The Coroner in an Emerging Industrial Society: John Theodore Hoyle and Newcastle upon Tyne 1857-1885

Helen Joan Rutherford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this thesis I examine the life and work of the Victorian coroner for Newcastle upon Tyne, John Theodore Hoyle. Beginning with the nineteenth century description of the coroner as the People’s Judge, I establish a new definition of this epithet and use it as a lens with which to examine the life and work of a neglected but important branch of the Victorian judiciary. I use the character of the People’s Judge in examining the extent to which the personality, interests, and approach of a legally qualified coroner shaped the role of coroner in the community of Newcastle upon Tyne.
I develop a biography of Hoyle from myriad small pieces of evidence. This is the central plank of the thesis and anchors the discussion and analysis which follows, in three broad areas: the dispute between medicine and the law in the coroner’s court; inquests into the deaths of infants; and inquests associated with industrial expansion. My research uses micro-history, legal history, and biography to draw together disparate sources relating to Hoyle’s life and work.
My research establishes that the coroner, a judge who lived and worked in the community he served, is an integral part of the jigsaw in building a picture of the governance of Newcastle upon Tyne, an emerging industrial society, in the mid to late nineteenth century. The impact of Hoyle’s approach as a lawyer is central to appreciation of the coroner’s role.
The thesis fills one of many gaps in knowledge of the nineteenth century coroner, and his work, by presenting a detailed study and analysis of the life and work of the coroner in the most northerly English town. My research has resulted in a database of material which will be used for further work and provides a template for such study.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Newcastle University
  • Arvind, TT, Supervisor, External person
  • Ward, Ian, Supervisor, External person
  • Crosby, Kevin, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2021
Place of PublicationNewcastle Upon Tyne
Publication statusSubmitted - Apr 2021


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