When people mention Saddleworth Moor and murder they think of Ian Brady & and Myra Hindley - the Moor Murderers - who buried some of their victims in shallow graves up there. However if you stand in the area where the bodies were found at Hollin Brown Knoll you can look down onto Yeoman Hey reservoir and see where two heinous murders took place. The crime is sometimes referred to as “the original Moor Murders”. It happen at The Moor Cock Inn and nobody was ever charged. I went to have a look at the scant remains of the former pub and also the grave where the victims are buried.
I parked on the A635 that takes you up over the moors and climbed over the stone wall. I made my way down passed sheep to the former site of the pub. Further down you can see Dovestones Reservoir which is a favourite haunt of walkers. It wasn't built when The Moor Cock Inn was here though. There’re still some evidence of the pub jutting out of the earth. Innocent sheep totter around not knowing of the savagery that ensued years ago and is still features in books today.
The Moor Cock was owned by Bill Bradbury (aged 86) and he lived there with his son Tom (aged 46). Tom was a gamekeeper and on the evening of Monday 2nd April 1832 he returned to the pub after a day on the moors. He walked from the pub down to into Greenfield village to buy food. On the way he met his dad who handed him keys to the pub. Further down the road they met three men resting at the side of the road. One with an Irish accent asked how far away Holmfirth was. Tom bought some food and walked back up to the pub. What happened after this is still mystery but Tom and his dad were each beaten to a pulp and left to die.
The next morning Bill’s granddaughter arrived at the pub to get some yeast but found a scene of bloody butchery. Blood covered just about every horizontal and vertical surface downstairs, even the ceiling. Her uncle Tom was downstairs lying in a pool of blood and her granddad Bill was upstairs on his bed saturated in his own blood. Both were still alive so she sprinted to get help at the nearest neighbour house about half-a-mile away (since demolished.) Back at the farm Tom was lying face down and his head was such a mass of clotted gore that he was not recognisable. Though unconscious he made frequent attempts to rise from the floor but flopped down each time. Upstairs Bill was still alive but muttering nonsense. A deep cut down side of his head showed bone and his fingers, hands and arms were cut to ribbons.
Both soon died: Tom was put into his bed but with sixteen head wounds and two skull fractures he died as his wounds were being dressed. Upstairs his dad died in the early hours of the following morning. Nobody was ever arrested for the murders. The murders were reported at the time as “one of the most diabolical murders ever committed” and theories still abound today. Both men had obviously fought for their lives: flying blood in the pub had splattered furniture, walls and stairs suggested frenzied attacks. Weapons found nearby were probably used: a fire poker, sword stick, spade and a broken pistol - all covered in congealed blood and matted hair.
Who had killed them? Bill had lived long enough to say ‘pats’ or ‘platts’ - ‘pats’ was slang for Irish people. Had the Irish workers At the time Irish workers were in Greenfield village as they were laying the road to Holmfirth. Bill could have said ‘Platts’ which was a common local name. He could have said “Platters” which was a term used at the time to describe gypsies who collected broom from the moors to weave into baskets. Tom who was a gamekeeper may have had an argument with them over access rights to the moorland. Another person questioned was a local poacher who Tom hated. An inquest was held at the King William pub in nearby Uppermill and a £100 reward was offered (it was never claimed.)
I had a walk around the grass and the former site of the pub. The pretty view down onto water belies the hellish carnage that went on here. The Moor Cock was demolished in July 1937 and there’s not much left. The most obvious bit is part of the cellar which is often used by sheep to shelter. I’m not even sure if this private land now but I didn’t see anyone around. A few stones still poked out from the earth here and there.
Near the former pub site lies Saddleworth Church where dad and son are buried and I went to find the grave. I found the churchyard to be one of the most overgrown I've ever seen. Thankfully the grave was less prone to attack from expanding foliage as it was in a corner. As it was horizontal and the size of a huge coffee table I stood on it. It was difficult to imagine this neglected churchyard was the centre of a huge funeral - thousands of people attended as the murders had gained notoriety far beyond the area. On the slab are words that don't hold back, “Here lie the dreadfully bruised and lacerated bodies of William Bradbury and Thomas, his son, both of Greenfield, who were together savagely murdered in an Unusually horrid manner, on Monday night, April 2nd. 1832, William being 84 and Thomas 46 years old.”
I did a salute, thought, "Blimey, someone's got away with murder here," and I wondered if there was a Hell. For more information there’s a paperback book (part fiction and part fact) called “The Murders at Bill O’ Jacks” about the case - Bill O’ Jacks being a local name for the pub.
To the grave at Saddleworth church...