Fowler, Charlotte

Fowler, Charlotte         1884 December 6th

About a month ago we announced that a woman named Charlotte Fowler, residing with her husband John Fowler, foreman of the Transfer Office at the London and South Western Railway, at 20, Clifton-terrace, Salisbury, had been admitted into the Infirmary suffering from severe burns. The woman’s injuries terminated fatally on Friday morning in last week.

The inquest was held on the following day at the Infirmary, Mr Curtis being foreman of the jury.

Laura Elizabeth Fowler, the daughter of the deceased, was the first witness. She said that on the night of the 3rd of November, at about 10.15, her younger brother having gone to his bed, her mother went to his bedroom to get a small benzoline lamp. By some means her mother – as they thought – missed her footing and fell down the stairs. When they got to her they found her calling out but unable to give any explanation of the accident. At first when she heard the noise she thought some books had fallen, and consequently did not run at once to see the cause. But hearing her mother call for water, and saying she would be burnt to death, she at once ran to her assistance. When she got to her she found her clothes still burning. At once she got a rug and placed over her; and then put water over her.

The Coroner : About the worse thing you could have done; but you of course did not know it.

The girl, who it must be said, gave her evidence in a clear manner, said that by the means she took she extinguished the flames. She called in the next door neighbours; and shortly after Dr Kelland was sent for, on whose advice she was removed to the Infirmary. Her father was not at home at the time, he being in the town. She and her two brothers were the only ones at home. The girl was subsequently asked what her elder brother, a lad of 14, did. She said he remained in bed when they first called for assistance and refused to get up. When asked where he was now – the jurymen evidently thinking it advisable that he should be called as a witness – she replied that she didn’t know. The boy had gone away, it was believed that he was at Barford; but they did not know for certain.

Mrs Fanny Wells, wife of William Wells, who resides at 19, Clifton-terrace, said that on this night she heard the calls of Mrs Fowler, and her requests to somebody to “pour more water,” and thinking something was the matter she went into the house. She found Mrs Fowler at the bottom of the stairs, and saw that she had received severe burns. The flames had been extinguished. Mrs Fowler was quite unable to say how the accident happened, and she kept exclaiming, “I have no recollection whatever.” In the end she was conveyed to the Infirmary. The deceased’s age was, she believed, 48.

A Juror : Was the eldest boy there? Not when I arrived.

Where was he? In bed; we called him, but he refused to get up as he was tired.

Do you know what he had doing to make him tired? No.

Had he been drinking? I don’t know.

Do you know the reason of his going away from home? I believe he has been in the habit of going away at different times. He has been away several weeks together; and they have not known where he has been.

Mr Mervyn Wilson, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that the deceased was brought to the Infirmary on the night of the 3rd. Her injuries had already been seen to by Mr Kelland. Her right arm was burnt as far as slightly beyond the elbow, the left arm was burnt on the surface, the left shoulder was also burnt, and there was a burn of a considerable extent in the back. There was also a slight burn on the top of the head, and over one of the eyes, these might have been caused by coming into contact with a lamp. She died on the morning of the 28th a little after 12. He attributed her death to the shock and exhaustion consequent on the burns. The deceased showed no symptoms of having suffered from fits. There was no evidence of the deceased having received a blow.

It was explained by the first witness that the lamp “very frequently flared up.” It was thought by some of the jurors that that was what might have happened in this case, the suddenness of the event causing the woman to miss her footing, and then the oil escaping over her dress that was set on fire by the flame of the lamp. Several of the jurors expressed strong opinions on the conduct of her eldest son in refusing to get up.

In the end a verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned.

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