All posts by magzdrin

Brothers Fatal Quarrel

Intake is a village in the Handsworth district of Sheffield, which is about 3 miles outside the city itself. In 1878 it was just a cluster of buildings containing a few scattered farmsteads, a public house called the Travellers Rest and an all-purpose shop, which sold most things to the local farmers and their wives. That year the owner of the shop was a man called James Noble, and in his employ was a 40 year old man called Henry Martin. who was a carter by trade. On the night of Monday 18 March 1878 Henry finished his work, and then stabled his horse and cart in one of the outhouses attached to the shop. Finally, he had something to eat before heading out for his usual drink at the Travellers Rest around 7.45 pm.

Entering the tap room, Henry headed for the bar and asked for a pint of beer, greeting several of the regulars on his way. He sat down on a stool before the bar and chatted quite happily to some friends. Soon he was joined by his brother Aaron Martin who worked at the local colliery. When he was told that Henry was in the tap room, Aaron, who was none too sober went through and said that their that their other brother Charlie, was in need of a loan of a shilling. When Henry asked where Charlie was, Aaron said he was at the door of the inn, and that he didn’t want to come in he just wanted to borrow a shilling. Henry vowed that he would not give him any money. Aaron urged him to ‘give him one as a brother ought to do.’

Henry told his brother to mind his own business, before calling him a liar, stating that it was him who wanted the shilling. That was when Aaron swore a great oath, lifted his clenched fist and struck his brother such a blow that knocked him off the stool and onto the floor. Thankfully, someone grabbed Aaron’s arms to prevent him striking Henry again, and two other men went to lift the injured man off the floor. To their horror they found him completely insensible and, apart from muttering some unintelligent words, never spoke again. A medical man, Mr Packman was summoned from his surgery in South Street, Park. He attended the injured man within half an hour, but he found that Henry Martin was already dead.

When he asked where his brother Aaron was, the surgeon was told that he had absconded soon after he realised that he had possibly killed his brother. The surgeon notified the Sheffield police and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Aaron Martin. A search was put in place and around 4 am, he was found back at the house where he lived with his wife. Police Constable Alexander Hurditch arrested him, and he was immediately taken to Attercliffe Police Station, where he was placed in a cell. Consequently Aaron Martin was brought before the magistrates on Tuesday 19 March 1878 where preliminary evidence was given by the Chief Constable. The first witness was a man called Samuel Gotherd who lived on Intake Road, who had also been drinking in the Travellers Rest on the night of the attack.

He described the events of the night and the argument between the two brothers, before the witness Gotherd told the court that Aaron gave the deceased a push on the chest and he fell off the stool.

A man called Abraham Mycock also agreed as he described the blow as being ‘a slight shove with an open hand.’ He said that as a result Henry fell backwards off the stool and lay there for about 20 seconds before the landlord came round from the other side of the bar. The landlord and some other men went to lift Henry Martin to his feet, only to find that he was dead. The Chief Constable, Mr Jackson at that point applied for the prisoner to be remanded in order that a post mortem could be carried out.

Suddenly into the courtroom came a local solicitor Mr Hawkins who apologised for being late. He told the bench that he had been instructed to appear for the prisoner, Aaron Martin. He said that having read the prisoners statements that the case was simply one of a public house brawl, where the deceased man had simply had fallen down during a fight. Mr Hawkins suggested that because of this, if the case went to trial it would not be as a case of manslaughter, but rather one of simple common assault, which might result in the prisoner being confined until the rising of the court [just a matter of days]. At this point the solicitor then applied for bail for his client Aaron Martin. However the magistrate said that he could not grant bail until he had heard more from the witnesses, which would be after the Coroners inquest. The prisoner was then remanded for a week.

An inquest was arranged to be held the following day on Wednesday 20 March 1878 at the same public house where the death had taken place, the Travellers Rest at Intake. The prisoner attended in the custody of Inspector Twibell. Coroner Mr D Wightman outlined the case for the jury before they were taken to view the body, which had been placed in an outhouse of the inn. The first witness was the man called James Noble. who owned the grocery store where the deceased man had worked as a carter for him and with whom he lodged. He described the deceased as ‘not being a sober man who was known to be quarrelsome’ however the witness added that he knew of no reason why the two brothers should have fallen out.

He was followed by a man called George Savage who was also in the Travellers Rest at the time of Henry Martin’s death. He said that when the deceased man fell, his head came in contact with the heavy fender which had been placed around the fire, before crashing onto the flagstones below. A further witness, George Milner corroborated the previous witness’s testimony and said that there had been no argument between the two brothers before that, that he knew of. He also stated that every effort had been made to bring the deceased man around, in which his brother himself had joined in. In fact he had done all he could for his brother.

The surgeon Mr Shaw was the next witness and he told the inquest that he had carried out the post mortem. He said that he had found no external bruising on the body, but he had found that the heart of the deceased man had been rather enlarged. The surgeon described a rupture of the posterior cerebral artery on the right side of the deceased man’s head. He explained that this was a large artery which ran across the base of the brain. As a result of the rupture there was at least two ounces of blood which had collected inside the cavity at the base of the brain. He said that the bleeding was so intense that it pressed on the upper part of the man’s spinal cord.

He gave his conclusions that the man had died from an apoplectic fit, which had not been helped by his enlarged heart. The Coroner asked him what might have caused the apoplectic fit and Mr Shaw stated that it could have been caused by a fall, however he tended to think that the excitement of the argument with his brother. might also have had something to do with it. Mr Hawkins the prisoners defence solicitor asked the surgeon about a fall that the deceased man had a week prior to his death, whilst he had once again been intoxicated. He said that on that occasion he had fallen from his cart and landed on his face. He asked Mr Shaw if that could have contributed to the man’s death, but the surgeon said that he thought not.

However he added that habitual drunkenness would weaken the arteries of the heart. The Coroner at that point said that he did not intend to prolong the enquiry as the jury’s responsibility was simply to ascertain the cause of death. Then addressing the jury directly, Mr Wightman said:

The evidence of Mr Shaw, being a scientific man was quite conclusive. He has given you the cause of death, which might have been caused by a fall, but I am decidedly in favour of the theory of an apoplectic fit. After what Mr Shaw had said, it is clearly impossible for you to send any man for trial either for murder or manslaughter. You are just as much bound to give the person incriminated, the benefit of the doubt as the jury at an assize court. Therefore I am quite sure that after the evidence of Mr Shaw, you will feel that you cannot swear that any man had caused the death, which the surgeon thought was caused quite naturally’.

The jury took little time before finding that ‘the deceased had met his death from natural causes namely the effusion of blood on the brain, probably caused by excitement’. Aaron Martin was brought before the stipendiary magistrates on Thursday 21 March 1878 and the evidence of the same witnesses was given once more. His defence solicitor again drew the magistrates attention to the evidence of the inquest and the verdict which had been given. The magistrate answered that he had been aware of it, and that therefore there was no need for any further enquiry. At that point he discharged Aaron Martin, who left the court no doubt a very thankful man.

