Bristol

1935 Hanham Woods Murder



Introduction

In December 2004, Richard Bean emailed me asking if I knew anything about the murder of Gladys Nott by Arthur Franklin in Hanahm Woods in 1935. Paul Townsend, a local historian and tour guide and who is also known online as "brizzle born and bred", had already written about the murder on his "Memories of Bristol England Past and Present" website. Because of that, I didn't create my own page about the murder. Paul's site was active from around 2001 to 2007 but luckily the Internet Archive managed to save most of it. Paul later moved most of the information on "Memories of Bristol England Past and Present" to Flickr, including the story and photos about the murder.

In November 2017, Janet Gunstone sent me some scans of newspaper cuttings about the murder and so I decided to finally write this page. Janet has a special interest in the area. She wrote that "I was researching about it as our Great-Grandparents James (Jim) and Rosina Limb lived there for a while afterwards. Our great-aunt said 'They lived in a farm house at Hanham, where someone was murdered. No-one would rent it so she [her grandmother] took it on. But we were not allowed in the part where the murder was. Your mum and I used to love it in the fields playing, and all the cows. It was very cheap rent, so my mum told me.'"

The Murder

Running along the River Avon at Hanham in east Bristol, are Hanham Woods, once part of the great Kingswood Forest. Hanham Woods are actually four wooded areas, from south to north these are Cleeve Wood (this used to be sometimes known as Fry's Wood), Bickley Wood, Hencliffe Wood, and Conham Wood. The last three of these were heavily quarried and mined over the centuries but are now nature reserves.

By the 1930s, a small community had grown up in Hencliffe Wood, among them were the Dyers, Robbins's, Littles, Salters, Byes, Francoms, Mr. Elmore, Osmonds and the Notts; Henry William Nott, his wife, Bessie Gladys nee Slocombe, usually referred to as Gladys not Bessie, and son, Dennis. Henry and Bessie were married in 1926, with Dennis being born around 1928. 177 yards from the Notts lived the Franklin brothers, Arthur Henry and Frank Joseph.

In November 1933, Gladys left her husband Henry and went to live with Arthur Franklin and his brother Frank. Gladys changed her heart and on May 8, 1935 packed her belongings and left the Franklin's to move back in with her husband - she never made the small trip as Arthur shot her in the back with a shotgun a few steps from his shack. Arthur then shot Gladys again as she lay on the ground.

Henry now appeared on the scene and fetched his gun, he meant to shoot Arthur but the gun misfired, Arthur fired at Henry, hitting him in the face.


In November 2017, Janet Gunstone very kindly sent me scans of clippings from The Citizen newspaper dated Thursday, May 9; Friday, May 24; and Tuesday, June 25, 1935 covering the arrest, trial and execution of Arthur Henry Franklin for the murder of Bessie Gladys Nott.

The incidentThe Citizen

Thursday, May 9, 1935

Glo'stershire Wood Tragedy

Smallholder Remanded on Murder Charge

Following a shooting affray which occured yesterday in a secluded part of Hanham Woods, Hanham Abbotts, near Bristol, a young married woman is dead, and her husband lies in Cossham Hospital in a critical condition.

The dead woman is Mrs. Gladys Nott (26), and the injured man is John [sic] Nott (34), a farm labourer.

Arthur Henry Franklin (45), a single man, a smallholder, of Hanham Woods, was charged at Staple Hill Police Court with the wilful murder of Mrs. Nott, and was remanded until next Thursday.

After Franklin had been formally charged, Inspector S. S. Simons went into the witness-box, and said he was called to Hanham Woods at 11:25 a.m., finding the body of a woman lying face downwards with serious wounds in the head. He formed the opinion that the wounds had been caused by a shot-gun fired at close range.

He said "I saw the prisoner in charge of P.S. Auger, and told him he would be detained, charged with feloniously killing the woman by shooting her. I told him there may be a further charge of killing a man, and that he would be informed of all particulars. I then cautioned him, and he made a reply. I then conveyed him to Staple Hill Police Station."

