Forgotten Women Of Leeds: Ann Carr

The North of England was home to many religious dissenters and sects, those who worshipped outside the established religions. Preachers toured, held revivals, spoke to whoever might listen and tried to covert others. Most of those doing the talking were men.

Ann Carr was very much an exception. In Leeds, as well as preach, she did a great deal to help the poor, to educate their children, and take them in. She lived and died among them. Her deeds matched her words.

She didn’t do it for fame or glory. She did it as a part of her religion, her belief. Charity truly did begin at home. Yet who in Leeds has heard of Ann Carr? She deserves better than that.

The Shaping of Faith

Ann Carr was born in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, the youngest of 12 children. Her father, Thomas, was a builder. Her mother, Rebecca, died when Ann was five, and she was raised by an aunt who became the family’s housekeeper.

When she was 18, the men she intended died suddenly, and Ann experienced what we’d call a breakdown for the three months. Finally, she attended a pray meeting, where ‘an aged Christian female came to her and said, “Ann, my dear, believe.”’

She did, and her life was changed. She became a Wesleyan Methodist, moving to the spontaneity of Primitive Methodism as she began travelling to preach to miners in Nottinghamshire. From there, she and two other female preachers, Sarah Eland and Martha Williams, were sent to Hull, where they opened the first Primitive Methodist chapel, and then on to Leeds in 1821, supposedly to support the work of preacher William Clowes. Ann had found the place that would be her home for the rest of her life.

In Leeds

The women made their home at Spitalfields, on the Bank (Richmond Hill as it is today), one of the poorest areas in Leeds. By 1822, however, chafing at the discipline imposed on them by the leadership of the church, Ann broke away and founded the Female Revivalist Society – the first religious revival society led by women.

Their home wasn’t big enough for their meetings, so Ann rented a much larger room in George’s Court, off George Street – ironically, where the upscale Victoria Gate shopping centre now stands. She (along with Martha Williams) lived there, they and began their social work among local people. It was a time when industrialisation was taking hold and people who’d been displaced by the Enclosure Acts in the countryside were pouring into town to seek work in the new manufactories. Leeds has no shortage of the desperate and destitute, and the Female Revivalist Society helped them.

By 1825, they’d moved to the Leylands, to Regent Street, where Ann had purchased land. On March 7 the first stone of Chapel House was laid. Ann would have that as her home and base for the remainder of her life. She, and her movement, were popular among the working-classes. She didn’t condescend to them. She was a part of them. In 1826, she expanded south of the river, with a chapel in Brewery Field. Holbeck, and a year later she opened a schoolroom on Jack Lane in Hunslet, as well as societies in Morley and Stanningley.

All of this took money. Neither Carr nor Williams came from wealthy family. They had to raise funds to keep going.

“Little did she imagine the fearful responsibility she was incurring and the trying difficulties in which she was involving herself,” Williams wrote in her Memoir of Ann Carr. “The tendency of these engagements was to secularize her mind, to paralyse her exertions, and to impair her usefulness. Much precious time…was…spent in going house to house , to solicit donations and subscriptions on behalf of these buildings, for the whole of which she alone was responsible.”

A total of £3339 was spent on buildings in Leeds, and preparing the deeds. Not long before Ann died, she still owed £2105 – almost £250,000 in today’s terms.

As well as trying to look after the poor, once she’d settled in Leeds, Ann brought her elderly father from Market Rasen to lived with her. Try as she might, though, she couldn’t covert him. Yet, in a scene that could almost be maudlin, he finally relented on his death bed.

Even with pressing money worries, Ann still managed plenty of preaching. She travelled outside Leeds quite often, and trained her horse to stop whenever it saw a group of men working, so she could preach and try to convert them.

Ann herself was described as “robust-looking, bold, courageous, and energetic, her preaching being characterized by zeal, correctness, and sincerity rather than by eloquence and culture.”

During the 1830s, with the rise of the Temperance Movement, saw Ann going further – back to work in Hull and as far as London. But she always returned to Leeds, helping the poor, educating children, and housing kids, prostitutes, those who didn’t have a home, at Chapel House.

When cholera raged in Leeds in 1832, according to the Memoir, “she refused no application, however desperate the case or unseasonable the hour. Often, in the stillness of midnight, the knock at her door has disturbed her sleep; when she has instantly arose, as quickly as possible dressed herself, flew to the house of contagion or death, pleased for the sufferer in all the agony of prayer, and urged him to apply to the skill and tenderness of the great Physician.”

In 1838, she and Martha Williams published a book of hymns. Whether it helped them raise much money to cover their debts isn’t known.

By 1839, Ann’s own strength was beginning to flag. A change of air was advised, and she left to spend time by the sea in Cleethorpes, then on to Market Rasen. The following year, her finances must have been precarious, as other denominations held a bazaar at Belgrave Chapel to raise funds for the Leylands Chapel.

