The Blast Lane area of Sheffield and the Sheffield Canal

The Talbot Inn Blast Lane Sheffield (Junction of Blast Lane, left, and Navigation Hill, right, Nunnery. Talbot Inn on corner, Court No. 1, Navigation Hill, at rear of back to backs. Entrance to Nunnery Colliery Railway in background, right)

This report appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 30th November 1880. Even by Victorian standards the sheer horror of the situation beggars belief.

The inquest appears to be less concerned about the circumstances surrounding the death of the person that was dragged from the canal, but more about the total absence of any suitable facilities to store the body. The foreman of the jury Mr. J Ellis had obviously been approached by the landlord of the Talbot Inn who had pointed out the corpse that the jury were enquiring into had been in his stables for a week after its removal from the canal . As a consequence of the deterioration of the corpse he had removed his horses. Mr. Ellis then pointed out to the Coroner that he believed that a resolution had been passed "a couple of years ago" for the erection of a public mortuary. The Coroner Mr. Wightman said that he had not heard of any such resolution being passed but fully supported the need for a public mortuary. There was a need for one. He then made a remark that was astounding - "he believed there were cases (note plural) where landlords' wives and families had to leave their homes whilst there was a dead body in the house awaiting the inquest."

The horror of the situation can only be dreamt of. The landlord of the public house not only loses his family albeit temporarily but he is left alone inside his pub with a decomposing corpse for company.

This clearly must have prayed on Mr. Ellis's mind and so he made a proposal for the erection of a public mortuary, and asked the Coroner to pass the proposal onto the Town Council for their immediate attention. Not surprisingly there were no objections raised.

I was still intrigued to know more about the case - the report did not even give the body a name - and so I looked through a few issues of the local newspapers and found the following in a supplement to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated Saturday 4th December 1880. It was fascinating. It appears that the inquest that was held on Monday 29th November 1880 was an adjourned inquest. The name of the deceased was a 54 year old hawker called James Brady and he had been pulled out of the canal on Saturday 13th November 1880. He had been missing for about two weeks. The inquest was opened on Tuesday 16th November 1880 but was adjourned to allow police to make further enquiries. The police surgeon Mr Arthur Hallam pointed out that some of the bruising on the deceased's face had been inflicted prior to death and though not fatal in themselves could have been a contributory factor.   

I then accessed the report of the Inquest that was held on Tuesday 16th November 1880. This is from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 17th November 1880 and appears under the title Another Mysterious Death in Sheffield

Reading the report in full it is evident that there was a great deal of suspicion surrounding the case and the Coroner was more than ready to adjourn the inquest so that the police could investigate the circumstances surrounding the case. There did seem a lot of uncertainty surrounding James Brady's death. What the report did not mention is that the Coroner released the body for burial. James was buried on Thursday 19th November 1880 - about 19 - 20 days after he died. This is his burial record.

BRADY, JAMES (buried St Patrick's section, age 45yr). Died at PARK; Buried on November 19, 1880 in Roman Catholic ground; Grave Number 14, Section DA of St Michaels RC Cemetery, Rivelin.

The police did make further investigations but did not make any significant headway. When summing up at the adjourned inquest, the Coroner pointed out that there was suspicion and only suspicion - if any of the jury had any doubts about the testimony given, he would once again adjourn the inquest. The jury did not take up the Coroner on his offer and returned this verdict -

"Found drowned in the canal on 13th November, having marks of violence on his head inflicted during life, but how inflicted or how deceased got into the water, there is no evedence to show"

It is certainly a strange verdict but one that is consistent with the evidence or more to the point, the lack of evidence.

As for the erection of a public mortuary proposed at the inquest, Sheffield had to wait another three and a half years. There is no doubt that the proposal would have been passed on to the Town Council but the Council were noted for being parsimonious when it came to public expenditure. A pattern developed in the nineteenth century whereby the council did not interfere in public matters especially those that may entail the spending of money. They tended to wait until matters became intolerable and then and only then did they take any form of action. An article I published many years ago - Revolting Proceedings in a Sheffield Burial Ground April 1865 - is a case in point. 

It was only in May 1883 that they identified an area of land they could use - Plum Lane off Corporation Street - and authorised the release of funds. But as the following report shows the mortuary owed its existence more to the initiative of a Mr. George Franklin than the Town Council.   

Sheffield Weekly Telegraph dated 12th April 1884  


Details of the Talbot  - it changed its name from the Basin Tavern - the landlord who took in James Brady's body was Mr Wiiliam Mason

Basin Tavern 36 - 38 Blast Lane Open 1845 
1845 William Hartley
1849 William Hartley
1851 William Hartley
1852 William Hartley
1854 Thomas Millwater
1856 M Lunn
1862 F Fletcher
1871 John Mason (Beerhouse)

Talbot Inn Open 1881

1881 William Mason
1893 William Mason
1901 William Taylor
1905 William Taylor
1911 John Barrows


Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 17th - 30th November 1881 and 4th December 1880

Sheffield Weekly Telegraph dated 12th April 1884  

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This page was last updated on 08/02/17 14:16