Don’t Let My Music Die

Miss Lilian Pretoria Marks felt life was passing her by. What future was there for a young lady working as a grocery assistant on thirty shillings a week in the market town of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in England.

It was 1920, the Great War was over, and fun times should be around the corner, not just shelves stacked with groceries and the promise of the local ‘palais’ at the week-end. An excursion to the Grande cinema in Desborough Road to see a Pearl White adventure or a visit to the Jolly Butcher in ‘The Narrows’ was the nearest life got to excitement until, at the end of August that year, she came across a bizarre advertisement in The Bucks Free Press that caught her imagination:BAILEY 001_A.jpg
Bucks Free Press 27th August 1920

Writing back could do no harm and she could learn a new skill. She fitted all the personal qualifications, so why not? She wrote and she received a reply that requested her to visit  a house in Furlong road, Bourne End any evening after 6pm. This was, after all, the new decade of adventure and excitement following the privations of the war, so why not live for today and see what this highly paid job was all about.


After a long weekend thinking about it, she decided that come Monday evening after work, she’d pay a visit. So it was, on that Monday September 6th 1920, young Miss Marks, grocery assistant of High Wycombe, found herself outside this Bourne End address contemplating the possibility of being involved in something that would change her life for ever.

The door opened and a smiling, clean-shaven man in his early thirties introduced himself as George Bailey and invited her in.
George Bailey_resizeHe wasted no time in enthusiastically explaining what lay behind his unusual advertisement. Ushering Miss Marks into the front room, he told her that he was setting up a musical academy in nearby Little Marlow. He explained that he had invented a new way of learning and teaching music and if she studied his system hard for two weeks she could then advertise it and take on her own pupils. He wanted to recruit around seven or eight young ladies to be his pupils at the new academy so they could become proficient enough to spread his remarkable invention of a new musical notation to others. This would revolutionize the teaching of music, he claimed, as his system did not use sharps or flats and was written in one key.
To his question of whether she was at all musical, Miss Marks asked if he meant piano or singing?
“Piano,” he replied.
He assure her that he could teach her all that she needed to know. He then moved on to the part of the advert that referred to her build and asked her to take off her hat and stand against the door so he could examined her figure more clearly.

Miss Marks took off her hat and unfastened her coat. Bailey also took hold of her hands and examined them. Clearly satisfied, he said he would pay her three guineas a week. She should give in her notice to the grocery store in High Wycombe, inform her parents of this new opportunity and write to him again when she was ready to start as his pupil alongside the seven or eight other young ladies he expected to employ at his Little Marlow Musical Academy.

He also added that it would be more practical for her to stay overnight on two or three occasions a week with some of the other young ladies under his tuition so it could be a proper learning experience and not broken up by long journeys between High Wycombe and Marlow.

Miss Marks promised to consult her parents and let him know. In the second week of September, she received a letter from Mr. Bailey, dated September 10th, thanking her profusely for her visit and inviting her to start tuition with him in the week commencing 27th September. The letter asked her to bring all she needed to stay overnight at his new academy and to arrive for an early start so he could draw up a suitable timetable of instruction. The final agreement was for Miss Marks to meet George Bailey with her overnight bag on the morning of Wednesday 29th September in Little Marlow.


Complete with businessman’s bowler hat and raincoat. George Bailey greeted his new pupil as arranged and took her to his ‘academy’.

This turned out to be Barn Cottage in Little Marlow. As he politely ushered her into the drawing room, Miss Marks felt much more at ease to be introduced to two other young lady pupils – a Miss Winifred Field and a Miss Gladys Edwards. This certainly looked as if Mr.Bailey’s promise that she would be a pupil with other young ladies was indeed correct and in the corner of the room was a piano. Bailey wanted to start immediately, so without showing Miss Marks to her room, he began explaining to his class of three, the nature of his newly invented musical system. Part of the instruction involved Miss Field playing the piano from traditional music notation whilst he explained on paper sheets how his invention would change this and make it easy for anyone to learn and teach music. All three concentrated on George Bailey’s enthusiastic introduction until around one o’clock in the afternoon.

