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The Life and Death of Sarah Hancock

'The death, under peculiar circumstances, of an old lady who lived within a few miles of Rotherham, claims special notice, if only on account of the eccentricities in which she indulged.'

"I'll ne'er believe a bit o' muck 'll iver kill anybody."


Sarah Hancock, formerley Bulkeley/Birks was a descendant of the Bulkeley family of Standlow.

Text not available
Heraldic illustrations, by J. and J. B. Burke By John Burke, John Bernard Burke


Bulkeley Family

Sarah Bulkeley was baptised 5th August, 1781 at Staveley, Derbyshire, the second child of Thomas Ashton Bulkeley(b.1744) of Hill Top House, Whittington, Derbyshire and Elizabeth Yardley, born Horton, Stafford. Her sister Elizabeth was born about 1787 and married first, Charles Daintry of Darleston Green, Stafford, and later Richard Froggatt of The Hagg, Derbyshire; her brother Henry was born on 1st October, 1791.

Thomas, her father was the son of Arthur Bulkeley and Jane (Nee Newham), daughter of Roger Newham, Esq., owner of Stavely Forge.

After Roger's death, Thomas, Elizabeth and family moved to Staveley Forge.

Whittington Church

In the Whittington parish register is the following entry: Thomas Ashton, son of Mr. Arthur and Mrs. Jane Bulkeley, was baptized July 1st, 1744. Godfathers; Edward Downes, great, great, great, great, uncle; Dr. Charles Ashton (16651752), , great, great, great uncle; Joseph Ashton, gent., great, great, great uncle. Godmothers: Mrs. Wood, great, great, great, great aunt; Mrs. Wainwright, great, great grandmother; Mrs. Green, great grandmother. Registered at the request of Joseph Ashton, of London, gent, who nominated the godfathers and godmothers, believing they are not to be paralled in England'

The christening of Thomas Ashton Bulkeley

On 12 July 1744 he was Christened at Whittington in Derbyshire a Son of Arthur Bulkley and Jane his Wife, and the following persons by their Representatives Were the Sponsors:

Thomas had a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great Grandmother all living at the time of his christening.

He was lineally descended from Robert Ashton of Bradway in Derbyshire and Dorothy (Nee Wood) his wife, who Were the parents of Mrs Jane Wainwright, Dr Ashton and Mr Ashtons Father and Mother.

The Bulkeley family are therefore connected with the Ashton's of Whiteley Wood who made their wealth as ironmasters.

Sarah's brother Henry, was still at Staveley Forge until at least 1822 to 1825.


Treeton Parish ChurchSarah married John Birks on 10th December, 1810 at Treeton, Yorkshire. They lived in Brampton-en-le-Morthen where they had 4 children, all christened at Treeton:

In 1841 Their son, Henry Bulkeley Birks was ordained at Chester as a priest, having gained a B.A. at Cambridge. Henry Bulkeley Esq. of Standlow and Cheltenham married Elizabeth Edith Wettenhall, daughter of Peter Wettenhall of Cheshire on 3rd January, 1833 at St. Mary's. Cheltenham. He died 27th March, 1848.

It is not known when her husband John died.


The Quarterly Oriental magazine, review and register, of 1825: Henry Bulkeley, late of Temple Druid, in the county of Pembroke, in England, deceased Manuel Larruletta, esq. Calcutta, as the lawful constituted attorney and for the use of Henry Bulkeley, of Stavely Forage, in England, esq. executor.

Further investigation revealed that after providing for his daughters, Catherine Bulkeley and Sarah Bulkeley, there were three main beneficiaries: nephew, Henry Bulkeley, Charles Daintry - their sister Elizabeths first husband; and William Morton of The Company's Civil Establishment in Bengal. Sarah (Birks) received 500. His estates consisted of Tea plantations in Calcutta, West Bengal, which is located in eastern India on the east bank of the River Hooghly.

Preparing for Second Marriage

Water Corn MillIn 1831, Sarah was to marry Andrew Hancock, from Woodhall, Harthill, later of Stone in Maltby, gentleman. Sarah Birks was living in Brampton-en-le-Morthen, and a widow. Her brother Henry Bulkeley of Staveley Forge and Richard George Hutchinson of Chesterfield were acting as trustees in the Prenuptial marriage settlement concerning a messuage in Maltby and the water corn mill called New Mill and closes, in Maltby and Firbeck, and the Public House called the Blue Bell in Worksop. The Water Corn Mill had been the property of Robert Dewhurst of Stone, miller, and Joseph Bloom of Thorne, Yorkshire, carpenter.

