The Italian Musician.

In the evening of Tuesday 27 September 1836, around 7pm, an Italian musician called Joseph Romasarte was plying his trade in Furnival Street, Sheffield. He was earning pennies by playing tunes on a little pipe organ in the street. Suddenly he was approached by a man outside the public house called ‘The Swan with Two Necks.’ The man was a coachman called Levi Roebuck, who had come to collect his hackney carriage and horses which were stabled at the public house. Nevertheless it was clear to the young musician that Roebuck had been drinking.

However the man seemed pleasant enough as he told the Italian that he had enjoyed listening to him and his music and offered him sixpence to play another tune. Romasarte delightedly obliged and played another tune, but when he had finished the coachman refused to pay him. The two men started to argue in the street, before Roebuck slapped the musician hard across his face. Hearing the debacle, his common-law-wife Ann Clay intervened and sent Roebuck back into the stables of the Swan to calm down. She paid Romasarte the money her paramour had promised him, before leaving him still muttering about what he would do to the coachman if he saw him again.

After watering his horses, Roebuck was leading them out into Furnival Street and was probably thinking that was the end of the matter. However as he was leaving the stables, the Italian came from behind a corner and stabbed Roebuck low down in the stomach before running away. The blow was so violent that he left the coachman with his bowels protruding from his stomach. Within minutes the man was unconscious and was brought back inside the Swan, where he was conveyed up to one of the bedrooms there. A surgeon, Mr Wilson was called and he found that the wound suffered by the injured man was so severe that he was convinced that Roebuck’s life was in some danger.

The police were also informed about the stabbing and a description of the perpetrator was given to the watchmen as they were mustering for night duty. As a result, one of the watch, a man called William Wolstenholme was following his beat along Pond Street later that evening when he saw a crowd of boys annoying a man in their midst. Upon seeing the watchman, the boys told him that he was indeed the Italian who had carried out the stabbing earlier that evening. As a result Romasarte was taken into custody at the Town Hall and brought before the magistrates the next morning.

The surgeon, Mr Knoulton Wilson told the court that he feared that Roebucks life was in some danger and he could not possibly be brought to court to give evidence for some weeks. So the prisoner was simply remanded. Subsequently it was not until Friday 14 October before Roebuck appeared before the Sheffield magistrates and recounted what had happened on the night in question. Romasarte’s defence, Mr Palfreyman asked Roebuck what was his state of mind at the time and the coachman admitted to being been quite drunk. Ann Clay gave evidence that after Roebuck had slapped the musician across the face, that she had offered Romasarte three pence to take no notice of ‘a drunken man.’

Instead he had replied in a sinister voice that ‘he would be paid another way.’ Only when she went outside five minutes later did she later find that Roebuck had been stabbed. The next witness was the surgeon Mr Knoulton Wilson, who told the court that he had examined Roebuck after being summoned to help him and had found a perpendicular wound about an inch and a half long. It appeared to have been produced by a very long, sharp knife and, at the time he felt doubtful that Roebuck would recover. The watchman Wolstenholme stated that he had been ordered to watch out for the Italian on his rounds and described how he had found him in Pond Street.

He was trying to get away from a group of people that had followed him and they called out to the watchman to arrest the man. When the prisoner was asked what he had done, he replied ‘not much.’ The keeper of the Sheffield gaol, Aaron Cooper stated that when Joseph Romasarte was brought into custody he had a black eye. The prisoners defence Mr Palfreyman jumped on this information, and questioned the witness as to whether it was just the redness from a slap on the face or it was indeed a black eye. Cooper confirmed that it was definitely a black eye.

The prisoner defence pointed out that he felt that the attack on Roebuck had not been pre-meditated and had simply been as a result of an assault on his client. He stated that therefore the charge should have been listed under manslaughter not murder. He said that to his mind it was more a case of common assault. The magistrates discussed the case between themselves and it was not long before it was decided to send the prisoner to the next York Assizes. Joseph Romasarte was brought before judge Sir Gregory Lewin at the Yorkshire Spring Assizes on 20 March 1837. The prisoner was charged with cutting and stabbing Levi Roebuck on 27 September 1836 with intent to kill and murder him.

An unnamed prosecutor cross-examined the various witnesses and it was reported that their evidence showed that Roebuck ‘was a man of very dissipated habits, and of an extremely quarrelsome disposition.’ The coachman himself admitted to the court that he had once before been convicted of an assault and had also been brought before the magistrates charged with cruelty to his animals. However a witness for the Italian musician, a woman with whom he had lodged for some time in Sheffield, gave him a very good character reference. She stated that in all the time she had known him, he had always been a quiet and peaceful man.

The judge summed up for the jury and condemned Roebuck for having used some provocation towards the prisoner by slapping him. The court was cleared whilst the jury made their deliberations, which took just a few moments. They found Joseph Romasarte not guilty of the charge. It might be said that the coachman Levi Roebuck aptly deserved his violent reputation as events proved that he had learned nothing from his earlier escape. Just ten months later on Friday 20 January 1838 he was again hauled before magistrate, Mr Hugh Parker charged with another assault. This time he had attacked a vestry clerk called Mr Crossland, for which he was found guilty and fined 30s.

Shebeening at Dalton.

In August of 1900 the Rotherham police were given information about some illicit drinking which had been going on at Dalton. Suspicions had begun when several local men had been taken into custody accused of being drunk, however none would admit to drinking in a particular hostelry in the area, so the police could not tie it down to any landlord. The worst offenders seemed to be some Irish miners who were working at the Silverwood Colliery and who lived in huts. These had been temporarily erected in the area where sinking operations for the colliery had been in progress. The area was put under close supervision and around 17 August it was noted that a certain quantity of beer was seen to be taken into a hut occupied by a man called Albert Reynolds.

Superintendent McDonald arranged for a constable from another division, who was unknown to the area, to be given employment at the colliery brickyard near to the huts. Working undercover and in plain clothes, he had kept an eye on the hut, where he could regularly hear the sound of men singing and enjoying themselves. Entering the hut one night, the undercover officer, found that large quantities of liquor was being sold on the premises. Altogether on sale were barrels of beer and bottles of whiskey, rum and brandy. After that, he managed to visit the hut on a regular basis and saw drink being consumed on the premises and also taken away from the premises for consumption later. Once he made his report to the superintendent, a raid was organised

Accordingly on Saturday 8 September 1900, Superintendent McDonald took out a warrant and accompanied by Inspector Myers, they raided the hut around 11.30 pm and found several men on the premises. The hut was surrounded and all the alcohol on the premises was removed. In fact the haul was so large, that a special horse and dray had to be requisition in order to remove it all. In total there was 53 gallons of cask beer, 336 pint bottles of beer, 10 bottles of Irish whiskey, 3 bottles of brandy and 3 bottles of rum. The alcohol was then taken to the courthouse at Rotherham. On Monday 10 September, Albert Reynolds was brought before the magistrates at the West Riding Police Court.

