Today's trip to the York Dungeon had me curious about other horrible histories of England. I've been searching the internet and digging into the past on any creepy characters and terrifying tales that could make for an interesting novel.
She poisoned 21 people including her own mother, children and husbands. So why has no-one heard of Britain's FIRST serial killer, Mary Ann Cotton?
I pull up outside a house in the Durham mining
village of West Auckland to find an anonymous-looking place: a slim,
three-storey family home distinguished from its neighbours only by its pretty,
blue-grey paint. There are no clues as to its gruesome past.
Even its original house number has been changed, perhaps from fear that the evil
that was perpetrated here could pass down through successive generations of
residents. This is the home in which Britain’s first
serial killer, Mary Ann Cotton, claimed her final victim. It is the house in
which she was arrested and then taken away to be incarcerated, before eventually
being executed at Durham Jail in March 1873.
Two women of the road who used the reverse disguise, dressing as men, were Mary Frith and Lady Caroline Ferrers.
Jonathan Wild was a London magistrate and the most renowned thief taker in the
land. He had a system though, and a thoroughly corrupt one too. Wild controlled
an enormous syndicate of organised thieves. Those which had returned from the
colonies for prior crimes were in a difficult position, work-wise. Jonathan Wild would recruit them and once they'd
dabbled in criminal activity, he had them over a barrel. As former convicts they
would be unable to give evidence against him in court, leaving him free to
openly blackmail them. His protection racket operated under the legitimate
umbrella of his social standing in the community - the upright citizen, the
businessman, the magistrate. Wild attempted to become a freeman of the City of
London (but failed) and was often seen patrolling the streets carrying a short
silver staff as a badge of authority.
Thomas Neill Cream