7/30/2019 _ a Doomed Romance
The old Mounting Stone in Church Road, Wavertree
In the Wavertree area of Liverpool, on Church Road, there is a church called the Holy
Trinity, which dates from 1794. Facing this church on the other side of the road, there
are four ancient stone steps known locally as the mounting stone. Since the late
1790s, churchgoers used to stand on these steps to mount their horses. Around 1800,a love affair began on those stone steps. Catherine Mayfield, the 22-year-old daughter
of a local merchant named Alfred Mayfield, left Holy Trinity, and returned to her
horse, which was tethered by a row of posts on Church Road. Her fiance Joshua
Quiller, a hard-headed businessman who owned paper factories in Liverpool and
London, was neglecting Catherine as usual and talking shop with several other
businessmen who had just left the church service. Catherine stood on the mounting
stone, but the horse trotted off and she clung to it. A youth of about eighteen suddenly
appeared and seized the horse's reins and steadied her. He brought her back to the
mounting steps, and Catherine was able to get into the saddle with some dignity. Shethanked the boy, who had a mop of black curly hair. He smiled at Catherine and then
walked away, but it was one of those examples of 'love at first sight' that you hear
about. Something connected between them. Catherine made secret enquiries about
the youth, and discovered he was an orphan named Joel. He'd been raised by a Jewish
family who had given him the name, but he ended up running away from home and
had been living rough on the streets of Liverpool. He'd been in trouble for hunting
wood pigeons and other foul on the various estates of Wavertree. In short, he was a
vagabond. But, when Jill's in love with Jack, his pockmarks seem like dimples, and
so a well-to-do lady saw beyond the grimy image of the young vagrant, and she fellrapidly in love with him. She persuaded her father Alfred to hire Joel to work on the
sprawling acres of the family homestead near what is now Menlove Avenue. That
summer, Catherine Mayfield started a love affair with Joel that was absurd. The
young man had a limited vocabulary of words, and was almost slow-witted, and yet
Catherine came to notice his gentle side. He collected a rainbow arrangement of wild
flowers for her, and on the summer nights, the two of them would sit hidden away
under an old oak tree, gazing at the Milky Way and the occasional shooting star. Joel
was in tune with Nature, unlike Catherine's fiancee Joshua Quiller, who spoke about
nothing but money.
In August, Catherine discovered that she was pregnant with Joel's child, and she
visited an old friend of the family named Mrs Plaistow for advice. Mrs Plaistow
unfortunately revealed Catherine's secret to a relative, and within a few days, the
shocking news of the pregnancy of Catherine Mayfield reached the ears of her
boyfriend Joshua Quiller. He was devastated and turned to drink, but didn't let on to
anyone about his sweetheart's infidelity. He bought an expensive wedding ring, and
visited Catherine late on night and proposed.
She accepted, and intended to pass off the child she was carrying as Joshua's.
Catherine Quiller, as she now became moved to London with her husband, who had
purchased an enormous home on Hampstead Heath. Joel was invited down to Londonto work on the estate by Joshua Quiller.
7/30/2019 _ a Doomed Romance
One day, Joel went missing, and Catherine was devastated at the disappearance. She
asked her husband if he knew what had become of the young man, but Joshua simply
shook his head. Catherine suspected that her husband knew something about Joel's
absence, and had probably had something to do with it.
On the following day, Catherine and Joshua were travelling across the old London
Bridge in a carriage, when the vehicle was forced to a halt because of the hugecrowds blocking the bridge. Joshua left the carriage to see what was causing the
disturbance. The crowds were looking over the bridge at something below. Curiosity
got the better of Catherine, and she too left the carriage to see what was happening.
An old woman told her that a pirate had been chained to the walls below London
Bridge. The tide was coming in and soon the pirate would be drowned. Catherine
shuddered at the thought, but it was a common spectacle. She peeped over the bridge
- and saw Joel in shackles - chained to a wall. The waves were up to his neck.
Catherine almost passed out. Joshua chuckled and gloatingly said he had framed the
youth and had bribed the authorities to state that Joel had been found guilty of piracy.Catherine asked her husband why he had done this, and he pointed to her stomach
and said: 'That child is not mine; it is his.'
Catherine ran into the crowd, and scrambled over the wall. There was a great
commotion as she plunged into the murky freezing waters of the Thames below.
Witnesses say Catherine swam to Joel, and tried desperately to pull off the manacles.
The water rose steadily until it covered his head. Catherine took deep gulps of air and
dived under the water to blow the air into her drowning lover's mouth, but it was
useless, and they died holding hands. She died from shock and hypothermia from the
There's a gruesome footnote to this story. Joshua Quiller was buried in Highgate
Cemetery, and in 1960, his grave had to be exhumed because of subsidence. His
coffin had been split open by the strong root of a Yew tree which had coiled itself
around the corpse's neck. The end of the root came out of the mouth, and it just
looked as if Quiller's tongue had wrapped itself around his neck.
The story of Catherine and Joel's doomed romance later reached the ears of one
Emily Bronte, and she loosely based Heathcliff on the character of Joel when she
wrote Wuthering Heights. Bronte even states in the novel that Heathcliff was found
wandering in the streets of Liverpool.
Tom Slemen 2002. FromHaunted Liverpool 6(Bluecoat Press).