Arthur Charles Baldwin: The Boy Who Killed His Sister

Arthur Charles Baldwin 1898-1950

Miscreant child of Southend on Sea, Essex, and my second cousin, three times removed.

Whilst metaphorically leafing through old issues of the Southend Standard on FindMyPast, ever hopeful of finding something new about my ancestors, I chanced upon an article about the family of my first cousin, four times removed, Thomas Henry Baldwin.  Thomas was the cousin and also the neighbour of my great-great grandmother Annie.

On 29th December, 1901, Thomas’s wife, Rose, had just made a jug of freshly boiled cocoa, which she had left on the kitchen table.  She left her five week old baby, Elizabeth, on a cushion on a chair in the kitchen.  Also in the kitchen was her two year old son, Arthur.  Rose went into the living room, less than two minutes later she was alerted by the sound of Arthur screaming.  The baby was covered in the boiling cocoa.  The jug was on the floor, empty, but intact.  Arthur had a small scald on his arm.  Rose picked up the baby and took her straight to the local doctor, who did his best to help, but Elizabeth died the next morning.

53 hartington road southend baldwin house.jpg
The Baldwins’ house in Hartington Road, Southend, where Elizabeth was injured

The inquest concluded that Elizabeth’s death was an accident, and chastised poor Rose for leaving the children unattended.  “She should have known better than to put a jug of boiling cocoa so close to the edge where little mites were about”.  Though the coroner did not make any statement about how the cocoa came to land on Elizabeth, it seemed clear from the previous examination of the layout of the room that Arthur must have climbed on his high chair to reach the jug, carried it off the table with both hands, then carried it across the room and poured it over the baby.  At two years old, he could have had no idea of the consequences of this piece of mischief.

I wondered how Thomas and Rose coped with not only the death of their baby, but the fact that Rose’s carelessness had contributed to the tragedy, and whether they told Arthur the truth about his sister’s death when he was older.  Of course, all these people are long dead, so I can’t ask them, but there is just one clue in the 1939 register.  Arthur (who is married without children) lists his occupation as “fireman”.  I like to think that maybe he took up this occupation to help other people who had been burned, to atone for the death of his sister.

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