Deadly Derbyshire

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‘Completely fascinating … Well researched’ – A review by staff at Waterstone’s in Chesterfield

  • Pen and Sword Books
  • October 2011
  • Pages: 176
  • ISBN 10: 1848846215 | ISBN 13: 978-1848846210

Deadly Derbyshire: Tales of Murder and Manslaughter c. 1700-1900 is a guide to murder and manslaughter committed within the confines of the county and across the full extent of the county area during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is based on extensive searches of the newspaper archives, uncovering a large number of cases never before written about in any book about death in the county. This compendium complements and aims to accompany other books published by Pen and Sword Books, including Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Chesterfield, More Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Chesterfield and Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Derby, to produce by far the most comprehensive series of books about Derbyshire’s deadly past to ever be published.

There are tales of murder and manslaughter in many of their manifestations, committed for many motivations. There are cases of murder for greed, to abate financial distress, for sex, for jealousy, for revenge, for convenience and cases where manslaughter was committed due to mental illness at a time when psychiatric problems were barely understood by the medical community let alone the people at large. Furthermore, there are cases where violence erupted with fatal consequences due to alcohol, usually involving arguments over trivial matters that resulted in bloodshed.

Chapters include the murder of Elizabeth Goodwin at Wigwell Hall rear Wirksworth, a case which was highly prominent in newspapers across the country but which has barely been written about since. This lamentable tragedy saw Goodwin, an upper class niece of a well respected magistrate, killed by her rejected lover, showing that murder does not discriminate by class. There are also less commonly known cases such as an instance of murder and suicide, which took place at Stoney Houghton near Pleasley in April 1868 and a fatal fight over three eggs which resulted in a killer receiving a prison sentence of just two years in 1858. Other cases include the murder of a police officer who was shot dead in the line of duty, numerous children, and some adults who were dumped in rivers and canals and whose identities were as much a mystery as those who ended the victims’ lives. A dual in the name of honour is recounted, as is the case of a man who murdered his wife and who found himself on the last ship to transport convicts to Australia as a consequence.

The less well known cases are of equal, and occasionally arguably greater, interest from a criminological point of view. The fact they have never before been written about in the form of a book is not because of a lack of interesting points of the offences but is often because no one was brought to trial due to the suicide of the culprit or because no killer was ever identified. If a trial had commenced it is likely that these little known crimes would have provoked as much, if not more, interest among the people of Derbyshire of the time, and would have interested maintained to those of us who study historic criminal cases, than some of the better known murders that have filled numerous books in the past.

The book has an RRP of £12.99 (paperback). The book is also available in Kindle and other e-book formats (prices vary).

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