Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter


Cock Fights and Cattle Drovers: Notes on the life of CHARLES HAWLEY TORR (1838 to 1923)

A founding member of the Thoroton Society; he was present at the Inaugural Meeting in 1897 and remained a member until 1912. Charles Hawley Torr was born in 1838 to Lott Torr and his wife Eliza Hawley.

The family were grocers who lived on Clumber Street, Nottingham. The business seems to have prospered as the 1851 census records that they employed a domestic servant aged 22, although Lott’s father John had died in the Basford Workhouse in 1850. Lott died in 1861, and in 1862 the whole family except for Charles Hawley emigrated to New South Wales, Australia. Their emigration was sponsored by the eldest son, John, who was a carpenter.

Charles remained in Nottingham and must have received some education as he eventually became an accountant and insurance broker. In 1863 he married Helen Ann Patterson, the only daughter of the late Mr John Patterson, of Old Lenton. At the time of the marriage, Charles was living at High Pavement, Nottingham.

However, The Nottinghamshire Guardian of Friday 5 December 1879 announced: ‘On the 28th ult., at Percy-Street, Hull, [died] from exhaustion after a severe operation, Helen Ann, the wife of Charles Hawley Torr of Park-Row, Nottingham and only sister of Douglas John Patterson, of Mansfield, Notts. Many kind friends will please accept this intimation.’ Charles and Helen had no children.

Charles did not remain alone for long. The Worcester Journal of Saturday 21 May 1881 reported on the marriage that had taken place on 12 May between Charles Hawley Torr of Nottingham and Sarah Ann Heywood Hadfield, fourth daughter of the late Thomas Hadfield of Liverpool. The marriage service at the Priory Church, Great Malvern, was conducted by the Rev Walter Senior, BA, Vicar of St Thomas's, Nottingham. Thomas Hadfield, who was Sarah’s father, had been a manufacturing chemist in Southport. He died in 1879. By 1897, when the Thoroton Society was founded, Charles and Sarah were living at St Alban’s Tower, Sherwood, as recorded in the membership list of the Thoroton Society. This was number 447 Mansfield Road, on the corner of Devon Drive.

At some point in the 20th century, number 447 was merged with number 445 and renamed Warwick Towers [1]. The premises are now occupied by CDF Estates Ltd, a property management company. Charles had various interests, and in particular the issue of cruelty to animals. He was for many years a member of the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

This society had been set up in 1824. Amongst its founders was William Wilberforce, who had fought for the abolition of slavery to be brought into law. The Society enjoyed the patronage of Queen Victoria, who in 1840 allowed the title of ‘Royal’ to be used. Charles was occasionally called on to assist in prosecutions for animal cruelty. In 1871, there was a prosecution for leaving shorn sheep in extreme cold and wet at the Nottingham Livestock Market, at which Mr Torr was an important witness.

The Nottingham Journal for Wednesday 16 June 1875 reported on a prosecution for cock fighting in Nottingham, when six men were charged with this offence. Mr R Marsh, an officer of the RSPCA, went with Mr Charles Hawley Torr and Detective Coleman to Mr Skinner's brewery in Plantagenet Street, where a cock fight was found to be taking place. Several men were apprehended by Mr Torr, Inspector Marsh and Detective Coleman. Mr Torr ‘detained the weights and scales and other equipment [found at the cock fight] on his own responsibility’. Five men were found guilty and fined £5 each. One man was acquitted. On Tuesday 22 July 1879, The Nottingham Journal reported that the RSPCA had been very critical in a report on the Nottingham and District Tramways Company Ltd, regarding cruelty to the horses used by the company. A letter from Mr J Gilpin, the Chairman of the Company, responded vigorously to the criticisms, stating that Mr Torr’s remarks were ‘full of inaccuracies’. Not all of Charles’ activities with the RSPCA resulted in prosecutions or unpleasant letters in the press. On Wednesday 10 September 1873, The Nottingham Journal published a letter from CH Torr, secretary of the Nottinghamshire branch of the RSPCA, regarding a cattle drovers' tea at the Arboretum. A number of cattle drovers were invited to the tea and given a talk on caring for the beasts in their charge whilst conveying them to the market. The tea was deemed to be a great success,

In his professional life, Charles was an auditor for various companies, such as the Nottingham Lace Manufacturing Company Ltd. He was also involved in various bankruptcy cases, in which he was made the Trustee of the bankrupt person’s assets. He stood as a candidate for Byron Ward in the 1873 elections for the Town Council, but in spite of his involvement in community affairs, was unsuccessful.

The Aberdeen Free Press for Thursday 13 August 1885 reported that at the forthcoming meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, to be held at Aberdeen, CH Torr (Nottingham) ‘intended to be present’.Charles died on 23 September 1923, and his wife Sarah just a few days later, on 4 October 1923.

At the time they were living at 35 Burlington Road, Sherwood.

John Wilson

Note 1. My thanks to Terry Fry for this information.

Other sources used - British Newspaper Archive;