top of page

The Murder of Nurse Ada Bradley

Murdered by her former friend

by Claire Pearson

Early in the morning of Wednesday 11th April 1923 my grandfather’s uncle, Clement Donkersley, was unwittingly caught up in the brutal murder of a young nurse called Ada Bradley. The 23-year-old worked at the Wadsley Asylum at Middlewood, and she lived with her family and a friend called Rose Artliff at 5 Worral Road, Wadsley. Rose had been a former patient on Ada’s ward at the asylum, and when she was discharged Ada invited her to move in with her and her family. She had been warned by the asylum staff that it was inadvisable to take a mental patient into her home, but in spite of this she took Mrs. Artliff to live with her after the latter was discharged. Everyone got on well in the household for about a year, but things began to sour, and the two women began to have frequent arguments. Rose was in the habit of walking Ada to work and accompanying her back home again at the end of her shift. On the 11th April the pair set off as normal for Ada's early shift, but Ada never got to work; Rose took out a hammer and a razor and attacked her former friend, hitting her on the head with the hammer and slashing her throat with the razor. Although Ada was taller than Rose, she was taken by surprise and was unable to fight her off. Rose was said to be slightly built but “almost as strong as a horse.” The case made the newspapers all over the UK as well the National Press.

ADA BRADLEY – the victim
Ada had been born at Crabtree Lane [now known as Laird Road], Wadsley in 1900 to Willie and Harriet Bradley. Willie had been born at Brightholmlee and worked as a drayman / carter at a steelworks at Wardsend. The family later moved round the corner to 5, Worral Road. Ada had begun her nursing career at the pauper lunatic asylum at Storth Hall, Kirkburton, near Huddersfield, before moving to a job at the Wadsley Asylum near her family home. She had been there for almost three years.

ROSE ARTLIFF – the murderer
Rose Artliff was around ten years older than Ada (she was said to be 33) and had been admitted to the asylum as an in-patient in 1921 with mania, homicidal and suicidal tendencies. She was mainly quiet and orderly whilst there, but was reported to be “unstable, and at times dangerous.” She stayed there for between four and five months before being discharged as “sane” in December 1921. The widowed Rose had nowhere to go, and Ada invited her to live with her family. A member of the nursing staff expressed surprise that the friendship should have arisen, because, she said, the two women were of such entirely opposite dispositions; it was thought that Ada took pity on her patient because of her friendless condition. They apparently became fast friends, their friendship deepening into warm affection, and they became “inseparable.” They shared the same bed, but we shouldn’t read too much into this, because it was the norm at the time for sisters or friends in the same household to share a bed. Rose lived quietly and without bother with the Bradleys until January 1923 when she and Ada quarrelled. They had been “at loggerheads” ever since. Rose perhaps found work as a char woman, which is what she is described as on official records, but had lately done very little work and had not paid her full board. Things came to a head and Ada’s father Willie told Rose she must leave, giving her a week’s notice on 7 April.

Walter Cooper had been born at Oughtibridge in 1900 and had been a lodger with the Bradleys for about two years before he joined the Army. He enlisted at Sheffield into the 1st Coldstream Guards on the 20th January 1922. He spent his Easter leave with the family, returning to his duties only the day before the murder. During this last stay, he had arranged to marry Ada in June. The couple were to have lived at the Tower Hill Barracks in London. Walter heard the tragic news of his sweetheart’s death in dramatic circumstances. He was crossing the grounds of Tower Hill Barracks, having just been granted special leave to be married by his commanding officer, when an orderly walked up to him with a telegram. It told him that his bride-to-be was dead.

Ada had given in her notice to leave the asylum because of her pending marriage. At the time it was expected that women gave up their jobs when they married. The previous Sunday she had made out a notice for the asylum authorities that she would not sit for the next examination, and she informed them that she intended to give her notice to leave in a fortnight, the 29th May. The wedding had been fixed for the first Sunday in June, and on the Saturday before she was murdered, Ada had chosen, and been fitted for, a light mauve wedding dress. Jealousy was suggested as the motive for the killing, but although there was speculation that Rose was in love with Ada’s fiancé, it was also speculated that she was jealous of Ada’s relationship and was unhappy that when Ada married she would soon lose her best friend and perhaps the home she had found shelter in. Ada’s mother told a newspaper reporter that Rose had been “intensely devoted” to her daughter, but that the forthcoming marriage had upset her, turning her sullen and out of temper. She had begun to make threats such as, “I shall stop one or the other. I shall kill two birds with one stone,” but the family thought nothing of these words at the time. Ada had been warned by a neighbour not to let Rose accompany her to work, but to get her father to go with her instead.