That autumn, with a change of air again advised, she spent four weeks in Nottingham, but it didn’t help. At this stage, nothing could. There was no treatment for the cancer in Ann Carr’s body. She died at Chapel House on January 18, 1841 and was buried at Woodhouse cemetery on January 21. According to Martha Williams, “thousands assembled” to watch the funeral procession pass.

Photo by Morticia

The Leeds Mercury gave her a reverent obituary, and the Leeds times wrote that “she was a person of the most benevolent habits and philanthropic disposition.”

Martha Williams was named as her executrix, and working with trustees attempted to pay the amounts owing on the properties. However, Ann had left instructions to sell some of the buildings if necessary, “so that the Leylands Chapel should be carried on, and perpetuated for the purpose for which it was erected.”

Sadly, without Ann, the money didn’t come in, and the followers drifted away. Within a few years all she’d built was history. The chapel became the Temperance Union and then St Bridget’s Roman Catholic church. It’s no longer standing.

However, apart from heading possibly the first female-run religious movement, Ann Carr also helped some of the poorest in Leeds with their everyday lives – and deaths. She did the very practical things of helping to feed them, house them, educate them. It was a duty to her, but more than that, part of her vocation as a preacher. She made a difference here.

You can read and download the Martha Williams Memoir free (and legally) here.

My thanks to Morticia for her enthusiasm for Ann Carr.

Jst a final note. My new book, Brass Lives, is out in harback in the UK. It’s available everywhere on ebook from August 1, and hardback in the US from early September. I’d love it if you bought a copy.

To Touch Old Leeds

They say there are places where the fabric of time stretches so thin that you can reach though, maybe even walk through, into another age. There are times I feel that in Leeds, when I feel I can push the veil aside and touch other times.

Maybe it because something happened there, that something lives on, some faint echo; I don’t have the answer to that. Yet it seems very real.

Stand by the patch of green by St Mary’s Street off Mabgate. Its look like nothing now, trapped in a construction site. To the south there’s New York Road, all the bustle of roar of the modern world. But if you stand there, you can hear the mourning. It’s where Leeds buried many the victims of the 1832 cholera outbreak, in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church. Over 700 people died in the town, so many of them poor, drinking tainted water, living crowded together (340 people in 27 rooms in Boot and Shoe Yard alone).

The dead were buried quickly. There was little choice about that. few headstones or markers remain. No graves for families to visit. But there, on the edge of Quarry Hill, has always been a place for isolation.

When Leeds has its outbreak of plague in 1645, this was where they built the cabins to house the victims, to try and keep them away from the healthy. Quite possibly some are buried her.  Well over a thousand perished.

Stand, and if there’s a break in the nearby traffic, listen. The voices are muffled, and distant. Maybe more of a feeling than anything distinct. But touch the air in that place and you cut through the centuries.

Not far away, around the Parish Church, the Minster as it’s styled now, there’s the deep sense of history. More than anywhere, inside the building, the Leeds Cross, cobbled together from five ancient crosses that stood outside a much earlier version of the building, in a time before the Norman Conquest, when Leeds has one ragged street – Kirkgate – fewer than 200 people lived here and Leeds was still Leodis.

Reach out, touch the stone. Feel the cuts, how time and weather has worn them away. Back then, the village stood on the boundary of kingdoms. Tiny, but important. These crosses were memorials, perhaps. Certainly a mix of Christian and pagan symbols, from a time when people still hedged their bets about gods. One that’s survived comes from the story of Wayland the Smith, one of the oldest and most powerful English tales (and pre-Christian). Put out your hand, rub it, and you can feel the man who stood there with his hammer and chisel, who worked the stone. You’re there with him, catapulted through the centuries. It’s a feeling to leave you silent.

One more, and not far to walk for this. Just along the Calls. It’s a street of apartments, offices and clubs fashioned from warehouses now. But once it would have been a track leading from the ford over the river towards the church. Not a street, nothing at all, really, worn down by feet and maybe the wheels of carts. It would have existed before Briggate.

Later, the river and canal became the highway for good, bareges loading and unloading, warehouses being built on the river’s edge. There were also sets of stairs down to the water, and the tale of a woman called Jenny White who walked into the Aire to drown herself when she discovered her man (lover? Husband?) was unfaithful.

In 1835, Heaton, in his description of the area, notes “a long flight of steps, dark and ugly, between the houses (the last being into the water, long known by the name of Jenny White’s hole.” From that, it might well have happened before Leeds became a town filled the factories.

Where on the Calls? There plenty of places, and all the river stairs have long since gone. Walk down behind all those buildings, towards Calls Wharf. You’re by the water, and you call almost hear the cries of men who worked there. Look at the river from the right angle and you can see Jenny’s ghost under the surface. It’s there. Still there. Always there.

