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pages 85

1838 Murder On Winter Hill, Bolton

'Murder in the Heather' is a unique account of a brutal murder which took place on Winter Hill, Lancashire in 1838. It is based on contemporary media reports and court transcripts. It examines the events leading up to the crime, and the proceedings of the trial of the only suspect in the case. It concludes with a re-assessment of the case by examining the evidence, both circumstantial and forensic. The reader is drawn into the case as a prospective 'juror' and invited to draw their own conclusions in reaching a verdict based on all the evidence provided.

Dr David Holding studied history at Manchester University before entering the teaching profession in the 1970s. He taught in both state and independent sectors. During this time, he continued historical research culminating in both a Master's degree and a Doctorate. Having previously studied law, David gained a Master of Law degree in Medical Law, which enabled him to transfer to teaching legal courses at university. Since retiring, David has concentrated his research and writing on various aspects of local history, legal trials, forensic science and medico-legal topics.

The Origins of Murder in the Heather

My initial interest in the 1838 murder found its origins back in my teen years when I was a keen hiker and fell-walker, and frequently passed over Winter Hill. At this same time, I was a member of my local historical society and became involved in the publication of short guide leaflets to places of local historical interest. This resulted in me producing a brief outline of the murder. 

​I am also a Life Member of the Friends of Smithills Hall, Bolton, a registered charity devoted to the upkeep and promotion of the Hall. This was the family home of the Ainsworth family, past owners of Smithills Moor and part of Winter Hill from the Victorian period through to just after the Second World War. The Friends produced 'occasional publications' on various aspects of the Hall and the Ainsworth family. Having produced my first manuscript on the murder, the Committee agreed to publish the first edition in 1991. This edition had a limited run of 350 copies which were sold out within about four months and proved very popular, especially in Bolton and surrounding areas. 

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