On the night before the tragedy Ada went to the cinema with a neighbour and Rose went to a whist drive at Normandale (Loxley). On her return everything appeared normal, Rose chatting away cheerfully to everyone. All was peaceful when the family went to bed, and that was the last time Mr. and Mrs. Bradley saw their daughter alive. At some point either that night or in the early morning, Rose stole a cobbler’s hammer from Ada’s brother and a razor from her father as part of a premeditated plan to kill her former friend. There were no eyewitnesses to the start of the attack but residents on the street heard screams and cries for help, and were horrified to look out of their windows and see one woman attacking another with a hammer.

Two of the first on the scene were a tram driver and conductor, who saw a woman lying on the footpath within about 20 yards of the Middlewood terminus, adjacent to the grounds of the asylum. They got off the tram and rushed to help. Two nurses, Ethel Turner and Maud Lillian Evison, heard Ada’s cries, and rushed to the bottom of Langsett Avenue where they saw Artliff, who they didn’t know, hitting Ada over the head with a hammer. Despite the obvious fury of the attack, they bravely stepped in and tried to help. Rose cried, “I intend to kill her. I intend her to die. I will do you in too!” More people arrived to help, including some attendants from the asylum, and these succeeded in overpowering Rose and taking the razor from her. “She will want an ambulance when I’ve finished with her,” she added.

Someone stopped a motor-cycle and sidecar, and some nurses, who had hurried to the scene from Wadsley Asylum, took Ada away in the sidecar, but she died before help could be obtained. The rider of this combination was my grandfather’s uncle, Clement Donkersley of Bolsterstone. Despite the huge amount of column inches devoted to this story, Clement’s name only appears in one report. He told the Coroner’s Inquest that the girl was alive when put into his sidecar, but was dead when seen by the doctor at the asylum where he took her, although a conflicting report says that every effort was made to save her life, but that she died a short time after admittance without regaining consciousness.

The tram men put Artliff into the tramcar and took her to the police station. Inspector Hughes, upon being told what had happened, charged her on suspicion of causing the death of a female asylum nurse about 5.30 that morning in Langsett Avenue. She replied, “Not as soon as that; it was just striking a quarter to six when I hit her with the hammer.” The Inspector then went to view the body and to see the place where the attack had taken place, where he found a Dorothy bag [a drawstring bag] and a Tam o’Shanter hat. At 10.30 the same morning he charged Artliff with the wilful murder of Ada Bradley. She simply replied, “thank you.” Later that morning Police Sergeant Boyd took Artliff to the Central Police Station. She apparently said, “They don’t know all. One tale is good till another is told. They were going to turn me out on Saturday, but they will not have the chance now. I could not sit there and see them stuffing and me having nothing. She’s dead is she?” The Sergeant replied, “She died about six o’clock this morning.” Artliff then said, “She’s done well to live till then after what I have done to her. She was getting married at Whitsuntide, but that is off now.”

Rose was taken from the police station to the City Police Court later that day on a charge of murder. She was accompanied by a wardress, and was dressed in a blue serge coat and a dark red frock and did not wear a hat. Whilst waiting for the case to come on, she chatted “vivaciously” in an undertone to the wardress and frequently looked around the court, as if expecting to see someone she knew. After the charge had been read out to her – “that you did feloniously, wilfully, and of malice aforethought kill and murder” she replied, “yes.” She was reported to look sallow and drawn, with her dark hair dressed straight back; her attitude was one of determined composure and she appeared to be self-possessed, taking a keen interest in the proceedings. She was remanded in prison for a week.

