Murder In Eversholt

Robert Berkeley told the tale in 2011 how, as a small child, he was shown the bullet holes that remained from the murder in Eversholt.

William Chambers was married to Emily Oakley from Eversholt. William was a telephone engineer from Flitwick, born in 1855. In the past, he’d been a groundsman at Lord’s. Emily left him, not for the first time, because, she said, he was violent. Emily went back to Mum, Mary Oakley. On Tuesday, 23 Sep 1902, William came after her with a double-barrelled shotgun, and, when she refused to return to him, he shot her, and Mary, leaving Emily’s sister, to whom they had been talking, alive. He tried and failed to shoot himself in a field, and staggered to a pub, where he was arrested. He was tried before Lord Chief Justice Lord Alverstone on 14 Nov 1902. He was hanged on Thursday 4 Dec 1902 in Bedford by the hangmen William and John Billington, or perhaps by William Billington and his assistant, John Henry Scott.

Update October 2016: Paul Collins writes to say:
The Mr Brinklow, landlord of the Falcon Inn at Eversholt mentioned above was my great grandfather. I came across this article whilst researching the family history and would very much welcome any information about the pub and /or the Brinklow family history in the area.
You can contact Paul directly at or leave a message below.

Here is the only picture I have found, from the Luton Times and Advertiser.
William Chambers
William Chambers
Chambers was one of 22 people, all men, executed in England and Wales in 1902. Between them, they were accused of killing 22 women and 1 man. Chambers was the only one accused of killing 2 people.
Here’s an article about the event from, the New Zealand National Library, which helpfully points out that copyright has expired on this text. It’s from the Star, a local paper in (!) New Zealand on 20 Nov 1902. (Click for a larger version.)


WIFE AND MOTHER-IN-LAW MURDERED. A terrible tragedy took place at Eversholt, a village near Woburn Park, Bedfordshire. William Chambers, a telephone employee, from London, had been living at Flitwick, near Ampthill, for about six months. He and his wife separated some years ago, but had come together again; but, in consequence of her husband’s threats, Mrs Chambers recently went to stay with her mother, who lived at Eversholt. The mother and daughter were sitting talking to Mrs Hazell, another daughter of Mrs Oakley, when Chambers suddenly entered by the back door, with a, doublebarrelled gun, and, it is alleged, without a word, shot his mother-in-law through the neck, and then fired at his wife, the bullet entering the lower part of the face. Both women expired almost immediately. The other woman rushed out of the room and closed the door, holding it as long as she could, and then ran from the house and raised an alarm. Chambers also left the house and went across an allotment field, where he shot himself through the jaw and dropped his gun. He then managed to stagger into the Falcon public-house, where he could only gasp, ” Brandy, brandy.” . The landlord, however, refused to serve him, and having heard something of the occurrence he enticed Chambers into a back room, and kept him there until the police arrived. Chambers was taken to the Woburn police station, and later to the cottage hospital, where it was found that part of his jaw had been blown away. At the inquest, it transpired that the wife had been to see a Woburn solicitor with reference to getting a separation order, and the supposition is that Chambers heard of this, with the result that he paid the visit to his mother-in-law’s house. The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against Chambers.

The text below comes from the ebook Among My Autographs by George Robert Sims, which is out of copyright.

Here is a letter written by a condemned murderer two days before his execution. William Chambers, an electrical engineer, and at one time a ground man at Lord’s, was executed on December 4, 1902. He had gone from London to Eversholt, where his wife was living with her mother, and murdered them both. In the letter which lies before me he puts the crime down to influenza :

Dec. 2, 1902.

I was so glad to have a few lines from you and that some one thinks about me. I am placed in this awfull position through mother-in-law and to sisters. They fetched my poor wife from her home when I was out and caused me to go wrong in my head, but I never was a drunkard you no that and your brothers. Give my kind regards to your brothers and hope they are well and kind regards to all old friends, I am so sorry and greaved for my poor dear wife, and also her mother. You have seen my wife and my home and drunkards do not have homes like mine, but God bless her, and I hope I shall meet her in heaven. With all good wishes from yours in great sorrow,

William Chambers.

Thanks for your letters and for your brother’s kind message. No more cricket, George. Good-bye, I am making my peace with God.

In a postscript written at the side of the letter he adds:

I never though I should come to this. Influenza upset my mind, never been the same man since. Hoping your wife and child are well.

The line in the letter that perhaps strikes one most is, ” No more cricket.” It was the ruling passion strong in death.

Mary Oakley’s death in 1902, at the age of 71, is listed in the Ampthill Registration district by freebmd. Emily Chambers was 35.
There is no memorial to anyone named Chambers or to Mary Oakley in Eversholt churchyard. (There are many other Oakleys.)
The 1901 census (sorry, login needed) lists Mary Oakley as living in Water End, but does not give the exact house. She lived with Agnes F Kingsley, her daughter aged 30, and Ernest J Oakley, her grandson aged 21, an agricultural labourer. Freebmd tells that an Emily Oakley married a William Chambers in Islington in 1888. In the 1901 census, Emily and WIlliam were living in Islington, and William was working from home as a self-employed electrician. William was born about 1860 in Northampton. They didn’t list any children. I can’t find them, either as a couple or separately, in the 1891 census. This family tree on Ancestry lists Emily as also having married an Arthur Chambers, with who she had a son, Archibald, in 1894. That may be wrong!

Further Information

Since the above notes were written, the British Newspaper Archive has changed its copyright terms to allow re-publication for non-commercial purposes. Here is a collection of all the articles I could find on this event from their records, searched in September 2014. All these images are, for the moment, © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD, but I presume you can share them under the same terms as the BNA use. I wish they’d just use a Creative Commons licence, we might stand a chance of understanding it then. But enough of that, here’s the full story. Click any image for a bigger version. Once clicked, the URL of the image includes information on the source name and date.
The best of the reports below have been transcribed:

Reports of the crime before the trial:

Reports of the trial:

After the trial:



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