Blake, infant

Blake, infant           1879 January 25th

Discovery of a Dead Child in a Box at the New Station

On Thursday morning early a night-watchman named Thick finding an offensive smell proceeding from a box which was in the parcel’s room at the new station, acquainted Inspector Maslen with the fact, and together they opened the box and found it contained the dead body of a male child. Supt Mathews was soon brought aware of the fact and he took possession of the box, and at 3.43pm of the same day he succeeded in arresting a young woman named Eliza Blake (who applied for the box) on a charge of concealment of birth. She has been remanded until Monday, when she will be tried. The inquest on the body was held at the “Plume of Feathers” hotel, yesterday morning, before Mr Smith, coroner. Mr Wells was foreman of the jury.

Joseph Thick was the first witness and stated : I live at No 1, Milford-street, and am night watchman at the Fisherton South-Western station. When I went on duty on Wednesday night at 8.30 there was a box in the parcel delivery office. It was directed to “Miss Eliza Blake, Tawton station, To be left till called for.” I don’t know how it came at the Salisbury station. It has remained at the station since Wednesday night. On finding an offensive smell proceeding from the box, I at 2.30am on Thursday morning locked the office door and reported the circumstance to Inspector Maslen; and he accompanied me back to the office, and told me to open the box, and to see what was in it. I opened it, and found the body of a child therein. He then directed me to close the box and lock the door and said he would go to the police-station and report to Supt Mathews. The body of the child was wrapped up, in what appeared to be a brown skirt. There was some other wearing apparel in the box.

Inspector Maslen, of the South Western Railway Company, said he was stationed at the Salisbury station, and resided at 1, Bath-terrace, Wilton-road. He corroborated Thick’s evidence, adding that on opening the box they first discovered clothes and after those they found the body of the child – in about the middle of the box. The body which was in the box was the same the jury viewed.

By a juror : He did not believed the box was locked; in his opinion it was simply corded. No force had to be used to open it.

Dr F W Coates said : I am a medical practitioner, and surgeon to the police of Salisbury. I have examined the body of the child, and I have also, in company with Dr Gordon, made a post mortem examination. I found it was a male child and born at the full time. There was no sign of violence to the exterior of the body. The body was lying in a considerable quantity of blood, which, I think, came from the mother at the time of her accouchement, because the child itself was not bloodless or blanched. The child, in my opinion, had lived.

The Coroner : Do I understand that it had had a separate existence?

Witness : Yes, but for a very short time. The external parts of the body are very much decomposed, but the internal organs are not so much decomposed, but that we could ascertain that the child had lived. We examined the lungs, which had been thoroughly inflated, and were not at all effected by decomposition. There was a considerable extravasation of blood in the soft part of the right chest external to the ribs.

The Coroner : Would that arise from a blow?

Witness : It might or from a fall, but there was no evidence of such extravasation being caused by violence.

The Coroner : With regard to the blood in the box – you say it came from the mother?

Witness : Yes, because the child was full of blood.

The Coroner : What would your opinion be as to the probably cause of death?

Dr Coates : I am unable to say that.

Dr J H Gordon, who made a post mortem examination of the body with Dr Coates, said he concurred in what had been stated as the result of that examination. He could give no opinion as to the cause of death.

Edgar Pearcey, of 51, Bedwin-street, parcel clerk of the London and South Western Railway Company, said : On Wednesday evening at a quarter to seven a young woman met me opposite the booking office at the new station, and asked me if I had seen a box belonging to her. I asked her name, and she replied, “Miss Blake.” I then asked where the box was coming from and she said, “Tawton.” I took her to the parcel office of the down station, and showed her the box directed to “Eliza Blake, Tawton station, left till called for.” The box was sent from Tawton to Salisbury, and I believe was originally sent from Waterloo.

Superintendent Mathews said he believed it was left at Tawton, then forwarded to Waterloo at the unclaimed luggage office and on a letter being received it was forwarded to Salisbury.

Witness, continuing, said the woman said the box was hers, and she paid 4s 11d for carriage of the box from Tawton to Salisbury, and part payment of 2s 5d for her own fare from Southampton to Salisbury, a sum she had borrowed from an inspector. He asked what she wished done with the box. She said she was going to London by the 1.50 train to-morrow (Thursday), and asked if he would take the box to the new station until she called. He consented to do it, and she then left. He left the box at the parcel office of the new station, and he had not seen it since. He locked the door at 9 o’clock when he left, and placed the key in the inspector’s office.

By the foreman : He noticed no offensive smell arising from the box. The box arrived by the 8.45 train from Southampton, and was the same the jury had seen. The woman arrived three days after.


By the Coroner : The person who came on Thursday to claim the box to take to London was the same who interrogated him on the previous day, and gave her name as “Miss Blake.” On Thursday she did not come to go by the 1.45 train as she promised, but at 3.43 she came and gave him a written address to put on the box; but he could not do it as it was in the charge of Supt Mathews.

Supt Mathews gave evidence to the effect that from information received on Thursday morning he went to the new station; and there a box was pointed out to him by Inspector Maslen. He opened it, and after removing some wearing apparel he opened an old skirt, and found in it the body of a child. He removed the box and contents from the parcel-office to the guards-room, and afterwards sent for Dr Coates to examined the body in his presence. He then locked the door and had possession of the key ever since. On Thursday afternoon, at a quarter to four, a woman named Eliza Blake came to the railway station, and he apprehended her and charged her with concealment of birth. He removed her to the police-station.

The Coroner pointed out that the jury must be guided by the medical evidence, and that in that evidence there was nothing to show that the child died by unfair means.

The jury returned a verdict of “Found Dead,” and added that there was not sufficient evidence to show the cause of death.

Magistrates Hearing 1879 February 2nd

Eliza Blake, servant, was charged with having, on the 23rd January, in the parish of Fisherton Anger, unlawfully endeavoured to conceal the birth of her illegitimate male child by a secret disposition of the body.

The court was excessively crowded by a large number including several females who attended on purpose to hear this case. The girl is apparently about 20 years of age, and of by no means unprepossessing appearance. She seemed to feel her position, and listened to the evidence in a very attentive manner.

The majority of the evidence has already been given in the inquest report, but Supt Mathews added one or two further details upon his arrest of the defendant,

…after removing the body of the child and some wearing apparel in the box he found a large packet of letters, some of which he now produced. He also lifted the label on which were written the directions for the conveyance of the box, and found under it a letter written presumably by a female, and which prisoner since admitted was in her handwriting. He also found in the box two books.

On Sunday morning the prisoner complained of being unwell, and he sent for Dr Coates, who arrived at the police station at about a quarter to four. Witness was present when he examined prisoner. He told her he was about to ask her one or two questions; she need not answer them unless she thought it proper to do so, but whatever she should say he warned her would be given in evidence before the magistrates.

She then stated, in answer to questions put her by Dr Coates, that she had been delivered of a child about a month previous. She added that she was on the road home to Netheravon when she was taken suddenly ill and the child was born. She remained in the road some time but did not know how long; and eventually she took the child up (she said it was dead-born), carried it home and put it in her box, where the body had been since.

Prisoner did not ask either of the witnesses any questions, and made no reply to the charge. She was then formally committed for trial at the next assizes, but the bench said bail would be accepted herself in £20 – and two sureties of £10 each.

I was unable to find any report from the April assizes regarding this case. I think the charge of concealment of birth would have stood, in all probability.


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