Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Shocking Tragedy in Wavertree

In 1850 a terrible event occurred in Wavertree when a domestic servant suspected of killing her infant child committed suicide by drinking poison.

Catherine Carnall was employed by Francis Hollins, a cotton broker who lived in Cow Lane (now Prince Alfred Road). She was the daughter of a Leicestershire farmer and described as of amiable disposition.

Prince Alfred Road (formerly Cow Lane) in 2017
In October that year Carnall gave Hollins notice that she would be leaving his service. However on the 17th of the month he received a badly handwritten letter indicating that she had given birth to a child three weeks earlier. When Hollins challenged her she mad a full confession, saying she had wrapped the child up in her apron and let it in the privy.

Hollins ordered a search of the privy and the body of an infant was recovered. This led to Carnall running out and trying to jump into a pond to drown herself. Hollins managed to stop her and took her back to the house and confined her in the parlour. When she asked for permission to go the the water closet, she was allowed to do so but only under the supervision of three other servants. On getting there, she tried to open an adjoining closet instead and was stopped, but then given permission to get an apple.

When Carnall got the apple she immediately threw it on the floor and grabbed a bottle of vitriol, swallowing some of the contents. The bottle was knocked away from her mouth but she collapsed immediately. On being told what had happened Hollins sent for Dr Kenyon of the High Street, but the remedies he had available were not able to save her.

An inquest was held on the body of the baby two days later at Mr Hollins' house. Dr Kenyon gave his opinion that the child had breathed once or twice, but the coroner's jury did not believe that was sufficient evidence to conclude that it had been born alive. In respect of Carnall, they returned a verdict of suicide through temporary insanity.