The Tragic Case of Little Isaac Beardsley

by Joe Earp

On 9 November 1765, the tragic and sad death of 12 year old Isaac Beardsley occurred. Little Isaac was son to Thomas and Elizabeth Beardsley who were innkeepers of the Half Moon, which was located on Carter Gate on the outskirts of the town. Nottingham in the 18th century was a picturesque and quiet little town. It was so attractive in fact that in 1725 Daniel Defoe visited the town and was struck by the town’s beauty. The town was, he believed, ‘one of the most pleasant and beautiful towns in England’. Isaac Beardsley’s parents would not be expecting what would happen to their son on that cold November day.


Nottingham was one of the finest garden towns in Europe before industrialization transformed it into a slum- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection

Isaac on the day of his death was riding home from his father’s farm which was located near the St Ann’s Well, which today is located near the Well’s road. At that time, St Ann’s Well was a popular beauty spot, much enjoyed by the people of Nottingham. Isaac had reached the outskirts of the town near to Barker Gate when the incident happened. Contemporary maps of the time shows the bottom of Barker Gate to be on the edge of the countryside, lined with eloquent Georgian Houses and beautiful town gardens.


John Speede’s map of Nottingham (1610). The town’s layout by the 1700s had not changed much from the map shown here by John Speede.

As Isaac reached a gate leading into a open field, he started to have trouble with his horse and had difficulty in closing the gate. Meanwhile his efforts were being watched by a man named Joseph Spurr. Spurr was also on horseback in the same field as Isaac. As the little boy struggled in closing the gate, Spurr aggressively shouted at the boy to close it immediately. Isaac became alarmed and perhaps frightened by Spurr’s aggressive behaviour and quickly rode away leaving the gate wide open. Spurr quickly rode off after Isaac and both ended up in an area of what is now Huntingdon Street. The area then was close by the River Beck, which is now a culverted stream.

The incident was watched by several witnesses, which was later described to a local constable. Isaac’s body was later found and it appeared he had been ‘beaten to death’.  Joseph Spurr was later found guilty of manslaughter. Altogether nineteen witnesses attended the inquest over the boy’s death.

Isaac Beardsley was buried in St Mary’s churchyard in the Lace Market. His tragic tale was recorded on his tombstone by the request of his grieving parents. The inscription read:

In memory of Isaac Beardsley the son of Thomas & Eliz: Beardsley who Departed this life the 9th day of November 1765: in ye 12th Year of his Age.

Stop Passenger to Ponder on this stone,
And think how soon this cruel Deed was done;
A wicked Wretch Pursu’d my Life to Slay,
Because to shut a Gate I would not stay:
So he pursu’d till me he over took,
Just by a Gap on th’ Margin of a Brook
And fear’d it is he firmly did intend
To my short Life to put a final end

The headstone was recorded in 1907 by Alfred Stapleton but unfortunately is no longer to be found in the churchyard.


St Mary’s Church, Nottingham, c 1850. The site of Isaac Beardsley’s burial- Photo Credit: The Paul Nix Collection.



About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
This entry was posted in Nottinghamshire People, Legends and Characters. Bookmark the permalink.

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