British Executions

Ernest Edward Kelly

Age: 20

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 17 Dec 1913

Crime Location: 43 Yorkshire Street, Oldham

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Ernest Edward Kelly and Edward Wild Hilton were convicted of the murder of Daniel Wright Bardsley 54 and sentenced to death. However, Edward Hilton was later reprieved.

They battered him to death in Yorkshire Street, Oldham on 26 July 1913.

Edward Hilton was 17-years-old at the time of the murder, turning 18 thirteen days later. He had been a packer or message boy.

Ernest Kelly had been a hoist lad and was 20-years-old at the time of the murder.

Edward Hilton had been employed for three weeks in Daniel Bardsley's lock-up bookseller's shop at 43 Yorkshire Street in Oldham.

Edward Hilton and Ernest Kelly had been friends for some weeks and on the night of Saturday 26 July 1913 at about 9.50pm when Edward Hilton was putting the shutters up on the shop Ernest Kelly came along. They both intended to go to Hollinwood Wakes the following day and wanted money and decided to rob Daniel Bardsley.

It was thought that Ernest Kelly then went back to his home and fetched an Indian Club, for which Edward Hilton gave him 6d for the tram fare. When he returned, they both hid in the back yard of the shop and watched as two women employed at the shop left at 10.30pm.

At that time Daniel Bardsley was still upstairs making up his accounts.

Edward Hilton and Ernest Kelly then entered the shop and hid until Daniel Bardsley came down the stairs to go home. Ernest Kelly was armed with the Indian Club which weighed 2lb 5oz, whilst Edward Hilton had an 11lb dumb-bell. They then set on him and beat him death with their weapons.

They then took the money that Daniel Bardsley had on him, six gold rings that Daniel Bardsley had bought that day, took 20/- from the cash register till and tried to force the safe in the upstairs office.

At about 3am a night watchman found the back door of the shop on the latch and Daniel Bardsley's body just inside.

When his body was examined he was found to have had abrasions about the chin which were thought to have been caused by the dumb-bell, and his skull was fractured in many places, of which it was thought had been the result of at least two blows by the Indian Club.

When the Indian Club and dumb-bell were later examined, they were both found to have blood and grey hairs on them.

Edward Hilton and Ernest Kelly were both arrested the following day, and they both disclosed where they had hidden their share of the plunder.

When Edward Hilton was charged with murder he said, 'Not guilty. I never touched him with the club. I never touched him with anything. I only gave him a drink, that's all'.

However, they said that when Ernest Kelly was charged with murder, he said, 'Guilty for me. I hit him with the club and then threw it down. He (Edward Hilton) hit him twice with the club and then ran upstairs'.

When Edward Hilton heard that, he said, 'That's a lie'.

The police report then stated that with sundry contradictions and corrections they maintained that attitude throughout, each attributing the actual blows and killing to the other.

The report went on to say that it was quite impossible when looking at their statements, to say which of the two played the greater part or whether one was more to blame than the other.

However, the report stated that it was fair to assume that they had both had an equal share and that they had both intended knocking Daniel Bardsley senseless or killing him outright.

Edward Hilton had said that he had been wearing a mask and so it was said that he would not have necessarily been recognised if Daniel Bardsley had recovered.

The police report stated that it was worth noting that neither Edward Hilton or Ernest Kelly had admitted to using the dumb-bell, even though it had been used and said that they thought that they had both probably attacked Daniel Bardsley at the same time.

They were both convicted of the murder and sentenced to death, but with a recommendation to mercy on account of their youth.

The judge gave no comment on the recommendation to mercy but said that in his opinion Ernest Kelly had shown more contrition and thought that he was perhaps more truthful in his story than Edward Hilton. It was also noted that neither did he mention the medical officers’ reports detailing Edward Hilton's alleged weak-mindedness.

Edward Hilton had been sent to Sandlebridge School for defectives in November 1908 and it was said that he had suffered from severe epilepsy while there, but it was also noted that the murder was not attributable to epilepsy. It was heard that after leaving school he had assisted his father who was a hairdresser from 1909 to 1911and that during those years he had committed various offences but that in each case, the losers had refused to prosecute. In 1912 he had gone to Canada but returned in January 1913.

It was heard that Ernest Kelly, who was two years older was not described as feeble-minded or to have had any trace of insanity. He was also given a 'good character' by the police at the trial and the police report also noted that it was found out that he had twice broken into the house of his brother-in-law, who had refused to prosecute him.

The police report concluded that as such, there was no grounds for interference, unless it was decided to respite Edward Hilton on the grounds of his youth.

They were found guilty at the Manchester Assizes on 24 November 1913. They were both taken to Strangeways Prison to await their executions. However, on 14 December 1913, the Home secretary sent his official notification that Edward Hilton should be reprieved, and that Ernest Kelly should be hanged the following Wednesday, 17 December 1913, two days away. Newspaper accounts say that news arrived at Strangeways Prison at 3am on the Sunday morning and that the Governor of the prison at once went to Edward Hilton's cell and roused him from his sleep and conveyed the news to him, which he was said to have received joyfully. However, when the Governor of the prison informed Ernest Kelly of the news, Ernest Kelly was said to have been much downcast as he had been buoyed up with the hope of a reprieve.

Edward Hilton had his sentence reduced to penal servitude for life and was released from Maidstone Prison on 18 September 1933.

After Edward Hilton's release it was said that he had had to dodge his way through perilous traffic that he was quite unused to. He was given a free voucher from Maidstone to Oldham, but broke the journey some point before Oldham where he was met by his parents away from Oldham and the press, who said that they had arranged a surprise trip to the seaside for him for a few days after which they said that he would be going back to work as he had been before his conviction.

Photographs of him leaving prison were taking of him wearing a dark suit and a bowler hat, carrying a euphonium in a white cover under one arm and a cornet case under the other. It was noted that he had been the leader of the prison band at Dartmoor Prison.

His parents were reported to have lived in the belief that Edward Hilton had been innocent and so had visited him every summer in prison.

43 Yorkshire Street has since been demolished. It was by Radcliffe Street which is now called St Mary's Way. The site of 43 Yorkshire Street is now where the north bound side of St Mry's Way is today at the juntion with Yorkshire Street and was probably demolishe when the road, Radcliffe Street, was widened.

see Western Times - Tuesday 25 November 1913

see National Archives - HO 144/17280, HO 144/17281, ASSI 52/203

see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 25 December 1913

see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 31 July 1913