Elizabeth Sheppard Every day thousands of motorists travel along the A60
Nottingham Road driving past Harlow Wood and don’t notice the marker stone which
tells of the tragic incident that happened there many years ago when it was a
lonely and unlit country road.
On July 6th 1817, a young girl aged 17 by the
name of Elizabeth Sheppard left her home in Papplewick and walked along this
road travelling to Mansfield looking for work.
Its possible that she intended staying there until she found
a job or possibly she just enjoyed herself there, but either way she did if
fact stay overnight. Being successful in finding a job, the following morning she
started the long walk home along Nottingham Rd and past Harlow Wood.
At the bottom of the hill near the bend in the road she
disturbed a man who was sleeping under a hedge at the side of the road.
Without any warning the man hit the poor girl on the left
side of her head knocking Bessie senseless and sending her spinning to the
Finding no money on the girl her untied her shoes and also
stole her yellow umbrella that she was carrying.
After throwing the body into the ditch by the roadside he continued
on his journey towards Nottingham stopping at the 7 Mile Inn to try and sell
Being unsuccessful he continued on to the 3 Crowns Inn at
Redhill, where he did manage to sell the shoes and also left without the
The man was later identified as one Charles Rotherham, a 33
years old scissor grinder from Sheffield.
It was reported that Bessie’s mother set out on that day to
look for her daughter, and also on that day her body was found by some
quarrymen who were travelling along past the spot. They also found the murder
weapon which was a blood stained hedge stake.
The body was taken to Sutton for an inquest that lasted two
After leaving such a clear trail the police and the public
knew who to look for and Constable Benjamin Barnes duly arrested Charles
Rotherham near Loughborough.
The officer had to fend off an angry crowd who wanted to
impose their own justice.
Constable Barnes took Charles Rotherham back to the scene of
the crime where he admitted everything, but the motive is still unclear.
Bessie Sheppard was apparently in the wrong place at the
It was said at the trial that Charles Rotherham’s 18 years
in the army may have dulled his sense of decency.
He was found guilty and on Monday July 28th 1817
there was a public execution by hanging in Nottingham.
A penny dreadful was produced telling the whole story in
much more detail and a copy is in Mansfield museum.
A man by the name of Anthony Buckles started a collection,
which gathered together enough money to construct and site the monument that we
see today on Nottingham Rd, although in 1960 the road was widened and the stone
moved slightly, and another more permanent inscription added to the opposite
The fact that Bessie’s mother set out to look for her the
following day implies that she was not expected to stay overnight, no
explanation is given.
As for the motive. Charles Rotherham was 33 years
old and his 18 years in the army probably included many years of the
fighting against Napoleon and France and he could possibly have been at
Waterloo in 1815.
Considering his experiences of that time, is it hardly
surprising that his sense of decency was dulled !!!
Today that would be considered to be Post Traumatic Stress,
and so, a very tragic story from whichever way you look at it.
Bessie was buried in Papplewick Churchyard and in 1988 the
police were called to the grave because vandals had removed the gravestone.
To publicise the incident police officers together with an Evening Post photographer visited the
monument on Nottingham Rd . Whilst
they were there being photographed touching the monument, one of the officers
was inspired to go back to the grave and conduct a further search. The grave
stone was found under some hedging and was replaced on the grave.
There are numerous stories of the ghost of Bessie Sheppard
in the vicinity of the monument. Motorists
have stopped to give a lift to a girl who then disappeared.
She has been seen many times by staff on the wards of the
old Harlow Wood hospital.