Wednesday, October 10, 2007
IS THE infamous Busby Stoop chair and its shadowy links with the notorious murder of Daniel Awtey in 1702, a deathly curse from the past or just a clever ruse?
Just West of the pretty market town of Thirsk in North Yorkshire and famous for the James Herriot vet stories, is the Busby Stoop Inn with a dark history and a curse reaching from the summer of 1702 to the present day.
In the late 17th century, a coin clipper and forger Daniel Awety moved from Leeds to the rural hamlet of Kirby Wiske some 3 miles from the Busby Stoop Inn, to continue his illegal business of counterfeiting the King's sovereigns.
Daniel Awety, bought a farm on the edge of Kirby Wiske and renamed it “Danotty Hall”, a derivative of Dan-Awety, which stands to this day. The hall sits at the top of a gentle rise, providing an excellent look-out for unwanted visitors.
Awety extended the hall - he built a hidden room linked by a secret passage from the underground cellar. He put a large oak door on the west of the hall which faced the access track and behind the door he installed a square iron bar.
The heavy iron bar, over 4 feet long, lay dormant inside a secret hole on the left hand side wall just behind the oak door. When visitors were seen coming up the track the iron bar could pulled across the back of the door to a hole into the right hand side wall of the door.
Thomas Busby a local man became partners with his father in law Awety in the illicit coining business at the hall. It was reported, Busby a bully and drunkard, returned home to discover Daniel Awety sat in his favourite chair and after an argument threw Awety out. It is said, Awety threatened to take his daughter Elizabeth away from Busby and return her to Danotty Hall.
Later that night Thomas Busby went up to Danotty Hall and bludgeoned Daniel Awety to death with a hammer. After murdering Awety, Busby hid the body in nearby woodland. When Awety failed to appear, a search was mounted which led to the discovery of Daniel Awety's body and the arrest of Thomas Busby.
Busby was tried at York Assizes in 1702 and condemned to hang and his body dipped in pitch and left in a gibbet opposite the coaching inn at the cross roads on the old great north road leading into Thirsk.
As Thomas Busby was being lead to his execution he is supposed to have cursed anyone who dared sit in his chair. Thereafter the inn became known as the Busby Stoop Inn and the curse of the chair was born, or was it?
It's now suggested, the Busby Stoop chair famously hanging in the Thirsk museum and the focus of so much fear, might not have been made until after 1840, some 138 years after Thomas Busby's execution.
Dr Adam Bowett, a renowned and respected furniture historian, with a Research Fellowship at the Victoria and Albert Museum said, “The Busby Stoop chair is a type now known as a 'Caistor' chair, because of its association with the chair maker John Shadford. Shadford worked in the north Lincolnshire town of Caistor between c.1843 and 1881. It is unlikely to be older than c.1840 and could have been made as late as 1900”.
For generations, the Busby Stoop chair has filled men's hearts with fear and dared the foolhardy. The locals, always happy to goad others to sit in Thomas Busby's old chair, but never venturing to temp the curse themselves.
Karen Rowley, landlady of the Busby Stoop Inn said, “I've been here for the last 7 years and the locals are still afraid of the chair and its curse. I saw a figure on the landing upstairs, it was a very tall human like figure with no arms and no clear face. It moved sideways and then disappeared through a wall. I was absolutely terrified.”
In 1894, a local chimney sweep and another man had been drinking in the Busby Stoop Inn. After leaving the pub late, the chimney sweep laid down on the roadside to sleep, the following morning he was found hanging by his neck on a gatepost next to the old Busby gibbet. The inquest into the chimney sweeps death decided he had killed himself.
Across the road from the inn is the old Skipton on Swale airfield. It was home to 4 squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII, whose crews used to regularly drink at the Busby Stoop Inn. It is said, airmen who sat in the Busby chair, never returned home after bombing sorties over Germany.
Tony Earnshaw, was not a superstitious man when he took over the Busby Stoop Inn in 1968. Mr Earnshaw initially dismissed the Busby curse as nonsense but later reported several fatal incidents which began to worry him.
Before becoming landlord, Mr Earnshaw was in the pub having a pint when he over heard two airmen daring each other to sit in the chair. Both airman sat in Busby's chair and later that day, their car hit a tree and both men died on their way to the hospital.
Mr Earnshaw also reported the story of a group of builders who came in to his pub one lunchtime and dared a young labourer to sit in the chair. The brave your lad obliged and after returning to their building site the young lad fell through a roof onto concrete and to his death. After the death of the builders labourer, landlord Tony Earnshaw locked the chair away in his cellar.
In 1978, a man from the brewery sat in the Busby chair in the cellar. He told Mr Earnshaw how comfortable the chair was and suggested such a fine piece of furniture should be in the bar and not locked away in a damp cellar. Hours later the delivery drivers vehicle, inexplicably left the road and the driver was killed instantly.
This was the last straw for Tony Earnshaw, so he asked the Thirsk museum to take the chair away, on condition, the museum never let anyone ever sit in. The museum put the chair on the wall out of harms way and no one has been allowed to temp the curse for nearly 30 years.
Cooper Harding, manager of the tiny Thirsk museum said, “ We have a duty to respect our benefactors wishes. Over the years I have been requested many times to allow visitors to sit in Busby's chair.
Mr Harding added, “In 2004 a Japanese film crew got so upset when I refused them permission to sit in the chair, they complained to the head of legal services at county hall in Northallerton and later inquired what penalty would they incur if they disobeyed our rules. They were told, the penalty is,“death”. We could have made a lot of money for the museum if we had let visitors sit in the chair, but a promise is a promise.”
Is it curse or a clever ruse? The death of the chimney sweep in 1894 was a mystery at the time but in 1914 the chimney sweeps drinking partner died penniless in the local workhouse. As he lay on his death bed, he confessed to having tied the chimney sweep to a fence near the pub and robbing him of the of his purse, which contained only twopence.
The records from the 4 squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force based at the Skipton on Swale airfield during WWII show a below average aircraft loss of 1.65%, from over 11000 sorties.
The Busby Stoop Inn is a modern business at the roundabout separating the A61 and A167 between the villages of Sandhutton and Carlton Miniott. The pub still proudly displays a sign showing the Busby Stoop chair next to a mock set of gallows.
The History of York published in 1858, records the murder of Daniel Awety in 1702 , the Kirby Wiske parish records confirm Awety's burial on the 7th June 1702 . Early parish records reveal for the first time, the likelihood Christopher Shaws, was Thomas Busby's accomplice. Shaws was hung for the murder of a D. Notty and buried on the 4th August 1702 in Thirsk cemetery.
There is however, no formal record of a Busby Stoop chair or its famous curse until the mid 20th century and such reports are limited to press speculation.
The curse and the history of the murder of Daniel Awety has been good business for the Busby Stoop Inn and Thirsk museum for many years. As landlady Karen Rowley says, “We have people from all over the world visit our pub and they all ask about the chair and the curse”
Whatever the origin of the Busby Stoop chair and its curse, the locals believe the old coaching inn is stalked by the sleepless spirit of Thomas Busby.
Gibbeting - exposing the corpse in an iron cage, was feared by highwaymen more than the execution, it was believed the spirit could find no rest in the afterlife.
This full story and supporting pictures was published in The Dalesman Magazine