The Actions of a Bum-Balliff and the Death of Hugh Saville - Broad Lane, Sheffield 1890

A remarkable case of self-destruction and a wretched story of misery and want

The first report is from Nottingham Evening Post dated 27th November 1890. I should point that a Bum-Baliff was simply "a person  empowered to collect debts or arrest debtors for non-payment." Needless to say they were held in very low regard by most sections of Victorian society, but they were particularly hated by those at the bottom of the "pile." As you can see they did not leave much behind after they visited the debtor.

A drink of laudanum was made of 10% opium and 90% alcohol, and flavoured with cinnamon or saffron. It was first used by the ancient Greeks, and in the 19th century mostly used as painkiller, sleeping pill, or tranquilizer. Being an opiate it was highly addictive but was freely on-sale without a prescription. It is still in use today but is highly controlled. It is usually referred to as "tincture of opium"   

A more detailed report appears in the Manchester Courier dated 29th November 1890. An identical report appears in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 27th November 1890. In fact the a case was covered in a number of regional newspapers, an indication of its "remarkable" nature. 

The case is interesting on a couple of levels. The first is the degree of literacy and intelligence demonstrated by Hugh in his final letter that was read out at the Inquest. It is quite astounding for a working man to be able to read and write at this level given the lack of education most people had in the nineteenth century. Hugh was a native of Stoney Middleton and Eyam, villages in the midst of what is now the Peak District (see notes) and would have received a rudimentary education at best. It must be assumed that Hugh was self-taught. The second point to note is that Hugh must have arrived in Sheffield sometime after 1881. Prior to that he had lived in Derbyshire working as a hawker and general dealer. He does mention in the letter that his wife - "a good, true and faithful wife" left him on 20th August and this was really the start of his troubles. I clearly pointed the blame at his sister in law who was "clammed, starved and half naked" when he let her into the house fifteen months earlier but she had poisoned his relationship with his wife.

I have tried to find further information about Hugh's wife and sister in law but I have been unable to do so. I suspect that it may have something to do with the surname. In each of the four censuses that feature Hugh he has three different surnames - 1851Savill 1861 Sewell 1871 and 1881 Scivelle and in the latter he is down as "Hugh Jimmie Scivelle." It took a while to trace him! There is of course the possibility that Hugh did not marry and just lived with a person that he called his wife. There is certainly no indication that he married prior to 1881.

The final point is that Hugh made the strong assertion that "he was of sound mind" when he wrote the letter and then drank what was a large draft of laudanum. It was certainly a pre-meditated and calculated act that involved planning and a little deceit. But the jury totally ignored Hugh's assurances of sanity and said that "he committed suicide during a state of temporary insanity." Quite why the coroner and the jury chose to ignore the facts of the case is strange. Hugh was sane and made a fateful decision whilst of sound mind. He was not temporarily insane

Hugh is buried in a public grave in Sheffield's City Road Cemetery

Saville, Hugh (Labr., age 44).
Died at Broad Lane; Buried on November 29, 1890 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 14256, Section Y of City Road Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Plot Owner: ~ ~ of ~. Page No 563     

Notes

1881

Name Hugh Jimmie Scivelle
Age 34 Estimated Birth Year abt 1847
Relationship to Head Son
Father Hugh Scivelle
Gender Male
Where born Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire, England Civil parish Stoney Middleton County/Island Derbyshire Country England
Street Address Stoney Middleton
Occupation Hawker & General Dealer
Registration district Bakewell ED, institution, or vessel 3 Piece 3452 Folio 21 Page number 7
Household Members 
Name Age
Hugh Scivelle 62
Hugh Jimmie Scivelle 34 

1871

Name Hugh Scivelle
Age 24 Estimated Birth Year abt 1847
Relation Son
Father's Name Hugh Scivelle
Mother's NameSarah Scivelle
Gender Male
Where born Stony Middleton, Derbyshire, England Civil parish Stoney Middleton County/Island Derbyshire Country England
Registration district Bakewell Sub-registration district Tideswell ED, institution, or vessel 3 Household 
schedule number 11 Piece 3632 Folio 23 Page number 3
Household Members 
Name Age
Hugh Scivelle 55
Sarah Scivelle 19
Hugh Scivelle 24

1861

Name Hugh Sewell
Age 14 Estimated Birth Year 1847
Relation Son
Father's Name Hugh Sewell
Mother's Name Sarah Sewell
Gender Male
Where born Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire, England Civil parish Stoney Middleton
County/Island Derbyshire Country England Registration district Bakewell Sub-registration district 
Tideswell ED, institution, or vessel 3 Household schedule number 124 Piece 2543 Folio 29 Page number 23
Household Members 
Name Age
Hugh Sewell 
Sarah Sewell 
Edward J Sewell 
Hugh Sewell 
Mary Taylor 
George Boswell

1851

Name Hugh Savill
Age 4 Estimated Birth Year abt 1847
Relation Son
Father's Name Hugh Savill
Mother's Name Sarah Savill
Gender Male
Where born Middleton, Derbyshire, England
Civil parish Eyam County/Island Derbyshire Country England Registration district Bakewell Sub-registration district Matlock
ED, institution, or vessel 8b Household schedule number 98 Piece 2150 Folio 467 Page number 25
Household Members 
Name Age
Hugh Savill 43
Sarah Savill 44
Sarah Kennan 17
Edward J Savill 5
Hugh Savill 4
James Kennan 4

Sources

UK Census 

Sheffield Indexers

Free BMD

Nottingham Evening Post dated 27th November 1890

Manchester Courier dated 29th November 1890

Sheffield Indexers

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