Monday, 5 August 2013
After reading this story I wondered what The Mayor, the NSPCC officer, the magistrates, the police and all the other relatively well off people in the story would have been like in the same circumstances. Most of them were born with silver spoons in their mouths and nothing has changed much today, the people in charge still have no idea of living in the real world. Remember, poor Alfred Knight had no Union to fight for his pathetic wages, no dole money if he didn't work and no decent housing. Like most working class people of the time the odds were against him from the moment he was born and all society could do was send people to prison with hard labour when, in fact, all they needed was help.
A case of cruelty to children was heard at the Boston Borough Police Court in
March 1903. Alfred Knight, labourer, was charged with wilfully neglecting two
children on March 4th. Inspector Campion of the NS PCC stated on the date named
he visited the defendant's house in Seward's Passage, Norfolk Place. He found
the lower part of the house very dirty and foul smelling. There was an old
bad-smelling mattress in the back room downstairs. The stairs and bedroom were
dirty. In one of the bedrooms there was an old dirty, soiled mattress on the
bedstead, the covering for which consisted of two thin sheets, a counterpane and
some old sacking.
There was no other article of furniture in the room. In the other bedroom there
was an old verminous mattress. On examining the defendants two children, he
found that Alfred, aged 2years, had a ring worm on his body, and a number of
pimples and small scars. The child was dirty, and was clothed with two thin
dirty garments and a pair of old boots. The baby Arthur, aged 3 months was
poorly nourished and had very little clothing. Mrs. Knight, the wife, made a
statement to him, and he afterwards provided her and the children with food, and
sent for Dr Reckitt. He subsequently saw Mr. Knight working on a threshing
machine at Fishtoft, and said to him, "You still neglect your children."
Defendant said, "No I don't, I only had four days work last week. I get Two
shillings and ninepence per day. I have only had one day this week." Inspector
Campion said, "There is not a particle of food in the house." and he replied, "I
have no money, I borrowed fourpence yesterday to buy coke with, and had to go
away this morning without food. I can't help it." The inspector added that he
had visited the defendant previously when they lived in Crapley's Court. At that
time the children were slightly better cared for, as the woman was then able to
earn money by picking peas. Since her last confinement she had been ill, and
unable to look after the children properly.
Dr Reckitt also gave an account of a visit to the defendant's house on the day
in question. After corroborating the evidence of Inspector Campion in regard to
the extremely filthy condition of the house, he said that the child Alfred was
suffering from itch and ringworm, was badly nourished and insufficiently
clothed. The baby, Arthur, was also badly nourished, and the woman herself was
in a very weak state.
In answer to the Mayor, the doctor said he did not think the woman was strong
enough to look after the children and the house properly. PC foster, who also
went to the house, gave corroborative evidence, and Sgt Barton deposed that he
had frequently cautioned the defendant, who was often the worst for drink. The
defendant's wife also gave evidence in reference to her husband's drunken
habits. He gave her sixpence per night and sometimes one shilling on Saturdays.
She had been unable to provide proper food for herself and the children. A
letter was read from the defendant's employer stating that the defendant had for
sometime been employed about four days a week. He earned 3 shillings per day.
Mr. Knight said he had given his wife all the money that he had earned. The
Mayor said to him that the magistrates had decided to convict him of the offence
with which he was charged. They considered the case a very bad one indeed and
that he had absolutely no excuse to offer. He went on, "Apparently you are both
a drunken and worthless man. You have had two previous terms of three months
imprisonment for similar offences, and now, with the hope of reforming you and
inducing you to take proper care of your children. You will have to go to prison
for six months, with hard labour, which is the maximum penalty we can inflict on