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100 years ago in Walkden: Shocking domestic violence case made worse by ignorant men

Domestic violence is sadly still a prevalent issue in Salford, but happily attitudes have changed somewhat since 1916.

The Eccles and Patricroft Journal pulled no punches in reporting one case in particular.

But the quite extraordinary comments by the Chairman of the Bench would surely provoke outrage if they were heard today?

A Pendlebury coal miner called Thomas Henshaw was summoned to appear at court in May 1916 when his wife claimed terrible and violent assaults had been meted upon her.

The couple had been married for 11 years and by all accounts had led a normal, domesticated life together.

Ellen Henshaw told the court that on the day in question she had finished work and got off the tram at The Bulls Head Hotel pub in the centre of Walkden.

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She then told the court that she had drank two glasses of stout with a friend and went back to her house for a further drink.

Hours later she had suffered severe facial injuries at the hands of her husband.

Inspector Rivers from the NSPCC, who was acting as a mediator for the family, told her that she had been not quite been telling the Chairman of the Bench the whole truth about the assault carried out on her.

It transpired that Ellen did indeed go back to a friend’s house, no doubt for a well-earned drink after work, but she had failed to mention that two soldiers home on leave accompanied her and the friend – presumably for a friendly chat and a drink.

Word got back to Thomas Henshaw, who stormed his way to the house and in his own words, “warmed her up by giving her two black eyes and a good hiding”.

This would appear a fairly straightforward case of spousal abuse if heard today, but the officers of the court were no feminists.

Inspector Rivers told the court that if only Mrs Henshaw would stay at home and look after the house instead of going out to work this would never have happened!

His judgement was supported by the Chairman of the Bench, who advised the court that Thomas Henshaw’s “chastisement of his wife was provoked”.

The Chairman was obviously on Thomas Henshaw’s side told the court that his chastiment of his wife was provoked – this chastiment was two black eyes and a good hiding!

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He carried on in a similar vein, pronouncing that Mrs Henshaw should stay at home and look after the children and stay sober!

He then bound the pair of them over for a month and warned them of their future conduct.

Can you imagine the outcry today if a Magistrate had told a battered wife that she should give up her job, stop drinking and look after the family home, hinting strongly that she deserved the thrashing administered to her by her husband?

Salford Women’s Aid: 0161 793 3232

Salford Police Domestic Violence Unit: 0161 856 5171

Victim Support: 0845 30 30 900

Main image: © Salford Local History Library, via History of Walkden

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.