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The Murder of Thomas Grisdale

The Westmorland Gazette, Saturday 14 March 1835


One of those awful tragedies, at which humanity shudders, and by which a respectable young man, in the prime of manhood and flower of youth, has been suddenly hurled into eternity, was perpetrated on Sunday evening last, in one of our remote and hitherto peaceful valleys, terrifying the simple, unsophisticated inhabitants from their propriety.

On the night mentioned, two miners, one of them called Bainbridge, the name of the other has not yet reached us, both young men, and employed at the Green Side mine near Patterdale, had got intoxicated in the village, and become riotous, disorderly, and violent, so much so that they had been turned out of one or both of the inns, and on account of which, they, in their savage ferocity, had sworn to be revenged.

About nine o’clock Thomas Grisdale, son of Mr. Robert Grisdale, of Hartsop Hall, was leaving one of the public houses to go home (there were with him two or three companions, but a little behind), when he met these two ruffians coming in an opposite direction. Aware of the violence of their conduct, although he had had no quarrel, nor anything to do with them, he expected an attack – partly stopped and turned half round. Bainbridge ran past, but the other rushed at him with a large clasp knife open, and plunged it into his abdomen; the merciless wretch made another stroke at his throat, but the point of the knife struck the collar bone, which stopped it; the point turned with the force of the blow, and the blade shut towards the handle, cutting the fingers of the savage thus brutally using it. It was the work of a moment. He then ran off. Poor Grisdale called out, “Oh! I am stabbed.” He was assisted into a house, and the villains immediately pursued. Bainbridge was taken in Ullswater Lake, standing above middle deep in the water, and the other had got into a field and concealed himself in a low ditch. The gash in Grisdale’s abdomen was more than two inches in length, and his bowels protruded through it so, that, at the time the miscreant had given the blow, he had wrenched the knife on one side, to make surer work. A surgeon was fetched from Ambleside, ten miles and another from Penrith, fifteen miles, but all of no avail; the unfortunate young man lingered six hours, in great agony, and expired at three o’clock the following morning.

Mr Robinson Cartmell, of Crosthwaite, coroner, went on Monday to hold an inquest, but as the snow storm set in that night, it was scarcely probable he would reach the fatal spot till Tuesday. At the time we are writing this (Wednesday evening) the result is not here known, beyond a report that both men were committed for wilful murder.

As the business of assize commences on Friday, before these remarks see the light, any thing we may say cannot affect the question. It is probable that application may be made to the judges to put off their trial till the next assizes – the plea, want of time to prepare their defence; and so much does justice lean to mercy that this is seldom denied, although they gave their victim but a very short space of time to make preparation for another world.

Grisdale was a fine, handsome, young man, about six feet and an inch, and made in proportion. We knew him well, and have more than once recorded his fame among the Westmorland and Cumberland wrestlers. A better tempered or fairer wrestler we never saw step into a ring; but he has had his last fall, in the morning of life, and unhappy has it been.

Another account from a Correspondent

On Sunday evening the 8th inst., the inhabitants of Patterdale, were thrown into the greatest state of alarm imaginable, by the report that Thomas Grisdale, a most industrious and respectable young man, had been brutally murdered by two inhuman wretches called John Greenwell, and Joseph Bainbridge. It appears that a number of miners, amongst whom were Greenwell and Bainbridge, had been drinking and quarrelling, and had turned out, it is feared, with an intention of doing mischief, as they attached Grisdale, who was in company with some young men, and stabbed him with a large knife, of which wounds, after lingering in great agony about six hours, he died. Both of the men were immediately secured and kept in confinement until the Coroner’s inquest, which was held on Tuesday, the 10th, before Robinson Cartmell, Esq.,and a respectable Jury, who, after a minute and patient investigation of all the circumstances brought before them returned a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against both men, who were immediately committed on the Coroner’s warrant to Appleby Gaol to take their trial at the Assizes, on Friday next.