Friday, 9 January 2015

Alleged Infanticide at Edge Hill

A woman who was put on trial for the murder of her baby in 1844 was acquitted but still sentenced to two years imprisonment for concealment of birth.

In September of that year Mary Baxter took up lodgings in Sidney Place. She was soon asked by other females there if she was pregnant, which she denied. On the evening of 28th October Mary went to bed much earlier than the other three females who shared her room. The following morning when daylight broke she was heard by Sarah Bennett, the landlady going out to the yard and returning to bed.

Later in the morning Mary got up to go to a local house to do some laundry work, but when Mrs Bennett was making up the beds she saw blood on the sheet. She then went to the yard and found blood in a bucket of water, leading to her going to where Mary was working and demanding an explanation.

Sidney Place in 1960s (
Mary admitted that she had given birth to a child and put it in the outhouse. A search found the body of a baby boy there with a cord tied around his neck. Mary was arrested and charged with infanticide, being committed to the next South Lancashire Assizes.

21 year old Mary was described by the Lancashire General Advertiser as a 'rather good looking young woman' when she was placed at the bar on 14th December. As the surgeon who conducted the postmortem could not be sure the child was born alive, she was acquitted of murder but found guilty of concealment of birth. She was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour.

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