Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Annie Haynes Look: The Passing Tramp's Latest Discoveries about a Forgotten Mystery Writer

1920s mystery author Annie Haynes is mostly forgotten today (indeed, outside of myself. Allen Hubin and Carl Woodings I don't know of anyone else who has read her recently), but as I indicated in my previous post Haynes was a well-regarded English Jazz Age crime writer.  Haynes authored twelve mystery novels that were published over just an eight-year period, 1923 through 1930, the last posthumously. Her dozen crime novels are:

The Bungalow Mystery 1923
The Abbey Court Murder 1923
The Secret of Greylands 1924
The Blue Diamond 1925
The Witness on the Roof 1925
The House in Charlton Crescent 1926
The Crow's Inn Tragedy 1927
The Master of the Priory 1927
The Man with the Dark Beard 1928
The Crime at Tattenham Corner 1929
Who Killed Charmian Karslake? 1929
The Crystal Beads Murder 1930

As with the early books by Agatha Christie (those published from 1920 to 1925), all Hanyes' novels were published in England by The Bodley Head.  Only three of her novels ever were published in the US, with the result that she never became much known to American mystery readers.

Although Haynes' mysteries were popular in England, after her death she suffered the fate of all too many once-popular deceased authors: rapidly encroaching obscurity. Personal detail about this writer is sparse indeed. I do know that Annie Haynes, "spinster," died in London on March 30, 1929.  The executors of her estate were Thomas Shenstone Haynes and Paul Nicholas.

Was Thomas Shenstone Haynes a brother?  All I have been able to find out about him is that in the 1910s he was a partner with Archibald Ernest Smith  in an "Ironmongers, Oil, Colour and Builders" firm, Smith and Haynes, located in Yiewsley, Middlesex (Greater London).  He may have earlier been connected to Haynes & Co., ironmongers of Nottingham, but this is conjectural.

courtesy Carl Woodings

Annie Haynes dedicated her first mystery novel "To My Dear Friend Ada Heather-Bigg In Loving Gratitude For Her Constant Help and Guidance."  Haynes' last mystery novel, The Crystal Beads Murder, was published in 1930, a year after Haynes' death, after having been completed by a woman friend who was also a popular mystery writer; and it carried a foreword from Ada Heather-Bigg, which reads in part as follows:

courtesy Carl Woodings
It is not generally known that for the last fifteen years of her life Miss Haynes was in constant pain and writing itself was a considerable effort. Her courage in facing her illness was remarkable, and the fact that she was handicapped not only by the pain but also by the helplessness of her malady greatly enhances the merit of her achievements. 

It was impossible for her to go out into the world for fresh material for her books, her only journeys being from her bedroom to her study. The enforced inaction was the harder to bear in her case, as before her illness she was extremely energetic. Her intense interest in crime and criminal psychology led her into the most varied activities, such as cycling miles to visit the scene of the Luard Murder, pushing her way into the cellar of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, where the remains of Belle Elmore were discovered, and attending the Crippen trial.

Ada Heather-Bigg commended the friend who completed The Crystal Beads Murder for having in her draft manuscript independently arrived at "Miss Haynes's own solution of the mystery, which was was known only to myself."

Annie on the spot
--the Luard summerhouse, site of one of England's
most notorious unsolved murders (note bicycle in foreground)

Obviously Ada Heather-Bigg and Annie Haynes were quite close friends.  Recently I discovered that at the time of her death Annie Haynes resided at the Heather-Bigg family home at 14 Radnor Place, Hyde Park and, indeed, had lived there at least since 1908. So, the question arises: who exactly was Ada Heather-Bigg, anyway?

Ada Heather-Bigg was a daughter of Henry Heather-Bigg (1826-1881), the son of Henry Bigg, a partner in a surgical instrument and anatomical machinist business in London. During the Crimean War Henry Heather-Bigg became a notable pioneer in orthopedics and the development of prosthetic limbs.  In 1852 he married a daughter of Dr. Robert James Culverwell (1802-1852) and the couple had three daughters and a son.

