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.
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?
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Coventry Evening Telegraph 2 March 1892; Aberdeen Press and Journal 9 March 1892; Illustrated Police News 12 March 1892