Rose turned up to the inquest wearing a blue blouse with white stripes and a dark blue hat. She sat calmly listening to the evidence as the proceedings were conducted by the Deputy Coroner Mr. J. Baldwin Young. She did not have legal representation and asked questions of the witnesses herself. The only time she showed any emotion was when she was quibbling with one of the witnesses as to whether she saw her hit the Ada with the hammer once or twice. On hearing the verdict against her she did not flinch, and seemed not to realise or care about the seriousness of her position. A letter was read out which hinted at Rose’s intention to murder Ada. She had written it on Saturday afternoon, three days before she attacked her former friend. She had handed it to Inspector Hughes, along with a photograph of Ada and two other nurses. Note: the letter was printed in the Sheffield Telegraph and in the Independent, but the wording was slightly different. This is what was printed by the Sheffield Independent, which contained an extra sentence:

“Dear Mr. Bradley, I am sorry to bring this trouble to you after you have been so good to me, but I cannot see my way clear to have my revenge any other way on your Ada, Cooper, and your wife, as they are all three against me. You have heard all their tales together, but it is, as I said to you on Saturday morning, when you told me I must leave your house. I knew it was no use complaining against such a set of liars. Your wife said she would make a bad enemy, but when she sees this she will see I have made a worse. I am writing this letter in the back bedroom on Saturday afternoon. Cooper told Ada not to go out with me; Little does he think she won’t be able to go out with him.”

When Ada’s father gave his evidence, Rose stood up, placed her hand on her hip and said, “you haven’t said that until Cooper returned to your house I never quarrelled with Ada. Cooper was the cause of the whole trouble.” At the end of the inquest the Coroner briefly summed up, telling the jury that it was a very simple story, and pointing out that there was no conflict in the evidence. He directed that it was no concern of theirs whether or not the prisoner was insane; all they had to do was to decide whether in their opinion the girl was murdered by Rose Artliff. After a brief retirement the jury returned a verdict that Nurse Bradley had been wilfully murdered, and she was committed on a Coroner’s Warrant to stand trial at the next West Riding Assizes at Leeds, which is where the most serious cases were heard. Witnesses were bound over in the sum of £40 each to attend the Assizes.

Rose appeared before the magistrates six days after the Inquest. There was a huge public interest in the case, and half an hour before the court opened there were hundreds of people stood outside waiting for admittance. Some of them had been assembling in Castle Street two hours before the hearing began, and were marshalled in a queue by the police. The court was packed, with women making up the majority of the crowd. In the dock Rose seemed comparatively at ease, with the exception that her mouth twitched and her hands toyed nervously with her woollen scarf. She still didn’t have legal representation, although she did apply for Legal Aid to be represented at the Assizes. She grew somewhat heated when she cross-examined the witnesses, and created “a sensation” when she alleged that Ada’s fiancé, Corporal Walter Cooper, had suffered from “a certain disease” (venereal disease, presumably). He said that there was not the slightest truth in the suggestion. Part of the court transcript of Ada’s questioning of Walter Cooper is reproduced below.

Mrs. Artliff (excitedly): “Did you tell Ada 12 months last January that she was not fit to wipe your boots?” – No
Mrs. Artliff: “Did you tell her mother that Ada had threatened to throw the kettle at you?” – No
Mrs. Artliff (impatiently): “Speak the truth, man.”
Prisoner then made a further accusation which witness denied, stating solemnly: No!
Mrs. Artliff: “You confounded liar. I don’t know how you can stand there.”
The magistrate’s clerk was obliged to tell her that she must not speak to a witness in that way.

After a hearing that lasted for exactly four hours, the Sheffield magistrates committed her for trial at the Leeds Assizes. As Ada’s mother Harriet left the court, many of the women stopped to express sympathy with her.

The funeral service was held at Wadsley church, and it was estimated that about 5,000 people turned up. The road leading from the Bradley’s home in Worrall Road was crowded with people an hour before the appointed time for the funeral. All the roads leading to Wadsley were thronged with people, and the crowd was so great that many friends of the dead girl could not get a view of the cortege as it passed. Mounted and foot police were in attendance to help with controlling the crowd. The Sheffield Independent reported that the churchyard was “invaded” by hundreds of people and the church doors had to be locked against them. Despite the vicar’s appeal to the crowd to respect the graves in the churchyard, flowers and evergreens were trampled underfoot, and considerable damage was done to many graves including the new grave of a child. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph thought that some of the crowd were there out of morbid curiosity. They also said that many of those present did their best to miss newly tended graves, but the crowd was so big that some damage was inevitable. There were no carriages, and the coffin was carried to the church by uniformed attendants from the asylum, and about 100 nurses were present. Fifty of them, in uniform, lined the path leading from the church gates to the church door as the cortege passed. Ada’s fiancé Corporal Cooper wore the uniform of the Coldstream Guards. When the church doors were opened the crowd surged in, and every available seat in the building was occupied. People who could not find a seat stood up in the aisles. Several women fainted, and had to be helped outside. Edward Bell attended as the official representative of the night staff of the asylum, and Mr. H. Coopland represented the day staff. Albert Drury, organist at the asylum, played the organ.

