Sensational Evidence At The Inquest
THE PARENTS CENSURED
An inquest on the body of an infant named Martha Ann MAUGHAN was held on Thursday morning
at the Railway Hotel, Cockermouth, before Mr John SIMPSON, deputy coroner, and a jury of
which Mr Joseph STRAUGHTON was foreman.
Martha MAUGHAN(41), unmarried, living until recently at Black Bull Yard, deposed that she
was the mother of the deceased child, which was four months old. On Tuesday night she went to
Derwent Street (or "Gas Row") to keep house for a man named BRACKEN, whose wife had left him.
She took her daughter (the deceased) with her. That was between eight and nine o'clock, and the
child was quite well then. There was no one living in the house but BRACKEN and his son.
She put her child to bed about quarter past ten; but did not go to bed herself. She went to
on a box beside the bed with her head on the pillow. The child had the bed to itself all night.
About half-past four in the morning she noticed the child. BRACKEN had been downstairs for
some water, and she called to him, and asked for a drink. She then looked at the child, and saw
that it was "working" with its hands. She brought her downstairs and sent for a doctor right
away. Dr MITCHELL came and saw the child about five o'clock, and she thought it was dead
then. It was BRACKEN who went for a neighbour and for the doctor. She had had a child to
BRACKEN before he got married, and had had this one since. BRACKEN was never in the room
where the child was, until she shouted for him in the morning to fetch the water.
There were two rooms upstairs.
By the Foreman: The reason she slept on the box instead of in the bed would be because she
was tired and had gone to sleep without undressing. She had not had any drink. She didn't
know anything about BRACKEN'S wife being away from home until BRACKEN came for
her (witness). She went to BRACKEN'S house knowing that he was married. Her other child
was dead. It died when about ten months old. There was no inquest.
John BRACKEN, shoemaker,Derwent Street, stated that he was married and had two children
of his first wife. He saw Miss MAUGHAN and her child on Tuesday and Tuesday night, he
having invited her down to look after his house. His wife had been away since Monday tea time,
and he didn't know where she was.
So far as he could see, the child was quite well on Tuesday night. He went to bed by himself
about ten o'clock, leaving MAUGHAN and her child downstairs, and he had no idea when they
went to bed. Miss MAUGHAN was sober, but he had had a little drink. He knew what he was
doing however. He did not see Miss MAUGHAN again until about half-past four in the morning,
when he went downstairs to see what time it was, so he could get his lad off to work at the
He went into the room with a jug of water, and saw Miss MAUGHAN sitting on the bedside
with her head resting on the table. The table was a box set on a chair and was higher that the
bed. He looked over at the child and asked what was the matter with it.
The mother replied "Nowt I expect."
Witness answered that it looked as though it was in a fit. She looked at it, and was going to
out; but he asked her not to make a noise, and it might come out of the fit.
Both beds were in the same room-they only had one bedroom-and what the woman had said about
being in separate rooms was therefore not correct. He slept in one bed with his son, a lad of
15 or 16, and the woman had the child in the other. He did not think the woman had been in the
bed herself. Witness's wife had been drinking on Monday, and because he would not let her
take his waistcoat and shirt to pawn, she threatened to leave him. It was not true that he put
her out. She went away herself, and he had not seen her since. She had taken some sheets, a
and other things, and he had since seen them at the pawnshop. Being closely questioned,
admitted that he and MAUGHAN had had drink together in the town on Tuesday.
By Mr John BARTON: He had been married fifteen or sixteen months. MAUGHAN'S child
was only four months old. MAUGHAN blamed him for being the father of it, which was....
(true? / a lie?
She knew very well that he was married at the time it happened.
Dr MITCHELL stated that he was called up by the last witness about twenty minutes to
five on Wednesday morning and went immediately BRACKEN told him that the child was either
in a fit or dead.
He went to the house and found the mother sitting by the fire in the lower room with the child
on her knee. It was then dead, and gave him the impression that it had died in convulsions.
He made inquires, and a woman who had been in told him that the child was quite warm when
she saw it. He did not see any signs of the woman MAUGHAN being tipsy. He examined the
child and found it well nourished and plump, with no marks of violence or bruises of any kind.
In his opinion the child had died in a fit. When BRACKEN was with him he didn't notice that
he showed any signs of drinking. He had never attended the child previously; but had attended
the mother when she was confined in the workhouse. He thought the child was too young to be
troubled with teething. The cause of the convulsions might be improper diet.
