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Macdonald's District: North East Middlesex

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  • #16
    I can assure everyone that Dave knows more about coroners and inquests than I'll ever know, even if, like Howard Brown, I live to be 200.


    • #17
      To Colin
      Well many thanks for answering that pesky question Colin-and as can be seen ,there is also no greater expert on the boundary question than you !

      I suppose what I am picking up is not only a rather undignified state of affairs at the Inquest for the fifth and most horrific murder in the series [or 6th or 7th] with everything rushed through in a day and not enough time given to trace relatives of the dead woman,or even enable all witnesses to attend the Inquest, such as George Hutchinson, who came forward only three days after the murder, but too late to give his information to the Jury.

      I dont see that it was the jury who instigated the termination of the Inquest at all. As I wrote in my last post,the Jury appear to have been "led" on this matter by the coroner.When Dr Phillips had finished giving his first account of his findings, they were asked if they had any questions to put to him and they said they had not at this stage and it was understood that more detailed evidence of the medical examination [by Dr Phillips ] would be given at a further hearing.
      The coroner then led the jury: He turned to them and said " The question is whether you will adjourn for further evidence.My own opinion is that it is very unnecessary for two courts to deal with these cases, and go through the same evidence time after time,which only causes expense and trouble.If the coroner"s jury can come to a decision as to the cause of death than that is all they have to do.They have nothing to do with prosecuting a man and saying what amount of penalty he is to get." [by the coroner]

      Now it is/was a very long tradition of the British legal system for the ordinary men and women who form any jury to determine the outcome ,but in this case, it appears very much to be the case that the coroner wanted it all to be passed over to the police courts viz :

      Coroner:"It is for the police authorities to deal with the case and satisfy themselves as to any person who may be suspected later on. I do not want to take it out of your hands . It is for you to say whether at an adjournment you will hear minutes of the evidence , or whether you think it is a matter to be dealt with in the police courts later on "......etc

      I realise the very valid points made about costs and manageability but for such a case as this to be rushed through like the clappers thereby preventing Mary"s relatives from being given time to be traced, as well as vital information from being heard by the jury---such as Hutchinson"s statement, and Dr Phillips detailed medical testimony.all this seems to me to be very remiss of the coroner in this specific case actually.
      I do not say it was politically motivated but somebody could have been pulling strings behind the scenes----ofcourse they could.
      Last edited by Natalie Severn; 04-04-2010, 01:54 AM.


      • #18
        Originally posted by Robert View Post
        I can assure everyone that Dave knows more about coroners and inquests than I'll ever know, even if, like Howard Brown, I live to be 200.
        Dave is an expert though he is too modest to admit it.But thanks to you also Robert and to John Savage and ofcourse Dave .Those articles were brilliant that you three wrote explaining the old system.


        • #19
          Colin wrote: Perhaps you are of the impression, Dave, that the inclusion of Buck's Row, within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Force, 'J' Division, signified its inclusion in 'Bethnal Green'. It did not!

          Yes, that was exactly what I was thinking so thanks for your correction. So Nichols body was always within Baxter's district. You also state this, which I very much agree with: What they were questioning was their own responsibility for being part of the proceedings. A couple of jurymen questioned their own right to hear the inquest. Colin, you also write: Regardless of the fact that Kelly's remains lay in their mortuary, and that inquest proceedings were being held in their Town Hall; they naturally felt that the costs of mortuary accommodation and subsequent burial should be funded by the Whitechapel District of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that the inquest jury should be provided by the same.

          Yes, exactly! Because the murder occurred in Spitalfields, their point of view was, "Why is this our problem?" And don't forget the fellow who said he lived in Whitechapel and that Wynne Baxter was his coroner.

          This is a problem that neither Langham or Baxter faced; and if they had, in the examples of Eddowes and Stride, they've padded the number of jurymen enough that they can be reasonably comfortable with adjourning--even if they lose several, they have more than enough to return a verdict. Not so with the Kelly inquest with its 14 jurors. Of course I can't really say, but I don't think this problem was anticipated, and it may have been that Macdonald was hesitant to bring more jurymen into it because during this period in Middlesex, they received no payment for their service (but this is just an idea of mine). I've seen several examples of an 18-strong jury complaining of being called away from their work--this was in Surrey in April 1892.

