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Helmdon Historical Articles

Murder In Helmdon

an article by
David Bennett


It's amazing what turns up when you start digging into your family history. A transcription of an 18th Century broadsheet/newspaper details the story of 2 women from my family, both of whom poisoned their husbands very shortly after their marriages. The later of these was from the long established Helmdon family of Bull. Her younger brother, Timothy, was a Butcher and the first Licensee of 'The Chequers'.

My link with the Bull family goes back to a William Bull who married Alice at Eydon in 1547 (just a week before Antony Bull married Elizabeth Crumpe in the same Church) - though there is an earlier document referring to a John Bull of Eydon in 1493. William and Alice had a son in Eydon, but then their next son (my direct relative) was born in Helmdon. Seven Helmdon generations later, a Mary Bull married William Stevens at Helmdon in 1771. They had a son John in 1781 and he had another John in 1811, by now in Abthorpe. (I have so far traced Stevens back to William - another Innkeeper! - born in Abthorpe in 1688).

John Stevens (b. 1811) was something of a mysterious black sheep. He married Mary Lovell at Whittlebury in 1832 but sometime between 1851 and 1873 for some unknown reason he upped and took himself off to West Wales! Between 1873 (when he was 62) and 1899 (when he died aged 87) he had a succession of very much younger Welsh 'wives' and children, culminating in my granddad in 1891, when he was over 80 and his 'wife' was only 40! Two of his 'wives' died of enteritis/acute diarrhoea, one of them only 8 months before his last 'wife' gave birth. Did he follow the family 'tradition' of poisoning?

Whether he did or not, he certainly is a contender for the oldest granddad award, since his youngest grandchild (my auntie) was born in Sept. 1931, no less than 120 years after him. Since the 'average' generation is 33 years that is pushing it a bit!

As we say in Yorkshire 'There's nowt so queer as fowk', and it seems that Helmdon and its environs have done their best to prove the truth of the saying!

David Bennett.

P.S. I'm currently working on Bull Wills. Amazingly, there is a complete set covering 6 generations of my family from one who died in 1618 to the last in 1790. I can also share information on Bull & Stevens (and linked Treslar, Shepard, Barford) with anybody who is interested. See 'Names being researched' for contact details.


A transcription of a page from "Northamptonshire Murders". "A true and faithful account of the last confession of Elizabeth Fawson".
Extracts from the Northampton Mercury of 1735 appertaining to the murders.
Family tree of the BULL Direct line only, showing link to STEVENS & murders
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