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19th Century Barnsley Murders (Paperback)

P&S History > True Crime World History > UK & Ireland > England > Yorkshire & Humberside > Barnsley

By Margaret Drinkall
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 150
ISBN: 9781473827356
Published: 1st July 2015



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19th Century Barnsley Murders is a telling account of crimes in the Barnsley area that have remained unpublished for more than a century.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 happenings include a case of body snatching, 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 so easily have 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.

The book is a collection of murders in Barnsley and is similar to many that are published based on the murder or serious crime in towns across the country. Nowhere was free from serious and horrifying crime and the author captures a variety of interesting cases from her home town.

There is no need to be a resident or associated with Barnsley to enjoy, if that is the right term, reading about murders. Much of the research if from local and national newspapers, which in the period carried detailed reports of murder with often excruciating detail of injuries and the cause of death and evidence given at inquests and assizes. This allows the author to provide surprising detail of the crimes, given that it is unlikely any of the crime files survived.

A good read for anyone interested in 19th century policing.

Police History Society Newsletter

19th Century Barnsley Murders is a look back at a town caught in beginnings of economic failure, the Industrial Revolution, and the emergence of working class movements in Britain. All three of these major influences converge in poverty and crime, including murder of the boldest sort in Barnsley, a town located between Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster.

Amid descriptions of rat-ridden slums populated by numerous pubs, author Margaret Drinkall describes the darker side of progress in this small town. She recounts 17 murders or near-misses that occurred during the tempestuous 19th century in Barnsley. Drinkall reveals cases of bodysnatching, an early case of stalking which ended in murder in the street, the loss of a child and murder by pudding.

Interspersed in the copy are black and white photos, maps and drawings of places described in each of the cases. These photos and maps help draw the readers into the narrative. One impressively stark photo is that of a jail cell door in Leeds — in an underground jail with ominously thick stone walls.

Court practices of the period are also described in the book. For instance, often in the 19th century, an inquest was started almost immediately and the body of the victim was not moved from the scene until jurors viewed the body were it was dropped.

Drinkall describes the cases she has selected each in a separate chapter, allowing every case center stage. One thing that is lacking is a character development of the victim and murderer, but this is understandable since Drinkall relies on court records and newspaper accounts to retell these stories.

If you are lucky enough to be traveling to Great Britain, based on the intrigue of the this book, you might wish to read this book first and then add Barnsley to your itinerary to soak in the local colour and the sites of murders long ago.

True Crime Reader

The act of murder has always held a deep rooted sense of the horrific but there is always a macabre fascination associated with it. Today the television, internet and newspapers report it in depth and the news is imparted to every corner of the globe but over a century ago many stories only made the local newspapers. A murder can take place anywhere at any time including the old market town of Barnsley as this book amply informs. The seventeen cases included in this volume have long been forgotten which makes this book a unique opportunity to step back in time, though it begins not with a murder but with bodysnatching! Whilst Burke & Hare were notorious in Edinburgh for stealing cadavers for medical experimentation, we get to see that there were opportunists in Barnsley doing exactly the same. This is a well researched and thought provoking read and will appeal to anyone with an interest in the Barnsley/South Yorkshire area, local historians, true crime enthusiasts and anyone who likes a cracking read.

Chris Heath, author of Ye Olde Townships

A good read for anyone interested in 19th century policing.

Oxford & Cambridge Club Military History Group

As featured in

South Yorkshire Times

'The intriguing narrative and in-depth coverage of Barnsley's criminal past make this essential reading for both historians and those interested in true crime.'

The Sheffield Star

'The intriguing narrative and in-depth coverage of Barnsley's criminal past make it a must-read for both local historians and those interested in true crime.'

Barnsley Chronicle
 Margaret Drinkall

About Margaret Drinkall

Local historian Margaret Drinkall retired in 2009 in order to concentrate on her passion for researching and writing. Her recent books include Rotherham Workhouse and true crime titles relating to Sheffield and Rotherham. Background to Margaret's writings and interests can be seen on her website, margaretdrinkall.co.uk, which also offers publication advice to new writers.

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