A dreadful case of child abuse by a mother


Hampstead Heath, c.1870

Mr. Stanmore was a stonecutter who lived at Hampstead with his 13 year old son. The boy’s mother had left her husband 12 years previously, seemingly disappearing without a trace. The pair seem to have got on with life and Stanmore had never remarried.

One day, out of the blue it seems, Mrs Stanmore returned ‘splendidly attired, and wearing a gold watch and other articles of costly and fashionable jewellery’.

Clearly she had run into some fortune and wanted her son to be a beneficiary of this. She told her husband that she proposed to send the boy to school – a grammar school no less – at Hampstead and cover the costs herself. Stanmore was hardly going to stand in the way of such an opportunity for his son and so consented and handed him over.

The boy was taken to the school (which charged her 30 guineas a term) and then she departed ‘in the same mysterious manner as she arrived’. Then on 9th September 1850 she appeared at the school, paid the boy’s fees and took him away, ‘but to what place no clue could be obtained’.

Wind forward to early December 1840, and the boy was back home ‘in a woeful state’. His back had been scared by beatings, he had a large wound on his thigh and his nose was ‘much lacerated’. A surgeon was called and examined him and the boy told him that his mother had inflicted his injuries.

She had taken him from the school to a very well furnished house in Vaughan Terrace on the City Road and had at first treated him well. But that didn’t last and she soon started to beat him, using a poker and a thick stick. On the day he ran away she had ‘jumped on him, dragged him three times to the top of the house and down again by his hair, then fastened upon his nose with her teeth, and afterwards bit him severely in the thigh’.

She left him locked up but he managed to escape and found his way to an aunt’s house, who took him home. The aunt testified that when the boy arrived he had been bleeding ‘profusely’. The magistrate issued a warrant for Mrs Stanmore’s arrest.

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, December 08, 1840]

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