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A New York policeman's terrifying 'adventure' in a Manchester lodging house
Bill Lambert had spent his career battling the Big Apple's hardest criminals, but he came unstuck against two Mancunian thieves
Bill Lambert was a proud New York police officer who had spent 15 years battling the Big Apple’s hardest criminals.
America’s wildest city was the breeding ground for some of the world’s fiercest gangs — the Dead Rabbits, the Dock Rats, the Plug Uglies.
But as tough as Lambert might have been, he finally met his match when he came up against two Mancunian thieves.
After crossing the Atlantic and washing up in Manchester, Lambert made the rookie error of spending a night in the city’s Angel Meadow district.
It might have sounded pretty but the Meadow’s lodging houses swarmed with crooks — swell mobsters, cracksmen and linen lifters who used the houses as hideouts.
And it wasn’t long before Lambert realised his mistake.
As the setting sun slid down the lime-washed walls of the house in Charter Street, Lambert felt afraid for the first time in years.
In the pocket of his jacket was a cheque for £460 — his life savings. He took out his penknife and wedged it into the door latch to keep it locked.
Lambert had only been dozing for 15 minutes when he realised someone was trying to get into his room.
“What do you want?” he cried out, breaking the silence.
A voice shouted through the door: “We want you to go to sleep, you old _ _ _ _.”
Lambert pulled on his clothes and braced himself for a fight.
Then, there was a loud knock at the door.
It was a trap.
Lambert tried to pull open the door, but two thieves named James Greenwood and James Hurley were holding it shut from outside.
When he pulled harder, they let the door go. It sprang open and the two men leaped inside.
“The next moment, the prisoner Greenwood flung himself into the room, followed by Hurley,” the Manchester Courier said.
They pounced on him and, while he struggled to break free amid a flurry of blows, one of them riffled through his pockets.
Lambert managed to flee into the next room, where four other lodgers then sprang out of their beds and joined in the attack.
He raced downstairs and began banging on the front door, but the landlady refused to let him out.
She only said he could leave after he promised not to run to the police station.
There was laughter in a Manchester courtroom a few weeks later when Lambert recounted what had happened next.
“In Charter Street, he met Constable Shatwell, and with him returned to the house,” the court at Minshull Street was told.
“Everybody was asleep — Greenwood being the soundest sleeper of them all.”
Manchester’s newspapers reported Lambert’s “exciting experiences” in the Angel Meadow lodging house under the headline:
A YANKEE’S ADVENTURE IN MANCHESTER
His cheque was never found.
Manchester’s ghost buildings
I’ve started to notice these marks on walls quite a bit while walking through the city centre.
They’re known as ghost buildings.
The name has nothing to do with haunted houses.
They’re the imprints left by old Victorian shops and workshops that have been knocked down as Manchester’s redevelopment continues.
On the picture above, you can see the outline of the missing building’s roof and chimney.
You can see a black smoke mark on the wall above the chimney too.
Like an echo from the past, it’s a reminder of the coal fire that would have kept the people in that building warm on a cool autumn day just like today.
Free history chat
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By the way, you might be wondering about the terms “swell mobster”, “linen lifter” and “cracksman” in today’s story.
In Victorian Manchester, a linen lifter was a low level thief who stole clothes from washing lines.
A swell mobster was a conman who would dress up as a respectable gentleman to win his victim’s trust.
And a cracksman was an armed robber who cracked open safes.
More on them soon but, in the meantime, have a great weekend.