It was recorded that he ‘hobbled into court on crutches, suffering from a broken leg for which he had been off work for some time’. Once seated, he told the court that he would be conducting his own defence. Reynolds pleaded guilty to the charge, but asked for a remand in order to bring witnesses who would prove that certain allegations against him were incorrect. He was charged with selling beer without a license on the 7 and 8 September. Superintendent McDonald described the prisoner as being employed as a sinker at the Colliery and the occupier of a hut nearest to the pit where he worked. He said that after several complaints from local people, the hut had been placed under observation, and beer had been seen taken into the hut under cover of darkness.

The next witness was Police Constable Stone who told the bench that he had observed a delivery of alcohol at 9.10 pm on 17 August. The delivery, which was carried out by two drays, were then emptied at the hut belonging to the prisoner. He also told the court that although there had been many complaints about drunken men, the nearest public house was a mile away. Then it was time for the undercover police officer to give evidence. He told the court that his name was Police Constable Lancaster and said he had been stationed in the Barnsley police force, but had been seconded to Rotherham for this investigation. For this purpose he had been employed in the brickworks, and so he could see Reynolds’ hut from where he was working as it was only about 150 yards away.

He said that on 7 September he had gone to the hut in company with a man named Willis, and ordered a pint of beer for which he paid 6d. For the next round, Willis ordered two more pints and was served by a servant. Since that time he had gone several times and had always been served. He stated that on each occasion Reynolds had been present. Also whilst he had been in the hut he heard men come to the back door and order sixpenny worth of whisky. Reynolds wife went to the door and told the servant to serve them and once again Reynolds was there. The witness described how the whisky was measured in an egg cup before being poured into larger cups for the men who then took them away. He also claimed that when working in the brickyard he saw men go to the hut day and night, just as if it had been an ordinary public house.

However upon hearing this, the prisoner Reynolds maintained that on the date mentioned, he had not been present in the hut as he had been at Woodhouse Mill at the time. He asked the magistrates to remand him for a week, so that he could find witnesses to prove that he had been elsewhere at the time. The chair to the magistrates, Mr Rhodes asked him if any of these witnesses could account for any of the alcohol which had been found on the premises and the prisoner shook his head. Inspector Myers then stated that on 8 September he had gone with some of his men to remove the alcohol with a search warrant. He listed that the barrels of beer had come from various breweries along with the bottles of spirits.

The inspector stated that the bottles of spirits had been placed out of sight under a table which was covered all around to hide the bottles. His officers had also found a book which recorded all the sales made from the various breweries, as well as a number of bills. He confirmed that the police had gone with plenty of men in order to prevent any retaliation from any of Reynolds customers during the raid. When Reynolds was asked to account for the shebeening he stated that he was separated from his wife and had to pay her 17s 6d a week and then he had been forced to be away from work due to his broken leg. Therefore he had sold alcohol to the other men in order to supplement his wages. He concluded that it was no good denying what he had done.

But then Mr Rhodes dropped a bombshell. He told the court that the prisoner had been convicted at Shirebrook, Chesterfield four years previously for shebeening on 19 September 1896. There had been two separate charges for which he was fined £50 and costs. After hearing this, the court inflicted another fine of £50 or three months imprisonment on him. The next case the court heard arose from an incident which had occurred when the police were in the act of arresting Reynolds on 7 September. The prisoners name was William Comer of Silverwood and he was charged with resisting the police. Superintendent McDonald again was the witness and he said that when the police went into the hut, the prisoner had been sitting at a table there.

When he saw the uniformed officers he grabbed a walking stick and held it in a threatening manner. The stick was removed from him and he was told to ‘keep quiet.’ Later he picked up a poker and was about too strike one of his men, when the superintendent spotted him. He shouted and thankfully another officer, Police Constable Brooks managed to knock the poker out of the man’s hands. When asked if he had anything to say for himself, Comer apologised for his behaviour and stated that he had been drinking and didn’t know what he was doing. However the superintendent told the bench that after he had been arrested, he had also tried to incite others to attack his men. The bench inflicted a fine of 20s and costs or one month in prison.

It was reported later that the case had excited much interest in the local populace and that consequently the courtroom had been crowded throughout. Many of the men from the colliery had been present in the court, however it was reported that they behaved very well. Reynolds wife had also been arrested on a similar charge, but as magistrates of the period tended to think that women had no option but to obey their husbands, they agreed to drop all the charges against her and Mrs Reynolds was dismissed

Stone Throwing at Masbrough

John Matthewman was a boy of just ten years in January of 1887 and he lived on Midland Road, Masborough with his parents. It was around 3.30 pm on Monday 24 January when he and some other boys were walking down Victoria Street, Masborough on their way home from school. When they reached the junction where Victoria Street meets Station Road, he saw fourteen year old Edward Roberts, who had recently started work as a clerk walking up the road. As they both passed each other, Edward used a foul expression at John before the other boy picked up a stone and threw it in retaliation.

The stone hit Edward square on his forehead and he simply dropped to the floor without uttering a sound. John, seeing what he had done, just ran off, not bothering to see if Edward was hurt or not.
The next day when he got home from school, his mother tell him that Edwards father had been to see them earlier that day. He told them that his son was lying unconscious at home from the stone throwing incident and that John was to blame. He told John’s parents that the previous evening his son had gone home with blood pouring from the wound in his head. His mother had tried to staunch the bleeding, but she had not succeeded and had finally to call in a local surgeon.

Edwards parents had become progressively worried as the night went on and when Edward had started to drift in and out of consciousness they became very concerned. At this point John tried to protest that the fourteen year old had asked for it, as he had been taunting him, but he was struck silent by his mothers worried face. Her worries were justified when the following day 26 January, they heard that young Edward Roberts had died. At first the Rotherham legal authorities were at a loss as what to do, given the young age of both the assailant and the victim, but eventually it was decided that, young though he was, John would have to be brought into custody.

