In an intriguing start to our new year programme, local
Leeds guide and author Ken Goor described the more sinister side of Leeds
in his talk, 'The Darker side of Leeds'. Ken is a familiar figure in Leeds
city centre where he delights in showing people areas and places in the
city which they may not be familiar with. He is also well known on the
speakers' circuit, and is honing his talents as an author by currently
working on a book about his father's life, to be followed by a second
volume of "Haunted Leeds".
Now one of the society's most popular speakers Ken entertained an audience
of over 40 people with his thoroughly enjoyable talk, though it occasionally
had them squirming in their seats. He started by describing the first
recorded criminal in Leeds, Simon the Dyer, who in 1201 was convicted
of selling wine without a licence. He then went on to describe various
murders over the centuries and the fate of their perpetrators. Interestingly,
Leeds did not have a police force until 1836, neither were the local magistrates
able to pass the death sentence, though hangings could take place in the
city. Sentences, however, had to passed in either Wakefield, York or Bradford.
One of the tales Ken described was the strange tale of Henry Robinson,
Vicar of Leeds, who, during the English Civil War, took to delivering
his sermons with a suit of armour under his cassock. One Sunday after
delivering his sermon he jumped into the River Aire to avoid capture.
One account states that he disappeared leaving a trail of bubbles, while
the other states that the river at that time was so shallow he was able
to cross and escape.
Another story was about Arthur Mangey, Leeds goldsmith, who made the Mayoral
Mace still in use today. However, Arthur had a very lucrative sideline
in 'coining' (cutting the edges of coins to make counterfeit coins from
the clippings). This was a treasonable offence and in 1696 Arthur was
hanged for his misdemeanour.
It was however, the story of the Leeds witch, Mary Bateman, which provoked
the most amused reaction from the audience. Mary had many tricks up her
sleeves, including reinserting a chickens egg from whence it came, having
written on the egg the words 'Christ is coming'. She then sought witnesses
to the 're-laying' of the egg claiming she had a magic hen. She also passed
herself off as a nurse at the newly established Leeds Infirmary, thus
allowing her to collect linen for the Infirmary from the more wealthy
inhabitants of Leeds, only to pawn it in order to line her own pockets.
Her downfall however, was her habit of administering arsenic to people
who came to her seeking help from her supposed healing powers. After their
deaths she helped herself to the contents of their homes. She was eventually
caught and was sentenced to hang. This was not to be the end of Mary,
since the worthies of Leeds felt obliged to extract their pound of flesh.
The noted surgeon William Hay put her body on display and charged the
local populace 3 pennies for a look, thus raising £30 for the Infirmary
funds. He then proceeded to dissect her body, charging the spectators
10 shillings to watch proceedings.
Ken described many macabre incidents leaving his audience eager to hear
more. The evening ended with tea and biscuits and plenty of chatter about
the seamier side of Leeds