19th Century Barnsley Murders

19th Century Barnsley Murders

19th Century Barnsley Murder is a telling account of crimes in the Barnsley area that have remained unpublished for more than a century. The book reveals the dark heart of the town and reflects not only the poverty and squalor in which many people of the time lived, but also the deep-rooted prejudices and double standards of the period.

Crimes include poaching in the local area, a serious poisoning of bread and butter pudding at an eating house and the tragic story of a man who was poisoned for a joke. More sinister happening include a case of bodysnatching, which brought the whole town of Barnsley to a state of complete panic, the distressing murder of a child, and a woman who was shot down in the street by her former Marine boyfriend.

The book also charts cases of attempted murder, including the story of a woman who was saved from death by her stays and a brutal attack on an elderly lady, which might have so easily ended in murder.

These macabre tales reveal a side of Barnsley that is not visible in the modern town of today. The intriguing narrative and in depth coverage of Barnsley’s criminal past, make this essential reading for both local historians and those interested in true crime.

Chapter List

  •  Chapter 1 Bodysnatching at Barnsley
  •  Chapter 2 Murder of a farmer
  •  Chapter 3 Death of a boatman
  •  Chapter 4 Poisoned for a Joke
  •  Chapter 5 Poaching on Lord Wharncliffe’s estate
  •  Chapter 6 Death in a Hovel
  •  Chapter 7 Was it Murder?
  •  Chapter 8 A Determined Attack by a Rejected Suitor
  •  Chapter 9 Death in the Albert Dining Rooms
  •  Chapter 10 Murdered by a 14 year old Stepbrother
  •  Chapter 11 Child Murder in Barnsley
  •  Chapter 12 Death at Measborough Dike
  •  Chapter 13 The Monk Bretton Murder
  •  Chapter 14 Murder of a Foreman
  •  Chapter 15 Saved by her Stays
  •  Chapter 16 A Brutal Attack on an Elderly Landlady
  •  Chapter 17 The Second Monk Bretton Murder


On Saturday 4 February 1888 Dr Burke and his wife Katherine sat down in what was described as the inn’s best room, where the doctor proceeded to drink champagne. What transpired between the couple in the next two hours was unknown, but at 10.55 pm, Mrs Burke ran out of the room screaming at the top of her voice. Police Constable Francis Emsley, the local constable, was in the habit of calling in at the inn to make sure that it closed on time.

He was in the passage when Mrs Burke told him, ‘The doctor has a revolver’ and urged the constable to ‘take it from him’. PC Emsley was approaching the door of the room, when he heard a shot fired, and as he opened the door he saw little Aileen fall onto the hearthrug. He then saw Dr Burke walk across the room and fire the gun into his own breast, falling back into a chair as he said ‘I’ve missed’. PC Emsley went immediately to the child and attempted to pick her up, but he found that she was already dead from the wound on the left side of her chest. Meanwhile, the landlord, having heard the disturbance, rushed into the room along with other patrons of the inn.

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