A “True bill” was returned by the Grand Jury in the case of Rose Artliff; this is when the Jury decides that there is enough evidence to warrant committing the accused for trial.

Rose appeared at the Leeds Assizes on Friday 11th May to stand trial on the capital charge of murder; the charge was one that could carry the death penalty. She listened to the indictment and answered, “not guilty.” After hearing the evidence, Mr. Justice Sankey summed up and drew the attention of the jury, which included two women, to the facts of the case, Artliff’s medical history, and her extraordinary callousness and demeanour after the crime. The jury, without retiring, found her “guilty but insane,” and the Judge ordered her to be detained at His Majesty’s pleasure [indefinitely]. “Thank you very much, sir; I was guilty, but I was sane,” she said. Her defence had told the court that, because of Rose’s spell in the mental hospital and her complete lack of regret for what she had done, the jury could not come to the conclusion that she was sane; he asked them to find a verdict that she was guilty but insane. It must be remembered that during the period 1900-1957 the death sentence was mandatory upon conviction for murder, and therefore a defence of insanity was often attempted as the only way to save the prisoner from the gallows. It is notable that after the abolition of the death sentence, insanity defences became much rarer.

Ada’s family later moved to Vere Road, Hillsborough [between Leppings Lane and Penistone Road]. Walter married Emma Sophia Hedditch at Portsmouth in 1927. Rose was in the high-security psychiatric hospital at Broadmoor when the 1939 Register was taken, and that is where she ended her days, dying in 1973 aged about 84.

When Rose Artliff went to trial, not much seemed to be known about her life, and I wonder whether Ada knew anything at all about the woman’s past. All that seemed to be known was that she was a widow, and it was believed that her husband was buried at Tinsley. Her four children had been in the Fir Vale Workhouse for some time, and she had three sisters. She had previously lived in Nottingham and in Attercliffe. Ada’s mother said she smoked cigarettes incessantly.

After a few false starts I believe I have identified Rose, although her given age varies by several years in the different records; she was often recorded as being older than she really was, which made finding her origins rather challenging. Rose was born into a chaotic, sometimes violent family with, it seems, a lack of care, love and attention. At least two of her brothers were at one time resident in the Sheffield Children’s Homes. According to Rose’s death registration, her date of birth was 11 November 1889, but the 1939 Register records it as 11 November 1890. I believe both these are wrong, but “close enough” to the truth. There were no births for a Rose Whitmore (and spelling variants) in the GRO’s indexes that matched these years; the one I believe to be right was for Rose, daughter of William Whitmore (deceased) and Alice, who was born at 156 Ripon Street, Attercliffe on 10 November 1892. This ties in with her place of birth being recorded as Attercliffe on the 1911 census. Rose Whitmore was Alice's tenth child. Alice's first husband was William Charlesworth and she bore him three children before he died in 1879. She took in William Whitmore as a lodger; he was with her when the 1881 census was taken, and they went on to have seven children including Rose. William had also been married before, to Alice Elizabeth Spriggs. Rose had three sisters alive in 1923, which matches what was known about her. Newspaper reports from 1920 stated that Rose had gone to Nottingham to look for the father of two of her children, and also that she had previously lived in Nottingham. This sent me off on a false trail to a Rose Whitmore who had been born in Nottingham in 1893. Further investigation showed that I was wrong, because this girl was actually called Rosa. The 1921 census confirmed that this was not the right girl because Rosa Whitmore was still single and living with her family whilst Rose Artliff was in the Wadsley Asylum.

