Coroner's Notebook

As you probably know, in the 19th Century inquests were held at the nearest public house, with the body of the deceased present, to be viewed and examined. The Coroner travelled around the district presiding over these inquests. In the 1890s the Coroner covering Wakefield was Thomas Taylor.(1) All inquests were recorded by hand in notebooks. Some of these inquests involving Horbury people are transcribed below with the addition of photographs and maps where possible. 


Francis William Davies

This is a transcript of the inquest on the body of Francis William Davies, held at the ale house of William Berry, The Shepherd's Arms, Horbury on 11

John Davies sworn says:

"I live at George Street, Horbury and I am Foreman Blacksmith at the Wagon Works. Deceased was 14 years old and an office boy for Messrs. Jessop Bros. Shoddy Manufacturers and was my son. He was very healthy and active. Last Wednesday morning at 6 o'clock I called him up as usual and he set off to work taking his breakfast with him. I next saw him between 3 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon at the office. Dr Milne was dressing the lower part of the deceased's body and his legs. Deceased was wrapped up and taken home where a bed was made at once and he was put in it and the doctor made him comfortable and then left and deceased told me there was a sump hole having a perforated plate to let the refuse water run down it and seeing that the hole was getting too full he went to remove the obstruction and having placed one foot on the plate and the other on the brickwork that his foot slipped off the plate and he fell through into the hot water. He added that he had scrambled but fell back again but got out by himself and walked to the office. He also stated that he had not been sent there that day but that he had helped a man to clean the place before. Deceased vomited whatever he took and died the next morning about half past 6 o'clock, somewhat suddenly. His life is insured in the office of the Royal Liver Friendly Society."

Walter Sidney Jessop sworn says: 

"I live at Hall Cliffe, Horbury. I am a member of the firm of Jessop Bros. and deceased was our office boy at our Springfield Mills, Ossett. He came to the office at 7 o'clock last Wednesday morning. About half past 2 o'clock in the afternoon he was in the yard and I told him to take some chemical tubes into the office. Abut 15 or 20 minutes afterward I saw him being undressed in the office – my brother was attending to him. I telephoned for the doctor and procured blankets. Deceased was wrapped up and laid on the floor and the doctor arrived about about a quarter past 3 o'clock."

Erastus Dews sworn says: 

"I live at Horbury Road, Ossett, I am a Dyehouse labourer. I work at Springfield Mill and have known the deceased by seeing him there during the last 12 months. Last Wednesday forenoon he was helping me with some bags in the yard. After that, I and a man took the wooden cover off the sump and I partly cleaned the grate but as the water was too hot I left. Then deceased picked up a piece of wood and was going toward the sump, but I told him to come away and not interfere with my job. He then went in to the office and I did not see him anymore until after he was scalded. The tank is about 4 feet deep. The plate is set on end."

Annie, the wife of John Robinson, forgeman sworn says:

"I washed and laid out deceased's body which is tall and well made. The scalds are below the waist."

Henry Peacock Esq Inspector of Factories present. Verdict: Accidentally scalded.

Francis William Davies was baptised on 9th December 1883 at St Peter's Church, Hunslet Moor, Leeds. His parents were John and Sarah Ann (nee Hetherington). Their address was 13 Roxburgh Place. The 1891 census shows the family have moved to George Street, Horbury. Francis William is an only child, although John's niece Elizabeth Davies, 17 years, is living with them. (The 1911 census reveals they lived at 43 George Street). Francis William was buried at Horbury Cemetery. I wonder if that life insurance policy, mentioned at the inquest, paid for the substantial headstone?







Davies family grave, Horbury Cemetery.

1913 OS map showing Spring Field Mills, Ossett Spa.

Mary Hannah Sugden

I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to say that Mary Hannah Sugden probably had a very normal, ordinary life for the 15 years that it lasted. To say it ended prematurely and tragically is no understatement either. Mary Hannah was born in Crigglestone, the daughter of Alfred, a miner and Martha (nee Vaux), who married in the Dewsbury area in 1877. She was baptised at St Luke's Church, Middlestown, on the 25th June 1882.

The 1891 census shows the family living at New Scarborough, Shillington (Sitlington). Alfred and Martha have seven children at this time, Lilley 12, Dennis 11, Mary Hannah 8, Beatrice 7, George William 5, Wilfred 3 and Earnest 5 months. This would be the only census Mary Hannah would be recorded in.