          So with Phillips attending and stating the cause of death, that enables Macdonald to advise the jury that they've accomplished what they came to do: the body has been viewed, the deceased identified, the cause of death determined, the witnesses examined to the jury's satisfaction. Of course, they don't determine the murderer, but if they still sat between then and now, you would get the same verdict.

          If you go back and read accounts of the inquest, you will see Macdonald is careful to satisfy the jury. Now, it's true that Macdonald has suggested that more medical evidence is forthcoming: the jury has the right to dispense with Macdonald's advice and go into adjournment. He's not leading the jury, he's advising them, which is the coroner's function as far as the jury is concerned. I have read of cases, one involving Macdonald, where the jury ignored the coroner's advice altogether and there is nothing the coroner could do about it. If you had a case of the jury requesting further evidence (from Phillips), and Macdonald refusing, or the jury asking for an adjournment to hear more from Phillips, and the coroner refusing, then that is a a cause of complaint and pretty good grounds for the Attorney General to try to get the inquest quashed in the High Court. This is not what happened at the Mary Kelly inquest.

          It's legally correct, but I must agree that it's not satisfactory, historically. There's a difference, this is a long way from saying that Macdonald was incompetent, stupid, or intends to withhold evidence (of which he apparently wasn't informed of prior to the inquest). None of that holds up to scrutiny, in my opinion. But, if you're arguing discretion, then I think Macdonald's discretion in advising against an adjournment is arguable, but I think debate needs to take into account the flaws that were present in the creation of the North East district, and the jury issue that is present because of it--I would like to repeat that these are problems none of the other inquests faced. In our field of focus, they're unique to the Kelly inquest. I am very strongly of the opinion that the adjournment hangs on this:

          The jury having answered to their names, one of them said: I do not see why we should have the inquest thrown upon our shoulders, when the murder did not happen in our district, but in Whitechapel.

          The Coroner's Officer (Mr. Hammond): It did not happen in Whitechapel.

          The Coroner (to the juror, severely): Do you think that we do not know what we are doing here, and that we do not know our own district? The jury are summoned in the ordinary way, and they have no business to object. If they persist in their objection I shall know how to deal with them. Does any juror persist in objecting ?

          The Juror: We are summoned for the Shoreditch district. This affair happened in Spitalfields. The Coroner: It happened within my district.
          Another Juryman: This is not my district. I come from Whitechapel, and Mr. Baxter is my coroner.

          This they get through, but couple it with this:

          An adjournment for a few minutes then took place, and on the return of the jury the coroner said: It has come to my ears that somebody has been making a statement to some of the jury as to their right and duty of being here. Has any one during the interval spoken to the jury, saying that they should not be here to-day ?

          Some jurymen replied in the negative.

          The Coroner: Then I must have been misinformed. I should have taken good care that he would have had a quiet life for the rest of the week if anybody had interfered with my jury.

          Misinformed or not, the inquest begins, as we all know, with jurymen questioning their jurisdiction. So this is why I don't think they're safe to adjourn with 14 jurymen when they need 12 to return a verdict. Whether the coroner fines absent jurymen or not, the inquest fails without 12 present and they have to start over again. Two weeks later, this is going to be particularly distasteful as it will involve an exhumation on top of inconvenience. Better to wrap it up, I think. And of course, the inquest is really intended to be preliminary, though there is discretion, too.

          Now, if Phillips hadn't been there, I don't see how they would have avoided an adjournment--jury problem or not. Without Phillips, who is there to tell the jury what the cause of death was? They must adjourn, it seems to me--but I would like to see what Miss Susannah Reeks might have to say.

          This is why my opinion is that if you were able to change things and make the Kelly inquest adjourn, you would either get 2 or 3 more jurymen or stop Phillips from sending that note! If you really wanted to make things interesting, you would also stop Henry Wilton from paying for Mary Kelly's burial and allow her to be sent to Whitechapel. Then Wynne Baxter would hold a double inquest, for which he would be roundly condemned by the Home Secretary (as he was with Louisa Ellesden a few months later).