Sarah married Andrew Hancock, son of John Pashley and his housekeeper, Delphe Hancock, in 1832.

On 23 May 1861, Sarah Hancock of Brampton-en-le-Morthen, a widow again, appointed Peter Birks of Laughton-en-le-Morthen and William Latimer of South Anston, surgeon, trustees under the terms of her marriage settlement, the original trustees being dead.

Maltby Estate

Papers relating to case in Chancery in the matter of the estate of Henry Bulkeley, Esquire, deceased, dated 1867, record that Sarah Birks, afterwards Hancock, (whose maiden name was Bulkeley), was sister of Henry Bulkeley. As heirs of Henry Bulkeley they claimed the Trust estate at Maltby.

Nothing more could be found about the claim; In November 1867 records show that the property at Stone had been bought by Mrs. Francis Harriett Miles of Firbeck Hall and that she was the highest bidder at the sale by auction, the price being 2650.

Looking at the newspaper extracts detailed below, it seems Sarah Hancock lived in Brampton-en-le-Morthen after the death of her husband Andrew.

Home Burgled

On 21st March, 1842, Henry Wilson and John Rose were indicted for a burglary in the house of Sarah Hancock, at Brampton-en-le-Morthen, and with, at the same time, using personal violence to the said Sarah Hancock.

The prosecution was conducted by Sir G. Lewin and Mr. Pashley.

The prisoner Rose was defended by Mr. Roebuck, and the prisoner Wilson by Mr. Wilkins.

Brampton-en-le-MorthenThe prosecutrix, an old lady, who gave her testimony with a great deal of coolness and self possession, stated that she resided at Brampton-en-le-Morthen, and inhabited a large house there, which had been an old mansion house, and in which were a great number of apartments. Part had been divided from the rest, and was let to a person of the name of Ward. She herself occupied two rooms on the ground floor, and two rooms above, besides which were several apartments not occupied by anyone.

At the time of this occurrence, she was without a servant. She had retired to rest in the parlour, to which there were three doors - one leading into the kitchen, one to the stairs leading to the rooms above, and one into a passage leading to the unoccupied rooms.

About 2 o'clock in the morning, she was awakened by a noise up the stairs, and listening, thought she could perceive the sawing of wood. She got up and partially dressed herself, when she heard a footstep on the stairs - the bolt of the door was shot back, and a man entered the room with a lantern attached to his breast. It gave a very strong light, stronger than she had ever seen a lantern do before, and she was able to recognise the prisoner Rose, who was a chimney sweeper, and who had occasionally acted in that capacity for her. He had on a light coloured jacket and a hat. They looked at one another for a few seconds, and she then fled towards the door leading into the kitchen. The man, however, followed, and knocked her down. He held her to the ground, with her arms crossed over her breast, and when she struggled to get up, he said " Thou must be still, thou knows, Where's thy money?" She cried out, "Oh, dear me!" Upon which the man threatened her with death if she made a noise.

Something attracted his attention for the moment, and he turned away from her. Upon which she crept to the door, from which she was only a few paces distant, raised herself up, and opened it. She there, however, confronted another man, whom she recognised as the prisoner Wilson. He also was a sweep, and she had known him from his childhood. He was in sooty clothes. At this moment Rose knocked her down a second time, and she fell out of the door upon the flags in the yard. One of the men then said, "Let us drag her into the house." They did so, and she then begged them to spare her life. They gave her several blows, and insisted upon having her money, pulling her about, and rubbing her face up and down with their hands, for the purpose, apparently, of preventing her giving alarm. They pulled her cap off and her night gown from her neck. She thought then they were going to kill her, and said if they would not, she would give them her pocket. She did so, upon which they whispered together, and she heard them run down the kitchen steps and along the yard.

She immediately made her way to the wing occupied by Mr. Ward, broke several panes in the window, and roused the inmate. Mr. Ward admitted her, and she then said she had been robbed by two men; that she knew one of them, and that he was Wilson. Ward, and some of the neighbours, then accompanied her back to her house, where she sat up for the remainder of the night, but no immediate pursuit was instituted.

The next morning information was given to the police. In the pocket which the robbers took away was a 5 note of the Old Sheffield Bank, and a morocco purse, containing a quantity of ancient coins, English and Foreign. A sovereign, which had been in the pocket, was found the next morning on the floor of the room. It appeared that during the scuffle she had been a good deal hurt by the violence which the robbers had used. Her eye was blackened, one ankle much bruised and swelled, and all that side discoloured. One finger was still stiff and they had so severely twisted her neck that she could with difficulty breath or swallow, and for some weeks could not turn her head. None of the stolen property has been recovered.

