SHEFFIELD Saturday 5th February 1865

A report appeared in The Times, dated March 11th 1865 referring to the appearance in Sheffield Police Court on Thursday March 9th of a William Charlesworth. He was charged with the attempted murder of Ann Rushton. The text of the article is as follows

DREADFUL OUTRAGE . - At the Sheffield Police-court

The attempted murder of Ann Rushton 1865

DREADFUL OUTRAGE - At the Sheffield Police court on Thursday a publican, named William Charlesworth, was charged with the attempted murder of Ann Rushton, who had lived with him as his wife for 23 years.  The prisoner had repeatedly ill-treated the women, but she had refused to take proceedings against him, on the ground that the fact that they were not married was unknown, even to her own children, and she feared the disgrace that would accrue from the inevitable revelation.  On the night of the outrage Charlesworth seems to have worked himself up to a pitch of demoniacal fury.  What passed on the occasion was described by the prisoner's son, a boy of 10 years. 

He said, "On Saturday night, the 5th of February, I heard a noise when I was in bed, and came downstairs.  My father and my mother were in the house, in the kitchen.  My mother was lying on the floor, and he was jumping on her, and punching her.  I saw him bump her head against the door, and he broke the door, and her hair stuck on it.  She said, 'Don't Bill'.  He pulled her out of the kitchen door by the hair of her head into the yard behind, and was going to thrown her into the dike.  The dike is just over the wall of our yard.  When he was in the yard he got hold of her by the waist, and tried to knock her against the wall.  He got hold of her hair and pulled her into the house again, and then he jumped upon her and threw cold water upon her.  He put his hands round her throat and tried to throttle her, and then he jumped upon her.  He then ran me down the passage, and told me to go to bed.  My mother was lying against the kitchen door, and he was going to throw her down the cellar." 

The evidence of several of the neighbours went to show that the prisoner had systematically abused the poor women.  After the scene in the house which the boy described, the inhuman wretch carried her upstairs, and actually thrust her in close contact with the fire, by which her knees were literally roasted.  The surgeons said she would be in the greatest danger if the inflammation should extend to the inside of the knee joint.  The poor woman's deposition was taken at her bedside, and at the close of the examination the prisoner was committed for trial at the Assizes on a charge of attempted murder. 

He was hooted by a large crowd.

On March 29th 1865, at Leeds Town Hall, the Yorkshire Spring Assizes were held. Although the trial was due to be held, an application was made by a Mr. Shepherd for the trial to be postponed until the next Assizes as the prosecutor was unable to attend and give evidence. This application was granted by Mr. Justice Willes.

For a couple of years I did not know the eventual outcome of the case. The article did not give any information as to where the incident occurred. A record in the Sheffield Flood Claims archive revealed a claim from a William Charlesworth, a Licensed Victualler of the Bridge Inn, Brightside but I did not know for certain that he was the "inhuman wretch" referred in the report.

Thankfully a report appeared in The Liverpool Mercury dated 9th August 1865 detailing the cases in the Yorkshire Summer Assizes. Under the title


"At Leeds assizes on Saturday William Charlesworth late landlord of the Bridge Inn Brightside Sheffield was charged with an attempt to kill Ann Rushton. The case presented against the prisoner was one of great atrocity. The prosecutrix had lived with him as his wife for 26 years and had borne children by him. For a long time they had lived happily; but within the last thre or four years the temper of the man underwent a change, and his conduct some months prior to the assault was violent and sometimes brutal. He had beaten her on several occasions and on 6th February a climax was reached.

On that day he knocked her down, kicked her, held her against the fire grate until her clothes ignited and her person was shockingly burnt; he then threw water over her, and finally attempted to cast her over a wall which separated his property from the river but therein failed. the woman became so ill from the effects of his violence that her life was despaired of. In consequence of her precarious position her deposition was taken and the prisoner was sent for trial. The jury took a very merciful view of the case and found the accused guilty on the minor count that of misdemeanour and he was sentenced to 18 months hard labour"

Three days later, The Leeds Mercury dated 12th August 1865 gave a fuller report of the assault and the subsequent proceedings


To say I was open mouthed when I read the sentence would be an understatement. A husband nearly murders his wife in a sustained orgy of brutality and violence and he receives just 18 months for a "misdemeanour". Even the courts of today would  have given him a longer sentence! 

