The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane
The Story of the Carr's Hill Murder
By Jane Housham
The investigation into a Gateshead child murder reveals the Victorians - their classes, their justice and their scandals - as never before
A Victorian Murder. A Victorian Madman. A Modern Judgement.
Gateshead, April 1866
Five-year-old Sarah Melvin was walking along Split Crow Lane looking for her father when she disappeared. Later that night a couple walking home from the pub tripped over her body.
Sarah was the child of Irish immigrants who had been drawn to the North-east in search of work. Poor, perceived with prejudice, they quickly came under suspicion of killing their own child.
The true murderer was a misfit whose social awkwardness stopped him ever rising above apprentice. He would eventually make clear exactly why he killed Sarah - and the reason would scandalise the whole country, yet to him had a dreadful logic.
Told here for the first time, this is an extraordinary story of sexual deviance and murder, offering a chance to reassess a most unexpected judgement with new insight. In lively, empathic prose, Jane Housham explores psychiatry, the justice system and the media in mid-Victorian England to reveal a surprisingly modern state of affairs.
Jane Housham grew up in Richmond, Yorkshire and is proud of her North East heritage. She is the publisher at University of Hertfordshire Press and also reviews books for the Guardian.
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- Publication date:
03 Nov 2016
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Gripping - reveals a society in moral turmoil — William Shaw
Well-written and excellently researched, this chilling tale of a Victorian sex murder opens out into an investigation into the workings of the lunatic mind and the asylums which treat it — Julie Peakman
This was a fascinating read, particularly for those who are interested in Victorian provision of the criminally insane . . . She also gives us a flavour of the population of the time, of the haves and the have-nots and really conjures up details of the place where the crime was committed in astonishing detail . . . enlightening and clear-sighted — Cleopatra Loves Books
Housham is a dogged researcher and evocative writer. She sheds a powerful light on the era, skilfully describing the febrile, lawless atmosphere of 1860s Gateshead — Jenny McCartney, Mail on Sunday