          Finally--Norma, just about all the inquests I know of began very quickly after death. This down to the view of the body by the coroner and the jury, which they must take for the inquest to be valid. The body is evidence, and the body should be in a state that it yields evidence (though really, I think this is just a formality, the real evidence comes from the medical witness, but the view is a carryover from medieval times and by 1888, it's already begun a slow exit from the English inquest). Still, it's a legal requirement and has been carried over into the Coroners Act 1887.

          So the speed at which the Kelly inquest begins isn't unusual--it's the norm. In fact, it's not even the quickest--the winner there must be Wynne Baxter's Alice Mackenzie inquest. In Jervis, the period given for the inquest to start is between 2-5 days from the coroner's notification, with more than that being a cause of complaint.

          They all begin quickly, if you haven't go back and confirm this--they had to because of the view. We can't forget the impact of the view

          Hullo Robert--Howard Brown isn't more than 175 or I'll eat my hat You and John ought to post those photographs of Macdonald and Langham you got for the articles.

          Once again Hunter and Natalie, thanks for your kind comments and thoughts. Beware the layperson who claims to be an expert. You'd need some professional experience and access to lost records to claim expertise. I just enjoy procedure and become irritated when something doesn't make sense, which happens to me all the time.



          • #20
            Baxter/Macdonald rivalry

            One thing I forgot to address Hunter, you mentioned something about politics between Macdonald and Baxter. I also suspected a rivalry but have since revised my opinion. In the counties, coroners were then elected by freeholder vote, as you may already know. While it's true that the election that Baxter won is an election that Macdonald lost, there were also other candidates. Chief among them was George Hay Young, who I suspect is the same person present at Inspector Abberline's goodbye party when he left H division. It's George Hay Young who actually wins the election and is briefly declared coroner for the eastern district. Baxter is second, Macdonald doesn't even figure in the results, he's done so poorly. So, when they try to confirm the win, chaos among the candidates' supporters rather convienently prevents that from happening. Then they carry out further voting over two days, during which time Baxter and Macdonald improve their standings: Baxter wins, and Macdonald comes in a very respectable second. They've eliminated George Hay Young. The election is controversial, which is common for these elections for county coroner (Thomas Bramah Diplock's election was also controversial--his victory had to be confirmed in the High Court, and for a time while this process was underway, he found his expenses disallowed--he wasn't considered a coroner although he was doing the work!)

            Now, even before Baxter is elected, it's known that the coroner's district all the candidates are competing for, which covers East Middlesex, is going to be divided. I think Macdonald must have been heartened by his final standing in the election (running for M.P., he's also lost an election only to try again and win), so while they're waiting for division to occur and a new North East district to be created, he gets some legal training, which with his medical experience, is going to make him a more attractive candidate. After what seems to me to be a considerably protracted period, the Privy Council approves the division in 1888, Macdonald runs and crushes his opponent, Dr. G. E. Yarrow. This is also a controversial election--Yarrow complains of irregularities, and it's commented on in the House of Commons as well.

            But in any case, Macdonald must have realized that after Baxter's win in 1886, he's going to get another chance. He was cheered by the progress he had made in that first election, and actually mentions that in 1888. I don't think he was deterred or bitter.

            Basically, freeholder election wasn't really a good way to choose a county coroner. This is recognized much earlier in the century, but besides confining the scope of elections a bit, they really are hesitant to take a way a right from freeholders. It's the Local Government Act 1888 that finally did away with them (effective as of 1889), instead opting for elected county councils to select coroners--this is along the lines of how coroners were chosen in the City of London (the elected Common Council selected them). Lots less chaos.

            But the way the district was organized, taking Spitalfields (and some other areas) out of Baxter's district, didn't make sense. One reason is that local government hasn't provided enough mortuaries in East Middlesex. Another, has Colin shows with a map is that the new North East coroner's district didn't align with how other districts were organized--really, as I understand it (Colin understands it better than I do), Spitalfields is really part of the Whitechapel Board of Works and should have remained in Wynne Baxter's district. So what happens in Spitalfields is that they apparently have no mortuary to remove a body to--when a body is found outside, it seems to be the correct thing to do is take it over to Whitechapel. With a coroner's jurisdiction being determined by the location of the body, this means that there were times that inquests bleed out of Macdonald's district into Wynne Baxter's, simply because of what must have been a lack of mortuaries. This is the case with Annie Chapman. Mary Kelly, however, is found indoors--the police had time to wait for Macdonald's officer, Thomas Hammond, to come take her away. Naturally, he keeps the body within his coroner's district, taking her up to Shoreditch, which is also in Macdonald's district. But, you see, Shoreditch isn't part of the Whitechapel Board of Works, and they don't want to deal with a murder that as far as they're concerned, happened in Whitechapel.

