Above: The conditions for prisoners at Chester Castle, where Joseph Dale stood trial for the murder of William Wood, were said to be extremely harsh.

The trial of Joseph Dale for the murder of William Wood took place at Chester Castle. One of his co-accused, Charles Taylor, had already hung himself in Manchester’s New Bailey Prison, a few weeks earlier. The other, Platt, was still at large.

Dale pleaded not guilty. These excerpts are taken from an extensive report of the trial from the 2nd September 1823 edition of the Manchester Mercury. I’ve split the report into two sections. This first one covers events on the day of the murder…

John Mellor, the farmer’s servant who discovered the body, gave evidence first. He had been leading a horse-drawn cart along the road between Disley and Whaley Bridge, slightly ahead of his uncle, who was walking with his friend, Edward Pott…

…there was a terrible wound at the back of his head, and two on his forehead, the wounds seemed as if they had been knocked with stones, saw some stones near the body; body was lying under a wall; they were grit-stone stones, a vast quantity was under his head.

The stones were marked with blood; and were lying a little off his head, a distance from the blood; did not observe the pockets of deceased; the body was not quite cold, put body into Potts’ cart, and Potts took it away, left the stones, did not think of taking them.

Edward Pott was next to give evidence…

…examined the body, it was warm; it was between seven and eight o’clock, stones were lying at the back of his head with blood upon them; could not say how many, but there were more than one or two.

Took the body to the Cock, at Whaley, in his cart; examined the pockets, and found the breeches pockets wrong side out; then examined the place where the deceased was found, and found an old penny, a pocket handkerchief, and the top of an umbrella, and some class tickets, but no other money or notes.

Mary Bradshaw knew William Wood…

…saw Wood on the 16th of July, he called at their house, between six and seven in the morning, and told me he was going to Manchester; the day after, saw the body at the Cock; it was the body of William Wood.

Josiah Cheetham, a ‘manufacturer’ in Stockport,  purchased goods from William on the day he was murdered…

…saw him at Stockport on the 16th July, a little after two; he left about three, it was Wednesday. I paid him £18 some shillings; eight country notes; two £5 Derby notes; rest £5 Bank of England, except one £10.

Knows date and number of several of the £5 Bank notes; (note produced) this was one of them, 721, Jan. 23, £5; is quite sure of it; knows it by the tear, and recollects copying it.  

Mr. Wood quitted me about three that day; Stockport is about six miles from Disley. Mr. Wood was on the foot.

John Jackson was a stone-mason who lived on the Disley to Whaley Bridge road…

On the evening of the 16th of July last, about seven o’clock, saw two young men pass by him with dark coloured cloathes on, and two more men followed, about twenty yards behind them.

The two first who passed appeared to be 18 or 19 years of age, and of the two that followed, one was a middle-aged man had a dark coat and light gaiters; saw the deceased at the Cock, at Whaley.

Joseph Hadfield also lived on the Disley to Whaley Bridge road…

On the 16th of July, at seven in the evening, saw a man pass, and directly after, three others; took no notice of the man, except his gaiters, which fitted him rather slack, the man did not appear very elderly; the three young men that followed, came up in two or three minutes.

The first man had an umbrella in his right hand, and a basket or bundle in the left; did not observe either the dress ir the size of the young men; they were going towards Whaley; he stood in his door-stead when the first man went by, and then went into his garden.

Thomas Etchells lived about a mile further along the road than the previous witness…

…at seven or half-past seven o’clock on Wednesday, the 16th of July; was on the road near his house, which is between the boundary wall and Whaley; he observed three men; when they came up, saw that they were young men.

They were coming, he thought, as hard as they could run, passed the place where he was standing, and came down into Whaley. They stopped running a little before they had passed him, and walked very sharp.

William Beard lived in Whaley Bridge…

…saw three young men running towards the toll-gate leading to Buxton. They passed witness running, and stopped running when they got past him for a little while, and then began to run again; they appeared as if they had been running for some distance, which made him take notice of them.

One of them was taller than the other two; they were all young men; the tall man had on a round waistcoat with sleeves, and trowsers of pillow-fustain; the waistcoat and trowsers appeared to him to be the same; one of the others had a dark-coloured coat and light trowsers, and was without stockings; the third had a dark coat and dark trowsers; one had a small bundle.

Edward Griffin was a post-boy at the Old Hall Inn in Buxton…

…was with a return chaise, at Sidebotham’s, at Whaley-bridge, about 100 or more yards from where the two roads meet; had come from Bullock-Smithy by the new road, it was about half-past eight in the evening.

I was in the house when a young man came to me, one of the three I afterwards saw going along the way, who asked me if I was going to Buxton, and whether I was empty. I said no, I had got one gentleman with me. When I told him so, he turned round and gave me no answer.

I followed him out of the house, he went along the road very quickly, and joined his two companions. I followed slowly on, and saw them for the space of a mile further, going very quick, till they were within four miles and a half of Buxton.