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Monday, 21 April 2014

Murdered By Poachers

 In the early 19th century rural unemployment, poverty and subsequent starvation forced many villagers to poach the plentiful game stocks on local estates, but those caught were subject to the severity of laws that favoured the affluent landowners over the suppressed peasantry. Some were given long prison sentences with hard labour whilst others were transported to the colonies. Faced with such draconian measures, those who persisted in poaching were more likely to shoot it out with gamekeepers rather than submit to capture.

A gravestone in the church yard of St. Margaret's in the picturesque hamlet of Well bares an epitaph that serves as a grim reminder of these times. It reads:

"Sacred to the memory of William Dadly, late Gamekeeper at Well. The faithful and devoted servant of Robert Adam Christopher, Esq. who was hurried to his redeemers presence by the hand of a murderer. In the 32nd year of his age, on the 10th day of January. In the year of our Lord 1839."
                                  The grave of William Dadly
On the day of his murder gamekeeper William Dadly and his wife of just five days were holding a belated wedding party for friends at their new home, Kidd`s Cottage, known to day as Ulceby Lodge, situated on the main road to Alford opposite Well Vale gate. At around eight o` clock in the evening the proceedings were brusquely interrupted by the sound of gun fire in the nearby vale. Despite pleas from his wife and guests not to apprehend the poachers, William and a group of friends set out for the woods.

They found the poachers by following their foot prints in the snow and as William approached them one of the poachers shouted "Stand back or I`ll shoot." William, dressed in his wedding cloths, his white shirt front clearly a visible target refused to heed the warning and he was shot in the chest at point blank range. As William fell dead to the ground, the poachers fired a warning shot  threatening more of the same to any man who tried to stop them and they made good their escape.

Despite a substantial reward being offered, nobody was ever apprehended for the crime. However, local folklore has it that many years later a man named Stephen Cowley from the nearby village of Aby made a death bed confession to his involvement in the murder of William Dadley. 

The memorial stone marking the spot where William Dadley was murdered 
Kidd`s Cottage, Now known as Ulceby Lodge,  the former home of murdered game keeper William Dadley . 
A poacher who was not so lucky in evading the law was William Clark, the last man to be publicly hanged at Lincoln Castle in 1877.
One night Clark and three other men went poaching for pheasant in the woods at Norton Disney. They were caught by the local gamekeeper and in their struggle to evade capture Clark shot the gamekeeper in the leg and the gang made good their escape. However, the gamekeeper died from his wounds and Clark was later arrested by police in Lowestoft and charged with murder.
He was sentenced to death at Lincoln Assizes on 8th March and as  already mentioned, he was the last person to be publicly hanged at Lincoln Castle on the 26th March 1877.
This is not quite the end of the tale however. Clark was known to  frequent the Strugglers Inn pub, situated at the west bank of Lincoln Castle. After he was hanged, his faithful old Lurcher  dog took to sitting outside the pub waiting for his master who would never return.
The pub landlord took pity on the poor creature by giving it a home and when it died, he had it stuffed and mounted where it was kept behind the bar for many years.

A former landlord of the Strugglers Inn once told me that he and customers experienced poltergeist activity centred around the bar. Objects mysteriously vanished and beer glasses flew off the bar as if thrown by an invisible hand.  However, it is the ghost of William Clark`s dog that is more often heard, whining and scratching at the doors late at night as if searching in vain for his long dead master."

Above: The Strugglers Inn, situated at the west bank of Lincoln Castle. In the days of public hangings, crowds gathered here to witness the executions
The pub sign board serves as a grim reminder of those times
The pub ghost: The stuffed dog belonging to William Clark now on display at Lincoln Castle  Museum, ironically just a stones throw away from Lucy Tower, where Clark and others who met the same fate are buried.