Having written about a double murder in Chislehurst in 1880 for Chislehurst Chillers we were a little perturbed to be contacted by Lorna Allison (pictured right with Joanna Friel and Peter Appelby), the two times great granddaughter of the victims! However Lorna was delighted to be shown around Chislehurst and share her moment of fame or rather infamy.
St Nicholas churchyard has some significant graves but one is rather more macabre than most. On the grave of Edward and Elizabeth Ellis the story of an infamous double murder is revealed. Mr and Mrs Ellis died on 31st October 1880 and according to the inscription on the tomb they were ‘felled by the hands of an assassin‘. Indeed, Joseph Waller, aged only 24,made a full confession.
Joanna Friel, heritage rep of The Chislehurst Society gave great-great-granddaughter of Edward Ellis, Lorna Allison and her son Peter, a tour of the village, and Peter Appleby from St Nicholas helped them locate the grave of their ancestors. Sam Pettman, the National Trust warden, had earlier shown Lorna around Keepers Cottage in Petts Wood, the scene of the actual murder (pictured below).
Joseph Waller had been turned out of The Five Bells pub in St Mary Cray and, with a loaded revolver in his pocket, eventually ended up outside the home of his former employer, Edward Ellis. He fired a shot behind the gamekeepers cottage saying there were poachers about. Mr Ellis went with Waller into the woods where he was shot in the head. Waller returned to the cottage to tell Mrs Ellis her husband had been injured and he led her away in the opposite direction and promptly killed her too.
Waller was convicted.
The police believed he was a ne’er do well who had planned the attack because Mr Ellis hadn’t employed him that winter. When Waller was brought to court a huge crowd gathered and nearly lynched him. However, Waller’s mother fought her way through the crowd, refusing to leave her son’s side. She explained that Joseph had suffered a dreadful accident while performing his duties as a police constable and had lain unconscious at Bart’s Hospital for three weeks.
Waller was declared insane and sent to St Luke’s Asylum. The murder was reported across the world and Lorna had found the report of her ancestor’s demise in an Australian newspaper.
The funeral was well attended, Earl Sydney and Mr Berens, Mr Ellis’s employer, were among the mourners. Typical of victorian taste for all things dark and dastardly there was an eager demand for photos of the cottage and memorial cards which were sold at the service. So glad that custom has not survived over time.