RETRO: Is the the place where infamous Sheffield murderer Charlie Peace killed?
Today’s delve into Sheffield’s rich past is about a man that’s unknown by most of the modern generation but the older end will have some idea of just who Charlie Peace was.
The clue picture is what I firmly believe to be the blocked up passage where Charles Peace murdered Mr Arthur Dyson on October 29, 1876.
The passage is now a hairdressers, come barbers, shop, some people may doubt that this narrow shop is the murder site but on looking at the shop, why was it built so narrow when its neighbours are all the same, even the stonework and its upper window is different?
Charles Frederick Peace was born on May 14, 1832, and was hanged on February 25, 1879.
He was a prolific burglar and eventually a murderer.
Charles Peace was born in Sheffield, youngest son of a shoemaker John Peace and his wife, a naval surgeon’s daughter.
At 14, Charles was permanently crippled in an accident at a steel-rolling mill.
In 1854, he was found guilty of multiple burglaries and sentenced to four years’ hard labour.
After his release, in 1859, he married a widow named Hannah Ward.
Soon afterwards, he committed a major burglary in Manchester, nearly killing the police officer who came to arrest him, and was sentenced to six years’ penal servitude.
Another burglary in Manchester earned him an eight-year sentence.
For a while after this he seems to have concentrated on his picture-framing business and the selling of musical instruments. He was himself a good violinist despite the loss of two fingers, before working on the North Eastern Railway, from which he was sacked for absenteeism.
After moving to the Sheffield suburb of Darnall, Peace made the acquaintance of a civil engineer called Dyson, which would prove fateful in due course.
At Whalley Range, Manchester, Peace was seen by two policemen entering the grounds of a house on August 1, 1876, about midnight.
One of them, PC Nicholas Cock, caught him as he was trying to escape.
Peace took out his revolver and warned Cock to stand back but PC Cock stood his ground and Peace fired, but deliberately wide of him.
Cock drew his truncheon, and Peace fired again, this time seriously wounding Cock, he died the following day on August 2.
After the fatal shot was fired Peace made his escape in the dark. Unfortunately, two brothers, John and William Habron, living nearby, were arrested and charged with the killing of Constable Cock.
At Manchester Assizes, John Habron was acquitted for lack of evidence, but William Habron was sentenced to death, later commuted to penal servitude for life.
Peace had made a point of attending the trial, to confirm that he was not a suspect.
Thinking he was in the clear he returned to Sheffield and he returned to Darnall where he became obsessed with wife of Mr Arthur Dyson, a certain Katherine who was described as “boozy and buxom”.
In June 1876, Dyson threw a card into the garden of Peace’s house, reading: “Charles Peace is requested not to interfere with my family.”
On July 1, Peace approached Mrs Dyson and threatened her and her husband.
Dyson took out a summons against Peace, and moved to Banner Cross.
On their first day in the new house, October 29, Mrs Dyson was accosted by Peace, who said: “You see, I am here to annoy you, and I’ll annoy you wherever you go.”
That evening, a little after eight o’clock, Peace observed Mrs Dyson coming out from her back door and entering a nearby outhouse.
When she duly emerged, he confronted her with a revolver, shouting: “Speak or I’ll fire.”
In terror, Mrs Dyson retreated back into the outhouse, and her husband came out to investigate.
Peace fled down the passage, where Dyson followed him. Peace fired twice at Dyson, the second shot passing fatally through his temple. As Mrs Dyson cried: “Murder!”
Peace escaped and made his way by train to Hull, there was an immediate hue and cry, with a price of £100 on his head. The police issued a description that was somewhat inaccurate, but in any case, Peace was changing his appearance, concealing his missing finger with an ingenious prosthetic arm,
In Nottingham, he made another fateful meeting, with a Mrs Sue Thompson, who would become his mistress, but would eventually betray his whereabouts to the police.
In early 1877, he moved to London and he also sent for his wife and son Willie to join them in a respectable villa in Peckham, where he professed to be a man of means, interested in scientific inventions. There was, in fact, some truth in this, as he patented an invention for raising sunken vessels, and was rumoured to have been interviewed about it at the House of Commons but he couldn’t resist his life of crime, he was eventually caught. Peace was taken to Sheffield, where he appeared before the stipendiary magistrate at the Town Hall, and charged with the murder of Dyson. Peace was taken back to London to await the second hearing. But it had to be adjourned a further eight days, because on the journey back to Sheffield, Peace had jumped from the train and had been found unconscious beside the track.
On the morning of his execution, Peace ate a hearty breakfast of bacon, and calmly awaited the coming of the public executioner, On the scaffold, Peace died instantly and was buried in Armley Gaol. He was just 46-years-old. He did exonerate the young Irishman who had been convicted of PC Cocks murder and he was released. Looking at the map I’m sure that the Hilary & Flo shop was the home of the Dyson’s. Even 74 years after Peace’s death my mother used to threaten me with: “Charlie Peace is coming to get you,” when I misbehaved, this had no affect, now if she said Dawson & Sorsby were coming, now they are a scary pair!