“Two Children Drowned”

This article appeared in The Cambridge Independent Press, May 21, 1859.[1]

Camb Indep 21 May 1859
(Click on image to enlarge)

Sarah Casbon was the second child and first daughter born to John and Rebecca (Speechly) Casbon of Peterborough (see “How doth your garden grow? Part 2”). She was baptized November 11, 1855, and probably named after her maternal grandmother, Sarah (Delanoy) Speechly.[2]

Sarah baptism detail 1855
Baptismal record of Sarah Casbon, 1855 Peterborough (Northamptonshire). (Click on image to enlarge)

The news story gives the location of the incident as Boonfield. At the time, this was a mostly rural area on the northeastern outskirts of Peterborough.

Boonfields map
Map detail showing Peterborough and Boon Fields. Source: Ordnance Survey First Series, Sheet 64 (1856); online image, A Vision of Britain Through Time (http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/ : accessed 1 February 2017). This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth. (Click on image to enlarge)

This is the kind of story you hate to see. Although death in childhood was a common occurrence in Victorian times, the loss of a child to drowning must have been an especially hard blow. We would like to think the major causes of death in childhood have been overcome. While that is largely true, there is a sad exception. Other than birth defects, drowning remains the most frequent cause of death in children 1-4 years old.[3]

[1] “Peterborough…Two Children Drowned,” The Cambridge (England) Independent Press, 21 May 1859, p. 7, col. 4; online images, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com), British Newspapers 1710-1953.
[2] “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912”, Sarah Casbon, 11 Nov 1855, images and transcripts, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 February 2017); citing Northamptonshire Anglican Parish Registers and Bishop’s Transcripts. Textual records. Northamptonshire Record Office, Northampton, England.
[3] “Water-Related Injuries,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/ : accessed 1 February 2017).

4 thoughts on ““Two Children Drowned”

    1. I think there is something about the way the story is written that really brings the tragedy home. There is no sensationalism, no judgment – just a simple narrative of facts that shows how the events unfolded, beginning with ordinary daily rituals and ending with two deaths and the inquest’s verdict. How do you think this would be reported today? Thanks as always for reading and posting your thoughtful comment!


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