The Broomhill Tavern was built as a public house and first opened as an alehouse in 1841. It remains remarkably unchanged on the outside over the past 150 years, though in common with most pubs, has opened up its interior into a single large space rather than the original separate rooms catering for different clientele.
As with all early pubs, the Broomhill Tavern was at the heart of the community and served as a labour exchange, lost and found office and a meeting place as well as a public house. The first mention of the Broomhill Tavern in the local press is in September 1846:
CRICKET. — On Monday last, a cricket match was played by the customers of Mr. Stevens, Broomhill Tavern, Glossop road. After the game, nearly sixty at down to supper, which gave great satisfaction.
These parties could become disorderly. In 1850, the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent reports an attempt by a drunken customer to steal the pub’s salt stand and pepper box:
Edward Hamilton, of Edward street, filesmith, was charged with felony. The prisoner, it appeared, was one of a party who, on Monday night, were celebrating the coming of age of one of their shopmates, at the Broombill Tavern. The party were most of them intoxicated when Mrs. Pryor, the landlady, intimated that they must close the house. Having ascertained the amount of the bill, the prisoner and another proceeded to collect the quota of the others towards its liquidation. The prisoner received about 8s., and instead of handing it to the landlady quietly put it into his own pocket. Neither threats nor entreaties could induce him to part with the money; and at length
the watchman was called in, who on searching his pockets found there a pepper-box and salt-stand, which had been abstracted from the supper-table. He was brought to the Town Hall on the charge of stealing these. The prisoner, in his defence, said, that when he came to count the money
he had collected, there was not sufficient to pay the bill. The rest of the party wanted him to make it up, and when he refused they annoyed him by imputing dishonesty, until, out of drunken stupidity, he refused to pay the landlady. How the salt-glass and pepper-box came into his pocket he did not know, but supposed that some of the party had put them there. The prisoner was discharged on paying 5s. costs, and the amount of Mrs. Pryor’s bill.
In common with other local public houses, the Broomhill Tavern was used to hold inquests into suspicious deaths in the vicinity. There were some particularly notorious hearings held here. In 1849, there was an inquest into the death of the four-month-old infant daughter of Mr J.C.Handfield, one of the wealthy inhabitants of The Mount. The child was poisoned by Laudanum, administered by her nurse, who having had three sleepless nights on account of the child’s teething, decided to give the child laudanum instead of the teething medicine that had been prescribed for her. There was considerable ignorance at the time of the effects of opiates on children; they are almost always fatal at any dose for babies under six months old. Shockingly from the perspective of today, this death was considered to be simply an unfortunate accident and the nurse was just given a warning not to do such a thing again. The case was reported in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent:
DEATH OF AN INFANT FROM AN OVERDOSE OF LAUDENUM
An Inquest was held on Monday evening, at the Broomhill Tavern, before Thomas Badger, Esq., to enquire into the circumstances attending the death of Ellen Louisa Juliet, the infant daughter of J. C. Handfleld, Esq., the Mount. Mr. Handfield stated that his daughter died on sunday morning, from the effects, he believed, of laudanum, which had been administered to her by the nurse, Hannah Rutherford, who had been in his service about five weeks, during which time she had been uniformly kind and attentive to the child. The laudenum had not been purchased by the girl, but was some which he had provided against sudden attacks of cholera. It was usually kept in the possession of Mrs. Handfield, but had been lent to the cook to allay the toothache, and had not been returned. Hannah Rutherford, the girl in question, was next examined. She had been nurse to the deceased infant since the 15th January last, during which time it had enjoyed general good health. On saturday night, about twelve o’clock, I gave it four drops of laudenum in some warm gruel. No one told me to give it, but I thought that as the child had been very cross and restless for several nights previous, but more than usually so on that night, the laudenum would cause it to sleep, and allow me to have a little rest also. I told the cook what I was going to do, and asked her for the bottle, which she gave to me. The child went to sleep about half an hour after I had given it the laudanum, and never woke again. There was some medicine in the house which had been prepared by Mr. Overend, surgeon, for the purpose of composing the child, but I thought the laudanum would have more effect. I have been nurse-girl in other families, but never administered or saw laudanum given to children, and was not aware of its fatal effects. Elisabeth Cadman, the cook in Mr. Handfield’a family, corroborated the nurse’s statement as to what transpired on Saturday night. Mr. Barber, surgeon, considered death to have been caused by the effect of the laudanum. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidentally poisoned by a dose of laudanum ignorantly administered by the nurse-girl “. Rutherford was afterwards warned by the worthy Coroner as to what would be the result were she ever to appear before him again under similar circumstances.
Another extraordinary inquest held here concerned the death of 12 year old Henry Moulson, a schoolboy from the Sheffield Grammar School, several days after a fight that had broken out with William Tasker, a pupil from the Collegiate School. Though the injured boy had appeared to make a good recovery at first, he later became progressively more ill and eventually died a week later despite receiving the best medical attention available. The inquest opened on Wednesday July 10th, 1878, but was adjourned pending the results of a post-mortem on the body of the dead boy, which was to be carried out at the Sheffield Infirmary.
The newspapers followed the case avidly throughout and there was particular interest when the inquest re-opened at the Broomhill Tavern on the Friday of the same week. Mr Arthur Laver, the house surgeon at the Infirmary, gave evidence that his post-mortem had established the cause of death to be purpura haemorrhagica, which is an indication of a severe systemic infection leading to internal bleeding of the soft tissues. The surgeon testified that in his professional opinion this infection was unrelated to the injuries suffered by the boy due to the fight, i.e. the fight did not cause his death, but an infection that had not manifested at the time of the fight did.
This evidence was met with great relief by all present as it exonerated young Tasker of culpability for the death, and also was seen as protecting the reputation of the two schools involved. Here is how the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent reported the summing up of the coroner:
…The Coroner said he must congratulate the jury and the friends of the boys on the termination of the case. It would have been painful everyone concerned, and especially to the parents, if they had come to the conclusion that the boy had met his death by the violence received at hands of the lad Tasker. They were bound to take the evidence of the medical man, and that evidønce showed that the boy had died from purpura haemorrhagica, from natural causes, and not from violence. That was a very happy termination of this case, and it was their duty to return a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence. Still if they thought that death had been accelerated in any shape by violence they were bound to say but he was thoroughly of opinion that the evidence would not justlfy such a decision. The medical men would not undertake to say that death accelerated by violence, and he was sure the jury must have great pleasure in saying the same. If any reflection had been cast on the school like this that was doing a good work, and doing it well, he should have been exceedingly sorry. As to the management of that school, he thought it would be unreasonable for any man to expect that fighting could be totally prevented amongst the boys. He went to the school himself for about six years and he knew that during the whole of that he fought more or less. No one could doubt that other boys would do the same, and the schoolmaster could not altogether prevent it. What they ought to prevent was systematic bullying, but he was afraid it was impossible to prevent the lads fighting. To say an event of this kind reflected upon the character of the school was unreasonable, not to say foolish.
This piece is a good illustration of the benevolent attitudes of the time towards the wealthier classes. For the poor, justice was usually severe and punishments harsh. On the same day as the case above was reported, for example, a young man called John Malone was charged with absconding from the Sheffield Workhouse, and was sent to gaol for 18 days, with hard labour.