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Sixty Years On: Part 1

Sixty Years On: Part 1

Ivydene on Asmall Lane, with detectives and police at the scene

Ivydene on Asmall Lane, with detectives and police at the scene

On May 6th this year, it will be 60 years since the town was rocked with the tragic news of the brutal double murder of the Misses Margaret Jane and Mary Ormesher.

The sisters were the daughters of the late Edward and Emma Ormesher, who had brought their family up on Asmall Lane, close to “Ivydene”, the house which  was to become the scene of their deaths.

There were five daughters born to Edward and Emma, of which Margaret was the eldest, Mary the second child and then three more daughters, Emily, Ellen, who sadly died aged just 2 years old in 1897, and May. When May was born in 1900, Margaret was 12 years old.

Mary Ormesher

Mary Ormesher

Edward worked as a carter for a Mineral Water Company, he had moved the family to Chapel Street for a short time in the early 1900s where they ran a small beerhouse known as the John Bull at the corner of Chapel Street and St Helens Road, but they moved back to Asmall Lane where Edward took the licence for the Brickmakers Arms.  Margaret Jane left home to become a live in domestic servant for a newly married couple Albert Kelsall and Hilda Clarice his wife, at ‘Highfield’, 31,Greetby Hill.

Younger sister Emily was married in 1917 to a soldier who was serving in the war, her younger sister May was a witness, the husband John William Allen was from Halsall Lane, Emily’s father Edward (Ned) Ormesher set up his own business after the Brickmakers Arms licence was made redundant selling small hardware like brushes and oil lamps from a horse and cart, he travelled around the district and was well known in the area.  He had a brother Robert from Westhead and 2 married sisters, Mrs Lydia Light and Mrs Annie Lownsbrough, there were therefore  several cousins of the sisters in the Ormskirk, Westhead, Lathom and Skelmersdale areas.

The shop on Church Street run by the sisters

The shop on Church Street run by the sisters

Mary Ormesher took a lease on a small shop at 24 Church Street and ran a sweet and tobacco business for a number of years.  She became well known in the town and very well liked and respected as was her sister Margaret.

Whether it was because of local rumours that suggested the sisters were money lenders and were hoarding large sums of money, (rumours proved false by the C.I.D. team after the murders) or whether it was an opportunist robbery gone badly and devastatingly wrong, one or more people committed the murder at the Asmall Lane Cottage overnight from the 5th to the 6th May 1956. There had been intelligence sources relayed to the local police 18 months before the murders suggesting that the shop was going to be a target for a robbery and the sisters were advised to be vigilant.

The sisters apparently put up a desperate fight to fend off their attacker, police statements at the time were clear that whoever did enter the cottage, will have left with some serious wounds which would need medical attention.

Specific items of jewellery were taken, of which there were very precise descriptions, an 18ct gold patterned ring, similar to a man’s signet ring but with a large blue sapphire and two smaller sapphire stones on it. A lady’s oblong faced platinum bracelet watch made by Russell, with diamond chipping surround and sapphires at each corner, quite distinctive. Bought in 1942 for £95.00, which is almost £45.000.00 in today’s money, although the piece sounds so unusual it could well be worth more because of its quality.

Margaret Jane Ormesher

Margaret Jane Ormesher

The beloved family dog, a black spaniel called ‘Trixie’ was also killed on that night, which explains the lack of barking which might have alerted the neighbours more than they already had been that night, when breaking glass and ‘groaning’ and a man’s voice were discounted as anything serious.

The Ormskirk Advertiser immediately posted a reward of £50 to anyone providing information which would lead to the culprit.

There are so many aspects of the case which in modern times would most likely lead to an almost immediate arrest of a suspect, unfortunately it happened at a time when crime scene investigation was not supported by the technology and science available now.

Ormskirk Bygone Times have a large collection of information surrounding the sad loss of these two well known and well liked residents of Ormskirk.  Part 2 of this article will follow soon

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2 Comments

  1. footnote: ‘Trixie’ did actually survive the attack although she was badly injured.

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