Tomb Five – ‘The Genial Cobbler’


‘Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind’

~ James Douglas Morrison


The Tale:

Gentle reader,

Before you take your leave of the FIFTH of the THIRTEEN Brigante Tombs – why not take a moment to gaze at this remarkable old building and not only because of the quaint Tudor architecture but with the realisation that a cobbler has been working inside these premises for over a hundred and thirty years!

One such former resident was the ancestor of our Lady Brigante – John Dalby, an affluent widower who was fatally injured at his home in Alma Terrace, Fulford Road one balmy summer evening as his daughter and husband were still working inside this very place!

The murder of the retired cobbler in July 1904 is a well-known footnote in the annals of York’s gruesome history and the story of his grisly death and the execution of his son-in-law Edmund Hall has been much told over the years.

However, it is the tale of little Ada Brown that we share with you today.

Can you see the sign for Silver Street?

Although much changed over the years, if you look along the row of buildings – you can still see the old windows upstairs.

For shortly before 1pm on Wednesday September 2 in the year 1874 – a ‘Terrible Thunderstorm’ passed over York.

And as the wind approaching a hurricane gathered strength from the south-east, bringing with it an ominous dark sky with unprecedented levels of rain and snow – York was very soon deluged and there were reports of flooded streets, fallen trees, smashed greenhouses, lightening strikes and even floating furniture inside a Layerthorpe pub!

As the York Herald went to press with descriptions of hail-stones ‘as though they had been shot from a strongly propelling power and tree ‘branches split and burned by lightening’ – they concluded with the reassuring news that there had been no reports to the loss of life.

However, in this title street which runs along side St Sampson’s Parish Church – a three old year girl known as Ada Brown died the following day from ‘Nervous Shock from Thunder’.

Born to Saul Brown, a market gardener and his wife Jane Howard, Ada had been baptised at the Parish Church of St Thomas on Saturday July 29 in 1871 and she lived with her older brother William and sisters Alice and Emily Jane at their home in the Monkgate area of York until the fatal move to Silver Street.

Ada was buried in a public grave at York Cemetery two days later along side twelve other people including three other children who all died on that same day – and one wonders if that ‘terrible thunderstorm’ had inadvertently claimed their lives too?


The Location:

Silver Street. York. YO1 8RS