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Murder Near Grimsby in Lincolnshire

Murder at Riby Near Grimsby in Lincolnshire
There will be few of us who haven’t ribbed a colleague at some point or another and no shortage of people who’ve proclaimed the fanciful wish to kill somebody just as something to say.
It’s all harmless of course, nothing ever comes of it . . . well, when I say . . .

Riby is a small village close to Grimsby, every single one of you out there will no doubt know of the place because of The Battle of Riby Gap but now add to that another claim to fame . . . MURDER!
Or could it be called assassination ?!

Wind back your clocks to September 23 1870 and imagine a scene in rural Lincolnshire. The villain of the piece was a shepherd by the name of William Morris and the victim a young farm worker named Hicks.
According to the paper clipping discovered and kindly sent to me by Neville, William Morris was not altogether popular with fellow farm hands and labourers.
Hicks was already said to have been disliked by Morris as the shepherd believed young Hicks had stolen his oil cake to feed to his horses.

This situation was exacerbated by the general feeling of ill-will towards Morris, the reports suggests Hicks and his co-workers thought Morris to be a ‘tell-tale’ and they even composed a song in which they “derided his failings”.

Morris, allegedly a bad-tempered man at the best of times, became further enraged and threatened to shoot them if they did not desist - presumably they all took that to be a load of hot air . . .

Later that night William Morris lay in wait, hiding by his bedroom window and when Hicks walked by the cottage on his way home he was callously shot by the cold-blooded Morris!
I’m presuming it was a shotgun as the subsequent wound did not prove immediately fatal the paper said:
The poor fellow lingered in great agony for a few hours and then expired”

According to Mrs Morris, presumably a much tried woman with 10 children and a volatile husband, her husband did not show any remorse.
“You’ve done it, what shall you do now” she asked him
“I don’t know, it’s done” was his reply !

Morris was arrested that night, the gun still in his bedroom and reloaded!
The article tells us Morris was 45 years of age, worked for the landowner and farmer Edward Smith and was father of 10 children.
Sadly and strangely, the give the victim’s name only as Hicks and tell us he was but 18 years of age.

Surely we can do better than this, who was this poor young man, at least his full name and what became of the blackguard Morris?
Another nice little mystery for us to look . . .

All the best,


  1. pirates daughter said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    William Hicks son of Thompson and Sarah Hicks, Who was shot Riby 23rd and died the 2? September 1873 age 18years. The end was peace. Inscription on head stone in Riby church yard

  2. veronica said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    It looks like William Hicks who was born Louth Dec 1851 and was registered dead at Caistor in October 1870 aged 18 .

    The dates and geography fit with this one best.

  3. pirates daughter said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 11:01 am

    the date on the headstone should have been 23 Sept 1870

  4. Rod said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    this is fantastic, thank you very much indeed, really pleased to get this properly on record.
    Thanks and regards,

  5. Rod said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    excellent, as always, looks like it was registered at aistor rather than Grimsby then !?

  6. veronica said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

    I agree with you Rod, ( slippery slope )

    I feel it’s a bit disrespectful and insulting to teenaged William Hicks, who was shot, to be acknowledged merely by his surname for posterity.

  7. Rod said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    I’ve just returned from a frozen Riby churchyard, I now have feet to match but sadly dsespite 3 trips and searching I couldn’t locate the headstone

  8. pirates daughter said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    Try looking on click on Riby Church then to index and then name and there is a photo of headstone

  9. Rod said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    thank you, a kindly reader sent me the link, I’ll go back another time, look again and get a photograph

  10. DavidE said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

    Grimsby didn’t become a separate registration district for Births, Marriages and Deaths until April 1st 1897. From the introduction of registration in 1837 until that date Caistor was the centre of registration for this corner of Lincolnshire.

  11. Rod said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

    wonderful, many thanks.
    That’s what I love about threads like this, all sorts if interesting and useful things come out of it.
    Thanks and regards,

  12. V said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 9:46 pm


    That is a really useful -to -know piece of information . ty


  13. Margaret said,

    January 2, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

    Hi Rod, I quite enjoy reading your comments on Lincolnshire. The grave stone of William Hicks in Riby churchyard is quite interesting in its own right - it gives his name etc and says he was murdered, this is then gouged out and killed put there instead. William Marris was transported to Australia, his sentence was changed to manslaughter. The gravestone is to the right of the church door a few graves down.

  14. Rod said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 7:54 am

    Hi Margaret,
    many thanks for that, realy helpful and welcome to the site

  15. mike hopkinson said,

    August 5, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    hello i wind the clock at riby church i can show you the grave of william hicks who was shot by willam morris in the 1800s..

  16. Rod said,

    August 5, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    many thank indeed and welcome to the site - thanks for the kind offer and I’ll be sure and let you know if I plan to visit in the future
    In appreciation,

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