To substantiate the details of the case, I accessed the UK Census for 1861 and located the following entry for the Bridge Inn Brightside (PRO Ref RG9/3459 102 page 25. The entries for the family tie in with the information given at the trial. Of course William and Ann are entered as a married couple and they have a son John who would have been approximately 10 years of age at the time of the trial.

William CHARLESWORTH  Head   M   Male  42   Attercliffe, York, England   Coal Miner
Ann CHARLESWORTH   Wife   M   Female   41    ----------- York, England    
Ellen CHARLESWORTH   Dau      Female   13   Sheffield York, England    
John CHARLESWORTH  Son     Male   5   Handsworth York, England     
Mary CHARLESWORTH  Dau      Female   3   Brightside York, England    

This information assisted me in locating the family in the 1881 Census, and it was a rather surprising entry

Dwelling 79 Carbrook Street Census Place Attercliffe Cum Darnall, York, England
Family History Library Film 1342128 Public Records Office Reference RG11 Piece / Folio 4665 / 105 Page Number 35

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability

William. CHARLESWORTH Head Widower Male 62 Attercliffe, York, England Coal Miner
John CHARLESWORTH Son Unmarried Male 26 Handsworth, York, England Coal Miner
Mary Ann BLACKWELL Daughter Married Female 22 Brightside, York, England
John BLACKWELL Son In Law M Married 27 Hyde, Cheshire, England Coal Miner

It seems as though Ann had died in the interim (was it from her injuries?) but both the son and the daughter were still living at home with the "inhuman wretch". Strange things family's!!

If anyone could supply me with any additional information on any aspect of the case and its aftermath, please contact me 

In April 2016, a reader of this article contacted me with some further information

I came across your post about this couple when I stumbled across a newspaper account of the attempted murder of Ann and felt intrigued enough to try and find out what happened at the trial. 
Back in 2014 you asked if anyone knew anymore...
By now you may have discovered the astounding fact that Ann appears to have actually MARRIED her abuser !! There is a marriage of William Charlesworth and Ann Rushton in the September quarter 1870 in the Rotherham reg district.
They are together in 1871 (RG10/4697/F ? pages 192 -193) at the Rose Hill Crown Inn Brightside Brierlow, Sheffield.
Although William Charlesworth’s birthplace is given as Sheffield (rather than Attercliffe) the fact they are living with three of their children, Ellen (by then married to William Kay)  John and Mary Ann) confirms the fact that she went back to him.
There is  a death registration for Ann Charlesworth in the March qtr 1879 in the Sheffield reg district. She was 59 years old.
After reading about her horrific suffering I am left speechless at the fact that she took him back !!"

Yes my sentiments entirely!

Based on this information I then checked the excellent Sheffield Indexers site and found that William and Ann are together for eternity in Attercliffe Cemetery

This is their burial record

BLACKWELL, Georgina (Daug of J Blackwell, age 9 months).
Died at Carbrook Street; Buried on February 27, 1879 in Unconsecrated ground; Grave Number 1647, Section B of Attercliffe Cemetery Cemetery, Sheffield.

CHARLESWORTH, Ann (Wife of Wm Charlesworth, age 59).
Died at 79 Carbrook Street; Buried on February 20, 1879 in Unconsecrated ground; Grave Number 1647, Section B of Attercliffe Cemetery Cemetery, Sheffield.

CHARLESWORTH, William (Railway Contractor, age 65).
Died at 211 Carbrook Street; Buried on October 7, 1885 in Unconsecrated ground; Grave Number 1647, Section B of Attercliffe Cemetery Cemetery, Sheffield.



The Times, Mar 11,1865; pg. 11; Issue 25130; col G

The Liverpool Mercury dated 9th August 1865

The Leeds Mercury dated 12th August 1865

1881 Census

Sheffield Indexers 

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This page was last updated on 06/04/16 15:56