Jenny White’s story survives as a folk tale. But truth becomes tale over time. She’s remembered. She’s a part of Leeds, like the bodies at St Mary’s, or the man who carved Wayland the Smith in the Cross. Look and you can see them.

The Tale Of Rosebud Walk

Let me tell you a story…

…but it’s not about a person. It’s about a place.

A street called Rosebud Walk.

In Leeds. Of course.

A lovely, romantic name that conjures up country air and the scent of flowers. Quite bucolic.

Except for the fact that it stands on the edge of Sheepscar, running between Roseville Road and Dolly Lane Not long ago it was a short street of terraced houses, their brickwork covered with soot and smut. It’s little more than a good stone’s throw from the Victoria, the public house on Roundhay Road that Annabelle Harper runs in my Tom Harper novels; Rosebud Walk even gets a mention in one of them.

This is how the area looked in 1903. You can’t quite see the street, it’s off to the right.

This is the way it looks now. Not exactly pretty or rose-filled, is it? You at that low wall with the street sign? That’s the wall at the right-hand edge of the 1903 picture.

Yet it wasn’t always this way. Rosebud Walk has a history that reaches to the early part of the 19th century, and back then it earned its name.

We think of Sheepscar as part of the inner city, transformed from working-class housing into light industrial estate. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was countryside; hardly more than a few houses and farms. It had a bridge over the beck, carrying a turnpike road heading north towards Harrogate. A rapeseed oil mill and a ground redwood mill, along with the dye works, were the only businesses. The area, according to historian Ralph Thoresby, was “mostly inhabited by clothiers” – men who. wove wool into cloth and took it into Leeds to sell at the cloth market.

In 1810 another major road was constructed, branching off the turnpike just north of the bridge towards Wetherby – what we know today as Roundhay Road and the A58.

Nine years later, a cavalry barracks, locally known as Chapeltown Barracks, was erected over 11 acres to the east of the Harrogate turnpike and north of the Roundhay turnpike.

Curiously, this didn’t bring an immediate flux of businesses to Sheepscar. The trade directory for 1823 lists a pair of grocers, a seed crusher, a whitesmith, a painter, Holroyd’s dye works, and one cloth dresser. By 1828, a joiner was listed in Skinner Lane. They were the sole tradesmen listed in the area.

By 1834, there was a little more, but this was still very much well outside Leeds. A map from 1834 shows that the few buildings were clustered around the junction where the Roundhay turnpike, Sheepscar Lane, and Manor Street came together. But there was a new addition.

A little further up the turnpike you’ll notice a tea and pleasure garden across from the barracks, probably for the officers and their families. Owned by Mr B Beverley, it extended to Gipton Beck and beyond, stretching the track that would soon be called Dolly Lane.

This map from 1837 shows the extent of Beverly’s holdings. By this time they only seem to extend from Gipton Beck at the west to Dolly Lane in the east.

By 1839, the tea garden is listed on Roundhay Road, and run by Edward West.

Let’s move on to 1847. The tea garden has a name now – Rosebud Garden – and a house called Rosebud stands by to Gipton Beck. At this point the water would still be pure there, before it reached the piggery at the end of Manor Street and Holroyd’s Dye Works.

A path connects the garden to Roundhay Road and the barracks. Sadly, we have no information as to what the tea gardens were like. Very likely there was entertainment, musicians playing, possible more, but we’ll never know the details.

Rosebud Gardens still existed in 1866, and the house named Rosebud was still there. Even at that point, there was very little building in Sheepscar. It would have been green, the air reasonably clean, pretty much semi-rural.

Everything began to change soon after, in 1870. The streets began to rise up in Sheepscar. Housing for the growing numbers of the working classes, back-to-backs and through terraces. By 1890 Rosebud Gardens had gone. The top boundary was now Roseville Street, and the bottom had become Rosebud Walk, a line separating the backyards of Roseville Terrace from the land behind. That name would be the only way the place would live on.

By 1906 it was even more hemmed in, with the Keplers to the north, and then the Andersons as Harehills grew.

That was how it would stay for a few decades, until the demolition of Sheepscar. Roseville Terrace has been pulled down, although one side of Roseville Street remain.

And Rosebud Walk is there, a single lane through from Dolly Lane to Roseville Road. Not even a memory of the tea garden, or even of the houses that were once there. Only a name.

Rosebud.

It could almost be Orson Welles…

Alice Mann: A Forgotten Woman Of Leeds

As a novelist, one of the things I’ve tried to do is give a voice to the voiceless in Leeds, and to celebrate those who made a difference to people in this town. It’s why one of my proudest achievements was to be associated with The Vote Before the Vote exhibition in 2018, celebrating local women who worked toward the vote during the 19th century.