The only brief distraction that morning was the sound of a young child talking in an adjoining room and also Miss Marks thought she caught a glimpse of a dress or possibly an apron passing by the drawing room door, which was slightly ajar. So there are others living in this house she thought. Anyway, instruction was over for the morning and it was arranged that Miss Field and Miss Edwards should leave and return the next morning for the second tuition session and that Miss Marks would stay overnight as planned. Bailey asked Miss Marks what arrangements she had made for lunch but she said she had left it up to him what should be done. He then gave her four shillings  to buy lunch in Marlow and was very clear that she should not under any circumstances, return to Barn Cottage until 7pm that evening.

Miss Marks set off into Marlow and spent the afternoon and early evening there, waiting to return and unpack her portmanteau. It was rather a long time to wait but, things were turning out just as Mr. Bailey had promised and she was excited.
bailey-cottageAt 7pm sharp, Lilian Marks knocked on the door of Barn Cottage. George Bailey greeted her and showed her into the dining room. He explained that while she had been out, two more pupils had arrived from Scotland and being very tired after their long journey, had gone to bed. In fact there should have been a third pupil arriving but for some reason she had not done so. Anyway, tuition would begin the next morning and now there would be five pupils, possibly six if the missing lady turned up. The academy was taking shape.

George Bailey then picked up Miss Mark’s case and led the way to her room so she could settle in before supper. She heard a child crying in the next room and called down to Mr. Bailey, asking if she should go and see what was wrong. “No, I will see to it,” he replied immediately, making it clear she was not to investigate.

She unpacked and heard him next door soothing the child, who did eventually stop crying. She went back downstairs and had supper in the dining room with Bailey who occasionally popped out to see if the missing pupil was to be seen. He would not talk about the child except to say, rather mysteriously, that if the child cried again, he would have to go through Miss Mark’s bedroom to comfort it. He did not reply as to why that was necessary when he could use the main door as before rather than cross her room to the interconnecting door.

Miss Marks joined him outside on the lawn for about three-quarters of an hour, both looking out for another young lady on her way to Barn Cottage, but no one came. It was coming up for 9pm, so she decided it was time for her to go to bed.

Bailey said he would stay up until 11pm in case the new pupil had caught the last train to Bourne End. From her room, Miss Marks heard Bailey going up and down the stairs and about 11 pm he shouted upstairs that the other girl had not arrived.

Lilian went to secure her door but found it was not possible to lock it. She could comfort herself with the knowledge that two other young ladies were in the house and everything he had promised so far had happened. She was however, puzzled about the child, and her brief glimpse of a woman passing the door. Was he married? She blew out her candle and tried to sleep after what was turning out to be quite a strange adventure.

Moonlight streamed through her window and, half asleep, Lilian was aware of the latch on her bedroom door slowly being lifted. Creeping past her bed was George Bailey wearing an overcoat over his pants. He made straight for the child’s bedroom.

Miss Marks did not know what to do. He had said he was going to pass through her room to check on the child, so once more he had done exactly what he had told her. She was probably worrying over nothing.

A little time elapsed and George Bailey re-appeared in her room and whispered, “Miss Marks, have I disturbed you?”

Lilian Marks said nothing, she did not know what to say.

George Bailey went to the side of her bed and once more asked if he had disturbed her as the child had cried out. Miss Marks knew this to be a lie because she would have heard the child had it cried. She was now worried and said to him, “No it has not or I should have heard.”

Bailey, ignoring her comment, said, “I’m going to ask you a very great favour.”

She asked what it was, and he said it was “ sit on the armchair behind the door.”

This was now seriously wrong, thought Miss Marks, who began to panic. George Bailey questioned her about why she could not go back to sleep and she told him she could not while he remained in the room and he should go. He explained that he needed to ask her a question, which was, “What do you think of the cottage?”

