Batten, Mary

Batten, Mary           1877 August 18th

A shocking case of suicide occurred on Saturday morning last, when Mary Ann Batten, the wife of Alfred Batten, landlord of the “Elephant and Castle,” committed suicide by cutting her throat, leaving five children motherless, the youngest of whom is only about 13 months old. The deceased seems to have been much respected, and the cause of her committing the rash act is not known, but she had been suffering from lowness of spirits for some time past, and occasionally complained of her head.

An inquest was held in the Council Chamber in the afternoon, before Mr G Smith, the City Coroner, and the body having been viewed the first witness examined was James Henry Gordon, who stated that he was a medical practitioner residing in Salisbury, and about ¼ past 11 that morning he was called to go to the “Elephant and Castle” to attend Mrs Batten, who, he was told, had cut her throat. He went upstairs, and found her lying on the floor in a pool of blood; she was quite cold and pulseless, but not quite dead as she moved her eyes. He lifted her head, and found a very large gaping wound in the throat, almost from ear to ear; the large blood-vessels of the neck were severed, and also the larynx, which was quite cut through. She died within a few minutes after he saw her, and the wound was such as a person could inflict on herself. There were no other marks of violence on the body.

By a juryman : Witness was not her medical attendant previously, and could not tell whether she was a woman likely to do such a thing.

Matilda Ewence, a servant in Mr Batten’s employ, said she last saw Mrs Batten alive at ten minutes past 11 that morning, when she was in the kitchen. She came from downstairs, stood at the edge of the kitchen table, drew her hand across her forehead, and said, “O Jane, how queer I feel in my head!” Witness had two children with her, one on each arm, and Mrs Batten took the eldest and went upstairs with it, without making any further remark. Witness went upstairs close behind her, and saw her close the door. She (witness) then placed the other child on the bed and went downstairs, but directly she got down she heard the child Mrs Batten took cry, and immediately went up again. The door was shut, but she opened it, and saw the deceased lying in a pool of blood on the floor. She didn’t speak to her at all, and witness at once went downstairs and told Mr Batten. She then went for Mr Batten’s sister, Elizabeth Ann Turner, who resided in Culver Street.

A juryman : Has she ever complained to you at any time before of a pain in her head? O, yes, sir! Several times.

You have not heard of any disagreement with Mr Batten and her? No, sir.

Has Mr Darke, her medical man, often attended her? Not many times since I have been there.

PC White said he was sent for to go to the “Elephant and Castle.” He heard someone had cut their neck, and he went in, and on the second floor upstairs saw Mrs Batten lying in a pool of blood. Dr Gordon was present at the time. Witness looked round and picked up an open razor which he now produced. It was about 18 inches from the body, on the brickwork of the fireplace. He took charge of the razor, and, after Dr Gordon had left, the door was locked.

Alfred Batten, the deceased’s husband, who was so much affected that he could not subsequently sign his deposition, said deceased had lately been suffering from lowness of spirits, and he frequently persuaded her to go away for a change to see if it would do her any good. He persuaded her to go to Bournemouth, but she would not do so; she did, however, make up her mind to go to her father the other day, but changed it again. Mr Darke was her medical man, but she had not been attended by him lately. Immediately he knew what had taken place he sent for the first medical man who could be found, and Dr Gordon shortly afterwards arrived. He had not the slightest suspicion at all as to what caused her to do what she did. Just previous to going upstairs she kissed him, and said, “When you want me you call.” She was in her 33rd year.

The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased committed suicide while suffering from temporary insanity. They gave their fees towards the Salisbury infirmary. The deceased was buried at the Salisbury Cemetery on Wednesday last, when a very large number of spectators were present.

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