Monday 10 February 2014

The Story of Bent's Green Lodge. (4)

Continued from part three. This article was lifted from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent. Dated 3rd March 1866



The following story is perfectly true. Bent's Green Lodge, near Ecclesall, formerly the public-house which was the scene of the events hereafter to be described, is now (having of course undergone sundry alterations and improvements) the residence of one of the best known and most highly respected of the inhabitants of Sheffield. Mr. Albert Smith. It was Mr. Smith's father, the Rev. George Smith, who, along with "Justice Wilkinson," the well known Vicar of Sheffield, received the dying confession of the unhappy murderer.

The appearance of desolation long prevailed. The signpost had fallen, the garden was a wilderness, the doors and fences were in ruin, green mow crept over the damp stone walls and grew luxuriantly on the crest of the house of Athol, which is the entrance. All around revived the memory of this sad story, and stamped upon the melancholy scene a character like that placed on the brow of the first murderer. 

It only remains to add that when the house did become again inhabited as a private residence, there were various traditions afloat arising out of the hold the tragedy there enacted had taken on the popular imagination It remained for the present owner of the house utterly to rout the ghost of Anak, which was said to have taken possession of one of the cellars. This was effected by very simple means the construction of a good drain. It my not be uninteresting if we give some account A the persons mentioned in the above tale, by way of calling to remembrance some of Sheffield's departed

The Rev. George Smith, M.A., was, as we have said, was the father of Mr. Albert Smith. He was one of the assistant ministers at the Parish Church, and curate of Eccleshall. Of him Hunter says. With the rational piety of divines of the old school in the English Church, he joined the zeal and ardour which distinguishes the members of the new. While his parishioners were edified instructed, and delighted by his public preaching his devout administration of the ordinances of the Church they found in him one who was ever ready to attend their private calls, and to assist them in every possible way with his advice and services. In his domestic relations he was most truly amiable, and his friends and acquaintance have long to regret the lively, and cheerful companion. Mr. Smith 1817, aged 53. 

Rev. James Wilkinson, M.A. of Broomhall, better known among his contemporaries as Justice Wilkinson, was in his time the most conspicuous and important man in the town. The position he held as Justice of the Peace contributed, perhaps, more to this, than the fact that he was vicar. He held the vicarage for fifty years, and his death, in 1805, was, says Hunter, "considered the greatest public loss the town  of Sheffield had been known to sustain, and all were inclined to hail him Father of the town of Sheffield and its neighbourhood.' To the influence arising from his office, were added the influence which the possession of magistracy gives; the influence of a noble income and of hereditary respect for he was the representative of the family of Jessops, of Broomhall, and resided in the house of his forefathers; and the influence of the most gentlemanly address, combined with a tall and graceful person, which could not fail of commanding respect.

There are not a few curious and characteristic stories concerning Mr. Wilkinson still current. He was a noted boxer, and it is recorded that on one occasion when a "bread riot" was taking place, the vicar was seen mowing his way through the crowd with his arms until he came to the stalwart ringleader, whom he collared and lodged securely in gaol. But a better anecdote as to his boxing power is this: At a public dinner one day, he received a message that two gentlemen wished to see him. Going out of the room, he found that they were professional boxers (from London, we believe) who, well knowing his fame, had travelled hither to put on the gloves with him. They begged as a special favour that he would gratify them in ths, and he consented to do so, relinquishing his dinner for the purpose. To make the story complete, we ought; to be able to add how thoroughly the Justice vanquished his opponents, but unfortunately history is silent on the remit of the encounter. Anecdotes relating to Mr. Wilkinson's magisterial duties are rather numerous. Being called upon on one occasion to arbitrate between a quarrelsome couple, husband and wife he ordered that they should be locked up together until they could agree. The discipline proved efficacious for after a show of obstinacy the refractory couple came to terms and announced their contrition by knocking against the walls as had been arranged. A lady who had quarrelled with one of her servants was. on complaint of the domestic, required to appear before; the Justice. She refused to go before "Old Niddlety Nod" (referring to an infirmity he had, caused by paralysis), and had to be fetched by a constable. Mr. Wilkinson, told of the name she had applied to him, treated the matter good-humouredly, and adopting the nick-name said, "You refused to come before old Niddlety Nod,' but you are before him now, and old Niddlety Nod' orders you to pay the servant her wages and the costs of the court.

A little girl in the street was incited by a mischievous fellow to go up to a gentleman walking along, and to say:-

They burnt his books,
and scared his rooks, 
and set his stacks on fire.

Alluding, of course, to the attack of rioters on Broomhall. The child innocently went in front of the gentleman and bobbing a curtsey lisped out the doggerel. What, my dear said the Justice. The child repeated the lines. Yes, my dear, said he, come along with me. And leading her by the hand he took her to the stocks and there incarcerated her, to her great distress. We can only hope that he did not keep the child, who thus suffered for another's fault, very long in that unhappy position. 

Mrs. Hofland, the author of the tale, was born in Sheffield in the year 1770, and was the daughter of a manufacturer named Wreaks. She became Mrs. T. B. Hoole but her husband died when they had been married about two year.. Her career as an authoress commenced with the publication of a volume of poems, by Barbara Hoole, issued for the purpose of enabling her to maintain herself and her son. It was published by subscription and was (pecuniary) very successful After the death of her husband Mrs. Hoole went to live at Harrogate, and there, when she had been a widow some ten years, she met with Mr. Hofland, an artist of great promise. After their marriage they resided in London. The union was not altogether a happy one. Mrs. Hofland contributed to their slender resources by the incessant use of her pen, and wrote a large number of tales, some of which attained to great popularity, though they have now passed somewhat out of date. She died at Richmond, November 9th, 1844, having survived her second husband. A tablet erected in Richmond Church records that "She endeavoured with Christian humility to recommend by her example the lessons inculcated by her writings.

Lord John Murray, of the house of Athol, came into possession of Banner Cross through his marriage with Mary Dalton, heiress of the family of Brights of that place. He spent much of his time there. The present house was built by Lieutenant-General Fox-Lowe who had assumed the name of Murray when he married the last of the descendants of the Brights, the daughter of Lord John, but he died before the work was finished. 

The End.

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