Remembering Ryhope: A Long Good Friday

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THERE was to be no sweet Easter treat for one unlucky Wearside lady in 1882 – and so-called justice was to leave a sour taste as well.

“This was traditionally a time of peace and goodwill across Sunderland, with street parades and outside religious services,” said local historian Norman Kirtlan.

SHOPPING IN RYHOPE:  Via horse and carriage.

SHOPPING IN RYHOPE: Via horse and carriage.

“But, in the early hours of Good Friday 1882, there was certainly no goodwill – or peace – in the village of Ryhope. In fact, all hell was about to break loose.”

Pub landlady Jane Hutchinson had retired to bed at the Salutation Inn, tired out after a hard night serving pints down in the bar. Her youngest baby, John, slept in her arms.

But her husband, Thomas, was out drinking yet again – a habit which had started just 10 months before, when he’d swapped his grocer shop in Olive Street for the inn.

“Earlier that evening Thomas had flown into another of his rages,” said Norman. “So, when he stepped out after closing time, Jane ordered the barmaid to lock him out.

“All poor Jane wanted was a good night’s sleep, and a little peace for her three young children. Sadly, Good Friday would not live up to its name for the 26-year-old.”

Shortly after 1am on April 7, Jane received an early morning wake up call. But it wasn’t an alarm that woke her from her dreams – it was a fist crashing into her head.

Thomas Hutchinson, 37, had managed to climb through one of the pub’s windows, and he was certainly in no mood to celebrate Christian holidays of any kind.

“As Jane opened her eyes, she felt blood trickling from a wound to her temple. A small artery had been severed,” said Norman, of Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

“Her husband was on the far side of the bedroom, slipping a knife into his pocket.

“Without warning, he then ran at Jane and struck her a further two blows to the head.”

As the landlord lashed out, he shouted at his wife: “I’ll do for you, but you take a lot of killing.”

It was not the first time he had threatened to kill her, and she was terrified.

Jane would later tell the courts she had seen ‘murder in Tom’s eyes’ and begged him to be kind to her. Instead, he looked at her with a sneer and pointed to her bloodied face.

“Is that all I have done to you?” he mocked – before striking her twice more across the mouth with his fist.

“Thomas then bolted the bedroom door, pulled out the knife again and turned towards his terrified wife, telling her that he was going to cut her throat,” said Norman.

“Jane knew these were no idle threats and, as she held her hands to her neck, the knife slashed away, cutting her knuckles and sending spurts of blood onto her nightwear.

“Thomas then grabbed at her hands, attempting to pull them away from her throat, but she hung on grimly – until he finally gave up and staggered into another room.”

Jane, by now bruised, bloody and battered, grabbed this brief respite to flee the pub, dashing out into the street and hammering on a neighbour’s door for help and refuge.

The village medic, Dr Reed, was immediately called to the scene. After examining her injuries, he decided an attempted murder charge should be laid against Thomas.

But, when he attempted to send for a police officer, none could be found. Jane had to return home to the pub and, after finding Thomas in his bedroom, she slept in the bar.

“By the following night, Easter Saturday, Ryhope’s village bobbies had eventually been tracked down and, albeit 24 hours late, they swooped into action,” said Norman.

“Thomas was unceremoniously dragged from the pub and down to the police station, where he was allowed to sober up before being questioned about the attack.

“He then appeared before a local court, where magistrates decided, in their wisdom, that the attempted murder charge should be reduced to one of cutting and wounding.”

A shaking Jane Hutchinson, her head and wrists swathed in bandages, stood stoically in the witness box to give evidence alongside Dr Reed and Police Sergeant Dodds.

None of the trio were happy about the reduction in charges, but nothing could be done. A far happier Hutchinson was then remanded to appear at Durham Assizes.

On his appointed court date, of April 29, 1882, the Salutation landlord stood in the dock at Durham and admitted he had caused his wife’s many injuries on that fateful night.

The court was also told that beatings and threats to kill Jane “were not uncommon” in the domestic quarters of the Salutation – forcing her to lock Thomas out on several occasions.

But Mr Skidmore, Hutchinson’s defence barrister, ridiculed the evidence and accused Jane of grossly exaggerating – even going as far as calling the charges “trumped up”.

And, in a sickeningly silky submission, he turned to Thomas Hutchinson and asked, “Do you care for this woman? Do you love her?” “Erm, yes,” came the reply.

“Well that did it! Thomas Hutchinson was obviously a loving chap after all. The jury retired for a few hours before returning a verdict of not guilty,” said Norman.

“Still sporting her cuts and bruises, poor Jane was reunited with her devoted husband – no doubt wondering why she had bothered bringing charges in the first place.”

Shortly after the attack on poor Jane, the Salutation – a church property owned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners – was shut down, and all attempts to reopen it failed.

Just a few years later, in 1905, the building was “shaved off” to allow trams to pass by safely. Subsequent restructuring attempts finally ended in the collapse of the pub.

“As to the fate of Jane and Thomas Hutchinson, well, census records appear to show the couple went on to have one more child,” said Norman, a retired police inspector.

“But by 1891 Thomas was listed as a widower and still working behind a bar – this time in Low Row. I believe Jane may have died in 1890, at the age of just 34.”

•The photos featured here are from the archives of Sunderland Antiquarian Society. They can be viewed at 6 Douro Terrace on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.