Your newspaper discoveries: Court cases, suicide and an obituary

Posted on March 20th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Alex Daley got in touch this month to tell us about the fascinating information he’s uncovered in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer.

What have you found in the newspapers? Email press@britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk to let us know!

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As a self-confessed social and family history buff I was delighted to be asked to undertake a research project into the history of my employer, East Sussex law firm Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors, as part of its celebrations to mark its 125th year.

Gaby Hardwicke was founded in Hastings in 1889, so as a major part of the project I consulted local newspapers for details of court cases and other news reported that year. What I uncovered was a fascinating array of cases and news, ranging from comic to tragic, to outright bizarre.

 

Furiously driving a pony at 12 mph

Alongside the familiar reports of burglaries and assaults, quirky cases involving speeding ponies, drunken horsemen, unlicensed hawkers, rogue railway porters and animal theft were regularly heard in the Hastings courts.

The below example of Patrick Hurley, who was fined for driving his pony and cart at a wild 11 or 12 miles an hour, is a case in point.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 5 January 1889

Hastings and St Leonards Observer – Saturday 05 January 1889
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

A sad case of suicide

But the local Hastings newspapers also contain their share of tragic cases, including those who suffered the indignity of being hauled before a court for attempting suicide. As astounding as it sounds, attempting suicide was a crime in England and Wales until 1961.

The case of Rebecca Shelley, shown below, is just one of a number of attempted suicide cases heard before the Hastings courts in 1889.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer - 16 February 1889

Hastings and St Leonards Observer – Saturday 16 February 1889
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

 

Newspaper obituary

The British Newspaper Archive was also invaluable when I wanted to trace background information about the former partners of Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors.

Here’s an obituary of Gaby Hardwicke founder Dr Frederick Goodwin, which appeared in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer in February 1897:

Hastings and St Leonards Observer - 13 February 1897

Hastings and St Leonards Observer – Saturday 13 February 1897
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

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Visit Gaby Hardwicke’s dedicated history section to read more of Alex’s newspaper discoveries and research into the firm’s history.