The Nidderdale Sensation

Following a prison sentence for murder, Thomas Taylor was sent to The Victorian Asylum.

Thomas Taylor was indicted for the manslaughter of Albert Kirkbright, at Starbeck Upper, near Pateley Bridge, on July 1 last. Mr Banks and Mr Grotrain prosecuted and Mr Ball defended.

On the evening of July 1st it was stated for the prosecution, prisoner was sat in the kitchen of the house occupied by his employer, a farmer, named Moor. He was talking with a servant named Mrs Mawer, when Kirkbright looked in at the window. Taylor, it was alleged, immediately took up a gun, fired it at the deceased, and following the report, remarked, “I have shot a man” Kirkbright was afterwards found by a man named Samuel Wigglesworth, who had heard the report of the gun 200 yards away. Taylor was still in the house when arrested and then stated he did not know the gun was loaded and that he had never handled a gun before. At the police station he said “Do you know I am not right in my head?”

Elizabeth Mawer, who was with the prisoner at the time, of the occurrence, said the men had always appeared to be on friendly terms, and after the gun had been fired, Taylor said that if he had known the weapon was loaded, he would never have pointed it at Kirkbright. He then commenced to cry.

Matthew Moor, the prisoner’s employer, said the gun was last used, previously to falling into Taylor’s hands by a man named Verity. On returning it Verity said one of the barrels had missed fire, and witness, in Taylor’s presence said he would extract the cartridge. This, however he failed to do.

Dr Bevan Lewis said Taylor was of defective intelligence, but not insane, and this point was used by Mr Ball in his defence. It was urged that in taking up the gun Taylor was actuated by a sudden impulse, and in corroboration of his statement that he did not know the gun was loaded, Mr Ball pointed out that Moor, had undertaken, in prisoners hearing, to extract the cartridge.

Prisoner was found guilty, and was sentenced to three month’s imprisonment with hard labour.

Thomas Taylor

  • Number of Admission: 412
  • Occupation: Labourer
  • Chargeable to: Criminal
  • Admitted on the 12th day of
  • October 1899

Facts observed: Threatened to kill the hospital cleaner. Delusions of persecution. He tells me that during the night people shout to him through the cell door and window that they are going to do for him.

Other facts communicated: Similar to above by warden in charge

  • Age: 32
  • Religious Persuasion: C of E
  • Previous place of abode: H M Prison
  • Armley.
  • Single
  • Insane: 2 months
  • Supposed cause: not known
  • Not epileptic
  • Is suicidal
  • Is dangerous to others.

Mental State: This patient does not readily engage in conversation and is furtive and suspicious in his manner. He is not willing to discuss the circumstances which have led to his coming here and endeavoured to evade questions relating to the crime of which he has been convicted saying that the whole affair was an accident and that he had no ill feeling towards the victim and did not know that the weapon was loaded etc but from his manner and general behaviour it is clear that little reliance can be placed upon his statements ay present. The evidences of insanity described in the certificate cannot be satisfactorily elicited at present.

Physical condition: of average height, and bodily is moderately well nourished. Hair black, growing bald, eyes brown, pupils regular, equal and respond slightly to light. Patches over regions of skim over patellae. Temperature normal Knee jerks slightly increased. Teeth defective, tongue flabby, steady and fairly clean, palate very lofty. Appetite good. Bowels constipated. Old syphilitic scar on gland. Both testes are small and atrophied.

  • Diagnosis: Mania
  • Causation: Unknown
  • Prognosis: Not very favourable.

9th Oct ’99: This patient has accommodated himself to his surroundings fairly well but continues very reluctant to engage in conversation. His physical condition is moderately satisfactory.

16th Oct ’99: Continues reserved and suspicious of those about him and will give no frank account of his sensations.

4th Nov ’99: Patient continues very reserved he informed me that he was sent here for ‘playing the goat’ at Armley but will not further discuss the matter and he definitely refuses to give any information about the homicide saying that was settled by his imprisonment

10th Dec ’99: This patient has been more aggressive of late and has talked of suicide. He will converse on ordinary subjects but resents any examination of his mental state.

Jan 26th 1900: Continues reserved and uncommunicative but is brighter and much more cheerful than he was and now employs himself usefully in the ward. Bodily condition is comparatively satisfactory.

Feb 23rd 1900: Continues rather indisposed to give a frank account of himself but is fairly intelligent or willing to make himself useful just now. Physical condition is fairly satisfactory

March 17th 1900: Is rather more tractable but shows no other noteworthy change.

July 16th 1900: This patient is still reserved and uncommunicative but is fairly tractable just now. He is hypochondriacal and fanciful and is very suspicious in his manner. He has recently suffered from anal irritation caused by injuries which is yielding to treatment.

Sept 12th 1900: Patient is more tractable and is willing to employ himself and exhibits less suspiciousness of those about him. His physical health is more satisfactory.

Dec 23rd 1900: This patient has become excited and is under the delusion “that devils are in his room” and he tries often to make his malting the shape of a coffin. He is under strict observation requiring constant care and attention. Physical condition is satisfactory.

Feb 21st 1901: Although somewhat quieter and more tractable, there is little alteration mentally to record.

May 23rd 1901: This patient who has not in any way altered in the last three months was today transferred to Staffordshire County Asylum at Cheddleton.

“Not improved”

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