One woman who should be known and lauded round here is Alice Mann. She was a radical bookseller and printer. The newspapers and magazines she sold and some of the pieces she printed did what I admire: raised the cry of those who usually went unheard. She stood up for her principles; she even went to prison for them.

Yet most people have never heard her name.

We do we know about her?

She was born Alice Burnett on Hunslet Lane in 1791, and her father’s name was William. There’s no trail to follow for him, and Alice’s mother isn’t named.

In 1807 she married James Mann at Leeds Parish Church.

Who was James Mann? Born in Huddersfield (or possibly Leeds, on Briggate) in1784, he was employed as a cloth dresser, a man who cropped the finished woven cloth. It was a skilled trade that paid a handsome wage; the croppers had to wield large shears and do their work with concentration and exactitude -and great arm strength. The croppers were among the elite of cloth workers.

Becoming Radicals

The job of cropper was dying. Machines were coming in that could do the work faster and cheaper. This was the time of the machine breakers, the Luddites. Men who wanted to stop industrialisation. It was a forlorn hope. The gates had opened and the flood was coming. But it gave rise to broader issues that would result in Chartism later in the 19th century.

By 1812, the couple were apparently Radicals. They were reputedly involved in a riot on Briggate, where the market was held every Tuesday and Saturday.

England was in the middle of its war against Napoleon. The price of corn (wheat) kept rising and rising, with no check. Bread was a staple food and people couldn’t afford it.

The Manns possibly organised the riot, encouraging people to take the the food. Alice might had led it all, dressed up as “Lady Ludd.” Others claim it was James in a dress. A report in the Ipswich Journal claimed that on August 18:

In the afternoon [in Leeds] a number of women and boys, headed by a female who was dignified with the title of Lady Ludd, paraded the streets, beating up for a mob.

In 1819 the Manns opened a bookshop on Briggate. That was the year of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, and government fears over agitation for reform. By then, the Manns had a reputation. The Leeds Intelligencer claimed that their “house appears to be the head quarters of sedition in this town.”

James was a speaker on parliamentary reform, and also an advocate of female reform societies. In 1820 he was successfully prosecuted under the new Six Acts for sedition. While he was travelling around West Yorkshire, Alice apparently kept the shop and looked after the nine children the couple would eventually have (six are listed in the 1841 census, ranging from 23 to 11, along with another child and a lodger).

In 1832, cholera swept through the country. It killed James Mann on August 2, and he was buried at Mill Hill Chapel – apparently a convert to Nonconformism.

The Second Act

Alice still had a family to raise. She needed the bookshop more than ever, and began working with Joshua Hobson, another Radical journalist/printer/bookseller, who moved to Leeds from Huddersfield. He published Voice of the West Riding, and was prosecuted three times for selling an unstamped newspaper.

He set up in business on Market Street – about where Central Arcade is these days – and became active in politics in the town. Alice, meanwhile, had also been in court for selling unstamped papers. In 1834 she ended up being sentenced to seven days in the House of Correction in Wakefield. Two years later she was offered a deal where most of the charges would be dropped if she agreed to stop selling unstamped papers. She refused, saying selling books and papers was her only way to support her family. She was sentenced to six months in prison at York Castle. According to the Leeds Intelligencer, a public dinner was held up on her release.

She’d moved premises from Briggate to the new Central Market on Duncan Street, and lived in Trinity Street (or Court, according to the trade directory).

Central Market (Leodis)

As a jobbing printer, she took on whatever jobs came her way, and repeatedly tried to become printer to the council, a lucrative position, which she won in 1842.

By the 1851 census, she and her family were living in Woodhouse. One blogger has speculated she might have been the author of The Emigrant’s Guide (you can read the piece here), published in 1850. It’s possible, although the evidence is scant. But she had to make a living.

However, she remained true to her roots, supposedly becoming printer of the Leeds Times after its 1839 sale. She was responsible for publishing The Ten Hour Advocate and Mann’s Black Book of the British Aristocracy, among a number of others.

Although any contributions she made haven’t been unearthed, she was almost certainly involved in the Chartist movement in the 1840s, which was strong in Leeds (where the Northern Star newspaper was published).

The only other facts are that she died on June 8, 1865, and left an estate worth less than £3000. It was administered by her son Alfred, who he carried on the business.

The listing for Alice Mann’s death

However, in 1876, a woman named Alice Burnett Mann married John Temple.

Who was Alice Bruneett Mann? One explanation is that in 1891, a child named Gertrude Temple was living in York with Henry Mann and his family. Gertrude was listed as Mann’s granddaughter. Henry Mann was one of the children of James and Alice Mann.