Mrs Matthewman cried as she saw her ten year old son being taken away by Police Constable Horton, and he was placed in a cell at the Rotherham Police Station. The Coroner Mr D Wightman was informed of the young boy’s death and he arranged for an inquest to be held at the Woodman Inn on Midland Road on Saturday 29 January 1887. The first witness was the deceased boys father, who was also called Edward. He told the inquest that he had identified the body of his son. He said that his son had been brought home on the Monday night with his forehead bleeding. He had complained that John Matthewman had thrown a stone at him and it had hit him hard.

The witness then described his son’s slow deterioration before he died in his mothers arms the following day. Mr Wightman asked him if his son had always been a healthy child, but Edward Roberts senior shook his head and said ‘he had never been a healthy child.’ Then it was the turn of a young man who had actually witnessed the stone throwing. He was called Harry Downs and he described John picking up the stone and throwing it at Edward. Downs said it had struck Edward on his temple and had knocked the boy down. He told the coroner that when John saw what he had done, he just ran away.

Police Constable Horton gave evidence of arresting the ten-year-old. He said that when charged John had told him ‘he had done it because previously Edward had hit him many a time.’ At that point the inquest was adjourned until Friday 18 February 1887. When the inquest re-convened it was time for the young prisoner to speak up for himself. John admitted that he had thrown the stone at the deceased lad, but stated quite clearly that he did not intend to hurt him. The coroner asked him if he was in the habit of throwing stones and when the young boy said not, Mr Wightman told him ‘well you must be the only lad in Rotherham that isn’t then.’ To which there was some laughter in the room at this comment.

Dr Cobban, the police surgeon was the next to give evidence and he said that he had been called out to see Edward Roberts on 26 January. He added that he had not spoken to the lad as this had been just a few hours before he died, when he was already unconscious. Then the coroner summed up for the jury and told them that they had several options. They might send the ten year old to take his trial for manslaughter, but they also had to take into consideration the fact that all boys of his age were in the regular habit of throwing stones. Mr Wightman said that he did not feel that there had been any particular quarrel between the boys which had started the stone throwing, and he truly believed that young Matthewman had not intended to seriously injure the other boy.

The coroner stated that in such cases he would have been punished by a good thrashing from his father. At this Matthewman’s father interjected and said that he had thrashed his son many times for throwing stones, but it had never done him any good. Mr Wightman said that if he had any power to order a good thrashing to his son he would do so, but matters had turned more serious with the lads death. Nevertheless he advocated the senior Matthewman should talk very seriously to his son in order to prevent such a thing happening again. The jury retired for about twenty minutes before returning back to the inquest room.

They brought in a verdict that ‘Edward Roberts had died from concussion of the brain, caused by a blow from a stone thrown by John Matthewman,’ On Thursday 3 February John was brought before the Rotherham Borough Police Court charged with having caused the death of Edward Roberts aged 14 years. Mr Edwards prosecuted, although he simply to ask for a remand for seven days which was agreed. The following week the same witnesses were heard as at the inquest and the Rotherham magistrates had no option but to send John Matthewman to take his trial at the next Assizes to be held at Leeds Town Hall.

Consequently the young John Matthewman was brought before the judge Mr Justice Grantham on Thursday 12 May 1887 where he was defended by Mr Rimington Wilson. John had originally pleaded not guilty but after a discussion with his defence counsel, he changed his plea to guilty. Mr Ellison outlined the case for the prosecution and spoke about the spate of stone throwing which had taken place in Rotherham at the time, which had no doubt, had an effect on the young boy. Then he describing Edward Roberts’ death. In his defence of the prisoner Mr Wilson stated that ‘the occurrence was very near the borders of being an accident, before he asked for clemency for the prisoner given his young age.

His Lordship administered a severe caution to the young prisoner before finally concluding that the case would be satisfied if he sentenced John Matthewman to a weeks imprisonment. He said that as that period had already elapsed since the opening of the Assizes, the boy would be at once discharged. I have little doubt that both John and his parents would have heaved a great sigh of relief at this decision, but it would have been of little comfort to Edward Roberts parents.

The Violent Lodger

The dark courts around Duke Street, Sheffield had been described as a bit of a rabbit warren by the health authorities in July 1865. Most families in those overcrowded houses exacerbated the problem with taking in lodgers to make ends meet. One of those residents was an elderly woman called Mrs Ann Stevens who, it was estimated was aged around sixty, and was blind and infirm. In February of 1866 she lived with her husband Benjamin and a fifty one year old lodger called John Bland. Given her disabilities, Ann looked after them as best as she could even, after she had an accident when a cart ran over her foot.

The elderly woman tried to deal with her injury the best way she could, but soon her whole leg became inflamed and she was reduced to using a stick to hobble around the house. Finally she was driven to go to the Sheffield Dispensary where she was attended to by an assistant house surgeon, a man called Dr J S Pratt. He was very kind to her, and would often visit her at home in order to change her dressings. At first Ann managed to cope well enough to look after both her husband and the lodger, but soon there were arguments. However this was not about her not being able to tend to the house as well as she had done before, but was rather fuelled by her lodgers wild behaviour.

It turned out that Bland was a heavy drinker and subsequently the sounds of many arguments between Ann and the lodger were heard by the neighbours. What made Bland particularly annoying was the fact that he would often stay out late drinking with friends and then come home at some early hour of the morning. Then he would simply bang on the door until someone got out of bed to let him in. Around the beginning of July of that year matters sunk to such a level level that Ann asked him to leave. Bland was reluctant to leave as the lodgings were cheap and quite close to his place of work where he was employed as a cutler. So he simply ignored her.

On Sunday 1 July, Bland had been out all night again and subsequently it was around 9 am when he finally returned home. He was heard by a neighbour to be knocking at Ann’s door and roughly demanded admission. However this time although nearly all those inside the house could hear him, no one came to open the door. Bland shouted up to his son who finally appeared at one of the windows. When he told him ‘to come down and open the door’ the boy just told him that ‘Nancy wouldnt let him.’ A reference to Ann who went by that name to her lodgers. With that Bland started kicking at the door and as a result he made a hole in it, something he had done once before.

Incensed, Ann was furious as she was finally made to come and unlock the damaged door and in temper she grabbed at the poker. Unlocking the door with one hand and holding the poker with her other, she threatened Bland that she would use it on him if he dared to make one step inside. Ann told him to ‘go back to the place where he had been drinking the night before.’ By now the neighbours were coming out of their respective houses, attracted by the noise, and Ann was so angry that she hit him on the head with the poker. Bland looked at the group of neighbours gathered in the yard and asked no one in particular ‘would you stand for that?’

