British Executions

James Ryder

Age: 47

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 13 Aug 1913

Crime Location: 32 Briscoe Street, Ardwick, Manchester

Execution Place: Strangeways Prison, Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


James Ryder was convicted of the murder of his wife Ann Elizabeth Ryder 46 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at 32 Briscoe Street in Ardwick, Manchester on 15 May 1913.

James Ryder was a fireman and was said to have been a drunkard for years and to have lost good situations through drink. However, for the previous three years he had made some voyages as a fireman.

They had been married for 23 years and had two adult sons who still lived at home. They often quarrelled when he was drunk and there was evidence that he had ill-used her, although latterly it was noted that her sons protected her.

Ann Ryder was described as hard working and respectable and a total abstainer.

It was noted that in November 1912 Ann Ryder and her son's took the opportunity while James Ryder was out drinking to leave their home and settle in another part of Manchester and it was only in May 1913 that James Ryder found them, after returning from a voyage in May 1913. He then moved back in with them on 8 May 1913.

He stayed sober until 13 May when he came home drunk and nagged his wife about a postcard that she had received from her sister-in-law which he said was actually sent by a man.

He continued with the issue of the postcard the following day, 14 May 1913, but his son told him to shut up or he would be put outside.

That night, Ann Ryder slept on a sofa downstairs and James Ryder and his two sons slept in one bed upstairs.

The next morning, at about 5.30am, on 15 May 1913, the two sons went out to work, leaving Ann Ryder, who had got their breakfast, downstairs and James Ryder still in bed upstairs.

It was heard that Ann Ryder had said that she was going to go with James Ryder to the docks that day for him to sign on a ship.

However, when one of the sons returned at about 11.45am he found Ann Ryder lying on her back on the bed upstairs with her throat cut to the bone. Her skirt apron and purse etc were downstairs in the kitchen.

On the bed, Ann Ryder's clothes were turned up to her waist and her legs were open. She was partly covered by the bed clothes and her son's razor lay on the bed. The sheets themselves had marks on them as if a hand had been wiped. There were no signs of a struggle and Ann Ryder seemed to have been dead since about 8am.

James Ryder was arrested drunk at about 2pm. However, at the time he was too drunk to be charged and the police had to wait until he sobered up. When he sobered up he was charged but he denied all knowledge of the murder.

His movements were uncertain, but it was said that he had been at a public house at about 7am and was later seen leaving 32 Briscoe Street at about 8.55am. It was heard that he had told a man, who was described as a man of bad character, at about 9.30am, that he had cut his wife's throat. The police report noted that there was no reason to doubt what the man of bad character had said James Ryder had told him.

The police report stated that it seemed that James Ryder induced Ann Ryder to go upstairs with him and that as she lay on the bed, he cut her throat with his son's razor.

The prosecution did not set up any definite motive for the crime, but there was suggestion that he had nursed feelings of jealousy. However, it was heard that there was no stronger ground for that jealousy other than the postcard that Ann Ryder's sister had sent her, for which he was assured multiple times that it had come from her.

At his trial, James Ryder denied murdering Ann Ryder and said that he had been out in various public houses from an early hour. Some witness that gave evidence for the defence were described by the judge as 'pis boon companions' and it was noted that one of them was drunk in the box. He said that the witness could prove that he could not have been near 32 Briscoe Street after 7am when he started drinking. However, his alibi was incomplete.

James Ryder was convicted of the murder with no recommendation to mercy. The police report described him as a man of bad character whilst noting that Ann Ryder was a very respectable woman and that there were no grounds for James Ryder's jealousy.

The Manchester Evening News dated 13 August 1913 described the scaffold at Strangeways: 'The scaffold at Strangeways is a permanent structure in a plain brick building, glass roofed, a few yards from the cell occupied by condemned prisoners. The person going to execution is under cover during his short walk to the gallows. After leaving his cell he crosses one corridor and walks down another at the end of which there is a door, but that does not admit to the place of execution. In one of the walls of the corridor is another door, unseen until it is reached. There the condemned person turns to the left and steps immediately upon the platform of the gallows. This platform consists of two hinged leaves, which meet in the centre and run longitudinally along the sides of the chamber. Overhead and parallel to the meeting edges of the leaves are two beams, fixed close together. In the centre they are linked together by a length of stout chain, to which the noose is attached. The lever pulled by the hangman is in a corner beyond the scaffold, and to the right of the door. Officials attending the execution stand upon a platform fixed at one end of the building and shut off from the drop by a brass rail. Everything is scrupulously clean, except the handle of the lever, which apparently is never cleaned. Only a minute or two passes between the moment at which the executioner enters the condemned cell to bind the prisoner with leather things until that when the lever is pulled, and the man drops into the pit, to quiver with twitching feet after the dislocation of the neck'.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/207, HO 144/1278/240296