~ Families and People ~
James Yates Rooker
Vicar of St. James, 1848 - 1887
James Yates Rooker was born on 27th February 1812, the Son of Able Rooker's first marriage with Susannah Brevitt who were married in 1811, Able Rooker was a Surgeon from Darleston.
J.Y.R. was Curate of Hathersage, Derbyshire until 1847, he then moved to St. James's, Lower Gornal in 1848, he served the community for the rest of his life.
A Murderous Outrage in Lower Gornal

The Attempted Murder of James Yates Rooker, Vicar of Lower Gornal.


It was Friday, 8th of August 1879, around ten o'clock in the morning in a remote Black Country village,

Lower Gornal was a small close-knit community of miners and nailers in South Staffordshire, a cluster of shops situated at the Five Ways or 'Green' as it was known locally, was the central point of the Village and the scene for an outrage that would reverberate around the country.

Charles Harland was seemingly a respectable man, a 46 year old Stone Merchant and Quarry Owner of Ruiton in nearby Upper Gornal, although in recent times he had found himself in a poor financial state.

James Yates Rooker was incumbent of St. James' Church, Lower Gornal and also a magistrate for the County of Stafford, he often sat on the Bench of Magistrates at Sedgley.
Reverend Rooker was a much respected and loved member of the community, he was sixty-five years old and had served St. James's for the last thirty one years.

Although on the outside all appeared well between Reverend Rooker and Charles Hartland, the two gentlemen were friends and Hartland served as leader of the choir at the church for many years.
However, their friendship had changed two years earlier, Hartland had been convicted of obscenities - exposing himself to young girls, and Mr. Rooker had served on the Sedgley Bench that convicted him.
Despite this, Reverend Rooker continued to support Hartland and his duties at the church and choir continued, all appeared well between them to the parishioners.

Recently Mr. Hartland seemed to be in a very sullen state and had been seen lurking about the district, quietly threatening harm to both James Rooker and also to Mr Thomas Gould of Petworth house in Church Street.
Mr. Gould had married Reverend Yates daughter, Emily in 1868 and was closely acquainted with the Reverend both personally and professionally.
Hartland blamed Mr. Gould for his present financial circumstances, due to the outcome of a will which he had been excluded.

Charles Hartland was now a man enraged, he had threatened both the Reverend Rooker and Thomas Gould in the past.
He had been overheard saying that he would 'swing' for one of the Sedgley magistrates (Mr. Rooker) and Rooker's brother-in-law, Mr. Gould,
A few days earlier Hartland had been seen stalking Mr. Gould as he went about his business at Dudley and Stourbridge.

Hartland was heavily in debt and earlier that very morning, the bailiffs had visited his house in Ruiton with the intent of selling-off furniture to pay off debts owing.

That fateful morning in August, Charles Hartland had been talking to Grocer Jabez Addenbrooke in Church Street for a few minutes before he continued on to Mr. Addenbrooke's shop on the Five Ways.
He inquired to Mrs. Addenbrook of her husband, despite having just left him in Church Street, Mrs. Addenbrook was in the shop and her sister, Mrs. Bird was in the parlour.

Here unwinds Hartland's wicked plan to wait for the Reverend with intent to confront and harm him.

That morning, the Vicar walked across the road from the Vicarage nearby in Church Street and went shopping on the Five Ways.
After visiting Mr. Marsh's butchers shop in Lake Street, he crossed the road and made his way to the Addenbrooke's grocery store which was just opposite.

Mrs. Bird, the wife of Benjamin Bird of Ruiton, was visiting her sister Mrs. Addenbrook at the grocery shop at the time.
She could see into the shop from the parlour where she sat.
She later stated that she could see her sister, Mrs. Addenbrook, talking to Mr. Hartland who had just entered the grocery store.

Mrs. Adddenbrooke left the shop and Charles Hartland appeared to linger about.
Shortly afterwards, Reverend Rooker entered and both gentlemen talked together alone.
According to Mrs. Bird, she couldn't hear what was said between the two men, but admitted that the conversation appeared to be of a friendly nature.

What no one knew was that there was menace in Hartland's eyes and after they had briefly spoken, the Reverend turned to make his way out of the shop door.
At that moment, Hartland drew a revolver from his pocket and fired two shots at close range at Reverend Rooker's head.
The Vicar was hit and staggered out of the door and down the steps shouting "I'm shot, I'm shot".
A witness stated that Charles Hartland moved up closely behind the Reverend and again pointed the pistol at the Vicars head from only a few inches away and fired the third shot.