Mr. Harris (Clerk): Franklin you may ask questions of the witness if you wish, but I would advise you not to do so.

Prisoner: I have no questions whatever.

Superintendant J. A. Price, of Staple Hill said after the charge he cautioned the accused, who made a statement, which was taken down in writing, and which he signed. He would put the statement in later.

Mr. Harris intimated to Franklin that he could have legal aid if he wished, but Franklin said: "I do not want legal aid. I do not want it."

Mr Harris: I know more about these things than you do, and I should advise you to accept legal aid. I will give tyou another opportunity later.

Prisoner: You need not go to any trouble. I tell you, I do not want legal aid.

The magistrate remanded Franklin as stated.


The trialThe Citizen

Friday, May 24, 1935

Shots Drama in a Glo'stershire Wood

Neighbour Accused of Woman's Murder

Tragedy in Bungalow

Alleged Statement to Police

"I shot Mrs. Nott twice in the head, and to make sure there was no feeling, I put another one into her head .... I then shot at William Nott, but did not kill him. I hadn't another cartridge, otherwise there would have been two murders."

These dramatic statements were alleged to have been made by Arthur Henry Franklin (45), described as a smallholder, of Hanham, Gloucestershire, who was charged at Staple Hill Police Court today with the murder of Mrs. Bessie Gladys Nott (28), of Hanham Woods, on May 8.

He was also acused of the attempted murder of William Nott, the dead woman's husband. As on two previous occasions, Franklin refused an offer of legal aid.

Mr. G. R. Paling, prosecuting, said that the Notts lived in a bungalow, and were poultry farmers. Franklin lived with his brother in another bungalow about 150 yeards away.

Lived With Franklin

In November, 1933, went on Mr. Paling, Mrs. Nott went to live with Franklin. Early this month she expressed a wish to return to her husband, and that undoubtedly caused some friction.

On May 8 shots from a gun were heard from the direction of Nott's bungalow. Nott went to see what was happening, and saw Franklin with a single-barrelled gun.

Nott saught shelter, and Franklin shot at him, wounding him in the head. Nott also had a gun in the shed, and he endeavoured to shoot at Franklinm but the shot misfired.

The shot fired at him first passed through a door, and this undoubtedly saved his life. He had had to have an eye removed.

Two women, added Mr. Paling, found Mrs. Nott's body in some bushes near her bungalow. She was terribly injured. Franklin admitted to the women that he had shot Mrs. Nott, giving as his reason that she wished to go back to her husband.

Incident Described

Henry William Nott, the woman's husband, went into the witness box, having been discharged this morning. He said he married his wife in 1926 and there was one son, Dennis, who was seven years old.

Describing the shooting incident, Nott said that Franklin, having fired at him, said "I will play with you as a cat with a mouse."

When he invited him to throw his gun away and fight it out outside, Franklin went away.


The executionThe executionThe Citizen

Tuesday, June 25, 1935

Police Precautions at Glo'ster Execution

Demonstration Rumour Proves Unfounded

Hanham Abbottts Murderer

Pays Penalty for Crime

In the presence of the County High Sheriff, a priest and prison officals, Arthur Henry Franklin, the Hanham Abbotts murderer, paid the extreme penalty of the law for his crime, at Gloucester Prison this morning.

Stringent precautions had been taken to prevent any organised demonstration outside the Prisonm all the entrances to Barrack square being guarded by policemen who interrogated all who sought entrance, and only admitted those who had particular business there.

In view of her recent activities for the abolition of capital punishment, a rumour had spread through the city that Mrs. Van Der Elst would stage a protest outside the Prison, but this was unfounded, and no unusual scenes occured.

Public Interested

A certain amount of public interest was manifested in the execution. Half an hour before 8 o'clock, the time fixed for the hanging, it seemed as if no more than a handful of people would keep vigil in Upper quay Street, the nearest point from which they could obtain a view of the Prison gates.

As the fateful hour approached, however, the number of spectators gradually increased until a crowd of about 300 had assembled.

