Ann Sunderland (c.1795-1837)

Ann Sunderland was a cooper's wife who was found dead in unusual circumstances in August 1837.


She was likely the woman named Ann Hardy who married cooper John Sunderland on 16 November 1817 at St. Peter's Church, Leeds.

On the evening of Friday 11 August 1837, Ann reportedly set out to try and find her husband who had been attending several meetings during the day. John returned home at 11pm and asked after his wife, but she did not return home.

According to a report in the Leeds Times, "some women residing in the yard heard screams there about two o'clock in the morning".

At around 4am the following morning, her body was found lying face down in Schofield's Yard, off New Street. Her shoes had been removed and placed near the body, and her shawl had been placed inside her bonnet, which was laid nearby in a corner of the yard. A nightwatchmen had patrolled the area during the night but had not noticed her body or seen anything unusual. Her body was removed to the nearby Commercial Inn to await an inquest into her death.

A post mortem was carried out on Saturday evening but, apart from a "slight contusion above one of the eyes" which "may have been occasioned by a fall", there were "no internal appearances of violence". Nor were there any signs of robbery.

The inquest was held on Monday 14 August at the Commercial Inn before the coroner, Mr. Stocks.

It was noted that the positioning of her shoes, shawl and bonnet, together with scuff marks on her feet, suggested that her body may have been dragged to where it was found.[1] Newspaper reports of the inquest imply that Ann may had suffered from fits or seizures, and she therefore may have fallen and hit her head with fatal consequences.

No explanation could be given as to where she may had died nor why her body might have been dragged to the yard. However, it was seemingly assumed that she did not die in the yard.

As there was no evidence to suggest that Ann had been murdered, the jury returned an open verdict of "found dead". The foreman of the jury "issued a placard requesting any person to give information of the deceased between the hours" of 9:30pm and the time her body was found, but apparently no-one came forward.

Ann Sunderland was buried after the inquest at Huddersfield Parish Church.[2]

John Sunderland continued to work as a cooper, becoming a master cooper employing three people by the time of the 1851 Census, when he was listed as lodging at the house of Jonathan Milnes on Dale Street, Huddersfield. He died aged 67 in May 1862 and was buried at the Huddersfield Parish Church on 20 May.

Further Reading

The following newspaper articles reference her death:

  • "Inquest" in Bradford Observer (17/Aug/1837)
  • "Mysterious Case at Huddersfield" in Liverpool Mail (17/Aug/1837)
  • "Mysterious Case at Huddersfield" in Leeds Intelligencer (19/Aug/1837)
  • "Mysterious Case at Huddersfield" in Leeds Times (19/Aug/1837)
  • "Mysterious Death at Huddersfield" in Leeds Mercury (19/Aug/1837)
  • "Mysterious Fatality" in York Herald (19/Aug/1837)

Notes and References

  1. It is sometimes suggested that the scuffing was "as though she had been dragged a great distance", but this is not supported by any of the available newspaper articles.
  2. The burial register notes that she was "found dead" and resided on Commercial Street.

Ann Sunderland (c.1795-1837)


This page was last modified on 29 January 2018 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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