The lodger finally grabbed the poker out of the old woman’s hand and he hit his elderly landlady with it. Almost immediately her head began to bleed. Now frightened by the sight of so much blood, Bland ran out of the yard. Ann went back inside her house and tried to staunch the bleeding, but she could not stop it. In the end her husband told her to go to the Sheffield Public Hospital to have one of the doctors put a stitch in it. Ann did so and was consequently an outpatient at the hospital for some days. She was pleased in that one good thing to come out of it all was the fact that John Bland had never come back to the house since the altercation.

The couple could now sleep in their beds without being disturbed. However their pleasure was short lived when Ann died on Sunday 16 July from the effects of the blow on the head. The surgeon, Mr Pratt who had been treating her for the accident to her foot, was told of the death and he notified the Sheffield Coroner, Mr J Webster. He also called to the house and found the deceased woman now had a badly lacerated wound on the top of her head. He noted that it had been an inch long and had been inflicted with such violence that the bone of her skull was visible. Meanwhile an inquest on Ann Stevens was arranged for the following day at the Saw Mill Tavern on Sydney Street, Sheffield.

The first to give evidence was her husband, Benjamin Stevens and he told the jury that he was aware that she had been hit on the head by Bland, but that he had not been at home when the argument had taken place. The witness said that Bland had since left the house and had not seen him since. Stevens then described how the lodger would stay out all night drinking and then insist that his wife get up and open the door to him on his return. A neighbour, a woman called Julia Bosworth described the argument which had taken place between her neighbour and Bland, which she had observed over the fence which had separated the two houses.

Julia told the inquest that she had actually witnessed Bland striking the old woman on the head with the poker. The witness described how Ann had been standing at the door with the poker in her hand, when suddenly her lodger grabbed it out of her hand and hit her with it. Julia Bosworth claimed that Ann had been trying to prevent her lodger from coming inside the house. Another neighbour, Ann Taylor corroborated Mrs Bosworth’s evidence, and told the inquest how Bland had provoked the attack by kicking a hole in the door with his boots. The witness said it was not the first time it had happened.

The Assistant House Surgeon at the Sheffield Public Hospital, Mr Pratt was the next to give evidence and he described the wound he had found on the old woman’s scalp. He said that he had treated it for several days, but it had soon become inflamed and there had been considerable swelling around the wound. The surgeon said that the deceased had complained of severe pain in her head and he admitted that he knew almost immediately that she would not recover. He finally gave his opinion that death was caused by the injury to Ann’s head, which had produced inflammation of the membranes of the brain.

The coroner Mr Webster summed up for the jury and he directed them towards a verdict of manslaughter which was recorded against John Bland. A warrant was issued for his arrest and later that same day John Bland was found in Sheffield and taken into custody. On Tuesday 18 July 1866 he was brought before magistrate, Mr H Harrison at the Town Hall charged with the manslaughter of Ann Stevens. After hearing the evidence from the witnesses, John Bland was found guilty and committed to take his trial at the next Assizes. Consequently, he appeared at the Town Hall, Leeds on Tuesday 8 August 1865.

Mr Baker acted as the prosecution as he outlined the details of the case for the jury. Describing the attack, the judge and jury then heard the medical evidence, which stated clearly that although the wound had gone down to the bone, the skull underneath had not been fractured. Bland, who was undefended, told the court that he was very sorry for what had happened and spoke of being in a great passion at the time. The judge summed up for the Grand Jury and told them that there had no doubt, been some great provocation to the prisoner. Nevertheless he must ‘mark his disapproval of the prisoners conduct in using such a weapon upon such an old lady.’ Therefore he sentenced John Bland to serve three months imprisonment with hard labour.

Manslaughter at the Plough.

It would seem that in Rotherham, some cases of foolish behaviour were becoming all to common in the area in April of 1853. So much so that one of the local newspapers, the Sheffield Independent dated Saturday 9 April 1853 summed up the case. The reporter described it as ‘another of those fatal affrays arising from drunkenness, which have of late years, too frequently disgraced this neighbourhood’ The report stated that the incident had started on the evening of Easter Tuesday, 5 April 1853 when a group of men were drinking together at the Catcliffe public house. Among them in the Plough were Ralph Taylor and his brother James, along with a third man called Thomas Westnidge.

All the men were young and in their twenties and were having a good time together celebrating the holidays. Suddenly Thomas Westnidge knocked James Taylor’s hat off and then completely denied that he’d done it. Under normal circumstances the situation would have quickly dissolved into laughter and the nights enjoyment would have continued. But for some reason, this playful act seemed to rankle with his brother Ralph Taylor. Rising from his seat Ralph knocked Wastnidge’s own hat off and trampled it under his feet stating to him ‘If it was your head, I would serve it the same.’

Disgustedly, James Taylor picked his hat up and dusted it off and he and his brother and some companions went into another room where they remained until just before 9 pm. Still annoyed however, as they were about to leave, Ralph Taylor went back into the room where Thomas was still sitting and shouted at him that he was going to summons him for what he had done. Westnidge got up and grabbing Taylor by the collar of his jacket, and said to him ‘Oh will you, you bugger.’ He then smashed his head into the other man’s face, throwing him violently backwards with great force.

Indeed Ralph fell so heavily that the back of his head slammed into the stone floor beneath. Consequently he did not move as Thomas and his friends left the Plough before they staggered off home. Incredibly, not one of them realised the seriousness of what had just happened. After they had gone, several men who had been drinking in the Plough tried to rouse Ralph and eventually it was decided that he could not remain there. So he was carried to his brother James’s house nearby, where a surgeon Mr Thomas Blunn was quickly called.

He examined Ralph, but as he was told that the man’s state was due to a drunken argument that had taken place earlier in the Plough, the surgeon simply left instructions to be called if the man’s condition deteriorated. Soon after the surgeon left, however Ralph began to recover slightly. After some time he regained his senses, but he complained of a terrible pain in the back of his head. James’s wife put him into a truckle bed in the spare bedroom next to their own bedroom. She attended to him assiduously until around 1 am when she finally left him to go to sleep herself. However before she climbed into the double bed she shared with her husband, James’s wife left the door open between the two bedrooms.

Nevertheless, the poor woman was getting increasingly concerned about her brother-in-law and so several times during the night she awoke. As she could still hear Ralph’s heavy breathing, she naturally assumed that he was just in a very deep sleep. However at sometime around 7 am James awoke and went into the next room where he found his brother dead. As soon as the death was announced to the local constabulary, the police heard about the circumstances and promptly arrested Thomas Westnidge charging him with murder of Ralph Taylor. Consequently, he was brought before the court the next day. However he was simply remanded until the hearing of the inquest which was due to be held on Friday 8 April 1853.