            Anomalies are created--one case that I know of leads to a double inquest in March 1889 because Shoreditch has transported a body into Whitechapel in order to get out of paying for the burial. This is nearly the case with Mary Kelly, and the arrival of her body in Whitechapel is anticipated by Wynne Baxter, who prepares for an inquest and, so says The Times, visits Miller's Court on the 10th, but then her burial is paid for and he isn't able to hold an inquest because the body isn't sent to his district. Once I thought that Baxter's presence in Miller's Court indicated that he questioned Macdonald's jurisdiction, but this is incorrect--Baxter is simply anticipating receiving the body, and interprets the law in a way that he's required to hold some sort of inquest, even if it's a formality (the Home Secretary disagreed with this interpretation--two inquests for the same death, when the first inquest was valid, is a waste of money).

            When Macdonald dies and his office is vacant, the London County Council seizes the opportunity to realign the district, and returns Spitalfields and other areas back to Baxter (and others to George Danford Thomas, as his Central Middlesex district has apparently also been affected).

            So far as I know, Dr. Roderick Macdonald was the last popularly elected coroner in London.

            I really do have to apologize for being so long-winded--it's a failing, but I don't know how else to explain it.



            • #21
              Hi Dave,

              Be as long-winded as you like. Your wonderfully-detailed and well-written posts are a joy to read.

              Here's the double inquest you mentioned earlier, as discussed in the House of Commonsó

              H[ouse of]C[ommons] Deb[ate] 15 March 1889 vol 333 cc1788-9

              MR. MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the report in the Star of the 4th instant, of the double inquest in Whitechapel, from which it appears that Louisa Ellesden died suddenly in Spitalfields; that an inquest was held in that locality by the Coroner for North East Middlesex; and that, when the body was subsequently removed to the Whitechapel mortuary, which serves the entire district, Mr. Baxter, Coroner for the South East Division, held a second inquest; and whether he will take steps to prevent the unnecessary repetition of inquests, entailing inconvenience to the relatives of the deceased, and additional cost to the ratepayers in Whitechapel?

              MR. MATTHEWS (1) The facts are correctly stated. (2) Mr. Baxter has written me a letter, in which he contends that the Statute of 1887 left him no option but to hold a second inquest. I cannot admit the soundness of this contention, and I consider that holding a second inquest was improper. If such a case occurs again, I shall consider it my duty to represent the matter to the Lord Chancellor, in order to prevent the occurrence of any such clashing of jurisdiction.




              • #22
                Many thanks for that citation and kind word, Simon--yup, that's the case, Louisa Ellesden. I would give a lot to learn more about the circumstances of her death and her inquests; I assume she's died indoors, but I don't have access to the Star for this period (I've tried to borrow it from another library, and couldn't get that roll of microfilm). I will try again someday. Eventually it will turn up.

                So this is what would have happened with Mary Kelly if not for Henry Wilton. Now, at this time, the Home Secretary had no power to order Wynne Baxter about--he can only complain (this is no longer the case today, besides legislation, they have Coroners' Rules that I understand the Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor devise). In 1889, the Lord Chancellor's power, besides confirming the appointment of deputy coroners, is to remove coroners from office. So Matthews is essentially saying that he will try to get Baxter fired--an extreme measure, and probably an empty threat, because so far as I know the Lord Chancellor rarely removed coroners from office. They stayed until they died or retired, even the lay coroners, who could be just awful at the job.

                I've read the Coroner's Act 1887 many times, and I still don't understand Wynne Baxter's interpretation. I do know that failure to hold an inquest would land a coroner in trouble, so perhaps he's just being careful. More likely there's some further concern that Baxter saw that I don't--after all, he was a solicitor and I'm not. And perhaps the Home Secretary didn't get it either, despite Baxter's explanation--wouldn't be the first time a Home Secretary failed to comprehend coronial law. Or perhaps this is a way for Wynne Baxter to publicize that the county magistrates and Privy Council have mucked up the district to which he was elected in 1886: "You wanted two coroners, I will give you two inquests"--well, probably not, likely Baxter saw something I don't.

