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The Murder of Thomas Christopher Claypole


Statements were taken from the witnesses both at the inquest (on May 4th 1875) and as depositions for the hearing at the Magistrates Court in Kettering the following day. Sarah Ann Craxford and Constable Stringer repeated their testimony in both places. These papers are stored at the National Archives (1) and are reproduced below with a transcription. They mirror very closely the report in the local newspaper (2) of the time (See: Strange murder of a child at Cottingham) but there are minor variations.

The indictment hearing at the Magistrates' Court

The Examination of Sarah Ann Craxford the wife of John Craxford of Cottingham in the county of Northampton labourer and Samuel Stringer of Cottingham aforesaid Police Constable.
taken on Oath this fifth day of May in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy Five at Kettering in the County of Northampton aforesaid, before the undersigned two of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of Northampton in the presence and hearing of Henry Crane
who is charged this day that he the said Henry Crane
on the first day of May One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy Five at the parish of Cottingham in the said County feloniously wilfully and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder one Thomas Christopher Claypole

Geoffrey Palmer; J Borlace Tibbits

STATEMENT 1: Sarah Ann Craxford's testimony

Witness statement of Sarah Ann Craxford 1

Page 1: This deponent Sarah Ann Craxford on her Oath saith as follows: I am wife of John Craxford who is a Labourer at Cottingham. My name before marriage was Claypole. My deceased child's name was Thomas Christopher Claypole, he was born before my marriage and took my maiden

Witness statement of Sarah Ann Craxford 2

Page 2: name, his age was five years and 11 months he lived with me and my husband. I have three other children - the Prisoner lives in a cottage by himself next door to our cottage. A little after nine in the morning on the first of May I was in my house and heard the Prisoner's voice speaking to my child who was outside. I heard he was sending my child on an errand. I asked the child what he was going for. He said 'for some suckers'. While the child was gone the Prisoner came to my door and spoke to me. In about 20 minutes my child came back. He said he had given the suckers to Crane and Crane had given him five. The child gave one to me and one to his grandmother and one to his little brother. Then he went out and played with his little brother.

Witness statement of Sarah Ann Craxford 3

Page 3: under the window. About 2 minutes after the children had gone out I thought I heard Crane's voice say 'Come you along' and I thought I heard a child's feet scrape along the ground. I ran to the door and asked the little child where Tommy was. He pointed to Crane's door. I rushed to the door. It was shut. I opened it a little way and there stood my child bleeding from its throat - the blood splashed upon me. I caught hold of my child and dragged him out and ran out into the street with him and laid him on the ground and I screamed out. The Policeman came while I was there. The child was not dead when I first brought it out but it died in about three minutes. My child was close against the door in front of it. I did not

Witness statement of Sarah Ann Craxford 4

Page 4: see any one in the room, but there might have been some one in it behind the door without my seeing them. My little child who pointed to the door is under three years old. There had been no quarrelling between me and the Prisoner or my children. He had always been very kind to them. After I brought the child out of the Prisoner's house no one went in or came out of his house until the Policeman went in.
Cross examined. I told the child to go to Chamberlains for the suckers or to Mrs Rayson's. He had not been accustomed to going errands. I did not see Crane when I opened the door.

The mark of Sarah Ann Craxford


STATEMENT 2: Constable Stringer's testimony

Witness statement of PC Samuel Stringer 1

Page 5: This deponent Samuel Stringer on his Oath saith: I am Police Constable at Cottingham. On Saturday morning the 1st of May at a quarter to ten, from information I received, I went to Mrs Craxford's house. I saw Mrs Craxford in the street outside, within a few yards of her door, the child was lying at the side of the street. It was lying on its back with its throat cut. I spoke to Mrs Craxford and, in consequence of what she said, I went direct to Crane's house which is next door to Mrs Craxford. Crane's door was shut. I went in. He was in the room. He said 'I'm here Stringer'. He was sitting in an arm chair near to the fire, behind the door. The door opens back upon

Witness statement of PC Samuel Stringer 2

Page 6: where he was sitting. I went to him and took hold of him and told him he would be charged with cutting the little boy's throat. He said: 'I done it. I meant to do it.' I took him outside to where the mother was and the child was lying. I found the child was dead. I then charged Crane with murdering the child. He repeated the words: 'I done it. I meant to do it'. I took the Prisoner back into his own house. I examined the house. There was a great quantity of fresh blood on the floor of the house and marks of fresh blood on the door and wall of the house and also on the chair. The knife I now produce was lying upon the table with fresh blood on it. It is a large clasp

