Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Child cruelty.

It wasn't always a case of  "the good old days" in Boston. There was crime, murder, drunkeness and more, and stories like the following were more common than you'd think. In June 1923 a married woman, Maud -----,  was summoned for neglecting her children. It was said that the husband of the accused was a fireman on a steam trawler and was employed by the Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company. He had been on a boat that was sailing from Fleetwood and had been away from Boston since the previous March, he had not returned in the interval. The house in which the Mother, Father and children lived was the Almshouses in Skirbeck Quarter (most likely the Middlecott Almshouses, where Middlecott Close stands today) and there were two rooms, one up and one down.
The children were a baby girl aged ten months, Edward aged four, Gwennie aged six and Phyllis aged eight. Dr. Tuxford told the magistrates that the children were well nourished but their general condition caused them unnecessary suffering. Two pawn tickets were found on the woman and these were for the childrens frocks. It was alleged that strange men had been seen leaving the house in the evening and he was afraid she had been drinking and doing things she shouldn't have, and in the meantime the children had been neglected. Dr. Tuxford also described the scanty clothes of the children and said that the house was disgracefully filthy and in a thoroughly unsanitary condition. The surroundings, although the children were well nourished, were likely to injure their health and it was unnecessary cruelty to keep the children in a filthy state.
P.c. Dickinson said that at 11.p.m. one evening he saw a man leave the house and when he visited the house one time it was in a most filthy condition.
Police sergeant Needham said he went to the house accompanied by P.c. Chappel and they found the door locked. He found the key in a bush, and went in, where they saw the children. The eldest girl was standing near the fire, nursing the baby, and there was no fireguard to protect them. She was wearing an old filthy coat and a vest in a dirty condition. The baby had a filthy old vest on and was wrapped in an old mackintosh.
Gwennie was standing in her bare feet near the fire, and was wearing a dirty vest, with an old coat. Edward had a dirty shirt and overall, and had no boots or stockings. The house was in a dirty and filthy condition, and the stench was almost intolerable, as the windows were closed. Upstairs there were two beds, and the remains of two flock mattresses were scattered on the floor. there were also some dirty old rags and it looked as though the sanitary arrangements, as affecting the children, had not been attended to for weeks. In the pantry there were bread, eggs, tea, sugar and a tin of condensed milk. At 4 p.m. he returned to the house and the woan was still not there, he gave some milk to the baby and it drank ravenously, he gave the other children some cake and tea, which had been given by neighbours. At 4.30 p.m. she returned and was arrested.
An inspector from the N.S.P.C.C. described the condition of the house as "most horrible" and a basket of clothing in a most filthy condition, was beyond description. When she returned she had a bottle of beer and some buns and she denied she had neglected her children but when he asked if she had been visiting public houses she made no reply.

The defendant said she was very sorry and hoped that the magistrates would be lenient with her. The Chairman said it was perhaps the worst case they had had in that court concerning the neglect of children and she ought to be thoroughly ashamed of herself as a mother. They said they would give her a prison sentence simply for the sake of giving her an opportunity of pulling herself together and it was hoped that when she came out she would be a better mother. She was sentenced to six months in prison.

Before we judge the lady we should think that it was fine for the relatively well off magistrates and police to preach but how many of them, in the same circumstances would fare any better than her? It doesn't bear to think about how we, as a modern generation, would have lasted in those dark days.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, this story is very close to home. I would love to know how you found this information and where I might be able to do further research