CRIME IN OLD ROTHERHAM: A sad tale of married life

GEORGE Adams Oldfield was the proprietor of the Dusty Miller public house on Westgate in the summer of 1881, which he ran with his wife Lucy.

The Oldfield’s marriage had not been a happy one due to Oldfield’s violent behaviour towards his wife. After yet another assault, she took him to court and he was bound over to keep the peace for six months. At this point he went into other lodgings in Rotherham, leaving his wife, who was now acting as housekeeper to George Rylands. The son stayed with his mother, whilst the daughter went to live with her father.

On November 18, the six months bond having expired the day before, Oldfield went to the Travellers Rest Inn and demanded to speak to his wife. She was standing in a passage when he asked her for money, she refused and he pushed past her, stating that he would take something to pawn for beer money.

Mrs Oldfield followed him and tried to prevent him taking a silk dress. Her husband struck her several times and whilst they were quarrelling on the landing, he made an attempt to throw her over the balustrade. All the time he was using vile expressions at her and threatening to ‘murder her’. Oldfield finally left, taking the dress with him and she called the police.

A warrant was taken out for his arrest, and the dress was later recovered from a pawnshop. In her statement to the police, Mrs Oldfield had told them of the many occasions when her husband would take her belongings and sell them without her consent. When she met him in the town of Rotherham he would follow her into shops and assault her. George Oldfield was arrested and brought into court on Thursday December 1 1881.

Prosecution, Mr Hickmott outlined the facts for the magistrates, and stated that this was the third time that the prisoner had been before the bench, charged with an assault on his wife. Therefore he claimed that that at the conclusion of the hearings, he would apply for a judicial separation, and asked that Mrs Oldfield should be allowed the custody of both children. He told the court that although the daughter lived with her father, she was left alone for long periods of time with only the neighbours to care for her.

But then came a twist to the case. Mrs Oldfield was asked by her husband’s defence solicitor, Mr Barras, exactly what her relationship with George Rylands was. She told the bench that George Rylands was a family friend, and had often visited herself and her husband when they kept the Dusty Miller public house. She claimed that he often went there at her husband’s invitation. Mr Barras asked her ‘is it not a notorious fact that you and Rylands are living in immorality?’ One of the magistrates, Alderman Marsh told her kindly that she did not need to answer that question. Mr Barras claimed that he had only asked the question in order that ‘the witness might answer if she chose’. Mrs Oldfield declined to answer the question. Mr Barras then referred to her accusations that her husband had pawned her belongings, before asking her if she had ever pawned her husband’s overcoat. Mrs Oldfield denied this, stating that he had bought the coat second hand for only 1s 6d and therefore ‘it was unlikely that any pawnbroker w

ould advance money for such an object’.

Mrs Selina Kent of Tusmore Street, Rotherham, stated that the prisoner had stayed with her for some time, after being separated from his wife. She confirmed that Oldfield had often left the little girl alone at her house, and that she had tried to care for her in his absence. On the night he had received the warrant, he had openly threatened to kill his wife.

A discussion then took place between the magistrates as to the legality of an order for a judicial separation, but a decision was made that although there was no possibility of the couple living amicably together again, that Oldfield would once more, be bound over for another six months to keep the peace.

The prisoner was instructed to pay £10 and costs, and warned not to interfere with his wife again. Alderman Marsh pointed out to him that he should think himself lucky that the bench had not compelled him to pay maintenance towards her.

Related topics: