Tragedy which left seven children instant orphans

A terrible day in Snedshill – and seven instantly orphaned children.

The Turleys were both buried in the churchyard at Oakengates – but we haven't been able to find the graves
The Turleys were both buried in the churchyard at Oakengates – but we haven't been able to find the graves

And for one of them, Reggie Turley, there was double anguish, as not only was his mother murdered on that tragic day, but his adoptive mother was destined to be murdered as well.

In delving into her family history, Sally Jaundrell has uncovered how the parentless children were taken in by the local community, and has also found the truth behind a family story that her own family was linked to those events.

The date was July 30, 1910. Armel Turley, of Jubilee Row, Holyhead Road, Oakengates, murdered his wife Alice and then killed himself.

It horrified people locally. Both were buried at Holy Trinity Church, Oakengates. For the funeral procession the main road was lined with spectators with others watching from adjoining pit mounds, an estimated total of 5,000 or so.

"I have it on good authority they were not buried together. Alice’s parents wouldn’t allow it," says Sally.

The home of the couple was somewhere close to the present-day Greyhound island, but the scene of the crime had been a cottage at Mumpton Hill where Alice, seeing her husband coming, had dived in to seek refuge. The startled occupant was unable to lock the door on him in time. Mumpton Hill is a long disappeared address in the Snedshill area, roughly opposite the modern Aldi supermarket.

The scene of the tragedy at Mumpton Hill, as seen in a contemporary postcard – the cross on the left probably indicates where Armel or Alice died

Turley, who worked as a moulder at John Maddock & Co in Oakengates, had played football for Wellington Town and St Georges Victoria. He drank a lot and was an abusive husband. Alice had already spent time at Wellington workhouse after he had kicked her out.

But what about the children left without parents? Sally has been doing some digging.

The oldest was Mabel, aged about 14, Gladys was around 13, Reggie around 11, Violet was about nine, Dorothy was about five, Ellen was four-ish, and Polly Mildred, known as Millie, was a mere baby, just a few months old, and was being carried by her mother when she was murdered with a razor.

"All seven Turley children were taken in by the local community," says Sally, who used to live in Ketley Bank but now lives in Northwich, Cheshire.

"Six of them married and one went to live in America. Some went on to have children of their own."

Sally says Reggie was adopted by the Edge family living at Ketley Bank.

"Reggie’s adopted mother Jane Edge was the licensee of The Queen's Head Inn at Ketley. She was murdered on September 6, 1950; battered to death by Frank Griffin, who, convicted of her murder, was hanged at Shrewsbury and is said to haunt The Tontine in Ironbridge."

Griffin, 40, was the first person executed at Shrewsbury since 1923. A native of Bolton, he had been staying at the Tontine, and 74-year-old Mrs Edge had confronted him when she caught him trying to take the till at the Queen's Head – the pub at Ketley Sands was demolished in 1973.

The Queens Head pub at Ketley Sands around 1930. The woman standing by the bus next to man in white cap may be Jane Edge, the landlady, who was murdered at the pub in 1950

It was a family holiday overlooking Loch Ness 50 years ago, in August 1971, that first alerted Sally to the possibility that they were connected to the events of 1910. It was Mrs Millie Hoof, one of those orphaned Turley children, from Ketley Bank, who had given Sally's mum Jean details of the caravan.

"I remember my dad making a comment that Millie was some relative of my mum’s but nothing more was said. When I started my family history some years ago, I tried to find the connection but never could."

Sally's mother was, before marriage, Jean Edwards.

However thanks to renewed research she has now been able to crack the riddle.

"I found the answer. That answer was a sad surprise.

"I was related to Millie Hoof via my mother but only by marriage – a convoluted connection in that my maternal grandmother’s older brother, Harry, married Hannah Carline, the niece of Joseph John Carline, who married Gladys May Turley.

"A far more direct connection to the Turley family was via my father whose great-grandmother Emma Rigby was the sister of Jane Rigby who married William Edge who were the adoptive parents of Reginald Howard Turley."

As to the fates of the seven Turley children, Sally's researches show that after the tragedy Mabel lived with her Turley grandparents at Snedshill, and in 1916 married a market garden owner at Chester, and brought up a family as Mrs Bewley in Great Broughton. She died in 1975.

Gladys was taken in by the Owens family at Snedshill, became Mrs Carline in 1916, and after being widowed became Mrs Vaughan in 1952. She died in 1971.

Reggie married in 1923 and died in 1969, while Violet was adopted by the Davies family of Granville Street in St Georges. She married Frank Priest in Chester in 1922 and died in 1987. Dorothy was taken in by the Addison family, living at Grange Road, St Georges, and in 1922 married John Fraser in Invernessshire. She died in Inverness in 1991.

Ellen was adopted by a different Addison family, living on The Nabb, and was 14 when they emigrated to Philadelphia. Sally has not been able to find any more details about what happened then.

The youngest, Millie, married three times – first becoming Mrs Pitchford in 1932, and after his death she became Mrs Hoof in 1944. At the time of Albert Hoof's death in 1964 the couple were living on Ketley Bank, and she finally married Arthur Harper in 1975. Millie died in 2001.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News