1909 "Murder" in Skelton Beck.

Evening Gazette 30th September 1909.
Tuesday, September 28th 1909.

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, a Norfolk man by birth, worked as a Deputy and Overman at the same 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 before him 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.
The evidence into his death reveals that he had received a blow on the head one year previously, that he had not fully recovered and there had been recent signs of this affecting him.
Perhaps the following incident in 1908 is the reason for his change of occupation.

Skelton Park Pit. Samuel Kime, a deputy aged 62, was killed.
The evidence showed that he was engaged in re-timbering an old place and that suddenly the stone came away and buried him.
He was heard to moan twice, but when extricated he was dead.
A workman, named 'Daniel Chilvers' was working in the place at the opposite side, but he escaped unhurt.
Many Miners are known to have witnessed deaths in such accidents and could not thereafter mentally face going down a Mine again.
"When setting up a baulk, a huge piece of stone, weighing about 7 tons, fell away from a visible, but not well-defined back. The place was near the goaf, and no doubt there was great weight on the pillars which caused the stone to fall."
Mr Thomas Varty, the Mine Manager, told the Coroner, Mr W Richardson, and the Jury that the deceased was one of the most careful and best experienced Minerr he had ever had under him.
Representatives of the Government Inspectorate, the Miners Association and the Mineowners Association attended.

Mr T H Stubbs, Deputy Coroner for East Cleveland held an inquest on the Thursday following the death. 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.
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.

Evening Gazette 1st October 1909.
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.
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.



Rev Joseph Toyn.
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's body was found in Skelton Beck, to the Right of the bridge where a person can be seen walking in the distance.


"God grant that him - nay them as have murdered my lad, stand face to face with God at his Judgment Day."
It was the prayer - nay the almost imperative invocation of the elder Mr Chivers, who was discussing the mystery of his son's death yesterday.
Pale and haggard of face, with emotions strained to a pitch of unstinted intensity, he sat amidst his family and friends in his neat little cottage in Back Lane, Skelton, discussing again and again the circumstances of the strange tragedy, dwelling lovingly upon the dean son's gentleness of nature and tenderness for his family.
Every now and again the rising flood of emotion would burst the barriers of ordinary restraint and while the rest of the household would wipe a flood of tears from eyes already red with weeping and sunken with a week of almost sleepless nights, the old man, gripping the arms of his chair would groan aloud and call upon God to avenge the death of his boy, whose dead body lay in the little room upstairs.
It was a sad and deeply moving scene, in the midst of which would come from moment to moment a friendly neighbour.
With only a sob for greeting, for on these occasions feelings are too deep for common-place words, the neighbour would pass through the living room to the room upstairs.
Shaking with only half concealed emotion, some friendly visitors would descend again from the chamber, in which stood the presence of Death.
"God will avenge him," fervently exclaimed one of these visitors.
Whatever other people may think, the family of the dead man hold firmly to the opinion that not only was Dan Chilvers murdered, but that he was robbed also.
They say that the crime was committed by someone in the locality, who knew his movements well and had waylaid him.
"Believe it. I know it for a fact !", exclaimed the elder Mr Chilvers.
"They try to make out that he was a bit weak in the head, but it's a lie," exclaimed the father.
"He was a good lad as ever walked God's earth and as sound and sensible as any man. There's not a figure wrong in his books. He had not a trouble in the world and he was one of the brightest, happiest and steadiest lads in the countryside.
Why should he do away with himself. It's a lie. God forgive them !
My lad never did away with himself. He was murdered and the crime'll come back to them as have done it."
Asked whether it might not have been an accident the old man exclaimed vehemently that whoever is involved in an accident does shut a gate after him.
"Besides, he had no reason to go down to the beck at all.
"He had not an enemy in the world." the old man wen on in answer to a question as to the motive for the crime.
"It was robbery they were after. He must have had about seven pounds in silver on him and the murderers got that.
His hip pocket in which he would have had the money was turned out and how did that happen if he did away with himself ?
His purse was missing and he would have had gold in that, not a lot but some gold. And who's got that. It was not found anywhere near where he was lying.
But they did not take his watch. It was a gold one and they'd have been found with that.
"Tramps !", he added scornfully, when I mentioned that the police had questioned all tramps and strangers known to have been in the district.
"It was no tramp. It was someone how knew him and his movements and waited for him."

