In A Human Moment

News articles from the 19th century

Coroners Inquest – Benjamin Turner


Mr. Hawkes (coroner) held an inquest at his court, Moor Street, yesterday, morning, upon the body of Benjamin Turner (32), who lived at 3 Court, 4 house, Hall Street. – Mary Ann Turner said that deceased was her husband, and followed the trade of a caster. Last Tuesday he came home from work about a quarter past ten o’clock the worse for drink. Without speaking to wintess he at once went up to bed in the dark. Witness was sitting on the doorstep when he arrived home and she remained there until half past eleven o’clock. At that time her brother-in-law, Alfred Jones who is living apart from his wife, entered, and went to bed.

Elizabeth Macdonald, witness’s sister, then came to the house the worse for drink. They had a conversation together, and witness tried to persuade her sister to go home. Witness asked Macdonald not to disturb her husband, who was in bed the worse for beer. The sister replied “that she did not mind if she did wake the husband,” and at that moment he came downstairs clad in his trousers and nightshirt only. Witness left the room and heard the deceased tell her sister to go.

She heard angry words, and in a moment after the deceased ran into the yard with his shirt in flames. Witness fainted, and when she recovered her husband had veen removed to the General Hospital. She went to the hospital, and watched by her husband until his death, but the only remark he made was “Lizzie ought not to have done it to me.” – In answer to the Coroner, witness said that by Lizzie deaceased meant Elizabeth Macdonald. No one would have been able to enter the house while witness was in the yard.

Cross examined: Witness admitted that deceased ran at Macdonald, but she did not see him pick up a poker, and she was not aware that he smashed the lamp in Macdonald’s hand before she threw it – Alfred Jones said that he heard screams in the house and ran downstairs. He saw Turner with his clothes on fire. Elizabeth Macdonald was in the yard. She was the worse for beer, and had a baby in her arms. Witness went to the hospital with deceased, but he made no statement as to how he was set on fire.

David Sandford, who lives in the same yard as deceased, said that he extinguished the flames by putting his coat over the deceased. He did not see Elizabeth Macdonald in the yard.

Police-contastble William Davenport (170) said that hearing screams in the yard he ran up and saw deceased with his clothes in flames. Mrs Turner lay in a faint and Mrs Macdonald stood by the door of the house. He saw that the floor was covered with burning oil, and ran in to put out the fire. As he passed Mrs Macdonald she said “The b- want to kill me, but I’ll kill them first.” He subsequently found some portions of the broken lamp, and received the other part from Inspector Alvey, who had found it in the house.

Inspector Alvey said that he arrested the prisoner at her mother’s house, in Warstone Lane. He removed her to Kenion Street Station, and told her that she would be charged with violently assaulting Benjamin Turner, by striking him on the head with a paraffin lamp, and setting fire to him. She said, “He came downstairs and hit me, and then I hit him with the lamp. Now that’s the truth: he’s alway on to me.” He had further charged her that morning with causing Turner’s death, and she had made no reply.

Mr Nason, resident surgical officer at the General Hospital, said that deceased was received at midnight on the 25th. He was suffering from burns on the back, the right shoulder, forearm and hand, and on the chest and back of the neck. There were also several wounds, two on his back and one on the back of the head. The wounds were such that they might have been produced by a blow from a paraffin lamp like the one produced.

Deceased gradually sank from exhaustion and died at twenty five minutes past nine o’clock on Sunday morning.

A post mortem examination revealed the fact that there were no other marks of violence and that the internal organs were all healthy. Death was due to exhaustion brought about by the injuries.

The Coroner in summing up said that if the prisonerly deliberately and with malicious intent stuck deceased with such an instrument as a lamp, it would be wilful murder, but if they believed that she did it without fore-though and intent then they would return a verdict of manslaughter.

The jury retired, and after a few moments deliberation returned a verdict of “Manslaughter” against Elizabeth Macdonald, who was committed for trial at the Birmingham Assizes.

The Coroner allowed David Sandford 2s. 6d. in addition to his expenses for his promtness in putting out the flames.

Birmingham Daily Post Wednesday, July 3, 1889, Issue 9679
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Ability and Exertion


“Most lives are insignificant, not from want of ability so much as from want of exertion.” 
Alfred Vaughan

The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, January 9, 1861; Issue 6721
Gale Document Number: BA3200026616
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Living Within The Means


LIVING WITHIN THE MEANS. – Every man ought to contrive as to live within his means. This practice is of the very essence of honesty, for if a man do(es) not manage honestly to live within his own means, he must necessarily be living dishonestly upon the means of somebody else.

Those who are careless about personal expenditure and consider merely their own gratification, without regard for the comfort of others, generally find out the real uses of money when it is too late. Though by nature generous, these thriftless persons are often driven to do very shabby things. They dawdle with their money as with time; draw bills upon the future; anticipate their earnings; and are thus under the necessity of dragging after them a load of debts and obligations which seriously affect their action as free and independent men.

The loose cash which many persons throw away uselessly, and worse, would often form a basis of fortune and independence for life. These wasters are their own worst enemies, though generally found amongst the ranks of those who rail at the injustice of “the world”. But if a man will not be his own friend, how can he expect that others will be?

