A Sorry Tale of Love and Betrayal; 1880.

During my  perusals of various sites and old local newspapers I often come across some intriguing stories.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I was mooching through the old Police Gazettes, a periodical which gives a fascinating and highly detailed insight into our Victorian ancestors lives and their mishaps or misdemeanors.

Should such a publication be issued nowadays, goodness only knows how many tomes it would run to and just imagine the poor old paper boy trying to shove that through your letter box!

In the said gazette of April 23rd 1880 a sad but unfortunately not rare case was reported.

“A child was left on the door-step of a house in Belgrave-Terrace, Radipole, Weymouth between 9 and 10 pm, on the 19th inst. £2 reward will be paid by Mr Superintendent Vickery to any person who will give such information as will lead to the discovery of the person who placed the child where found;”

The  house receiving the little live bundle was no 3 Belgrave Terrace, the home of 70-year-old Glaswegian lady.

What on earth could an elderly Scottish lady have in connection with a seemingly unwanted child?

(Belgrave Terrace no longer exists, but it was off Dorchester road, somewhere in the Lodmoor Hill area)

guide p3b

The article goes on to reveal yet more details- “a Male Child five weeks old, fresh complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, large mouth and nose; dressed in two head flannels, a white shirt, three under ditto, a white night dress, a black wool shawl, a white wool jacket, a white wool hood, a white fall, a piece of white gutta percha between a white cloth; these articles are all new. ” 

Obviously the baby had been warmly dressed for its night time doorstep delivery therefore presumably up until then had been well loved and provided for.

“The Child had a ticket placed on its breast, addressed to ‘P. Peck Esquire.’ Also on a piece of paper written -‘Take care of me, I have no mother.-Baby.’ In a bundle, tied up in a black and white Indian silk handkerchief, 3/4 yards square, were five napkins, two shirts trimmed with lace around the sleeves, a nightdress trimmed with lace around the neck and sleeves, a child’s flannel (old), a new mouth piece for child’s bottle, two brushed for cleaning the same, and some new wadding.”

Yet more evidence that someone had obviously adored and cared for this tiny scrap of humanity, so why would they give him up now?

A fairly vivid description of the person deemed guilty of the baby’s abandonment followed in the piece

“Supposed by a young woman, dark complexion, medium height, rather slightly built, speaking with a French or Italian accent; dressed in black dress, black jacket trimmed with black fur, black hat with heavy black fall, carrying a small bag or waterproof done up with straps. she had the appearance of a governess,”

family train station

The police, ( and no doubt those in charge of the parish finances) were eager to apprehend this ‘terrible’ being. They knew she had left via the railway station…but to where?

“£2 reward will be paid to any person who will give such information as will lead to the discovery of the person who placed the Child where found, by Mr Superintendent Vickery, Police Office, Weymouth.-Bow Street, April 23rd.”

But like most sensational stories of the day, there lies a lot more behind the melodramatic newspaper headlines.

Come the 30th April 1880 and the  Western Gazette declares that the good old police had got their man, (or woman as in this case.)

Superintendent Vickery had “Traced her to Waterloo Station, London and then left the Criminal Investigation Department to Apprehend her. this was done a day or two ago, and on Tuesday the woman (who is a German governess named Rasch) was brought to Weymouth. She admits her guilt”

At the start of May, the case was brought before the courts held in Weymouth’s GuildHall.


Of course, human nature being what it is and has always been, locals jostled for space in the already packed out the courtroom, eager to absorbed every sordid detail of the terrible affair.

The numerous attending reporters jotted down all the juicy bits, well aware that such highly emotive tales sells their papers far better than boring old Council matters and the usual drunks and debtors that normally filled their columns..

One of many reporters following the case, the Bridport News declared that it was a story of “ALLEGED SEDUCTION AND HEARTLESS CONDUCT.”

Before the panel of local judges stood a sorry looking lass, German born Emma Rasch.

With Weymouth solicitor Mr Howard defending her, Emma’s sad story that was revealed before one and all was one that must have occurred numerous times over the centuries.

She had been employed by a gentleman and his wife as a governess at their home, Templecombe House, Templecombe, Somerset. (Oddly enough, I lived there for a short while and used to visit the doctor’s family who lived and had a surgery in that very same house!) Not surprisingly, this family were wealthy land owners.

