Prolonged shortages, starvation, unemployment and a general lack of money, to buy even the essentials of life, or sometimes just the fear of that possibility or eventuality, could induce some individuals to take their own lives. I have selected suicides from just one year, , to include in a chapter comprising eighteen cases, which is only a smattering of the suicides that occurred in and around Sheffield that year. There is also an attempted murder and suicide, which also occurred in , which appears in a separate chapter, The Bath Street Shooting Case. A view of central Sheffield in the late Victorian period.
High Street, seen here in David J Richardson Collection. In my efforts to present an interesting account of each case presented here, during my research I have made every effort to cross-reference my source material. I apologise unreservedly for any errors or omissions.
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The Town Hall was erected by the Town Trustees as a meeting place and courthouse. The hall on the first floor served as a courtroom. This courtroom was generally used for petty sessions, presided over by magistrates, but every third year the West Riding Quarter Sessions sat there.
Several shops occupied space on the ground floor of the High Street side of the building, behind which a narrow passageway led to three cells, in which prisoners were kept prior to their appearance before the magistrates. In such cases they had only the power to examine the prisoners brought before them and to decide if there was sufficient evidence to bring a charge or charges; or, if sufficiently serious, to be sent to trial at the county Assizes.
Magistrates dealt with petty crime, up to and including petty larceny taking away goods of a value of less than 12 d. The stealing of goods over this value was a capital offence. Those committed for trial were usually sent to the county gaol, as bail was seldom given, and never in the case of those accused of capital offences. For cases involving homicide, hearings were heard before both the magistrate and the coroner. Inquests were commonly held in public houses, usually conveniently close to where a fatality had taken place.
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This building was replaced in by a new building in Nursery Street. If the accused person was present at the hearing, he or she, was allowed to give evidence and to put questions to witnesses. This also applied in the case of prisoners already committed to trial by the magistrate. They were then taken to the Wakefield House of Correction or to the county gaol at York. Waingate, seen here in On the right can be seen the Town Hall, which opened in and grew in stages.
Its distinctive clock tower was added in The building was reconstructed and extended between — It provided court facilities from its opening until the s. Keith Atack. The old Town Hall was demolished in It contained two courtrooms, as well as four cells and offices. Sheffield was granted its own Quarter Sessions in but it had to wait until to finally become an Assize town. It is a singular coincidence that a series of exhibitions of instruments of torture and death and a series of lectures on executions by an ex-executioner should be simultaneously appealing for the support of the public of Sheffield.
In olden times the criminal was only allowed to die after he had undergone a protracted course of agonising torture. Now the worst of all our criminals, according to Mr Berry, is launched into eternity in less time than it takes to blow out a candle, and he has only time to feel a momentary sensation of pain.
Mr James Berry, who recently retired from the office of public executioner in Great Britain and Ireland, delivered his illustrated lecture in the Temperance Hall last night to a small audience. Berry is a young man of determined, but not unpleasant countenance. He is not a man that a child would instinctively flee from, and when he dons his tall hat and best suit he might readily be taken for a commercial traveller, as he more than once was whilst undertaking his professional journeys to various towns. Although not a polished orator, the audience would experience no difficulty in grasping the sentiments and ideas which he expressed — sometimes in very forcible language — with regard to officialism in connection with executions, and to the system of capital punishment.
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