The Strange Tale of Elisha Revill

This case illustrates the dreadful lives by hundreds of people in Sheffield in July 1865. On Tuesday 18 July 1865 a ’rough looking fellow’ was brought before the Sheffield magistrates Mr H Harrison and Mr Thomas Dunn at the Town Hall, charged with a murderous assault upon a woman. The couple lived in one of the many overcrowded courts off Bailey Lane, Sheffield and he was called Elisha Revill. It was reported in the local newspapers that he belonged ‘to a tribe of gypsies’ who earned his living by travelling around the country with a grinding wheel. At his trade he would knock on random house doors offering to sharpening tools and knives for people for a small fee.

The woman involved was called Martha Brewitt who lived with him as his common law wife and she told the bench that they had lived together for eleven years and, in that time she had borne him seven children. Sometimes Martha said that she would accompany Revill on his travels, leaving the children at home in Bailey Lane. There the younger children were left in the charge of the older ones, to manage as they best they may. Sadly as life took its toll, the pair became addicted to drink and from their house on many occasions came the sounds of arguments and fights. It was one of those kinds of families where neighbours would not interfere as the drunken arguments took place on a fairly regular basis.

It seems that on Monday 17 July 1865 the pair had been out drinking for most of the day. It was almost inevitable that when they returned home the usual arguments broke out. However, this time the shouts and screams lasted throughout the night. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Revill was seen to drag his paramour out of the house and having thrown her down onto the cobbles of the yard, commenced kicking at her with great brutality. He was known to be so aggressive that none of the neighbours would dare interfere. Martha screamed so loudly that her cries were heard by Police Officer Hornsey who was patrolling along Bailey Lane around 6 am.

He ran into the yard and found the woman in a dreadful state, although she was by now no longer crying and was insensible, her body was lying in the yard and was surrounded in her blood. PC Hornsey immediately blew his whistle and having summoned help, he arrested Revill and he was escorted to the police cells. Turning his attention to the poor woman, the officer picked her up and carried her inside her own home. He could see several fearful wounds on her head and so he sent another officer to quickly find a medical man. A surgeon from the Sheffield Public Hospital attended as soon as possible, and he immediately saw that she lay in a very dangerous state.

In front of the magistrates the next morning the Chief Constable of Sheffield outlined the case for the court. He asked for a remand in the hope that the woman would be recovered enough to give her own evidence, which was granted. On Saturday 22 July the prisoner Revill was brought back before the bench and Martha was also in attendance. Thankfully she was well enough to give her own account of what had taken place and it was reported that the remains of the attack could still be seen on her face. It seems that she had been under treatment by the Hospital surgeons and so she appeared in the courtroom with her head bandaged. Martha said that Revill was a kind man when he was sober, but once he had touched alcohol he became like a madman.

There then followed a conversation between the prisoner and one of the bench, Mr Thomas Dunn Esq, However the magistrate appeared to be more concerned with the pairs moral obligations, rather that the savage attack that Martha had been subjected to. The conversation went:

T. Dunn: ‘Do you know what your duty is towards this woman?’
E. Revill: ‘Certainly, I ought to treat her more kindly.’
T. Dunn: ‘And is that your only duty?’
E. Revill: ‘No, I ought to marry her.’
T. Dunn: ‘Then are you willing to do so?’
E. Revill: ‘Yes, sir I am.’
T. Dunn: ‘And you promise me that you will?’
E. Revill: ‘Yes, sir.’
T. Dunn: ‘Then I’ll discharge you.’

It was reported that the prisoner left the court looking rather surprised at the astonishing outcome. Having being brought into court charged with assault, he had no doubt expected a hefty fine or even a prison sentence. Instead with morality at once being restored, the bench no doubt felt that they had done their duty. What Martha Brewitt thought about this strange turn of events was not recorded.

The Tricky Couple

On the morning of Wednesday 5 July 1854 a prisoner called James Walker was brought before the Sheffield Magistrates. He told the court that he was a cutlery manufacturers of Manchester, but a few years previously he had lived on Eldon Street, Sheffield with his wife. He had been brought into court by the Sheffield workhouse authorities charged with neglecting to maintain his wife, who since 21 June had been a resident in that institution. Walker was defended by solicitor Mr Fretson, who told the court that once his client had been arrested, that he had immediately sent a message by telegraph to pay for any arrears to the Sheffield workhouse.

However instead of answering Walkers message, a workhouse official had apprehended him at Manchester and brought him back to Sheffield in custody. When someone from the bench questioned why this had happened, it was Mr Ellis, the clerk to the workhouse guardians, who answered. He told the court that the workhouse officials had received information that James Walker was about to travel to America. That was the reason a workhouse official had been sent to Manchester by the next train, and the prisoner had instead been arrested and brought to Sheffield. Mr Fretson stated that his client’s reason for refusing to pay his wife’s accommodation was due to her many adulteries. Therefore his client had presumed that he was not by law compelled to maintain her.

Mr Fretson said that around 18 months previously Walker and his wife had been living in Eldon Street, when he came home to find that she had sold half of the furniture in the house, and had disappeared. Since that time, Mr Fretson reported his client had heard that she had been living with two different men, one at Blackburn and later another in Manchester. Mr Ellis who was prosecuting the case stated that his wife had claimed that she had been employed by both men in the position of housekeeper and had resided in their premises in that role. Under questioning from Mr Ellis, Mrs Walker was forced to admit that both these men were single, but pointed out that if they had been married, they would not have needed a housekeeper.

Mr Ellis told the court that the case had been brought to the workhouse’s attention when Mrs Walker admitted that she had met her husband in Manchester where the prisoner had offered her a half crown out of charity. Indignantly she told Walker that ‘she had been living with somebody who kept her a deal better than he had ever done’ and he had simply suggested that ‘she might go back to him then.’ Mr Fretson told the court that his client had not turned his wife out of the house, and that she had voluntarily left him. The prisoners defence suggested that Mrs Walker had quarrelled with the party she had been living with in Manchester, and that was the only reason why she now she sought to make her husband maintain her.

Mr Fretson said that in order to do this, Mrs Walker had come back to Sheffield, the town where she had been born, and applied to the workhouse guardians for relief. The bench attempted to question the prisoners wife but in reply, she gave long rambling answers. Mrs Walker claimed that she had not wanted her husband to maintain her, but had been advised to do so by friends. The woman admitted that she had left Walker in March of 1853 and agreed that she had sold some of the couples furniture, but claimed that it was simply to pay some debts and provide herself with some clothes. Mrs Walker said that since that time, she had been working as a housekeeper in order to maintain herself.

The prisoners wife stated that after meeting her husband in Manchester, that he had promised to buy her a house. After some days however, Mrs Walker discovered that he was planning instead to sail to America. When she challenged him on the subject, he had openly told her that he had no intention of taking her with him. Mrs Walker said that although they never lived together in Manchester, having separate lodgings, they spent the rest of the time together eating and drinking. That was when she asked him for some money and he had been cheap enough to offer her the half crown. Mrs Walker told the court that he had also made some disgusting suggestions about how she could maintain herself in the future.

The witness admitted that when she found out that her husband was going to America she went to his lodgings in Manchester and that was when he had thrown her out. She had taken him to court for assault, but the city bench had dismissed the case. When she applied to the Manchester workhouse for relief, they had told her that she had to go to the town where she had been born, so she came back to Sheffield. The prisoners wife once more denied the fact that she had ever lived in adultery with her two employers. Instead she told the court that when she married Walker, he didn’t have ‘two pennies to rub together at the time.’