At a time when few women ran their own businesses, Alice kept hers going very successfully after her husband died. Equally rare, she was a woman involved in Radical politics in a period when it was a dangerous business, and raised a family on her own. A remarkable woman – one who deserves to be better-known than she is.

To finish, a reminder that Brass Lives is now out in hardback in the UK, and ready for you to buy or borrow from a library (ask your library – they’ll order it). The ebook will be available worldwide from August 1, and the hardback from September 7.

Some information for this piece came from posting to the Secret Libray website and David Thornton’s essential (to me) Leeds: A Biographical Dictionary. I’m grateful.

The Bold Escape Of The Suffragette

As you’ll almost certainly be aware by now, my new book called Brass Lives is published next week.

While one of the main characters is based on the real-life Leeds-born gangster Owen Madden, one small strand features another real person – suffragette Lilian Lenton. She was in Armley Gaol on Leeds, accused of arson in Doncaster. On hunger strike, she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act. The idea was she’d eat and gain weight, then be hauled back to prison.

However.., in the book, Special Branch is watching her. Let’s say it’s not a success. What I’ve described seemed to be what really happened.

Lilian Lenton

Friday morning, half-past eleven. Harper sat in the chief constable’s office, listening to Inspector Cartwright of Special Branch. Beside him, Sergeant Gough’s face was so red with anger that he looked as if he might explode.

            ‘None of my men had seen any sign of Miss Lenton, so I knocked on the door first thing this morning and asked to see her. I wanted to know if she was well enough to be returned to Armley Gaol.’ Cartwright spoke as if he was reciting from his notebook in court.

            ‘Go on,’ Parker said. He clamped down on the cigar in his mouth to hide his amusement.

            ‘The maid told me that she wasn’t there. My men searched the house from top to bottom and the information was correct. She was not there.’

            Parker studied the rising smoke. ‘Have you discovered what happened?’

            ‘She escaped, that’s what happened.’ Gough was close to shouting.

            Harper raised an eyebrow. ‘How?’

            ‘As best as we can ascertain, sir, she was in disguise,’ Cartwright continued, avoiding their eyes as he stared at the wall. ‘She arrived on the Tuesday. Late that afternoon a delivery van appeared on Westfield Terrace. It was driven by a young man. He had a boy with him. We observed the boy eating an apple and reading a copy of Comic Cuts. The driver called out “Groceries.” A servant opened the door and said, “All right, it’s here.” The boy took a basket into the house through the back door.’ He went silent for a moment, glaring at the sergeant. ‘Shortly after that, the delivery boy reappeared with an empty basket, returned to the van and it drove away.’

            ‘The delivery boy who came out was Lilian Lenton in disguise?’ Harper asked.

            ‘Yes,’ Cartwright said through clenched teeth. ‘That’s what we’ve managed to discover. I talked to the grocer. He told me everything as soon as I threatened him with prosecution. Miss Lenton was taken a mile away to—’ he consulted his notebook ‘—Moortown, where her friends had a taxi waiting to drive her to Harrogate. We’re pursuing our enquiries from there. At this point we have every reason to believe she’s fled the country.’

            ‘That’s very unfortunate,’ Parker said. ‘And it makes the Special Branch look pretty poor.’

            ‘Yes, sir, it does.’ Cartwright was staring daggers, but he had to sit and take it. His men had messed up. They’d allowed the woman to escape as they sat and watched. ‘You can help us, if you’d be so good.’ He looked as though they were the hardest words he’d ever had to speak.

            ‘What do you need?’ Harper asked.

            ‘If you could ask the force in Harrogate to talk to people they know and discover where she’s gone, that would be a great help. The sooner we can find out the better, of course.’

            ‘We will.’

            ‘Thank you, sir.’ The men stood.

            Before they could leave, the chief said: ‘A word to the wise, Inspector. I’d advise you not to prosecute the grocer. If this comes out in court, you’ll look an utter fool.’

Brass Lives is published June 24.

Three Weeks To Go

Yes, as June arrives and summer really seems to be here – 23C yesterday and the allotment is grateful! – the times is paxssing quickly. In just over three weeks, Brass Lives will be published in the UK (ebook everywhere on August 1, and US hardback publication in September, I believe).

It’s the first time I’ve used a real, well-known person as the foundation for a major character, and given his life the kind of turn it never had.

Who? A Leeds-born man who moved young to New York and become notorious as a gangster and bootlegger – and as a killer. Owen Madden. Here’s a short film I made about him in my other role as writer-in-residence at Abeey House Museum. He really is a fascinating person.

My version of him, Davey Mullen, is a little different.

Why not read it and find out? This place has the cheapest price, and free shipping (and they’re not Amazon).

