1889; Girl held against her will at Broadwey?

With all the media reports on the news recently concerning the shocking story of the 3 women imprisoned as slaves, Weymouth had it’s own version of the sorry tale back in 1889.

Sarah Guy was born in 1865 into a less than ideal and loving family home.

Her Dad John was a violent drunk, and her Mum Sophy was a woman who had been cowed down by life and her dire circumstances. Most of the time the family lived in dire poverty.

They lived in New Street, with the Dad working, when he was sober enough, as a Wheelchair man, they would ply their trade along the esplanade, pushing invalids in the large wicker chairs.

4 times weymouth

As the facts of the case were revealed over the weeks, we can catch a glimpse into their world. Sarah had obviously turned to prostitution to support herself, a case of when needs must. By the time she was 23 she already had an illegitimate child,  who had been removed into the care of the Union Workhouse.

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It wasn’t unusual for young Sarah her to come ‘home’ and find her few clothes that she possessed had been pawned so that her Dad could buy drink, or no furniture left in the house and her Dad in his cups. He would often strike young Sarah, viciously lashing out at her if she didn’t give him any money. She began bringing men back to the house, who would give her Dad money to go any buy beer. One man in particular became a regular visitor, a chap by the name of Frederick Burt. He was a cab owner, and had stables in Broadwey where he kept his carriage and horses.

Frederick it was said was a married man, but he lived separately from his wife.

In the July of 1888 Sarah just vanished!

Her Dad John says he had approached Frederick Burt numerous times and asked him if he has seen his daughter, but his answer had always been no, that he thought she had run off to London. At one instance Frederick even told her father that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Ripper had got her!

Whether the Dad had even bothered to try and find her we’ll never know the truth. Probably the only thing that had annoyed him was that without her in the house selling her scraggy body…he received no beer money from her punters.

For weeks no one saw anything of Sarah… that passed into months…maybe she really had run away?

That was until one day in 1889.

On the 14th March, 1889, late one night, Annie Martin, the family cook in the home of Dr and Mrs Brown was clearing up the kitchen,

the light was on, the blinds pulled up. Suddenly, a frantic knocking on the door startled her, she looked out into the dark but couldn’t quite make out who it was. Scared, she ran up stairs to get her Mistress, both women came down and got the shock of their lives.

There, in the kitchen, huddled in a chair was a dirty, half starved girl, her eyes bulging out of her sockets from fear, crying “Burty will kill me! Oh! Burty will kill me!”, an  iron bar clenched in her hand…was this an escaped lunatic?

What should they do?

The girl was muttering over and over that the man called Burt, and others wanted to do for her…

The cook was quickly dispatched next door to where Colonel Tapper Carter lived. He would know what to do. But even he was flummoxed by this sorry piece of what had once been a human being, she was hardly recognisable as one one, curled in a tiny ball, muttering of murder and other foul deeds. She would tell them to “Hush…listen..” and kept repeating the names Miller and Baker.

Still believing the slip of a girl to be an escaped lunatic, the Colonel and his maid, Isabella Cruikshank,  led her gently next door, where she was bathed, given clean clothes and put into bed. She kept repeating the chilling words “murder” to Isabella, who just took them to be the product of a troubled mind. she had tried to feed her some food for Sarah had told her that she hadn’t eaten in days, but every time she tried to eat or drink, she brought it back up again.

Back in the doctor’s household, things seemed to have quietened down, but then Annie the cook looked out of the kitchen window, only to see Frederick Burt creeping around at the bottom of their garden, he appeared to be searching in the bushes and hedges for something. What was the man doing, was he mixed up with this.

By now the police in the guise of Sergeant Joshua Rackham had arrived at the Colonels house, he was summonsed back to the Doctor’s house, and after going out to talk to Burt, he cuffed the man, and took him in for trespassing on the Doctor’s land. The deranged girl had told him a story about being held prisoner, and a conversation she had overheard, men talking in the stable, she had crept to door,“I have got her there, and I must get rid of her.”

They needed to sort this mess out, what on earth had been going on?

At the end of March 1889, at the  County Petty Sessional Court, Dorchester, Frederick Burt was accused of having held the missing girl Sarah Guy captive against her will. She apparently had been held in a dirty, dark shed next to his stables,  it measured 10ft x 5ft x 4ft tall, with very little in it bar a box, and a couple of sacks.

Sarah had allegedly been held here against her will for nearly nine months, too scared to try and escape because Frederick had threatened what dire things would happen to her of she tried.

Frederick Burt was brought before the courts, he stayed partly hidden in the jury box, the court full of mainly women who made no attempt to hide their feelings of anger towards the disgusting man.

The problem was Sarah was too ill to attend court herself.

Burt was summonsed for “unlawfully imprisoning Sarah Guy”.

