A Christmas Execution - John Eastwood (Sheffield) - 28th December 1923
I was surprised when I came across this report in The Times dated Tuesday 31st July 1923.
At Sheffield yesterday, John William Eastwood (39) was remanded charged with the murder of John Joseph Clark (48), who in the early hours of Sunday was found dying on his own doorstep.
Clark's son, Jack, awakened from his sleep by a banging at the door found his father. Mrs. Clark, who was also aroused saw a man carrying a hatchet disappear round the corner of the passage.
Clark had acted as potman at the Bay Horse Hotel, the licence of which had been transferred in the last few days from Eastwood to Mrs. Eastwood.
Inspector Hughes said he saw the prisoner at the police station on Sunday morning and he said "I want you to go to 20 Lister Road. I believe I have done Jack Clark in with a hatchet which I have thrown away." Witness (Inspector Hughes) went there and saw a man dressed only in his trousers and shirt. The wife of the murdered man was standing on the stairs. She said " Jack Eastwood has done that. I don't know what he has done it for". Clark died later in hospital. Witness recovered the axe near where the prisoner lived. When charged the prisoner replied " Yes, sir"
In August 2010 I accessed a more fuller account of the tragedy in the local newspaper The Sheffield Daily Telegraph
The reason for the surprise is that the road that Eastwood mentioned seemed familiar. A visit to the Local Studies Library revealed that the house where the murder took place was indeed in the Walkley district of Sheffield. As illustrated above the local press provided far more detail than the national press on the background to the murder. The Sheffield Independent noted that John and Ethel Eastwood had took over the licence of the Bay Horse Hotel eighteen months earlier. Ethel already ran a buffing shop on the corner of Daniel Hill Street and Harworth Street whilst her husband was employed as a chimney sweep. The two children of the marriage were named after their parents Ethel age 20 and her younger brother John William age 14.
According to the local press the murder had its roots in the relationship that had developed between Jack Eastwood and one of the Bay Horse's customers Mildred Parramore. Eastwood left his wife on June 30th and travelled to Liverpool with Mildred. For one reason or another, the relationship faltered and by July 12th the couple returned to Sheffield. Ethel Eastwood refused to have Jack back and went as far as to transfer the licence to her name at the next Transfer sessions. In addition it was also alleged that whilst Jack was away with Mildred, Ethel had become friendly with a barman John Clark who had helped out behind the bar. .
With only temporary lodgings and a precarious existence as a chimney sweep, Eastwood pleaded to come back on a number of occasions but to no avail. On the day of the murder he had spent time in the Bay Horse chatting with Clark but something must have upset him because when he returned to his lodgings after closing time, he announced that "he was going to knock him up" and left the house with a hatchet.
20 Lister Road, Walkley, Sheffield - The scene of the murder of John Clark
It appears that Jack Eastwood arrived at Lister Road at about 1.30 a.m Sunday 30th June 1923 and proceeded to wake the Clark's up by throwing pebbles at the window. Neither of them thought they were in any danger. John dressed, went downstairs and opened the kitchen door to let Eastwood in. It was as Clark was locking the door that Eastwood hit him on the head with the hatchet. As he fell on the floor, he received another two blows. Hearing the noise, Mrs Clark came downstairs and saw her husband slumped on the kitchen floor. Eastwood turned tail, and then as the Times report states, went straight to the police station on Burgoyne Road. At the later committal proceedings, Clark's son Jack revealed "“I heard father go downstairs, and then I heard about six bangs, and I sprang out of bed and ran downstairs...Father was lying in the doorway, huddled up in a heap against the mangle in the kitchen...he had some awful wounds in his head.”
Attempts to save John Clark at the Royal Infirmary came to nothing and at 8.48 a.m. he was pronounced dead, the result of a savage head wound and fractured skull. Just over a hour later Eastwood was charged with his murder. The following day he appeared before City Magistrates and was remanded in custody. An Inquest on 31st July returned a verdict of wilful murder and issued the authority for the burial of Jack Clark. Three days later, on Friday 3rd August 1923 Jack Clark was laid to rest in Walkley Cemetery to the accompaniment of large crowds and an intrusive press. The local paper reported that a "A “painful sensation was caused in the Walkley district” [Star] - “Large crowds gathered in the vicinity of 20 Lister Road yesterday on the occasion of the funeral of the Walkley hatchet tragedy victim. There were many more people at Walkley Cemetery, the majority being women...After a short service the remains of Mr John Joseph Clark were taken to a grave at the lower end of the cemetery. Many of the spectators were greatly affected as the last rites were read.” [Sheffield Daily Telegraph 4th August 1923]
The committal proceedings took place in front of the City magistrates on August 21st. The key thing to arise at this hearing was information relating to the medical and personal history of his family. His father had died in Wadsley Asylum from paralysis and his uncle from melancholia due to service in the war. Eastwood himself had been admitted into the Ecclesall asylum in February 1915 with a bout of syphilis. He did not serve in the war - the Army rejected him on account of his neurasthenia. After hearing further evidence relating to the link between the disease and insanity, as well as damaging testimony which indicated that Eastwood had been harbouring murderous thoughts towards Clark and his own family for some weeks prior to the murder, the court committed him for trial at the next Leeds Assizes.
