A Leicestershire Murder in 1815

Abraham Billson, a pig farmer, married Ann Tibbs at Broughton Astley on 24th November 1812. The couple went on to have four children, the eldest Jonathan Tibbs (taking his mother’s maiden name) was born nearly a year after their marriage, but who died aged just two; a second child named simply Jonathan this time in 1815 just down the road at Leire.

Gloucestershire Old Spot. c1800-1805. James Ward. Yale Center for British Art
Gloucestershire Old Spot. c1800-1805. James Ward. Yale Center for British Art

A third child, Richard Tibbs in 1820 and their youngest child named Abraham, after his father, who was baptised on 20th January 1825. A date which becomes significant once we tell you this story.

A Street in a country village c1815. William Henry Hunt
A Street in a country village c1815. William Henry Hunt

On the 28th March 1825, Abraham was charged with the brutal murder of his wife Ann, who, by all accounts he had been badly treating throughout their marriage due to his jealous nature.

As well as being a farmer, in the mid 1810’s Abraham added to his portfolio and bought a bakehouse which occupied a small piece of land at Sutton-in-the-Elms. He was the son of a farmer and of respectable circumstances, by the time of this event his father, a farmer had already died leaving him a reasonable inheritance.

Apparently, Abraham and Ann’s marriage was not all plain sailing and the couple had regular fall-outs and Ann had previously sworn before the magistrate about her husband’s behaviour, but it was on the 6th December 1824 that things were to finally come to a head. Abraham had apparently been drinking, and, afraid for her safety Ann left the house to seek the help of a neighbour. Abraham just swore at the neighbour and told him to go home.

The couple continued to argue all day until seven in the evening when another neighbour heard screams and cries of ‘murder’ coming from her neighbour’s house. She looked through the window and there she saw Anne laying on the floor covered in blood. Despite this, somehow Anne managed to get up, still grasping at her throat and dragged herself out of the house. She somehow managed to stagger along the street, where she was spotted and taken in by a neighbour who described her as having been ‘covered with gore from her bosom to her feet‘.

A stream of blood still rushing from her throat, which had been cut in such a dreadful manner that she now was no longer able to speak and within a few minutes she was dead. Her throat had been cut six or seven inches in length and two inches deep and the windpipe had been completely severed from the root of the tongue.

Morland, George; The Piggery; Lady Lever Art Gallery
Morland, George; The Piggery; Lady Lever Art Gallery

What added to the horrific event was that the couple’s eldest child was witness to the carnage. Abraham fled the house but was soon caught a few fields away from the house.

When he appeared in court he claimed mental derangement, but no proof of this was found, and the jury, after only a few minutes found him guilty. Sentence was passed. Abraham just shook his head and claimed that all the witnesses were lying.

The village of Leire, Leicestershire
The village of Leire, Leicestershire

Abraham was described as, a ferocious but ill-looking man and that Ann was an excellent woman, beautiful and of good character and that there were no grounds for suspecting any infidelity on her part i.e. no obvious justification for the murder.

After only a few days Abraham was hanged, confessing to his sins only minutes before meeting his maker.

The curious part to this story can be found in the parish register for 20th January 1825, so after the death of Anne. Someone took the couples youngest child, Abraham Tibbs Billson to be baptised. The child’s father is clearly named as Abraham,  against the mother’s name it say Anne – murdered.

So, who presented this child for baptism? It can’t have been Abraham as he was in prison awaiting trial? Perhaps the child’s grandparents, we’ll never know.  By June 1825, there were 3 orphans, the youngest a mere baby, what a sad start to life for them.

Featured Image

Morland, George. The Cottage Door. Royal Holloway, University of London

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