1908: Manchester – Judge in tears as he passes sentence.

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Wednesday 08 July 1908

The pronouncement of the death sentence yesterday afternoon ended one of the most painful trials that has ever taken place at the Manchester Assizes. The prisoner was Fred Ballington, a butcher, aged forty-one, of Glossop, who was charged with the wilful murder of his wife, Ellen Ann Ballington, in a railway carriage at London-road station, Manchester, on the 25th of May.

He pleaded not guilty both to that indictment and to another of attempting commit suicide the same date. His demeanour, from the time when Mr. Spencer Hogg—who with Mr. Rathbone led the prosecution—opened the case, was exceedingly curious. He sat the dock, leaning so far forward that his face was below the level of the dock rails, and was not to seen.  At times he cried.


The story of the tragedy was told at length by Mr. Spencer Hogg. Ballington had been in business with his wife and son at Glossop, but after five years, owing to his drinking habits, the family had not been happy.  In May of this year Ballington again began to drink heavily.  There were quarrels, and at last Mrs. Ballington and her son ordered him out of the house. He took lodgings in Hulme, Manchester, but once he went back to Glossop and asked to be taken back. The request was refused, and he went away.  He next saw his wife on the 25th of May. Mrs. Ballington used to come on Mondays to Manchester to buy meat and Ballington met her early on the 25th at London-road station.  According to the statement made by Ballington at the inquest they were together all the afternoon while she went shopping, and were quite friendly, the only cause of dispute being her refusal to give him three shillings which he asked for in order that he might be enabled go and work in BlackpooL

The Tragedy.

They returned to the station in time for the 5.20 train to Glossop, which Mrs. Ballington had to catch. Several people noticed that Ballington looked excited. Mrs. Ballington got into a carriage and her husband remained standing at the door.


He continued asking for money, which she refused, till at last she gave him something out of her purse. He replied, “One and six is no good to me.”  She told him he was lazy, and he denied it. He asked for more money to go to Blackpool. She declined to give him more, and said she was sorry she had given him any at all. Then, apparently against her will, he kissed her. She called him a scamp, and he turned back, as he was leaving the carriage. She half rose to meet him, and then there was a scream and blood was seen streaming from the woman’s face and neck. She had been stabbed in the cheek and in the jugular vein. A moment afterwards he was seen standing with knife to his throat. A crowd, gathered on the platform, and in reply to some questions Ballington said that he had done it: it was what he should have done some time before. The woman died before reaching the Infirmary. Various witnesses, including Ballington’s son, and several people who were about the station at the time, bore out this statement.

The Defence.

The defence, put forward by Mr. Gilbert Jordan, was that there was not that evidence of malice aforethought which was an essential ingredient the crime of murder as compared with the crime of manslaughter. Were the wounds of such a nature as would suggest that they were done with the deliberate intention of causing the deceased woman grievous bodily harm, or were they wounds which might induce them into substituting the offence known as unlawful Wounding?

Having regard to the absence of serious motive and premeditation he asked them to take that view and to make their verdict one of manslaughter.

A Moving Scene.

Between the time when the jury left the court for consideration and their return to deliver their verdict of “guilty” thirteen minutes passed. In pronouncing sentence death Mr. Justice Bucknill said he did not wish for one moment to increase the painfulness of the position to Ballington.

Mr Justice Bucknill “Book of the Bench” (1909, London)

“From what you have said after this sad act.” he went on, “I firmly believe that you loved this woman. But I, a minister of the law, have only to pass that sentence which the law directs.” His Lordship continued with the usual form of sentence of death, but broke down utterly, and wept as he delivered the last, “And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

He then rose immediately and left the court, where many persons, including several members of the jury, we’re showing strong emotion.  Ballington was apparently unmoved.

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 08 July 1908
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Wednesday 08 July 1908


  1. You have what seems to be a unique blog — at least, I haven’t come across another exactly like it. Anyone with an interest in history should find it worth their time, and I appreciate your time in researching and publishing these posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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