Orderly men of moderate means have always something left in their pockets to help others; whereas your prodigal and careless fellows who spend all, never find an opportunity for helping anybody. It is poor economy, however, to be a scrub. Narrow mindedness in living and in dealing is generally short-sighted, and leads to failure.

The penny soul, it is said, never came to two pence. Generosity and liberality, like honesty, prove the best policy after all.

Though Jenkinson, in the Vicar of Wakefield, cheated his kind-hearted neighbour Flamborough, in one way or another, every year, “Flamborough” he says, “has been regularly growing in riches, while I have come to poverty and gaol.” And practical life abounds in cases of brilliant results from a course of generous and honest policy. – Self-Help

Nottinghamshire Guardian Thursday, January 26, 1860; pg. 3; Issue 723.
Gale Document Number: R3208379530
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The Wise Man and The Fool

wise fool


The wise man is humbled by the sense of his own infirmities; the fool is elevated by the discovery of those which he observes in others.
Berrow’s Worcester Journal, Saturday, January 05, 1861; pg. 3; Issue 8250.
Gale Document Number: R3214884453
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The Double Casket of Thomas & Mary Souder

Originally posted on The Chirurgeon's Apprentice:

PM15I remember rummaging through an old trunk in my grandmother’s house when I was a child and coming across what seemed to me at the time a very unusual photograph. It was a monochromatic image of a beautiful, young woman lying in a white casket (not dissimilar to the photo on the left).

Curious, I plucked the photo from the trunk and went to find my grandma, who was parked at the kitchen table sorting through the piles of mail that inevitably found its way into her house everyday. She told me that the woman in the casket was a distant relative of mine named Lena, who had died tragically at the age of 17. “You know, people used to take photos of the dead back then,” she said, taking the picture from me and studying it closely as if she had never seen it before. “Imagine that,” she remarked…

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The New Albany (Ind.) Tribune has the following:-

“Mr John R. Cannon, of this city, has just obtained a patent for glass coffins. The invention seems to be a valuable one, and we will attempt to briefly describe it:

The coffin is made of glass, from one half to an inch thick, cast in two pieces of the ordinary form. In the upper edge of the body of the coffin is a groove, in which a tongue in the lid loosely fits. When a corpse is placed in the coffin, this groove is filled with melted cement; the lid is placed on, and firmly held by three iron bands until the cement is hardened. Through a small hole in the top of the coffin the air is then extricated by means of an air pump.

By these means Mr Cannon claims, that bodies may be preserved in their natural state for all time to come; and when placed in vaults can only be accessible to the gaze of those who are left behind.

The expense of these coffins will be no more than that of ordinary wooden coffins; and if the expectations of the inventor are realized so far as the preservation of the coffins is concerned, they will immediately come into general use, and our friend Mr. Cannon will realize a magnificent fortune.”


Jackson’s Oxford Journal  Saturday, January 14, 1860; Issue 5568
Gale Document Number: BA3200106972
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Originally posted on Museum of Love and Mortality:

I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog.


FLOW, tears ! Ye have a spell,
A gentle spell, which weaves
Itself o’er my sad heart,
And it dull woe relieves.

Ye are all eloquent,
In your soft, silent flow ;
when, lone and musingly,
I feel my heart sink low.

Ye soothe the…

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Political Poetry and Song in Broadsides

Originally posted on University of Glasgow Library:

An example of subject and woodcuts found in broadsides. From Sp Coll Mu23-y.1

An example of subject and woodcuts found in broadsides. From Sp Coll Mu23-y.1 .

Taking place today is the Political Poetry and Song in Scotland event with archivists and researchers from across Scotland and the UK meeting to discuss and celebrate the wealth and variety of political poetry and song produced and collected in Scotland. The event aims to scope out material for an online catalogue on this subject and to generate an interdisciplinary research agenda with the event initially culminating in a public poetry reading and recital. More information on the event can be found on the Centre for Robert Burns Studies web pages.

Part of the day’s activities will involve a trip to our Special Collections seminar room where participants will have the opportunity to look over a selection of items from our collections that demonstrate the kinds of political poetry and song found within Scotland. One example from…

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Bigamy in Birmingham: the tale of Horatio and Mrs Hoskins

Originally posted on Criminal Historian:

Mary Ann - fifth entry - appeared before the Warwick Assizes under her first married name of Brown.

Mary Ann – fifth entry – appeared before the Warwick Assizes under her first married name of Brown.

At the Loughborough Petty Sessions in April 1846, a Mrs Hoskins charged her husband with having committed bigamy.

This was not unusual; bigamy cases appeared fairly often in court during the 18th and 19th centuries; as David J Cox has stated:

“before men and women could divorce on equal terms and without blame being apportioned, bigamy was seen as one way in which men (or less usually, women) could evade an unhappy and sometimes dangerous marriage and begin afresh.” [1]

But this case had a couple of differences.

Firstly, the man accused, Horatio Huntley Hoskins, was an attorney from a good background, and also the author of a couple of published works: Count De Denia: Or, The Spaniard’s Ransom (1841) and De Valencourt: A Tragedy in Five Acts (1842, written with his…

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Skeleton of a womanThe Derby Mercury, Wednesday, February 22, 1854; Issue 3253
Gale Document Number: BA3200011736

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