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Death of a Shoemaker

Alleged Manslaughter

On Saturday 7th May 1859 at The White Bear Inn an inquest took place into the death of John North, a 69 year old shoemaker of Stillington, whose body was on display before the local coroner John Wood Esq. and an assembled jury.


The Argument

Mr North lived next door to The White Dog Public House and on the previous Thursday at noon left his house and looked over the wall into the yard of the public house. There was assembled there several men, two of whom by name Cook and Halder had donned boxing gloves and were preparing for a ‘set to’.  On seeing North looking over the wall one Robert Harrison took up a besom and covered North’s face with it. James Clark did the same at which point North struck out with his stick, which fell into the yard. George Cook picked it up and struck back hitting North on the hat or head with it.


A nasty blow to the head

Just afterwards North showed a contusion the size of a hen’s egg on his right forehead to some people. By this time the men had gone from the yard into the pub. When he saw they had gone North went round to the Public House swearing, and issuing threats that he would put out the windows in the house and no-one would have any peace there either by night or day. It was alleged by some witnesses that North had said ‘You have thrown a stone and you won’t let me go quietly along my premises.’ But all the witnesses from the yard denied that a stone had been thrown.

North then turned to go back to his house but never reached there as he fell to the ground insensible. He was carried home and Mr F. Hall of Stillington, surgeon, was called. The deceased never regained consciousness but died at 8pm that same day.


The Post Mortem

This was conducted by F. Hall. He stated that when the deceased’s scalp was drawn back there was a clear depression in the bone of the skull. On examining the brain he found the blood vessels and ventricles of the brain on the right hand side were congested with blood in a position which matched exactly with an external bruise on the deceased’s forehead. He concluded that the engorgement of the vessels and ventricles indicated that the cause of death was concussion of the brain.


The Verdict

After a lengthy discussion the jury concluded:

‘The deceased died from the effects of a blow to his head, but by whom that blow was given there was insufficient evidence.’


From The York Herald, 14th May 1859