The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane



The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane is my detailed investigation of a dreadful crime that took place in 1866 in the North East of England. It will be published on 3 November 2016 by Quercus Books.

One evening in April 1866 a couple out walking stumbled over a bundle lying on a footpath up on Carr's Hill, a rocky outcrop on Gateshead Fell, near Newcastle. It was the body of a little girl and she had been raped and strangled. Who was the victim and what were the circumstances that put her in the path of a sexual predator? From the disturbing post-mortem and inquest, through the efforts of the police to follow contemporary forensic procedure, to the revelation of the perpetrator and all that followed by way of legal process and lives ruined, this is a gripping piece of detective work.

Drawing on newly uncovered primary sources, the book evokes a haunting, liminal place, where the land itself constantly shifted, thanks to heavy quarrying. Anyone with privileged knowledge of it gained a disturbing advantage over those who might lose their way.

What was behind the alarming string of fires set around Newcastle in the autumn of 1865 and why did a judge describe the area as 'one of the most wicked counties in the country'?

Here is madness, murder and a legal system in direct conflict with the new liberal psychiatry: the mid-Victorian period was a time of unparalleled shifts in ideas about the self, personal responsibility and identity. Powerful forces for conformity and self-control clashed with radical new theories about the subconscious.

The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane is a fascinating survey of madness at the dawn of modern psychiatry.

You can pre-order it on Amazon.