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1913: Appalling neglect of children, Haywards Heath father and mother imprisoned

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 30 September 1913

Father and mother neglect their children.

Both sent to prison by the Haywards Heath magistrates

A most deplorable case came before the Haywards Heath bench yesterday (Monday), when James Henry C, a gardener, and Alice C, his wife of New Way cottages, New England Road Haywards Heath, were summoned for neglecting their six children in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to their health, at Haywards Heath, on September 19 and divers other dates.

New England Road Haywards Heath

The magistrates adjudicating were Col. W. H. Campion, C. B. (chairman), Major Farquharson, Mr E. Huth, D.L. Mr R. Harris and Mr W.C. Crenshaw. K.C.

C stated that his wife was not well enough to attend, but he had no medical certificate.

A constable said the woman was pregnant

Mr. C.H.Waugh said it was necessary for the woman to be present.

A warrant was issued for her arrest, and she was brought to the court sometime afterwards. She leaned on a corner of the dock and buried her face in her hands.

Mr C.H. Waugh said he was instructed to prosecute on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The charge was that of gross and continuous neglect of six children, aged 11, 10, eight, six, three, and one year and nine months. In consequence of complaint made to the Secretary Inspector Burdett went to defendant's house on September 18th. He found the premises in the most filthy condition imaginable, and he saw the children there, with the exception of one boy who was at school. They were all in a filthily dirty state, their bodies and heads being verminous, and their clothing ragged and dirty. Mr Waugh described the “most appalling state” of the premises.

In addition to the six children, he said, the parents took in a lodger. It would have been better if they had let the lodger out and paid some attention to their children. The inspector called in Dr Clarke. It was difficult to know how to punish in this case without inflicting further hardship on the children, but the doctor would tell the bench that it was desirable that the woman and children should be removed from the house for a time and the place and the children properly cleaned.

Inspector BURDETT, NSPCC, said that in consequence of a complaint made to the society he went to defendant's cottage on September 18th. It was a six bedroomed house. He saw five children there then, also the female defendant. The children were all in a shockingly dirty condition, and their clothing was running with vermin. They were very poorly clad. Their heads of the two girls were full of nits. None of them had any linen on. The rooms were littered knee deep in soiled and old garments and rags. The front bedroom contained a large double sized bed. The irons had been rotted with rust from urine. The female defendant said four of the children slept there. In the back bedroom was a smaller size bed. The bedding was rotten. The old mattress was very wet. He was informed that the mother and two children slept there and that the husband slept on rags in the kitchen.

Witness asked the female defendant to account for the condition of the children, and she said - “I have nothing to say, but I do not feel very well. I keep on muddling about. My husband often talks about the state of the house. If you give me a chance I shall try and alter it. I am entirely to blame”. Witness visited the house on the following day, and there had been no attempt to clean up. He saw the male defendant who said that on an average he earned £1 a week and gave his wife 19s 6d. Witness considered the condition of affairs so serious that he called Dr Clarke and notice was given to the sanitary inspector.

By Mr. C.H. Waugh The children were then somewhat cleaner.

Dr Cuthbert Clarke, Haywards Heath, said he went to the defendant's house. The mother was there and five children, he thought. The children were very filthy and verminous. “running with vermin absolutely. I have ‘slummed’ a good deal and never seen anything worse. The state of the house was deplorable”. He could endorse all that the Inspector had said “the whole place must be Full of everything that is vile and ought to be disinfected”. It was not possible to clean the place with the children in it. The things in it ought to be burnt. The children were not ill nourished.

Woman in court said the female defendant was her daughter. The latter was not a strong person: she had all these little children, and it she had not sufficient strength to look after them. She (The female defendant) has had very little money, her husband having been out of work. “I have had to apply to the parish for relief for them. I paid their rent for four weeks running and found them in food, but I could not do it any longer. The family came on so fast, and she not being a strong woman, she got down in this careless way. The money she gets is only just sufficient to find them in bread after paying the rent”.

The chairman after a private consultation by the bench said that this was a shocking case. How the male defendent could have seen all that was going on and do not insisted on the children being clean and the place looked after he did not know.

C: Is it a man's place to go to work for bread and cheese and look after the home as well?”

C would have a months hard labour and Mrs C six weeks imprisonment whilst the children would go to the Cuckfield Workhouse. The costs against the society would be remitted.

Mrs C, who was in tears, was assisted out of the court by her mother, and was told that she should be in the hands of the prison doctor and be better off than where she was.

Her mother undertook to take care of one of the children.


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