AN INNOCENT 19th century murder victim has a permanent place in the hearts of the people of Linthwaite.
A lasting memorial is hidden away in the village.
Almost obscured by an overgrown holly tree, a six-foot memorial headstone marks the moss-covered grave of 16-year-old Catherine Dennis in the graveyard at Christ Church, Linthwaite.
The ornate sandstone monument with floral motifs was financed by Colne Valley residents who were shocked at the young servant girl’s brutal murder.
The tombstone bears the words: “In loving memory of Catherine Dennis who was murdered at the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite, August 21st, 1891. Aged 16 years.”
Underneath is the inscription: “Erected by the public as a token of respect.”
Catherine had travelled from her family home in Flint to work as a barmaid at the Ivy Hotel. On the fateful day, the honest and reliable teenager was left in sole charge of the public house. Some time in the afternoon her bloody body was discovered on the upstairs landing. Her throat had been slashed.
Local farm labourer James Stockwell, 32, who had been drinking heavily, was convicted of her murder and hanged at Armley Gaol.
Reader Anthony Dollive contacted us after reading in the Examiner last week that the murder story is to be resurrected in the June issue of True Detective magazine
He was already familiar with the tragedy, having read details in a book entitled ‘Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths Around Huddersfield’ by Vivien Teasdale, which he had been given as a birthday present.
Catherine’s story had a particular poignancy for former Linthwaite resident Mr Dollive, who now lives in Newsome. His grandmother had travelled from Durham as a young girl to work in service in Huddersfield.
He said: “It is a macabre story, but very interesting.
“Catherine Dennis was a young girl who came into service, like my grandmother who came here as a downstairs maid for a big Huddersfield mill owner.
“They were young girls living away from home, it was a different way of life then.
He added that he had been to see the grave at Christ Church: “It is very impressive. I would recommend people go and look at it.”
Manchester Road was packed with a crowd of several hundred on the day of the funeral.
According to Vivien Teasdale’s account of events, the coffin was open inside the Ivy Hotel and people were allowed to pay to see the body.
Catherine was described as “a fine girl for her age with remarkably good features”.
She had fair brownish hair, long dark lashes, an aquiline nose and her eyes and lips were partly open.
Her expression was “sweet and calm”.
Catherine’s distraught parents and grandmother travelled from Wales for the funeral. The family was poor, so a sheet was placed outside the Ivy and local people threw money on to it to pay for the funeral and ornate grave.
One mystery still remains, however. Carved on the stone base of Catherine’s grave is the name “G. Mallinson.” Records do not tell us who this was.