Unsolved Murders

James Gilpin

Age: 83

Sex: male

Date: 1 Mar 1904

Place: Kentmere, Kendal

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

James Gilpin died from arsenic poisoning.

A woman and man were tried but acquitted.

James Gilpin had taken in a domestic servant 20 years earlier but they had ended up having 5 children between them. However, 3 months before his death the domestic servant had met a discharged soldier who was described as being a bluff, burley, well set up man, florid, bettlebrowed and excessively masculine. They developed their relationship near to intimacy and he soon moved into the farm.

However, at the time James Gilpin was bed ridden and the soldier seemed then to rule the establishment and money was spent freely.

Then on 20 March 1904 James Gilpin died. The doctor initially gave him a death certificate stating senile decay as the cause of death but an anonymous letter was later received by the Mayor of Kendal and the soldier and domestic servant were arrested for the murder of James Gilpin.

Before her arrest the domestic servant said that she had been accused of James Gilpin's murder and left town but was arrested 2 days later.

After his death an inquest was carried out and his stomach and intestines were sent to Guys Hospital for quantitative examination and he was buried. however, it was later found necessary to further examine his body and he was exhumed. He was found to have had enough arsenic in his body to have killed himself many times over. A doctor said that the arsenic taken could not have been less than 3-4 grains.

A woman who was a frequent visitor to the farm said that she had been asked to pawn items for the soldier and that on the day before his death she had been asked by him to buy some rum and sugar for him. When she and another person returned with the rum and sugar she said that the soldier put it in some gruel which he said was for James Gilpin.

The court heard that arsenic was used around the farm to kill rats. The soldier said that he had brought some arsenic but that it was for killing rats.

The domestic servant was 41 and the soldier was 28.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Western Times - Wednesday 29 June 1904

see Western Times - Thursday 30 June 1904

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Friday 01 July 1904

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 13 April 1904

see Western Times - Friday 08 April 1904