Some time in the next few years the family moved to Park Street, Horbury and had three more children, Hagar Amelia, Fred and Hubert. On the 21st March 1898, tragedy struck. Thomas Taylor, the Coroner held an inquest the next day in The Fleece Hotel. This is a transcript of that inquest:

Mary Hannah Sugden deceased - Alfred Sugden, sworn says:

"I live in Park Street, Horbury. I am a coal miner - deceased was 15 years old and a spinner in a worsted mill and my daughter. She has always been healthy and strong. She began work at Mr Poppleton's mill 2 years ago. I soon removed to Oxford Street, Gomersal with my family and deceased went to Burnley's mill. We remained at Gomersal and then returned to Horbury and deceased again went to Mr Poppleton's but was sent away nearly 3 weeks ago in consequence of having soiled some worsted.

She has gone about trying to obtain work but she said she found all full up. I have seen her daily except last Sunday when I was away most of the day. I have neither threatened her nor ill used her. I expected that she was in bed yesterday morning when I set off to my work about 20 minutes to 6 o'clock. When I was on my way home from Crigglestone Colliery about half past 3 o'clock, I was informed that deceased was in the River Calder and leaned over Hartley Bank Bridge and found persons dragging and pulling out deceased's body which was in the ordinary dress. I caused the body to be taken home. Her life is insured." 

Walter Edwin Baines, sworn says:

"I live in Jenkin Road, Horbury and am a worsted and yarn manufacturer. I was in my office at Addingford Mill yesterday afternoon about a quarter to 12 o'clock and through the window I saw deceased on the Colliery Bridge over the River. She seemed to be looking round in a suspicious way. She suddenly came from the Bridge to the footpath under it and I lost sight of her. 

Frederick George Larrard, our Clerk, went out, I followed and then noticed recent feet marks from the Bridge to the edge of the River. I then communicated with the Police and dragging was commenced and deceased's body was found about a quarter past 3 o'clock.

John Worth, sworn says:

"I am a general labourer and live at Club Houses, Horbury. Yesterday afternoon Police Constable Smith asked me to fetch a boat and help him drag the River at Hartley Bank Bridge. We found the body on Horbury side of the Calder.

Sarah the wife of the said John Worth, sworn says, I have never observed anything strange in the conduct of deceased. She was apparently healthy and cheerful. I assisted to strip off deceased's clothes and wash and lay out her body which is very well nourished and has not any sign of injury or disease."

Verdict: Drowned herself during temporary insanity.

Mary Hannah Sugden was buried in plot E543 at Horbury Cemetery, on the 23rd March 1898, a plot which went on to contain at least nine other bodies of children, infants and stillborn babies, all unrelated to her.

Alfred and Martha Sugden had a total of 11 children. The 1911 census reveals they lost another child as well as Mary Hannah, most likely an unnamed baby, since I can account for her other siblings in this census. 


Harriet Milton

The inquest into the death of Harriet Milton was held at the house of Charles Hubert Salmon, The Fleece Hotel, Horbury on Thursday the 9th day of June 1898. On view the body of Harriet Milton, deceased. 

Caroline, the wife of Samuel Milton of Shepstye Road, Horbury, joiner, sworn says:

"Deceased was 83 years old and a winder in a woollen mill and widow of Richard Milton, stone mason's labourer. She was my husband's mother and has lived with us for last 9 years. We removed from Chagford, Devonshire 9 years ago and went to Blackburn and stayed there 3 years and came to Eastmoor, Wakefield and then here some 18 months ago. deceased has been fairly well and has gone about as she chose. 

On Thursday 21st April last, about half past 9 o'clock, I went upstairs to put my children to bed and left her sitting in her chair. My husband was with her. When I was coming downstairs again I heard a knock at our door. Mr Womack's son then said deceased had fallen. I and my husband went about 50 yards and found her at the door of the Band room and we carried her home. She stated that she had gone to listen to the band and had slipped and fallen.

She complained of her left femur and when Mr Kemp came he said there was a fracture. He attended her daily and last Saturday afternoon she began to have diarrhoea which stopped on Sunday and she died yesterday forenoon about 10 o'clock."

