An enchantment about the past is that you find yourself in another world.
There is probably nobody alive who remembers the case of Mary White and Albert Dean in Blackpool in 1925. Here are a couple of advertisements from Blackpool papers of the time.
What was going on in Blackpool in 1925? The Depression creeping over the horizon. People could chose from 13 cinemas and numerous live shows. Radio was taking off. Religion was a major force. An unfortunate Blackpool reporter went to a different church every Sunday and report on the sermons. A letter to the paper said that the use of wireless in church indicated the collapse of society. It was still an ordered and law-abiding society. People appeared before magistrates charged with riding bicycles without lights or riding on the pavement. Behind glitter there was fear and dread. The fears included unemployment and war .
Sometimes when you read papers from 1925 you think how silly people were… pompous childish and deluded. They were but so are we…
And in 1925 people may not have known where the threat was but they were right to believe it was there. Born in 1890, say, you would experience two world wars and a major depression in your lifetime… if you did live…
Still life goes on… mostly…
Lewis Cardwell was twelve. He attended Waterloo Council School and was a promising footballer. When he got to his home at 36 Crossland Road on March 21, 1925, the door was locked. He asked a neighbour for a key. The neighbour had not got a key, so Lewis climbed up the drainpipe and through a window. His aunt lay at the bottom of the stairs, dead. Lewis climbed back throught the window and went to Hawes Side Police Station which was two hundred yards away.
PC Randle used a ladder to access the house and found the body of Mrs White which was taken to the mortuary at Layton Cemetery.
Mary White was Lewis Cardwell’s aunt. Lewis Cardwell had lost his mother and his father. His father had died many years before probably from war injuries. His mother had only died a year ago and her sister Mary White had moved into her sister’s house to look after her when she was ill. After her sister’s death she looked after Lewis and his sister Dorothy who was six.
Mary White had been widowed when her husband had been killed in the War. She supported herself by washing and taking in lodgers.
Suspicion fell on Albert Dean. He had been a lodger of Mary White and they had a close relationship for four years. Before her death the relationship had become more fractious. Albert Dean was finding it difficult to find work. He was forty-six and there were plenty of younger people looking for labouring work. The Chief Constable Mr H E Derham had a description of Albert Dean, “a man of the labouring classes,” circulated.
Albert Dean was arrested the next evening at the Goldbourn public house in Preston and returned to Blackpool as a prisoner.
The inquest followed. Dean was said to be a quiet reserved man who had been cohabiting with Mary for four years with occasional absences. Lewis Cardwell said that they got on well and were “sweethearts.” He said he knew nothing about another woman, “a fancy woman” he said.
Lewis said that when he worked Albert had handed over his wages to Mary and that he asked her for money. Lewis painted an unflattering picture. Mary had a temper and would throw anything that came to hand, pans, knives at anybody who annoyed her. He said he had never seen Dean hit Mary. He said he did not get on well with Dean.
John Jennings, the other lodger, said that Mary and Albert usually got on well but that there had been quarrels over money. The night before her death Albert had told Mary to put a penny in the gas meter and that had led to an argument. Jack and Albert Dean shared a room at the front of the house. Mary White slept with her nephew and niece in the back room.
A pawnbroker said that on the morning of Mary White’s death Albert had come to his shop and pawned trousers and boots. Some of the clothing belonged to his fellow lodger. He had just over a pound. The pawnbroker said that he looked very nervous. Albert said that he needed a drink.
The Police Doctor said that Mary had cuts on her hands.
The Inquest Jury found that Mary White had been murdered by Albert Dean.
The coroner said that the case would be followed by a trial for murder at Liverpool Crown Court.
The trial at Liverpool was very short lasting only a day. Albert Dean said that Mary had attacked him with a razor and he had killed her in a struggle adding rather unsentimentally that: “she bled like a stuck cow.”
He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in jail.
There was discussion in the Blackpool Papers about the distinction between manslaughter and murder. If he had been convicted of murder Albert Dean would have been hanged.
It is hard to miss the tone of admiration for Albert Dean in the Blackpool papers. He is said to have been “plucky” in court. He had served in France in the Coldstream Guards during the war and been a prisoner of war for fourteen months. Mary White was said to have been very strong. She worked as a labourer at one time doing work that was normally done by men. And she was “an inveterate smoker with the filthiest clay pipe imaginable.”
Albert Dean’s wife , who was separated, and “prepossessing” daughter attend the trial in Liverpool.
The lenient verdict was surely influenced by Albert Dean’s military service: words like “soldierly” are applied to him. All the evidence was that Albert and Mary were fond of one another.
They were hard bitten people. Albert was increasingly dependent on Mary for money and he was drinking a lot. Perhaps he was finding it more difficult to find work and resented his dependence on Mary for money. He impressed the jury by his brief direct answers and he paid tribute to Mary.
The children, Lewis and Dorothy Cardwell, were initially taken by relatives.
This glimpse of a world, the world of 1925 with its pawn shops and war widows and ex-servicemen and newspaper reports on Sunday Sermons.