Monday 2 February 2009

Criminal Liverpool

Daniel Longman is a young Merseyside-based specialist in true crime. He’s published a couple of books in the past and this month sees the publication of Criminal Liverpool (The History Press), to which I have contributed a foreword.

In the book, Daniel investigates the antics of an alleged brothel in Lime Street, the tragic tale of Frances Wallace, whose mummified remains were found decomposing in the water closet of her Hope Place home, and the horrific tale of the Tuebrook baby-killer, Elizabeth Kirkbride.

One of the stories which I’d never heard before concerns a solicitor called James Wilcox Alsop, a member of a distinguished law firm called Alsop, Stevens. When I started work in the city back in 1980, Alsop, Stevens was the biggest name in the local legal profession; they were based in India Buildings, next door to where I am still based. One of their claims to notoriety is that a former articled clerk at the firm was Herbert Rowse Armstrong, later to achieve fame as the only solicitor to be hanged for murder (though not the only one to have killed someone.)

In my foreword, I mention the recent death of Jonathan Goodman, a master of the true crime genre who worked in Liverpool in the 1960s. It would be good to think that, one of these days, Daniel Longman’s reputation will rival that of Jonathan’s. Keep his name in mind.


Anonymous said...

Sounds intriguing, and on my old stomping ground, might have to treat myself!

Philip Amos said...

Thank you, Martin, I shall look for this. It is, I think, an aspect of criminal justice in 19th England that in cases of a certain sort people were often dealt with in a fashion much kindlier, and rightly so, than they might expect today. Cases of insanity figure large in this, but there were others, and I'd the sooner have committed certain crimes in certain circumstances in Victorian England than in the contemporary US. But when I read of the case of Elizabeth Kirkbride, brief though the account was, it struck me as a case of misplaced generosity: she disposed of the bodies of eight infants, was charged with concealing the bodies of six -- one with string round his neck -- convicted on three counts, and given 27 months. Given the circumstances surrounding all this, well brought out in court, that she wasn't charged with murder, and hanged for it, was a trifle surprising. I'm hoping Longman has something new to add on this.

By the by, I think you know, Martin, that upon reading of the hanging of only one solicitor, some unkindly persons might harbour an unkind thought. I should not myself be among them, of course, no, no, heaven forfend. But do you know if any barristers were hanged? Real estate agents? Solicitors and real estate agents in pairs?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments.
Philip, a solicitor called Greenwood was charged of murder in cases quite similar to those of Armstrong - but he got off. I'm not aware of any barristers being hanged for murder, but I await correction! Perhaps they are simply better at covering their tracks...