James Edward Womack sworn says:

"I live at Shepstye Road, I am a cloth finisher. Some six weeks ago I was passing the Band room on my way home between 9 and10 o'clock at night and saw deceased falling from the step at the Band room door. The road was clear. I took hold of her but she cried out, “O my leg” and I sent my brother for her son.

Nancy the wife of Alfred Chappell of Shepstye Road, a woollen power loom weaver sworn says, I have known deceased above 12 months and I have been assisting to nurse her during the last few weeks. I was present at her death. I helped to wash and lay out her body which is thin. The left hip is swollen and there are bed sores on the back."

Verdict: Accidentally fell.

Harriet (nee Leyman) was born in Chagford, Devon in about 1816. She married Richard Milton in Chagford on the 19th February 1837. Their son Samuel was born in 1858, when Harriet was about 42 years old.

The Miltons don't appear on a census in Horbury. In 1891 they were still living in Blackburn and by the 1901 census, three years after Harriet's death, they had returned to Devon.

Harriet Milton was buried at Horbury Cemetery but there is no headstone.


Nellie Duckworth

Another tragic case from the notebook of Thomas Taylor, Coroner for the Horbury area in 1898.

The inquest took place at the ale house of William Ibbotson, The Ship Inn, Horbury Bridge, on Monday 31st December 1898. On view was the body of little Nellie Duckworth. This is transcript of that inquest.

Dinah, the wife of John Duckworth of White's Row, Horbury Bridge, dyer's labourer, sworn says:

"Deceased was 4 years and 6 months old and was my daughter. She was active and healthy. Last Friday afternoon she came from school at 4 o'clock and played about with other children until about a quarter past 5 o'clock when I called her into the house. She then had her tea while standing next to her younger sister Gladys and I came to a shop. I had the fender up to clean it. There was was a good fire. I put Gladys into a rocking chair and told deceased to stay near to prevent her from falling off. I returned within 10 minutes and on opening the door found deceased with her pinafore burnt off and her woollen clothes smouldering about the breast and arms. She seemed to be stupefied – she did not cry - Gladys was still in the chair. The house was full of smoke. I rolled deceased up and carried her to the door and made an alarm and the neighbours rushed to me. Deceased was sensible in a few minutes. She then stated that she had gone to warm her hands and her pinafore had begun to blaze before her face. Dr. Greenwood arrived within a quarter of an hour and told us we must prepare for the worst. She died last Saturday afternoon about 20 minutes past 12 o'clock. Her life has been insured with the Prudential Assurance Co. Limited for the last 3 years and upward."

James Henry Thurlow sworn says:

"I live at St. John's Terrace, Horbury Bridge and am a dyer's labourer. Last Friday afternoon about half past 5 o'clock when I was passing Duckworth's house I saw smoke issuing through the open door. I entered the house and found his wife bringing deceased towards the door. At her request I told the neighbours and telephoned for the doctor."

Hannah Heald sworn says:

"I am a widow and live in Storrs Hill Road, Horbury. I reached White's Row soon after half past 5 o'clock last Friday afternoon and found deceased had been attended to. I assisted Dr. Greenwood to wrap her up afresh and put her to bed. She was not burned below her waist. I remained until 11 o'clock that night and visited her on the following morning. I washed and laid out deceased's body which is stout and free from any sign of disease or injury except the burns."

Verdict: Accidentally burnt.

1919 OS map showing White's Row off King Street, Horbury Bridge.

Aerial view of White's Row (the stone terraced houses). Google Earth 2018.

Nellie Duckworth was the daughter of John and Dinah (nee Goodwin). She was born on the 4th July 1893 and baptised at Christ Church, South Ossett on the 6th August. The 1901 census shows the Duckworth's had another daughter, Doris in 1899. Their address in this census was King Street, Horbury Bridge. John is described as a teamer for dye works. By the 1911 census their address is 4, Horbury Road, South Ossett. They have had a further daughter, Nora now 5. John Duckworth died in 1916 and was buried at Horbury Cemetery on 25th October, aged 47.

In 1920 Dinah married Patrick Gara and the 1939 Electoral Register shows them living at 7, George Street, Healey Road, Ossett. Daughter Gladys never married and is living with them. Doris Duckworth married Frank Wilby, son of Frank Mitchell Wilby, on the 1st July 1922 at Holy Trinity, Ossett. The 1939 Electoral Register shows them living at 23, Ingfield Avenue and they have a daughter, Emily born in 1923.