The Coroner, Mr Thomas Badger arranged for the inquest to be held at the same public house where the incident had taken place, the Plough at Catcliffe. Westnidge was brought into the room in the custody of a police constable. It was difficult to judge what his thoughts were, as he looked around the same room where all the men had been drinking just four nights before. The first witness was surgeon Mr Le-Tall of Handsworth Woodhouse and he told the inquest that the previous day he had performed a post mortem on the remains of Ralph Taylor.

He stated that he had examined the body externally and found marks of violence around the head of the deceased. However those marks were fairly insignificant. Only when he removed the skull did he found it to be extensively fractured. The surgeon said that at the right side of the man’s skull there was a substantial amount of dark coagulated blood between the bone and the dura mater. He therefore concluded that the cause of death was the fractures of the skull which caused an effusion of blood in collect in the man’s brain.

His evidence was also confirmed by another surgeon Mr John Foster of Rotherham, who had also attended the post mortem. Mr Badger summed up the evidence for the jury, who almost unanimously brought in a verdict of manslaughter against Thomas Westnidge. Mr Badger told the prisoner that he would be sent before the Assizes to take his trial. Although Thomas had shown no reaction to the accusations that had been made against him, the prisoner looked very shocked as he was removed from the room.

Thomas Westnidge was brought before judge Mr Justice Earle at the Yorkshire Summer Assizes at York on Tuesday 12 July 1853 charged with the manslaughter of Ralph Taylor. The prisoner pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge. Fortunately the grand jury were much more sympathetic than the Rotherham legal authorities had been. The witnesses gave the same evidence as they had done before the Rotherham court before the judge summed up. He pointed out that there had been no malice intended in Ralph Taylor’s death, which had simply been the result of a drunken affray. As a result Thomas Westnidge was just sentenced to be imprisoned for just a fortnight with hard labour.

Child death at Mexborough.

Eveline Cotton was aged nineteen when she lived with her grandparents, Mr and Mrs Charles Lefley at the Barracks, Doncaster Road, Mexborough. Her grandfather was a poultry dealer by trade and with the assistance of his wife and granddaughter he also ran a local shop. On Friday 17 October, Eveline was working in the shop when she complained of feeling ill. Her grandfather told her to go home and go straight to bed, which she did. After the shop had closed, her grandmother returned home and asked Eveline if she was feeling better, but the girl who was still in bed shook her head. She told Charlotte Lefley that she was feeling much worse.

So the elderly woman brought her up some gruel and a small glass of gin and urged the girl to drink it as it would help her, if she was developing a cold. However a few hours later Charlotte was in for a shock when she returned upstairs to see how Eveline was now feeling. The girl was still in bed and crying profusely. Shocked, the elderly woman put her arms around her granddaughter and urged her to tell her what the matter was. Through her tears Eveline admitted to her horrified relative that she was not ill, but had instead given birth to a male child which, she said had been born dead.

When Charlotte asked her where was the body, the girl told her that it was in a box at the bottom of the bed. A local, newly qualified doctor, Dr Huey was called to the house and he quickly attended. To his shock he was told that there was a deceased child which had been born on the premises. Then he was taken upstairs to Eveline’s bedroom where she was still sobbing quietly. Charlotte told him that her granddaughter had given birth to the child that very day. When Dr Huey opened the box, inside he found the body of a newly born, deceased, male child. He asked the stricken girl if she was the mother and she admitted that the child was hers and that she had given birth a few hours before.

Eveline told him that the child had never made a sound after it had been born. The surgeon told her that he would have to report the finding of the body to the Coroner and that a full investigation would have to be made, which made the girl cry even more. The news that an illegitimate child had been born and died soon became a great sensation in the village of Mexborough, as many people crowded around the house on Doncaster Road. However they saw very little as the curtains were kept firmly closed. Meanwhile the Coroner Mr Wightman was informed and he, in return reported the case to the police at Rotherham.

He also requested that Dr Huey make a post mortem of the child’s body in the hope of establishing the cause of death. Mr Wightman then arranged for an inquest to be held at the Montague Cottage Hospital at Mexborough on the afternoon of Tuesday 21 October. On that day, Eveline was escorted into the room by Police Sergeant Foreman and it was noted that she looked very pale and not quite recovered from her recent ordeal. As a result she was given a chair and allowed to be seated to give her own evidence. Also in attendance was Inspector Watson who was the newly-appointed Inspector of Police at Mexborough.

The jury were sworn in, and the first witness was the young Dr Huey. He was asked whether he had attended to the prisoner before being called to the house the previous Tuesday, to which he admitted that he had not. The surgeon then described being called to the house and being shown the body of the child. When asked by the coroner if the girl had been reluctant to show him the body, Dr Huey responded that she wasn’t. He stated that there had been no attempt to hide the child and that the prisoner had readily pointed to her box at the bottom of the bed when asked where the body was.
She had also told him that she was alone when she gave birth in the house, as her grandparents were still at the shop.

Dr Huey then described how it was Charlotte Lefley who had taken the body out of the box and handed it to him. He described how the baby’s body had been wrapped in an old apron. The young surgeon said that he had examined the child and found it to be deceased, before having it removed to the mortuary of the Montague Hospital. The coroner then asked Dr Huey what were his findings at the post mortem and he described how he had first made an external examination of the body, and had found that it had been a full term, healthy looking child.

He had found no marks of violence upon it, but internally he had paid close attention to the lungs and found them to be fully inflated. Mr Wightman had turned to the jury at this point and warned them to play close attention to the medical evidence. He said:

‘That is a very important statement, as you can see. If the lungs had never been fully inflated, then the child could not have had a separate existence from the mother after birth. Therefore if they were fully inflated, the child had a partial existence separate from the mother.’

Dr Huey was asked for his opinion for the cause of death, and he concluded that was due to neglect at the point of birth and inattention from any professional midwife. Continuing with his evidence the young surgeon said that after being shown the dead body, he asked Eveline how long she had kept the baby in bed with her after the birth. The girl stated that it was only about ten minutes or so. She then admitted that she did not know what to do with the child and at first had put it under the bed. As dawn broke, and the sky got lighter, only then did she put it in the box.

Mr Wightman then asked him if it struck him at the time that anything was suspicious about the birth, but Dr Huey stated that he put the death down purely to the lack of professional help at the point of birth. The coroner then summed up for the jury. He told them:

‘I had thought that the case might turn out to be one of manslaughter, not because the mother had murdered or strangled the child, but she might have allowed it to die. If she had taken proper care and precaution, which a woman under those circumstances ought to take, the child might have been alive. That would mean a case of manslaughter.