An Excerpt From Brass Lives

It’s just four weeks until Brass Lives, the ninth Tom Harper novel, is published. Set in 1913, it features Davey Mullen, who was born in Leeds but moved to New York as a child. Now 21, he’s a gangster, a killer, recuperating from an ambush in Manhattan, where he was shot 11 times and left for dead.

Mullen – based on a real figure, Owen Madden – is supposedly back to visit his father, who remained in Leeds. The New York police have warned Leeds, and Tom, now Deputy Chief Constable, has uniforms tailing Mullen. But he’s still surprised when the man shows up at the Victoria one night…

He’d finished his supper and poured the last cup of tea from the pot when Dan the barman came up the stairs to the parlour.

‘I’m sorry to bother you, Tom, but there’s a man downstairs asking for you.’

            That was unusual; people rarely sought him out at home. ‘Not one of my lot, is it?’ he asked. Maybe they’d found Fess. No, couldn’t be, Harper thought; they’d have telephoned.

            ‘This one’s definitely not a copper.’ Dan frowned. ‘You ask me, he’s got the smell of crime about him. Young and big. Talks strange, too. Like he’s from Leeds but with something else on top that I don’t recognize.’

            Harper gave a grim smile. Mullen had decided to come to the Victoria.

            ‘Thanks, Dan. I’ll be down in a minute.’

            Annabelle was watching him. ‘You know who it is, don’t you?’

            ‘I can take a good guess. It’s that man I told you about, the one from New York. Mullen.’

            ‘The one who’s killed people.’

            ‘Yes.’

            ‘Here. In my pub.’ She glared and started to rise.

            ‘Give me a minute before you come down,’ he asked. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he doesn’t cause any trouble.’

            ‘He’d better not.’

            Mullen was sitting at a table with his back to the wall, a pint of beer in front of him. He had the handsome, dark Irish looks that he’d shown in his police photograph, wearing an expensive grey suit that fitted him flatteringly, with a soft collared shirt and a brilliant red silk tie fastened with a gold pin. Flaunting his money in his clothes.

            He sat with his legs crossed, shining black shoes catching the light, looking at faces and assessing their eyes for danger as Harper settled across from him.

            ‘You’re safe enough in here. From the customers, at least.’

            A dip of the head in acknowledgement.

            ‘This must be different from the places you’re used to at home,’ Harper said.

            Mullen grinned and showed his good, even teeth. ‘A bar’s a bar, doesn’t matter where you put it. Sláinte.’ He took a long drink of bitter. ‘I’ll tell you this, though: the Americans have a long way to go before they can brew beer like the English.’ He stared at the glass. ‘And Leeds is home, after a fashion.’

            ‘Some parts of it might be. But not this place. What brings you out here?’ Harper’s voice was sharper, his face hard.

            ‘A man told me that you lived above a public house. I was curious to take a look and see what kind of deputy chief constable would do that. Anyway, it’s only a short stroll from Somerset Street.  Perfect for a summer’s evening.’

            Harper saw the man’s gaze shift and his smile broaden.

            ‘This is the woman who owns the public house,’ he said.

            ‘Mrs Harper.’ Mullen stood. For the briefest moment, he looked awkward and self-conscious, as if he wasn’t quite sure how to act around a woman. ‘A pleasure to meet you. You have a very welcoming pub here.’

            She sat, never taking her eyes off him. ‘Are you enjoying your visit to England, Mr Mullen?’

            ‘I am, ma’am. I’m enjoying being back and seeing my father again.’ Dan was right, Harper thought; there was still a definite trace of Leeds in his voice, somewhere deep in the bedrock. But much of it had been overlaid by the nasal New York cockiness. ‘I got to say, it’s changed a lot in ten years.’

            ‘How is your father?’ Harper asked, as if he hadn’t seen a report on Francis Mullen just the day before. The man spent the better part of his time drunk. He’d been kicked out of two beershops for trying to start fights.

            ‘Happy to see me,’ Mullen replied after a moment.

            ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s another American in Leeds at the moment. Someone called Louis Fess. He’s from New York, too. Maybe you know him.’

            He’d dropped the name drop to see Mullen’s reaction. It was a pleasure to watch the way his face shifted: anger first, then worry, and finally a snapped-on grin of bravado. All in the course of a second or two. Interesting; he hadn’t known that Fess was here.

            Mullen ran a hand down his jacket, smoothing the material. ‘No,’ he said, ‘it don’t mean anything.’

            Maybe that worked on the American police, but it wouldn’t fool any copper in Leeds. He knew exactly who Fess was, and he wasn’t pleased to hear the name. No surprise, since he was from a rival gang.

            ‘A suggestion,’ Harper said as the man drained the rest of his pint in a single swallow. ‘Actually, it’s more like an order. You’re going to take out that gun very carefully and leave it with me.’