She stated that because of that, throughout their married life she had ‘worked like a slave in the cutlery business.’ As a result of this, the couple had managed to save between £500 – £600 together. Mrs Walker concluded that ‘now he intended to go to America and leave her behind to starve.’ One of the magistrates Mr W A Matthews Esq., told the court that if adultery had been committed between Mr and Mrs Walker in Manchester, which had not been proved, then her husband had indeed rendered himself liable to pay her some maintenance. Then Mrs Walker herself came up with a solution to this knotty marital problem.

She told the court that if her husband would give her £10 to buy some clothes with, he might go to America without her. In that way she would relieve him of all responsibility. It was agreed by the bench that the couple have some time together in another room to come to some mutually agreed terms, and Mr and Mrs Walker retired together for a short while. Mr Fretson later came back into the courtroom and stated that the pair had reached an agreement. They would both go together to America, however Mrs Walker wanted it to be a legal agreement that they both could sign, in the presence of the magistrates.

The bench agreed, but when Mrs Walker came back into the courtroom she appeared to have changed her mind. The woman complained that given half a chance, she was convinced that her husband would go off to America and leave her alone in the world once more. Once again she asked that he give her £10 to buy clothes with, to which Mr Walker refused. Magistrate Mr Matthews told the couple ‘I thought that you had reached a settlement and were now going to be a happy loving couple?’ However Mrs Walker denied this vociferously and stated that in all the time they had been married, her husband had been unemployed, and consequently she had been destitute and forced to enter the workhouse four times. Hearing this her husband just smiled and told her ‘still you are very fond of me or you would not follow me about.

Finally the two people agreed that they would go to America and make a fresh start on their marriage and an agreement was written out by the clerk to the court. In front of the magistrates the couple then signed the agreement to live together again. As they were signing the document, there were smiles all round in the courtroom. Mr Fretson spoke for the bench when he remarked that signing the document was likened to the couple getting married again and signing the register. Mr and Mrs Walker then left the courtroom hand in hand.

The Curious Death of Joseph Ulley

Joseph Ulley was a fifty three year old man who lived at Swinton in April 1895. Although fairly healthy for his age, he had suffered from periodic dizzy spells for the past 18 months or so and was being treated for these spells by a herbalist. However they did not stop him from working as a miner, although in recent years he had also traded as a bookmaker as well. His housekeeper for the last fourteen years was was a woman called Caroline Dunstan. On Tuesday 2 April he left the house around 6.30 pm with his two dogs, telling his housekeeper that he was taking them both for a walk.

As Joseph went along the canal side he was spotted by a man called Fred Stevens who was a journalist walking to Kilnhurst. He saw Joseph running with his dogs just after 6.30 pm. The man was about 300 yards in front of him, but the journalist saw nothing to be concerned about at that time. However as he got nearer, and saw the dogs were now alone, he rushed immediately to the spot. There he saw the man just out of reach in the water. Stevens called out to him and threw his stick into the water for him to catch, but the man made no effort to do so. Then to his horror he saw him sink out of sight. The journalist took off his overcoat, prior to jumping in to save the man, but he hesitated when he realised that the canal was around 12 feet deep at that point, and he could not swim.

So, after a moments hesitation, Stevens decided to get help instead. He rushed towards the Swinton lock shouting out that a man was in the water. A person working on the lock heard him and grabbing his boathook rushed to the scene. Meanwhile Stevens ran on into the Chemical Works there and again raised the alarm. Several workmen instantly dropped their tools and ran to the spot where the person from Swinton lock was standing. With the help of the boathook, they eventually managed to locate the body and pull it into the shore. Attempts were made to provide mouth to mouth resuscitation, but was evident that he was quite dead.

An inquest was held on the body of Joseph Ulley by the coroner Mr Dossey Wightman on Thursday 4 April at the Canal Tavern at Swinton. A jury had been assembled and they had been taken to see the body, which lay in an outhouse at the Tavern. When they returned back to the room where the inquest was being held, the first witness was called. She was the deceased man’s housekeeper named Caroline Dunstan. She told the jury that for the past year or so Joseph had suffered from nervous afflictions and dizziness. She described him leaving the house on the previous Tuesday night and taking the two dogs with him.

It appears that there had been rumours circulating Swinton that Ulley had been suffering several financial losses at bookmaking in recent weeks and the coroner questioned her about it. It had been said that that her employer had some monetary problems after the Lincoln Handicap race and she was asked if she knew anything about her employers losses. However she told the inquest that he had never discussed winning or losing money at any time with her. Several of the jury being local men, also said that they had heard the rumour of the deceased’s losses at the races.

Continuing with her evidence the witness said that the next thing she knew was that she was told that her employer had fallen into the canal. When asked by Mr Wightman if she could guess how the accident had happened, Caroline stated that she could only say that she suspected Joseph had experienced a dizzy spell and had fallen into the water as a result of that. Sergeant Lyttle was at the inquest and he was asked by the coroner if he had searched the body after it had been brought out of the water. The officer told him that he had and that he had found a gold watch and chain, a pocket knife and a sixpenny piece in the deceased man’s clothing.

He also told the inquest that since Ulley’s death he had also heard rumours that he had lost a significant amount of money at the Lincoln handicap races. The journalist, witness Frederick Stevens was the next to be heard and he said he lived at Mexborough. He stated that many people used the canal to walk besides with their dogs and so when he saw the man with the dogs, he never thought anything of it. Stevens told the coroner that he saw the man running rapidly with the two dogs beside him. For a while a hedge obscured his view, so when he looked again he saw the two dogs were now on their own.

The witness described seeing the man in the water and how he had run for help and raised the alarm at the Swinton lock and at the Chemical Works. Stevens estimated that it was only about five minutes between the body sinking and the men pulling it out of the water. At this point two of the jury, who were also Swinton men, also said that they were acquainted with the deceased man, who had complained to both of them that he had recently been suffering from dizzy spells. He said that he was under the care of a herbalist at Swinton, who was treating him for it.

The foreman of the jury, Mr J Jones suggested to the coroner that based on the evidence they had heard so far, he would not like to swear that Joseph had committed suicide. Mr Wightman therefore suggested that in such a case, the jury might bring in a verdict of the victim accidentally falling into the water, possibly following a dizzy attack. The jury talked together for a moment before returning a verdict that:

‘That the man was drowned on Tuesday 2 April 1895, but there was not sufficient evidence before the jury to prove how he got into the water.’

It is well known that jury’s and coroner’s always put the best interpretation on any cause of death, particularly in a case where the thoughts and feelings of the deceased were unknown. However the circumstances of Joseph Ulley losing money at the racetrack tends to cast suspicions in this case. Even those men who knew him personally could offer no solution. Had he taken his own life or was it just a tragic accident?

Death of a Ballet Girl

Just before Christmas on Tuesday 28 December 1875 the audience in the Alexandra Theatre on Blonk Street, Sheffield were horrified when a fire caused by some flimsy material catching fire occurred right in front of their eyes. It was estimated that there were around 5,000 people in the audience that night , attending the pantomime which involved a ‘transformation scene’. This involved two nymphs ‘descending from their fairy-like homes to the bower below’.