The child didn't seem to have been dead long when he was call in.
Mrs Ann McDOWELL, of Relph's Court, Derwent Street, threw a different light on the subject
by her sensational evidence. BRACKEN awaked her, she said, about a quarter to five on Wednesday
morning, and she went bare feet right away, and saw the baby. It was dead; but quite warm
MAUGHAN sat with the child on one side of the fire, and BRACKEN was sitting at the other
side. The fire seemed to have been newly kindled. She saw MAUGHAN and BRACKEN whey they
came to the house together about nine or ten o'clock on Tuesday night. She heard no noised
the night. On the Saturday night previous, the woman had been to BRACKEN'S house when his
wife was there, and had struck her in the face. She threw her child down on the paving stones.
Both MAUGHAN and BRACKEN were under the influence of drink. A neighbour at the yard end
lifted up the child when was thrown down. Witness saw it but would not go near, as she didn't
want to be mixed up in the matter.
By Mr C. MAYSON : She could not tell what expression the woman made use of when she threw
the child down; but it would not be a very nice one. MAUGHAN broke some of the windows in
By Mr Wm. CRONE : Witness did not see MAUGHAN step on the child while it lay on the
pavement ; but a neighbour had told her that MAUGHAN stepped backwards on to it.
Mr W. J. CAMPBELL : It was reported that the woman threw the child down, and jumped upon it.
Mr MAYSON : It is evident that there's a good deal more to be said in this case that we are
going to hear.
Dr MITCHELL, question by Mr R. BOWES, said the fall to the pavement might have brought on
convulsions ; but it didn't seem to have brought them on in this cases- at least not
The witness McDOWELL, questioned by Mr CAMPBELL, said when the child was thrown down
it had on a jacket, and was wrapped up in a shawl, which might possibly have prevented any
bruises appearing in consequence of the fall. The child did not cry when thrown down.
Perhaps it was unable.
The Foreman said in the face of the doctor's evidence they could do nothing. He was sure he was
expressing the feelings of the jury when he said they were sorry that such a state of things
exist in the town. The conduct of both MAUGHAN and BRACKEN was simply disgraceful, and he
thought they might censure them, and recommend them to lead better lives,
Dr MITCHELL wished to add that if the injury had been done by the child's fall there would
have been some symptoms, such as vomiting, &c. The fall might have had something to do with the
child's death, although there were no signs of it ; but is was no uncommon thing for a young
to have convulsions from slight causes, and then to succumb.
The Coroner : If you think that death is due to natural causes -
Mr MAYSON : But I don't think it is myself. He added that his opinion was that it was a pure
case of manslaughter; but in the face of the doctor's evidence he supposed they could not help
The Foreman said as there seemed to be no alternative, their verdict would be death from
The parents were brought in, and Mr STRANGHTON told them that the jury had come to the
conclusion that the death of the child had been caused by a fit. There may have been other
contributory causes; but the doctor's evidence has led them to come to this conclusion.
He added: The relationship between you, MAUGHAN, and you, BRACKEN, had been most
disgraceful, and we hope that this occurrence will cause you to think of leading better and
purer lives. Such conduct as yours has been a disgrace to yourselves and to the town.
You should try to show to your children a better example. We cannot punish you ; but I am sure
when you thing - and you must think sometime - that your sinful neglect has been contributory
to the death of your child, it must be anything but a happy though for you.
We hope that what has happened, and what we have now said, will have a good effect upon your
SENSATIONAL SEQUEL TO A COCKERMOUTH INQUEST
On Sunday afternoon an outbreak of Amazons occurred in the district of "Gas
Row" which our readers will remember was the scene of the sad death of the
child Martha Ann MAUGHAN, in view of whose body an inquest was held last week. It
appears that the lawful wedded wife of the man BRACKEN returned to her home in
Derwent Street in Sunday afternoon only to find herself locked out, and her
rival for the affections of her spouse in her place. About a hundred
neighbours, all of the softer sex, turned out, and amid great and exciting clamour, a
siege was organised on behalf of the slighted wife. Miss MAUGHAN was hustled out
of the house, and then chivvied out of the street. The demonstration of
feeling against her was strong, and she stood not upon the order of her going - in
fact, had she not sought safety in a precipitate retreat, the neighbours would
doubtless have carried out their threat and "rov t'cleas off 'er back." It is
stated that Bracken's habiliments were thrown upon the roof.!
The censure of the coroners jury does not appear to have had immediate