In The Illustrated Police News etc (London, England), Saturday, October 27, 1883 there is this marvellous engraving on the front page with the title "Exciting Scene on the Banks of the Don - Sheffield". 

The Illustrated Police News etc (London, England), Saturday, October 27, 1883

I was intrigued to find out further details of the incident. Inside the paper there was a brief report which claimed that the cause was the suicide of a young woman called FRANCE HALL who had been "disappointed in love"

The excitement was due to the fact the two men jumped into the river to retrieve the body but one of them who did not swim, got into difficulties and he too had to be dragged out of the river, barely alive.

Wanting to know more, I placed the incident as taking place at 9.00 in the morning of Wednesday, 17th October 1883. I then checked the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent for the following day to see if they could furnish additional information. Their report was exceptional

But it was in Saturday's editions that the real reason for Frances tragic suicide was revealed. It was nothing at all to do with "being disappointed in love". Instead it was, as speculated in the previous paper, some "differences" with her mother. Frances' mother was revealed at the Inquest to a "lying alcoholic" who would defame her daughter rather than admit that she was suffering from chronic alcoholism   

The jury at the Inquest obviously felt a great deal of sympathy for Frances. It was a case of suicide, never mind probable" and Frances was not "temporarily" insane but quite possible suffering from a deep bout of what is now known as "clinical depression." But the jury despite all the evidence returned an "open verdict" in other words Frances would not have had the final indignity, in Victorian eyes, of being a suicide victim. The Coroners and their juries in nineteenth century Sheffield wherever possible attempted to pass verdicts that mitigated the stigma of suicide. They referred to "temporary insanity", "disturbed mind" "mental illness" and other such phrases in order that the victim could be laid to rest in what they perceived as being the proper manner. Suicide was illegal under English law until as recently as 1961, but the Church who had far greater influence then than it does now, would not allow suicide victims to be buried in consecrated ground

Frances was laid to rest in Sheffield's General Cemetery alongside her grandparents who incidentally were licensees themselves  

Grave: O2 7

Edward HALL
Publican, Spring Vale Hotel, Steel Bank
age: 58, buried: 28 Feb 1870

Spinster, Spring Vale Hotel
age: 27, buried: 5 Feb 1872

Frances HALL
Widow, Spring Vale Hotel
age: 60, buried: 12 Jul 1874

Frances HALL
Spinster, 1 Langsett Road
age: 22, buried: 19 Oct 1883

Ball Street Bridge Sheffield - the scene of the tragedy


1881 Census Name Frances Hall
Age 20 Estimated Year of Birth 1861
Relationship to Head of Household Servant
Occupation Bar Maid (Inn Servant)
Address 168, Infirmary Road
District Ecclesall Bierlow, Nether Hallam Parish Nether Hallam Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Birth Place Sheffield
Birth County Yorkshire

This was the Five Alls public house and not the Butchers Arms. Fraces must have changed jobs in the year or two before her death

Butcher's Arms
1 Langsett Road / Infirmary Road
Open 1871 Closed 1959 Span 88 years
1871 Mrs Mary Boyes (Beerhouse)
1901 (Census) William Sneath, publican, Butchers Arms (1 Langsett Road)
1905 (White's) John Louis Andrews, beerhouse (1 Langsett Road)
1911 (White's) John Louis Andrew, beerhouse (1 Langsett Road)
1919 (White's) John Louis Andrew, beerhouse (1 Langsett Road)
1925 (Kelly's) John Louis Andrew, beerhouse (1 Langsett Road)
1937 Walter White [ beer retailer only ]
1938 Mrs Harriet Clayton [ beer retailer only ]
1939 Mrs Harriet Clayton [ beer retailer only ]


Sheffield and Rotherham Independent  - 16th - 20th October 1883

The Illustrated Police News etc (London, England), Saturday, October 27, 1883

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