_ a Doomed Romance

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    A Doomed Romance

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    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.

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    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

    freezing Thames.

    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).