Both William and Alice had been born in Northampton. Alice had been born in a village called Weldon, which was also where Rose’s mother had been born. She had an illegitimate daughter, Ellen Stanger Spriggs, before marrying William Whitmore at Weldon in 1869. By 1871 they were living in the Brightside area of Sheffield. Alice’s life was rather tragic. In 1873 she gave birth to a daughter who died aged 3 months. A son was born in April 1874, and he died at the age of 5 weeks, being buried on Thursday 4 June. Two days later, on Saturday 6 June, Alice was brutally assaulted by her husband. She had gone to fetch him out of a pub at around 5pm, but as soon as they got home they began arguing about money. The argument escalated into an assault. William closed the door and said that Alice would not leave the house that night. He threw a table at her, which hit her in the stomach and knocked her to the ground. Whilst she was down he used his fists on her head and face, and laughed at her when she begged him to stop. He threatened to murder her even “if his neck was stretched for it.” Picking up a poker he began to beat her with that as well. A brave neighbour called Adelaide Waterhouse managed to intervene, and Alice escaped to her cottage. William followed her there and tried to continue his assault, but was prevented by others. Another neighbour was present, but she dared not interfere. When the case came before the magistrates, Alice had to be assisted into the witness box because she was so weak. Her face was swollen and bruised, her head bandaged. Medical evidence was given as to her injuries, which included bruises, wounds and loose teeth. William offered no defence, and was sentenced to six months in jail with hard labour, and upon release, which would be in December 1874, he was to be bound over to the sum of £20 for his good behaviour. I am not sure what happened next - Alice possibly returned to Northamptonshire where she had an unnamed daughter who died shortly after birth in 1877 but after what must have been a short and unhappy life she was back in Sheffield by 1878. She died at Attercliffe in December of Cirrhosis aged just 35. Her husband William was present at the death.

William next appears in the records in the 1881 census when he was recorded as a lodger at the home of a widow called Alice Charlesworth at Cyclops Street, Brightside. I can find no evidence that they ever married, although they said that they were. Alice (nee Adkins) had been born at Weldon, Northamptonshire and had three children to her husband William Charlesworth: Mary Elizabeth, George Martin and Lillie. William died not long after Lillie was born in 1879. When the 1881 census was taken in April, Alice was 29 years old, living at Cyclops Street, Brightside with her three children and working as a cleaner. A daughter, Kate Ellen, was born later that year. Her birth was registered as Charlesworth, mother’s maiden name Atkin [sic] but William Whitmore was her father and she named him as such on her marriage certificate. More children followed: John William Charlesworth, Florence, Wilfred, Ernest, Sydney and, finally, Rose, in 1892. Florence and Wilfred were born in Mexborough, and Ernest in Pontefract, but I cannot find a birth registration or baptism for them anywhere in the country under the surnames Charlesworth, Adkins (and variants) or Whitmore. Both Sydney and Rose were registered in Sheffield with the name Whitmore, mother’s maiden name Atkin [sic]. Rose never knew her father because he died of pneumonia four months before she was born.

After William Whitmore’s death, Alice went to live with her daughter Kate at Oakes Green, Attercliffe. When the 1901 census was taken the household consisted of Kate, her husband John Chamberlain and their three young children, and Alice with four of her children including 9-year-old Rose. For some reason the Chamberlains also went by the surname Yates. Alice died in January 1908 aged 58. Rose would have been 15 years old.

Rose next turns up in Leeds, living with a man called George Barker, a plumber. The 1911 census was filled in by George, who stated that they had been married for three years and had two children, both of whom were still living. He was working for a master plumber and they were living at 23 Primrose Street. The children were Alice Barker born c1909 and Charles Thomas Barker born 1910. Despite the declaration I can find no evidence of a marriage, nor can I find a birth registration or baptism for Alice, including under the name Whitmore. George had been born in West Ham, Essex, Rose and Alice had been born in Attercliffe, and Charles Thomas was born in Leeds. His birth certificate states that his mother’s maiden name was Whitmore and that his father was a journeyman plumber. Rose’s age was given as 23 on this census, but she would have been 18 when the census was taken on 2 April, and would be 19 that November. In 1912 another daughter was born in Leeds, Nellie Barker, and again, the mother’s maiden name was Whitmore. They had moved house and were living at 3 Lorraine Terrace, but what is odd is that when Rose went to register Nellie’s birth she declared that George Barker was a pedlar, not a plumber. Could this be an error?

The relationship then broke down, and Rose returned to Attercliffe. She married John Henry Artliff, an iron puddler, in 1916 and they lived at 103 Princess Street, Attercliffe. The marriage certificate confirms that Rose’s father was William Whitmore, a miner, deceased. She bore a daughter to John Henry called Florence Artliff in December 1916, but John died later the following year of acute pneumonia and cardiac failure and was buried in the Tinsley Park Cemetery. He was 37 years old. In 1919 Alice Barker died at the age of 9 and she was buried at Tinsley Park Cemetery. Her father’s name was recorded as George.

