Sheffield Independent – Saturday 06 December 1856
Shocking Murders at Bolton-On Dearne
Another of those terrible crimes which unhappily have become so common since the adoption of the ticket-of-leave system*, has occurred at the Village of Bolton upon-Dearne, about eight miles north of Rotherham. The victims are Luke White, aged 61, and Elizabeth, his wife, aged 60. The aged couple resided alone, White acting as postmaster of the place, and carrying on the business of a druggist and grocer. The house is in the village street, and consists of shop with a parlour behind, and also a kitchen on the ground floor. The connexion between the shop and the house is by an inner door in the left hand corner of the shop, entering a short passage into the parlour, from which another door opens into the kitchen. Along one side and the end of the shop is a counter with an opening in it at the angle. The kitchen is the room in which White and his wife ordinarily lived.
White has for some years been a village preacher among the Independents, and of late has been in the habit of sitting up reading till 11 or 12 at night He usually closed the shutters of his shop at dusk, leaving the door unfastened till about ten. During the evening a lamp burned upon the counter, and when any customer came in he would go from the kitchen into the shop, carrying a candle. He was last seen alive a little before ten o’clock on Thurs- day night, by a girl named Swallow, who called to purchase some candles. On Friday morning, the shop was not opened as usual, and a woman named Downing, who wanted to purchase some articles, tried the door and found it un- fastened. On looking into the shop, she was horrified to find White laid dead in a pool of blood in the opening of the counter which communicates with the inner door. A candlestick stood upon the counter, with the candle burnt down to the socket The old man’s spectacles lay among the blood on the floor. The oil lamp on the counter had burnt out Mrs. Downing raised an alarm, and Mr. John Day and others came in.
It was found that White had been beaten about the head and face by some heavy instrument, which had inflicted some severe cuts. He appeared to have been struck down just as he reached the counter and set down the candle. Passing into the house, the body of Mrs. White was found in the passage, just outside the kitchen door. She lay with her head towards the shop, and a candle and candlestick lay separately, as if they had fallen from her hands. Her death had also been caused by frightful wounds on the head and face which had bled profusely. On examining the shop it was not apparent whether anything had been taken away. White was in the habit of keeping his money in a canvass bag in his shop desk. The desk was found unlocked and the bag empty. There were no marks of violence about it. On examining the pockets of the old man, a sovereign in a leathern purse was found in his right hand trousers’ pocket, and 16s. 2d. in the left hand pocket. There were no appearances in the upper rooms of the house of the drawers having been ransacked, but all were found unlocked. A cupboard, however, in which the deceased is supposed to have kept money, was broken open. White’s brother is not aware whether there was any considerable sum of money in the house.
The constable, whose name happens to be the same as that of the deceased, though no relation, states that he called upon the old man during Thursday evening, and found him sitting on the sofa, with a rug about his shoulders, reading the Bible. He complained of the cold. When the murders were discovered, the Bible was found open on the table and the rug thrown back on the sofa, as if the old man had arisen from the position in which the constable saw him, to go into the shop. The surmise is, that on hearing some person enter the shop, the old man went there, and was struck down by the assassin as soon as he had placed the candle on the counter, or when he was preparing something for his supposed customer. His wife, alarmed by the noise, was no doubt going with another candle to the shop, when the murderer met her in the passage, and killed her with the same weapon which had destroyed her husband. No instrument likely to have been used by the murderer has been found on the premises. So far as is yet known, no strange person had been seen about the place. The county coroner, Mr. Badger, will commence au inquest to-day.
*A ticket of leave was a document of parole issued to convicts who had shown they could now be trusted with some freedoms