George Harry Storrs

George Harry Storrs

George Harry Storrs (1861-1909) was murdered in 1909 by an unknown assailant. He was featured in BBC One's "Julian Fellowes Investigates".


George was the third son of William Storrs. George inherited the controlling share of William's business. George lived at Gorse Hall in Stalybridge, Cheshire with his wife Maggie (nee Middleton). The marriage was both loveless and childless, unlike that of George's brother James, and it is possible that this was a cause of friction between the two brothers. Cornelius Howard, a cousin of George Harry Storrs, was originally a petty thief but joined the Army and rose to the rank of Bombardier. Cornelius was not liked by George. When Cornelius approached George for a position in the company, George refused.

George's friend, solictor Robert Innes, employed a governess for his children and George began a relationship with the young woman, Maria Hohl. Maria suddenly decided to leave Stalybridge, purportedly to attend University in Oxford. She then returned, equally as suddenly, some 8 months later but did not see George again. Julian Fellowes believes that Maria gave birth to a child during her absence from Stalybridge and that James's family, and possibly also Maggie, were aware of it. After her return to Stalybridge, Maria Hohl committed suicide by drowning herself in a canal.

After the death, George started receiving anonymous threatening letters. Due to Maria's death he felt he had a debt to pay and felt that he would be killed. This meant he could only really confide in his faithful servant, James Worrell.

Shortly afterwards, Gorse Hall was attacked twice. The first, Julian Fellowes believes, was staged, so that the police would take the threats seriously. A gun barrel was thrust through a window, and Fellowes feels this was done by Worrell. The attack made the police start patrols of the ground and a bell was installed to summon help in times of danger. George tested the bell, causing a lot of goodwill for George to evaporate.

The second attack on the evening of November 1, 1909, was the fatal one. After "testing" the bell, George was not told by the police that they were protecting election buildings - this meant that help only arrived as he was dying. Maggie Storrs rang the bell for the second attack, and refused to attend her husbands side as he lay dying, possibly to avoid hearing a confession of infidelity from her dying husband and thereby protecting her own reputation.

There were two trials - the first for Cornelius Howard who was acquitted and the second for a local man, Mark Wilde. Wilde was brought to the attention of investigator's after he had attacked a young courting couple. Both Howard and Wilde were defended by Edward Theophilus Nelson, a British Guianan who had graduated from St John's College, Oxford, in 1902.

James Worrell committed suicide, by hanging himself, shortly after the burial of his employer. Julian feels that he committed suicide because he blamed himself for George's death. Julian also believes that the younger brother of Maria Hohl, one John Gottfried Hohl, was the killer, and did it for revenge.

Who committed the crime ?

As the two trials resulted in two acquittals, no-one knows for sure. However, there are quite a few suspects :

* James Worrell worked with knives and guns, but had no reason to murder his master.
* Some people felt that James Storrs and/or Maggie Storrs hired a hitman. While James had no real motive, Maggie probably did know about Maria's baby.
* Cornelius had no alibi, but again, had no real reason.
* Mark Wilde had a compelling case against him, even though his mother had given an alibi for him. He suffered from mood swings, possibly caused by syphilis. Although he and George were enemies, Julian Fellowes feels he wouldn't have done it.

A year after the murder, Mrs Storrs had Gorse Hall torn down.

External links

* [ Tameside Murders]
* [ Murder at Gorse Hall]

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