Rose was living at Princess Street in Attercliffe in April 1920 when, heavily pregnant with a fourth child, she abandoned her three children, aged three, seven and nine years old, to walk from Sheffield to Nottingham to “hunt for the man who was the father to two of her children.” The children would be Charles Thomas, now the eldest, Nellie and Florence. Presumably George Barker, a plumber, had moved to Nottingham from Leeds. She was walking because she had no money to go by train (Google maps estimates it would take about twelve hours to walk from Sheffield to Nottingham). When she got to Mansfield, a walk of around five hours, she broke a shop window. Later that day, Sunday 25, she walked into the police station and asked if they were looking for someone who had broken a widow; her excuse was that “I was walking from Sheffield and was tired so did it to get a rest.” She was sent to prison for one month.

The Attercliffe police had been notified that Rose had left her three children “entirely destitute” in the house in Princess Street. The authorities at the Fir Vale Workhouse were informed and the children were removed there. Rose had sold all her furniture because she had no money to live on, and all the children had to sleep on was a piece of old hearth rug on a bare floor. She had left 1s. 6d. in the house for the children but luckily the neighbours had been looking after them. When Rose returned to Sheffield after her month in prison, she appeared at the Sheffield Police Court on 28 May where she pleaded guilty to a charge of abandoning the children. The newspapers reported that she was “in a certain condition” (pregnant) and she was advised to go to the Fir Vale Workhouse, but she refused. She was given one day’s imprisonment, and was advised to go to the Workhouse on her own account. It seems unlikely that she was taken to Wakefield prison for one day, so perhaps she was locked up in the police cells in Sheffield? She gave birth to a daughter, Maggie Artliff, the following day, in the Nottingham Workhouse. How she got there this time isn’t known. Maggie’s birth certificate states that she was born on the 29 May 1920 at 700 Hucknall Road, Nottingham, which was the address of the Workhouse, later known as Valebrook Lodge. The informant was Rose herself, and I wonder if she gave them the correct date, if she had been in prison only the day before. We must also wonder how she got to Nottingham given that she probably didn’t have any money – surely she didn’t set off to walk again?

What happened next in Rose’s life is uncertain, but it’s highly likely that she remained in the Nottingham Workhouse, maybe with Maggie, because at her trial in 1923 the Medical Superintendent at Wadsley Asylum, in a statement to the Press, said Artliff had been sent there from Nottingham two years ago. He also mentioned that she had suicidal impulses and that it was “probable” that she also had homicidal tendencies, when she was admitted. When the 1921 census was taken on 19 June, one-year old Maggie was recorded as being a patient at the Sheffield Union Hospital on Smilter Lane. Florence and her half-siblings Charles Thomas and Nelly were recorded at Manor Lane, Sheffield, in the care of a foster mother called Lillian Hick, who was employed by the Sheffield Guardians. Florence was the youngest of 10 children being looked after by Lilian, whose ages ranged from 4 years up to 13. The record says that Florence’s father was dead but there was no mention of her mother. Thomas and Nellie’s entry says that their father was dead and their mother alive. This could refer to George Barker but probably refers to their step-father John Henry Artliff.

After spending four or five months in Wadsley, Rose was discharged as “sane” in December 1921 and, upon her release, she went to live with nurse Ada Bradley. It is likely the children remained in foster care, but we don’t know if they had any further contact with their mother after her release. She remained in Ada’s household until that fateful day when she murdered her as she walked to work.

I hesitated as to whether to include so much information on the woman who committed the murder, but in the end I decided that it was of interest; what caused her to be the way she was? It seemed that she lived in poverty, with the threat of eviction and the Workhouse a constant fear. There was no help available, even in the asylums; women were often sent there because of what seem to us these days to be shocking reasons – depression, post-natal depression and having illegitimate children. We know nothing of her marriage to John Henry; perhaps she saw him as a way out of the poverty trap, but his early death left her alone in the world with no one to support her. She did have family, and a court report mentioned that her three sisters wanted to visit her, but was there any love and compassion between them? Rose refused to enter the Workhouse even though her children were there. What she did was terrible, but perhaps she was also a victim, of circumstance?

