Isla Broadwell. 2019. 151 pages – photos, prints and maps included. Paperback A4 size. ISBN 9-798639-31730. List price £14.99. Available from Amazon. Kindle Edition also available at £4.99 from Amazon.
Isla Broadwell – her real name is Lisa Douglas – is the three-times great granddaughter of Robert Marsden. It is a personal story of his life as a Police Officer in Liverpool between 1859 and 1869 when he died of typhoid fever.
I was disappointed that there was no contents page or index, which would have been helpful. However, there is a list of references. The book is well illustrated throughout, including some street maps relating to Marsden’s cases. The majority of the book uses local newspaper reports of his cases to describe his work and explain how difficult and dangerous it could be.
Marsden entered the Police Force in the 1850s (specific date unknown) and worked in the North Division covering Scotland Road, Vauxhall, St Anne’s and Netherfield. By this time he was married to Elizabeth and living in Everton with their six children.
There is a brief description of Liverpool in the mid 19th century before some of his cases from 1859 to 1869 are described. It uses newspaper reports extensively to show the variety of crimes he was involved with, working with other officers. By the 1860s he was promoted to Detective, one of only sixteen. A famous case in 1866 recorded that a man named Reid was accused of stabbing his wife to death. Reid escaped to New York; Liverpool Police were told that Reid had been found there and Marsden was sent to collect him and bring him back to stand trial in Liverpool.
The book provides an insight into not only the life and work of a Police Officer in mid 19th century Liverpool but also what conditions were like in this rapidly growing city. It relies heavily on newspaper reports which are of interest to dip into but does not tell us anything of his life outside the force. It is a snapshot of a single officer working for Liverpool Police over a ten-year period.
Allan Williams (LHS Librarian). August 2020.