ANNE PADFIELD 1837 – MIDSOMER MURDERS (well almost)

My lovely cousin ‘Sherlock Steve’ has been delving even deeper on the https://www.library.wales/ in their Newspapers section. I think I’ve shared this resource before but always worth a second share.

GUEST POST by ‘SHERLOCK STEVE

ANNE PADFIELD 1837 – MIDSOMER MURDERS (well almost)

While researching my own Welsh roots on the National Library of Wales (NLW) I came across our old friend Isaac Padfield / Wyndham Stuart Padfield, in newspaper articles, which I expected to as Isaac was apprehended in Penarth.
What I did not expect to find was the sad, countrywide story that finding a newspaper article on Anne Padfield would bring.
Stories of infanticide, seduction and the morality of Victorian life.
Depending on which papers you read at the time, depended whether you would feel sorry for Anne or not.
Some things don’t change.
This was the first headline that caught my attention :-

Followed by these :-

I just had to research her especially with the Isaac Padfield connection.

Reading through 100’s of press reports and I mean 100’s I was able to gain some basic information and build a family tree and timeline for Anne.

As mentioned in court Anne came from Somerset (So did Isaac Padfield) and gave her age as 23 at the time of her arrest in September 1860.

Other information in the press gave me her brother’s name as George Padfield and that her father was dead.

By following George Padfield through the Censuses and his marriage to Mary Parsons, I was able to reach, what I believe to be the correct Anne.

Anne was baptised on 11th September 1836 at even though Anne would have been 24 years old at the time her arrest, she would have been 23 at the time of the offence.

Anne’s parents were David Padfield and Eliza Padfield (ne; Isabella Beard), David’s occupation was a miner.

Knowing her parents, I then found the 1841 Census Entry.

The family are living in Midsomer Norton, Somerset. As can be seen Anne is now entered as Hannah and her mother is now entered as Isabella. George on the entry is the brother whose wife, Mary, is the witness at Anne’s trial.

I then move forward to the 1851 Census.

In 1854 Anne’s father died in a mining accident.
This is the article of the Coroner’s Inquest on Saturday January 27th 1855.

By the time of her father’s death Anne had become 1 of 9 children.
At least three having died before the age of 3.

On 14th October 1855 her brother George got married to Mary Parsons in Trevithin, Wales.
Whether Anne attended, we will never know.

According to the press and court reports, Anne was in service to a Frederick Bryant from November 1858 until November 1859.
In the 1851 Census Frederick Bryant is a Wine Merchant living at
6 Holloway Place, Islington, London, Middlesex.
In the 1861 Census Frederick Bryant is still living at 6 Holloway Place but this time he is an East indies Merchant.

Here is Anne’s Timeline created from the press reports, paper trail and court entries.

  • In about Feb or March 1860 Anne moved in with James & Maria Mead at Hammond’s Cottages, Lea-Bridge. 

The address is actually Hammond’s Cottages, Lea-Bridge Road, Hackney St. John, London.

  • On 26th June 1860 late at night William Augustus Bryant was delivered by Thomas George Brook (Surgeon).
  • Frederick Bryant (the alleged father of William) received a letter from Emma Padfield (full contents unknown) postmarked 23rd July 1860.
  • On 7th August William’s birth was registered by Emma Bryant. The original birth certificate was produced as evidence at Anne’s trial.
  • The Certificate read: WILLIAM AUGUSTUS BRYANT son of FREDERICK BRYANT and EMMA BRYANT formerly PADFIELD was born on 27th June 1860.
  • On 11th August William was vaccinated by Mr. Brook
  • On 18th August Mr. Brook paid a routine visit to see William and Anne. William was in good health.
  • On 27th August between 11 and 12am Anne left the Mead’s with William returning about 12 hours later, alone. 

When asked where the baby was, Anne replied she met her sister and she is taking care of him in Somersetshire.

  • On the morning of 28th August Anne left the Mead’s house to go to her job in-service at Mr. Drake’s in Landsdown-Place, Notting Hill. Never to return.
  • About 12th or 13th September Mr & Mrs Mead received a letter from Anne it read; “My dear Mr. Mead and Mr.—I am sorry to tell you that I was locked up in the station-house all of Tuesday night—when I got out of the bus he asked for my fare, 9d.; I told him I had 6d.—he went and fetched a policeman to me. I am living at Mr. Barnes’, in the Hamp-stead-road, near Chalk Farm—my dear Mr. Mead I am just going to get a day to go to Brighton with the family that I am living with, so I cannot tell you where to write to me till I write again, and I will write to you as soon as I can; I shall never forget you, nor forsake you—I have not had my clothes off since I left your house. I cannot write any more now, as I must go; I will write a long letter to you then; good bye.” 

The letter was produced in court on 20th September.

  • On 19th September William’s badly decomposed and dismembered body was discovered by Maria Mead in the cess-pit of the privy in their back garden.
  • William’s left arm had been cut off. The arm he had been vaccinated in. His arm was never found.
  • Anne was arrested at Mr Drake’s residence by Inspector William Bowler that evening
  • On 21st September there were reports in various papers of an Anne Padfield being brought ‘before the bar’, the previous day, the 20th, at Worship Street police station for the alleged murder of her child Augustus Padfield 

This was the first press report that I read. It is from
‘THE SUN, LONDON, FRIDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 21, 1860’

There was only one paper I could find that printed two of the letters found in Anne’s possession at the time of her arrest.
‘THE MORNING ADVERTISER, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1860’.
The letters were stated as being ‘almost unintelligible both as regarded the writing and composition’.
The print quality was poor so I have transcribed the letters.

