On 8th May 1885 Sarah Ann Henley jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge into the mud and survived, even now after over one hundred years the story still fascinates Bristolians. The day following the incident The Western Daily Press gave a full report as follows: -
Yesterday at a little past mid-day Sarah Ann Henley of 48 Twinnell Road, St. Phillips, leaped from the Suspension Bridge,and, singular to state, when picked up in the mud below was conscious, and very soon after was able to state her name and address. The person that had such a marvellous escape is a young woman, 22 years of age, living with her father, a respectable working man, at the above address. She had been for some time keeping company with a young man, but recently had a disagreement with him, and a “few words” between them a night or two ago were followed by a parting and a letter in which he gave up the companionship. The letter was received on Thursday and was taken much to heart by Henley, who was noticed by the neighbours to be looking depressed in spirit. She was seen in Twinnell Street yesterday morning at about 11 o’clock, and this depression was noticed then. At a quarter past twelve she leapt from the bridge. The woman fell as if she was going into the river which was running down. The tide was extremely low. The soft mud banks were accordingly not completely covered by water. A rather high wind was blowing and the woman’s dress offered a good deal of resistance to it, not only materially checked the rapidity of her descent, but instead of falling vertically she was carried onto the Gloucester bank, where she fell on the mud in almost a sitting posture. The mud yielded freely, and the woman, straightened out to full length, sank some distance into it. An alarm was given, and John Williams, of Ashton Gate and George Drew proceeded to get her out of the mud into the roadway. Brandy was sent for, and, failing to secure the use of a passing cab, a messenger was despatched to the Clifton Police Station for the stretcher. She was conveyed on the stretcher by several constables to the institution, where after being seen by the surgeons in the casualty room, she was placed in one of the wards. She was not considered to be in any immediate danger.
The Observer reported a couple of days later: -
That she has great regard for her beau is shown in the fact that she continually asks for him and is impatient to see him. He too apparently repentant, called at the Infirmary to see her, but the house surgeon, fearing an interview between the lovers might have a prejudicial effect upon the young women, forbade his seeing her at present.
While in hospital she received several offers of marriage, one wealthy suitor offered a sovereign to a hospital official to ensure that Sarah received his offer of a life of luxury as his wife. Showmen also showed interest in her, one offered her a contract tour, with £400 down and a share of the profits, another approached her father with an offer of £1000 to allow him to use Sarah for show purposes. She took up none of these offers. The young porter disappeared and some years later on 26th.January 1900 she married a Mr. Edward Lane who worked for the Bristol Wagon Works. Although her attempted suicide remained an embarrassment to her for many years she kept the souvenirs of the fall until a year before her death when she had to leave her home in Croydon Street to go into an institution to be cared for. Sarah Ann Lane died in 100 Fishponds Road on 31st.March.1948 at the age of 85 and was buried in Avon View cemetery in an unmarked grave.