Untold lives blog

29 February 2020

A Leap Year tragedy

Early on the morning of Tuesday 1 March 1892, a Thames waterman named Holeyman was in his boat at St George’s Stairs Horselydown when he saw the body of a young man floating in the river.  He attached a rope to the body and brought it on shore. 

Southwark Bridge c.1825Southwark Bridge on the Thames from David Hughson, London; being an accurate history and description of the British metropolis (London, c.1825) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The dead man’s clothes were searched at the mortuary by Mr Upton, the coroner’s officer, and Police Constable Longman.  They found a copy of a newspaper from Monday evening in a pocket, indicating that the body had not been long in the water.  There were also several bunches of keys and a Leap Year proposal of marriage from a girl.

From the letter, it appeared that the young man’s last name was Baths.  He was described in newspaper reports as being ‘of gentlemanly appearance, aged about twenty-five, with dark hair and eyes’.  As he was carrying 43 keys, the press speculated that he had held a responsible position in a City office.

The young man was later identified as Edward Walter Batho.  He was a collector for the Automatic Cigarette Company.  Presumably the keys opened vending machines?  An inquest was held by Mr Langham and the jury returned an open verdict.  I have been unable to discover any more about the circumstances of this sad death. 

Edward Walter Batho was born in Deptford 1868, the son of Robert, a butcher, and his wife Elizabeth.  Edward had a large number of siblings.  His father died in 1879 and Elizabeth supported her youngest children by working as a sextoness in a church in the City of London.  She died in 1890. 

In the 1891 census, 23-year-old Edward was living in Abchurch Lane in the City as head of a household with his sister Amy aged 19 and brother Henry, 17.  Edward was described as a ‘Railway Collector’.  Less than a year later, Edward was dead. 

So we are left to wonder - who was the girl who wrote the marriage proposal?  Can a reader shed any light on this mystery?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Coventry Evening Telegraph 2 March 1892; Aberdeen Press and Journal 9 March 1892; Illustrated Police News 12 March 1892

 

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