‘There is no ghost so difficult to lay as the ghost of an injury’
~ Alexander Smith
Before you take your leave of the SIXTH of the THIRTEEN Brigante Tombs nestled in this window and IF the door is ajar – why not step inside and lose yourself within the annals of history!
Although this delightful emporium is a favourite haunt of our Lady Brigante – our tale begins at in fine house situated on this very street in the year 1877.
In life the confirmed bachelor George Wright was a respectable linen draper with a profitable business here in York and was considered an authority on the study of natural history. He was also much admired for his creativity as a taxidermist of the winged variety.
However, his sudden death at the age of 60 one early November morning at his home here in Fossgate and the subsequent investigation and inquest would sadly cast a long shadow over his earthly achievements.
George shared his rather nice home with his housekeeper of some 20 years, a Miss Eleanor Lazenby, the assistant John Hunter and apprentice William Raper.
Having spent most of previous Sunday morning in bed, he had enjoyed a delicious dinner, a customary afternoon siesta followed by tea followed by a late supper before retiring for the day around 11pm.
However, shortly before 6am, the next day, Miss Lazenby had awoken to the sound of a very loud knocking sound and having got up to investigate, she discovered George in a ‘place of convenience’ knelt upon the floor with his head hanging down and quite dead!
During the course of the police investigation, an empty cup was found on the dressing table in his bedroom but with Miss Lazenby unable to account for it being there – it was taken away for further analysis.
A post mortem on poor George revealed a man rather too fond of a drink and his doctor, the beautifully named Tempest Anderson offered testimony during the coroner’s inquest that he had been treating him for general debility and that having discovered two large bottles of poison in a downstairs room, the every helpful Miss Lazenby had offered information that the contents of these bottles including the one labelled ‘Solution of Corrosive Sublimate’ were regularly used by her employer for stuffing his birds.
But with the cause of death still unknown and the contents of George’s Last Will and Testament revealed, suspicion now fell upon his employee – the redoubtable Miss Lazenby who was set to benefit rather nicely from his estate with a guaranteed income for life plus the furniture left in his house!
Only three weeks before his death George had signed his Last Will and Testament in the presence of his housekeeper and having bequeathed his collection of birds to the Blue Coat School and monies to his favourite charities – there was still plenty of money left!
The inquest was adjourned and resumed over several weeks much to the delight of the local newspapers who reported on this mysterious case at length.
As the doctors continued to argue amongst themselves over the course of death, the inconsistency of the housekeeper’s testimony and the indignity of George’s death – the jury FINALLY returned a verdict of suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity on December 14 and the bickering over THE will was finally resolved to the satisfaction of all parties the following year.
However, the man at the centre it all had been quickly buried in a private grave at York Cemetery and he now rests there all alone – which is probably how he would prefer it!
Fossgate. York. YO1 9TF