These were created by long pieces of beautiful transparent gauze hanging over the stage. Waiting for her cue one of the nymphs, a girl called Alma Oldale was standing on an iron bar which was suspended over the stage in front of the same gauze like material. She was wearing nothing but a chemise and a costume made of ’cloth of silver’ material. Hidden from view ,Alma suddenly saw a gust of wind caused the nearest piece of gauze to go towards the gas light at the front of the stage. Within a heartbeat, the light fabric caught fire, flaring up so quickly that people were screaming as they jumped from their seats. Seeing the conflagration in front of them, many rushed towards the exits in panic.

Within seconds the theatre was in the wildest confusion with men, woman and children trying all to escape. Alma was still suspended over the stage, watching in horror as the flames shot up the gauzy fabric and set fire to the flimsy dress she was wearing. She screamed in terror, but thankfully one of the stage hands standing in the wings, saw what had happened and he quickly pulled the fabric down onto the stage. He managed to extinguished the flames, but by this time the fire had now reached the rope which suspended the iron bar on which Alma stood. As a result the burning girl fell heavily down onto the stage below.

The stage manager Mr W Cromwell, in order to prevent the panic from spreading any further, ordered the heavy curtains at the front of the stage to be dropped. No one could quite believe how quickly the accident had happened and the devastation it had caused. Then Mr Cromwell instructed some comedians to go onto the front of the stage and continue with the show. Now unable to see the flames or the injured girl behind the curtain, the audience gradually ceased their flight and returned back to their seats, and the programme was restored. Meanwhile those who had escaped the fire, spread the most wild rumours which quickly got to the ears of Mr Jackson, the Chief Constable.

Immediately he dispatched a message to the fire office and within a short period, Superintendent Pound, the fire officer and his men ran out the steam fire engine, attached the horses to it and quickly drove to the theatre where thankfully they were not needed. However Alma, whose dress had caught fire was found to be to be very badly burned. Whilst the comedians entertained the audience in front of the curtain, she was quickly moved to the surgery of Mr Hargreaves on Eyre Street, Sheffield. As he attended to her burns, Alma told him that she had just turned 18 and she lived on Myrtle Road, Heeley with her parents Henry and Annie Oldale.

The surgeon found the worst burnt areas were the girl’s thighs, breast and shoulders, which he treated as best as he could, before she was removed home to her parents care. Sadly on Monday 10 January, Alma succumbed to her injuries and died. A second girl, Alice Gregory was also treated by Mr Hargreaves, but her injuries were less severe and she did managed to recover. Consequently an inquest was held on Alma Oldale on Thursday 13 January 1876 by Mr D Wightman at the Myrtle Inn at Heeley and the first witness was the girl’s mother Mrs Annie Oldale. She told the inquest that she had identified the body of her daughter and described how she had been brought home on the night of the 28 December.

She said that her face and chest had been badly burned and as a result her daughter was in great pain. She said that Alma had described the speed with which the flames came up the gauze towards her. Mrs Oldale said that Dr Hargreaves had attended her daughter most carefully until her death, and that she was sensible for much of that time. The witness stated that before she died Alma had told her mother that it had all been a complete accident and that no one was to blame. Mr Cromwell, the stage manager stated that he had employed the girl as a ballet girl about the 17th or 18th December. He then gave evidence as to how the deceased girl had been strapped onto the iron bar in order to prevent her from falling.

Because of counterweights after the accident, the stage hands had to use handles to lower the girls down onto the stage. He described how he had seen ‘a flash’ before the flames crept up from the bottom of the gauze, and that another ballet girl had also been on fire. Both girls were treated as quickly as possible. He described how the deceased girls clothes had been completely burned off and consequently she was very badly burned. However she did not panic or scream and was conscious throughout her rescue, whereas he said the other ballet girl Gregory, screamed and ‘knocked him about’ a good deal. When asked by the coroner if he could account for the accident at all, the manager thought carefully before he replied.

Mr Cromwell put forward a hypothesis that as the theatre was crowded it had made the air quite hot. So when a current of cold air rushed in, it blew the gauze curtain across to where the stage lights were and they quickly ignited. He told the inquest that they had now dispensed with using the gauze in the show. Challenged by Mr Wightman as to the use of non inflammable material for the costumes in future, the manager stated that he did not know where such material could be obtained from. As if to defend himself, Cromwell said that he had been 16 years in Sheffield and this was the first fire in his experience.

The coroner summed up for the jury and told them that given the evidence, they could come to no other conclusion other than the deceased had been accidentality burned. Given this direction, the jury had no option but to return a verdict of accidental death. However they expressed their opinion that the flimsy dresses that the girls wore, should be somehow made of some non flammable material in future. Mr Wightman added that he would be very glad if this enquiry would lead to some steps being taken for the prevention of such accidents to happen again in the future. The owner of the theatre Mr Brittlebank told the coroner that he regretted the accident most deeply, and that he had already told Alma’s parents that he would pay all the funeral expenses.

A Truly Nasty Piece of Work.

Kate Drayton separated from her husband in the beginning of 1914 and soon after she returned back to live with her father, who took in lodgers at his house on Strafford Terrace, Denaby near Rotherham. One of the lodgers was a miner who worked at the colliery there, a man called George Kirkham. It was not long before he started to pay attention to his landlord’s attractive daughter. After some months he asked her to move in with him, but Kate, having been married and separated before, was simply not interested and she refused. Only then did she see the other side of George Kirkham. After this refusal he firstly began to cajole her and then finally to threaten her.

Kate at first took little notice of his threats, but then one day he showed her a revolver that he always carried with him. Kirkham took her by the arm and told her that if she did not do as he had asked, he would make sure that ‘her life would not be worth three halfpennies when he had done with her.’ It was at this point that Kate became very afraid. She told her father of Kirkham’s threats and he immediately ordered him to leave the lodging house and find somewhere else to live. Kirkham moved into lodgings in Mexborough, but he still could not get Kate out of his mind and continued to hang around her fathers house at Denaby, hoping to catch her on her own.

On Wednesday 29 April 1914 he was outside the house just as Kate was leaving. She had planned to visit a friend, but grew more and more nervous as he followed her to her friends house. Kate quickly ran inside, but it took some time before she finally began to calm down. When Kate told her father about it he was furious, and quickly reported the incident to the police. As a result of this George Kirkham was taken into custody. When he was brought before the West Riding magistrates at Doncaster on Saturday 2 May 1914, he was charged with using threats towards Kate Drayton. She was defended by Mr F Allen who told the court that his client was terrified of the prisoner in the dock.

He pointed out that the man was well known in Denaby to carry a gun, and that he had threatened on several occasions to use it. Mr Allen asked the bench to bind the prisoner over to keep the peace and order him to stay away from his client. Kate then took the witness stand and related how Kirkham had threatened her on many occasions. She related a previous incident when he had given her a bottle containing some liquid. He made her drink some of it, but when she did so, it gave her a burning sensation in her throat. A colleague who worked with Kirkham was the next witness, and he gave his name as Joseph Henry Grice. He said that he was the prisoner’s uncle and he too lived at Denaby.