This was now getting gravely out of hand, thought Miss Marks, and said she did not want to discuss this now and he should leave her room. Bailey ignored her protests and said, “How would you like to be the mistress of the cottage?”

Miss Marks was now highly agitated at the way this was going but he went on to add that he had come for one thing and if she couldn’t decide it, he would and he sat on the side of the bed and then quickly tried to climb into bed with her and to rape her.

She fought him off but he was very strong and he pushed her down each time she tried to prise him off. She struggled hard and did manage to escape from the bed and run to the window shouting for help but Bailey pulled her back and said there was no one to hear her cries.

By now Miss Marks was hysterical and George Bailey was talking fast and furious, saying that he wanted her to be the mother of his children. She shouted he was to leave her alone and he had tricked her. He admitted that there were no other young women in the house and he had come to her room solely for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with her so she could have his children. She said, in her confused state, “It is ridiculous talking, that can never be.”

Throughout the night Bailey made repeated attempts to assault her. She sustained bruises on her arms chest and legs but he did not succeed in raping her. Towards dawn while Lilian Marks cowered, terrified from him, he stayed silent and then he asked, “Are you going to say anything about what happened?”

Miss Marks did not reply and he stayed there in glowering silence.

Dawn broke, Lilian not daring not to  sleep or further antagonize him. Bailey, sitting on the armchair was muttering. By 8am, Lilian thought it was best to humour him, so asked if she could go downstairs and prepare breakfast. He agreed she could do that while he went and had a shave.

Whether Lilian thought about making a run for it and changed her mind is not clear, but she did go downstairs and began to prepare breakfast as if nothing had happened. Bailey came downstairs for breakfast and he brought the young child who she had heard crying, introducing her as Hollie, aged three. He asked if the child looked like him.

Lilian said she did. He explained that he was the child’s uncle and Hollie’s mother was unwell and living in Swindon. Lilian asked if he was married and Bailey said that he was not.

Breakfast over, Lillian cleared everything away and, as if nothing had happened, he asked her if she was ready to begin lessons. She explained that she was too upset and shaken by events and wished to leave. Bailey then asked her to go to the village for him and buy some ham, fruit and cakes for lunch as he was expecting Miss Field and Miss Edwards at any moment. He gave her six shillings and sixpence to make the purchases.

Miss Marks went to her room rather than the village, got everything ready to leave and stayed there until 11.30am when there was a loud knocking on the front door and Bailey answered it. It was Miss Field and Miss Edwards.

Quickly Lilian put on her coat and slipped out the back door, heading for Cores End about two miles away and went straight to the vicar’s house where she blurted out to a startled Reverend Allen all that had happened to her.

The vicar arranged for her to get home to her parents and once her father learnt about what had happened to his daughter, he cycled all the way from High Wycombe to Cores End to speak with the Revd Allan.

Around 3pm that afternoon, the vicar went to Barn Cottage to talk to George Bailey. Bailey answered the door but claimed not to know a Miss Marks amongst his ‘thirty pupils’. As the Revd Allen prepared to leave, Bailey suddenly recalled a Miss Lilian Marks visiting him in a state of great distress. The vicar, however, had not mentioned to Bailey that Miss Mark’s first name was Lilian. A distressed woman appearing on a doorstep would hardly reveal her first name to a total stranger. When Revd Allan returned to Cores End he found Mr. Marks waiting for him. They decided to report George Bailey to the police.

It was the afternoon of Thursday 30th September when Superintendent George Kirby from Wycombe and Inspector William West from Marlow received from Mr. Marks a complaint of a serious assault against his daughter. Inspector West visited Barn Cottage the following morning to speak with Mr. Bailey but there was no one there and the cottage was locked, although some windows were open upstairs.