Originally from Hanover in Germany, Emma was a well educated, well brought up young woman, who was staying with a friend of the family in Templecombe at the time of her employment.

Of course, their two tales of the tragic events differed widely.

Emma claimed that Peter was the father of her child, and that come the November of the previous year, when things were beginning to become too obvious, he paid her off with £50.00 in gold coins. She was told to take herself off to London and find herself some rooms there to have the baby. Off she obediently toddled and duly found a place to live, only problem was, that £50.00 wasn’t going to go very far at London prices, and babies don’t come cheap. Undaunted, Emma had written to Peter asking for support, surely he wouldn’t fail her and their child?

Poor gullible Emma, she wrote not once, not twice, but a whole series of letter to the errant father, by now she was destitute and had absolutely nowhere to turn to.

Finally, in desperation,  she wrote a final letter informing Peter that if she didn’t hear from him then she would take the child to his mother’s as she could no longer care for it.

His mother was the Scottish lady of no 3 Belgrave Terrace, Weymouth, the recipient of the baby bundle that April’s night.

The dye was cast, Emma boarded the waiting train, her journey from London to Weymouth was all too quickly over, a last few precious moments with her child.


In court, a tearful Emma vehemently declared that she hadn’t simply abandoned her child, “I did not desert it, as I rang the bell and waited and waited about until the door was opened.”

Having seen her child being safely taken inside and the door closed, a heart broken Emma turned and walked away, her only consolation being that she knew it would be much better off with family who could afford to care for it and love it.

Therein lay the crux of the problem.

For what ever reason, the family didn’t accept any responsibility for the poor child.

A young local girl, Annie Ames, was left to care for the abandoned baby that night and during the next day and a terrible chore befell her later that evening. Annie was made to take the hapless tiny bundle along to the Union Workhouse and handed it over to John Lee, the Weymouth Receiving Officer who took delivery of it.

Baby Rasch was now “chargeable to Weymouth Union,”

Weymouth Workhouse

A terrible crime in the eyes of the law and an offence definitely not taken lightly by those who held close to the town’s purse strings.

There was a certain amount of sympathy for Emma, after all she did what many young gullible girls had done before her, fallen under the spell of her employers false promises.

While she was in Weymouth standing trial she was “being allowed to remain at the house of a policeman under the care of his wife.”

The supposed ‘gentleman’ concerned, not surprisingly denied any knowledge of such events, claiming he didn’t know about the baby until it was placed at his mother’s home, he had never received any of her letters. As far as he knew Emma had simply left to return to Germany to take care of her sick mother.

All that was left to do was for the men of the town who sat in judgement to make their decision.

Who would they believe?

How harsh would their punishment be?

“Emma Rasch, we have come to the conclusion, and it is the only conclusion we can come to, that you have brought yourself within the limits of the law, insomuch that you have deserted your child, so as to leave it chargeable to the Union. The punishment we shall inflict will be of the very slightest description. Upon the consideration that first of all what you did we believe you did for the best of your child under the circumstances, and in consideration that you are a foreigner, the sentence we shall pass on you will be one day’s imprisonment, dating from this morning. you will therefore be discharged at the close of this court.”

With that closing statement the courtroom erupted, loud cheers and clapping echoed around the walls.

Though the spectators were ecstatic with the lenient verdict, Emma walked slowly from the courtroom, her head hung low. She was taken up to Dorchester Gaol and put into a cell where for 24 hours she sat and undoubtedly had time to deeply reflect.

Here she was, an unmarried mother, her child now in the Workhouse, her respectable family back home who possibly didn’t know anything about her ‘crimes’ or even worse, didn’t want to know. For not long after her release Emma packed her trunk and sailed back to Germany

woman over box

…without her son.

The man of the tragic case didn’t get off lightly either, “As Mr Peck left the Guildhall he was hooted by a large crowd and he took refuge in the Golden Lion.”

Good old Weymouth folk, never slow in coming forwards with their views on such matters!

A little footnote to this sorry tale sees the abandoned young child christened at the Holy Trinity church on the 9th May…

Holy Trinity.

…his given name was Victor.

A note hastily scribbled in the side column says it all, “Left at the Union-mother returned to Germany.”

Tragically, little Victor wasn’t destined to make old bones.

He died on October 23rd aged just 8 months and his tiny body was buried in a paupers grave along with others from the union Workhouse, their bones lay congenially in adjoining graves at the Wyke Regis churchyard.