The witness indicated just how ruthless his nephew could be. He confirmed that he had also heard him threaten to shoot Kate, and had stated in front of others that he would ‘have his revenge’ on her somehow. Grice said that the prisoner had also threatened that if he was ever sent to prison on Kate’s account, he would have his revenge on her when he came out. Grice told the court that his nephew had shown him some cartridges for the gun, and had also admitted that he had some poisonous drugs in his possession, which he was not afraid to use. Another witness called Arthur Garbutt stated that he too was a Denaby collier, and the prisoner was a work colleague of his. He too confirmed the previous witness’s account and said that Kirkham had also told him that he ‘would out her’ before he had finished.

Garbutt told the court that he had advised the prisoner to get rid of the gun, saying this if he didn’t ‘he would find himself in very deep trouble’ but Kirkham had told him he had no intention of getting rid of it. On the contrary he told him he was determined to use it if he did not get his own way. After hearing from these witnesses it was time for the prisoner to make his own defence. He confirmed that he had gone to Kate’s house on the day in question, but said it was after he had received a letter that she had sent to him. He denied that he had ever made any threats towards her and that ‘he thought too much of her to say such words to her.’ Kate’s defence solicitor, Mr Allen closely questioned the prisoner as to his feeling towards her, but Kirkham said that he had resigned himself to the idea that he did not wish to have any more to do with Kate or her father.

Kirkham then claimed that he only carried the gun around with him to frighten people, and in actual fact, he said the gun was broken. He claimed that he had simply used it to frighten Kate’s father and brother with it, after they had both threatened him to leave her alone. Significantly he added that he knew that Kate was afraid of him and admitted that he had forced her to drink something from a bottle on that one occasion. Mr Kelly asked him what was in the mixture, but Kirkham said that it had only been a mixture of whisky and something called ‘phospherine.’ This sadistic man however claimed that he had only given her the drink ‘in fun.’ Thankfully the Doncaster magistrates saw through Kirkham’s claims of innocence and ordered him to keep the peace for six months in the sum of £10 with two sureties of £5 each.

Death at the ‘Shop’

The Hagg was a tiny, isolated little village near to Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield which was just made up of a cluster of little cottages. In one of these cottages lived a 23 year old girl called Betsy Jacques, who lived with her mother, brother and step father John Green. Also in the cottage lived Betsy’s illegitimate son, a two and a half year old little boy called John Henry and a lodger, a man called Thomas Pennington. The family were forced to take in lodgers in order to increase the family finances, but sadly Betsy had unfortunately fallen for young Pennington’s charms and as a result she found herself pregnant in July of 1856. When she told her mother that she was going to have another illegitimate child, her mother was appalled at the news.

She condemned her daughter for the scandal it would cause, but when she spoke to Pennington he was unrepentant. What the family did not know was that by the time Betsy found herself in that condition, Pennington had already transferred his attentions to another woman. He left the house and in October 1856 he married the other woman, and they went to live in Wadsley Bridge. Mrs Ann Green continued to worry and more so when Betsy talked about killing herself. She tried to keep up her daughters spirits, but it was hard. Meanwhile Betsy went out doing washing for other people in the village in order to earn some money to add to the family finances.

Life in the household continued and just before Christmas of 1856 another lodger moved in, a man called John Marsden. Meanwhile Betsy increasingly felt the shame which she had brought on the family for the second time, and she became more and more depressed. She had always been a still quiet woman who kept herself to herself, so it was hard to know what she was thinking about at the best of times. On Monday 5 January 1857, around 8 am Betsy had cleared away the breakfast things before she went out, carrying little John Henry in her arms wrapped in her shawl. She said that she was going to the ‘shop’ which had previously been a small file makers shop, and was still owned by the family. Since the family owned it, it had been used as a pig sty and was covered in straw, but was now empty of any stock.

When Betsy didn’t return after nearly twenty minutes, her mother became concerned. She sent the lodger, Marsden to the ‘shop’ and as he pushed opened the door, he found the body of Betsy and her son on the floor. Both their throats had been cut with a razor. Little John Henry was dead, but Betsy was still alive, and she told him to go away and leave her be. He ran for help and soon a local farmer called Mr Samuel Eyre went to the shed and instructed the lodger to hold Betsy’s head down on her chin in order to stem the blood. Meanwhile, he ran for a surgeon, but by the time surgeon Mr Roberts arrived, Betsy too was dead.

An inquest on the bodies of Betsy and her two and a half year old son John Henry Jacques was arranged by the Coroner Mr T Badger Esq., on Tuesday 6 January 1857. It was held in the large farmhouse belonging to Samuel Eyre. A jury was empanelled before being taken to view the two bodies, which were still in the ‘shop’ which was said to be a low building around forty yards away from the parental home. It was noted that when the jury returned back to the room where the inquest was being held, that they were all visibly shocked. Mr Badger too appeared to be quite shaken, as he told the jury that he had seen death in every shape, but he had never seen a more painful and shocking sight than that presented by this poor woman and her child.

Mr Badger shook his head as he told the jury that they were the victims of the unsupportable scandal which had over taken the mother. Then the first witness to be heard was the lodger, John Marsden. He described finding the bodies and said that Betsy was laid on her left side and was very still, but he could see that she was still alive. Marsden said that she lived for about 30 minutes after finding her. He said that it was only when he went to move her, that he found the body of the child laid under her right arm and saw that its throat had also been cut. Betsy’s mother Mrs Ann Green was the next witness and she told the inquest that her little boy was ‘the delight of her daughters heart’ as well as being a great favourite with all the family.

Mrs Green claimed that not one unpleasant word had passed between herself and her daughter, about her second pregnant condition. However the witness stated that on the previous Sunday that Betsy had been more quieter than usual. However she put this down to the fact that her daughter had a cold and was felling ill as a result. Mrs Green then described the lodger telling her that her daughter had gone to the ‘shop’ and she told him he must be wrong. She said that she thought Marsden meant that Betsy had probably gone to work doing some washing. However, he told her that when he last saw Betsy she was still wearing her slippers.

Mrs Green told the inquest that when her daughter first told her she was pregnant about six months previously, she had told her that it would cause another scandal for the family. Her daughter’s response was to threaten to drown herself, so after that the witness resolved never to say an unkind word to her. Her account was confirmed by her husband John Green, who told the coroner that he too had never spoken an unkind word to his step daughter regarding her condition. When asked about the razor he claimed that the one the girl had used, had been left at the house by yet another lodger, a man called James Turner. He said it had been kept well out of sight as it had been placed at the top of the clock, but added that his step daughter knew very well that it was there.

Mr Samuel Eyre was the next witness and he told the inquest that he had heard about the girl’s suicide around 8.15 am on that Monday morning. The witness said that he had last seen her previously two days before when she went came to his farm to fetch some milk. It was on Saturday evening, and he noted that she kept her head down and barely spoke. Eyre said that after hearing about the death, he went to the little cottage rented by John Green and he saw that outside was a group of people including Mr and Mrs Green and Mrs Green’s other daughter, Mary Cheetham. He said that Mrs Green was in a terrible state and was crying that Betsy was dead and that they had left her all alone.

