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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Ripper Discussions > Suspects > Bury, W.H.

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  #1  
Old 02-12-2018, 06:08 PM
Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp is offline
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Default Was William Bury a Mason?

I’ve recently been rereading Stewart Evans’ wonderful book, Executioner, which is a biography of hangman James Berry, and I’m wondering what folks think of Berry’s claim that William Bury was a Mason.

Berry writes that Bury’s sleeve-links “were engraved with the sign of the Masonic craft to which the criminal belonged” (p. 308).

Has this been demonstrated to be an embellishment by Berry, if not, is it likely to have been an embellishment, or do folks think there is a real possibility that Bury could have been a Mason? If I’m understanding the timeline correctly, Berry would have written these words in 1913, shortly after Macnaghten retired, and shortly before Berry’s own death. It’s worth noting that six years earlier, in a 1907 newspaper article (it’s one of those articles that appeared in multiple newspapers, my copy being from the New York paper, The Sun), Berry claimed to be in possession of Bury’s cuff links, which suggests that the cuff links did hold some special interest for him: “Berry declares...at the moment he was talking he was wearing the cuff links that he took from the man’s cuffs when he pinioned his hands.”

In his book Jack the Ripper Unmasked, William Beadle writes, “Berry had the condemned man take off a pair of white linen cuffs and himself removed Bury’s collar. After the execution he noted that the sleeve links discarded with the cuffs bore the Masonic insignia” (p.306). Beadle unfortunately doesn’t make any further comment about this. I don’t think Macpherson mentions it at all in his book.

If Bury was indeed a Mason, is this is a possible explanation for what Beadle regards as an unenthusiastic investigation of Bury for the Ripper murders? Or do folks see this as entirely irrelevant?

I’m not knowledgeable about freemasonry and have never paid much attention to the Masonic theories of the case, so I’m eager to hear what those of you who are more knowledgeable have to say.
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Old 02-14-2018, 06:56 AM
phantom phantom is offline
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Hi Wyatt

Interesting post!

I checked the United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers 1751-1921 and was initially excited to see a William Bury initiated into Leopold Lodge 1883 in Accrington, Lancashire.

But his DOB was 1854 and he appears to be in the 1891 census.

Quite a few William Burys about Lancashire actually. Including a William Bury and spouse Ellen living in Bradford in 1881 census!

If the story is true, maybe Bury acquired the Masonic cufflinks at some stage and placed some importance or prestige in wearing them.

I haven't got Beadle's book. Is there a source for his info?

Cheers
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:25 AM
Paddy Paddy is offline
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You might try the name Berry as his mums asylum records were under that name and I believe I have seen some news articles with it spelt that way ?

Pat......
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:56 AM
Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp is offline
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Originally Posted by phantom View Post
Hi Wyatt

Interesting post!

I checked the United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers 1751-1921 and was initially excited to see a William Bury initiated into Leopold Lodge 1883 in Accrington, Lancashire.

But his DOB was 1854 and he appears to be in the 1891 census.

Quite a few William Burys about Lancashire actually. Including a William Bury and spouse Ellen living in Bradford in 1881 census!

If the story is true, maybe Bury acquired the Masonic cufflinks at some stage and placed some importance or prestige in wearing them.

I haven't got Beadle's book. Is there a source for his info?

Cheers
Thanks a lot, phantom, for looking into this. Beadle doesn't footnote there, so I'm assuming he is relying on James Berry's statement. The membership register you mentioned is available through ancestry.com, so I signed up for a free trial and ran a search. There is one record I've found so far that looks promising, it's one of the Lancashire Burys. Initiation date is 1883, so Bury would have been about 24 at the time, and Lancashire is possible, as we don't know too much about Bury's early whereabouts (maybe he had a friend there?). The thing that caught my eye about this one is that the first payment year on record is 1888. That's the year that Bury got into some money, after he married Ellen. I'm wondering if during that trip to Wolverhampton in August 1888 he might not have made a side trip to Lancashire to show off his newfound wealth. This one's a possibility anyway.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:00 AM
Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp is offline
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This guy is Leopold Lodge 1775 (not the Leopold Lodge 1883 you mentioned) in Church, Lancashire.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:23 AM
Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp is offline
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Originally Posted by Paddy View Post
You might try the name Berry as his mums asylum records were under that name and I believe I have seen some news articles with it spelt that way ?

Pat......
Definitely a good idea to keep spelling variations in mind. Thanks.
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:03 PM
Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp is offline
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The William Bury I mentioned was still alive after 1889, so we can scratch him.
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:16 PM
phantom phantom is offline
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Originally Posted by Wyatt Earp View Post
Thanks a lot, phantom, for looking into this. Beadle doesn't footnote there, so I'm assuming he is relying on James Berry's statement. The membership register you mentioned is available through ancestry.com, so I signed up for a free trial and ran a search. There is one record I've found so far that looks promising, it's one of the Lancashire Burys. Initiation date is 1883, so Bury would have been about 24 at the time, and Lancashire is possible, as we don't know too much about Bury's early whereabouts (maybe he had a friend there?). The thing that caught my eye about this one is that the first payment year on record is 1888. That's the year that Bury got into some money, after he married Ellen. I'm wondering if during that trip to Wolverhampton in August 1888 he might not have made a side trip to Lancashire to show off his newfound wealth. This one's a possibility anyway.
No worries Wyatt, thanks for the info re: Beadle's book and good luck with your research.
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Old 02-19-2018, 11:59 AM
johns johns is offline
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Yes it's very important to note that Bury's surname was mis-spelled "Berry" in every census he appeared on in 1861, 1871 and 1881

His place of birth was recorded as "Stourport" rather than Stourbridge on a document I saw once. I myself used to confuse these two towns and they're not far apart.
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Old 02-19-2018, 05:37 PM
Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp is offline
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I haven’t seen anyone who looks like a possible match in the English membership registers. Those don’t include the Scottish records, but it doesn’t seem very likely that Bury would have joined when he was in Dundee. The obvious explanation is that James Berry imagineered the Masonic stuff, but I do think there’s a possibility that Bury somehow obtained Masonic cuff links, and Berry saw them and wrongly concluded that Bury was a Mason.
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