R.I.P. little man.


Interested in more old views of Weymouth and Portland, check out my numerous local Pinterest Boards to see how our town once looked when your ancestors strolled its streets, browsed the shops and relaxed.


Who’s a naughty boy then? Victorian prisoners, were they really all bad?.


The Prison Registers contain many intriguing stories within their yellowed  pages, and the faded elegant script tells us of our ancestors past lives.

They are just a tiny snapshot of their life’s story, but can reveal a great deal about the person or the family.

On the very last day of the year 1872, James Benfield, aged 20, was admitted to Dorchester prison.

The Prisoners admissions book gives us a few inklings of what he looked like, but tells us nothing about the man himself. For that you have to dig a little deeper.

James was a seaman, following in the age old family tradition. his Parents William and Mary Ann lived in Lower Lane at Chiswell, Portland which once lay behind the great Chesil Bank, the constant sounds of waves on pebbles his lullaby at night and wake up call in the mornings.


He was only a young lad, but one who had worked hard throughout his early life.

He first signed up to go to sea at the tender age of 13. On the 28th April 1866 James joined his father and brother on his first ever paid voyage as a ships boy on the vessel Myrtle,

it was owned by Weymouth businessman Henry Attwooll, the ship plied its trade between British ports, Portland, London, Hartlepool, Chatham….it was a good grounding for the young lad to learn the skills necessary to help keep him alive in what could be a dangerous job.

Over the years James worked his way up through the crew, and on many different boats that sailed from Weymouth or Portland. It was a life he knew well and lone he loved. Most of his friends and family in the Chiswell community were sea going folks or earnt their living from the sea. They spent time together on the sea, and most of it when back on dry land.


It was during one of those spells on ‘dry’ land that James and his young pals got themselves into a spot of bother. Their time on land wasn’t quite so ‘dry!’

One Thursday in 1872, James and three of his seagoing friends, John Anthony, Henry Peters and Benjamin Pearce had made their way to the Kings Arms Inn on Portland, they fancied wetting their whistles somewhat…only they didn’t just wet them, they almost drowned them! The four lads were more than slightly inebriated, they were rip roaring drunk, and obnoxious drunks at that.

They were physically picking up and shaking all the tables so that the glasses all fell off and smashed on the floor, they were making so much noise and commotion that the other customers in the pub were leaving in disgust. The landlord wasn’t at all happy, he demonstrated with the lads, and told them in no uncertain terms to leave…but they weren’t having any of it. They were enjoying themselves, no one was going to make them leave.

Then along comes Constable Loader, it was his turn to confront the young Victorian version of todays lager louts, he ordered them away to their homes or he would arrest them. Did they heed his warning, did they as heck! John anthony turned round and swung an almighty blow to the coppers face. Then all four lads literally bundled the poor fellow out of the pub and onto the ground outside, watched by a crowd of astonished and frightened women and children the lads proceeded to viciously assaulted the man, they hit him, kicked him as he lay prone on the ground. When more reinforcements  arrived, the lads took flight, they knew they were outnumbered.

But of course, Portland being such a tight knit community as it was, it didn’t take the police long to find the names of the four   miscreants, and they were fairly swiftly rounded up and removed to the local police station where they were locked up until it was time for them to appear before the magistrate.

boy jail

Hence, the 31st December1872 , James found himself, along with his fellow cell mates incarcerated in Dorchester prison for the vicious assault on the police officer, P.C. Loader, which had left him off work for a long time, he had suffered broken ribs and severe bruising all over his body.

John Anthony had got 4 months hard labour as he was considered the ring leader and the one who had struck the first blow, James and the other two lads fared slightly better, they only received three months hard labour.

As 20-year-old James was officially entered into the Prison Records book, his physical description is recorded for all eternity to witness in the far left hand column of the page.

He was described as 5ft 8 1/2 ins tall, had brown hair, dark grey eyes and a the sea going mans usual ruddy complexion. Distinguishing marks were a cut on the centre of his forehead and mole on the left side of his face near his right ear. It appears that his nose was fairly distinctive too…the tip turned up.

Was this the start of a life of crime for James, would this be the beginning of numerous trips in and out of courts and jail?

Not a bit of it.

He did appear in court again in 1880, but that was to summons another sea going Captain named  Smith of the Kingdon of Sweden barque for monies owed him as a pilot working in the local area.

