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James Ord Trial

This is a curious case.  The York Castle in the Nineteenth Century: Being an Account of All the Principal Offences Committed in Yorkshire from the year 1800 to the present period published in 1831 describes James Ord as “an industrious man, of quiet habits, and not more addicted to brutal sports than persons in his calling generally are.  Butchers are usually frequenters of cockpits, bullbaits, &c and there can be no doubt of the habits that such places engender.”

His behaviour, that February night, appears, therefore, to be totally out of character but when this is offset against the quiet testimony of the man (Anthony Blackburn Wilson, a fellow butcher) he was accused to attacking so badly that he “was obliged to be brought to the Court in a chair, and to be seated during his examination;  and his sight had been so much affected by the wounds he had received, as to render him incapable of distinguishing the person of the prisoner, though he was placed close to him.”

Other witnesses gave further detailed descriptions of events.  Elizabeth Miller, sister to John Miller, publican of the Blue Bell public house, stated “that being alarmed by the moanings of a person in distress, she got up and went to the window, where she saw a person lying on the ground.  He made several ineffectual attempts to get up, and at length, with great difficulty, succeeded.  He had hardly got upon his legs, when she saw a man come running with something in his hand, who struck at him with it with both hands, and the person she had first seen fell down.”

Ord claimed that he had been assaulted as well as being on the receiving end of abusive language from Wilson.  No evidence of physical assault was found on Ord.  “Some, who interested themselves in his behalf, alleged that he committed the outrage under the pressure of temporary insanity, arising from the irritation of a quarrel with the prosecutor”.

If Ord truly did act out of character then it seems as though he acted in a heartless and cold-blooded manner, perhaps planning the assault during the early part of the journey when he remained silent.  There is another option, though, and that is that Ord had an issue with Wilson (perhaps arising from their mutual trade as butchers or because he had been beaten at cards by him).  The reason for the brutal attack will remain forever clouded in mystery and because of the speed of justice at this time there was no chance that he could explain his behaviour.