Ethel Major: the Kirkby on Bain murderer

The subject of the first talk to be given in this year’s Cameo Club series, will be by Chrissie Chapman, who will talk about the notorious Ethel Major murder case. Until now I have preferred not to run the Ethel Major story here mainly because I have reservations about presenting the village in such a bad light. However, it seems the story simply will not go away, so here’s my two pennyworth.

Not long after we moved into Kirkby on Bain in 2001, somebody said to me something along the lines of “Of course you must know about our famous murderer, Ethel Major”. Of course I had never heard of her, so I did some very superficial research and found that this Kirkby on Bain lady was convicted of killing her husband (a nasty piece of work, allegedly,) in 1934 and hanged in Hull gaol.

A little later, when I started this blog, Betty Dixon, who was born that year and until recently was one of Kirkby’s oldest residents, kindly lent me a bundle of newspaper cuttings and a book about this case. Like a lot of accounts of past murders, quite a bit of this material was written in sensationalist styles, with little by way of references or source attributions. I also noticed that some accounts were word-for-word copies, apparently lifted from one original newspaper write-up.

During subsequent searches, I stumbled across a real surprise – macabre testimony to the everlasting obsession with murder, a knitted representation of Ethel’s house, made by Jean Arkell, originally installed at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester. Believe it or not there really is a website featuring knitted representations of houses lived in by female murderers. Midsomer Murders scriptwriters, please take note.
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Petwood Gardens: A William Goldring Garden?

Image courtesy E & N Duke-CoxNicholas Duke-Cox has undertaken extensive research over the past three years in preparation for a publication on the definitive history of the gardens at Petwood House, now the Petwood Hotel.

 

In a recent article written for The Kew Guild, Nicholas calls for primary evidence of landscape architect and naturalist William Goldring’s involvement at Petwood House, originally built for the furniture heiress, Grace Maple, then Baroness Eckhardstein, between 1905 and 1906.

Nicholas explains: “The fame of the gardens arose later c.1912 with the alterations and expansion to the original design, by Harold Peto. The literature knew of a first garden but not of its appearance. Thanks to the commissions of the Baroness to local professional photographer, John Wield, we have photographic evidence of the construction and maturation of that garden from 1906 to 1909.These images are unique. No one else ever had access to these gardens.” Continue reading

Thanks Edward, you have put us on the map!

The bar at the Ebrington Arms was packed at lunchtime today as local historian Edward Mayor launched his fascinating historical map of Kirkby on Bain. Copies were selling fast at a fiver each and Edward was thrilled at the response to his latest initiative.

 

If you missed the launch or you want more maps, A3 size copies are now available at The Ebrington Arms. Continue reading