Among the most harrowing aspects of working class suffering in industrial towns such as Preston during the Victorian era, was the tragic loss of life sustained by children from the dreadful effects of burning or scalding within the family home. Open hearth fire places were a major source of these fatalities.
Many of these deaths were often the result of small children being left in the care of older siblings or elderly relatives as both parents through financial necessity, had to go to work to earn money. The regularity of these shocking incidents is exemplified during the two years of 1864 and 1865 when 16 such deaths were reported in the local newspapers.
January 1864-A 9 Year Old Girl Burned to Death
“An inquest was held at the police court on 6th January 1864 relative to the death of a girl named Eliza Burke, the 9 year old daughter of Michael Burke, a labourer.Mrs Burke said that her daughter, the deceased, went into one of the rooms of the house and put on her sisters Crinoline. There was a fire in the room and the deceased while playing about, got too near the grate and ignited the Crinoline.
In a moment she was enveloped in flame. She screamed out and on her mother rushing in the room, she found all her clothes in one mass of fire. The flames were extinguished immediately but the deceased was very badly burned about the face, breast and arms and she died several days later. A verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury”
Preston Chronicle-January 9th 1864
January 1864-Child Scalded to Death
“On January 27th 1864, Mr Myers, Coroner, held an inquest at the police station on the body of a child named Mary Ann Berry, one year of age, and daughter of James Berry a shoemaker. It appeared from the evidence that the deceased fell into a mug containing hot water. She was got out as speedily as possible and on being examined was found to be badly scalded. The usual remedies in cases of severe scalding were applied, but the injuries sustained were so severe that the child died a few days later. Verdict was accidental death” Preston Chronicle- January 30th 1864
February 1864- 2 Year old Child Burned to Death
“Mr Walker, Deputy Coroner for Walton-le-Dale. held an inquest in that village on the body of a child named John Thomas Snape aged 2, son of Matthew Snape. During the temporary absence of Mrs Snape on 21st January 1864, the child sustained serious burns and died two weeks later. A verdict of accidental death was returned”
Preston Chronicle- February 13th 1864
April 1864-3 Year old Girl Suffers Burns after Clothes Caught Fire
“A child of 3 years of age named Isabella Bramwell, daughter of Mary Bramwell who lives in Earl St,Preston was seriously burned on Monday 25th April 1864. On the evening of the day named the child was playing on the hearth stone and by some means found her clothes alight. Police constable Norris who was passing by at the time heard the screams of the child, went into the house and extinguished the flames. The child lies in an uncertain condition”
Preston Chronicle-April 30th 1864
May 1864-Child Burned to Death
“An inquest was held at the police court on Tuesday 17th May 1864 on the body of a child named Thomas Appleby, who lived with his parents in Cotton Court, off Church St who was severely burned at home. The child later died from his injuries and a verdict of accidental death was recorded”
Preston Chronicle-May 21st 1864
July 1864- 2 Year Old Girl Scalded to Death
“An inquest was held by Mr Myers, Coroner, at the Sheds Inn on Monday 27th June 1864 on the body of a little girl named Esther Wilkinson. The 2 year old was the daughter of John Wilkinson, a weaver, residing in Bloomfield St,Preston. While the girl was playing in the house of her parents a kettle containing boiling water was knocked over, with some of the water falling upon her and scalding her very badly. Medical aid was procured as soon as possible but the child sadly died the following day. A verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury”
Preston Chronicle-July 2nd 1864
December 1864-Girl Dies After Being Enveloped in Flames
“On Monday 26th December 1864 an inquest was held at Walton-le-Dale before Mr Walker, Deputy Coroner to Sir Henry-de-Hoghton on the body of a girl, 4 years old who died from injuries received two days earlier from burning. The mother of the girl had gone to work at a mill, while the father had gone to Preston leaving the deceased under the care of an elder sister.
The elder sibling momentarily left the child and upon her return found the girl enveloped in flames. A man rushed in the house on hearing the cries of the little girl, but his efforts to extinguish the flames before much harm could be done were unavailing. Dr Ashton attended the unfortunate girl but she died the next day. A verdict of accidental death was returned”.
Preston Chronicle-December 31st 1864
December 1864-Girl aged 4 Burned to Death
“On Tuesday 27th December 1864 an inquest was held at the police station before Mr Myers, Coroner, on the body of a child named Mary Ann Murray aged 4, who died as a consequence of injuries received on the Friday previous. The mother of the child, who lived at Victoria Place, left the house for a few minutes but had scarcely gone 10 yards when she heard the child screaming.
She returned and found the child in flames and much burned about the face. There were three other children in the house at the time of the accident. A piece of lighted wood had been removed from the fire and in the removal to the fender the flame had caught the child’s dress. The jury recorded accidental death.
Preston Chronicle- December 31st 1864
January 1865-4 Year Old Boy Burned to Death While Home Alone
“On the morning of Saturday January 14th 1865 William Billington, a 4 year old boy and son of Edward Billington of Queen St Preston, set his clothes on fire during the absence of his mother. He was so badly burned that he died the same day. An inquest held before Mr Myers, Coroner, returned a verdict of accidental death”
Preston Chronicle-January 21st 1865
February 1865-Another Child Burned to Death in the Absence of Parents
“Mr Myers, Coroner, held an inquest at the police station on the body of a child named James Reddy, aged 2 years, son of Thomas Reddy of No 2 Lobby, Queen St, Preston. The deceased’s clothes caught fire in the absence of his mother on Thursday 9th February 1865 and was so severely burned that death resulted one week later. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death”
Preston Chronicle-February 18th 1865
February 1865-Child aged 3 Dies After Clothes Caught Fire
“On Thursday February 16th 1865 an inquest was held at the police station before Mr Myers, Coroner, on the body of Robert Wilcock, 3 years of age, son of Robert Wilcock of Pump St,Preston. While his mother was at work the clothes of the child somehow caught fire and before the flames could be extinguished, he was severely burned about the face and arms. He died several days later. A verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury.”
