Sunday 28 March 2021

Barnard Davis

Barnard Davis was a doctor of Shelton in Staffordshire. Still a student in 1820, he boarded the whaling ship sailing for the Arctic as the vessel’s surgeon. Not for another twenty years did he become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1868.

An active and important member of Stoke-on-Trent's Athenaeum, he helped establish the first Museum of Natural History, Pottery and Antiques. Yet is for all his other achievements, he is best remembered for his huge skull collection. He began with his first two skulls in 1848 and, by the time the Royal College of Surgeons purchased his collection shortly before his death in 1881, he had amassed more than 1,800 examples.

He was a polygenist, a controversial belief that the different human races have different origins.

Sunday 21 March 2021

Drunken Assault

15th February 1902 and Maud Shipley, aged 28 of Lombard Street was arrested when found running down Lombard Street at 10:40pm by PC Williams shouting, “Oh my lad, what have I done?” At her home on the sofa in the kitchen they found her husband Frank. Part of the lobe of his left ear was missing, there was a wound to his neck, and a 1.1/2-inch gash to his face – he was bleeding heavily. A white-handled knife also covered in blood was also present.

At the inquest adjournment followed, as victim was unable to attend. A week later, head swathed in bandages and looking very unwell, he gave evidence. He was a waggoner, employed by Mr Summerfield, a coal dealer. He left work, called at the Mitre Inn for a pint, then arrived home to find his wife very aggressive, agitated, excitable, the worse for drink and demanding money. He refused and went out for a shave. On coming out of the barbers’ she was waiting for him and again demanding money. She followed him home, again and again demanding money. Eventually he went back to the Mitre Inn to fill a bottle with beer so he could drink it with his supper.

The couple had three children, the oldest 5 and youngest almost 2. Sister said she had seen her sister Maud several times that day complaining of money, she had shared a beer with her, and two other women had got her from the Grapes Inn, and thought her ‘half and half’ with the drink. A passer-by saw her banging on her door, screaming “I will finish the bastard before the night’s out”. She then re-entered, he watched as she picked up a knife and stabbed Frank three or four times in quick succession. He passed her as she ran out and attended to the man who was bleeding profusely and he stated “She was three sheets”. A second passer-by arrived to assist. Second witness went for the doctor and the police. When the doctor arrived, he noted a great deal of blood both inside and outside the house, the place looked like a slaughterhouse. Sent to court she claimed her husband had thrown that very knife at her twice before, although there was no evidence to support this. She was sentenced to three months with hard labour.

Sunday 14 March 2021

Level Crossing Tragedy

Saturday 3rd January 1885 and blacksmith Francis Clay, aged 62, left home for work at 6:30am. He walked with a stick and was decidedly deaf, both undoubtedly factors in what was to follow. This day, as many other days, he was touring the local farms for work to help support his wife Emma and their seven children, ranging from a babe in arms to a 17-year-old. One hour after least seeing her husband she received the news he was dead. He had been hit by a train at Hademore Crossing. The signalman gave evidence at the enquiry on Wednesday 7th saying he was to another signalman at 7am that morning, when the 6:20 from Stafford to Rugby passed at about 45mph. They heard a thump and went to investigate. Evidence was also given by a policeman. Together these witnesses painted a most gruesome picture.

The body appears to have been thrown against the crossing gates, the gate post taking most of the impact. They also found his toolbox, coming to rest some 60 yards down the line. The gates were locked, the wicket gate unlockable, although people would often cross after the gates were locked. Despite the dark mornings there was plenty of light to see by. His body was found on one side of the gate, flesh removed from one hand, his clothes thrown up over his face. The post was covered in blood and brains. When they uncovered the face they discovered part of the head was missing, this they found on the other side of the gate on the turnpike road. Before the inquest on the Wednesday, his wife had been allowed to wash all the blood from the post and around the scene. Such was the force of the body hitting the post, it had broken. It was common to cross on foot when gates were closed, usually under supervision from the signalmen(!), no whistle was noted but, once again(!), this was not unusual.

Sunday 7 March 2021

Nagged to Death

Thursday 23rd May 1884 and John Hubbard, a labourer describes as ‘about 50’, of Lower Sandford Street is said to have attempted suicide. The previous evening his wife had accused him of being drunk, yet John was a renowned tee-totaller. A row ensued.

Next day he went to work as usual only to return to more accusations of drunkenness. It is said his wife went ‘out to the back’ – probably to use the privy – and on her return found him on the sofa, a razor in his hand and his throat cut. Upon which he told her “I’ve done it now, you won’t accuse me again”. Mr Welchman was sent for and he dressed the very deep and serious wound – he is not expected to live and, judging by the lack of further information, ceased to be newsworthy.