Brilliant sunshine bathed the forbidding exterior of the Prison when the door of the building swung open to admit Father M. J. Roche, of St. Pteter's Roman Catholic Church, Gloucester, who at 7:25 was the first arrival. He was followed at 7:25 by the Governor of the Prison (Mr. S. T. E. P. Ennion), and ten minutes later by the Prison Doctor (Dr. E. Graham). Shortly before 8 o'clock the County High Sheriff (Mr. Sidney Allen), accompanied by the County Under Sheriff (Mr. Herbert H. Scott) and his son, Mr. Anthony A. Scott arrived.

Offical Notices Posted

The grim drama behind the high walls was quickly enacted and nine minutes after the mellow chimes of the Cathedral bells had announced the hour of execution, the Prison doors again opened, and a warder hung on the massive entrance gates the offical notices that sentence had been duly carried out.

These were as follow :-

Declaration of the Sheriff and others
We, the undersigned, hereby declare that judgment of death was this day executed on Arthur Henry Franklin in his Majesty's Prison of Gloucester, in our presence.
Dated this 25th day of June 1935
Sidney Allen, Sheriff of Gloucestershire.
S. T. E. P. Ennion, Governor of the said Prison
Matthew J. Roche, Catholic Priest of the said Prison
Certificate of Sugeon,
I, Edward Graham, the surgeon of his Majesty's Prison of Gloucester, hereby certify that I this day examined the body of Arthur Henry Franklin, on whom judgment of death was this day executed in the said Prison, and that on examination I found that the said Arthur Henry Franklin was dead.
Dated this 25th day of June, 1935.
Signed: Edward Graham

Objects of Curiosity

A few moments after the warder had re-entered the Prison, the police allowed the general public to enter the square. There was an immediate rush to the Prison gates to read the notices which for some time afterwards remained objects of curiosity until the crowd had slowly melted away.

It is understood that the executioner was Thomas W. Pierpoint, and that his assistant was Robert Wilson.

Thus Franklin expiated the crime to which he pleaded guilty when he appeared before Mr. Justice Macnaghten at Gloucestershire Assizes 20 days ago. Franklin, who was a smallholder, 44 years of age, was then accused of the wilful murder of Gladys Nott, a married woman, with whom he had lived prior to the crime, and his trial lasting only eight minutes, was one of the shortest on record involving the capital charge.

A burly fair-headed man, Franklin listened stolidly and almost without interest to the brief proceedings in the Court, and even when the Judge put on the black cap and sentenced him, showed no trace of emotion.

He had previously refused legal aid, although advised to accept it by the Judge, and his plea of "guilty" when charged was made in a firm voice.

Story of the Crime

The story of the crime as outlined by the prosecution at the trial was that Franklin lived with his brother on a small-holding in Hanham Woods. The dead woman, Mrs. Nott, who lived with Franklin for a time, was the wife of Henry William Nott, another small-holder, who lived 177 yards away from Franklin's bungalow.

In November, 1933, Gladys Nott left her husband and went to live with the accused as his wife in the bungalow. The Notts had a small boy, now aged about seven years, and he used to visit the bungalow on Saturdays and Sundays for the purpose of being washed and bathed by his mother, and having a hot meal. Early in May this year, Mrs. Nott desired to return to her husband, and arrangements were made for her to do so. On My 8, about 10 a.m., she started out in order to return.

As she was walkking towards her husband's bungalow, Franklin shot her from behind with a single barrelled sports gun. He shot her twice; once when she was on the ground.

Heard Wife Scream

Nott ws working in a field a little distance away and he heard his wife scream. He ran towards the spot and then heard two shots. He saw Franklin standing there with a gun in his hand. Franklin turned to him and said, "And you too, you rat."

Nott ran into a shed and caught hold of a gun which he had there for the purpose of shooting rats, and he intended to shoot at Franklin in his own defence. Franklin, however, shot at him and wounded him in the eye and head. Franklin was heard to say that he was going to play with Nott like a cat played with a mouse, but it happened that he had no more cartridges in the gun he could fire, and at that moment two women, Mrs. Dyer and Mrs. Taylor came up, and to them Franklin said: "I have shot Gladys, and I have also put a shot into Mr. Nott."

