She asked “What has happened” or “Where have you been?” and he said “ I don’t know Mary”.
Today, 5 July 2019 marks the centenary of the murder of Annie Bella Wright, a young 21 year old mill worker from the village of Stoughton in Leicestershire. The First World War had come to an end, Bella was an independent young woman, working full time at Bates Rubber Mill Factory at St Marys by the River Soar. She was unofficially engaged to seaman Archie Ward and had the rest of her life ahead of her, until one summers evening.........
I'm not going to go into the murder itself. Murder doesn't really interest me. I love family and social history. Finding out where people come from and their own story fantasists me. You can find out so much more about the murder in many books and web pages. I would recommend this - 'The Green Bicycle Mystery' written by Antony M. Brown. There is also a new exhibition at the De Montfort University Heritage Centre in Leicester which is well worth a visit.
To spark a wee bit of interest this is just a quick intro into her murder.
Bella was cycling along Gartree Road after spending the evening with her uncle and cousin in the village of Gaulby. Bella was found lying in the road by a local farmer.
Her body was taken to the village chapel in Little Stretton. The following day after a more thorough examination it was found Bella had been shot in the head.
The little Chapel Bella was taken to after she was found on the Gartree Road.
Ronald Light who rode a green bicycle and was seen with Bella on the day of the murder was tried at Leicester Castle Court the following year but acquitted.
Part of my little contribution to the De Montfort University exhibition was a little research on the history Ronald Light's family.
George Henry/Harry Light was born in 1857 in Denbigh, Wales. His father who bore a separate surname was Edward Brooker Jones described profession as ‘Gentleman’. So far, no record of George’s mother.
George a Collieries Manager in Ellistown, Leicester married Catherine Louisa Clifton from Clifton in Gloucestershire. Catherine was the daughter of John Henry Clifton a solicitor from Tilton in Leicestershire.
Catherine lived with her widowed father and siblings at Uplands House in Keynsham near Bristol in Somerset and married George at the local parish church under the Vicar of All Saints, Kensington Park in London. The vicar, Rev. John Light was George’s uncle.
Mary Ann King. The maternal Great Grandmother of Ronald Light. Grandmother to Catherine Clifton. (Photo Ancestry.co.uk - mochaqueen1)
George worked at Ellistown Collieries and the Lights’ lived at various address’s including 119 London Road, 8 Seymour Street, 90 London Road, Park View, Granville Street and 54 Highfield Street. When the ‘Lights’ lived at 54 Highfield Street, a first cousin of mine, Clara Biggs was living at number 57!
If the numbers on London Road haven’t be reordered, 119 London Road is what is known as ‘Top Hat Terrace’. The couple had four children • George Clifton b.1883 died 14 days old • Catherine Dorothy b. 1884 died 3 hours • Ronald Vivian b. 1885 • Baby stillborn died 1893
Baby stillborn is the only child not buried in the family plot. May be as it was still born it couldn’t be baptised, so it’s buried in unconsecrated ground rather than in the family plot which is consecrated.
The family worshiped at St Georges Church in Leicester where Ronald was baptised in 1885. During the years 1889 – 1902, George seemed to travel. Once to Montreal, Quebec in Canada, travelling first class and his profession was ‘A Gentleman’, which usually means ‘living on his own means’ and in 1903 to New York on the ‘Inernia’ and listed as an engineer.
In 1897, Ronald, the only surviving child of George and Catherine was a pupil at Stoneygate Prep School and then transferred to Oakham School but was expelled in 1902 age 17 for inappropriate behavior with a school girl. But, this wasn’t the end of his education. In 1906 Ronald graduated with a third-class honours degree in Engineering at the Central Technical College in London and moved to 9 Wilmod Street in Derby where he gained employment as an apprentice at Derby Midland Railway. Ronald completed his apprenticeship aged 25 in 1910.
In the July of 1910, Ronald was in the High Court, but nothing exciting. Basically, a Mr Frank Dent an Iron and steel works contractor was up against the Butterly Iron Works company in Derby for claiming and extra £574 for extra work done on a bridge at Kirkstall Forge near Leeds which was being rebuilt for the Midlands Railway Company. Ronald who was the resident engineer for the Midlands Railway Company was giving evidence in the trial and he reported the lack of speed with which the work was being done!... as I said not juicy gossip!
In 1915, Ronald Light joined the army in the Royal Engineers as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant, but his commanding officer requested that Light resigned his commission due to a complaint against him being and as the officer understood ‘Lack of initiative’. But he soon re-joined as a gunner in Honorary Artillery Company.
That year in the September also saw the death of his father George Light. George fell from an upstairs window at their house, Park View on Granville Road in Leicester.
George died from shock and internal injuries caused by a fall from a window but there was no sufficient evidence to show how he came to fall. George Light went to London to see his son but didn’t see him. The maid – Mary Webb who found George said he did have fainting episodes and may have fainted then fell through the window. George was alive when she found him and he spoke. She asked “What has happened” or “Where have you been?” and he said “ I don’t know Mary”. He was wearing pyjamas and his dressing gown. The maid assumes he had got out of bed and gone into the spare room, felt faint and opened the window for fresh air. He was found in the vestibule outside and died a couple of hours after being found.
