Tomb Nine – ‘The Lovesick Soldier’


‘Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.’

~ Arthur Conan Doyle


The Tale:

Gentle reader,

Micklegate, Micklelith or the ‘Great Street’ if you are familiar with a little Old Norse dialect is a street in the City of York and is dominated by the medieval magnificence that is the Micklegate Bar.

With the Lord Mayor’s permission, the entrance gate of Micklegate Bar as the southern entrance into the city has welcomed a number of reigning monarchs throughout York’s long, illustrious AND bloody history and the gate has also been the proud display wall for the severed heads of York’s traitors and rebels including one Duke of York and more than a few Peers of the Realm!

Although Micklegate was famously known for ‘The Micklegate Run’ in a nod to the sheer number of bars and clubs which were once dotted throughout this long and winding street – it was also the birthplace in 1803 of Joseph Aloysius Hansom the prolific Gothic architect and inventor of the ‘hansom cab’.

Micklegate is also home to a former medieval Benedictine priory church, the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar, a wonderful old bookshop, some impressive Georgian architecture, a divine fish and chip shop AND this fabulous place which is home to the NINTH Brigante Tomb!

However, as our tale begins in Wellington Row, off North Street and IF the door to this emporium is ajar – you may wish to enjoy a taste of something delicious as the following tale is ANYTHING but!

Having leaving work shortly before 5pm on Saturday May 2 1906 – confectioner’s assistant Ernest Newby bumped into John Barker a reservist soldier of the Royal Garrison Regiment on the street near their home on Wellington Row.

Their conversation was a brief one:

‘I hope you know what I have done: will you forgive me? I have cut your mother’s throat, and she led me to it.’

Assured of Ernest’s forgiveness and after shaking the lad’s hand – John Barker a circular sawyer by trade was to surrender to Inspector Blackburn on that same street to the sole charge of having murdered the 37 year old Mary Ann Barker – his wife of 11 years.

As John walked with Inspector Blackburn to the police station, he added that although he had not meant to kill his wife, he had “put up with her conduct for long enough” and that the formal charge of murder put to him was “quite correct.”

With John now under arrest, the coroner J.R. Wood opened the inquest at the Law Courts and the defendant proudly wearing his Egyptian and South African ribbons and displaying considerable interest in the proceedings listened politely to the evidence against him was presented to the jury.

Having identified the body of his mother for the benefit of the court, Ernest testified although his mother was a very violent woman, frequently drunk and usually spoiling for a fight with his step-father – he had witnessed no violence from John directed towards her.

He also added for the benefit of the packed court that with his step-father away on military duty in South Africa – his mother had lived with another man until the day of his return and that on the day of her death, she had been drinking since early morning in a pub in North Street.

As Mary Ann staggered home along Wellington Row, John followed her into the house and a minute or two later, John called on their neighbour to:

If you want to see the last of Mary Ann, you can go upstairs.’

And as John knelt by his wife’s side and kissed her face, he cried out that he never thought he would return home as a murderer.

Having returned a verdict of ‘Wilful Murder’, the jury added a recommendation that the murder had been committed under great provocation and on the following day as John was formally charged with her murder – Mary Ann was laid to rest in a public grave at York Cemetery.

Brought before the York Azzies in late July, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Justice Grantham sentenced John to five years imprisonment. He was released from Wakefield Prison two years later and vanishes from the pages of history.


The Location:

Wellington Row. York. YO90 1WR