Dreadful deaths from starvation 1855

Southport Visiter

Aug 30th 1855

Dreadful deaths from starvation

On Saturday one of the most painful and harrowing inquiries ever held before the borough coroner was investigated, disclosing an unparallel degree of parental inhumanity, on the part of the prisoners. William and Mary ASPINALL, two of whose children have died from absolute starvation, while the life of another is despaired of.

The prisoners live in Eldon Place, Vauxhall Rd, and on Friday morning after a quarrel which rose the whole neighbourhood, the female prisoner called to a policeman, and said one of her children had died on Wednesday, from the cruelty of the male prisoner.

The officer called for a surgeon and by his advice took the prisoner to the bridewell. Information was then given to Mr BLAKE, the coroner’s beadle, who, on going to the house of the prisoners, found several children almost black with filth, and in a perfect state of nudity. One about 4yrs named William Valentine, was huddled up in a chair like a dog. The poor child was so emaciated that, though now well attended by the dispensary surgeons, his life is despaired of.

One child, named Emma, a little child about 1yr 10mths old, was dead in bed, a mere dirty skeleton, and most horrible to look at, and another child, about 4mths old who died on Friday night while Mr BLAKE and the surgeon were present, from evident starvation. The inquest held on Friday was soley on the body of the poor child Emma. The jury and the coroner visited the house where these dreadful scenes occurred, and were quite horror struck with the sight, the premises being dirty and desolate to a degree scarcely imaginable.

The father was a clerk in the London and North Western Railway office, at a salary of £75 a year.

The jury returned a verdict of, “wilful murder” against both the inhuman parents.

On Saturday Mr CARR the governor of the workhouse, accompanied by Mr BLAKE, went to the prisoners house, and placed an experienced nurse in attendance upon the children, with means to acquire everything that might be required towards aiding their recovery.

The coroner’s jury held an inquiry on Monday into the death of the second child. The evidence adduced was of the same harrowing kind as that brought forward on Saturday, the children being witnesses.

The photographs which have been taken in the room, and of the children themselves, will be placed before the judge of assize who tries the prisoners.

November 8th 1855

The late starvation case

It will be recollected that 6 of the ASPINALL children were placed in the Workhouse when their unnatural parents were committed for trial on a charge of ill-treating and starving two other children to death. We regret to say that the two youngest of the then surviving children died within a few hours of each other on Sunday, though every care and attention had been given to them by the Workhouse officials. They were admitted on the 27th August, and were emaciated beyond recovery at the time. Four children still survive of the six.

December 13th 1855

In brief :-

William ASPINALL and Mary ASPINALL indicted for the manslaughter of their daughter Emma.

Mr Tindal ATKINSON and Mr BRETT for the prosecution

Mr MONK defended William ASPINALL, Mr SIMON, Mrs ASPINALL.

Family consisted of 10 children, father and eldest son both clerks at North West Railway Co, father earned £75 yr, son £20yr.

Neighbours and police thought the house seemed, “shut up”, and took that it was untenanted. Police were called to the house on the 24th August by the wife, who was described as being in a drunken state, and complained that her husband had ill-treated her and murdered their child another child was also dying of starvation.

Police entered the house by the back door which was opened by William ASPINALL, who on being questioned replied, “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” They then proceeded into the kitchen where they saw 18mth old Emma lying dead on the bed, another child at her side, with a thin covering over both. They saw two other children in slight clothing and a boy of about 4 crouched in the hearth by the fender, before the dying embers, in complete nudity. Three other children were lying on a board on the flagstones with a single quilt over them, the eldest boy and girl were standing. There was scarcely any furniture in the rooms and the whole house was filthy and dirty, there were no signs of food whatever.

The children were black with dirt, the younger ones emaciated, particularly the poor infant partner of the poor child Emma, who in fact died two days later.

The two constables involved were James METCALFE and James CALDWELL, who described there findings as above. CALDWELL also said, the woman had told him her husband had kicked one of the children to death and that she was drunk.

Edward BROWN, house surgeon, described the scene at the house and said he had been a surgeon at Blackburn and that after he had made a post mortem found the child had died of starvation, also saying, “I never saw the “Living Skeleton” at London.”

George KEMP surgeon and Frederick D. FLETCHER Professor of Anatomy also carried out a post mortem and found the child had died of starvation.

Sarah BELL a widow who lived next door had seen the children in the yard lying about, they always entered the house by the back door, the children were neglected in meat and cleaning. She heard the parents arguing and went to the house on the 22nd of August and saw the child dead on the bed.

Richard SALTER, Cashier of the Liverpool branch of the London and North Western Railway confirmed the prisoners wages of £75 a year and his son’s of £20 a year, payable monthly. He also said that William ASPINALL had an advance on his wages of £4 in August saying he had a very uncomfortable house.

John ASPINALL, aged 17, son, confirmed he worked for the London and North Western Railway as a clerk, Emma was his sister and there were 10 of them. He said, “I saw my sister getting thinner, I had my breakfast and tea at home. We didn’t have plenty to eat and found a want of food at home occasionally. My mother complained that she hadn’t enough money to get things that we requisite. I gave my earnings lately to my father. My father gave money to my mother and had three weeks before my sister died. I have given my mother two sovereigns at a time. The little girl did not always get food when she cried for it.

My father left home at 8 and returned sometimes at 12 then left again returning at 6. I have seen my father give the little girl a “butty” of bread and butter and give the children breakfast when they wished for it. My father says my mother spends the money on drink, My father got us our dinner on Sunday. The children did not dine with my father and myself, I cannot say what they had for dinner. I have seen my father tipsy.”

William Henry ASPINALL, aged 12

Said, “I live with my father and mother, my mother gets up at 12. I have seen my mother tipsy often. We have porridge in the morning and bread and butter for tea.” [here the poor child sobbed bitterly on looking at his parents in the dock] “ I asked mother for something to eat and she said, “Go get it yourself.” Emma used to cry when my parents where at breakfast, my mother did not do anything when Emma cried, she called her a picture of misery. When Emma had bread in her hand the other children took it from her. My mother sent me to the public house for gin and drank the gin when I brought it. My sister Mary used to give Emma bread sometimes.

The jury found Mary ASPINALL guilty of manslaughter William ASPINALL was acquitted.

COPYRIGHT 2002 / To date