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.
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.
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.