The farmer said he went into the shed and saw the two bodies on the ground and noted that Betsy was still alive. He was followed in by Mr and Mrs Green. The witness told the coroner that he said to the dying woman ‘whatever have you been doing Betsy?’ Mr Eyre said that she looked at him but she could not speak. He then tried to stem the bleeding by holding her head onto her chin. The farmer then asked Marsden to continue to hold her in the position until he could fetch Mr Roberts, the surgeon. However by the time he and the surgeon arrived back the girl was dead. The deceased woman’s sister, Mary Cheetham was the next to give evidence and she said that on the Monday morning the lodger Marsden rushed into her house saying ‘Mary, Betsy has cut her throat!’

The witness said she ran after him into the ‘shed’ and there she saw her sister lying there, covered in blood. Mary described how, as she ran in, her sister Betsy held out her hand to her, but she never said a word. The coroner asked her when she had last seen her sister alive, and Mary told him that she had seen her on Saturday, but had not noticed anything unduly wrong in her appearance.
George Jacques, the deceased woman’s brother then described hearing the news about his sisters death. He said he had been poorly in bed, but as soon as he heard, he got up and immediately went to the ‘shed’. He described the scene and how he had noted the razor lying on the straw.

He too knew that it had been left by a lodger called James Turner about six months previously. The witness said that he had heard that his sister was pregnant for the second time, but he had not said anything to her about it. After hearing all the evidence Mr Badger summed up for the jury and told them that they would have no trouble in coming to a verdict. He said it was clear from the evidence that Betsy had murdered her child and then committed suicide. The coroner told the jury that the evidence was straightforward enough and therefore they should not have any difficulty in reaching a verdict. The coroner said:

‘It is very easy to understand that when the poor woman approached her second confinement, more especially as the man who had brought her to that state had married another, that her circumstances would have greatly depressed her spirit. There is no doubt that she would feel most keenly the scandal which had come upon her, and that her feelings had led her to commit these shocking acts.’

Mr Badger concluded his summing up and the jury retired to consider their verdict. They returned with a verdict that ‘Betsy Jacques had first murdered her child and then committed suicide’.

The Colliery that Flouted the Rules

William Hague was a deputy at the Carrhouse Colliery, who on Monday 27 February 1871 was employed as a ‘fire trier.’ This duty meant that he went into the workings before the other colliers, to establish if there was any presence of gas. Basically he had to make sure that it was safe or not for the men to start work. Instead of a safety lamp however, and against all the colliery rules, William took a naked flame in with him. Not surprisingly the result was an explosion, in which his young assistant, a boy called Thomas Hague was killed. Confusingly, although the two victims shared the same name, they were not related to each other in any way.

It was about 7 am when William went into the works with his young assistant, and he was carrying the lit candle. The pair had examined a large part of the colliery without any incident and were about 1,000 yards from the lift shaft when the explosion occurred. William, despite his injuries managed to crawl back to the shaft, where he raised the alarm and was hauled up to safety. When he informed the colliery steward that his young assistant had been killed, he and some men went into the workings to recover the boys body, which was later reported to be burnt and most disfigured. Thomas’s body was taken back to his home in Greasborough, and an inquest was arranged by the Coroner at the Prince of Wales Hotel.

However as the inquest was opened the following day, Mr Webster told the jury that although they would be taken to see the body of the boy, he could not proceed any further that day. He had spoken to surgeon Mr Walker who was attending to William’s injuries, who had told him that his patient would be unable to attend the inquest for another six weeks. Mr Webster told the jury that it was imperative that the enquiry should be adjourned until the deputy recovered, as his evidence was crucial to the inquest. Accordingly the jury inspected the body of Thomas Hague before the inquest was then adjourned to Tuesday 11 April 1871. Mr Webster was very aware at this point that taking a naked flame into any colliery was a profound infringement of the colliery’s rules.

Therefore when the adjourned inquest was re-opened, also in attendance was the Government Inspector of Mines, a man called Mr Wardell. The first witness was the surgeon who was attending to William, Mr Bernard Walker. He stated that after the explosion, he had carefully examined the body of young Thomas and that in his opinion that death had been caused by suffocation. He told the coroner that he had come to this conclusion, as the inside of the boys mouth and his tongue was badly burned. Mr Webster then told the jury that he would now invite the deputy to give his own evidence. However, he said that ‘he will be given the opportunity to refuse if he so desires.’

Then William Hague was brought into the room where it was reported that he still showed signs of his injuries. As a result of this, the witness was allowed to give his evidence from a seated position. Mr Webster told him:

William Hague, the charge is made against you of causing the death of this boy by neglect of the rules and regulations of the pit. It is a very serious charge, and you can please yourself whether you give any evidence or not. If you do give evidence, it will be used against you in case the jury decided to send you for trial for manslaughter.’

William nevertheless agreed to give his evidence and he told the inquest that one part of his duty was to ascertain whether there was any inflammable or dangerous gas in the pit, before the men went to work. He admitted that he went into the pit with a naked flame, which was contrary to the colliery rules.

The deputy then described how he and young Thomas had left their safety light behind and had walked about 23 yards from his lamp was before the explosion took place. He described how he had been badly burned and how the boy had been killed. William told the coroner how he had walked around the pit with a naked flame ‘scores of times before’ so he was absolutely convinced that there was not any gas in the pit at all. He told the coroner ‘I thought I was as safe down there as I am right now in this room. The witness stated that both he and the boy had safety lamps which they had got out of the lamp room at the pit, but he claimed that a candle gave out a better light. William said that no gas had been found in the pit for five or six months prior to the accident.

He described how the boy was standing close to him when the explosion occurred and how it had knocked them both down. Mr Webster cautioned the witness again and reminded him that he had, by his own admission broken several rules that day, to which William agreed. The Government Inspector, Mr Wardell intervened at this point and said that he had once before severely reprimanded William Hague for his violation of the colliery rules. He told him that ‘it was the practise of men thinking that they knew better than the rules, and acting in contravention of them, that had caused such explosions. The next witness was Mr John Mort the underground manager of Carrhouse Colliery.

He told the inquest that all the men working in the colliery were given a list of rules and regulations when they started their employment. The manager said that William Hague was well aware that he was breaking the rules, as he too had cautioned him the very night before the accident, and warned him to be very careful in his use of a naked flame. Mr Mort explained how it was usual to employ young boys as assistants, so that if anything went wrong at the bottom of the pit, he would be the one who could raise the alarm. The manager then stated how he had gone down into the pit to retrieve the body of the young boy which he found was still warm, before he was carried up to the surface.

George Milner of Greasbrough Road, Masbrough was an engine tenter at the colliery and told the inquest that he had worked from 8 am on the Sunday to 7 am on the Monday morning, a shift of 23 hours. Hearing this Mr Webster commented that it was far too long a shift and it was no wonder there were accidents at the pit. A man called James Bonser who had worked at Carrhouse for two years, then gave his evidence. He was closely questioned about the day of the explosion before he revealed something which shocked the coroner, the Inspector of mines and the reporters at the inquest. He mentioned another man who had been working that day called Joseph Sanderson and that on the Sunday before the explosion, he and Sanderson had actually taken both their wives down into the mine.