The Jury retired for a considerable time, and finally returned a verdict of Guilty against Wilson, and Not Guilty against Rose.

His Lordship directed sentence of death to be recorded.

Death of an Eccentric lady

Source: Sheffield Telegraph, November, 1865

As stated, the first husband was not 'Briggs' it was Birks.

The deceased was born, as we are told, of "good family", and has rejoiced in three names, the last that of Hancock; her first husband's name was Briggs. Of Mr. Briggs we know but little, save that he lived what is called a "right jolly life," indulged freely, and died a "victim to strong drink."

The lady having duly "mourned" for the departed, accepted in the course of time another as her own. This was Mr. Hancock, in whose house and style she lived the remainder of her days, which were of a most singular character.

Of Mr. Hancock we are told that he came to farm the broad acres round the Manor House at Brampton-en-le-Morthen, which is a few miles from Rotherham, and is an extensive old mansion of 20 or more apartments. How his wedded life was passed may perhaps be gathered from the unhappy issue; for after spending some time at Brampton, he declared he could no longer bear "either her or her ways of life," and having made due provision for her maintenance - in other words, leaving her the possessor of 400 or 500 a year - he took himself elsewhere, so that she might freely enjoy the bent of her own inclinations.

This the lady appears to have done; and, singular to say, her inclinations seem to have been of an exceptional kind, especially the last ten years of her life.

Some of the stories told of the lady are almost incredible; but those which we have heard from authentic sources invest her career with more than ordinary interest.

For some time she has lived a life of semi seclusion. The suite of rooms remained untenanted; for she contented herself with inhabiting one solitary room of small dimensions, which during some 20 years she has made to serve the purpose of sitting and sleeping apartment.

Notwithstanding her seclusion, the old lady has kept up "an establishment," after a fashion, for she was attended day and night by a semi-idiotic young man, of apparently 22 or 24 years of age, who is said to have been "true to his trust," and now mourns his departed mistress.

How the lady expended her income, people are at a loss to conceive. Her food was supplied at intervals through the medium of her page. At intervals fowls and other dainties were obtained and kept for many weeks, after which the lady would devour and relish as of a savoury dish - and such dishes! As to the manner in which the numerous rooms were made use of, we are informed that pigs and poultry were allowed free scope, and consequently there was dirt enough, for, when examined after the lady's death, some of the rooms were twelve inches thick.

Her mode of dealing with her feathered companions was summary. When a fowl grew sick she would, with all due care, examine it, and then peremptorily put it into a cupboard, shut the door, and leave it there to mend or to die; nor would she open the cupboard again for months.

She had also a strong penchant for cats, of which large numbers luxuriated under her fostering care.

The deceased seldom appeared in public, though at times she would grace the streets of Rotherham in attire suited to her general character. Occasionally she would appear in a printed dress, with costly trimmings, and a valuable mantle or shawl; and at other times she dressed very much after the fashion of her sex.

Of her personal appearance we are unable to give our readers the benefit of an exact sketch, though some of her remarks will indicate her impressions. Cleanliness was despised. Her saying was "I'll ne'er believe a bit o' muck 'll iver kill anybody." Her face remained unwashed for six or seven months together, and she was only induced to apply water when the filth peeled off her face in cakes.

Her method of keeping her rooms was in unison with the cleanliness of her person. In one room, it is said that a piano-forte had remained for 17 years without having the dust removed from it. The contents of the rooms, as may be supposed, were of the most varied description, and many articles which had never been used were found under dirt and rubbish.

The lady seldom saw her friends. Though she had two daughters, both occupying respectable positions in life, having married men of high standing, they appear to have known little of her doings; and she seems to have thought them quite above her "cut"

At length the great change came upon her, and her latter end was in unison with her life. However much at one time she affected to despise death, advancing years produced a change in this respect also. With extreme old age came sickness and infirmities. She, therefore, allowed a medical attendant to wait upon her; but to him, it is said, she gave strict and peremptory injunctions as to her restoration to health, or, to use her own expression - she dreaded the approach of death and said - "I must not die yet." To a female attendant she displayed great aversion to converse upon matters relating to eternity, and until within a short period of the closing scene expressed a determination to "live a little longer yet."

At the advanced age of 82 years the eccentric Mrs. Hancock closed her earthly career, and was interred with an amount of respect which befitted her position in life.

Bulkeley Coat of Arms
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