CRIME IN OLD ROTHERHAM: A Strange Case of Abduction at Rotherham

IN the Victorian period it was common for young people to be employed as young as eight or ten for boys, and certainly by the age of 14 as girls.

One such girl was Emma Allison who was the daughter of William Allison of Hooton Levitt near Maltby. In 1872 she had been employed for the past six months as a nurse to the children of a relative called Mr Wood, a farmer of Ravenfield. She was aged just 14 and it was while she was working there that she made the acquaintance of 16 year old Alfred Hall, a farm servant, who also worked for Mr Wood.

Despite their young age the couple fell in love, and on the night of May 14 1872 they decided to run away together. They left the home of Mr Wood at some time between 4am and 5am, taking with them their spare clothes in a bundle. It was barely light as they walked into the town of Rotherham before catching a train to Doncaster, where they stayed for a few weeks, living as man and wife. When the couple were missed, numerous enquiries had been set in place by Emma’s distraught family and her friends. Despite their vigilance all their enquiries proved unsuccessful. A warrant was finally taken out against Alfred Hall for the abduction of Emma Allison, but at that time the police were unable to find the couple.

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On the morning of Monday June 17, Emma arrived back at her mother’s house at Hooton Levitt. She had gone to the house, not to re-assure her mother of her safety, but simply to pick up some more clothes. The police were called in and the girl was detained at the house, where she was closely questioned about Hall’s whereabouts. She told the police and her mother that the pair had returned back to live in Rotherham, without the knowledge of anyone who knew them.

Despite the Rotherham police’s diligence they had continued to live as man and wife, under an assumed name at a house near Bow Bridge.

Hall had got a job as a miner working at the Rotherham Main Colliery. About 4.30pm Inspector Horne apprehended Hall as he was going home from his shift and he was arrested and remanded for three days. On Thursday June 20 1872 Alfred Hall appeared in front of  magistrates Mr H Otter Esq., and James Yates Es., at the Rotherham Police court. Mr Williams was the prosecution and Mr F Parker Rhodes acted for the prisoner.

Alfred Hall’s mother was also at the court and she told the magistrates that her son was very immature for his age, and that as a consequence he was very easily led. Emma’s parents also gave evidence of their concern when they were told by Mr Wood that their daughter had eloped with his farm servant. They described the search for the pair and their distress at not being able to find their daughter. The next witness was Emma’s employer Mr Wood who stated that the girl had been very well behaved whilst she had worked for him, and he truly believed that she had been strongly influenced to run away by Hall.

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At this point in the proceedings a private conversation took place between the two solicitors, the parents of both parties and the prisoner himself. Finally the chair of the magistrates Mr Otter addressed Alfred Hall directly. He said that Mrs Allison was disposed to withdraw the charge against him ‘on the one condition that you conduct yourself properly for the future’.

He warned him: “If ever you show the least disposition to induce, or try to induce this girl to go away with you again, depend upon it you will be severely punished and sent to prison. It will be much the worse for you if ever you attempt such a thing again. Now will you give the promise to do this.”

The prisoner told him that if he were liberated, he would never have anything more to do with the girl again. The prisoner was dismissed and it was reported that he left the court with his mother, who was taking him back to her house at Clifton near Conisbrough. Once back home she kept her promise made to the magistrates that she would ‘keep an eye’ on him. The girl Emma, who had not been in the court, promised her parents on their return, never to seek her amorous abductor ever again.