Superintendent Kirby agreed to meet Inspector West the next morning, Saturday, at Barn Cottage to investigate further. The truth about George Bailey was about to emerge. He was already under police surveillance by Marlow police who had witnessed some thirty women calling at either Furlong Road or Barn Cottage in response to his advertisement. They tried the doors but all were locked. However, the Inspector climbed through the window, saw a front door key on the mat and was able to let Superintendent Kirby in.

No one was about and in fact the table was laid ready for tea with bread and jam, butter and cakes and some kind of pudding. This was hardly the scene of someone leaving in a panic knowing that they are likely to be reported for a serious sexual assault. Upstairs told a different story. In the back room where Lilian had heard the child crying were two camp beds, one of which was covered by a large counterpane and underneath that particular bed was what appeared to be a large bundle of sheets. When the officers investigated more closely, they found the body of a young woman who had obviously been dead for a couple of days and whose flesh had a strange discolouration. They immediately arranged for two doctors to attend from Marlow and they both agreed it was death by poison. The cottage was sealed off as a crime scene and the hunt began immediately for George Bailey.

On Sunday October 3rd, the famous Home Office pathologist Doctor Spilsbury carried out a post-mortem at the crime scene, removing the contents of the stomach for analysis at his London laboratory, but one thing was clear, the young woman was in an advanced state of pregnancy, so there were now two victims of this tragic crime.
Doctor Bernard Henry Spilsbury: Home Office Pathologist

The body was identified as Kate Lilian Bailey, aged 22, Bailey’s wife of just over four years. Bailey’s real job was as a milkman for Mr. Hall the local dairyman, who had only recently taken him on. He had said he used to be a milkman for the Express Dairy Company, which turned out to be true. He did, however, omit to tell Mr. Hall that in 1913, he was arrested and sentenced to six months hard labour for embezzling money from them.


The milk may have been guaranteed absolutely pure, but there was lots more to learn about George Arthur Bailey, or should it be Arthur George Bailey, or even Ronald Gilbert Treherne, or perhaps Tremayne? He had been known to various police forces since 1908 when he had spent many spells in prison for fraud, forgery, and embezzlement and had become an army deserter to add to his crimes. His unfortunate pregnant wife had also suffered committal to prison as a result of his crimes for passing cheques he had forged and young Hollie, who Miss Marks wanted to comfort that terrible night, had been born in Winchester Prison.

Now Hollie’s mother was dead, poisoned, so where was Hollie now and more to the point her father, George Bailey?

It was in fact on Saturday evening October 2nd that P.C.Poole of Marlow police, who knew what Bailey looked like, spotted him and together with Detective Sergeant Purdy of the Berkshire Constabulary, arrested him at Reading railway station. P.C. Poole had been sent there just in case Bailey turned up, and he did. From Reading police station, he was taken to Marlow, questioned and charged with the wilful murder of his wife Kate Lilian Bailey.
But where was the child? Bailey had been to Swindon and left Hollie with his sister there and was apparently intending to return to Barn Cottage. On Monday, 4th October, Bailey appeared at Marlow Police Court for committal proceedings, was charged with murder and remanded to Oxford Prison.
bailey_oxford prison
He made a second appearance at Marlow the next morning and was then sent back to Oxford Prison to await his trial at Aylesbury Crown Court.

Daily Mail for October 5th, 1920, led with the following story:Bailey_Daily Mail.jpgAs a result of the inquest discovering Mrs. Bailey had been poisoned by prussic acid in her tea, and now the revelation that Mr. Bailey attempted to rape Miss Lilian Marks at that same house having seemingly murdered his wife there, the newspapers were becoming more and more incredulous as this bizarre and tragic story unfolded. Here is the Nottingham Evening Post for October 28th 1920, page 4

The trial began in January 1921 and Bailey pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ but the evidence against him was overwhelming. Miss Field and Miss Edwards both appeared in court and described their dealings with Bailey, corroborating everything that Lilian Marks had said about the recruitment process and the music. Further damning evidence was that he had actually been in possession of four bottles of the same poison at the time of his arrest at Reading railway station. Also a letter was found on him addressed to the coroner via the police. In it he admitted to poisoning his wife and it went on to outline his intention to return to Barn Cottage to give her a last kiss, murder baby Hollie then kill himself “I should like our three bodies laid together,” he had written.

