Link To The Past

murder of his grandfather and how it had traumatised his mother. My grandfather's mother Helen was, by the time anyone now living could remember, a very querulous ancient old lady for whom nothing was ever

Henry James Skinner 1842 - 1895

Emma Skinner Dates unknown

Alfred Joseph Billingham c1876 - c1950

Helen Billingham (Skinner)

c1875 - c1950

Alfred Billingham 1896 - 1988

John Alfred Billingham 1928 - 1998

Elizabeth Billingham (Donnelley) 1900 - 1969

Catherine Alice Billingham (Matthews) 1926 - 1986

Nicholas Billingham 1955 -

right. It may not be surprising, her father had been shot and the family jewellery business that she'd married into, collapsed during the Depression.

Here was a snippet of family history that needed further investigation. To start with I had only a name, Henry James Skinner, and a place, The Bodega in Birmingham, and a vague date of around the 1890s. Searching around on the internet often turns up something, but in this case there was nothing. So it was a matter of doing family history the old fashioned way.

Birmingham Central Library has an extensive local history archive. It was here that I filled out the story. Since the incident was a murder the City Coroner investigated it, and his inquest report was in the archive, albeit rather illegible. This furnished considerable detail about the time, place and manner of the murder. Armed with this specific information I then set off to look up the local papers for the period, all of which enlarged the picture of the event and helped to place it in context. The detail revealed from this set of sources is quite staggering.


fHS MANAGER SHOT DEáD BY a discharged baeman.

a *r*i<sdy ^hich cawed conside: and district rfaa

The bulldog-pattern bullet, quite capable of felling an ox, buried itself in the wainscoting"

ENGRAVING: Newspapers could not reproduce photographs in 1895, only engravings. As a result this image (and that of the murderer) was engraved from a recent photograph and then used to illustrate the article in the Birmingham Gazette on 7 December

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