Discovery of the remains of Hannah Calladine and her children.

Glossop Advertiser 25 May 1923

Remains found of Adult Woman, Girl and Child.
A Baby's Forearm.
A Pair of Child’s Knickers.
A Child’s Skull.
A Girl’s Jawbone.
Part of Leg of an Adult Woman.

Police officers Ruck, Chadwick, Roe and Isaacs during the search
Police officers Ruck, Chadwick, Roe and Isaacs during the search.

Such in the order written were the gruesome remains brought to daylight from 2 o’clock onwards yesterday afternoon, at the now world-famous Simmondley pit airshaft. They were the first and only reliable indications of a three-year-old mystery which the Glossop Borough Police were endeavouring to unravel, and the operations connected with which have been followed with keenest interest, north, south, east and west!!!
At the bottom of the pit shaft there still lie the skeleton remains of an adult woman, and portions of the remains of a girl and child of tender years, also some remnants of female wearing apparel. These are not to be touched until police officers have descended to try and find any clues which will enable them to identify the remains. Will they prove to be the remains of Hannah Calladine and her two children who mysteriously disappeared from human ken some three years ago ?
The town of Glossop is agog with excitement, and all manner of stories are in circulation. And further afield, as the grim facts are being flashed all over the country, the attention of civilisation is again focussed upon the pit shaft at Simmondley which, a few weeks ago, gave up the body of little Tommy Wood — itself a sensation throughout the land. What terrible story lies behind the finding of these remains, time alone will tell. The Borough Police, Chief Constable Wilkie, Inspector Chadwick, and many brave men who have descended into the bowels of the earth, are to be complimented on the result of their efforts thus far in unravelling a mystery which has so gripped public imagination, and their labours are by no means yet ended! ! !
With steady persistence and resolute grit, the work of clearing the abandoned shaft near Simmondley was continued on Friday and Saturday last, the difficulties being surmounted by the heroic endeavours of those engaged in the perilous task. The amazing quest still aroused the greatest excitement in the district, and on Saturday there was a continual procession of people up and down the hillsides to Simmondley, despite the awful weather conditions which prevailed. There they could see from a distance Chief Constable Wilkie and Inspector Chadwick and their staff still busily engaged in conducting the operations, and the general expectations was that they were within measurable distance of succeeding in their search.

The work of clearing the water and refuse from the shaft had been conducted with exemplary patience for about ten days now on the assumption that some clue to the three- years-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of Hannah Calladine and her two children might be discovered.
It was intended on Saturday to carry on the operations far into the night, but the men in charge badly needed a rest, for when the bottom of the shaft was practically emptied of water and a few loads of broken stones and refuse had been drawn up it was decided to cease work for the day.

Unfortunately rain had begun to fall and it was feared that the pit would, as a result, rapidly fill with water again.
That is exactly what happened. When the searchers proceeded to Simmondley in the chilly early morning hours it was still raining and the water was percolating through the loose-jointed walls of the shaft until there was almost as much at the bottom as had been pumped out on Friday.
Despite this great handicap the men set to work with energy, and in the full expectation that another day would see an end of their labours.

Holiday makers had begun to arrive in the neighbourhood, and an added, if morbid, attraction to the moorland rambles which many of them were undertaking, was found in a visit to the scene of the operations.
The police, who have received the sanction of the Home Office in the action they have taken, have been undeterred by the suggestion that after so long a time little would be left of any human remains that may be at the bottom of the shaft.

It has been discovered that the water contains an acid preservative introduced from the turf of the neighbourhood, and it is thought that this might delay decomposition.