On Monday 17th January, 1921, the judge sentenced George Bailey to death. [1]

The fact that he had murdered his wife and intended his daughter Hollie to suffer the same fate was horrific enough but the trial revealed something else that sent shudders around the court and put into stark context the reasons for his trespass into Miss Mark’s room on the night of 29th September which resulted in his assault on her.

On the afternoon of the 29th September when Miss Marks was in Marlow waiting to return to the cottage, Mrs. Bailey had been seen by a neighbour apparently in good spirits. She had indeed been the woman who Lilian glimpsed through the doorway that morning while she was receiving tuition with Miss Field and Miss Edwards. Bailey had slipped stramonia* in her tea that very afternoon and when she felt unwell because of this drug, he had put her to bed in the back room where he fed her with prussic acid and, in a perverse attempt to ease the agony of that poison, gave her chloroform.

*Datura stramonium, known by the English names jimsonweed or devil’s snare, is a plant in the nightshade family.

In answer to the counsel’s question, “Where was your child then?” Bailey answered “In bed with my wife.”

The court was horrified as he went on to explain that he left his little girl next to her murdered mother and then had to concentrate on not letting Miss Marks enter that same room to comfort the crying child. That’s why he insisted on entering her room and staying with her until the next morning.

When Miss Marks went downstairs to prepare the breakfast, he had bundled the corpse under the bed and brought Hollie downstairs pretending that she was his niece. That three year old child had spent fourteen hours lying next to her murdered mother and Miss Marks had spent the night with that same murderer in her room who then attempted to rape her and make her pregnant.

Only a little over four months had passed since Miss Marks answered what the newspapers referred to a “a curious advertisement” in the Bucks Free Press, but things would never be quite the same for Lilian Marks. That advert certainly did change her life.

Hollie was brought up by her grandmother in Devon and the subject of her real parents was a forbidden area of questioning. Her own imagination and snippets of overheard conversations led her to believe her parents had died in some sort of suicide pact. Three marriages and five children later, she began to seek the truth about her parents.

Discovering she had been born in Winchester Prison, she also checked up on a vague memory about Oxford Prison and found her father had been executed there for murder in 1921, She obtained her mother’s death certificate which recorded death by poisoning.

So it was, at the age of 66, she wrote to the Bucks Free Press asking them to help her find out the truth about that day in Little Marlow when she was only three years old. Robert Perrin, feature writer at the paper listened to her story and together they visited Barn Cottage. Hollie recounted how she used to have recurring nightmares where she would be clawing at a mound of earth because she knew a body was underneath but would stop before uncovering it. Now knowing the tragic reasons for that horrific dream, she was starting to understand the torment of her thoughts over the preceding years.

As for her father’s claim to have invented ‘the musical notation of the future’, it had been dismissed in court as, ” Grossly grotesque, resembling a crude drawing of a trail of tadpoles seeking an incubator.”

Bailey,  however, passionately defended it to the end. After an unsuccessful appeal against his death sentence,George Arthur Bailey was executed on March 2nd 1921 at Oxford Prison. His last words were revealed by his High Wycombe solicitor and they were, “Don’t let my music die.” [2]



[1] It was also a significant case as women had only recently been permitted serve on juries and this was the first case in which women jurors condemned a man to death.
bailey_jurors.jpgSource: Daily Mail January 18th, 1821 p.4

women jurors
First mixed jury  waiting to be sworn in at the Central Criminal Court old Bailey: Source: Illustrated London News, Saturday, January 22, 1921

[2] Also in the same paper was the following editorial which relates to the sexist attitudes that have prevailed when it comes to women and the law: It really is worth reading in order to understand the context of this case in relation to the changes in allowing women to sit on the jury in a  murder trial:



This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s