However after the evidence of Dr Huey there is no earthly possibility of the woman being convicted of manslaughter or murder. I am satisfied of that. You gentlemen, after hearing all the evidence might return an open verdict. In that case if the police thought proper, they might prosecute the prisoner for concealment of birth, but you gentlemen would have nothing to do with that decision.’

Turning to Dr Huey the coroner had not finished with him yet. He asked him ‘was the mother so weak that she was in a state where she was totally unfit to assist the child’ to which the surgeon agreed that she might well have been. Mr Wightman then asked him if she might have been in a state of total collapse, to which Dr Huey again agreed that too was possible. The surgeon told him that upon his initial examination it was clear that the child had been born, just a few hours before his own arrival. After hearing all the evidence, the foreman of the jury Mr Tyas told the inquest that the jury had reached a unanimous decision on an open verdict.

A verdict to this effect was duly recorded.

Riding the Stang

Five young, unnamed men were brought before the Sheffield magistrates on Tuesday 13 August 1867 charged with the assault of a man called George Ollerenshaw of Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield. Apparently on the night of Thursday 8 August, the five men along with others, had threatened Ollerenshaw’s life. Therefore the police had been compelled to bring them into court. Mr Roberts, the solicitor who appeared for Ollerenshaw told the court that his client lived alone with his daughter, after his wife had died 13 years previously. The fact that she had five illegitimate children whilst still living under his roof, had caused neighbours to assume that the children were his.

Ollerenshaw had protested his innocence, but it had not dispelled the rumours which were rife in the village. On the night in question, straw effigies had been set on fire and thrown into his garden, stones had been thrown at his door and all his windows were broken. Mr Roberts said that looking out his client had seen a great mob, including the five prisoners assembled in his own garden. They were all shouting and making a great clamour. Another magistrate, Mr Rogers stated that ’notwithstanding any immorality on the man’s part, a crime had been committed and that it was not lawful to assault or threaten him.’ He told the court that this behaviour was known as ‘Riding the Stang’ and was an ancient custom which simply had the intention of shaming the person involved.

Mr Rogers pointed out that Ollerenshaw’s life had never been in any danger and therefore in his eyes, no crime had been committed. He also claimed that the demonstration had been sanctioned by the elders of the village, and it was a case of public scandal that Ollerenshaw had been living with his daughter, who had several children despite the fact that she was unmarried. The problems started because the name of the putative father of these children had never been brought before the magistrates, so conjecture had been rife as to who was the actual guilty party.

After some more discussion between the members of the bench, all the men were all bound over to keep the peace in their own recognisances of £10 each for six months.

The Robbery of John Speed.

In April of 1851, a man called John Speed was employed as a wood worker and lived in Brown Street, Sheffield. On the night of 27 April he went out for a quiet drink after finishing work. John visited several pubs in Sheffield, but around 11.30 pm, he was to be found inside Littlewood’s public house in West Street, Sheffield. John asked for a drink and after it was supplied, he looked around to see if there was anyone he knew. John quickly saw a 22 year old man called George Staley who was sat with two other men that he did not know. He acknowledged Staley with a curt nod as continued drink his ale. Accordingly, it was around midnight when John finally decided it was time to make his way home.

As it was a dark night, John was careful to walk in the middle of the road as he walked up West Street, when suddenly he heard someone behind him. Looking round he saw Staley and the two men he had been drinking with, now following him. John, fearful that the men had some criminal intentions towards him, turned around and proceeded down Holly Street, all the time increasing his pace. That was when he heard running footsteps as the men started to run towards him. Now John knew that they did indeed intend him harm, as one of them knocked him savagely at the back of his head with a heavy stick.

Fearful of his money being taken from him, John kept his hand in his left hand trouser pocket as he was determined not to let them rob him. Consequently when he fell, with his arm in that position, his shoulder was dislocated. Whilst John was writhing in pain on the ground however, the three men felt little pity towards their victim. They proceeded to beat and kick him in the head, body and ribs before finally stealing his money. Thankfully one of the Sheffield nightwatchmen was on duty in Holly Street. He was a man called John Jagger and he had earlier seen John Speed leave the Littlewood’s public house on West street and noted that at the time, he was being followed out by three other men.

Jagger knew Staley to be a suspicious character who was well known to the Sheffield police force, However seeing nothing amiss, he eventually carried on with his beat. Consequently Jagger proceeded down Bow Street, Sheffield and after progressing for about 30 yards, the watchman heard a noise which alerted him. Turning around, Jagger saw one man on the ground and noted Staley and two other men running towards him. Consequently he grabbed at the collar of Staley’s jacket as he passed, and at the same time heard him dropping something into his waistcoat pocket which sounded like coins. Staley was now struggling to free himself from the night watchman’s grip, but Jagger was relentless.

Holding the man firmly, the nightwatchman asked him what he had been up to. This question seemed to provoke his prisoner as Staley managed to finally seize hold of his prisoner. Without hesitation Staley threw Jagger down on the floor as he grabbed hold of his night stick, ran off with it. The nightwatchman immediately got himself up and then went to help the injured man on the ground, who was groaning in pain and clutching at his shoulder. Jagger saw that the injured man had bruising on his face and that both his trouser pockets had been turned inside out. The nightwatchman organised for Speed to be taken immediately to the Sheffield Infirmary where his shoulder was attended to.

Meanwhile Jagger returned back to the Town Hall and made a full report to his senior officer. The next day a statement was also taken from John Speed who gave what details he could of the robbery. He said that the men had ill-used him before they stole 18s from his pocket. He identified George Staley as being the main attacker, although he had no knowledge of who the other two young men had been. Proof of the attack was later found when another officer, searching the site the following day, picked up a half sovereign. This coin was identified by John as being one of the coins stolen from him. A warrant was taken out for George Staley’s arrest, but officers attending his home address found that the man had already absconded.