Preston Chronicle-February 18th 1865
September 1865- 13 Year old Girl Left in Charge of the House Burned to Death
“Mr Myers, Coroner, held an inquest at the police station on Monday 25th September 1865 on the body of Ellen Sherlicker aged 13, the stepdaughter of Richard Horsfall of 5 Back Queen St, Preston. On the morning of Thursday 21st September 1865 at about 6.15 am, while the deceased was blowing the fire, a spark flew from the grate and ignited her clothes.
The girl was burned over almost the whole of her body and a doctor was sent for without delay. She had been left in charge of the house by her mother and stepfather who both worked at the mill. She was later removed to the House of Recovery and attended by Dr Haldan, but died two days later from the injuries she received. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death.”
Preston Chronicle-September 30th 1875
October 1865-Death of an 11 Year old Girl from Burning
“On Tuesday 24th October 1865 an inquest was held at the Queens Arms, Walton-le-Dale before Mr W Walker, Deputy Coroner to Sir H de Hoghton, on the body of Ellen Brindle, 11 years of age, daughter of Thomas Brindle. It appeared the deceased was left in charge at home by her parents and about 8.00 am in the morning she was in the act of taking the kettle from off the fire, when her clothes accidentally ignited. Before assistance could be obtained she was severely burned about the face and neck. Dr Smith was immediately called in and continued to attend her until she expired several days later. The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death”.
Preston Chronicle-October 28th 1865
November 1865-Death of an Infant through Scalding
“At the Greyhound Inn, London Rd,Preston, Mr Myers, Coroner, held an inquest on November 15th 1865 on the body of Margaret Sharples the 13 month old daughter of Henry Sharples, a clogger of London Rd. From the evidence given it appeared the child’s mother had poured some water into a bucket and placed it near the fire in the kitchen for the purpose of cleaning the floor. Later, after finding the water too hot, she went to the pantry to collect some cold water to mix with it leaving the deceased and two other children in the kitchen.
Upon returning she found the deceased with her head in the bucket. When the child was removed from the bucket it was discovered she was severely scalded about the head, neck and arms. Dr Marshall was immediately called in and he continued to attend the child until her death almost a week later. A verdict of accidental death was recorded”
Preston Chronicle-November 18th 1865
December 1865-Boy Left With Older Brother Dies at Home
“An inquest was held at the police station on Monday 4th December 1865 before Mr Myers, Coroner, on the body of William Bolton, aged 3, son of William Bolton a handloom weaver of 56 Queen St,Preston. The mother of the deceased was at work in the mill while his father worked at his loom in a place where he could not see the child.
On the day of the tragedy the deceased was left in the care of his 8 year old brother and at about 9.30 in the morning his clothes caught fire. His screams attracted the attention of a passing farmer named William Addison, who ran into the house and put out the flames. The deceased was burned severely about the neck and died two days after the incident. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death”
Preston Chronicle-December 9th 1865
December 1865-Boy Dies after Clothes set Alight by Candle
Mr M Myers, Coroner, held an inquest at the police station on Thursday December 21st touching the death of James Cairns, son of William Cairns, an overlooker of 6 Dawson St,Preston. The deceased who was 5 years old was badly injured after going upstairs to bed along with his brother and two sisters, all children, while their mother remained downstairs. A lighted candle which was taken by one of the children was placed at the head of the stairs and it appears the deceased went near to the candle, which set fire to his shirt.
The mother of the deceased immediately went to his assistance and extinguished the flames, but not before he had been badly burned about the body. Some linseed oil and lime water were applied to the burns but not withstanding all efforts, the child died 24 hours later. A verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury”
Preston Chronicle-December 23rd 1865
Many Preston families suffered the tragic loss of loved ones through the effects of burns and among them was my own family.In November 1871 Sarah Ann McCullough, who would marry my Great Grandfather William Leigh in 1874, lost her younger sister Harriet in the following appalling circumstances.
November 1871-7 Year old Girl Dies after Found in Street with Clothes Ablaze
“On Tuesday November21st 1871 an inquest was held at the House of Recovery on the body of Harriet McCullough who lost her life by being burned to death. Eunice McCullough wife of Richard McCullough, a labourer of Mill Hill,Fylde Rd, Preston said the deceased was her 7 year old daughter. Mrs McCullough told the court,
“On the day in question I went an errand at about 4.00 pm in the afternoon and left deceased and two younger children in the house by themselves. On returning about 20 minutes later I found the deceased had been burned and had been wrapped in cotton. About 5.00 pm I took her to the infirmary and remained with her until the following morning when she died. She was attended by the infirmary doctor. She was burned all over the body. There was a good fire when I left the house”. George Watts, a labourer said,
,“Shortly after 4.00pm I was passing by Mill Hill on Fylde Rd when I heard a child screaming and on turning round I saw deceased in the street with her clothes on fire. I ran to her and put out the fire, took off her clothes and took her into the house”
A verdict of accidental death was returned.(PC Nov’ 25th1871)