and corroborated the evidence as to the blow being heard, and the finding of the body of the deceased.

James Johnson, of Billingley, another of the party who had been at the fair, was also examined, and gave similar evidence.

Thomas Drury, pinder, of Wombwell, saw the three prisoners together on the night of Barnsley fair, between twelve and one o’clock. He heard a noise and looked out. Joseph Lodge’s father-in-law lives next door to witness. On Joseph going into that house, someone asked what he had been doing so long, and he said he’d had a pretty chase. They asked if he had got his hat. He said, ” Yes ; and we’ve done one b—–r.” He was sure that he saw all the prisoners together that night.

Cross-examined: Witness had been in Wakefield House of Correction for neglecting his family. He had stood a trial with the Lodges. They beat him ; he did not say he would give them a squeeze if he had a chance. He had been before the magistrates at different times — he could not say how often.

William Norman, constable, of Darfield, went on the night of the 11th of October to the Plough Inn, where he found the body of the deceased. He afterwards, from information which he received, went to the house of Joseph Linley, of Wombwell. Thomas Masterton, the constable of that place, was with him. Joseph Lodge lived at Linley’s. They found him in bed, and told him they had come to apprehend him for murder. He replied,” Is he dead?” They afterwards went to William Lodge’s, and took him into custody. Joseph Lodge’s clothes were bloody, and he had some scratches on his face. On the following day, witness found a hedgestake near the Four lane ends [The hedge-stake was produced; it was about four feet in length, and a most formidable weapon.]

Thomas Masterton, of Wombwell, constable, corroborated the previous witness.

James Burman, surgeon, Wath-upon-Dearne, was called up to see the deceased on the night of the murder. He was quite dead. There was a large wound across the nose, in rather an oblique direction. The nose was completely flattened, and the man appeared to have lost much blood. He afterwards made a post mortem examination, when he detected a slight bruise on the side of the skull. On removing the skull cap he found a quantity of blood extravasated on the right side of the brain — also a smaller quantity on the left. The bones and cartilege of the nose were completely shattered and driven back into the nostrils. The injury must have been inflicted by a blunt round weapon. The blood on the brain had been occasioned by the ruptured vessels, arising from the blow across the nose. He attributed death to the extravasation of blood. The body was generally in a very healthy state.

John Marshall, of Goldthorpe, was fellow-servant to John Lodge, in October last, and they usually slept together. On the 11th of October, John Lodge went to Barnsley fair. He did not sleep in his bed that night. Witness found him in the stable between four and five o’clock the following morning, fast asleep, and without his coat.

The examination of John Lodge before the magistrates, was then put in and read, as follows : — ” I was not in bed at Mr. Haigh’s, on Monday night, the 11th of October last. Margaret Ross did not let me into my master’s house at twenty minutes before twelve, as we have both stated on oath before the coroner’s jury. I told her to say that she let me in. I had no reason for telling her ; I never did whistle on the Monday night at the Four lane ends. I left both my uncles at the toll-bar on the Darfield Bridge side.” At his second examination, he made another statement, seriously implicating the other prisoners, but it was objected to, and ultimately was not read. The examination of John Lodge, taken on oath before the coroner, was then tendered, when Mr. Roebuck, at great length, urged against its being admissible, and ultimately Baron Rolfe declined receiving it.

The case for the prosecution being closed,

Mr. Wilkins proceeded to address the Jury for Joseph and William Lodge. In the evidence was much misrepresentation and palpable contradiction — much that the Jury would have difficulty to reconcile. It would appear that the witnesses Milnes and Marsden were returning home half drunk from a fair, when they pelted the prisoner Joseph and his child with stones, and used him in a very shameful manner. That was his account of the transaction, and his face was scratched and his shirt was stained with blood. Yet Milnes and Marsden had sworn that they offered no violence to him. Having clearly given a false account of the beginning of the transaction, their testimony could not be depended upon as to the more material parts of the case. He accounted for the prisoners having gone round by Darfield Bridge, from their being in search of the men who had stolen the hat, and as to the expression made by Joseph that he would make it a dear hat to Marsden and Milnes, it might merely mean that he would prosecute them for felony. The other angry expressions were such as ignorant men frequently used without really meaning anything.

The effort of the prosecution to make it a windy stormy night had utterly failed, and it was impossible that this poor man could have been murdered, and Milnes and his companion have been in ignorance of the deed. The opening of the door at the beer- house by the prisoners might merely be for the purpose of letting in fresh air, and the evidence got up on this point showed how ready some men are to raise suggestions of guilt when accusations are made. Marsden and Milnes had been more prone to quarrel than, Joseph Lodge, and he inferred that the prisoners had again met with Marsden and Milnes, when these men had again begun their insults. That the Lodge’s were put on their defence, and in self-preservation they had struck the blow which deprived Depledge of his life — that blow being given without intending to produce any such result, and having been caused by Depledge taking part with Milnes and Marsden. ‘

He commented on the discrepancies between Milnes and Marsden as to the manner in which they occupied their time on that day ; they varied in almost every particular from each other, and their companion Jessop differed from both of them. Tt was little matter what they had to drink, or what house they visited — but it was very material that the Jury should not place their reliance on such testimony. As to what was murder, he defied any man to give a definition of it, which was not liable to exception; and the Jury were the arbiters as to whether this case did amount to murder or not. Had the prisoners gone out with pistols or daggers, then malice aforethought might be inferred ; but a blow struck with a stick, under a state of excitement, he submitted, would not justify them in coming to such a conclusion.

Mr. Roebuck rose to address the Jury for the prisoner John Lodge, when the Learned Baron intimated that there was no case against him.

Mr. Baron Rolfe then summed up. He considered that the early part of the transaction — the dispute at Mearsbro’ hill— had little to do with the question for the consideration of the Jury. He went through the evidence as to the transaction immediately connected with the death of the deceased, which he thought was conclusive, as to the identity, if the Jury had full reliance on the testimony of the witnesses. He then defined the distinction between murder and manslaughter — observing, that if the blow was struck without intending murder, then, although death ensued, the offence was only manslaughter — and he thought, without any stretch of their consciences, they might come to the conclusion that the blow was struck without premeditating the death of the party, and merely with an intention of doing a minor injury. If that were their opinion, then their verdict would be a conviction for manslaughter; but if they believed that the prisoners struck the fatal blow intending to take the life of Depledge, or of any other person, then, although they might have been mistaken as to their victim, still the offence clearly would be murder, and it would be- come their duty, in obedience to the oath they had taken, to find a verdict to that effect.

The Jury retired for a few minutes, and on their return, found William Lodge and Joseph Lodge Guilty of Manslaughter ; John Lodge Not Guilty.

[The result of the trial appeared to excite considerable surprise, probably not unnaturally so, when Mr. Kowles, in his opening, had stated that there was no doubt that the offence was that of murder, and it was proved in evidence that the blow was given with such violence, that it was heard at a distance of 100 yards, and produced instant death. The question naturally arises in the minds of reasonable men, — could such a blow be inflicted with any other object than to murder the party the lesson is in? ]

Mr. Baron Rolfe immediately sentenced the prisoners to be transported for a term of fifteen years, observing that, although the Jury had returned a verdict, in which he concurred, of manslaughter only, yet he must say that it was a case of manslaughter of the most savage nature that had ever occurred. They had received little provocation — they had had ample time to cool ; but they nevertheless had exhibited a species of brutality in their conduct, which required a severe sentence at his hands.