Mrs Bird, aware of what was happening, had left the parlour and rushed into the shop and tried to assist Reverend Rooker as he staggered out.
She immediately saw that the Vicar was bleeding profusely from his mouth, nose and neck and Hartland appeared very angry.
Hartland calmly left the scene and walked away up Ruiton Street in the direction of his home, he did not show any remorse and did not attempt to run away.

At this point other local people had rushed to the scene and the Reverend Rooker was assisted back to the Vicarage just across the road and the doctor was sent for.

A crowd of people had gathered and were shouting after Hartland as he strode along Ruiton Street; "Stop him"; "..he wants hanging"; "he's shot Mr. Rooker" and some of them followed after him.

As Hartland passed by The Chapel House pub about fifty yards along Ruiton Street, someone again shouted "Stop him!" to which Harland calmly replied "I don't want stopping; I'm alright now".

Police Constable Wright, who was in his garden next to the Police Station in Ruiton, had heard the commotion.
Constable Wright had heard someone cry out that Hartland had shot the Reverend Rooker and immediately met up with Hartland.

The Constable took him into custody at the Police House, where he arrested him.
When PC Wright searched Hartland, he found a small five shot revolver in his pocket.
Three chambers had recently been discharged from the pistol and a further two live bullets were present in the chambers.

Dr. Thomas Walker, who lived at Prospect House in Upper Gornal, was Medical Officer of Health for the Sedgley Board.
He attended the Rev. Rooker that morning at about 10:15 AM and declared that there were three wounds to his head caused by bullets.

The bullets appeared to be lodged in the Mr. Rooker's head, the reverend gentleman was found to have one bullet which had gone into the roof of his mouth, one above and behind the ear, and a third one near the carotid artery.

Doctor Walker gave little chance for his patient's survival and expected that the wounds he received would likely prove fatal.

During this time Reverend Rooker, although weak and had lost a lot of blood, remained conscious and perfectly sensible.

At the hearing, Solomon Nock, a gardener who had in the past done work for the Reverend Rooker, said that about twelve months previous to the incident, he was in 'Mr. Pattersons', The Waggon and Horses public house in Ruiton Street
That evening, Harland had told him- "Tell your master he's a scamp, a thief, a robber, and I'll blow his brains out and his son-in-law likewise"

The night before the shooting, Thursday the 7th of August, Charles Hartland who had been in his capacity as choir leader at St. James Church, had visited the Reverend's vicarage in Church Street after the service.
Together with other members of the choir he attended a party celebrating the birthday of one of Mr. Rooker's family and outwardly all appeared well between them.

A few days after the shooting, Hartland admitted that the two undischarged chambers in the revolver were reserved for Reverend Rooker's son-in-law Thomas Gould.
He said that he had purchased the revolver in Birmingham a week earlier after disposing of some jewellery.

On Saturday, 10th August, the day after the incident, Charles Hartland was charged at Bilston Police Court with shooting James Yates Rooker with intent to murder him.
He was remanded in custody for a week to see what the outcome may be with the health of Mr. Rooker.

At the Court the defendant was asked if he had anything to say, he replied "No" and appeared rather nonchalant.

The following week, on the 19th August, Hartland was removed to Sedgley where he would be remanded for trial at Stafford Assises.

Although some had questioned Charles Hartland's state-of-mind at the time of the shooting, he was passed as sane by a prison doctor during his remand in Stafford gaol.

On the 7th of November, at Staffordshire Winter Assises, Charles Hartland was indicted for the felonious wounding of Reverend James Yates Rooker with the intent of killing him.
The charge sheet reads: "Shooting with intent to kill & murder".
He was found guilty and sentenced to twelve years penal servitude.

Reverend Rooker had great difficulty attending the trial, but did plead leniency for his once friend, despite having Hartland's bullets still in his head, including one lodged in his brain.

After the trial, a local petition was sent to the Home Secretary to get Hartland's sentence reduced, but this was rejected.

The incident at Lower Gornal was widely reported around the country and the cold-blooded attack on the Vicar caused great outrage.

After a couple of weeks had passed, it was with great relief that the Vicars health had improved to an extent that he could again be seen in public.
There was still great doubt about him making a full recovery as he was still in a dangerous condition.
It was understood that any attempt to remove the bullets could be fatal.

