Spotlight on 19th century deaths in Leeds as coroner’s notebooks go online

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TALES of foul deeds and mysterious deaths are featured in a unique online collection of a West Riding coroner’s historic notebooks.

More than 200 handwritten registers kept by Thomas Taylor, who served as a coroner from 1852 until his death in 1900, are now available online as part of an ongoing programme at West Yorkshire Archives.

He was deputy county coroner and later became the county coroner and kept notes on all the cases he was involved in.

An inquest in to the death of 19-year-old Keziah Booth of Ackworth in May 1864 heard she suspected her boyfriend William Dawson, a tenor singer at Leeds parish Church, had poisoned her after she fell pregnant and he couldn’t afford to marry her.

Miss Booth, who was a servant at a house near Sheepscar in Leeds, told police in a deathbed statement: “I believe that I am in a dying state and do not expect to recover in consequence of something being administered to me by William Dawson.

“About three weeks ago he gave me some wine and cake at his lodgings.

“He asked me previously to take poison. He told me on two occasions to take poison to make me miscarry. I have been thirsty ever since he gave me the wine and cake. I told my sister I had taken the wine and she called me for it because she thought he was a bad one and given me something. I told him I was in the family way to him before he gave me the wine.”

A post mortem found signs of a pregnancy but no baby. A GP thought cause of death was exhaustion due to loss of blood.

An inquest into the death in 1868 of wealthy Eliza Coulson heard she died after eating bad beef and dubious dumplings. And in 1870, Sarah Hughes died from natural causes, but her death was “accelerated by fright occasioned by riotous proceedings of a mob.”

After a row with a neighbour over a washing line, Sarah Ann Koyton died suddenly in 1889 from “excitement and passion.”

More than 4m new records were been added to Ancestry.co.uk in December as part of West Yorkshire’s on-going programme of digitisation of popular sources.

Also added in December are selections of land tax records from 1704 to 1932, West Yorkshire rate books and censuses from 1705 to 1893.

Coun Bill Urry, of the Archives, Archaeology and Trading Standards Committee, said “Making 4 million more records available on-line at Ancestry enables the history of West Yorkshire and its people over the centuries to be accessed by people all over the world, unlocking answers to questions and enabling new research.”

For more information about the service, visit www.archives.wyjs.org.uk

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