Statements made to me today go much further than those made at the Coroner's inquiry.
It was stated then that it was not known that the dead man had any money on him and it was not known definitely whether the sovereign purse, which he frequently carried had been in his pocket when he left home.
The family now positively state that though he left a sovereign at home, he had the purse with him and that was now missing.
It was also stated at the inquest that he had come home and changed his clothes after going his rounds as an insurance collector and before going to the Chapel.
It was naturally assumed that he had left the results of his day's collecting at home also.
But members of his family state that he was not in the house more than an hour and that the only things he left were his books.
As he had done a round that day, including Redcar, Boosbeck and other places, he, in all probability had a considerable amount of money - probably six or seven pounds on him.
He almost certainly in those days travelled round these areas on a bicycle, as the local Man from the Pru became known for such an image.
The money would possible be carried in his hip pocket, which singularly was found inside out when he was discovered.
The only money found on his was a threepenny piece, 2 pennies and to halfpence.
The police have the statements of 16 men who crossed the beck, where the tragedy occurred withing a few minutes of nine o'clock, as there was a shift change at Park Pit and some men walked back home to Guisborough.
None of them had been aware of the slightest signs of a struggle of any sort.

Skelton Ellers and road to Guisborough ahead.
Dan's body was found just below where the lads are standing, where X marks the spot in the photograph below.
From the newspaper reports it appears that in 1909 there was a gate by the bridge, but no footpath. His body was found some 16 yards away.

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 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 rain poured in ceaseless torrents throughout the whole day, but New Skelton cemetery, where the interment took place was crowded an hour before the ceremony.
The whole route for nearly 2 miles from his home to the Cemetery was lined with sympathetic and curious spectators.
This was most remarkable, because the total population of Skelton is 'only a few hundreds' [not correct] and in this district of railway monopoly, there is no Sunday train service. For Dan had been extremely popular throughout the District and he was known as a local preacher in the pulpit of most of the Primitive Methodist churches of the neighbourhood.
The coffin was covered with beautiful wreaths and borne by members of the staff of the Prudential Assurance Company, in whose service Mr Chilvers was engaged.
Among those present at the Chapel and graveside, in addition to a large gathering of members and friends of the family was Mr J G Cawthorn, of Whitby, the District Superintendent of the Prudential.

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.

25th November 1909.

During the past week, while Mr Seaton, of Skelton Ellers Mill, was engaged in making up some hay near a haystack on the Guisborough side of Skelton Ellers Beck, he found a sovereign purse, which, it is assumed, belonged to Mr Daniel Chilvers, junr, whose dead body was found in the Skelton Ellers stream on September 29th.
The purse has been handed over to the Police.
Inquiries today by a North Eastern Daily Gazette representative revealed that the police have followed up every clue without finding any trace of foul play or of any other person being in the neighbourhood at the time of the death.
It was further ascertained that information has come into the possession of Supt Rose to the effect that only two days before the discovery of the body a well known resident of Guisborough was asked by the deceased for the loan of £10 and that this was refused

Referring to the report in your paper last night that my son, the late Daniel Chilvers, junr, had made a request for a loan at Guisborough, I beg to say that he was never at any time in his life in any financial difficulties, to my knowledge, and we have always had ready in the house, for his business purposes, if necessary, more than the amount named and this was quite intact at the time of his death.
The loan, therefore, must have been for someone else, as my family and I know nothing at all about it.
Yours faithfully,
Daniel Chilvers, 48 Park Place,
November 26th.
PS - I trust that you will give this letter as much prominence as you gave the report.

No one was ever charged and the event slowly sank into Skelton's History.

My maternal Grandmother, Elizabeth Cook [nee Watson], 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 workers and the like.

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