The unsolved mystery of Mary Ashford. A case that changed English law forever.

Patrick Hayes

Notice Period:
Short (maybe less than one month's notice)
Paid: £75.00
3rd October 2018
19Th Century | Hauntings | Murder | Paranormal

The talks is based on my published book, "One Morning in May."

The year is 1817 and a young country girl, Mary Ashford is looking forward to the annual Whitsun dance, which is held at a local Coaching Inn. She attends the dance with her friend, Hannah Cox. She meets a local farmer, Abraham Thornton. They dance the night away and leave at the stroke of midnight and begin their walk home on a fresh May night. Mary is never seen alive again.

She is found dead in a marl pit in the grounds of Pype Hayes Hall in north Birmingham. She had been violently attacked and flung in the pit to drown. Abraham Thornton is accused. The evidence it seems is overwhelming. He has Mary’s blood on his shirt, his footprint was found by the pit, he was the last person to be seen with Mary, and above all he admitted having sex with her after the dance.

In August of that year Thornton appeared at Warwick Assizes. It took the jury eight minutes to acquit him. However, such was the anger in the village of Erdington that a fund was set up for the family to reopen the case. Astute lawyers use the ancient law of DOUBLE JEOPARDY and Thornton is re-arrested on All Soul’s Eve and taken to the Old Bailey, in London.

As new evidence is gathered and rumours abound that the jury, “Were not all they were supposed to be,” raised Mary’s family’s hopes. What happens next? Was he found guilty? Was justice ever found?

Let's fast forward to 1974. Erdington is no longer a rural village but a thriving Birmingham suburb. A young woman called Barbara Forrest comes to Birmingham from Corby to start a new life as a Child Care Officer at the rambling Jacobean Hall, Pype Hayes Hall.

During the May Bank Holiday of that year Barbara went to a dance in Birmingham. She caught the Night Bus home but she never made it back to the Hall that night. The date was May 27th exactly 157 years to the day of Mary’s death.

The case of Mary and indeed Barbara has fascinated and indeed frustrated authors, sleuths, the police over the years and to this day there has never been an adequate explanation and one is left with an open verdict. What will you think?!

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About Patrick Hayes

I am an award winning playwright and published author based in Birmingham and I have been giving talks and performances for many years now. I graduated from the University of London with degree and post graduate certificate in English and Drama and then returned to the Midlands where my career began.

I have been writing, performing and giving presentations throughout the West Midlands to a plethora of clubs and societies including the Wi, Rotary, University of the Third Age and for Birmingham's library services. I have give after dinner speeches to wide ranging audiences.

As well as being a writer, author and performer I am a lover of France and spend many happy days in my little cottage with my family in Brittany. I am also very keen on sports and trained as a football association coach and referee. I am an ongoing love affair with my local team, Aston Villa which at times isn't as joyful as it could be!

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