1909 Murder in Skelton Beck.

Evening Gazette 30th September 1909.
Tuesday, September 28th 1909.
The murder of Dan Chilvers, age 30.
His body was found in the beck at Skelton Ellars.
At the time of the 1901 census the Chilvers family were living at 46 Back Lane. Dan was 21 at this time and worked as a tipper above ground at the Skelton Park ironstone mine.
His father, also called Daniel, was a Norfolk man and worked as a Deputy and Overman at Skelton Park Pit [See miners' photo 1883.] He died on February 13th 1913 at the good age for those times of 75.
Dan's mother, Elizabeth, had died two years earlier on February 25th 1906 at the age of 53. She came originally from Northumberland, as did many local miners' families. There were five other children in the Chilvers family besides Dan; Sarah age 31 in 1909, Mary 28, Lilly 26, Harry 22, who died in 1916, and Edwin, who had died in 1903 aged just 11. Dan was born in Boosbeck and the family seem to have moved to Stanghow and then Loftus before the birth of Edwin in Skelton.
Kelly's directory for 1909 records Daniel Chilvers as an insurance agent, living at 40 Back Lane. At some earlier date Dan had become an agent for the Prudential Assurance Company.
Mr T H Stubbs, Deputy Coroner for East Cleveland held an inquest on the Thursday following the murder at the Green Inn, Skelton Green.
The first witness was Dan's brother in law, John William Porritt, an ironstone mine deputy, who lived in the High St, Skelton.
He identified the deceased and confirmed that Dan had no worries that he knew of that would cause him to harm himself.
Mr Porritt stated that when he learned that Dan had not returned home, he set off with five others at 2.45 am to search.

Evening Gazette 1st October 1909.
Dan was a member of the Primitive Methodist Chapel and on Tuesday nights it was his custom to accompany the Minister, Rev Joseph Toyn, back to Guisborough. They therefore searched in this direction and turned off on the Guisborough side of the Ellers.
They had a lantern and first of all found a cap and an umbrella which later turned out to be broken.
A few yards farther on they found Dan lying face down in the water.
There were yellow clay marks on his back. Two of his waistcoat buttons were off, They tried artificial respiration, but Daniel was already dead.
He always wore a gold pocket watch with a silver chain and this was still in his waistcoat pocket, but had stopped at 2 minutes past nine. Mr Porritt testified that Dan usually carried a sovereign purse, but the part of the chain to which this was normally attached was hanging loose and the lining of his hip pocket was hanging out. He could not trace Dan's last movements from the footmarks round about, but said one footprint was made by a heavy, nail-studded workboot and Dan did not wear this type of footwear.
The Rev Joseph Toyn confirmed that Dan had walked him so far back home. About a quarter of a mile on the Guisborough side of the Ellers they were met by two Church friends, A Lingford and A Boyes, and at 10 minutes to nine Dan, in cheerful spirits, turned back to Skelton.
It was stated that Mr Toyn bade Dan 'good night' at about ten minutes to nine and his watch appears to have stopped at 2 minutes past nine. The front glass of the watch was broken. His cap and umbrella were found in the wood a little distance from the body and some postage stamps were also picked up near the place where he was lying. The hip pocket of his trousers was turned out.



Rev Joseph Toyn.
On the Skelton side of the Ellers they had passed a group of workmen, apparently out for a walk and they had exchanged greetings with the deceased.
Samuel Walker, a hawker, was one of the searchers and he added that the mud around the place where Dan lay was ankle deep and an amount was in the deceased's nose and mouth which had to be removed before attempts to revive could begin. It was not possible to say if this mud had been deliberately inserted.
Mr William Cordy, testified that on his return from Guisborough he had passed four men going in the direction of Skelton Ellers.
Police Sergeant Walker of Skelton stated that he had found 3 pennies and a threepenny bit in Dan's waistcoat pocket.
Sergeant Metcalf said it was quite easy to trace the footsteps as the ground was soft and there was no evidence that he could find of there having been a struggle.
Dr Winfield said that he had conducted a post mortem with Dr Stainthorpe and there were no bones broken on the deceased's body, but there was a bruise on the bridge of his nose, extending under the left eye and another mark on his temple. Either of the blows would have

Primitive Methodist Chapel,
Green Road, Skelton.
Where Dan had been attending with the Rev J Toyn.

