Angel Row takes its name from the Angel Hotel which once stood looking out onto the Market Place, which was replaced by a drab and boring building which was occupied by Woolworths and, more recently, Poundland. Unfortunately this demolition took place as recently as 1957, depriving the town of an interesting old inn which had been standing since the mid-seventeenth century.
Like many of the rows, these are gloomy places and it’s not hard to imagine dark deeds which have taken place in the past. In the case of this row, many bad things have happened, including a murder which took place in February 1898. A jealous and drunk man killed Thirza Bensley, before trying to, unsuccessfully, take his own life. The killer was Samuel Frederick Steel, a railway carman, who used the defence that he suffered from epileptic fits and was insane.
Bensley’s father attended the inquest into his daughter’s death and the inquest jury decided that Steel was to blame, although this was a separate proceedings to the following court case. Steel in the actual court case was again found guilty, but his pleas of insanity were enough to save him from being hanged, instead he was given life imprisonment.
In 1903, there was a case in the row of unlawful wounding which took place in the row, perpetrated by John Fleming, a Scottish fisherman, and a witness commented Fleming and a friend had “they said something in their own language”. Justice Lawrance, who I assume considered himself something of a wit, commented “did they say hoot mon?”…… He then sentenced Fleming to 14 days hard labour though.