I was intrigued to find out what happened to Rose’s children. In 1911 Rose was living in Leeds with George Barker. They had supposedly been married for three years, but I can find no evidence that they ever got married. George had been born in West Ham in about 1881 and was a plumber, but tracking him down in other years has proved impossible. Rose was with George for several years, but at some point between 1912 and 1916 she returned to Sheffield with her children whilst he appears to have moved to Nottingham.

1. Alice Barker: 1909-1919
Rose’s first child, Alice, was born in Attercliffe in about September 1909 but I cannot find a birth registration or baptism for her under the surname Whitmore or Barker. Alice died in Sheffield in 1919 aged 9.

2. Charles Thomas Barker: 1910-1990
Charles Thomas, known as Thomas, was born at 23 Primrose Street, Leeds on 11 November 1910. His birth was registered under the surname Barker, with mother’s maiden name Whitmore, as if his parents were married, which I don’t think they were. This would not be the first time I have come across someone giving false details to a registrar. His father was a journeyman plumber. In 1921, when his mother was in the Wadsley Asylum, Thomas was with his sister and half-sister at 15 Manor Lane, Sheffield, in the care of a foster mother called Lillian Hick, who was employed by the Sheffield Guardians. In 1939 Thomas was living at Nether Edge with Matthew and Nellie Aldous, working as a sorting clerk and telegraph [operator?] for the postal service. He married Nellie Hewitt later that year and died in Sheffield in 1990 leaving £175,225.

3. Nellie Barker: 1912-
Nellie was born at 3 Lorraine Terrace, Leeds to George Barker, a pedlar (sic) and Rose Barker formerly Whitmore. In 1921 she was with her brother Thomas and half-sister Florence in Foster Care. I am unsure what happened to her.

4. Florence Artliff: 1916-
Florence was born at 103 Princess Street, Attercliffe in December 1916 after her mother had married John Henry Artliff four months earlier. John died when she was almost a year old, in November 1917. In 1921 she was in foster care with her half-siblings Thomas and Nellie Barker. Florence married Henry I. Elliott in 1937 and they had two children Joseph and Victoria.

5. Maggie Artliff: 1920-2001
This was a real rags-to-riches story which I didn’t believe at first! Maggie was born in Nottingham Workhouse on 29 May 1920, father unknown. In 1921 her mother was sent to the Wadsley Asylum and one-year-old Maggie was admitted as a patient to the Sheffield Union Hospital on Smilter Lane, part of the Children’s Homes on that site. In 1939 she was a domestic servant to George and Gladys Greening who lived on Abbeydale Road South. After this she trained to be a nurse. Her address in the Nursing Register for 1950 was 38 Pinner Road, Hunters Bar, which is where her sister Florence Elliott was living. She worked and studied at St. Stephen’s Hospital in London between 1946 and 1949 and was registered as a nurse in London 25 November 1949.
After her awful start in life, Maggie’s luck then changed, although sadly not for long. She was nursing a wealthy man called John Reginald Corah of Leicestershire, the chairman of N. Corah and Sons Limited, one of Leicester’s largest hosiery and knitwear manufacturers. Reginald, as he was known, was a widower, his wife Robina Metta Macadam Smith having died in 1950. Maggie nursed Reginald back to health from a serious illness, after which they got married in London in 1953; John Reginald was 69 years old and Maggie was 33. She moved into his house, The Cleeve, which was on Knighton Grange Road in Leicester.
Sadly, after being married for just over two years, Maggie was widowed when Reginald died on 9 August 1955. He left over £544,000 (gross) in his will, which the Bank of England’s Inflation Calculator estimates would equate to almost £12 million today! By his will, Maggie was left a sum of £15,000 and also 25,000 x £1 shares, and 25,000 x 5s stock units. There were other bequests to his family. In 1976 Maggie attended the launch of a new lifeboat at Swanage, Dorset, named after her late husband. The lifeboat had been provided with funds from the Corah Foundation. At one time Corah’s had a factory at Barnsley and a “factory shop” which I remember going to with my mother, for M&S “seconds.”

I wonder if Maggie ever told him about her background?

And finally … to complete the picture about Rose ...

1. Mary Elizabeth Charlesworth (1871-1909); married George Gleaden and moved to Rawmarsh, Rotherham.

2. George Martin Charlesworth (1874-1959); married Teresa Emma King and lived at Darnall.

3. Lillie Charlesworth (1879-1949); married Bertram Roebuck and lived at Rawmarsh and Sheffield

4. Kate Ellen Charlesworth (1881-1963); married John Chamberlain alias Yates and lived in Sheffield. She was William Whitmore’s child.

