29th December 1861


Eliza Durant, an attenuated woman, between thirty-five and forty years of age, but looking much older, was charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

Mr Fox, landlord of the Laurel Tree, Spitalfields, gave evidence of the woman having been guilty of the offences mentioned, the previous evening, in his house, and that he was compelled, from the hindrance to his business, to give her into custody.

In defence, Miss Durant begged, with much apparent truthfulness, to be excused this “once more,” on the plea that she would never transgress again; and also on the ground that she had passed sixteen consecutive Christmases in prison; adding, “My sister is going to buy me a new gown, and I shall have a number of presents for the novelty of being ‘out’ this year; one of which Christmas boxes you [the magistrate] shall have, if you let me go now.

Mr Knox inquired if anything was known of the defendant, and Harris, of the H division, spoke to her frightfully dissipated character and numerous imprisonments. This was perfectly true, for Walker, the guard of the prison van, has had her under his keeping more than one hundred and fifty times during the last twelve years.

She is known as Miss Betsy Durant all over the east end of London, and when locked up invariably amuses herself, and disgusts others, by tearing up her apparel. Such was the case on this occasion, but Bendal, the gaoler, prevented their entire demolition under threats of not allowing her a half pint of beer before she left, if she continue.

She left in the van singing “The County Gal” merrily, to take a further term of one month’s imprisonment and hard labour.


This afternoon, information was received of the death of Miss Sarah Wainwright, a young girl of fourteen years of age, who expired this morning at the City of London Hospital from the effects of dreadful injuries received through the igniting of her crinoline late last evening.

It appears that the unfortunate deceased, who was the daughter of highly respectable parents, residing at Stepney, was alone in a room when her dress caught fire at the grate and, her crinoline being very large, before the flames could be extinguished her whole body was almost roasted, the only part of her person which escaped unburned being her feet, which were protected by her boots.

She was immediately conveyed in a cab to the hospital, where she survived a few hours. Her limbs and arms were perfectly charred and how her life was preserved for even an hour seems miraculous.


An inquest was held yesterday afternoon into the death of Sarah Williams, aged 31 years, the wife of a tailor’s cutter.

On Saturday evening last, the deceased was reaching a piece of paper which was behind a picture hanging over the mantel piece when her dress ignited, and she immediately became enveloped in flames.

She ran screaming down the staircase and was followed by a lodger. The flames were with difficulty extinguished, but not until her body and limbs were fearfully blackened and charred. She soon after expired.

The deceased had on at the time of the sad occurrence a very large crinoline petticoat. The deputy coroner remarked on the dangerous practice of such decorations, when the jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

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