Death in early modern Derby

by Nick

A few extracts from a chronicle of the history of early modern Derby:

  • 1601. A woman burnt to death in Windmill pit for poisoning her husband.
  • 1609. In this year was Roger Moore one of the Serjeants slain most cruelly by one Henry Bennett his mother and brother for which the said Henry was shortly after executed for it.
  • 1610. This year owing to a sudden rise of the brook three prisoners confined in the jail were drowned.
  • 1616. There happened a murder this year at Marton Lane in the night of one Jane Sheldon, supposed to be done by her brother.
  • 1621. In this year Thomas Stringer killed his man.
  • 1645. In Fryer’s close Richard Cockrum was executed at the gallows on Nuns green for killing Mills a servant at the Angel.
  • 1662. Edward Smith’s wife drowned herself at St James’s bridge a young child in her arms was carried down the stream to a sand bed against Alderman Spateman’s door where recovering breath it cried was taken up and saved.
  • 1665. A woman was pressed to death in the county hall as a mute [ie refused to plead].

Unfortunately the Derby chronicle is no longer extant – it survives in various versions in eighteenth and nineteenth century printed histories. Together with the loss of most of the town’s records in a fire in the mid-nineteenth century (particularly the papers of the town Corporation), it means that the various versions of the chronicle and the records of the town’s parishes are the only real sources for the history of the town in the seventeenth century.

As a result it is hard to confirm many of its records. The only one I can find out much about at all is the case of Thomas Stringer. In 1621 John Bullock, rector of Norton, assigned a number of tithes to a Thomas Stringer of Derbyshire. A Thomas Stringer was also a bailiff of the town in 1617. Who on earth ‘his man’ was, though, and what led up to the killing, remains unclear.