                Yet, I can a see real problem with double inquests besides expense and inconvenience--1) Can it be taken that Wynne Baxter is quashing Macdonald's inquest--he has no power to do so, that's for the High Court. 2) What happens if each inquest returns different verdicts?

                For example, what if Rose Mylett had been found in Spitalfields, except indoors instead of outside? Thomas Hammond removes her body, takes her up to Shoreditch, and Macdonald holds an inquest--his jury places more emphasis on Bond and finds "Accidental Death".

                In this scenario, no one pays for her burial; Shoreditch throws the expense of burial onto Whitechapel, so off she goes like Ellesden. Baxter says, "By law, I must hold an inquest". Jury goes with the divisional surgeon and finds "murder by unknown person".

                What does Treasury do? I think we know the answer

                Last edited by Dave O; 04-04-2010, 07:19 AM.


                • #23
                  Thanks Nats. Of course, John "Probate" Savage is a whiz with the coroners too.

                  Dave, here are the pics.
                  Attached Files


                  • #24
                    Your research is so interesting and every bit as impressive as Simon says.Indeed it is, Dave .Nor am I questioning your research but rather your conclusions about the proper conduct of that Inquest.
                    Also things seem to be getting a bit lost in all the detailed and fairly obscure minutiae in your lengthy though very illuminating posts on the procedure of Coroners and Inquests.
                    I hope you dont mind me drawing your attention to a post written just now by Stewart Evans on the thread entitled ,"The Echo, 10th November 1888".
                    Stewart Evans and indeed Archaic have raised important questions that still have not been answered about what Stewart calls this very high profile case .
                    For example -the question of why Dr Phillips,who expected to be recalled and importantly who the jury appear to have fully expected to be recalled never was recalled to give important testimony about his detailed medical findings.
                    Why the Inquest was not continued at least into a second day when George Hutchinson"s statement could have been heard and which Abberline observes in his report etc
                    I do think it important to get answers to these and the other equally important matters Stewart has just now raised.
                    Best Wishes


                    • #25
                      Hi Norma,

                      I don't mind you questioning my conclusions, that's what you should do. If in the end we don't agree, that's ok too because I'm just stating my opinion about why the Kelly inquest isn't adjourned, not stating a fact. We're not told why. Thanks for drawing my attention to Stewart's post, I'm always interested in what Stewart has to say. And as he says, it's a high profile case with lots of public interest, and the inquest is indeed abbreviated.

                      As I say--this is just my opinion--considering the conflict Macdonald has with a couple of jurymen, I don't think he's got enough jury to go into adjournment, for the reasons I've given. 14 jurymen is just fine for most inquests, but not for a sensational case that needs to be adjourned--you've got to make sure you have 12 return, or else the inquest can't continue, you've got to start over and that's problematic. To adjourn a case like this, given the conflict with the jury, it seems to me that he would need more jurors than 14.

                      So, the press tells us that Langham has 17 at Eddowes, and Baxter has maxed out his jury at Stride, just maxed it out. Why? The reason that they do that is to be able to adjourn and have enough jury come back to return a verdict. This is what I think Macdonald should have done in this sensational case that features a conflict with jury over jurisdiction--I think they must have recognized this once the inquest was underway and there's talk about someone interfering with the jury. Macdonald doesn't tell us that, but this is why I think you see Macdonald going from indicating an adjournment for Phillips to advising against one. Closing the inquest after a single session doesn't seem to have been his original intention, right?

                      But as I say, adjourning this case is particularly risky procedure with only 14 jurors. With Phillips having stated the cause of death, that's enough medical evidence for them to move on with the rest of the witnesses and wrap up that inquest. But ending this way wasn't the original intention, else you wouldn't see Macdonald suggesting an adjournment in the first place--conflict with the jury followed by a perceived interference with that jury must have been a big factor with the decision, I would think.

                      This is what I think ended that inquest:

                      It has come to my ears that somebody has been making a statement to some of the jury as to their right and duty of being here. Has any one during the interval spoken to the jury, saying that they should not be here to-day ?