The police were sent for, and Franklin made a similar statement ot them.

Dramatic Incident at Inquest

Juryman's Objection to Viewing Body

A dramatic incident marked the inquest, which was held in the Prison two and a half hours after the execution by the Coroner for the Cheltenham division (Mr. J. Wagborne).

One of the jurymen, Mr. Robert Williams, of Queen Anne Farm, Quedgeley, declared that he had a great objection to viewing the body.

"Are we bound to do this?" he asked, "I don't think it right, and just that I should be asked to view the body."

The Coroner reminded Mr. Williams that there was an obligation upon him to view the body. "It is one of the main things you have to do." he said.

The Prison Governor added a few words of reassurance, and Mr. Williams thereupon followed the rest of the jury.

The only persons present at the inquest, in addition to the Coroner and jury, were the Prison Governor, the Medical Officer of the Prison, Coroner's Officer Wickham, members of the Press and a prison official. Mr. Leslie James Walsh was chosen foreman.

Addressingthe jury at the outset, the Coroner stated that fortunately inquiries under these circumstances were unusual. In a case of that kind, an inquest had to be held under the Capital Punishment Act of 1868 within 24 hours of the death of the offender, and had to be conducted by the coroner of the jurisdiction in which the deth took place.

The prison at Gloucester was geographically within the city, but when it was taken over by the State many years ago it was then decreed that it should be in the county. Hence it came within his jurisdiction, and it was his duty to hold the inquest.

Briefly recapitulating the facts leading up to Franklin's execution, the Coroner revealed that the dead man had been in Gloucester Prison since his committal by the local bench of magistrates. He told the jury it was their duty to ascertain that the person whose body they had seen was that of the convicted man, and whether sentence of death was carried into effect.

No Hitch

The first witness was the Prison Governor, who gave evidence of being at the Assizes when Franklin was convicted, and produced the order of the Court sentencing him to death.

The Coroner: Was the sentence of death duly carried out at eight o'clock this morning?
The Governor: Yes, sir.
The Coroner: By Pierpoint, assisted by Wilson? - Yes sir.
The execution was carried out in accordance with the regulations of the Home Office in every respect? - Yes, sir.

In reply to further questions, the Governor stated that the execution was carried out expeditiously, without a hitch of any kind, and that death must have been almost instantaneous.

Dr. Graham gave evidence that since his admission to the Prison on May 24 Franklin had been under his care. "His health was good, and there was no complaint whatever," he added. He was present at the execution, and the cause of death was dislocation of the vertebrae of the neck.

This concluded the evidence, ad the jury intimated they were satisfied of the identity of the deceased and that the execution was carried out with due effect and in accordance with the regulations.

The Coroner recorded that death had taken place in accordance with judgment. He thanked the Coroner's officer for the manner in which he had carried out the arrangements for the inquiry.

The jury handed their fees to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society.


It's interesting to note that from the newpaper reports, the inquest after the execution appears to have taken longer than the trial and probably the execution itself.

Afterward

Some of the family members suffered badly at the hands of fate after the murder.

Henry Nott had to have his left eye removed after the shooting but he remarried, continued to live in Hencliffe Wood until rehoused by Kingswood Council in the 1960s in Cadbury Heath. He died in November 1989, aged 84.

Arthur Franklin's brother Frank brooded about the incident and in August 1937, shot himself. His body was later recovered from a water-filled quarry into which it had fallen.

Henry and Gladys Nott's son, Dennis, grew up and did his National Service in the army between 1945 and 1948. On his demob, he returned to the area and while working on a haystack in later summer of 1948 fell off of it and broke his neck, he was just 21 years old.

Sources

1935 "Deadly lover next door" Hanham Woods Murder
Arthur Henry Franklin
Hanham Nature Reserve (PDF)
Murder in Hanham Woods - Gloucestershire (Internet Archive)
The Six Minute Murder Trial of 'Love-Triangle' Killer

This page created 29th December 2017, last modified 30th December 2017


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