Saturday, 7 May 2011

My family get into a spot of bother with the law (1846)

From The Times of London, Tuesday December 29 1846, in the "Police and Courts" section:
THAMES - Yesterday Thomas Fitzhenry and Caroline Fitzhenry, his wife, were brought before Mr. YARDLEY on a charge of causing the death of their infant child MARY, aged five months.
Mr. Pelham defended the prisoners.
The male prisoner is a gunmaker, and resides with his wife at No. 9 Grigg's-court, Goodman's-yard, Minories.
On Sunday morning, at half -past 3 o'clock, in consequence of information, a police-sergeant named Sugg, H 17, proceeded to the house, and found the child dead on its mother's lap. She was crying loudly, and said that the child had died at her breast while in bed. The father, who was intoxicated, was also crying.
The police sergeant, discovered the upper part of the left thigh very much burnt, and upon questioning the father, he said the child was brought to him cold, and that while holding it before the fire for the purpose of reviving it, he had accidentally scorched it, and that he afterwards placed it in a warm bath. The deceased was described as a fine, healthy looking child.
There were conflicting statements made by the parents as to the manner in which the infant came by its death, and Sugg took them into custody. Several witnesses were examined, from whose evidence it appeared the parents were very fond of the child, and always treated it with the greatest kindness and affection.
A long investigation followed, and many suspicious circumstances which had first presented themselves were cleared up. The prisoners had previously lost two other children in their infancy, but their affection for their offspring generally was clearly established.
Mr Pelham addressed the bench and
Mr.YARDLEY said there was no evidence sufficient to justify him in detaining the prisoners, and they must be discharged; but it was absolutely necessary that a post mortem examination should take place to ascertain the precise cause of death.

The reporter actually got the name of the defendant wrong - this was James Fitz-Henry and he was the brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Michael Fitz-Henry. James also had another brother named Thomas who was entirely innocent of this whole affair.
James married Caroline Douglas in 1841. They had at least seven children, but only one survived to adulthood. Of the two children who died before Mary, I have only found one of these Thomas (1844-1846) whose cause of death was ascribed as "teething".
The remaining named children were:
  • James (1848-1850) "pneumonia"
  • Agnes (1852-1857) "inflammation of the lungs"
  • Caroline (1855-1859) "pneumonia"
  • James ( born 1857)
James senior died of tuberculosis in December 1858 and Caroline married Simeon Griffiths (another gunmaker) in November 1859.
In the 1871 census the surviving James is referred to as Alfred J Fitzhenry, living with Simeon and Caroline Griffiths in Royal Mint Street.

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