                      Some jurymen replied in the negative.

                      The Coroner: Then I must have been misinformed. I should have taken good care that he would have had a quiet life for the rest of the week if anybody had interfered with my jury.

                      Whether or not this perceived interference took place, it really begs the question: would the Kelly inquest really have been safe on procedural grounds to adjourn with 14 jurors when 12 are required to return a verdict? Everyone will decide for themselves, and this is a question that ought to be answered when we wonder why they don't adjourn for Phillips, why we don't get more detailed testimony. Not enough jurors to do it safely.

                      Well, that's what I think anyway. But did I answer your question, Norma?


                      Last edited by Dave O; 04-04-2010, 06:35 PM.


                      • #26

                        Thanks for putting up those photographs. The one of Macdonald comes from The Parliamentary Archives. Langham's comes from a book held by the Corporation of London Records Office: The Corporation of The City of London and The First Twelve of The Great City Guilds, ed. Alfred Arthur Sylvester, (London 1897) [CLRO REF; JACB/223]



                        • #27
                          Thankyou Dave,
                          Yes you did answer my question, the main one, very thoroughly and it made clear sense.
                          What I still dont understand though , is why the Inquest was held before there was time to trace next of kin and before there was time to find out whether other people had seen or heard anything of Mary on the night of her murder, such as George Hutchinson . By the sound of things,the jury was called to sit before there were sufficient numbers to deal with the eventualities you write of, such as the complications that could occur without forming a big enough jury. I still dont really understand why there was such a rush,
                          But, again many many thanks Dave,for taking the time to reply in such depth,


                          Thankyou Robert for the above photos and information.


                          • #28
                            Hi Dave,

                            Can you answer a question for me?

                            In 1888, where did you go if you required the services of a coroner?

                            Did Roderick Macdonald and Wynne Baxter each have a Coroner's Office?




                            • #29
                              The view

                              Hi Norma,

                              It's because of the view, its medieval procedure that's survived into the Victorian period. There's a rush to begin because the jurors have to look at the body to make the inquest valid. All the inquests started quickly, most falling into that 2-5 day range described in Jervis that I mentioned earlier. Some start even sooner than that. If they didn't, it was a cause for complaint. It's standard procedure. This view of the body, which was archaic, dictated rapid action. And the Victorians also saw a benefit in the inquest beginning quickly, while evidence was still fresh in the minds of witnesses.

                              Hi Simon,

                              They haven't provided decent coroner's courts in the County of Middlesex yet. That will take the London County Council to do. The county coroner is still a sort of gypsy magistrate following bodies, much of the time they're leasing premises near to where the body is, racking up some tremendous mileage doing it. They're constantly criss-crossing the district. Or in Whitechapel, they let Baxter use the Working Lads' Institute, and he did when the body was nearby. They used town halls. Coffee Houses. Private homes, if they were invited. Pubs (though some coroners avoided tavern inquests). The City's much more progressive than the county, having constructed the facility in Golden Lane in the 1870s, which was described as a model inquest site--I've read that that's built for moral reasons, they don't want the City coroner holding inquests in pubs anymore, for which the coroner at that time was very grateful. But at times, the City Coroner still traveled to where bodies where you can still find Langham in places like hospitals and workhouses.

                              So Macdonald and Baxter had their own offices that served as a base, but it's not something that's been constructed for them. I don't know whether this was from their homes, or they had something else, but it was something they provided for themselves. Dr. Diplock's office was out of his house, and if you're a reporter, and wanted to know what was on the agenda for any given day, you'd go round and there would be a notice posted, listing the inquests for that day, letting you know where you needed to go to and when. If you knew of a death, you informed the coroner or his officer. I don't know that you'd go around to his house for that--there's one example of a workhouse pauper writing to Diplock, asking him to hold an inquest, which he did.

                              Last edited by Dave O; 04-04-2010, 09:07 PM.


                              • #30
                                Hi Dave,

                                Thanks for that. I didn't realise their facilities were so ad hoc.

                                Let me be more specific.

                                Wynne Baxter had an office in Laurence Poutney Hill, off Cannon Street.

                                On 9th November 1888 where would the cops have gone to alert coroner's officer Thomas Hammond to the murder in Millers Court?