However five days later, information reached the Sheffield police that Staley had been seen at his fathers house on Meadow Street, Sheffield. The Chief Constable immediately sent a squad of officers to arrest him, under the direction of Inspector Tasker. The men would need all their strength as Staley resisted violently all the way back to the Town Hall, all the time protesting his innocence. He simply claimed that they had got the wrong man, and that he had been no where near Littlewood’s on the night of the attack. However his protestations proved useless, as John Speed correctly identified him, as did the watchman, Jagger. On Saturday 3 May, George Staley was brought before the magistrates at Sheffield charged with street robbery with violence.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, the prisoner was quickly found guilty and sent to take his trial at the York Summer Assizes. He appeared before Mr Justice Williams on Tuesday 15 July 1851 where he was defended by a Mr Foster. Mr Overend prosecuted the case and he gave an outline of the facts to the jury. He stated that the prisoner and two other men had been implicated in the case, but their names or whereabouts still remained unknown. Consequently George Staley was the only man in the dock. Mr Foster’s defence was simply that of a mistaken identity on the part of John Speed and the watchman, John Jagger.

He called a man called Samuel Gregory to give the prisoner a good character, and the witness told the court that he was a table knife manufacturer. Gregory stated that he was also a neighbour to the prisoner they both lived in Meadow Street. The witness added that he was the landlord of a public house in Gibraltar Street, Sheffield where Storey was a regular, and he described the prisoner as being a hard working and an honest man. However in an attempt to discredit the evidence given by Samuel Gregory, Mr Overend began to slowly assassinate the prisoners character. His cross-examination was calculated to denounce the prisoners moral reputation.

The prosecution asked the witness if he had knowledge that previously George Storey had cohabited with a woman called Ann Jenkinson. She was well known to be a Sheffield prostitute and Mr Overend claimed that the prisoner had, for some time lived off her earnings. Gregory told the jury that he did not know anything about that matter. Finally after hearing all the evidence the prisoner was found guilty, although his sentencing was deferred to the following day. On Wednesday 16 July 1851, George Storey was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour for the most cowardly attack.

The Mysterious Death of Charles Musgrave

It had long been decided that the regime in the debtors prison in Sheffield should be purposely harsh in order to determine that as few people as possible would enter through its doors. Therefore the food needed to be a basic prison diet. They also hoped that the prisoners own relatives would supplement their needs. Those prisoners who had no relatives, were funded by the workhouse guardians of the particular towns where the prisoners had been born. The governor of the Sheffield Debtors Gaol at this period was Mr William Kirk and he made it very plain that the food allowance was not sufficient, at a meeting held in August 1837.

The meeting which consisted of the workhouse overseers and the Sheffield magistrates therefore decided what the food allowance for the prisoners should be. After some debate, they agreed that each prisoner should have a pound and a half of bread each day and 6d a week in money. However Mr Kirk argued that this was 6d less than the prisoners had received previously. It was also agreed that the bread would be supplied either from the workhouse itself or from bakers in the town who had been contracted to supply it. However when the death of 45 year old prisoner, Charles Musgrave was brought to the attention of the local authorities, it was decided that something must be done.

He had died in the early hours of Friday 8 September 1837, so the Coroner Mr Badger arranged an inquest to be held at the prison later that same day. Mr William Kirk was summoned to the inquest and he told the jury that the prisoner Musgrave, who had originally come to Sheffield from Barnsley, had five debt warrants against him when he entered the prison in April of that year. The governor explained the food allowance system and told the magistrates of his concerns that it was insufficient. He gave his opinion that either the bread or money allowance should be increased.

At this point one of the jury, Mr Sanderson asked the coroner if he could speak. He told the inquest that he was a baker who lived adjoining the gaol in Scotland Street and stated that he agreed with the witnesses findings. The baker admitted that he had provided bread to the gaol for nearly three years and during that time had heard several complaints. He said the prisoners were not complaining about the quality of the bread, so much as the quantity of it that they were given. The next witness was the widow of the deceased man, Mrs Ann Musgrave. She told the coroner that when her husband had been sent to the Debtors Gaol, she had been left with seven children to care for.

Since that time she said that she had been allowed just 2s a week and two 6lb loaves of bread from the Barnsley Workhouse to feed herself and the children. Therefore she was unable to supplement any money or food for her husband. Mrs Musgrave declared that her two eldest daughters had worked at home for several weeks previously. They were employed in weaving hair, and for the last three weeks had brought in 7s each for this work. The witness complained that while Charles had lived with his family, he worked hard to provide for them all. One of the jury asked her if her husband had been a drunkard, which she hotly denied.

She said that had tried desperately to provide for herself and the children, but that he has simply got into debt, due to having a large family and being on very low wages. She described how she had visited him in the cell at Scotland Street and had been appalled at how ill Charles had become during the six months he had been in the gaol. Mrs Musgrave also told the inquest that she was convinced that it was the poor diet of just bread and water which had brought on her husbands death. One of the other prisoners, James Glaves was the next witness.

He told the coroner that the deceased had been his cell mate since his incarceration in the Debtors Gaol. He said Musgrave was always complaining of being hungry and he felt that his last illness was purely from the want of enough to eat. Glaves admitted that his cell mate had been gradually sinking in health and that he had been with him when he died a little before 1 am earlier that same morning. The witness said that there were many prisoners who felt the same, and pointed out that out of the 6d money allowance, they had to either provide their own candles or sit in the dark.
Another prisoner called Thomas Atkinson then gave his evidence and said that he too had been in the same cell as Musgrave and Glaves for the last four weeks.

The witness agreed that the deceased man had been ill ever since he had known him. This prisoner also complained that there simply was not enough to eat. At this point the inquest was adjourned to the following Tuesday 12 September 1837 to be held in the Coroners office at noon. When the adjourned inquest was opened, the medical officer for the Sheffield workhouse, Mr Foster was the first to give evidence. He told the coroner that his duty was to also attend the prisoners in the debtors prison. The surgeon told the jury that he had been called to see Musgrave three months previously with an infection in his chest and that under his treatment the man had quickly recovered.

Since then, Mr Foster said he had visited him again and treated him for slight ailments of the abdomen and bowels. The witness told the jury that he had been called in again late in the evening of Thursday 7 September when he found Charles Musgrave to be insensible and in a dying state. He said that he ordered mustard plasters to be attached to his calves in order to produce a reaction if possible. Mr Foster stated that during his attendance on the prisoner, he had made no complaint of being hungry or indeed of anything else. Mr Badger asked the surgeon if he thought the allowance for the prisoners was sufficient. In reply he stated that it was, but he felt that the money allowance should be increased to 1s a week.

Another surgeon, Mr Jackson was the next witness and he said that along with three other surgeons they had completed the post mortem on Charles Musgrave. He said they had found the body to be ‘spare but not emaciated’ and internally there had been no obvious signs of disease. Mr Jackson stated that his organs were healthy, but indicated that the deceased man had a pre-disposition for consumption. He concluded by saying that the cause of death was effusion of serum on the brain, although they could not establish the cause of such effusion. The coroner asked the surgeon if the diet had affected the man’s death, but Mr Jackson said he thought not. However from the general appearance of the deceased, that he should not suppose the want of food had caused his death.