The Reverend Rooker was still in the care of Dr. Walker, despite rumours that specialist surgeons would be called to attempt to remove the bullets from his head.
It was ascertained that one of the bullets had removed itself from the roof of his mouth and passed into his stomach.

Dr. Walker continued to attend him and the Reverend maintained that the local practitioners were responsible for his miraculous survival and recovery and that he had great faith in them.

On Sunday the 14th of December, 1879 the Reverend Rooker officiated for the first time at the morning service at St. James' Church and preached his first sermon since the incident.
The sermon was greeted with great enthusiasm, and after the sermon, he spoke to the congregation about his miraculous escape from death.
He was still weak, but he hoped that his health would improve enough to be able to carry on his work at Lower Gornal.

The Reverend James Yates Rooker eventually recovered from his injuries to live on a few years more and continued as Vicar of St. James The Great.
He died in 1887, and is buried in the family tomb in St.James graveyard.

What about the Hartlands?

His father, Joseph Hartland was a builder, and in 1851 the family was living at Tower Street, Dudley.
Charles was 14 years old, his mother, brother Henry 8, sisters Mary 10, Sarah 3, and Martha aged 1 were listed in the census.

Charles Hartland married Elizabeth Wallens from Penn, and they were married at Sedgley All Saints in 1860, they lived on Dudley Road, Upper Gornal in 1861. Census

1864: Bankruptcy Notice, London Gaazette April 19.

THIS is to give notice, that the Court acting in the prosecution of a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in the Birmingham District Court of Bankruptcy, at Birmingham, on the 26th day of January, 1864, by Charles Hartland, of Sedgley, in the county of Stafford, Builder, did, on the 13th day of April, 1864, grant the Discharge of the said Charles Hartland; and that such discharge will lie delivered to the bankrupt, unless an appeal be duly entered against the judgment of the Court, and notice thereof be given to the Court.

In 1871, Hartland was living at the 'Swan Inn', No. 1, Mount Street, Upper Gornal.
He was now aged 33, and his wife Elizabeth, 32 with their children [Charles] Henry, 7 and Louisa aged 6.

What of Charles Hartland?

Not much has been discovered as to what happened to Charles Hartland after his conviction.
It is understood that he served his time at H.M. Convict Prison, Chatham, Kent, but it is not known what happened to him, during or after this time.

His wife Elizabeth was living in Clarence Street, Upper Gornal in 1881, with their children, Charles Henry and daughter Louisa, who was now 17 years old.

In 1863, some years before the above events, The Rev. James Rooker was also in the news when his brother William Yates Rooker, also a clergyman, petitioned for divorce from his American wife Sarah Mapenburgh Rooker, who's drunkeness and affair with Henry Skimpton Newton, a married man, became a local scandal.
At the Divorce Court, on Wednesday, a case was heard in which the Rev. William Yates Rooker, a clergyman of the Church of England, sought a divorce from his wife, on the ground of adultery with Mr. Henry Skimpton Newton, lime burner, of Lower Gornal, Staffordshire. Dr. Deane, Q.C., appeared for the petitioner, and Dr. Stavey Hill, for the respondent, whom the petitioner married in Virginia, in 1842. There have been four children by the marriage. In 1860 the respondent went back to America, but returned in 1862 owing to the war in America. On her return to this country she was received by her husband and friends, but in consequence of her continuance of her habits of intemperance they were again separated, he allowed her a sufficient sum for her maintenance, which was paid to her by his brother, the Rev. James Rooker, incumbent of Lower Gornal, in Staffordshire, he also provided a cottage for her residence, and using all his exertions as a clergyman to reform her habits. In the later part of 1862 she became acquainted with the co-respondent, who was at that time the leader of the choir and superintendent of the Sunday Schools attached to the church of the Rev. James Rooker, at Lower Gornal; and in consequence of the rumours that were circulating through the village, he was deposed by Mr. Rooker; and evidence to prove the adultery was offered. Dr. Hill took objections as to the marriage in Virginia, and they were reserved.

The Derby Mercury, 25 November 1863

At the proceedings, Mary Bates, of Lower Gornal, who used to wash for Mr. Rooker stated that she had witnessed Mr. Newton and Mrs. Rooker alone together and kissing, and on another occasion she had seen them both enter Mrs. Rookers house and the doors were locked.
The adultery was established but there was some uncertainty over whether the marriage in Virginia in 1842 was proved, the case was stood over.
William Yates Rooker, appears to have remarried, he died in 1869.