Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Pub Singer Kills Wife And Unborn Child

A man who made his living singing in the pubs of South Lancashire took exception to being called home by his wife and killed her with a single punch, leading to him being convicted of manslaughter.

Bridport Street photo courtesy
In the early to mid 19th century Robert Reed, who hailed form the north of Ireland, was a well known comic singer in the pubs of Liverpool, Bolton and Manchester. He lived in apartments in Bridport Street with his wife Eliza, who was described by the Liverpool Mercury as 'of considerable attraction.' They were not the best tenants for the house owner Mr Clegg however, as they frequently quarrelled.

On the afternoon of  Thursday 8th August 1850 the couple went on a day out to Wirral but returned in time for Reed's evening performance at The Clock in Great Charlotte Street. Mrs Reid, who was eight months pregnant, returned home but went to the pub at midnight and they left together, apparently on amicable terms.

Back at Bridport Street however, they had a row, with William Parker who lived in the same house hearing Reed shout 'I'll serve you out my lady for coming to me tonight' as they arrived at the door. As another female lodger let them in Reed kicked Eliza, who rushed into the parlour. He followed her there and struck her a blow with his fist to just below the left ear, causing her to fall to the floor.

Other residents of the house went outside and found a police sergeant who was patrolling in London Road. When he saw Eliza unconscious with blood coming from her nose and ears, he sent for a doctor, who pronounced her dead at the scene. Reed had gone to their apartment and when a police officer arrested him, he begged to be allowed to drown, hang or poison himself.

The inquest took place in the morning and returned  a verdict of manslaughter. After being committed on a coroner's warrant, Reed appeared at the South Lancashire assizes as early as the following Tuesday, where several witnesses testified to his good character. He was found guilty with a recommendation to mercy and the judge deferred sentence for three days to consider his case.

When he was brought back three days later Justice Wightman told 38 year old Reed that his crime had shown the 'evil and fatal consequences of intemperance.' He described the violence as 'unmanly' but taking into account he could not have foreseen the consequences of his actions he spared Reed from transportation. Instead he was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

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