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.