5. John William Charlesworth (1882-1915); later used the surname Whitmore. Married Henrietta Parkin and lived at Halfway. Willie / William served in the 2nd Bn. of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during WW1 and was killed in action 18 April 1915.

6. Florence (c1885); born in Mexborough and married Samuel Rhodes and lived in Attercliffe.

7. Wilfred (c1887-1961); born in Mexborough and married Annie Elizabeth Morrell. Lived in Attercliffe before moving to Stairfoot, Barnsley. Their son Robert was killed in an accident in a colliery when he was 15 years old.

8. Ernest (c1888-1918); born in Pontefract. Admitted to Sheffield Children’s Homes with his younger brother Sydney in 1897 before being released back into the care of their mother on 20 April 1901. Ernest enlisted into the West Yorkshire Special Reserve before transferring to the K.O.Y.L.I. in 1908. He was 5’7”, just over 9 stone, with a fresh complexion, dark brown hair and green eyes. He also had several tattoos and scars. He served in Hong Kong, Singapore and South Africa, and was posted to France at the outbreak of WW1. He was punished in 1915 for unauthorised absence but later that year was made Lance Corporal – a position he lost in March 1916 due to going AWOL again. He went AWOL once more later that year before being discharged as physically unfit for war service in July 1916 because of an injury received whilst at the Front. He had been carrying some ammunition up to the first line trenches when some sandbags fell on him, causing him to wrench his left knee. He went forward but was shot in his right ankle which put him in hospital for two months at the end of 1915 and again from March to May 1916 when he had to have an operation to remove a detached piece of cartilage. This injury eventually cause him to be discharged from the army. He went to live in Hathersage and married Caroline Hopkinson nee Rhodes in 1917. She was the sister of Sam Rhodes who had married his sister Florence in 1910. Ernest and Caroline had a daughter, Marjorie Mary, born 30 September 1918, but sadly Ernest died two months later on 27 November 1918 aged 32.

9. Sydney Whitmore (1891-1960); Sydney’s birth was registered in Sheffield as Whitmore, mother’s maiden name Atkin [sic]. He would only have been one year old when his father William Whitmore died in June 1892. Sydney and his brother Ernest, the two youngest boys, were not with their mother when the 1901 census was taken on 31 March but in the Children’s Homes at Fir Vale. They were both admitted on 10 December 1897 and released back into the care of their mother on 20 April 1901. She was living at 6 Ct 11H Oakes Green with Sydney’s older sister Kate and family. He married a widow called Sarah Ellen Rowen (nee Haywood) in 1912. They had at least two children, Florence and Albert Lancelot.

I have written this using the words which were used in the reports; words such as insane, asylum, mental institution and so on are not used today, but those are the terms in use at the time and I have chosen to keep them in.
I relied heavily on newspaper reports, of which there were many. Then, as now, the reporters didn’t always get it right, and there was a lot of conflicting information which I have had to verify from other sources. Sometimes it just wasn’t possible to be completely accurate and I have made this clear in the text.

Newspapers at Findmypast; also available at the British Newspaper Archive. The story was covered in newspapers all over the country as well as some of the national newspapers, but the most detailed reports were in the Sheffield Independent and the Sheffield Telegraph.
Vital Records and census returns at Findmypast and Ancestry
1921 census as Findmypast
Nursing Registers at Ancestry
The G.R.O. postal ordering service for Rose’s marriage certificate
Online birth and death certificates purchased from the GRO
Picture Sheffield
Google Street View
National Library of Scotland for map
Walter’s Army Record at Findmypast (Coldstream Guards Enlistment Register, Nominal Roll 1921-1923. Walter’s Army number was 2650162.
Illustrated Police News contained a report and some sketches. Note: This was a weekly illustrated newspaper and was one of the earliest British tabloids. It was popular for its sensational and melodramatic reporting of events. The illustrations, which were artists’ impressions, drew in the audiences along with attention-grabbing headlines, and there would be a report elsewhere in the paper. It ceased to be published in 1938.
Unfortunately, the records of the Sheffield Workhouse were destroyed in the bombing of Sheffield during the Second World War, but the Nottingham ones survive and can be viewed on site, or a member of staff can help, for a fee.

bottom of page