The trial on December 7th 1923 opened in front of Mr Justice Talbot. The trial heard the testimony of witnesses who had spoken at the earlier hearings. The defence attempted to mount a plea of guilty but insane but this fiercely rebutted by the prosecution. His behaviour may have been strange in the months and weeks leading up to the murder but the fact remains that within half an hour of killing Clark, Eastwood had gone directly to the local police station and gave a clear and concise account of what he had done and where he had disposed of the murder weapon. Furthermore his actions prior to the murder also gave rise to premeditation - this was a rational act committed by a person fully aware of the consequences of his actions. The prosecution said that Eastwood was jealous of Clarke's relationship with his wife hence his actions but other witnesses said that they had seen Clark and Eastwood together on a number of occasions and there appeared to little or no animosity between them
After retiring for just thirty minutes the jury returned and delivered a guilty verdict with a recommendation for mercy. As the death penalty was mandatory for capital offences, the judge donned the black cap and sentenced Eastwood to death by hanging. Eastwood collapsed in the dock and had to be carried out. No appeal was made but a petition raised requesting a reprieve. It was submitted to the Home Secretary but to no avail
The Times dated Saturday 29th December 1923 reported
SHEFFIELD MURDERER EXECUTED
John William Eastwood, chimney sweep and proprietor of the Bay Horse hotel, Sheffield was executed at Armley Jail, Leeds yesterday for the murder of John Joseph Clark, his workman, on July 29 last. He was found guilty at Leeds assizes, with a recommendation to mercy. When sentenced he said " I never meant it." Ellis was the executioner.
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 29th December 1923 added further details of the execution
The prison staff told reporters that Jack Eastwood had to be "assisted" to the scaffold." After the execution, Jack would have been buried within the confines of Armley Goal
John William Eastwood had married Ethel Gill in the June quarter of 1902 - (GRO reference Ecclesall Bierlow Volume 9c page 627). At the time of the murder he had been married to Ethel for over 22 years. His last known address was 8ct 1h Greaves Street, Sheffield - Arthur Hilton landlord of Eastwood’s lodgings stated at the trial "He chucked the latch key on the dressing table saying he would not need it any more”
The hanging of Jack Eastwood
It was Mr Justice Talbot's first capital case since becoming a High Court judge earlier that year
I have not been able to find any trace of the "Bay Horse Hotel" anywhere. As this "hotel" features prominently in the events that led to the execution of Jack Eastwood I would be delighted if anyone could provide me with information or better still a photo
The school records of John's two sons -
Eastwood, Edward (Student, dob 07 Jul 1920). Parent or guardian name(s): John Wm (~), of 42 Anlaby St.
Admitted to Langsett Road Infants School, Hillsborough, as of 31 Aug 1925, until 31 Mar 1929, reason for leaving: Boys Dept.
Eastwood, John Wm (Student, dob 22 Sep 1917). Parent or guardian name(s): John Wm (~), of 42 Anlaby St.
Admitted to Langsett Road Infants School, Hillsborough, as of 10 Oct 1922, until 31 Mar 1925, reason for leaving: Trans. Previously attended None.
Eastwood stole the hatchet from an outbuilding at the pub.
Victim - John Joseph CLARKE (aka Jack) - wife: Eva/Eve [buried 1957] age 48 - 20 Lister Road - stamper (forks and spoons) - bartender / potman Bay Horse Inn - formerly Steward of the old Institute of the RAOB in West Street
Murderer - John William EASTWOOD (executed Leeds 28 December.) 39 - Arthur Hilton 8ct 1h Greaves Street (landlord of Eastwood’s lodgings) chimney sweep, publican
wife Ethel owner of a buffing workshop
- quiet serious sort of man [newspaper report] - subject to morose fits
- A heavily built man, with bronzed stolid-looking features, wearing a blue suit but no collar or tie (Magistrates Court 29th July)
Mildred PARRAMORE 22 described as a married woman - ran away to Liverpool with Eastwood on 30th June. Returned within 2 weeks.
As with most events of this kind, there are elements you come across that make you stop and reflect on the lives that people lead and indeed the human condition. In Walkley Cemetery in Sheffield, there is a grave overlooking the Rivelin Valley
of John and Ethel's son, ARNOLD EASTWOOD. The epitaph reads
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
THE BELOVED SON OF
JOHN & ETHEL EASTWOOD
DIED NOV14TH 1910 AGED 3 YEARS & 7 MONTHS
ALSO OF FREDERICK GILL
UNCLE OF THE ABOVE
KILLED IN ACTION JULY 17TH 1918 AGE 24 YEARS
I checked on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database and there was an entry for
Nationality: United Kingdom
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery
Unit Text: 380th Bty. 158th Bde.
Date of Death: 17/07/1918
Service No: 240847
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. D. 29.
Cemetery: HOUCHIN BRITISH CEMETERY - Houchin is a village situated between Barlin and Bethune, about 5 kilometres south of Bethune. Houchin British Cemetery is on the south-west side of Houchin village.
As a final irony, John Joseph Clark is buried in the same cemetery as Arnold Eastwood. In May 2008, on one of the regular Cemetery Tours which I may add are extremely informative, I was shown the unmarked grave where John Clark was buried. I was told that his wife Eve/Eva (died 1957) is also buried there. Given the circumstances of John's death, it is rather sad that there is no memorial to him (and his wife)
The Times dated Tuesday 31st July 1923
The Times dated Saturday 29th December 1923
The Sheffield Independent and The Sheffield Telegraph
The Sheffield Murders 1865 - 1965 - David Bentley
Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 30th July 1923
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 29th December 1923
I would like to thank Hugh Waterhouse for the time and the trouble he has taken in providing me with the information of the burial's in St Mary's C of E Cemetery in Walkley
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This page was last updated on 08/08/14 17:10