THE Off the Shelf Highlighting History weekend includes a walk around Charlie Peace’s old haunts in the city centre led by a descendant of his family.
Jennie Beard is the great-great-great-great grand niece of the notorious Sheffield criminal, descended on her father’s side from Peace’s brother, Daniel.
“I was brought up being told we were related but I didn’t know how we were related,” says Jennie.
“There was a Penny Dreadful from 1905 that was passed down the family and I now have it as a treasured possession,” says Jennie who works as a wedding stylist and has a shop on Abbeydale Road.
Curiosity about the piece of Sheffield folklore surrounding Peace shooting the husband of a woman he claimed was his mistress and his dramatic capture grew into a stronger desire to learn the true facts of the case.
“Many people have written about him since his hanging in 1879 but they often repeat the same story and facts, so I wanted to go back to the original archives and newspapers and see where these stories are coming from.
“There was obviously a fascination with him at the time of his trial and execution in Victorian times and in the 20th century but I’m interested to explore more of why this is. I’m also looking at the way journalists of the time wrote up his story or influenced the public view of him.”
There were things too that surprised her about his trial. “The evidence presented against him was conflicting and he was told he couldn’t bring along any witnesses which was something I didn’t have an inkling of,” she says.
“I don’t want to come over as saying he is innocent but I do feel sorry for him. He is depicted as the epitome of evil and I am not sure why.People have said you are a bit biased and I suppose I am.”
Jennie’s background is in archaeology and working in the heritage sector which prompted her to look at the social history of the time and she decided to start a community heritage project, enlisting the support of Grace Tebbutt, Community History Officer at Green Estate, Manor Castle.
The first stage is the Heritage Walk setting off on Saturday and taking in 22 stopping points, all near the city centre at places significant to his life in Sheffield – though it doesn’t venture out to the scene of the crime in Banner Cross.
“This is just the beginning of the project,” says Jennie who has set up an email address and hopes to recruit research volunteers and to hear from anyone who has a story to tell, perhaps one that has been passed down through their family. She can be contacted at hansleybeard@googlemail’com or 07810 162146.
The Charlie Peace Heritage Walk starts at Fitzallan Square on Saturday at 10am and 2pm. Booking is essential.