And so the work proceeded throughout Saturday. At intervals the pumping machinery had to be worked energetically to keep down the inflowing water, but great care had to be exercised, as any strong suction might bring down more of the crumbling walls. Police and miners, however, who worked unremittingly had good command of the situation The air below was at times somewhat stifling with the steam raised by the pumping plant, and when P.C. Roe, who has descended the shaft time after time, and the miners who were removing the debris from the bottom, emerged in turn, their clothing and raincoats were soaking with wet, a change of garments having to be constantly made.
When Saturday evening arrived, it was decided to give the men a welcome rest for the following day, and this brief period of respite was no doubt hailed with great satisfaction by all who had been engaged on the arduous task.
On Sunday, notwithstanding the damp weather, there were again numerous visitors from surrounding villages and towns to the vicinity of the pit which has come into such sinister prominence, and on the elevated roadway above were numerous cyclists and motorists who had temporarily halted to gain a view of the scene of operations.

On Monday afternoon silence settled over the countryside near the now famous Simmondley pit shaft which lies 'neath the shadow of Pennine Hills a mile from Glossop. Here, for nearly a fortnight, the solitude has been disturbed by the throb of the Glossop Borough Fire Engine which has been pumping the shaft of water preparatory to its being searched by the police in an endeavour to find Hannah Calladine and her two children of whom nothing has been heard for three years. It was in this particular shaft that the police a few weeks ago found the body of little Tommy Wood, and information since received has led to the present operations. On Monday, the throb of the great engine was no longer heard, but in its place was the steady click of the windlass, which, now that the water had been cleared, was bringing up box loads of stone and gravel. As these came to the surface, police officers minutely examined each particle in the hope of finding something which will aid them in their search, all of which meant that progress was slow. It was made slower still by the difficulties experienced by the miner at the bottom of the shaft in filling the boxes, owing to the limited space and constant entry of water through the pit shaft wall sides. Every fifteen minutes or so the clicking of the windlass announced another load of debris had reached the surface to be emptied with alacrity, quickly scanned, box returned down the shaft, and then careful attention devoted to the load just delivered. This was proceeding with monotonous regularity all day and being watched from a distance by immense crowds of people who were kept to the roadway which passes alongside the meadow in which the shaft is situated. Bank holiday crowds from Manchester district made Glossop their centre, then travelled along Marple main road, through the old world village of Simmondley to the Scene of the operations. Traffic along the roads which reach the locality was very heavy, but despite this and the crowds, the police experienced little difficulty in keeping the fields clear so that operations are not hampered. And, under a stretch of tarpaulin an army of pressmen and photographers patiently watched the tedious proceedings and awaited developments.

Yesterday's sensational developments.
Bones — human bones — have at last been brought up from the depths of the pit air-shaft at Simmondley. The news spread round the countryside and through the town of Glossop with the rapidity of a prairie fire about 3-30 on Wednesday afternoon, and within a few minutes of the police finding the first indication of a grim tragedy, the roads to Simmondley were alive with people all pressing forward to the bleak moorlands which have for so long cast a spell over the whole country. People in all manner of vehicles and on foot hastened to the boundary wall of the meadow in which the pit shaft is located, and excitement reigned on every hand, except so far as the police and miners were concerned.
These continued their task unmoved, the windlass ever and anon, clicked forth as it brought a fresh cargo of mud, stones etc. to the surface, and, bit by bit, the police, with Chief Constable Wilkie at their head, collected thin shreds of evidence which it is felt sure solve the mystery of the disappearance of Hannah Calladine and her two children.
It is too early to definitely state anything, save the fact that two small bones, supposed to be child's forearm, and a pair of child's knickers, have been drawn from the dank and dismal depths, but certain it is that the bowels of the earth are at last, thanks to the relentless efforts of the law, and the capable handling of the affair by Chief Constable Wilkie, giving up the tragic secret they must have held for three long years.
Assuming that the bones which have have been found are the bones of one of Hannah Calladine's two children, it is still a mystery as to how they came to lie at the bottom of this 100 feet disused air-shaft. The general view seems to be that there, has been foul play, and indeed, it would seem almost an impossibility for either the mother or two babes to have fallen down the shaft of their own free will, for it has to be remembered that before the search of the shaft began, it was surrounded on all four sides by a six-feet high wall — a wall difficult to scale, and in a crumbling and dangerous condition, as was speedily discovered by the police during their efforts to discover the body of little Tommy Wood, which was drawn up from the pit shaft only a few weeks ago. The possibility, therefore, of anyone accidentally falling into the pit, is one that cannot for a moment be considered, and with almost insurmountable difficulties in the way of a woman and two children getting into the pit unaided, there is only the theory of foul play left. Has there been foul play here, and if so, who is the perpetrator of the black deed? That question will only be possible of an answer as time goes on, and the police weave their chain of gossamer-like facts into one of unyielding and indisputable evidence against a person or persons at present unknown.

