There were 25 cases reported in 1876.
John Snook was an old farm labourer, who made the mistake of leaning on an oil-cake crushing machine, only for his sleeve to get caught in the machinery. Andrew Reubens – also an old man, this time with rheumatics and a walking stick – was, surprisingly to us, a ganger on the railway, though unfortunately was walking along the line and did not heed warnings. Maria Brownjohn was a 67 year old woman working atop a threshing machine, when she fell.
Kate Summerfield was a sensitive and reactive child, and one senses in this account that she was seeking her father’s attention – bearing in mind there was a stepmother in the case with a new step-sibling just arrived – though he seems to have beaten her at times.
There are a number of cases in this collection of boats on the Avon above Salisbury being upset and occupants drowned – the evidence in the Ann Lucas case is conflicting, and one tends to doubt the veracity of the young male witnesses. The jurors concerns about the use of bad words reminds us of the age of the account.
In many cases of illegitimate birth and concealment, one can sense the unfair pressures of the society impinging on the actions of the stigmatized mother – but in the case of Ann Goodfellow’s baby, as the Judge said, “the manner of disposing of the body was such as to wean all sympathy from her.” In the same week that Inspector Ainsworth gave evidence in this case, so his daughter Bessie Ainsworth was killed by a startled horse.
William Grace was found dead in bed in Mr Green’s lodging house, and we are given a small taste of how people did not care well for themselves, as it is told how he would disrobe from wet clothes, and then put them on again in the morning still damp. The death of Ellen Lucas is similar, her parents being without means, the mother sleeping out in the freezing November conditions with the child at breast, and then being victimized by the system. The father – who had means for himself – applied for relief, but being a Victorian society – neglected to say his wife and child were destitute, and so they were refused, and she begged shelter via the police at Stay’s lodging house. Neither Green and Stay emerge as shining characters.
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