22nd September 1861


A correspondent sends us an account of a crinoline accident. He says that last Sunday a party of boys and girls went on a pleasure boat to some public gardens in his locality. On the grounds in question there are several hives of bees, and in stooping in the vicinity of these, one of the girls’ crinolines hooked over the top of a hive, and when the poor girl, ignorant of the fact, walked away, down came the hive, of course. The whole corps d’arme, trapped within the crinolines, instantly set upon their unwitting assailant, who was obliged to run for it and eventually to take refuge in a pool of water. From thence she was drawn and, being badly stung, she was taken home to bed, where she lay in some pain for a few days. Our correspondent says she is now quite recovered.


In August, 1851, a girl of sixteen, named Sarah Watts, was barbarously murdered at Woodlands, near Frome. Her father had left her at home alone, while he went to market, and on his return he found her mangled body in the dairy, and the house ransacked. Subsequent examination showed that the girl had been outraged and probably drowned in a milk pail. Three bad characters, named Maggs, Sparrow and “Frome Bob”, were apprehended and were committed to trial on a capital charge, but a jury acquitted them.

Suspicion also fell on a young man named Joseph Seer, who lived near the Woodlands, but shortly after the murder he left the neighbourhood, and enlisted into the army.

Within the last few days, Seer has returned to Frome, being invalided. On Tuesday morning, he went to the police station on some other business and, upon being asked by the superintendent of the police why he appeared so unhappy, he made a voluntary confession that he was guilty of murdering Sarah Watts.

He is short in stature and was attired in the uniform of an infantry soldier. His appearance was that of a sullen, pre-occupied man.

The prisoner’s confession was as follows:

“I murdered Sarah Watts. I hope the God above will let me live to see her again in another world. I have it on my mind a long time. I have been very unhappy ever since. I went away, I was so unhappy. I hope the God above will wash away our sins.

“I done it for love. It was on a market day in August it happened. I asked her to go up Birch Hill-lane and pick some water-cresses. She wouldn’t go. I asked her then to go upon a Sunday, and she said she wouldn’t go. I often played with her.

“About 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I went to the house. I thought she was worth some money and I told her to tell me where it was and I would marry her and take her to America. I was very fond of her. I wanted that we would live happy together.

“She said, ‘The money don’t belong to you.’ I said, ‘If you don’t tell me where it is, it will be the death of you.’

“I took hold of her by the neck. I had connection with her on the settle. I had a poker in my hand and I hit her on the head with it and knocked her down. I said, ‘I will have to suffer for this either in heaven or in hell.’

“I struck her in the kitchen and dragged her into the dairy. I caught hold of her by her feet and put her head first into the milk pail and left her in the dairy, dead.

“I took two shillings out of a cup on the mantelpiece. I went up-stairs and searched about, and took some clothes, and went my way, and went to sea. I enlisted as a soldier to get out of the way, as I was being blamed for it at the time.

“I have never got it off my mind. I killed her for love. I was very fond of her.”

The prisoner was remanded for a week.

15th September 1861


A boy was suffocated on Friday week in Wiltshire, through a whole onion sticking in his throat.


A poor child named Stevens, only eight years old, and son of a circus proprietor, was burnt to death at Leicester last week. Whilst acting the part of a monkey in a piece entitled, “The Monkey and the Indians”, for which purpose he was dressed in wadding and a flax imitation of hair, he had to climb a rope, but he ascended too high and the material took fire from the chandelier. The poor boy was instantly one mass of flame. He fell to the ground, so severely burnt that he died the next day.


On Thursday afternoon, Phoebe Browning, of Cold-harbour, Canterbury, was charged with having strangled her child, Thomas Browning. Susannah Collard, wife of John Collard, said:

“Yesterday afternoon I saw the prisoner on the high road by Wingate-hill with a baby in her arms. The child’s legs were hanging down more like those of a dead than a live child. They were very much emaciated, and exposed to view. I asked her what was the matter with the baby. She made no reply. I said, “Then I will look at it, as the poor little thing is dying, I know.” She answered immediately, ‘Oh no it is not, for the doctor says it will never die.’

“I said to her, ‘If Superintendent Walker was to come along I would make him take you and the child.’ She replied, ‘If I was to see Superintendent Walker come along, I would murder the child at once.’

“I left her and went a little way, but I did not like to leave the woman with the baby. I went back and tried to take the baby from her, when she ran to the corner of the lane close by, and sat down in the hedge.

“I went up to her and said I would take the baby home. She said, ‘I will kill it before you or anybody else shall have it,’ and immediately squeezed the throat of the child with her hands, and it was only with difficulty that I got the child from her. The child’s eyes were ready to bolt out of its head, and it appeared to be in a dying state.

“When I had got possession of the child, the woman ran off in the direction of Boughton.

“I brought the child into Canterbury, and took it to Mr Tassell, a surgeon, who gave it some medicine. It died this morning, shortly before noon.”

A certificate from the medical officer said: “Phoebe Browning is affected with mental imbecility. She requires a person to take care of her, her husband being anxious to go hopping.”

