IT didn’t exactly take Sherlock Holmes to solve one of Worcester’s most brutal crimes of the 20th century because the killer of a city publican, his wife and their baby son convicted himself as soon as he opened his mouth.

Remarkably he was a local policeman and even more remarkably he never showed any remorse and went to the gallows singing.

It was early on the morning of November 27, 1925 when Herbert Burrows, a 22-year-old police constable in the Worcester city force, rushed up to a colleague on point duty at the cross and related a horror story.

He told in some detail how a city innkeeper, his wife and child had been murdered in the early hours.

But the big trouble for Burrows was that the horrific crime at the Garibaldi pub in Wylds Lane hadn’t been reported or even discovered at the time.

Burrows had sealed his own fate and signed his own death warrant. He was the last Worcester murderer to go to the gallows.

Burrows was hanged at Gloucester Jail on February 17, 1926. It seems from reports the condemned man “met his death fearlessly” and “never at any time exhibited any remorse over his crime and was callous to the end.”

He spent his last night “singing songs and playing patience.”

The Garibaldi murders are one of the events – both highlights and low lights – featured in Worcester Civic Society’s History and Heritage Calendar for the month of November over the centuries. And they contrast completely with the heroics of a man from the city’s slums.

On November 30, 1917, 38-year-old Private Fred Dancox of the Worcestershire Regiment, born in Dolday and a hay baler by trade, singlehandedly captured an enemy machine gun blockhouse and in the process took 40 Germans prisoner during the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War.

The machine guns had been causing carnage among his colleagues, killing officers and men as they prepared to advance. But by running from shell hole to shell hole under heavy fire, he managed to get to the rear of the concrete pillbox and with grenade in hand totally surprised the occupants. Completely trapped, they all promptly surrendered.

Dancox was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions but there was a sad epitaph to his battlefield bravery. When news reached Worcester of his courageous actions, the City Fathers organised a grand Welcome Home celebration. Large crowds gathered at Shrub Hill station waiting for the train bringing soldiers home on leave from the front. But Pte Dancox did not step from the carriages.

The bunting came down and the hoards of workmen, shop girls and well-wishers who had waited all day dispersed. Pte Dancox’s wife, who hadn’t seen him for 12 months, returned home, wondering what had happened. She found out a few days later when Berrow’s Worcester Journal reported her husband had been killed three weeks after his heroic action on another sector of the front at Cambrai and before he was able to receive his VC. His body was never found.

Here are some of the calendar’s other November entries.

November 8, 1871:  Worcester Rugby Football Club played its first match kitted out in white shirts bearing the City’s Coat of Arms and blue knicker-bottoms.

The opponents were the First Worcestershire Artillery Corps and the location was Somerset Place, the site of the subsequent Flagge Meadow ground, now one of the sports fields of the Royal Grammar School Worcester. The Artillery Corps team included Captain Stallard, Bombardier Caldicott, Gunner Beauchamp and Bugler TG Stallard, while the Worcester RFC side featured HE Macdonald, HF Dale, HG Budd, R Stallard, WT Stallard and Rev J Potts. The result was a rather uninspiring 0-0 draw.

November 15, 2020:  Cecil Duckworth, Worcester’s most generous benefactor of modern times died. Born in 1937 in Macclesfield he came to Worcester as an engineering apprentice and started his own company Worcester Heat Systems in

1962. It developed large headquarters at Diglis before moving across the city to Blackpole, enjoying great success with its innovative combi boiler. The company was sold to Bosch in 1996. 

Duckworth invested heavily into Worcester Warriors rugby team and was the driving force behind it reaching the top level of the professional game at Sixways.  His other projects included setting up the Duckworth Trust, backing Worcestershire County Cricket Club, helping found Acorns Children’s Hospice and buying the Chapter Meadows. He was made a Freeman of the City of Worcester in 2008. Local historian David Hallmark said: “Cecil was a gracious generous benefactor, always grateful to his family and friends and colleagues and employees for their support on his exceptionally successful journey.”

November 16, 1974: Worcester Citizens Swimming Pool at Lower Wick opened. In the 1960s, with Worcester City Council too strapped to afford a new public swimming pool, Worcester Citizens Swimming Bath Association was formed as a private enterprise. Out of the blue in 1971, the Government suddenly gave the City Council the go-ahead to build a big new municipal pool in Sansome Walk, which left WCSBA wondering what do with the £30,000 it had raised. The answer was to go ahead and built its own pool anyway. Due to the generosity of dairy farmer John Bennett, who donated land at Lower Wick, and grants from West Midlands Sports Council , the County Council and the City Council.

Lower Wick Swimming Pool – with the novelty the water was heated by methane gas piped from the city sewage works 800 yards away –  opened its doors in the autumn of 1974 and remained self-funding for nearly 40 years. In more recent times, it has increasingly relied on City Council help.

November 22, 1992: Sabrina footbridge opened. Back in the 1980s, when the Sabrina Bridge project across the Severn from Hylton Road to Pitchcroft was dipping its toe in the water, battle lines were drawn in no uncertain fashion.

There were For and Against petitions to be signed in High Street and heated debate at the Guildhall. Walkers, cyclists, dog owners and short cutters were all for it, while those opposed maintained the existing road bridge at New Road was only a quarter of a mile away and the  £580,000 cost would be better spent on something else.

Fortunately the footbridge won the day, because it would be hard to think of life without it now. Especially bearing in mind the increase in student numbers, which weren’t around 30 years ago.

November 24, 1877: Worcester’s original Theatre Royal was devastated by fire. It was suffer the same fate again in 1912. Both blazes came as bitter blows to citizens who looked on the theatre in Angel Street as their primary place of professional live entertainment and drama. Luckily the theatre re-emerged as a revitalised phoenix from the ashes of both fires.

In 1877  Berrow's Worcester Journal reported: "Shortly before half-past 7 o'clock on November 23, the fire had raged so furiously in its destructive work that it had caused the roof to fall in with a tremendous crash, which was followed by immense clouds of sparks rising into the air, and with awful grandeur illuminating the heavens."

Despite the building being virtually gutted, a re-building plan was soon put in hand and the theatre reopened less than a year later in October 1878.