The documents to right and left of the story are copied from the originals and are presented here unaltered.



A report in:
Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser of Tuesday 6th March 1821:

Coroner's Report

On Monday week [i.e. 26th February 1821] an Inquest was held before the Coroner of the Liberty of Furness, at Moor, in Torver, on the body of John Jones, dancing master. It appeared the deceased and William Massicks has a quarrel on Saturday night, between twelve and one o'clock, when deceased slapped Massicks on the face twice, and a fight ensued, when Massick's father interfered, but the deceased knocking the younger Massicks down, he begged of deceased to be quiet, and said he (Massicks) would submit, and immediately left the house. The elder Massicks and Jones then had a scuffle, during which the candle was knocked out, and they both fell on the floor; upon which the younger Massicks came very quickly into the house through a back passage and joined in the fray, and with a knife, or some such sharp instrument, inflicted sixteen different wounds upon the deceased. He died between two and three o'clock in the afternoon of Sunday, and the jury returned a verdict of - Wilful Murder against the younger Massicks, and against the elder for aiding and assisting in the murder. The latter was committed to Lancaster Castle by the Coroner, who issued a warrant for the apprehension of the former. The quarrel arose at cards.

Report published in the Liverpool Mercury
Friday 13th April 1821. 

Unfortunately, the report has the first words of each line lost in the fold of the page.

Lancaster Assizes
Thursday 5th April 1821
... Massicks, Snr was charged with having (by the ... Massicks, jnr (not in custody), murdered ... by stabbing him with a knife, at Moor-in- ... . The prisoner, the deceased, and several others ... partaking of the hospitality of a neighbour, ... make a feast on the killing of a pig. They ... drinking and playing cards, and in order to ... to give up playing, one of the party con-... : a scuffle in consequence ensued between ... and Jones, and both fell. At that moment, ... Massicks came in and stabbed Jones in two or ... None of the company knew that he was ... a knife, and the proof, as to the individual ... stabs, rested on the dying declaration of ... . The unfortunate man died next day. ... (the elder Massicks) was, of course, found ... [a tantalising omission, though it is likely that it should read Not Guilty] 

We who are fortunate enough to live in Torver know it to be a peaceful, rural community where rarely does a discordant note disturb the tranquil atmosphere. The occasional bleating of a lost sheep perhaps, or the screech and crunch of a passing Saturday night drunk driver through one of its dry stone walls.  And we can surely imagine it was always so, a quiet place all through the thousand years of its history.  But that peace was broken one night almost two hundred years ago, broken in a most dramatic and bloody event that will have shaken the small population to the core and scarred the village for years to come.

It occurred in the bar of the Kirk House (Kirk'us) Inn during a Saturday night in February 1821, most probably the 17th (the records are not clear). The pub must have been quite full as villagers partook of the hospitality of a neighbour who provided "a feast on the killing of a pig". We can perhaps imagine that the pig was roasted on a spit over the big open fireplace as the guests gathered to quaff their ale from pewter tankards and knock out their pipes on the stone hearth.  We do know that a card game was in progress and that this was the most likely cause of the tragedy that ensued, an accusation of cheating perhaps or merely a sore loser.

Sometime between twelve midnight and one o'clock a fight broke out, the principle antagonists being one John Jones, "a mulatto" (mixed race) and William Massicks, son of John Massicks, the Kirk'us publican.  A quarrel at first, until Jones slapped Massicks twice across the face and fists began to fly.  Father John M stepped forward to intervene, but Jones knocked the younger Massicks down, upon which William begged Jones to be quiet, said he would submit, and immediately left the house.  The elder Massicks and Jones then had a scuffle during which they both fell to the floor.

It is surely at this point that cooler heads and calming voices should have intervened, but there may not have been sufficient time.  It is reported that William Massicks "came very quickly into the house through a back passage" and rejoined the fray.  He came armed with a knife and stabbed John Jones, not once, but sixteen times.  It is hard to imagine the chaos that must have ensued, or how much blood was spilled over the thresh strewn floor from such a frantic and savage attack.  Harder still to even consider the agonised final hours of poor John Jones who hung on to life for some thirteen or fourteen hours, not breathing his last until the afternoon of the following day (Sunday).

Could there have been a racist element in this fight and murder?  'Mulatto' is a 16th century word meaning a person with one white and one black parent. The slave trade was abolished by Act of Parliament in 1807, fourteen years before the murder, and it is known that black faces became fairly common in London and the larger cities in the years that followed, but in the villages of Cumbria, or Lancashire as it was then?  If John Jones was a traveller through the village would they have ever seen a non-white face before?  I regret that my research has revealed nothing of John Jones, except that he was described as a "dancing master".

The inquest before the Coroner of the Liberty of Furness was held in Torver, quite possibly in the Church House Inn which, a little over a hundred years previously, had served for the Manor Court.  Nor was there likely to have been any other building in Torver suitable for the purpose in those days, being some 40 years before the coming of the railway when few if any of the present buildings in the village centre (Kirk'us excepted) existed.  The Coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against William Massicks and against his father for aiding and assisting in the murder.

John Massicks, the father, was committed to trial at Lancaster Castle Assizes, found 'Not Guilty' and acquitted.  But the trauma must have weighed heavily upon him for he died within eighteen months, aged 51, to be buried on 19th August 1922 in St Lukes churchyard.  The Assize Court also issued a warrant for the arrest and detention of William Massicks who was never found and there is no record of him being put on trial or executed.

A reward of 70 guineas was offered by Mr John Dickinson, solicitor of Ulverston, for the apprehension and lodging of Wm Massicks at Lancaster Castle, but it was never claimed.

So when you next visit the Church House Inn to sup before the blazing fire in what is now the Torver Bar, with its magnificent barrel mounted counter and ancient oak beams, take a look around and consider, dear reader, that you might well be occupying the very space where, two hundred years ago, a vicious, bloody murder took place.  It has often been said that ghosts haunt the Kirk'us Inn.  Might one of them be poor John Jones, the grievously savaged victim, seeking revenge upon his aggressor?  Or even the escaped William Massicks himself, returned in death to haunt the scene of his heinous crime.



Advertisement issued through 
Ulverston newspapers
29th May 1821:

70 GUINEAS REWARD
Whereas a Bill of Indictment was found at the last Lancaster Assizes against WILLIAM MASSICKS, late of Torver, in the county of Lancaster, labourer, for WILFUL MURDER
of JOHN JONES, at Moor in Torver aforesaid;
Notice is hereby given
That a REWARD of SEVENTY GUINEAS will be paid by Mr. John Dickinson, solicitor, Ulverston, to any person or persons who will apprehend the said William Massicks, and lodge him in Lancaster Castle, on or before the 16th day of June next.
William Massicks is about 25 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, dark complexion, black hair, of robust make, had lost some of his front teeth, and has one tooth that stands remakably out; an old scar is on the back of his left hand, and he received a wound upon one of his hands when committing the said murder. - He had on a grey coat with short laps, light corduroy small-clothes, yellow striped waistcoat, and yellow coloured silk handkerchief.
N.B. No other reward will be paid for the apprehension of the said William Massicks by the said Mr. Dickinson.
May 29th 1821

From the Cumberland Pacquet,
11th June 1821:
The paragraph which we copied some time ago from a Scotch paper, intimating that a person had been apprehended at Glasgow, aswering the description given of young Massicks, the murderer of Mr Jones, at Moor, in Trover, it appears, was not correct, that villain being still at large. In the neighbourhood where the horrid murder was committed, it is generally believed that he had not yet left the country; should this be the case, we hope he will not long elude the vigilance of justice. A reward of seventy guineas is again offered for his apprehension