There was complete silence at this statement before Mr Wardell told him that was a serious contravention of the colliery rules. He reminded him that women had been banned from working in the mines since 1842, and that included taking women into the pit without permission. Bonser said he was aware that if a man wanted to take a woman into the pit, he had to get written permission from the colliery manager. He was therefore intending to ask Mr Mort for written permission, but one of the engine drivers, a man called Milner, had told him that he didn’t need a note and not to bother.

As if to add insult to injury the witness told the inquest that despite the underground manager Mr Mort’s claim that all men working at the colliery received a list of rules and regulations, that he had never, ever seen the rules and had no idea that women were not allowed to go down into the mine. There followed some discussion about some internal doors in the mine which had been left, propped open in order to ensure that air was circulated properly, before the coroner summed up for the jury. He told them to take note as this was a most important omission. Mr Webster told them:

The manager says that in consequence of those doors being thrown open, the air was sent out of its proper course, and therefore it could not reach the place where the explosion occurred. If they had been closed there would have been no explosion. That takes all the culpability away from the shoulders of William Hague. Therefore the man cannot be considered responsible for the death of the boy.

However he condemned the fact that important safety rules had nevertheless been flouted at the colliery and that as a consequence the company could be accused of gross mismanagement. The jury brought in a verdict that ‘Thomas Hague was killed by an explosion in the Carrhouse Colliery on 27 February last, and the jury are of the opinion that there has been gross mismanagement in the colliery.’

Sadly, whether this was of comfort to Thomas Hague’s parents was not recorded.

A Sordid Little Theft

On Sunday 25 June 1899 the body of an unknown, male child was found on the banks of the River Don at Sheffield, at a place opposite Attercliffe Church. The body had been found wrapped up in some material and it had then been placed in a wooden Hudson’s Soap box. The local newspapers quickly dubbed it the ‘Attercliffe Mystery Baby.’ The box appeared wet, so it was thought that it might have been washed up onto the banks of the river. It had been found and opened by some young boys who, upon seeing the contents, called out to a man who was passing. His name was Samuel Smith and they told him that they had found a body.

Smith, in turn informed a constable who took the remains to the Sheffield Mortuary. Consequently an inquest was organised to be held at the same Mortuary by the city Coroner, Mr D Wightman on Wednesday 28 June 1899. Meanwhile, a post mortem was undertaken by the police medical officer Mr Arthur Hallam on Monday 26 June. At the inquest he told the jury that he had examined the remains and found that the child had not lived longer than 24 hours after birth, but as to how it had died he could not say. He explained that decomposition had set in, and so he was unable to estimate exactly how the child had died. A verdict of ‘found dead’ was recorded by the jury.

The same day the attention of Mrs Elizabeth Duffy was drawn to the report in the Sheffield Independent by a neighbour called Annie Bidwell. Both women lived on Princess Street, Attercliffe. And Annie knew that Mrs Duffy had recently given birth to a male child, who the midwife told her had died. Harriet Oakland was an experienced midwife, who at the age of 55 had brought many babies into the world. Mrs Duffy’s pregnancy had been a hard one and the birth was equally traumatic. She was so exhausted after many hours of labour on Sunday 18 June, that she could not remember anything about it afterwards. The only thing she could recall was Harriet telling her the baby was a boy and he had died shortly after she gave birth.

The next day the midwife brought a wooden Hudson’s Soap box in which to bury the child. He was placed inside and the lid was nailed down. The midwife told the grieving mother that she would make arrangement to have the child buried by a church sexton and have him placed in consecrated grounds. However she could not take the child that day as there were no general funerals taking place. Harriet told Elizabeth that she would pick up the box the next day, being a Tuesday. Despite her promise, it was Friday 23 June before she actually returned. The midwife told Elizabeth that for 2s to pay the sexton, she could have the child buried at either Attercliffe or Grimesthorpe Cemetery and the money was duly paid over to her.

On the following Sunday, exactly a week after the baby had been born, it was reported in the newspapers that the body of a child had been found on the banks of the river. That was when Annie Bidwell became suspicious and shared her suspicions with her neighbour. Elizabeth immediately called the midwife and demanded to know whether the child that had been found in the wooden box had been hers or not. Harriet looked horrified at her and instead of answering asked her ‘do you think I could do such a thing as that?’ Elizabeth then demanded to see the burial certificate which all sextons had to fill out a copy for the relatives. Harriet said that she would come round with it the next day.

However when the hours dragged by and the midwife did not arrive, Elizabeth began to realise what had happened to her dead baby and she reported the matter to the Sheffield City Police authorities. Harriet Oakland was arrested and charged with concealment of birth and brought before the magistrates on Friday 30 June 1899. The prosecution, Mr Robert Fairburn outlined the case for the bench before Elizabeth was brought to give her evidence. Neighbour Annie Bidwell was the next witness and she told the court that she had been present at the birth of the child. Although she was present in the room however, she admitted not seeing the child’s actual body as the midwife had wrapped it in a towel as soon as she realised it was dead.

The witness admitted that she had drawn Elizabeth’s attention to the report of finding of the child in the newspaper. But the most damning evidence against the midwife was the next witness, who was a shopkeeper of Pinfold Lane, Sheffield, a woman called Harriet Young. She told the court that she had sold the soap box to the prisoner on Sunday 23 June. After hearing this indisputable evidence, Harriet Oakland was found guilty of concealing the birth and sent to take her trial at the next Assizes. At the beginning of the Assizes on Wednesday 26 July 1899, the judge Mr Justice Grantham went through the upcoming cases for the grand jury before the trials began.

When making a reference to the concealment of birth case, the judge told them that it was quite clear that the prisoner had taken the body of the child. However whether the baby had been still born or had died soon after birth was irrelevant in the matter. He said what was proven was that the midwife had taken the body of the child, and had professed to be going to get it legally buried. Instead of doing that, she had placed the child in a box and left it either in the water or on the banks of the river, knowing that it would soon be found. However Mr Justice Grantham told the jury that the evidence could not possibly support the charge of concealment of birth.

He explained that:

Although putting the body away in a box was ample to make out a secret disposal, it was quite clear the woman had no intention of concealing the fact of the child’s birth, which was what would have to be established before the charge could be fully made out. There was therefore, no evidence to support a bill on that charge.’

The judge said that instead he had ordered the officer of the court to charge the prisoner with lesser offence, which was that of obtaining money (the 2s) under false pretences.

Harriet Oakland was brought before Mr Justice Grantham on Friday 28 July 1899 at the West Riding Summer Assizes charged with obtaining money by false pretences. Mr R Leader prosecuted the case and described the events leading up to the trial. He told the court that after Mrs Duffy gave birth, that she paid the prisoner 6s for her own fees and 2s for the burial of the child. The child’s mother Mrs Duffy gave her evidence again before the judge, at that point stopped the case. He explained that the jury could not progress the case any further. He told them that Harriet Oakland had got the money for the burial from a distraught mother and then she had:

’Told various lies and made various excuses for not having done what she promised to do.’ He said that given the circumstances, the jury had no option therefore but to find the prisoner not guilty of the crime. In discharging the midwife, he told Harriet that she had a lucky escape. He said:

You have behaved in a most disgraceful way, in obtaining money from a poor woman still in her childbed, to bury the child. Then you left it to be found by children. Unfortunately you cannot be convicted of the crime of which you have been charged, although you well deserve to be convicted of some crime.’

