This is a fascinating new book that investigates hundreds of accidents and crimes in Dudley during the Victorian era. The book details disastrous explosions, fires and floods, as well as mishaps on the roads, canals and railways. Separate chapters examine suicides, murders and all manner of crime, with an extensive look at living conditions in the town and why it became known as ‘Dirty Dudley’.
Author Paul Robinson, who has published a string of local history books, said: “Many people think that history books are dull but I’m sure the stories in this book will prove eye-opening for some. The accidents involving trains, trams and horse-drawn vehicles are particularly shocking because of their frequency. Add this to the multitude of accidents in the area’s mines and factories and it makes for a very interesting period!”
While a few of the events described are well-known, most have not appeared in print since they were reported in the newspapers of the day. A typical passage from the chapter covering murder gives a flavour of the book:
Hercules Lovell Blewitt was an itinerant tinker and razor grinder who lived with his wife at lodgings on Wolverhampton Street. In his late thirties, with dark hair and whiskers, he was said to have had the typical complexion and appearance of a gypsy; he was also an adulterer, wife-beater and ultimately a killer. On 9th June 1847, he had been especially violent towards his wife, so much so that she left their lodgings in fear for her life and refused to return unless he solemnly promised to leave her alone. Later that afternoon she was persuaded to return but after half an hour of peace, the beating resumed. Her renewed cries for help did not go unheard and the first person to arrive at the scene found her lying in the ‘coal hole’ beneath the stairs. Blewitt stood over his wife, callously emptying a kettle of boiling water over her while she begged him to stop. The poor woman was so badly scalded, that she died within two days. The inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder, but in the meantime, Blewitt had absconded. His description was circulated via the Police Gazette and just two weeks later the suspect was arrested at Wrexham. Blewitt was brought back to Dudley and the trial took place at Worcester Assizes about three weeks later; he was found guilty of manslaughter and was transported for twenty years.
The book can be purchased from ‘Saturday Books’ in Tower Street, Dudley and is also available on-line at www.lulu.com/spotlight/books_by_paul_robinson