However Mr Jackson did recommend more meat in the prisoners diet, rather than the increase of money allowed would be better. Another surgeon, Dr Knight who had also attended the post mortem, said that he concurred with his colleagues conclusions with one exception. He felt that the man had showed signs of apoplexy and he felt that was the cause of the man’s death. However, although he felt that Musgrave’s death had not been caused by the want of food, he could not for certain say that it had not accelerated his death.

Mr Badger then summed up for the jury and stated that he was quite satisfied with the evidence. The room was then cleared in order for the jury to make their verdict. After just an hour they found that:

‘That the deceased died in Scotland Street gaol from effusion on the brain; but the jury are of opinion that the gaol allowance is too little. They strongly solicit the proper authorities to cause an immediate increase of suitable food as recommended by Dr Knight and Mr Jackson.’

Rotherham’s Railway Navvies.

It has to be said that a navvy’s life was long, hard and dangerous. The men who worked on these canals and railways were called navvies after the term of ‘canal navigators.’ The working condition were basic, as there was no sick pay and if the weather was bad then the men simply just didn’t work. Frequently, when they could not work they drank for the whole of the day. In Rotherham, some of them lived in the many lodging houses of the town, whilst others lived in hastily built cabins or huts erected near to their work. Sometimes these cabins only had two rooms shared sometimes by six to eight men.

They had no basic amenities such as toilets or washing facilities. Yet often the navvies would be accompanied by their wives and families, also sharing such terrible conditions. Needless to say, these navvies quickly gained a reputation, which was promoted through the newspapers of the period, as being drunken and unruly men. Three such navigators were brought before the Rotherham magistrates on Tuesday 3 October 1837. They were brothers William and James Pennington aged 19 and 28 respectively, and another man called John Harrison. The men were charged with committing ‘a desperate and violent attack on the police’.

The report from the Sheffield Independent dated 7 October 1827 simply described them as ‘three rough looking men employed by the railways.’ They were escorted into the court by the Superintendent of Rotherham Police, Mr John Bland. The first witness was William Bagnall who kept a grocers shop and beer house at Masbrough. He told the court that the previous night about 11 pm, he had closed up the shop and had been making preparations for bed. Suddenly, and without warning, the three prisoners broke open the shop door and accompanied by several other men, poured into the premises.

They then proceeded to threaten to kill the witness if he did not serve them all with a gallon of ale. Bagnall quite rightly refused, so without any further provocation the men attacked him, knocking him to the floor and kicking him viciously when he was down. The witness stated that thankfully his wife and his family were in the back room, so upon hearing the attack, they fled out of the door to the safety of a neighbouring house. Eventually Bagnall described how he also managed to escape and leaving his shop, the stock and the men inside, he also fled through the back door. Bagnall said that he ran to find the nearest police constable in the area and on Masbrough Street he found Police Constable Henry Womack on duty.

The two men returned back to the shop, which they found smashed up and the contents scattered all over the floor. When Bagnall was asked if he had identified any of the men involved, he mentioned the two Pennington’s and Harrison, who had been in the shop several times before. PC Womack was the next witness and he told the bench that after he had reported the robbery to his Superintendent, he and three other officers were sent to arrest the two Pennington’s at Masbrough later that same night. As they entered the lodging house where the brothers lived they found a number of other navvies also in the kitchen. The officer stated that they managed to arrest the two brothers, but at that time could see no sign of Harrison.

However as the police tried to take the three prisoners back to the cells at the station, a shout went up from some of the other lodgers to rescue them. Going outside, the four officers readied themselves as they were immediately surrounded by 20 or 30 other navvies who also lived in the same area of Masbrough. A general melee then ensued, which resulted in all the police officers being knocked down and kicked. The two brothers and Harrison were jubilantly rescued and taken off by some of the mob. Constable Womack told the magistrates that the attack was so vicious that he and his assistants were obliged to flee from the rest of the assembled navvies to save their own lives.

On his return back to the station, the witness said that he immediate reported the offence to Mr Bland. The Superintendent was the next witness and he told the court that after hearing the statement made by his officers, he and four other officers went back to Masbrough to the same lodging house as the Pennington brothers. There the two brothers were pointed out to him by PC Womack and so the superintendent told them that he was here to arrest them. Once again a general fight took place and the witness told the court that he was struck on the head with a heavy bludgeon, wielded by William Pennington.

Only after a most determined assault, did the officers manage to finally arrest the two men and bring them kicking and punching back to the station. The following day, even more officers were sent to Masbrough where John Harrison was finally captured and arrested. One of the magistrates on the bench, Henry Walker Esq., hearing this statement, vowed that the magistrates were determined to cut out such behaviour in Rotherham. He said that at that time such men employed as navvies on the railway were becoming ‘a complete menace.’ Speaking for the other members of the bench, he told the court that:

‘The disturbances by these men were now becoming so serious that people would soon scarcely feel safe in their own houses. We are determined to visit all such persons as the prisoners with the full penalty of the law. In particular where the constables’ lives were actually attacked, as in this case’.

The prisoners were quickly found guilty and were ordered to take their trial at the next West Riding Sessions which were due to be held at Sheffield later that month. When the subject of bail came up, none of the men were able to provide sureties and so bail was denied. On Saturday 28 October 1837 the two Pennington’s and John Harrison were brought before Lord Wharnecliffe at the Sheffield Sessions. James Pennington pleaded guilty to assaulting two of the constables, Thomas Darnally and George Marshall in the execution of their duty. His brother also pleaded guilty to assaulting John Bland and other constables, also in the execution of their duty.

The court sentenced them both to imprisonment for fourteen days and to enter into sureties of £10 each to keep the peace for 12 months. When it came to the third prisoner however, the Grand Jury found that John Harrison’s identification during the assault had not been fully established. Therefore they had to ignore the charge against him of aiding and abetting the last two prisoners, and he was discharged.

Now, modern historians are much more sympathetic towards these navvies and recognise the excellent work these men carried out under the most terrible conditions. It is a matter of fact that hundreds of these men were killed or injured undertaking the dangerous work of building canals and railways. Thankfully because of them, the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal had been opened in Rotherham in 1780. It brought trade and prosperity to Rotherham, as did the Rotherham Westgate Railway Station which opened on 31 October 1838.