The son, Henry Robert Heather-Bigg (1853-1911), was a doctor of the spine as well as an occasional novelist. Of sisters he had three: Mildred Heather-Bigg (1857-1928), an esteemed Victorian/Edwardian era nurse and matron of Charing Cross Hospital; Edith Heather-Bigg (1865-1943), who married Sir John Bland-Sutton (1855-1936), a renowned surgeon made a baronet in 1925; and the aforementioend Ada Heather-Bigg (1855-1944), a noted Victorian/Edwardian feminist reformer and intellectual.

former Charing Cross Hospital

Ada Heather-Bigg attended lectures at the University College London from 1875 to 1879, just a few years after the university ended gender segregation of its lectures (in 1878 UCL became the first British university to admit women on equal terms with men). In 1881 the university awarded Heather-Biggs the Joseph Hume Scholarship in Political Economy--it was noted at the time in both the UK and US that this "clever English girl" had defeated "all the male competitors" for the honor--and she also received the degree of LLA (Lady Literate in Arts) from the University of St. Andrews, which had begun granting this particular degree in 1876.

In the 1880s and 1890s Heather-Bigg published numerous articles on female workers, arguing therein that women were discouraged from entering the wage labor force not out of concern over feminine "delicacy" but rather in order to prevent them from attaining economic independence; and she was active in many political and philanthropic organizations on behalf of women and children.  When she died in 1944 her will left a substantial bequest to UCL, which went to endow the university's Ada Heather-Bigg Prize in Economics.

University College London

After the death of Henry Heather-Bigg in 1881, the year his eldest daughter won the Hume Scholarship, his widow and daughters Ada and Edith eventually moved to a house at 14 Radnor Place, Hyde Park.  After the death of her mother and the marriage of her sister Edith to Dr. Bland-Sutton in 1899, Ada presumably lived there alone with the servants, until Annie Haynes took up residence at the house as well, in 1908 or earlier.

About Annie Haynes we have much less personal detail, aside from that she died in 1929, that she presumably was afflicted with crippling rheumatism from around 1914 until her death fifteen years later, that she may have had a brother in the ironmongery business and that she may have come from an English Midlands county, perhaps Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire.

From Ada Heather-Bigg's short tribute we know that Haynes was, as befits a mystery writer, interested in "crime and criminal psychology."  Heather-Bigg gives us a short but memorable picture of a once physically active, quite determined woman, bicycling miles to reach Ightham, Kent, in order to visit the summerhouse where Caroline Mary Luard was mysteriously shot and killed in 1908, and "pushing her way into the cellar" of the infamous house at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, where the grisly remains of Dr. Crippen's vanished wife, Belle Elmore, were discovered in 1910.

For someone like Annie Haynes surely one of the attractions of the Heather-Biggs house at 14 Radnor Place in Hyde Park was the fact that a half-century or so before she moved there this house itself had figured in a crime, one that involved the great Inspector Whicher of Scotland Yard, who figured so prominently shortly afterward in the notorious Constance Kent murder case.  More on this in the next post.

row houses at Radnor Place, Hyde Park


  1. Many, many thanks for both this post and its predecessor. I must try to tack down some Haynes.

  2. Brilliant investigation Curtis - look forward to hearing more!

    1. I was thrilled to find an Inspector Whicher connection.

  3. Great post, Curtis! Thanks. Maybe I'll be lucky and find a book by her in a used books shop on my upcoming trip to Scotland! I have a list to look for!

  4. There is more information on Ada Heather-Bigg, including a photograph, in a piece I wrote recently about the admission of women to UCL in the late nineteenth century https://www.ucl.ac.uk/economics/about/women-ucl

  5. Ian, thanks, I will look at that. Ada Heather-Bigg was a very interesting person. I wonder whether there are family papers with further detail about her relationship with Annie Haynes.

  6. There is a small collection of short letters and certificates concerned with her university education in the Bland-Sutton papers at the Royal College of Surgeons. That's where I found the photograph. There are notes there from distinguished people like Stanley Jevons and Henry Sidgwick but nothing about her personal or family life.

  7. I bought the Annie Haynes "Ultimate Collection of Golden Age Murder" on my KOBO. Charming and a fun read.