The prisoner was remanded.

8th September 1861


We are sorry to hear that another of those fearful accidents, of which fire and crinoline are the conjoint causes, occurred at Penton-place, Walworth, on Monday.

The sufferer was an accomplished and excellent young lady, Miss Allan. On Monday morning, she sustained agonizing and fatal injuries from her dress catching the flames while she was taking some article from an upper shelf of the cupboard near the kitchen fire. Her uncle, alarmed by her shrieks, rushed to her assistance, and found her standing upright, a pillar of fire, the flame of which reached up to the ceiling. He was himself, we regret to say, severely burnt in attempting to save his unfortunate niece, who survived, in a state of partial consciousness, until midnight, not unaware of her dying condition, nor unable to speak.

An amiable, intelligent and pious young lady has thus been added to the number of the victims of a style of attire which should never have been adopted.


A curious yet painful case happened during the past week in Taunton. The daughter of a tradesman had been ill for some time, and death was hourly expected. At length, to all appearance, the fatal moment came, and the spirit was supposed to have winged its flight. The necessary offices for the dead were then performed; the body was laid out and the shutters of the shop were closed.

In an hour afterwards, to the consternation and joy of her friends, re-animation took place, and the supposed dead was able to speak. The shutters were again taken down, but we regret to state that, after the lapse of a few hours, they were again put up, the sufferer having gradually sunk, until death in reality terminated her existence.


An inquest was held on Tuesday evening in Charing-cross Hospital, touching the death of a private in the 2nd battalion of Grenadier Guards, named James Hutchins.

John Simpson, a private in the same battalion, said that about ten minutes to one o’clock on the previous afternoon he was coming out of the barrack-room on the third floor of the barracks, when he observed the deceased quite outside the window, with the exception of the left foot, and before he could stop him he had got quite out and turned to the left of the parapet. He looked out after him, and found that he had fallen. He ran down and saw him impaled on the railings, the spike entering his stomach and protruding about four inches out of his back. The head and upper part of the body were hanging over one side of the barrack wall, and the lower extremities on the other. A ladder was got and he was removed, but he died later from his injuries. One of the men picked up the deceased’s gall bladder in the area.

The witness had seen the deceased only five minutes before, and believed him to be quite sober.

George Bird, also in the same battalion, said he was on sentry, and hearing a noise he looked up and saw the deceased try to clutch at the parapet ledge. This he failed in, and came straight down upon the spikes.

An officer of the regiment informed the coroner that one or two men had informed him that the deceased would often climb out of one window and pass along the parapet to the other, and that he considered it a feat of Blondin. He had been heard to say that he could not see why he could not do such feats as well as that French acrobat, who was recently seen at the Crystal Palace.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death through injuries caused by falling from the parapet.

1st September 1861


The interesting Italian, named Vincent Collucci, and described as an “artist”, was again brought up this week and charged with defrauding a young English lady of £1,900, under pretence of restoring to her certain letters which she had written under the influence of misplaced affection towards himself.

As the case stands adjourned, we have no desire at present to comment upon it adversely to the prisoner; but we will simply remark that if young English ladies, with thousands of pounds to spare, choose to hold their heads too high for honest Englishmen, and prefer the courtship of questionable foreign “artists”, it only serves the silly, supercilious females perfectly right if their cases be published as warnings to the other weak-headed and wealthy of their countrywomen.


Last Friday night a soldier named Grant, of the 12th Regiment, approached a loose female named Louisa Smith, and a quarrel ensued. In the excess of her passion, the woman seized a brown stone jug, and struck the soldier full in the face, literally battering his face in. The police arrived, who took the woman in charge. The soldier was instantly conveyed to the hospital, bleeding fearfully, where he remains in a dangerous condition.


Catherine Leary, aged 81, who was called “the old woman”, was brought up on remand and charged with cutting and wounding John Sullivan. It appeared the parties live in an Irish colony in Poplar, and a few nights since there was a row between factions there. A woman named Barry was struck on the abdomen with a stone and seriously injured. Several broken heads were also exhibited, and a woman named Lyons was, to use her own words, “kilt and murthered” by a stone which struck her on the jaw.

After the row was nearly over, Mrs Leary, who was in her own dwelling, called out to Sullivan, “Here, Jack. I want you. Come in here and I’ll talk to you like a Dutch uncle.” The unfortunate man reluctantly entered the house and Mrs Leary immediately cut him down with a chopper. He received two severe cuts on the head, and contusions. He was taken to hospital and has been ever since under medical treatment. He appeared in court with large surgical plasters on his head.

Stephen Barry confirmed Sullivan’s statement, and said he heard the complainant call out “blue murder” when he was struck. Mr Woolrych asked, “Blue murder? What do you mean by that?” The witness replied, “Shure, I don’t know; but she was murthering him wid the chopper.”

Mr Woolrych said the prisoner had nearly killed the man and it was a wonder she had not done so. There was no doubt upon his mind that the prisoner was a violent and dangerous woman. He fined her 40s and, in default, sentenced her to one month’s imprisonment.