It was decided that the case should be adjourned on the grounds that she was not well enough to give her evidence, Burt maintained his innocence, he said she was his sweetheart, he was only protecting her from her vicious father

But he was accused of having locked her up in a small shed, subjected her to such brutal ill-treatment as to derrange her intellect.suffering acute consumption.

A letter was read out from Dr Simpson.

“Gloucester Row, Weymouth,

22nd March.

I hearby certify that Sarah Guy, now an inmate of the Weymouth Workhouse, is not in a condition to appear as a witness at Dorchester to-morrow. Her mental condition, which was clear and lucid on Sunday last, has undergone a considearble change during the current week; and she is unable now to return satisfactory answers to any queations put to her, or to make and coherent ststement. Under these circumstances it is my intention to arrange for her removal to the County Asylum, where, I trust, under special treatment, she may recover sufficiently to attend at Dorchester; and, if not, the opinion as to her future sanity will have been reported on by those most competant to judge of it.-

R. PALGRAVE SIMPSON, M.D.”

The case was adjourned until April 6th.

Burt was given bail and bound over to the sum of £50, with his brother George as security.

Frederick left left the Dorchester court, but a large angry crowd had gathered outside, the  hostile mob booing and hitting him as he passed along Trinity Street and Princes Street on his way back to the railway station. Four policeman had accompanied him, they too were on the receiving end of the crowds displeasure at this monster being able to walk free. By the time they’d reached the gates of the London & South Western Railway Station yard, so intense was the hallooing and violence towards Burt, that the police decided that it might be better of they took him into the safety of the County Police Station. From here he made his escape over the back wall and back to his home.

Frederick was brought back into the courts to face charges, but Sarah’s condition hadn’t improved, in fact, if anything she was worse. The solicitor for the defendant said that it was unfair on his client, the newspapers had cause great ill feeling towards his client. They should either charge him or let him go. As Sarah was unable to appear in court to accuse Frederick of the heinous crimes it was with great regret that the Bench decided to dismiss the case.

LONDON MAGAZINE 11 1904 RAGGEDY GIRL 1

Once again a large and angry mob had gathered outside the courtroom waiting for this man who had allegedly got off scott free with the brutal kidnapping and imprisonment in inhumane conditions of Sarah Guy. A young girl who was now loosing her mind due to  of his heartless and cruel actions, and because she couldn’t give evidence…he was being freed!

They hinted at a further case that might be brought should things change…and they did.

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When another case came to court again in the May of 1889, this time held at the New Asylum in Charminster, circumstances had changed dramatically, it was the inquest into her death..

Being severely malnourished, and also ill from consumption, Sarah had died in the May in the Asylum.

An inquest had been held into her death. The juror’s, made up of locals from the near by village were led in to view the emaciated body of Sarah.

One of the nurses at the Asylum, Julia Boyd, gave evidence, she  told of her frequent conversations with Sarah, who had admitted to living a wicked life, but she never spoke of being kept captive or being starved of food. The doctor who had attended her claimed that she was extremely emaciated, had advanced lung disease (consumption) and that she wasn’t very often lucid, was always afraid, and refused to sleep with out a light. He also said that despite their best care, Sarah had just faded away, unconscious for the last few hours before her happy release.

At the post mortem, done by Dr Mc Donald and accompanied by the Weymouth man, Dr Lush they couldn’t really answer many of the questions that the jurors were keen to ask.

Her body was extremely emaciated, but he had seen worse. There were no bruises or discolouration of the skin showing violence. Sarah’s cadaver had no body fat what so ever, both upper lobes of her lungs were severely diseased, containing cavities, not air. The lower parts of her lungs were also diseased. Her liver was enlarged and fatty. On examining the skull, the brain looked very pale, indicating a lack of blood circulation to it, this was caused by her advanced state of illness because of the consumption.

The jury asked if her being confined in a dark and dirty room for months on end could have contributed to this, but the doctor said it was hard to tell.

It was decided that the case should be adjourned until all the evidence could be brought before the jurors, who had also wanted to visit the place where she had supposedly been kept captive for the last few months of her life.

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At the second inquest, a Mr Maw attended on behalf of the deceased Sarah, he was there from  the National Vigilance Society.

According to her father John, when questioned, Sarah was prone to running off, coming and going as she wanted. No she wasn’t a prostitute, Frederick might have stopped at the family house, but he slept in a separate bedroom from her. No he didn’t pawn her items for drink, anyway, he was now teetotal! He had asked after her when she went missing, he had asked Burt numerous times if he knew where she was…but no, he never went to Burt’s place of business to see if she was there. The last time he had asked Burt if he knew where she was, was the week Sarah had reappeared, Burt had told him “No, there’s something very strange about it.” then said “I cannot stay now, dad, as I’m ordered; I will see you by and by.” at which he drove off. Apparently when the two men met again on the sea front later that day, Frederick told Sarah’s father that she was definitely in London.

