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Shocking cases of child neglect and abuse.
During the 1890s there were some shocking cases of child abuse and parental neglect reported in the papers in Wigan.
Extracts taken from Geoffrey Shryhane's book "Wicked Wigan" by kind permission of the author.


A shocking case of parental neglect was punished by Wigan County Justices on Monday, the prosecution being taken by the Board of Guardians. The defendants were Henry James Baron, a firebeater and his wife, Sarah. They had four children, the oldest being nine years of age.
John Hilton, a school board inspector, stated that on visiting the house in consequence of having seen two of the children in a very filthy state, he found a baby in the cradle in a very emaciated condition. He hesitated to touch it as the cradle was full of maggots which were swarming over the child. Another child was playing about the house dressed only in a shirt.
Upstairs there was one bed, the mattress of which was so dirty, wet and rotten that it could be cut like clay with a spade. The mother had been drinking and had not slept at home for two nights. On the morning of the officer's visit she had pawned every available article and was in the habit of sending the children out to beg in all weathers.
The father earned one pound a week but was formerly in a good business as a coal dealer.
In court Mrs Baron became very excited and loudly accused her husband of never turning his money over and spending half a sovereign at a time in the beer house. Three of the children were removed to the workhouse and the infant was taken charge of by a neighbour.
The Magistrates stigmatised the case as a very shocking one and sent both parents to prison for three months with hard labour.

Thomas Hart of Lily Cottage, Appley Bridge, was charged with neglecting his three children, Lily, Polly and William, aged eleven, six and a half and three, so as to cause them unnecessary suffering.
Mr A Smith for the NSPCC said the defendant was very much addicted to drink. He had neglected his wife and children to such an extent, that his wife, who was recently confined, was so starved and deprived of attention that she had died within the last few days after being taken to the workhouse. During her confinement her only companions were a little girl of eleven and a boy aged three. The house was in a filthy condition, and when the inspector went to it there was only a small fire and no food at all in the place. He considered it one of the most serious cases he had to deal with.
Inspector Williams said he visited the house and found two of the children begging food from neighbours. The mother was lying helpless in bed. The children were badly clothed and their heads were covered with vermin.
When Hart was brought before the Wigan Court charged with neglecting his children, he was sent to jail for three months with hard labour.

At Wigan County Court, Maud Sharp of Bridgewater Street, was charged with cruelly ill- treating Bertha Kitcher, a child of four who had been under her care for two years. The case has attracted a large amount of attention in the district and the court was crowded. The various disclosures excited several displays of feeling which was at once put down.
Mr Superintendent Heywood prosecuted.
Sarah Everett of Bridgewater Street said she knew the prisoner who lived next door to her, and she also knew the child Bertha which prisoner was nursing. One day the prisoner came to her and said, "Will you come in and see this mess I have in the yard?"
She went there and saw the child lying on it's stomach with the whole of it's clothes turned up over it's head. Prisoner said, "What would you do with such a dirty bastard as that?" Witness replied that she ought not to beat her but send her to the workhouse. Prisoner said that she would attend to the child and came out with a bucket of cold water and a brush. The child was lying in the same position and prisoner tucked her clothes around her neck and again placed her on her stomach and dipped the end of the stiff brush in the water and scrubbed the child's back with it. This was continued until all the water was gone and she brushed the child almost all over the body, the operation lasting quite five minutes.
Prisoner then told the infant to get up and unhooked her frock. The child was left in the yard by herself and cried and sobbed for about three quarters of an hour when she was allowed to go into the house.
About a fortnight before Christmas she went into the prisoner's house and saw prisoner with two of her own children and Bertha. She said: "Look what Bertha has done, she has made water on the floor." She got hold of her and beat her with her open hand on the side of her head then rubbed her face on the floor until the child's mouth and nose bled. Prisoner followed this up by kicking her several times in the side. The child was left outside in the cold for four hours and cried bitterly. At the time, she had a black eye and many times before witness said she had seen the prisoner ill-use her.
Sgt Redhead said he apprehended prisoner and after the warrant had been read over she said she had done no harm, although she admitted smacking her and giving her a good thrashing as she said she would do with her own. The officer found the stiff brush in the closet at the back.
The child was found to weigh 20 lbs, half the normal weight for a child of that age.
Dr Chronnell said it was his opinion that the child was grossly underweight. He had seen the child become thinner over the months and at one stage there was a sore on her body from her right leg to her right arm. He ordered cod liver oil but the child continued to grow thinner. He believed she needed to have the same food as the other children in the house. The child was weakly and she soon took cold and there was a mark on her arm through falling against the bars of the fire grate. She had fallen downstairs once or twice.
Horace Sharp, aged 10, son of prisoner, said he remembered Bertha falling downstairs and getting a black eye. Bertha always shared their meals of jam and tea for breakfast and tea.
After retirement the Magistrates decided to deal with the case then and did not send the prisoner for trial. They thought the case proved. It was a most cruel one and the decision was that the prisoner would be committed to prison for six months with hard labour.
It is understood that another home has been found for the child. The prisoner had been paid five pounds a quarter for "taking care" of the infant.

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