Harriet Oakland was then removed from the court.

Rotherham’s Anti-German Riots.

On Friday 14 May 1915 an anti-German riot took place in Rotherham which was described to be ‘a frenzied and violent crowd of people who rampaged through the town.’ Several shops were attacked, which were rented by German people who had previously been well known in the town. Inspired by what was seen as ‘patriotism’ the mob were nevertheless intent on damage and plunder, as shop windows were broken and goods stolen out of them. The rioting started outside the shop of Mr L Fisher of Hatherley Road, Eastwood, Rotherham. Crowds began to gather outside, shouting abuse at the family sheltering within. Thankfully the police were called and no serious damage occurred.

However the numbers in the crowd swelled as the mob moved towards the town centre and the next target was Mr C Hanneman of Frederick Street. Hearing of the riots, he had put the shutters up at his shop windows, but they were quickly pulled down and smashed. In the meantime, the owner had removed the contents of his stock out of his window. Once again the police arrived and the crowd went to their next point of attack in the town centre. This was to be the shop of Mr Schonhut of Doncastergate, where stones were thrown at all the windows. One of the most damaged shops was a pork butchers shop on Bridge Street, rented by a man called John Limbach. He not only had meat products stolen from his shop window, but his house which was attached was broken into, and many of his household goods stolen.

People plundered anything they could get their hands on. They stole chairs, sewing machines, brass fenders and other articles, carrying them off in triumph. The mob then moved along College Street and towards the Red Lion Hotel, The hotel itself was owned by brewers Tennant Brothers from Sheffield, but it was rented by another member of the Schonhut family. However they found the gates leading into the yard were locked and barred. The crowd next turned their attention to the shop of Mr Wagelin of Bridgegate, which again they found locked and bolted. In retaliation the plate glass windows were smashed. Moving onto another shop owned by the Schonhut’s on Main Street, the crowd were merciless. Not one pane of glass was left intact and it was later established that approximately £440 – £500 worth of damage had been done.

News travelled fast, and now other mobs were forming throughout the town. Next was an attack made on Mr Carley’s premises on Wellgate, which was overrun. Once the premises were broken into, some of the crowd entered and furniture was thrown out of the bedroom windows into the streets below as the family hid, terrified. It was reported that it was not until the early hours of the next morning before peace was finally restored. However, it was not to last. Rioting started in Rotherham on the Saturday night around 9 pm, when once more crowds began to assemble in front of the Red Lion Inn. The Chief Constable, Mr E Weatherhogg informed his men to use their batons to try to clear the crowd away. Around 9.30 pm five mounted police appeared and they too tried without success to drive back the mob.

Missiles such as bricks, stones and pieces of slag were thrown at the horses and the various constables trying to maintain order. It was reported that there were some women in the crowd who were picking up stones and other items to use as weapons and filling their baskets with them, in order to provide more ammunition to people throwing them at the police. Officers charged the crowd, but all that happened was that they drove the rioters backwards. Instead of dispersing them, they simply moved into the area of the Churchyard and College Square. It was later estimated that there were about 100 special constables on duty that night. Indeed so many people were on the streets, that the Chief Constable was seriously considering calling out the military, which was based at the barracks in Sheffield, in order to break up the riot.

Before long, several plate glass windows were broken in the shops in the vicinity of College Street and Bridgegate. They were the drapery shop of Messrs Smith’s which was situated at the bottom of the Church Steps, another shop at the corner of College Street was attacked and further down a provisions merchant’s windows were broken. In the course of the rioting police officers were injured. Inspector Spencer had a bottle thrown at him and Police Constable Nichols received a nasty gash to his face. The Lord Mayor of the town, Alderman Coward and several of his colleagues, appealed for calm from the church steps. He later told a reporter that he had witnessed some strange sights in the town that night, that he had never seen before.

People were in the streets carrying hams, sausages and sides of bacon, which had been stolen from pork butchers shops. One woman, who was carrying a piece of pork under her apron, bragged that she would have a good Sunday dinner the next day, only to have it snatched from her by a youth.
Officers charged the crowd again, but all that happened was that they drove the rioters backwards. Instead of dispersing them, they simply moved into the area of the Churchyard and College Square. One of the first to be arrested was a man called Ernest Cotterill, a labourer of Masbrough Street. He had been in College Street, and had been seen shouting and inciting the crowd to violence. When ordered by one of the mounted officers, PC George Nicholson to go home, he assaulted that officer and was taken into custody. He had been seen previously throwing stones at the mounted police by Detective Sergeant Emsley, who knocked Cotterill down.

At some time around 10 pm Mr Weatherhogg himself was injured by one of these flying implements, which hit him just above his ear. He was knocked down and for some time remained stunned, until his wound was dressed by Dr Riddell. On Sunday morning of 16 May 1915 an emergency meeting of the Rotherham Watch Committee was called. It was agreed that all the public houses would be closed the following night in order to prevent any more outbreaks of rioting.
Thankfully it was reported that Sunday passed peacefully and that the town had returned back to normal again after two days of senseless rioting. That morning, the Mayor of Rotherham had issued a warning, advising the residents of the town to refrain from gathering together and thus hampering the efforts of the police.

Sadly the only victim of the rioting was a young boy aged 12 years called William Holmes of Stanley Street, Parkgate. It seems that at the height of the rioting on the Friday night, he had been crushed between a cable box standing 5 feet 6 inches high on College Street and a motor lorry driven by a man from Sheffield. The inquest on the body was held on Monday 17 May 1915 by Coroner, Mr W J Bradford and the first witness was the boys father. Charles Percy Holmes who told the jury that he had identified the body of his son, who had been tragically killed on his birthday.
A witness was a man called James Taylor who stated that he was standing in College Street, near the bottom of Doncastergate at the time the accident happened.

He said that the lad was somehow caught by the back wheels of the lorry, although exactly how it happened the witness could not say for sure. He said there were very large crowds thronging around in the area of the High Street, Wellgate, College Street and Doncastergate, so he did not exactly see how it happened. The driver William Henry Youle said that he worked for the Ind. Coope brewery and had passed through College Street, Rotherham on the Friday night. He was driving very slowly due to the large crowd, when he was stopped by a policeman, as he turned into the High Street. He said it was only then he was told that he had knocked down a boy.

Police Constable Earnshaw said that the crowds were attempting to break into the shop of Mr Schonhut in Doncastergate at the time the accident happened. Medical evidence was given by Dr Lyons, who told the inquest that by the time the boy was brought to him, he was already in a dying condition. He said that almost all his ribs were broken and death was due to the shock of the accident. Mr Bradford summed up the witnesses evidence and stated that most people would be aware of the riots in the town, which had aggravated and stirred up the people of Rotherham. The coroner concluded that in his judgement the accident would not have happened, if the area had not been so crowded. The jury accordingly returned a verdict of accidental death.