Witness statement of PC Samuel Stringer 3

Page 7: knife with a spring back. I picked up the knife and Crane said: 'That is what I done it with'. The cap I now produce was lying on the table. I have seen the deceased child wearing the cap when playing with my own children. I took the prisoner to my house and when he was there he accused Mrs Craxford and other people of putting something into his food to sleep him. He also said that he had sent the little boy to Mr Chamberlain's to fetch some sweets. I searched him and found some sweets in his pocket. When he was in my house he said: 'If I could have got both of them into my house last night I should have killed both of them.' On the way

Witness statement of PC Samuel Stringer 4

Page 8: to the Police Station at Kettering the Prisoner said to the boy who was driving: 'You remember, Bill, old Tom Sculthorpe being burnt'. The boy said: 'Yes'. The Prisoner said: 'I've had this on my mind ever since and I meant to have my revenge on somebody'. He said something else but I could not quite hear what it was. Mr Greaves the doctor came, but it was after the child was dead. He was at the inquest yesterday. He was ill and I understood he would not be well enough to attend here today - he lives 12 miles from here - the Prisoner lives by himself. His wife and children live in the village in a separate house. There was no one in the house but Crane when I went in.
Saml Stringer

The above deposition of Sarah Ann Craxford and Samuel Stringer were taken, signed and sworn the day and year first above written before us. Geoffrey Palmer; J Borlace Tibbits


STATEMENT 3: Statements from the Inquest; John Chamberlain and Thomas Greaves

The inquest was convened at the Spread Eagle Inn, High Street, Cottingham by William Marshal, Coroner for the County of Northamtonshire. Before a sworn jury, the accused and witnesses gave testimony after the body of Thomas Claypole had been viewed.

The Inquest preamble

Page 1: The Inquest preamble Northamptonshire to wit: Informations of witnesses severally taken with acknowledgement on behalf of our Sovereign Lady the Queen touching the death of Thomas Christopher Claypole at the dwelling house of Peake Reynolds known by the name of the Spread Eagle in the parish of Cottingham on the Fourth day of May in the thirty eighth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the Grace of God of the United Kingdon of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith, before William Marshall, Gentleman, one of the Coroners for the said County on an Inquisition then and there taken on view of the body of the said Thomas Christopher Claypole then and there lying dead as follows to wit.

The evidence of John Chamerlain

Page 2: John Chamberlain on his Oath saith I am a Grocer living at Cottingham, I knew the deceased well and he used frequently to come to my shop. About half past nine on Saturday morning last, the first of May, deceased come to the shop and my attention was called to him by my apprentice, he having three half pence for some sweets. Knowing his parents were in poor circumstances I questioned him, and after I sent him back to his mother, and in about twenty minutes he returned and said he was to have suckers. Deceased had his little brother with him. I gave the deceased some sweets for which he paid the three halfpence and he went and his brother went away and I saw no more of him. The sweets produced are similar to the ones deceased had from my shop. Deceased never said who gave him the money to buy the sweets. I have never served deceased with so many as three halfpence of sweets before.
John Chamberlain
Taken and acknowledged the day year and place above mentioned
before Wm Marshall, Coroner

The evidence of the surgeon Thomas Lay Greaves

Page 3: Thomas Lay Greaves on his Oath saith I am a surgeon residing at Great Easton. On Saturday morning last I was sent for to see the deceased whose throat I was told had been cut by Henry Crane. I came over immediatey and it was so. Deceased was lying on a board on the floor in his parents house, dead. I examined the body and found a deep cut and extensive wound of the throat, of the length from three to four inches and the depth of nearly an inch. There were also two slight wounds on the right lower jaw. The wound would be inflicted by the knife produced which the Police showed to me. It was stained with fresh blood. The large vessels on the right side of the neck were divided and the wind pipe severed in two. Deceased has died from the injury received and a child of his age could not have inflicted it himself. A wound of this description might have been inflicted by a person standing either behind deceased or on one side
Samuel Stringer recalled: When Crane was at my house I examined his clothing and there were sports of blood on his shoes but I did not see any on his clothing
Taken and acknowledged the day year and place above mentioned
before Wm Marshall, Coroner

The verdict

Page 4: Certified cause of death Examination taken by the Coroner at an inquest on view of the body of Thomas Christopher Claypole.

Wilful muder against
Henry Crane



1. "Northants: Accused: H. Crane. Offence: Murder.": Ref: ASSI 36/20 (1875) The National Archives
2."Strange Murder of a child at Cottingham": Northampton Herald May 8th 1875

Transcribed and formatted by Alan D Craxford
Added - May 1st 2007

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