In Bruce Robinson’s book ‘They All Love Jack’, we learn of an address associated with James Maybrick that had never been found through any other sources previously. It was passed to Bruce by the Freemasons.
A STRUGGLE FOR TRUTH
If you have read the chapter in Bruce’s book containing the above information, you would know he felt he could not trust it. He naturally expressed his frustration at not getting straight answers from the Freemasons. However, this address was intriguing to me. Where did it come from?
How did James Maybrick’s name get attached to this address by the Freemasons? A search against this address in the census revealed that in 1871, a large Scottish family named MCLAREN were residing at Normanston in Birkenhead. Except this address says Balls Road and not Christ Church Road.
Normanston is misspelt in the transcript, but we can see the enumerator had it correct on the actual record.
Is there more than one Normanston in Birkenhead? A quick look on Google Maps shows us that Balls Road actually runs adjacent to Christ Church Road.
It is possible both roads at that time would give access to Normanston. So I decided to check the historical ordnance survey maps.
It seems in James Maybrick’s time, Normanston was a sprawling estate with multiple properties and extensive gardens. There would have been an entrance into the estate in what is now modern Normanston Close on Balls Road and also via Christ Church Road. We can conclude that the McLaren family did indeed live here. A newspaper advert in the Liverpool Daily Post in October 1871 was more than likely placed by the McLaren family.
In the following census in 1881, the McLarens are most likely still living at Normanston, but the name has been dropped in the address in favour of a house number. Was the land divided up at this point? On a modern map, it appears to be the exact same location.
AVAILABLE FOR RENT
In September 1870, there was an advert placed for Normanston. The McLaren family possibly responded to this advert.
Normanston was then put on the market, furniture and all, in November 1875.
WHAT DID THE BUTLER SEE?
Curiously something appears in the 1871 electoral register against this address. This time for someone called BUTLER GASQUOINE.
If you are familiar with the Maybrick case, then the address of Knowsley Buildings would ring a bell. It is the exact same address JAMES MAYBRICK operated out of during his time in Liverpool. However, in the 1871 census, Butler Gasquoine is recorded as living in Ormskirk, some 17 miles away!
ENTER HUGGY WILSON
To compound matters, even more, there is further strangeness.
I often annoy the historical researcher Keith Skinner for any tidbits of info or research he might be able to assist me with. There are arguably not many alive today who know as much about Jack the Ripper (or the diary) as Keith. He has always been very generous with his time and notes.
He informed me that during his research whilst in the employ of Bruce Robinson, some other information came to light from the Freemasons, which I do not believe was ever published.
The Freemasons claim that either on the same day (or within three days bizarrely) that James Maybrick was perfected in 1873, another member by the name of GEORGE HUGGINSON WILSON was also perfected – with the exact same address – Normanston. The Freemasons claimed Wilson was declared bankrupt and absconded around 1875.
on and on at NORMANSTON
We have four separate family names, all connected to Normanston in one way or another – all around the period 1871-1874. James Maybrick is only connected via the Freemason records and nowhere else, as was George Hugginson Wilson. Could it simply have been an admin error?
Then how do we explain Butler Gasqoiune sharing the Normanston and Knowsley Buildings addresses with James Maybrick? This is a clear link to Normanston and Maybrick. Where do the McLaren family fit into this? Who exactly were Butler Gasquoine and George Hugginson Wilson? Let’s address the last question first.
WHO WAS BUTLER GASQUOINE?
Butler Gasquoine was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, in 1826. By the time the 1871 census was taken, he was a retired stockbroker in his mid-40s. A PDF link to a family tree found on Ancestry.com can be downloaded here.
Although nowhere in the census history does Butler Gasquoine appear to be living at Normanston, I discovered another example of him operating out of Knowsley Buildings a decade later in 1881.
Butler died in Southport in 1890. There was a legal case in 1893 after his death involving the controversial sale of bonds connected to the trust he had left behind for his wife and children in his will.
It would appear that Mr Gasquoine was very much a man of business who kept his fingers in many pies. Was he the legal owner of Normanston at any point? Could he have sub-letted the property to a friend? A friend who happens to share the same work address as him? Did he then decide to sell the property for good in 1875? Access to the deeds for that period would answer those questions, we would hope, but I certainly do not have access to them.
WHO WAS GEORGE HUGGINSON WILSON?
In 1871 George H Wilson can be found on the census as a medical student living on Alfred Road, Oxton, just half a mile from Normanston.
We can see from the 1879 medical register that he became registered as a doctor on 24th April 1875. He apparently specialised in midwifery.
Below is the 1876 bankruptcy notice, which would tie in closely to the Freemason’s belief that George Hugginson Wilson was bankrupt.
We can see the address given for George Hugginson Wilson for both the medical register and bankruptcy notice was 91 Oxton Road, Birkenhead. However, this property was vacant by 1881 according to the census.
We learn from a family tree created on ancestry.com (PDF download here) that he left Liverpool and headed for Bilbao, Spain, where he took up medicine in 1880. He died there at just 38 years old in 1885.
Between 1873 and 1875, how could a medical student afford to live at an address like Normanston if he was living there? How did he get himself into so much financial difficulty? Would his midwifery skills prove a useful tool for someone? Why was George Hugginson Wilson connected to Normanston at all?
I do not profess to know why James Maybrick’s name is associated with this address. None that can be backed with any empirical evidence, at least. I have a theory I will be working on in closer detail, and should there be any further developments, I shall put a link here.
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