Nora married Tom Fallas, son of Harry Fallas, curator and mace bearer, Ossett Corporation, on the 13th August 1927. The 1939 Electoral Register shows them also living on Ingfield Avenue, at No.48. They have a son Harry, born 1937. 


Harry Townend

At the house of William Ineson, The Woolpack Hotel, Horbury. On Monday the 8th day of August 1898. On view the body of Harry Townend deceased.

Annie Townend sworn says:

'I live in Queen Street Horbury and I am the widow of the deceased, who was 31 years old and a greengrocer. We were married at Christmas 1885. Deceased had been a teetotaller for 12 months before 5 weeks ago, when he began to drink again and gradually got worse and hardly ever came home sober. He remained out until a quarter or half past 11 o'clock every night. When he came home last Friday night he seemed to be sober and cheerful. We went straight up to bed and he did not disturb me during the night. About half past 7 o'clock last Saturday morning he told me to lie in bed and that he would light the fire for me. He has lit the fire many a time. He also told me he was going to start out right this week but that he would not start on a Saturday. He gave me directions about sending out the wagon for myself as I had done nothing if he had. He has been in pecuniary difficulties for some years. He left me in bed. I got up at 8 o'clock. I got the children up and I sent my son Hedrick aged 10 years for some corn for the poultry and he ran back to me and I fetched my neighbour Mrs. Carter. I was not allowed to see deceased's dead body until it had been laid out. The stable had three stalls and the deceased and his two brothers had each a horse. Deceased's horse stood in the first stall. The deceased insured his life.'

Elizabeth Ann Wain sworn says:

"I live in Queen Street and am a domestic servant. I am in the service of deceased's brother Fred. Deceased came in to our kitchen about 8 o'clock last Saturday morning and asked for the key of the herring hole door. I did not notice any difference in him. I told him that his brother had taken it.' He replied, “It does not matter. I only wanted the nail box.”

Hedrick Townend sworn says:

"I did not see my father, the deceased, living last Saturday morning. After breakfast, I and Harry Armitage went to the stable. The door is in two parts. The upper part was open and the lower part, though closed, was not fastened. When I pushed open the lower part I saw deceased hanging from a beam in the floor above. He was in the middle stall."

William Morton sworn says:

"I live at Spring End, Horbury, and am an engine man at a yarn mill. I have known deceased all my life. I saw him last night at the Working Men's Club. He appeared to be sober and in good spirits. As I was walking down Queen Street about a quarter to 10 o'clock last Saturday forenoon I saw some persons standing round deceased's stable door. I went and found him hanging with a halter from a beam. His feet did not reach the floor. I took the noose from his neck. The body was quite warm but bare headed."

Sarah Ann Carter sworn says:

"I am the wife of Charles Carter of Queen Street, stonemason's labourer. Last Saturday forenoon I saw deceased's body taken from the stable in to the house & I helped to undress, wash and lay out the body, which is well made and without any mark of violence except an indentation on the throat and sides of the neck. His pockets had nothing in them except a metal watch and a pawn ticket."

Verdict: Hanged himself while of unsound mind.

Close up of a postcard view of Queen Street showing the Fish & Chip Shop which could have been Townend's greengrocer's shop.

A similar view of the shops on the right hand side of Queen Street as they were in 2018.

Annie Townend remarried on the 17th February 1902 at St Peter's Church, when she was 34. Her second husband was 43 year-old widower Frank Fry, a carrier, also from Queen Street.
The 1911 census shows Annie and Frank living at Manor Road, Ossett with Annie's children from her first marriage plus two more children that were born to Frank: Newman aged 6 years and Fred aged 5 years. 
Frank is described as a waggoner for a rag and mungo manufacturer and Annie is now a housewife at home. 
Frank Fry died a few months later and was buried at Horbury Cemetery on 15th July, in the same plot as Harry Townend and little Annie. 
The 1939 Electoral Register shows Annie, widowed for a second time living with daughter Edith and son Fred at 71, Gervase Road, Horbury. Annie is described as incapacitated.
Annie Fry died in August 1942, aged 74. She was buried in Horbury Cemetery in the same plot as Frank, Harry Townend and little Annie. 


