This week at the British Newspaper Archive we are celebrating passing the 30 million image mark, with the addition of 143,974 new images to the Archive. As well as now having over 30 million searchable pages this week, we have a bumper crop of newly updated titles (fifteen in all), covering England, Scotland and Ireland and spanning the years 1849 to 2005.
This week sees significant updates to the West Surrey Times, the Leicester Daily Post, the Gloucester Chronicle and the Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Another one of our updated titles this week is the Express and Echo, published in Exeter, to which we have added the years 1881-1900. During this time the paper was known as the Devon Evening Express, and it covers one of the most notorious murders of the nineteenth century, that of Miss Emma Ann Whitehead Keyse.
Emma Keyse was around the the age of sixty-eight, and lived in Babbacombe, just outside of Torquay, Devon. She was apparently a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, and the monarch had visited her at Babbacombe in 1846. On 15 November 1884, Miss Keyse’s cook was awoken by the smell of smoke, and found that part of the house was on fire.
John Lee, a footman, ran to a nearby pub to raise the alarm, exclaiming that ‘Miss Keyse is burnt to death.’ A report in the Echo and Express on 17 November 1884 describes the scene that onlookers were met with in the dining room, where ‘a horrible discovery was made’: ‘Lying on the floor was the lifeless body of Miss Keyse…There was a deep gash across her throat…The right side of her head was smashed in…Her right leg and foot and other parts of her body was burnt and charred.’
Once the fire was extinguished, the investigation into Miss Keyse’s murder began in earnest. John Lee quickly became a suspect, and he was soon arrested on the suspicion of murder. Upon his arrest, he remarked ‘Oh on suspicion, that’s all right.’ Despite the fact that the murder weapon was not found, the lack of motive and of blood found in his room, John Lee was charged and sent to trial.
Evidence against Lee was purely circumstantial, he had a criminal record and it was reported that his socks smelt of paraffin. Indeed, Miss Keyse had employed him to ‘redeem his character,’ and he had reportedly ‘never had an angry word with his mistress.’ In February 1885 Lee faced his trial, assuming ‘an apparent air of indifference to the serious position in which he was placed,’ although ‘his appearance had undergone a decided improvement.’
In front of a ‘thronged’ court, John Lee was found guilty and sentenced to death. However, something remarkable happened on the day of his execution. The ‘scaffold drop refused to act and after three unsuccessful attempts to carry out the dread sentence of the law, the Sheriff postponed the execution.’
Lee’s sentence was commuted to life in prison, and he later claimed in a letter to his sister that ‘it was the Lord’s hand that would not let the law be carried out.’ John Lee earned the nickname ‘the man they couldn’t hang,’ although some people viewed him as ‘the man that shouldn’t hang.’ He successfully petitioned for his release from prison in 1907, and it is believed that he died in a Devon workhouse during the 1940s.
This week we have updated fifteen of our existing titles.
You can learn more about each of the titles we add to every week by clicking on their names. On each paper’s title page, you can read a FREE sample issue, learn more about our current holdings, and our plans for digitisation.
|West Surrey Times||1876, 1882-1887, 1893, 1895, 1899-1910, 1913-1914|
|Leicester Daily Post||1879, 1887|
|Evening Herald (Dublin)||2005|
|Express and Echo||1881-1888, 1890-1895, 1899-1900|
|Gloucestershire Chronicle||1849-1851, 1855-1864, 1866-1870|
|Huddersfield Daily Examiner||1872, 1886, 1891-1895, 1901-1904|
|Perthshire Advertiser||1933-1935, 1987|
|Carlisle Journal||1882, 1884, 1886-1888, 1890, 1893, 1895|