            ‘Why?’ The man’s body stiffened, as if he was preparing for a fight.

            ‘First of all, you spent a lot of money on that suit and it’s ruining the cut. It’s also illegal under the 1903 Pistols Act. Do you have a licence for the weapon?’

            ‘I didn’t know I needed one.’

            It was a lie, it showed in his eyes. He wanted to be challenged.

            ‘If the barrel is shorter than nine inches, the law says that you do. Since you’re a visitor here, we’ll let that pass as long as you leave the weapon here.’

            For a moment, Mullen didn’t move and Harper could feel the tension grow around him. Then he reached into his pocket, brought out the gun with the barrel between his fingers and placed it on the table.

            ‘Satisfied?’

            ‘For now. Thank you.’

            The outside door opened and Mary entered, waving before she disappeared upstairs.

            ‘Is that your daughter? Mary, right?

            Annabelle turned her head to stare into his eyes. ‘I tell you what, luv, now it’s my turn to make a suggestion.’ Her voice was iron. ‘Only mine’s an order, too. You’re going to forget you ever knew her name, or that you saw her. And if you show your face in here again, I’ll bounce you out on to Roundhay Road by the seat of your fancy trousers before you can say Jack Robinson.’ She stalked away.

            Mullen glared but said nothing. Harper watched as the man stifled his anger. No one would dare talk to him like that in America; he’d tear them apart for the sport of it. But New York was half a world away. He was in Leeds now. The rules were different and he was powerless.

            ‘I think your wife has taken against me.’

            ‘Very perceptive, Mr Mullen. There are plenty of other places to drink in town. You’d do better in one of those. I’m sure you can find your way back to where you’re staying. The Metropole, isn’t it?’ He stood. ‘I’ll wish you goodnight.’

            The constable following Mullen was standing outside the Victoria, watching his quarry stride furiously away. Harper stood next to him. ‘Make sure you don’t let him out of your sight.’

Brass Lives is published in hardback in the UK on June 24 (7 September in the US). You can pre-order it here (cheapest price and free postage). Prefer ebooks? Here’s the Kindle link (available worldwide August 1)

If you’re on NetGalley and authorised for Severn house releases, you can find it here.

The Real Brass Lives

In Brass Lives, set in 1913 Tom Harper – promoted now to Deputy Chief Constable – finds himself face with Davey Mullen. He’d left Leeds when he was a boy to join his mother in New York. Over there he’d become a gangster, a killer. Ambushed by another gang in Manhattan, he was shot 11 times and left for dead.

They should have finished the job. Now it’s his would-be assassins who are in the morgue, while Mullen is back where he began, in Leeds. To visit his father, he claims. But death seems to have taken passage with him, and Harper needs to discover the truth and stop all the killing that threatens to take over Leeds.

Davey Mullen is based on Owen Madden. He was born on Somerset Street to parents of Irish descent. He did follow his mother to New York when he was 10, and he did jon a gang, the Gophers. He developed a reputation for violence and murder.

He really was shot 11 times outside a dancehall, and he survived.

Did he come back to Leeds under another name? Maybe he did…

It’s just a few weeks until Brass Lives is published. You can pre-order from all the usual places…but buying it from a real bookshop would be a lovely gesture. After being closed for so long, they need the business.

Lastly, if you’re new to the series – this is the ninth book – you can make an easy start, as the ebook of the first novel, Gods of Gols, is just 82p (99c) on all platforms. Here’s the Kindle link.

Ghosts

This is what happens when you raise the ghosts. When you let the past out of its box.

A few weeks ago I was looking through some old photos and picked up one of my first wife. It had been taken on our first wedding anniversary, on the trip to the US her parents gave us as a belated birthday present. She had glasses that turned dark in the sunshine, so it was impossible to see her eyes in the bright Ohio May light. But the dark hair framed her face and she was beaming at the camera. Young, happy, carefree.

            That was a long time ago. Eight years and we divorced. I moved to the West Coast, then back to England. She stayed where she was. I don’t even remember how it happened, but we became friends online. Exchanging messages. And then, last year, from out of the blue I received a message from the daughter of her second marriage. The first time she’d contacted me. My ex was in hospital, she wrote, and not expected to last the night.

            It was a brain bleed. She was gone. It rocked me. We were the same age – hers a June birthday, mine July. Not old, not by today’s standards.

            Then I glanced at the photo and woke the ghost.

It appeared first when I opened my e-mail a couple of mornings later. No subject header, an address I didn’t know. Probably spam, I thought. But I was curious and opened it anyway.

Do you remember when we went to that village where the Brontës lived? It was winter, it must have been. The main street was very steep. I have a memory that we went up on to that moorland and it began to snow. In my mind, that snow was so heavy we almost couldn’t see? Did that happen or did I imagine it? I’m trying to recall, but it’s lost.