“MY DEAR SISTER AND BROTHER, –I am very hard to write to you for the end of my life, I have suffered for my dear child, and I cannot no longer bear it. This is my last letter to you. You cannot imagine what my feeling has been since I laid in your bed with my child by my side; I prayed to God, then he helped out of my troubles; a few more days and I shall be no more – it is hard to be parted from my dear child. I was almost driven to do this before now. I must come and see you before I can – and then I shall not be long before I shall be no more in this world, but I shall know my doom in the next. I trust that God will pardon my sins, and soon take me to rest. I have heard from my brother once, and that is all. Dear friends, when you get this letter my life will be ended. I shall be dead when you are asleep – cold, like a lump of clay. You will think about me, but do not make a talk about it – my misfortune – or I shall not rest in my watery grave. I have prayed to God to forgive me for all I have done in this world, and I think He has. I have wrote to your sister, and told her what I shall do. I must close my last letter. Give my kind love to Mrs. Thake, Mrs. Williams, and James Bradley. Give Bessy some kisses for me. This is my end. Farewell James and my dear Maria —-, I must go and see your dear sisters Bessy and Ann before I die, and thank them for their kindness to me and my sweet child. I love my child. Cannot write anymore. My heart is broken. Good-bye.                                                             “EMMA EMMA”

Directed to “Mrs. J. Mead, Hammond’s cottages, Lea-bridge, Middlesex”. Date of postmark, 19th September 1860.

(2nd Letter)

                                                                                                                                    “Written in bed
“MY DEAR MISSUS AND MISTER,– I take a great liberty to write to you, but it is the first and last time that I ever shall write to you. I hope that I shall meet you where parting will be no more. – My dear friends, this is what I said before I became a mother, but I wanted to see my dear child, now I have seen and heard him as well —– am thankful to you for minding my dear sweet child, more to me than my own life —– I must tell you that I can bear it any longer —– to be separated from my beautiful boy —- I cannot live —- I have prayed that God would forgive me for bringing such a beautiful boy into this world —- and could not keep him, the day I gave him up was more to me than the death of my father —- my dear friends do not make a take on about me —- I shall be dead, yet my soul will be alive —- before this misfortune happened to me —- I have settled everything about my child, and if I had him I could eat him —- Farewell, when you get this I shall be lost in the waves of the sea —- “.

Directed, “Mrs. Homes (not in same writing), Hammond’s cottages, Lea-bridge, Middlesex.” 

There was a cry for help and nobody to listen, except her mum.

The final sentence in the paper read:
“Among the letters found in the prisoner’s box, was one from her mother, alluding to the birth of the child and offering a home.”

I know we have all read and heard about the Victorian era and the plight of unmarried women with illegitimate children, but reading the above letters many times, really did bring it home to me how bad things really were.
I actually found them very upsetting.

The press reports just seemed to be never ending.
One would report Anne as a “wretched woman” while another would blame the Government for lack of support for unmarried mothers and not getting the father’s to pay for the child’s upbringing.

I personally did not realise how bad infanticide was in the Victorian Era until I started this story and starting read the reports in the press.
I’m not exaggerating when I would say that every day there would be a report of a small child or baby abandoned.
Or worse still murdered.

  • On September 22nd 1860, Post Mortem is carried out on Augustus by Mr. Gay

We now move forward to the next press report and the introduction of more witnesses including the alleged father of Anne’s baby, Frederick Bryant.

‘THE SUN, LONDON, WEDNESDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 3, 1860’

This same report was in
‘THE REYNOLDS NEWSPAPER, OCTOBER 7, 1860’
With this headline

I now move forward one day and the introduction of a new witness, further examination of Frederick Bryant and a summary of the post mortem examination by Dr. Gay and then the verdict.

‘THE SUN, LONDON, THURSDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 4,1860’

The Spreadeagle (now the Jackdaw & Stump – thumbnail), 224 Homerton High Street from pubwiki.co.uk
  • Now we move forward four days to 11th October 1860 and
    ‘THE SUN, LONDON’

THIS REPORT COMES WITH A WARNING FROM ME, THAT IF YOU ARE OF A SQUEAMISH NATURE DON’T READ.

IT CONTAINS THE FULL DETAILS OF THE POST MORTEM AND AUTOPSY FROM THE SURGEON DR. GAY.

AND I MEAN FULL DETAILS!!

I’m not surprised Anne fainted twice!!
The report continues.

I know the Victorians loved sensationalism with full and gory details but a full report of a post mortem in the press?? Wouldn’t be allowed now.

The interior of a courtroom at the Old Bailey in 1897. From Criminal London: A Pictorial History from Medieval Times to 1939 (2002). © Mark Herber
  • October 25th 1860 a request for adjournment of the trial was printed in the papers.

Decision pending.

After all the headlines and press reports the adjournment just warrants two lines in the London papers.

  • On October 29th 1860
  • But in the Brighton Gazette, we get five lines.

Reading between the lines in earlier press reports of the case this is where I think Anne was going to commit suicide.

To be continued………

Part 2 of the Anne Padfield story to follow soon…..

Till next time then………

inscription-above-entrance-old-bailey-central-criminal-court-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s