James went on to become a well respected pilot,  in 1890 he was the Master on the Fox, working along side his brother John. The records show a list of the various vessels he skippered over the following years, eventually going on  to work at a steady job for Trinity House as a pilot.


By 1891 James is living in Queens Row over on Portland with his second wife Elizabeth and a stepdaughter, still doing the job he loved, working out at sea for Trinity house.

Sadly things had changed for James by the 1911 census, by then, aged 59, he has lost his wife and home and is living in the the Union Workhouse on Wyke Road, Weymouth. Far away from the sounds and constant views of his beloved sea that he had adored during his lifetime on Portland, though he is still listed as a pilot and seaman, so maybe he was still  able to work on the waters.

Here he died  on the  11th February 1935 at the ripe old age of 82.


History of Chiswell. http://www.chiswellcommunity.org/ccommunity/page.aspx


Some people though took slightly longer to learn the lesson that crime and bad behaviour doesn’t pay.

Such was the case of William John Bilke.

He was the son of William and Mary, a family that lived and worked in Wyke, Dad William was a a boot and shoe mender in the village.

William jnr had opted for a life working on the sea, he was one of the many Wyke  fisherman that plied their trade from the beach.

scattered seed fishermen 2

By the 1871 census William is still living at home with his Mum and sister Mary, his Dad had died and Mum was trying her best to keep the family going by running a carrier business.

But by next year, the  31st Dec 1872, 26-year-old William John Bilke found himself before the courts.

A family row had erupted at home in their little cottage in Wyke, and all over half a crown!

William and his mother had been arguing over the said sum of money, when suddenly William lashed out, hitting his mother. Hearing the awful commotion going on downstairs, his sister Mary raced down to see what was happening and witnessed the blow. Remonstrating with William for such an ungentlemanly act, she suddenly found herself on the receiving end of his wrath when he attacked her, hitting her about the head  with closed fists.

He was taken before the court, but because his family had dropped the charges against him, and it was his first appearance in court, the magistrate only gave him a short sentence, 14 days.

A couple of years later, 1875,  and William was back before the court again, this time for the theft of some bones!

According to the Prisoners Description book, William was a tall lad for the day, 5ft 10 3/4 ins, he had a mop of light brown hair, with dark grey eyes and a fair complexion. On the left side of his lips was an old  scar that looked like a dent, his left hand bore a scar that stretched right across the back of his fingers.

After that he seemed to have managed to keep out of trouble, well, at least from the police and the courts.

In 1881 William finally took the plunge, on the 28th April married  Eliza Hallett, a Somerset lass. But their wedded bliss wasn’t to last long.

wedding q 1877

On the 10th September 1883, aged just 38, Eliza passed away in the Union workhouse, we can only guess why when we look down through the burials for that time. On the opposite page to Eliza is another  death on the 2nd August, Elizabeth Bilke, this was a 4 day old girl, whose sad demise also took place in the Union workhouse.

William tries matrimony again later in 1889, on the  28th April William as a widower aged 46, tied the knot with Mary Frampton, who was also on her second marriage, she was aged 50, and another local born woman of Wyke Regis.


Aged just 50, on the 28th april 1893, death struck once more…William.


Age, or lack of,  was no barrier to being thrown into prison in the Victorian era…if you were found guilty, that was that.

raggedy boy

In 1873 a small lad stood in the dock, he could barely peer over the box, he was aged 10, but appeared to be much younger because of his diminutive stature. Maybe poverty had a role to play in that. He was only 3ft 6 ins tall, he had a fair complexion, sandy coloured hair and sad grey eyes that mirrored his wretched life. His body was too young and fresh to have accumulated those scars and markings that many of the older and more worldly wise men wore with such pride, but he was fairly distinctive because he lacked any hair whatsoever on the sides of his head.

Thomas Bartlett was stood before the judge for stealing a pair of boots in Weymouth.

For his sins he was committed to 1 months hard labour to be followed with 5 years in a reformatory school. Ironic as it may be, he more than likely would have had a better start to his life here.

In the Victorian era, Reformatory schools were fairly progressive in their thinking, the lads were taught self sufficiency, a variety of trades, they were educated, many going on the  a  life in the army or military.

boys at exercise

Maybe it just gave Thomas a chance in life……..



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.




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.


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.-


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.


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.


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.


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 !


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,


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.


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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