Mr Wilkie is evidently working on a theory and his quiet confidence leads one to assume that he will, in the end, bring he perpetrators of this terrible crime — if crime it should prove to be — to justice. In the meantime, all manner of wild rumours are current in the district, and one dare not publish the stories which are told. The facts thus far substantiated are that Hannah Calladine and her two children left Glossop three years ago, as the bells were ringing for evening service, and in the company of a man said to be perfectly well known to the police, and upon whom they can lay hands at any moment, walked away in the direction of the moors which stretch between Glossop and Marple and Glossop and Hayfield, and at the foot of which wild moorlands the village of Simmondley nestles, with a disused pit shaft almost in its centre. Since that night, the trio — Hannah and her children — have disappeared from all human ken, and whilst relatives of the woman in Nantwich have been under the impression that she and the children were living in Glossop with the man in whose company she left her native town three years back, Glossop folks have been of opinion that she had gone back to the place from whence she came. Thus, although there have been certain intermittent and almost furtive inquiries made from relations at Nantwich, no real and definite attempt has been made to ascertain if they were alive or their whereabouts, until,the terrible recent tragedy of the finding of little Tommy Wood, the four-years-old Glossop boy, who also disappeared on a Sunday, and whose little body was not found until after many days' search, and that in the very pit from which human remains were extracted on Wednesday afternoon.

At last! After a fortnight’s persevering and perilous toil the Glossop Borough Police, aided by miners, brought forth yesterday sensational evidence from the Simmondley pit of what may well turn out to be one of the greatest tragedies in the country's history.
Patiently following their task of removing debris from the pit, whilst hundreds of people looked on from the adjoining road-way, the searchers made the first sensational discovery which was brought to light about 2 o'clock. This was what, after minute inspection, was evidently a child's forearm, in two parts, and the searchers, confident they were on the right track at last, continued to work with unremitting zeal in bringing further quantities of stones and debris from near the pit bottom.
About two hours later there was brought to the surface a pair of knickers, apparently belonging to a child of a few years of age, and this article of raiment, having, like the two pieces of bone, been closely scanned by the Chief Constable (Mr. Wilkie) and Inspector Chadwick, were carefully placed on one side as links in the chain connecting up to a great tragedy.
But as evening approached there were discoveries of an even more sensational and convincing kind. These took the form of a leg bone, a young child's skull, a jaw bone of a child, and portions of the remains of an adult woman. Very minutely these were examined and collected, and a great and gruesome mystery, which has caused absorbing interest and excitement throughout the whole country, was being slowly and steadily unravelled.
Further remains, it was stated, still lie at the bottom of the pit of death, but the Chief Constable, we understand, decided that they should be thoroughly examined by officers before being brought to the surface. Sufficient had come to light to show that the great search, one of the most remarkable in police annals, had been successful.
As the news spread like wildfire through the town and surrounding districts, thousands of people began to make their way up the road and lanes leading to Simmondley and a feeling of intense excitement prevailed.
Until a late hour people assembled in the vicinity of the pit shaft, but were not allowed near, and further operations will be conducted by the police this morning.
Interviewed by one of our representatives last night, Chief Constable Wilkie stated that the remains were apparently those of an adult woman and two children, one of whom was of tender years.
At the time of the brief interview, 8-15, the Chief Constable was leaving the Police Station accompanied by Dr. Milligan, the Police Surgeon.

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Last updated: 29 September 2023