He claimed he wasn’t a bad father, and couldn’t understand why the police had kept coming round their house. Yes, he had drank a bit, but wasn’t that normal for working men? He didn’t beat her, sometimes he just ‘blowed her up!’

There had been an incident last summer before she had vanished for months when he had gone to Burt’s place to find his daughter there, he told her to come home, but Frederick had said to Sarah “What do you want to go with him for? He will knock you about again.” Sarah had returned home with her father that time, but vanished again soon after.

Once on the stand Frederick Burt claimed that Sarah was his sweetheart. They both went to his shed adjoining his stables at Broadway, Sarah went willingly, not wanting to go back home to her fathers house.  He had taken her there to keep her safe from her father. He had given her  a ring, despite the fact that he was already married! Sarah stayed willingly in the shed, she had wanted to be locked in at night to keep her safe.

He gave a statement;” I live at Broadwey, and am occupier of stables and premises there. Have known the deceased about two years. She was living with her father, and had a child aged 12 months. I used to go with her from time to time at her fathers house, and have been there when other men have come for a simiar purpose. Have been there stopping in the house for three weeks or a month together, and her father was  aware of the relations between us, and has been in the same room. He had given the father money for beer abd food sometimes when he had been with the deceased. He remembered an occasion about a year ago returning with her to her fathers house and finding him beastly drunk. He was often in that condition. He asked her for money, and because she had none to give him he was about to assault her, when witness prevented him, and took her away. She asked him to take her to the stables; and he allowed her to go and sleep for four or five nights in the carriage at the coach-house. That was the first time she had stayed there. After that time she would come there and stay for a day or two; and he would go and stay with her at her fathers house. Witness stayed there with her every night during the Yeomanry week in her fathers house, and he was present. Whenever he slept in the house he slept with the deceased, and the father knew it. He pawned her boots and clothes, and witness gave a woman named Davis the money to go and buy her a new pair. A few days afterwards he met her in the street, and she said that her father had been taken up for drunkenness, and she had no food or money; and she wanted to come back to the stable. She stayed about a fortnight, and on one morning-witness believed it was the morning he left gaol-her father came and fetched her away, saying he wanted her to go and fetch her child and mother out of the Union.

women in lodging house

The deceased asked witness if she should go or stay, and he told her t please herself. She went, and that same evening she saw witness and asked him about trying to hire a room, because her father had broken up the home and sold it for drink. He offered her money to get a bed, but she said she would rather come away with witness to the stable. She slept in the carriage by night, and lived in the shed by day. She came there on and off until the end of August, and then she came permanently; and witness spent each night with her until January last, when his brothers persuaded him to sleep at home. Each day he always left the key of the coach-house with her, and she frequently got herself ready, and, after locking up the coach-house, put the key under the door, and went into town in broad daylight, and in the evening. Witness and her were together in the town on the night of the Town regatta. She had always remained of her own free will.”

But the prosecution pointed out that he had  padlocked the door from outside. Though he had given her food, she had no bed, no change of clothes, she was completely naked when her undergarments washed.

The case was yet again adjourned !

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During the next day the case resumed  when much confusing and conflicting evidence was given.

The maid who worked in the house and garden of the Doctor that the cabman’s shed had backed onto claimed that she had never heard anyone in there, and she would have heard any voices easily when hanging out her washing. The children played in the garden, they had mentioned nothing untoward.

Yet, on another night, the servants bedroom window had been open as it was hot, they had heard some womans voice shout out “murder,” going to the window to listen, they noticed Burt’s stable light kept going on and off,  twice more they heard the same cry, but then it had gone quiet. For what ever reason, the women went back to bed and asleep, only telling their mistress of the strange occurrence the following morning.

When Sarah had been at the house in the care of the Colonel, the maid, Isabella Cruikshank, had tried to remove the rags curled in her hair, but it was so dirty and matted that she couldn’t get them out. She told her of overhearing the men plot to kill her …that is why she had escaped and run for help.

Despite all this damning evidence as to her captivity,  back came the surprising verdict that it was “death from natural causes.” 

Because the doctor couldn’t say how long she had been suffering from consumption, and couldn’t just say that it was her imprisonment that had caused it, there was no alternnate verdict.

Frederick Burt walked away scott free,

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As an end note, the next year, on the 2nd March,  little Henry Guy aged 4 was christened at Holy Trinity church, his mother Sarah Guy…deceased.

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So, what I wonder, was the truth?

The only certain thing was that young Sarah seemed to have been abused by everyone in her short life…maybe she was better off where she was.

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One comment on “1889; Girl held against her will at Broadwey?

  1. Pingback: July 1862; Brutal murder in Sutton Poyntz, Weymouth. | Victorian tales from Weymouth and Portland

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