“An awful spectacle presented itself”: the strange case of Archibald Bolam

Rutherford, Helen (2017) “An awful spectacle presented itself”: the strange case of Archibald Bolam. In: Captivating Criminality 4. Crime Fiction: Detection, Public and Private, Past and Present, 29th June – 1st July 2017, Bath Spa University.

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In the early hours of December 7 1838, a fire was discovered in the premises of the Savings Bank in the Royal Arcade, Newcastle upon Tyne. After the fire had been extinguished, “an awful spectacle presented itself”: in the main room of the Bank lay the body of a clerk, Joseph Millie - beaten beyond recognition, his pockets filled with coal and paper. In the corner of the same room, the Bank’s actuary, Archibald Bolam, sat propped against the wall with cuts to his throat and his clothing slashed. Bolam was alive and rallied with medical assistance. He explained that he had been set upon by a man with a blackened face wielding a poker but could remember nothing further until he was roused by the smell of burning.
The crime was investigated by the police and a number of clues pointed to a different version of events, which led to Bolam’s arrest. Following a three-day inquest, the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Bolam and he was sent for trial. Six months later, in a trial that gripped the nation, Bolam was found guilty of manslaughter.
The Bolam case is an ideal subject for a micro-historical examination. Contemporary newspaper accounts, letters and pamphlets allow us to examine the forensic evidence presented at Bolam’s trial and in particular to consider the body as evidence and the importance of the medical testimony. The paper will suggest that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M900 Other in Law
V300 History by topic
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Helen Rutherford
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2017 11:51
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 12:16
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/31756

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