Field, Eleanor

Field, Eleanor            1889 March 16th


The Danger of Using Glazed Earthenware Vessels

At the Salisbury Infirmary on Monday afternoon, Mr G Smith (City Coroner) inquired into the circumstances causing the death of Eleanor Field, a married woman, who died in the hospital on the Saturday previous, from supposed lead poisoning. Mr W C Wells was chosen foreman.

Mr Smith said the deceased had been an inmate of that Infirmary for two or three months. She had died, so he was informed by the medical officers, not under any suspicious circumstances, but from the effects of poison. Deceased, it was thought, must have eaten or drunk something that had been deposited in one of those earthenware vessels glazed in the inside. The glazing was composed of lead, and the doctors were of opinion that deceased had died from lead poison. He thought that that inquiry should be held, if for nothing else, to inform the public of the danger of using glazed earthenware vessels. The danger of using this kind of utensil was enhanced if any acid was put into it, as this would extract the poison from the glazing. He thought it was in the interest of the public that that inquiry should be held.

The jury having viewed the body,

James Kelland, medical practitioner, of Salisbury, and one of the physicians to the Infirmary, was called. He stated that when deceased was admitted to the hospital she was suffering from symptoms of lead poisoning. He had heard that deceased while at Newton Toney had drunk water from a well out of a corrugated iron bucket. He had heard of cases of lead poisoning resulting from this source. Lead poisoning, perhaps, would result from drinking home made wine and also from drinking out of glazed earthenware utensils. They had held a post mortem examination and he could suggest no other cause of death.

Levi Stephenson Luckham, house surgeon at the Infirmary, corroborated. He said deceased was brought to the Institution on Dec. 17th and was then suffering from symptoms of lead poisoning, which gradually became worse, causing her death on March 9th.

Sarah Bryce, mother of the deceased, was next examined. She resided at Newton Toney and was a widow. Her daughter’s husband was a porter at Messrs Style and Gerrish, and resided at 4, Hill View Terrace, Salisbury. At Whitsuntide deceased came to Newton Toney and remained with her for several weeks. Deceased was then suffering from ill health. She began to mend while out in the country, but as soon as she arrived home she experienced a relapse. She could not account for her daughter’s illness, but deceased had not really been well since her last confinement. Witness here broke down and was accommodated with a seat. Between her sobs she informed the jury that her family drank no wine because they were all teetotallers. They drank water drawn from a well in a zinc bucket and never let liquid remain in it for more than ten minutes. The water was kept in a pitcher not glazed in the inside. They had tea out of a tin teapot and so did deceased until a little time back they purchased an earthenware one. Her daughter complained of unpleasant smells when living in Castle Street.

Several of the jurymen inquired whether bad drainage would have led to the cause of deceased’s death.

Dr Kelland was re-called, and stated that infected drainage would not induce the symptoms exhibited by deceased and from which she died.

Mr Luckham concurred.

Henry Charles Field, husband of deceased, was next examined. He said that they never kept liquid in earthenware pans, and he could not account for his wife dying from lead poisoning. He noticed that she complained rather more when she came back from Newton Toney. When living in Castle Street she used to complain of smells and there were one or two defective drains but they did not complain to the landlord.

The Coroner said the evidence went to show that deceased died from lead poisoning. She had symptoms of lead poisoning when she entered the Infirmary and both doctors were of opinion that that was the cause of deceased’s death.

After a short consultation the jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony.


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