5th September 1900
Date of Birth:
Until the beginning of
September 1900, Joseph Holden had lived in the workhouse
at Bury. In due course he moved in with one of his married
daughters, who lived in Nuttall Street, and repaid her
kindness by killing her son, John.
Late on the night of Wednesday, 5th September Holden
walked in to his local police station and confessed that
he had drowned John Dawes in a quarry, at Limefield.
Holden went on to describe how he had first thrown the boy
on to some rocks and then had grabbed him by the neck and
breeches and thrown him into the quarry. He had then gone
down into the quarry himself and thrown the child into the
water. The body was later discovered, in six feet of
water, exactly where Holden had said it would be. Medical
reports would show that the child had still been alive
when he was put into the water and that death had been
caused by drowning.
Police investigations soon showed that Holden had also
attacked another of his grandsons, George Eldred of Ingham
Street, on 21st August, whilst Holden was still living in
the workhouse. He had taken this child to a different
quarry, at Birtles, not far from Limefield, and told him
to cut some tobacco.
Whilst the boy was engaged in this task, Holden had picked
up a large stone and thrown it at the child's head. He
would later say that this had been an accident, saying
that he had thrown the stone and hit the child by mistake.
It may well have been this incident which caused Holden's
daughter to invite him to live with her in the hope that a
more stable family life would make her father more
At his trial, at Manchester, Joseph Holden, looking far
older that his fifty seven years, pleaded guilty to the
charge of murder. The defence was one of insanity and the
jury had first to determine if Holden was in a fit medical
condition to plead.
After due consideration, Holden was found to be fit to
plead and again said that he was guilty. After being
sentenced to death, Holden left the dock showing no
concern for his fate.
Later, in prison awaiting his execution, Holden would
express remorse for what he had done, but no real motive
for the crime could be suggested.
On 11th December, seven days after Holden had been hanged,
a question was asked in the House of Commons, by Mister
Harwood, the Member for Bolton. He sought confirmation
that all had been done to inquire into the sanity of
Joseph Holden. Mister Ritchie, for the Home Department,
replied that two eminent gentlemen, experts in the field,
had made a full investigation and he had decided, on their
findings, not to interfere with the due course of the law.
Holden was hanged at
Manchester on 4th December 1900.