Death in danger and despair

Impression of the death of Edwin Birch by Jane Horton
Impression of the death of Edwin Birch by Jane Horton
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Catherine Parker

When cutlery merchant William Parker died suddenly it was left to wife Catherine to wind up the prosperous business.

Impression of Catherine Parker by Jane Horton

Impression of Catherine Parker by Jane Horton

This she did successfully, making a handsome profit for her children. But the effort took a great toll on her senses and she fell into severe depression.

On Saturday May 11, 1844, her son Ebenezer walked into her Broomhill Place home to find her dead.

“There was an immense quantity of blood,” he told an inquest. “She had destroyed herself with a razor.”

Edwin Birch

Impression of James Newsam by Jane Horton

Impression of James Newsam by Jane Horton

Edwin Birch was just five years old when it is speculated he chased a butterfly into the garden of a neighbour in June 1843.

The youngster – son of Thomas, a file cutter of Sheldon Street – did not see a low-built well and fell fatally into it.

He lay dead for two days before searchers found him.

James Newsam

“Did you ever feel what it was to have a hideous phantom continually before your eyes?” asked James Newsam in a letter he wrote to his employer in March 1851.

Shortly after, the 22-year-old took a vial of cyanide and drank it.

“He was a man of more than ordinary talent,” his employer, a city centre chemist, told an inquest.