Sordid Denaby Homes –  Shocking Stories – Prison for Parents

September 1912

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 21 September 1912

Sordid Denaby Homes.

 Shocking Stories Related to Magistrates

How Some Children Are Brought Up

Prison for Parents

Two particularly bad cases of child neglect emanating from Denaby occupied considerable time at the Doncaster West Riding Police Court on Monday. The details revealed a terrible state of affairs and make sorry reading.

Mr. J. Hodgson presided, and the other magistrates were Mr. E. Walker Jackson and Mr. F. Kirby.

In the first case the police took up the prosecution, and the prisoners were Samuel White, a miner, and his wife, Alice Louisa White, who appeared in court with her 18-months’ baby. She presented a pitiable figure and the baby was thin and emaciated.

Supt. Hickes explained that the prisoners were charged in respect to their five children, whose ages ranged from 13 years to 18 months. On the 10th of this month. P.c. Barnes visited the prisoner’s home at 14 George St., Denaby, which was found to be in a wretched condition, filthy, with no furniture or very little, only a small quantity of food, and all the children more or less verminous. This was the first intimation the police had had, and they took up the case at once. They found that the prisoners had received repeated warnings. The children had been taken to the workhouse.

Police-constable Barnes told a creepy story. He received information of the case on Tuesday last and went with Police-constable Rushton to the house. The prisoners occupied two rooms, one upstairs and one down.

There were five children, the oldest, John Albert Edwards (13), Alice Louisa Edwards (11), children of the female prisoner by a former marriage; Lilian May (7), Horace Victor (4) and Doris Hilda (18 months). The eldest boy was poorly clad, but fairly well nourished, though much neglected. He did not appear to get clean clothes, and his body was creeping with vermin. Alice was also verminous and very dirty, and she smelled very strongly. Lilian was the same as was Horace, who was without a shirt. A jersey was doing duty. He was without stockings and had only one boot. It was a cold day. The family occupied the front room, the blind of which was drawn down. There was no furniture except a dirty table and two or three stools. As for food, there was a loaf and a half, very hard and not fit to eat. There was also half-a-pound of margarine, and two or three ounces of tea. When he drew the male prisoner’s attention to it, he said it was good enough for them.There was no fire in the house, but there was a little coal in the cupboard. There was a strong odour in the front room, owing to the want of cleaning and fresh air.

Vermin were creeping about the walls and the floor. Witness went upstairs to the small room which did duty for the convenience of the seven. The stench there was unbearable, for the blinds were drawn and the windows closed. There was only one bed tick. All the time witness was in the house the two prisoners were abusing and swearing each other with respect to the state of affairs. Both were very dirty. He had known the man for some time and he was a lazy, idle and worthless fellow. He had not followed any regular work for some time. He formerly lived in Loversall street, but the Colliery had turned the family out owing to their dirty habits.

P.c.. Rushton corroborated and Mrs Annie Webb, a neighbour, of 51, Loversall street, said the prisoner often abused his wife. He used to come home drunk frequently. The woman, she believed, looked after the children as best she could. Witness had given them food on several occasions.

Mr. Walter Maxfield, school attendance officer, also gave evidence, speaking as to the condition of the children and the home.

Mrs. Sarah Ann Lewis, at whose house the prisoners lodged, was also called. She had a nice place now to clean up she said.

Inspector Lloyd, N.S.P.C.C., said he had paid many visits to the prisoner’s home and had warned the man on numerous occasions, and also the woman about the condition of the children and the general neglect of the home. The man had frequently gone away and left his family and they had to apply for parish relief. The man had made all manner of excuses. Witness once gave him a shirt and the only overcoat he had, so he would have no excuse. He took the overcoat from off his back and gave it to him. Later be learned they had been pawned. The whole surroundings of the home were much brighter when the man was away.

Dr. Forster. of Conisboro’, also spoke as to the condition of the home and the children, while Horace Fowler, a clerk at the colliery, gave evidence us to the prisoner’s earnings.

The male prisoner, who elected to give evidence, said from the end of February to July he was out of work. He had not had a chance of getting turned round. He denied being idle or drunken, and put down his present position to the strike, for he had had to sell his furniture to keep them in food. He could not stand, he said, seeing the children going without food. He pleaded for a chance.