            It had happened just as she said. A white-out for a couple of minutes that made us terrified we’d end up lost. It passed, we came down, and laughed about it later.

            But who else apart from her knew that detail? It scared me. If this was some kind of joke, it was twisted. It couldn’t be her. That was impossible. She’d been dead for nine months.

            I read the words over and over. At first I refused to believe it all. Then the horror arrived. I wanted to trace the email, but I didn’t know how. I’m no techie.

            After a day of opening the email endless times until I could have recited each word with my eyes closed, I decided to reply. It was stupid, but there had been a real sense of longing. Of someone lost.

            Yes, it all happened. All that snow coming down. I was up there in the summer a couple of years ago. Sun, blue skies, grass and flowers. It looked absolutely different.

WHO ARE YOU?

            The reply was there the next morning: I don’t understand. What do you mean? It’s me. I’m trying to remember. The farther back I go, the hazier it becomes. It’s like trying to see through gauze. I was hoping you could help me. It’s hard sometimes. I can’t keep my mind clear. That house we bought here. Was it that bad? When I think about it, it seems like a wreck. Did we really have three dogs?

            Here? Did she really think she was still in Ohio? That…no…it couldn’t be. But everything was so earnest. This wasn’t someone having a joke or taunting me. It was real.

            Yes, we had three dogs – Rag, Muffin and Lindy. Yes, the house was pretty bad. But cheap. You do know you’re read, don’t you?

            A reply within an hour. Dead? I can’t be dead. I’m right here. I know I’m right here. I have to be…

            I’m sorry, I told her, but you’re dead. Your daughter messaged me to tell me. It happened suddenly. You remember your husband and daughter, don’t you?

            A whole day passed before her reply.

            I see them all the time. I’m there with them. It’s the past that seems dim, that’s all Everything recent is clear. I can’t be dead, they’re with me. When did I die?

            It was last August, I wrote. By now I was convinced it was real, that it was her. If not, I’d somehow gone mad. But the rest of my life carried on normally. Everything expect the emails. I hadn’t told anyone about them. Who’d have believed me, anyway?

            Did I want to believe it? I did. We lose the past soon enough as it is. This was one way of holding on. But I couldn’t understand why she was visiting me.

            What about your husband and your daughter? Anything we shared was a long time ago.

            Yes, she replied. I just want to know about the past. It’s like trying to see through a fog.

            It carried on for a week, several emails every day. From the header, she looked to be on East Coast time.

            It all scared me. I didn’t understand it, although a part of me enjoyed the whole idea. It wasn’t quite romantic, but full of mystery.

            It kept me awake at night. Soon it was filling my thoughts. That wasn’t good. And it wasn’t helping here. She was asking questions again that I’d already answered.

            Finally I saw down at the computer: I know you feel you need this. Perhaps part of you does. But there are people close to you who love you deeply. They’re grieving for you. Maybe it’s time to leave this and be with them. They need to know you’re there.

            Then answer was waiting the next morning. You’re right. Thank you. For everything. For those old memories.

            No need to reply. I went to make some tea. By the time I returned, the whole thread of mails had gone from the computer, as if they’d never really existed.

            That night I dreamed. The usual mix of images. I was in my current car, but I was in Ohio, parking on a track I’d never driven along, that didn’t exist. But I knew it was close to her parents’ house. I went inside. No need to knock. She was there, and the place was filled with the smell of cooking.

            She was there, looking just the way she had in the first photo she ever sent me. Smiling. She came over and placed her hand on my shoulders. A touch so light I had to look to be sure it was there. Her breath smelt of wildflowers.

            A peck on the cheek.

            ‘Thank you,’ she said. The voice I remembered.

            Then I was walk back to the car.

            No more dreams of her since. No more emails.

            Just everyday, ordinary life.

            And the ghost in my head.

It’s Competition Time!

It’s April, and spring is supposedly here. Not that you can prove it by the weather in Leeds. Below freezing at night, slicing winds during the day making a mockery of the sunshine. Anyway, as we hope for something warmer soon and the chance to return to libraries next week (my books are available to borrow, you know), how about a competition?

Three novels, one from each of my main characters. There’s The Broken Token, my very first novel, the book that introduced Richard Nottingham. The Hanging Psalm, the opener to the Simon Westow series – the third, To The Dark, came out not too long ago and could use a plug), and finally, The Leaden Heart, the seventh in the Tom Harper series. His newest, Brass Lives, comes out in June, and I certainly won’t mind if you pre-order it now. This place will give you the cheapest price.

Those are your prizes. To win, simply reply with the name of Simon Westow’s young assistant. It’s not hard to find. You have until April 18, when I’ll pick a winner. Sadly, postage rates mean it has to be UK only.

Good luck!