31 October 2008

Violence & Death

In the 1871 census James Culpin and his wife Sophia (nee Sheppard) were living in London Street, St Pancras. He was a tailor and she a tailoress.

The previous May James, then aged 59, was sentenced to six months hard labour. He was convicted of beating his wife - broke a chair over her head and back, broke her arm with the poker. And apparently this was not the first time - according to the newspaper report, she'd been married to him for 18 years and he was "in the constant habit of beating her".

Sophia died in September 1875 in fairly gruesome circumstances; Lloyds Weekly Newspaper (found at the British Library) gave up the following . . .

"Fatal Fire near Tottenham Court Road: Shortly before 10 o'clock on Thursday night a fire took place at Mr J Culpin's, tailor, 54 Howland Street, Tottenham Court Road. Some patterns, wearing apparel, and furniture, in a room on the ground floor, were burned and Sophia Culpin, aged 66 years, was burnt to death."

Interesting priorities: they list the damage and then, oh yeah, someone died!

And then the inquest: "Dr Hardwicke held an inquest on Monday, at the St Pancras Coroner's Court, touching the death of Sophia Culpin, aged 66, of 54 Howland Street, Tottenham Court Road. On the night in question John McArthur, who resided in the house, on coming home observed smoke issuing from deceased's room, and he at once tried to get in by the window, the door being fastened, but failing in this he took a chopper and, smashing the panels of the door, effected an entrance, when he found that the room was on fire. He raised the alarm and with two buckets of water extinguished the fire, when a horrible sight presented itself. On the table were the remains of an exploded paraffin lamp, there being a strong smell of oil in the room. At the side of the room, half sitting and half lying, and with her head against the wall, was the deceased, burnt to death. Her clothes were a mass of smouldering rags, her hair was burnt off, her breast burnt, and one of her legs was frightfully charred. The deceased had suffered from bad legs and rheumatism and could not get about much. A verdict of "Accidental Death" was recorded."

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