This is the story of an unknown man whose body was discovered in the River Irwell, by Regent Bridge, after the flood of Thursday 25th August.
The Salford Weekly News on 27th August 1881 had a small item headed "Floods in the Irwell". It said "The heavy continuous rain of Wednesday night and Thursday morning caused the River Irwell to rise rapidly during the afternoon. At 8 o'clock in the evening it was eleven feet above the ordinary level and at one time not more than a few inches prevented an overflow in Lower Broughton. After 8 o'clock, the water level fell as rapidly as it had risen and within an hour it had lowered by nearly two feet. The body of a man in a very decomposed state was taken from the river at Regent Road Bridge during the evening. It is supposed to have been carried down by the flood".
The Salford Reporter of Saturday 27th August added further information about the "Man Found Drowned in the Irwell". It said "Yesterday, Mr Price, Coroner, held an Inquest at the Thistle Inn, Cannon Street, Salford on the body of a man whose name is not known and which was found by John Thomas on Thursday night in the River Irwell near Regent Road Bridge. The body was that of a man about 35 years of age, 5 feet 3 inches in height, dressed in a black coat and vest, dark tweed trousers, black and white plaid scarf, lace up boots and woollen stockings. The body was in an advance state of decomposition, having evidently been in the water some time. An Open verdict was returned".
The "Unknown Man" was buried on 27th August in a common grave in the Dissenters portion of Weaste Cemetery. The proceedings were carried out by Rev. William Knox.
Another twist to the story was added by the Salford Weekly News in its edition on 10th September, with its headline, "Exhumation of a Body at the Salford Cemetery". It reports "On Thursday night between 7 and 8 o'clock an unusual occurrence took place in the Salford Borough Cemetery at Weaste. It will be remembered that on Thursday 25th August the dead body of a man was found in the River Irwell. In the ordinary course, an Inquest was held, but no one claimed or identified the body. Subsequently two women, Isabella Horrocks of 17, Robert Hall Street and Sarah Ann Tatton of 9, Mason Street, Pendleton, whose husbands have been missing for some time, came to the conclusion that the deceased man belonged to them. Mrs Tatton applied to the Home Secretary for an order for the exhumation of the body. It was granted and on Thursday night, the two above mentioned women, accompanied by Inspector of Nuisances (Mr William Wilkinson) and others, went to the cemetery and the body was exhumed.
The body was greatly decomposed when buried and was in a far more advanced state when the coffin was opened, but a close inspection of the features and clothes (made by the aid of a lantern), disclosed the fact that the deceased was the husband of Mrs Horrocks. The body was then re-interred".