Ackhurst Lane, Orrell
Part of Group: Yes 1 Oth
At Risk: No
Historic England Ref: 112 (Link)
Farmhouse. Fireplace dated 1618; datestone reads 1686.
Link - to a pen portrait and visit with a gruesome history in 1903
HORRIBLE TRAGEDY NEAR WIGAN. Dec 1868
On Tuesday night a most atrocious murder was committed near Wigan. The scene of the tragedy was Ackhurst Hall Farm, occupied by Mr. Joseph Roper, about a quarter a mile from the Gathurst Station of the Manchester Wigan, and Southport Railway. The Hall, or th' Ackhurst, as it is called in the neighbourhood, stands in a sheltered position on the southern slope of the valley of the Douglas. It is an antiquated and somewhat picturesque country bouse, and about 200 yards away, nearly on the crest of the hill, is a barn, one end of which has been converted into a dwelling for the farm bailiff, who is related to bis employer by marriage.
About half-past six o'clock on Tuesday evening Houghton left home for Gathurst Station to meet Mr. Roper. He returned with that gentleman to the Hall, where he stayed a short time with his wife, who was then milking. The house at the barn was, during this time, in charge of the eldest daughter Anne, a girl twelve years of age. After an absence of an hour and a quarter, Houghton and his wife started for home, accompanied by a man named Parkinson, an underlooker at one of Mr. Roper's collieries.
When they had reached a pit, 30 or 40 yards from the front door, Mrs Houghton saw, a short distance from the brink, a white substance which she at first thought was a flock of duck, but which, on inspection, proved to be the dead body of the girl Anne. It was lying in a small pool of blood. The story of her sister Catherine, a child of nine years, who was found in an adjacent field was briefly this :
A short time after her father and mother had left the place, a man, rather taller than her father, and apparently a collier, appeared at the door and asked if William Houghton lived there. Anne said he did, but he was then down at the Hall, and no sooner had she replied than raising a heavy hammer the man struck her a violent blow on the forehead. Not having felled her he pursued her around the little kitchen, striking with the hammer as she ran. and bespattering the walls & floor with blood.
The girl escaped by the open door and turned to the right to make the circuit of the barn, apparently in the hope of reaching the Hall, but the villain intercepted her by the pit, and with another blow of the hammer struck her dead on the spot where she was found. He then returned to the bouse, where Catherine remained in great alarm. First, the murderer struck her on the back of the head with the hammer, then dealt several blows on the shoulders, and finally took the little creature by the throat, and after squeezing it tightly, threw her over a hedge into the field already mentioned.
An examination of the house showed that after thus disposing of the children the murderer passed into the front parlour where he ransacked the drawers. The only booty he obtained was a silver watch. The money in the bouse was upstairs; the ruffian had apparently not been there, for the drawers had not been disturbed, and two young lads, who were in bed at the time, were in ignorance of what had been enacted below. An infant lying in a cradle in the kitchen also remained unharmed, although the bloodthirsty villain had threatened to kill it.
Mr. Roper, as soon as he heard of the terrible occurrence, proceeded to the Pemberton police station, and gave information thereof to Superintendent Ellison, who was promptly on the spot. Mr. Huet, surgeon, Upholland, was also quickly in attendance to dress the wounds of the girl Catherine. Such a description of the murderer as the latter could furnish was at once circulated through the whole of the district.
On Wednesday morning, as soon as day broke, an active search was commenced for the weapon which had been described by the little girl; and at last a hammer such as is used at collieries was found in a wheat field, about 100 yards from the back door. A number of long hairs, believed to be those of the murdered girl, adhered to the iron. When.it was shown to Catherine, she at once stated that it was exactly similar to that with which she and her sister were struck. Parkinson, the underlooker above referred to, identified the hammer as one which he left at his colliery smithy at half-past five on the evening of the tragedy.
A reward of £50 was offered on Wednesday afternoon for the apprehension of the perpetrator of this most barbarous outrage.
Source: Lancaster Gazette