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Chronology of events leading to the death of Mary Ashford, 1817

Tyburn House

26th May 1817. 8am

Mary Ashford sets out from Langley Heath on her seven mile walk into Birmingham. With her she carried a bundle which contained the clothes she was to wear at a dance in the evening. She left the bundle at Mrs Butler's cottage as she passed through Erdington.


26th May 1817. 6pm

Mary Ashford returned to Erdington, changed her clothes at Mrs Butler's and, with her friend Hannah Cox, attended a dance at Tyburn House. Between 11pm and midnight, Mary Ashford, Abraham Thornton, Hannah Cox and Benjamin Carter left the dance to return along the Chester Road to Erdington.

Pit where Mary

26th May 1817 Midnight

Hannah Cox left the main road and returned alone to Mrs Butler's cottage. Mary said she would spend the night at her grandfather's home and continued along the Chester Road with Thornton whilst Carter had returned to the dance a short time earlier

Abraham Thornton in the dock

27th May 1817. 4am

Mary arrived at Mrs Butler's cottage, roused Hannah and changed from her dancing clothes into her work clothes. Hannah Cox later said that she appeared quite calm and in good spirits. In reply to Hannah's questions she said that Thornton had spent time with her and then gone home. She had slept at her grandfather's house. She was seen a little after 4am by three witnesses at different points along her route, each was later to swear that she was alone.

27th May 1817. 4.30am

Thornton is seen by several people walking past Mr Holden's farm in the direction of his home in Castle Bromwich.

27th May 1817. 6.30am

A labourer named George Jackson on his way to work in the Penns Mill area noticed a bonnet, shoes and a bundle of clothes near the top of a steeply sloping bank of a small water filled pit. He immediately raises the alarm.

27th May 1817. 8am

The body of Mary Ashford is recovered from the pit. Examination of the ground reveals sets of footprints in the recently harrowed field next to the pit. There were many traces of blood.

27th May 1817 10am

Abraham Thornton was bought to Tyburn House by Daniel Clarke, the landlord, and was there arrested and taken before the magistrate Mr Bedford, to whom he made a statement. He declared that he and Mary had walked the fields for some time and had then accompanied her part of the way to Mrs Butler's.
He knew however that she would come back that way and waited for her on the Village Green. As she did not appear he started for home, reaching his fathers house at Castle Bromwich at about 7.40am. It was at this time that Thornton's shoes were found to correspond with some of the footprints found in the harrowed field near the pit.

8th August 1817

Abraham Thornton was tried at Warwick. On the evidence presented, the jury returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty'. They took six minutes to reach their verdict.

The area showing the route taken by Abraham Thornton and Mary Ashford
The murder of Mary Ashford
History of Erdington
Erdington Library
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