Martha Elizabeth Rowley

At the house of John William Munn, the College Hotel, Wakefield, on Thursday the 6th day of October 1887, on view the body of Martha Elizabeth Rowley deceased. 

Mary the wife of Edwin Rowley of Daw Lane, Horbury, coalminer, sworn says:

"Deceased was 4 years and 10 months old and my daughter. She has lately had scarlet fever but has gone out for the last three weeks. Yesterday morning at about half past 6 o'clock, I left deceased and her elder and younger sisters in bed asleep, while I went to see a man whom I had engaged to paper a house to which we were intending to remove.

My father in law Joseph Rowley was sleeping in the adjoining room. The children have been in the habit of getting up a little before 7 o'clock. My husband set off to his work about 5 o'clock yesterday morning. He had struck a light and left a box containing Lucifer matches on a chair at the bedside as usual. I returned before 7 o'clock and found Mrs. Underwood and others at our house with deceased inside. I unlocked the door and went in and then saw deceased lying on the hearth rug and my eldest daughter in her nightdress standing over her.

Joseph Rowley was in the next room and did not come out. I sent for Mr. Kemp (Dr.) and deceased was taken in a cab from our house about half past 9 o'clock. Deceased said to me 'It's our Ann, Mother.' Ann was 6 years old last February. Ann said nothing until yesterday afternoon when she told me that she was playing with a match and that deceased got on fire upstairs. I had never seen any of the children touch a match. Deceased's life is insured in the office of the Prudential Assurance Co."

Richard Bertram Eskrigge of Clayton Hospital, Victoria Square, Wakefield, surgeon, sworn says:

"I admitted deceased about 5 minutes past 10 o'clock yesterday afternoon. She was suffering from extensive burns all over except the feet and lower part of the legs. She did not rally. She died in about 3 quarters of an hour from shock caused by the burns. She had been properly treated and well wrapped up before her admission." 

Joseph Rowley of Daw Lane, lamplighter, sworn says:

"I have been living in a house with my son Edwin. I have separate rooms. I went to bed between 1 and 2 o'clock yesterday morning after having extinguished the lights in the gas lamps. I was awoken by the sound of the children cry and scream, but thinking that their mother was with them I did not take any notice for 2 or 3 minutes. The cries continued and I ran downstairs I found the staircase full of reek. I passed their bedroom door and on getting downstairs I found deceased's flannel smouldering. Her nightgown and chemise had been burned off. I pulled off the flannel and then went to the door but it was fast and the key was not in the lock. As Ann could not tell me where her mother was, I knowing that she was deaf went upstairs to see if she was in bed. Not finding her I returned to my room and hearing knocking against my door I opened it and let in some neighbours. In the meantime deceased's mother and others came in at the other door."

Olive the wife of Joseph Underwood of Town End, Horbury, Railway Signalman, sworn says:

"Yesterday morning about half past 6 o'clock I was at home and heard the children in Edwin Rowley's house crying out, “Mother, Mother, Mother.” I went to the door but could not get in. I looked through the window and saw deceased and her sister Ann. I fetched my husband who tried to burst open the door. Deceased's mother arrived in a minute or two and unlocked the door."

Verdict: Accidentally burnt.

Rowley family grave, Horbury Cemetery.

1908 OS map showing Daw Lane, Horbury.

The Rowley family had had more than their fair share of tragedy over at least two generations. Joseph Rowley, the grandfather of poor little Martha Elizabeth, had been married to Emma Blacker in 1854. They had lost 6 of their 7 children, 8 month-old Hannah and 8 year-old Mary Ann in 1869, 1 year-old George in 1871, 13 year-old Thomas in 1872, 9 year-old William in 1874 and 18 year-old Henry in 1882. Joseph was also widowed twice: Emma died in 1876, shortly before her 43rd birthday and his second wife Mary died on Christmas Day 1886. 

Edwin and Mary's own losses were not over yet, as youngest daughter Emma died on 14th January 1902, aged 15. Edwin, Mary, Martha Elizabeth and Emma are buried in Horbury Cemetery. Joseph and Emma Rowley's grave is also there and is inscribed with all their children's details.


1. Inquests held in Horbury by the Coroner Thomas Taylor in 1898 taken from

Helen Bickerdike  July 2018