I have been doing some more family research and this is the rather depressing tale about one of the Bytheway branch of my family that lived around Dudley in the Black Country.
Joseph Danks married Lucy Bailey, the daughter of William Bailey and Esther Bytheway (my great-great-great-grandaunt), in 1890. Between then and 1910 they had seven children. Joseph was a chain maker, a hugely physical job but a very common occupation in the area around Netherton / Woodside. One of the local companies made the anchor chains for the Titanic.
The video below describes chain making in the area.
Things seemed normal in Joseph and Lucy’s marriage for thirty years until things suddenly seemed to go very wrong at the end of 1920 and into 1921.
In late 1920, Joseph lost his job. Maybe this triggered some kind of downward spiral of behaviour; we’ll never know.
But, on 23rd May 1921, Joseph was arrested for “maliciously wounding” his wife and on 1st June pleaded guilty to the offense and was sentenced to be “Bound over for 12 months in his own recognizance in £25 to come up for judgment when called”.
However, just two months later, the body of his wife, Lucy, was pulled out of the Dudley Canal on 14th August 1921 after Joseph had reported the previous night that she had fallen into the canal while they were on their way home from drinking in a couple of pubs, the Royal Exchange in Stourbridge and the Turk’s Head in Brierley Hill.
Injuries on the body led the jury at the coroner’s inquest to conclude she had been attacked and thrown into the canal. Joseph was arrested and committed to trial for murder. The trial was held on 22nd October that year before Mr Justice Roche at Worcester Assizes.
Joseph was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years penal servitude. I haven’t been able to track down yet where he served his sentence but it was probably Birmingham Prison at Winson Green, built in 1849.
Having served his time, Joseph was released and in the census of 1939 was recorded as still living in the local area, on Queen Street in Brierley Hill.