A Child, Poisoned

Listmaking duties yesterday brought this family unit to my attention. Thanks to the kindness of a LORRIMANdescendants, I was already familiar with some of the people and sensed immediately that there was something amiss with the picture presented by FamilySearch Tree.

FST_LorrimanBuckleThe FST system wasn’t concerned that “Sarah Duckells” was 48 years old when she gave birth to Harry and one research suggestion was to look for a missing child between Frederick and Sarah A. Hardly any of the many sources available online have been co-opted to build this family.  Just two or three of them, well-chosen, would transform the family. Father William, for instance, married Sarah BUCKLE in the summer of 1859 and died twenty years later, not long after the birth of Frederick.. Sarah’s maiden surname is given as Buckle for each of her eight children in the GRO Index. (Missing from the family, left, is Charles, born in the third quarter of 1874.) The 1891 census places the family in Albion Place, Filey and clearly indicates that Sarah A, Annie and Harry are grandchildren of widow Sarah. She told the enumerator they had been born in Filey but a careful search of the GRO Births Index indicates that the girls are sisters, born in York, to Sarah Buckle’s son William LORRIMAN and Sarah Ann ROBSON. I haven’t been able to find a birth registration for Harry (or Henry) so, until evidence to the contrary is discovered, will consider him to be the brother of the two girls.

Sarah Ann ROBSON married William LORRIMAN in York, in early June 1883. The birth of their first child, Sarah Ann, was registered the following quarter. Young Sarah joined a half-brother, George Arthur ROBSON, who had been accepted by William as his own.

Towards the end of April 1884, when he was three years old, George took advantage of his mother’s fleeting absence (to talk to a neighbour) and drank the contents of a medicine bottle she had left in the middle of the kitchen table. It isn’t clear from a local newspaper report of the coroner’s inquest what ailed the mother. The bottle, however, contained strychnine in the smallest of concentrations – but enough to kill a toddler. Little George staggered into the backyard, fell over and damaged a leg. It was thought initially that this was his only injury but he began to spasm. Someone ran for a doctor who arrived quickly, sensed the damage was internal and gave the lad emetics. These did not help, so the doctor dashed back to the surgery to get something that would control the spasms. When he returned, the child was dead.

Dr Hill, who supplied the medicine, had not given the mother special instructions about the danger the liquid would pose to a child. It contained eight doses, of which Sarah Ann had taken three. One dose would have been enough to kill George.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death by poisoning”, and the Coroner, at their request, impressed upon Mr Hill the desirability of cautioning patients, particularly when young children are about, to whom he prescribed medicine that contained poisonous ingredients.

Yorkshire Gazette, 3 May 1884

Learn how strychnine was once thought to be good for you (in very small doses) here.

I don’t know what became of George’s half-brother, Harry. Sarah Ann, pictured below, married James MILNER in Tadcaster in 1905 and bore him four children. James died young and Sarah raised the children mostly on her own.

Photo courtesy of Rose Toye

Annie married Alfred Henry Pritchard, an Essex man, in 1912. They raised their small family in Canada.


Annie and Alfred with children Gladys, William and baby Frederick (known by the family as James and the father of Brenda Pritchard, who donated the photo to Looking at Filey).

Annie and Alfred are buried in the small town of Kars, Ontario.

Pritchard Gravestone

I will add to the World Tree as soon as I can. Meanwhile, find “Sarah DUCKELLS” here.

Just Jim

At the corner of Area F in St Oswald’s churchyard, where the paths cross, is a middling-sized headstone with a simple inscription:-


27th Feb 1910

5th Dec 1924

‘In loving memory’


The low relief image carved above his name is so faint I didn’t notice it when taking the photograph. I’ll take a closer look later. It may be a family signifier of some sort, or something appropriate in a general way for the loss of a boy, deprived of his allotted span.

Jim’s birth registration gives his full name as James Rutherford de Winton BALLARD. Rutherford was the family name of his maternal grandmother, Catherine. I don’t yet know the significance of de Winton (or De Winton). A rather obscure connection between Ballards and de Wintons can be found online but it post-dates Jim’s death.

Jim’s father, William John, was a man of substance in his twenties. Born in Sussex in 1874, the 1901 census catches him at age 27 in Filey “living on his own means” at Norman Villa, with wife Ellen Margaret, daughter Phyllis Mary and a general servant, Louise LING. (A few weeks later he carried off the President’s Cup at the Filey Golf Club’s Whitsuntide Meeting, off a handicap of 18.)

By 1911 Jim had joined the family, now living at 46 West Avenue (the house with the white door, below).


Hilda Mary MONKMAN was their servant then, 29 years old and courting George Scotter ‘Coy’ CAMMISH. (Two of George’s nephews would drown at Primrose Valley in 1948. See post ‘Lady Shirley’ Revisited, 29 June 2018.)

The family would move at least once more. Jim’s St Oswald’s burial record records his last address as No. 8 Brooklands.


Jim has a substantial pedigree on FamilySearch Tree, though some duplicate records need to be merged for it to be seen at its best. The Ballards appear to be rooted in Sussex, where Jim’s great-grandfather was a miller in Patcham for most of his long life. Richard moved away for just a short while – Jim’s paternal grandfather, John, was born in Gravesend, in the neighbouring county of Kent.

I don’t know for sure the sources of William John’s “private means”. Miller Richard was succeeded in the business by at least four sons – John from his first marriage to Ruth PAGE; Francis, Ebenezer, and Charles from his second to Frances WILLARD.  So if John’s share passed to William John it would not, perhaps, have been substantial. John, though, married Mary Ann ROBSON and her father, William Frogatt (senior) was a solicitor to the Admiralty and may have left his daughter a considerable inheritance. (Her brother, William Frogatt junior, died aged 23 in 1860.)

Frances WILLARD was a 39-year-old spinster when she married Richard in 1855. In the 1841 census her father, James, was listed as “Ind” and in 1851 his widow, Ann, was described as a Landed Proprietor. With the middle name “Dippery” I imagined James might be found with some certainty in online sources but in a first trawl I found just two references. Separated in time, they were uncannily connected.

At the Horsham Assizes in 1807 ten people were tried and sentenced to be hanged. Eight were reprieved and one of the two executed was Cephas TREE (or ATTREE). Of the reprieved, James HOPE had been sentenced to death for stealing a sheep, value 25 shillings, from James Dippery WILLARD and Nicholas WILLARD in the parish of Rotherfield.

At the Sussex Summer Assizes in 1839, James Dippery was in court again. The main event was a Trial for Murder in which one of the prosecutors was  Mr. Wakeford ATTREE.  The accused, James JOHNSON, a 50-year-old cordwainer, was found not guilty.

Down the list was an action on the right of way through Birling Farm, between East Dean and Birling Gap.

James Dippery Willard examined by Mr. Thessiger, deposed that he had known the Birling Farm for 60 years. His father was at one time the occupier and mended the road. People who wished to get sand from the sea shore used the road. Never knew any persons impeded in the use of it. Had occupied the farm himself, and never knew of any charge being made to persons passing through the farm by that road. Used the road once or twice during Mr. Hodson’s time. Went through once hunting.

Sussex Advertiser, 5 August 1839

The seashore at Birling Gap is iconic. Below is a 3D screengrab of Birling Farm from Google Earth.


I wonder how much Jim was told in childhood about his far from run-of-the-mill ancestors.

Update 20 July


I’m not sure if this is a flower spike with leaves either side but one online source says that “flowers conveyed secret codes in Victorian times. Each plant or flower represents something of the deceased”. Jim died in the 1920s – but maybe…