Henry Vizzard (1838-1884)

Henry Vizzard committed suicide at the Rifle Butts rifle range, Crosland Moor, on the afternoon of Monday 8 September 1884.


He was born in Liverpool in 1838, the son of Irish dock labourer Anthony Vizzard and his wife Mary.

He married widow Elizabeth Pilkington (née Atherton)[1] of Chorlton-upon-Medlock, daughter of engineer Henry Atherton, on 1 September 1862 in Manchester. Elizabeth was 21 years older than her husband although her age was not given on their marriage certificate.

At some point in the 1860s, he joined the local Second Volunteer Battalion of the West Riding Regiment and was issued with a rifle which he was expected to keep at home. He was a Private attached to C Company.

In January 1872, he was summoned before Huddersfield Magistrates "to show cause why he should not contribute to the maintenance of his wife." It was reported that Elizabeth was living apart from Henry, "on account of his brutal treatment", and was receiving support from Huddersfield Union. As Henry was earning a weekly wage of 22 shillings, he was ordered to pay 4 shillings per week to support his wife.[2]

The 1881 Census lists the couple residing at 1 East Parade, Huddersfield, where his occupation was given as "marble polisher".

During the Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1883, he was employed to man one of the turnstiles at the entrance. After the exhibition ended, he failed to find any permanent work.[3]


On Saturday 6 September 1884, he took park in a shooting competition at the rifle range on Crosland Moor. The weather was poor and, for the first time in several years, Vizzard failed to win a prize. Rather than take his rifle home, he persuaded fellow-volunteer Tom Robinson of the nearby Sands House Inn to let him leave it at the inn.[3]

On the morning of Monday 8 September, he took 6d. from his wife and left his house at around 9am. By around 11am, he returned to the Sands House Inn where he drank some beer and then asked Robinson for his rifle, saying that he wanted to do some practising on the range. At the later inquest, Robinson stated that he thought Vizzard was might have been depressed — "Ordinarily he was a very nice man to speak to, but on [that day] he would persist in looking at the ground". Robinson left to visit Lockwood around noon.[3]

Vizzard apparently stayed at the Sands House Inn drinking beer until around 3pm. When he left, he reportedly told the landlady, "If you don't see me any more you must look to Sergeant-Major Cliffe for payment [for the beer]."[4] Local farmer George Roberts was riding along Sandy Lane shortly after 3pm when he passed Vizzard, who was standing near the hut used by the volunteers to store ammunition. Roberts asked if "there was going to be shooting [on the range] that afternoon" and Vizzard replied that there was.[5]

1892 map showing the location where Vizzard's body was found (shaded in green)

1892 map showing the magazine hut where Vizzard's body was found (shaded in green) and the location of Sands House Inn (shaded in blue)

At around 3:30pm, local labourer Abraham Cotton walked by the hut and saw a man lying face-down in a pool of blood, with a rifle under his body. The man's hat and right boot were laying nearby. Cotton immediately ran up the Sands House Inn to report what he had seen to Robinson, who had by then returned from Lockwood. Robinson sent a note to the local police and returned with Cotton to view the body and await the arrival of the authorities.

Police Constable Arthur Chapman, who was stationed at Netherton, was alerted at around 4:50pm and went to the scene of the incident. He examined the body, finding a single gunshot wound to the deceased's chest. Vizzard had removed the stocking from his right foot and had attached one end of it to his toe and the other to the trigger of his rifle. He had then apparently stood the barrel against his chest and pulled the trigger. The body was then moved to Sands House Inn to await the inquest.

District Coroner William Barstow chaired the inquest at the inn on Wednesday 10 September and reported that a piece of paper had been found attached to the rifle, on which had been written with pencil, "I Henry Vizzard has had no comford in my Life for marring a old woman when a Boy."[6] Elizabeth Vizzard stated this:

[Henry] had had very little constant work for the last seven years. He had six months of a run at the Exhibition, but since then had not been able to obtain constant employment [...] He has been very low in his mind of late. He would come in the house as if very depressed, sit down, and say he could not see his way about. He would often go to sleep in the house. I believe he has been low because he has had very little work.

The Jury returned a verdict of "committed suicide by shooting himself whilst in an unsound state of mind."[3]

Henry Vizzard was buried on 11 September 1884.[7]

Elizabeth Vizzard died in 1895.

Notes and References

  1. Born around 1820 in Standish, Manchester. She married spinner Isaac Pilkington on 15 August 1841 in the parish of Blackrod and they had at least 3 daughters. Isaac likely died in 1852 and was buried in Chorlton-upon-Medlock on 2 May 1852.
  2. "Neglecting a Family" in Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Feb/1872).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Shocking Death of a Huddersfield Volunteer" in Huddersfield Chronicle (13/Sep/1884).
  4. "Shocking Suicide at Huddersfield" in Yorkshire Post (10/Sep/1884).
  5. According to newspaper reports, shooting on the range normally took place from 4pm onwards.
  6. Although his wife was 21 years his senior, Vizzard was around 24-years-old when he married Elizabeth.
  7. The Rev. John Turner Stannard of the Milton Congregational Church conducted the service.