‘The small, secluded romantic village of Dallowgill, in the West-riding of this country, has, during the past week, been thrown into the greatest alarm and excitement, by the sudden and mysterious death of a person named Robert Lofthouse.’
The deceased, a 26-year-old local clogmaker, had been poisoned. His wife, Ursula Lofthouse, was subsequently charged with his wilful murder.
Ursula had married Robert at St. Andrew’s Church in Kirkby Malzeard in 1832, when she was 23 years old. She gave birth to their daughter a year later. But all was not well in the family home, for by the end of November 1834, just two years into their marriage, Robert was dead and Ursula stood accused of poisoning her husband.
Ursula Lofthouse was eventually found guilty of his murder and became the last woman to be publicly executed in York.
This is her story, told through a compilation of contemporary press reports, which retain the language of the time and allow the voices of those who were present to be heard once again.
The research into the life of Ursula Lofthouse was carried out by Jonathan Price, a former teacher and a volunteer at Ripon museums. While volunteering at the police museum, Jonathan was involved in local school visits, recounting the story of two poacher brothers from Pateley Bridge called the Sinklers, and Samuel Winn and Thomas Sweeting, the city’s first policemen. When he was researching the brothers, crime, and early policing in nineteenth century Ripon, many other stories with connections with Ripon began to emerge. One of them, the story of Ursula Lofthouse, he deemed worthy of further investigation.