One of the more unusual items amongst our large collection of historical maps at Leeds Central Library goes by the name of ‘Regina v. William Higgins and Others’. The title refers to a court case that took place in late 1850 and the map is a ‘Prosecutor’s Plan’ from the time, showing the part of Leeds where a series of violent street brawls resulted in the death of a local man.
The story begins on Saturday 16 November 1850, when a group of men led by William Higgins met at Marsh Lane on the east side of the city centre and were overheard to be planning “a bloody row”. Before long, a man had been assaulted in the nearby Forester’s Arms Inn; money stolen and glasses smashed at the Lewis Arms pub; two police officers struck down by a mob carrying bludgeons and pokers; and a man called James Rhodes hit in the head by a flying brick in front of his young son.
It was Mr Rhodes who died in hospital the following Thursday, having sustained severe skull fractures and concussion. The inquest report that appeared in the Leeds Mercury on 30 November presents a tangle of conflicting testimonies, with the newspaper commenting that “many of the witnesses examined before the Magistrates were examined by the Coroner, but their second statements did not by any means agree with what they had sworn before the Justices”.
If you’d like to investigate further, you can do so online using our subscription to the website 19th Century British Newspapers – which can be accessed from anywhere using your Leeds Library Card number and the link on our Online Resources page. The Prosecutor’s Plan itself, along with microfilm copies of the local newspapers, can be viewed in the Local and Family History department.