40 Back Lane. Dan Chilvers home was first right.
Straight ahead is the Ironstone miners' path to Park Pit and Guisborough.
The likely route Dan walked with Joseph Toyn to his death.

been sufficient to stun the deceased and he was of the opinion that Dan was insensible when he entered the water.
He may have staggered into the water or been placed there.
The immediate cause of death was asphyxia.
The Coroner concluded that the whole affair was shrouded in mystery. Everyone's movements on the night in question seemed to have been satisfactorily accounted for.
The inquiry lasted for over three hours. Despite all the above evidence, the jury returned an open verdict, as in their view, it was not possible for them to say for certain that there had been a murder or suicide.

Skelton Ellers.
The road to Guisborough ahead. Dan was found in Skelton Beck just to the Right.

Skelton Ellers and road to Upleatham.
Dan's body was found just below where the lads are standing, where X marks the spot in the photograph below. From this, it seems likely to me that he was attacked and pushed over the side of the bridge.

The 2 photographs above appeared in the "Leeds Mercury" on Saturday 2nd October 1909 and have been kindly contributed by Chris Twigg of the Hidden Teesside Website.

He would have been 39 at the time of Dan's death and they would have known each other well, as Joseph had been born in Skelton and from age 6 lived in Saltburn.
His father was Joseph Toyn. Justice of the Peace and President and Agent of the Cleveland Miners' Association from 1876 to 1916. His name appears often in the History of Skelton.
Joseph senior was himself a lifelong staunch Primitive Methodist and young Joseph was sent to the local Sunday School from the age of 3.
Joseph soon became a Primitive Methodist teacher and local preacher and after 10 years working in the office of a local engineering Company entered the Ministry.
Guisborough was his native circuit and there he built the Guisborough New Church, School and organ.
He died in 1938.

Thousands of people, from all parts of the Cleveland, assembled at Skelton on Sunday for the funeral of Daniel Chilvers, the insurance agent, whose body was found in Skelton Ellers Beck on Wednesday the 29th September.
The cortege was the largest seen in the village in the memory of the oldest inhabitants.
There was a service in the Primitive Methodist Chapel, of which Mr Chilvers was a prominent member. The burial service was conducted by the Rev J Toyn, who parted from him only a few minutes before his death is supposed to have occurred.
Rev Toyn said that if the perpetrator of the foul deed was not brought before the bar of an earthly judge, he would ultimately have to appear before the great Judge of all men.

The death continued to be the main topic of conversation and rumour in the surrounding villages for a long time.
No one who knew Dan believed for a minute that he would contemplate self destruction.
The police searched the adjoining woods and took statements from everyone who had been anywhere near the scene.
No one was ever charged and the event slowly sank into Skelton's History.

My maternal Grandmother, Elizabeth Cook, born 1879, lived at 38 Back Lane, Skelton, next door to Dan.
She brought me up until her death in 1950 when I was 10. I well recollect her mentioning "poor Dan" and saying that certain suspect characters left the Skelton area shortly after the event.
Her Father, William Watson, like Dan's father, was an under-Manager at Skelton Park Pit.
Her maternal Uncle, Thomas Varty, was the Manager of Shaft and Park Pit for a long time and Skelton Councillor.
His name appears many times in this website.
Thomas Varty's Father, my Great Great Grandad was Armstrong Varty, Manager of Eston and later Carlin How Mines, Councillor for Kilton.
They were all Geordies, who had obtained their Mine Management Certificates in the Durham Coal Mines [see the Durham Mining Museum]. They came down to Cleveland for jobs when the Cleveland Iron boom was just opening in the 1870s.
Unlike the Mine Owners, who built the great mansions at Marton, Nunthorpe and our own Rushpool Hall etc, they were just wage earners, but their expertise of underground working must have been vital to the incomers from all over the UK, who had often been farm lads and the like.

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