He had gone to London to try and see Ronald on the Monday before he died but returned home. The doctor – Dr Chape had seen Mr Light in the Wednesday night (night before) for gastrointestinal problems and the doctor said he was worried about not being able to see his Ronald but he was cheerful.
By July 1917, Ronald was found guilty of forging telegraphic orders to the officer commanding at the army headquarters and improperly wearing military decorations with improper possession of passes. On April 6th, 1917 a draft (which Ronald was a member) was to be moved but was stopped by an out break of measles. On May 5th, 1917 new orders were sent to HQ, but on the previous day, May 4th a telegram was sent to Headquarters – supposedly coming from the War Office cancelling the departure of the Siege Battery till further orders. The message was handed in at Regents Street, as a result the draft did not go. Later another telegram purporting to be signed by the Earl of Denbigh was received at the HQ – “Arrangements again cancelled, keep Battery in London”. The telegrams seemed suspicious and a trap was set. An examination paper was sent to 43 men. Each man was required to write certain words which appeared in the telegram. The words “Siege Battery” and ‘Square” were among those selected. When Ronald was arrested an entry was found in a notebook in his procession which appeared to be a telegram to the officer, commanding an H.A.C detachment in the country to return to London. An official of the war office and the Earl of Denbigh were called and denied authorization of any of the telegrams. Handwriting experts confirmed the telegrams were written by Light and one lady who was reportedly engaged to Ronald said that on June 16th, 1917 she saw Light wearing medals and ribbons. His explanation was that his own coat had been destroyed in a motor accident and was wearing someone else’s. Ronald reasons for sending the telegrams was he didn’t want to leave London…just yet! Why? well here might be the answer to that question……
In December 1916 whilst stationed at H.A.C Finsbury, Ronald met Miss Annie Catherine Day a bookkeeper. The couple met at Liverpool Street Station in London and ended up moving in together. They lived together as man and wife on City Road for about six weeks until he was sent to Suffolk. Meanwhile Annie had become pregnant, but the baby wasn’t wanted. In May 1917 Ronald spoke to another soldier named Jones and he recommended the couple visit Southend and meet a lady called Deborah Mabel German/Goddard a registered midwife. Ms German lived on Elmers Road and Annie stayed for a few days. Altogether the abortion cost Light around five ginueas. He paid an initial fee of £3 followed in June a balance of £2 6s. I’ve tried looking for Annie on the census records. But there not much to go on. No age, address ect.
In 1918 Ronald was a resident at Wharncliffe War Hospital in Sheffield, he was discharged in October 1918 but in the September, he is accused of molesting the 15-year-old daughter of an ambulance driver, but no charges were brought.
I missed out the whole trial in this little family history on purpose. After he was acquitted in July 1920, Ronald is fined two Ginueas at Hinckley Court for giving a false name at a hotel where he had bee staying with a women. In 1934 Ronald married Lilian Lester. The widow of Ernest Lester. Ernest was killed in action on 9 June 1916. During the attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt Captain James Selby Gardner was wounded in the neck. Sergeant Ernest Wyndham Arthur Lester took command and went on to rescue several men from 'no-man's land' whilst under constant sniper-fire. For this gallantry he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Apart from moving to Sheepy with his new wife and dying at aged 89 in 1975, Ronald seemed to live a quite life after the murder.
Do I think he knew Annie Bella Wright before the murder? Yes, I think he probably did. One of Bella’s employers when she was in service was John Compton Rawson who lived at 3 Seymour Street when he was growing up just a couple of houses away from a 5yr old Ronald light. I believe the family may have known each other and stayed in touch and Ronald visited Rawson at number 5 Seymour Street and meet her there. John Rawson committed suicide in 1940. He suffered from depression. Maybe guilt from introducing Bella and Light?. There is also William Parker who Bella worked for. He was a farmer in Stocking Farm and born in Denbigh, Wales. Same place as Ronald’s father – George Henry Light. Coincidence? Are they related? Did they know each other? I also believe Ronald was the solider who would wait for Bella on Shady Lane and they possibly might have had a love affair, or he wanted one, he was a handsome charismatic man. But knowing soon her beloved was due to return home she may have tried to call off the affair. He may have been showing off his gun, pretending he was someone or something he wasn’t. Bella may have mocked him, no one will ever know. I do believe he killed her, but I don’t think he intended to.
My conclusion is Ronald Light had a narcissistic personality disorder. A Charismatic leader with an excess of charm and his inflated amour-propre. He was manipulative and possibly easily angered, especially when he didn’t receive the attention he considered his right. He mother may have been over protective, she lost her other children so putting Ronald on a pedestal over inflated his ego.
Ronald Light after his acquittal in July 1920 standing at his gate in Highfield Street, Leicester