Replying to Mr. Flicker he admitted having been warned by the N.S.P.C.C. inspectors at Birmingham and Cannock Chase. At the latter place they got a month each for neglecting their children.

The woman blamed the man. If he had given her a pound a week she would have able to carry on the home, but her wage had not averaged 16s. a week.

The Chairman: But it would not have been a hard matter to have kept the children clean with a little soap and water.

The woman replied that the man had often threatened and abused her and she said the biggest mistake she had made was when she married him.

The Chairman said it was a very bad case and the man would have to go to prison for three months. The woman ought to have kept the children clean, but there was no doubt she had had difficulties to contend with. She would be discharged, but he warned her to take very great care in the future.

In the other case a deplorable state of things was revealed. Joseph Charles Stewart andd his wife, Beatrice, were charged by the N.S.P.C.C.

Mr. W. Baddiley, who prosecuted, explained that the prisoners were charged in respect to four children aged respectively 7, 6, 2 years, and six months. The case had been before the Society ever since May, 1910, when Inspector Dolan was at Doncaster. At that time there were only two children. The people were lost sight of in January, 1910, but they again under the observation of the inspector in January, 1911. They again left without trace, but in March of this year were discovered at Denaby. There could be no question that all three children had been very much neglected. When the doctor went to examine them on the 13th inst. the oldest boy, Samuel, seven years, was suffering from ringworm and his body was verminous. The next boy, Walter, six years, was suffering from abscesses on the head, was filthy and verminous. The next child, Jessie, “a darkie,” said Mr. Baddiley, was suffering from rickets and the baby was suffering from general wasting and malnutrition. The baby only weighed eight pounds whereas it ought to have weighted 14. Since May, 1910, the couple had been warned repeatedly but there had been but little alteration. “From what I can gather from the evidence” said Mr. Baddiley, “this man was born tired; he does not like work, and won’t have it.” Continuing, he said the man was a filler, and, as the magistrates knew, work at the pits in South Yorkshire was plentiful. The prisoner had refused to do the work and be had spent his money in drink and gambling. The house was practically empty of furniture and what there was was filthy. The “home”, added Mr. Baddiley, was more fit for pigs than human beings.

Dr. McArthur. of Denaby, spoke to an examination of the children and bore out Mr. Baddiley’s statement. He also spoke as to the condition of the house which was in a filthy condition, while the smell was abominable.

Rose Gallaher, porteress at the Workhouse. also described the condition of the children when they were admitted. All were filthy and verminous. The boy, Walter’s, bead was one mass of corruption and he had to be sent to the Infirmary for immediate treatment. The baby was very thin and “you could see every rib in its body,” added the witness. It’s clothing was filthy and it smelled awful. On the top of the dirty clothing had been put a clean pinafore. The baby was now improving rapidly. All the children ate ravenously, as if they had not had anything for months.

P.o. Clithro also spoke of the condition of the house.

Mrs. Fisher, a neighbour, of 30, Adwick Street, said she had known the prisoners 12 months and the children bad frequently gone to her house to beg. But she did not blame the woman so much as the man. He was idle and if he had worked one day he had stayed at home three.

He worked at Cadeby and could have plenty of employment if he liked, but instead of working he used to stay at home. Witness had upon several occasions gone into the house and fed the children when both the prisoners were out. The woman had often left the children for one or two days, while the husband during that time was out all day. Witness had provided food for the people for the week and the woman had later paid her, but last week she did not do so, but later paid a fine for the husband, so he should not be locked up. She had never seem him drunk. She had known him stay at home a week at a time when he had had work to go to.

Mrs. Beckett, another neighbour, of 40, Adwick Street, gave similar evidence. She had told the woman several times she deserved reporting to the Society.

Inspector Lloyd, N.S.P.C.C., said the people bad been repeatedly warned. On one occasion, when he went to the house he saw the elder boy lying in the gutter with the baby. The male prisoner was idle and gambled. When he went to the house on the 18th May the female defendant was out and did not return until 9.30 p.m.

The male prisoner said what with the strike and the explosion he had not bad a chance to get turned round. He pleaded for another chance and said he would do what he could for the children.

Replying to Hr. W. Baddiley, he denied he had been warned by the inspector when they lived at Goldthorpe

The female prisoner also denied the cruelty but pleaded for another chance.

The Chairman, in sentencing the prisoners, to a month’s imprisonment, said there was no excuse for their behaviour.