The Green Bicycle Mystery. Part One: Who Was Bella Wright?


Over 100 years ago, on a cloudy summer evening, near the quaint Leicestershire village of Little Stretton, a young woman named Bella wright was murdered. The case has been labelled “The Green Bicycle Mystery”.

This case is one of the most famous unsolved murders in Leicestershire’s history. The Leicester Chronicle is going to explore the events that happened in 1919.

A quick overview of the murder.

If you have never heard about the case, here is an overview of events.

On the evening of the 5th of July 1919, a local policeman found Bella Wright dead on a grass verge near Little Stretton. It was later discovered that she was murdered.

The only suspect to the murder, a man who was riding a green bicycle with Bella, was acquitted a year later. It remains unsolved. Although since the trial, more evidence has come to light.

Bella Wright’s early life.

Annie Bella Wright was born near Melton Mowbray on the 14th of July 1897. Her parents were Kenus, and his wife Mary Ann. Kenus was a farm labourer.

Mary Anne and Kenus Wright. Bella’s parents.

Bella was the oldest of seven children. She attended school until she was twelve years old before entering domestic service to bring in extra income for the family.

The family moved frequently around Leicestershire due to the nature of Kenus’s work. After Bella finished her schooling in Wanlip, her family eventually settled in the small village of Stoughton.

Her father worked for the local farm as a cowman and her brother a field labourer.

They resided in a small picturesque cottage that still stands to this day.

Green Bicycle Mystery - Bellas Home
Bella’s family home in Stoughton, Leicestershire (Taken by Thomas Kirkup 2019)

Bella’s work and commute.

In 1917, like many women in Britain, Bella who was now nineteen years old became a factory worker to help with the war effort. She spent two years making shoes, gloves and hosiery.

In February 1919, Bella was hired as a factory hand at a highly successful tyre manufacturer that was based at St. Mary’s Mill on the river soar in the city. The company was Bates Rubber Works.

Bella worked late shifts at the factory, mostly between 14:00 to 20:00. She regularly cycled around five miles to and from work each day.

St Mary’s Mill (on the right-hand side of the picture) (Taken in 1981 – Geograph)

Bella’s personal life.

Bella was described as a very social, independent and attractive young women. She was very friendly and often enjoyed day trips and outings with her co-workers.

Bella was also a very modern woman. Before the war, women were mostly seen as homemakers. As the war come to a conclusion women were becoming more independent. They were working in factories and socialising with other women. Women had more freedoms.

A woman cycling to and from work without company at the time was a very rare sight in the early 20th century.

Her two closest friends were sisters, Sally and Gertrude Ward.

It was rumoured that Bella had an unofficial fiancee, Archie Ward. He was the brother of the two sisters. Archie was a sailor in the Royal Navy and serving on HMS diadem, a training ship in Portsmouth. Once he was demobilised it was believed that the two would become engaged.

Bella was known to have had at least one other suiter, although it is not known if it was reciprocated. She had told her mother about an army officer who rode a motorcycle and had been paying her compliments (could this be the same man who had the green bicycle?).

The ward sisters also mentioned a soldier who would sometimes wait for Bella as she made her way home from work.

View part two of the case, “The Helpful Stranger”, here.

You can view all the “The Green Bicycle Mystery” articles and the map of all locations mentioned by clicking here.

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Article Sources: DMU exhibition, The Green Bicycle Mystery by Antony M. Brown

If you are interested in the “Green Bicycle Mystery” then we recommend the following book (Click on the images or links below)

The Green Bicycle Mystery (Cold Case Jury Collection 1)

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Thomas is fascinated by the city's long and varied history. He also hates to discuss himself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.

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