Despite his superficial charismatic charm, William Horry, the owner of Burslem’s George Hotel, was a cold-blooded, ruthless killer.
Born on November 17th, 1843 at Boston in Lincolnshire, he was the son of William Horry, senior, a successful brewer. When he left school, young William became a trainee manager at Parker’s Brewery in Zion Street, Burslem. He lived at the George Hotel in Nile Street and fell in love with Jane Wright the barmaid. Jane left the George and went to work at the Sneyd Arms in Tunstall. Realising he could not live without her, William followed Jane to Tunstall and asked her to marry him. She consented and William’s father gave them £800 to buy the George. The couple married in 1867 and had three children.
A heavy drinker, William convinced himself that Jane was flirting with male customers. Leaving her to manage the hotel, he walked the streets looking for prostitutes or spent his time in beer houses drinking with criminals. William’s father and Jane’s brother Thomas, a solicitor’s clerk, came to Burslem to find out what had gone wrong. He told them Jane had committed adultery with three of the town’s leading citizens and claimed there were witnesses who would confirm his story. When they investigated his allegations, the two men discovered that he had lied to them. William and Jane separated in March, 1871. She took the children and went to live with his father in Boston. He sold the George and moved to Nottingham.
William visited Boston and asked Jane to take him back. When she refused, he instigated divorce proceedings alleging she had committed adultery with five men. Dividing his time between Nottingham and the Potteries, he entertained prostitutes and bought himself expensive clothes including a pair of lavender kid gloves. Early in January, 1872, William spent a week in the Potteries where he visited a brothel in Hanley and went drinking with his friends in Burslem. Returning to Nottingham on Saturday, January 13th, he bought a revolver and a 100 cartridges telling the gunsmith they were for his brother who was going to Australia.
On Monday, he went to see Jane who was still living with his father in Boston. She invited him into the house. He followed her down the passage towards the breakfast room. As she turned to enter the room, William pulled out the gun and shot her in the back. The bullet passed through her fifth rib and penetrated her left lung. She died a few minutes later. William was arrested and charged with murder. His friends in Burslem launched a public appeal to pay for his defence.
The trial was held at Lincoln Assizes on March 13th, 1872. William pleaded “Not Guilty”. After a hearing lasting three hours, the jury took less than 15 minutes to find him guilty. William stood impassively in the dock. The court fell silent and the judge sentenced him to “be hanged by the neck until dead”. Petitions were sent from Boston, Lincoln and Burslem to Queen Victoria asking her to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. She rejected the petitions and William was hanged at Lincoln Castle on Easter Monday, April 1st, 1872.
(Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust)