Midwife at Stanford Bishop

1899 – Midwife Behaves Badly at Stanford Bishop

Gertrude Martin, a widow of Stanford Bishop, was pregnant with an illegitimate child.

She was well advanced in her pregnancy when she fell out of a tree whilst picking apples, and went home crying and in pain;  her daughter went to fetch the midwife Mary Lea, who lived at the Polands, Stanford Bishop, and she duly attended but found that by this time Gertrude was feeling a bit better, so she went home again.

The child is born Dead

Mary went hop picking the following day, but at midday was called once again to visit Gertrude Martin, and this time she found her to be poorly – Mary helped Gertrude upstairs and the baby was born early evening, but was dead.  Gertrude’s daughter was also present at the birth and she too swore that the child was dead.

Mary wrapped the body up and put it on a chest, and was somewhat concerned when almost a week later when she called in to check on Gertrude, she found that the body was still there.  She arranged with the parish clerk, Charles E. Easthope, to have the child buried and he agreed to meet her at the church, so she put the decomposing body in a box and went to keep the assignation.

Body left at the Church

Unfortunately, he didn’t turn up so she left the box in the porch, and then discovered that the clerk was not allowed to bury anybody without the clergyman, and in any case, a medical certificate from a doctor was necessary.

By this time it was pitch dark, and Mary was not inclined to go back to the church so she left the body there.  So all in all, a considerable amount of time elapsed before a post mortem was carried out.  This revealed the child to be in a very advanced state of putrefaction and it was impossible for the doctor to discover whether it was born alive or dead.

The Inquest

The jury at the inquest were, I thought, rather harsh in their summing up;  they said that Mary deserved a severe ticking off for not going back to pick up the box with the body in it that night, or indeed the following day.  But come on – the little body by this time was in a horrible state and where was she supposed to put it I wonder.  There were many people by this time who were aware of what had happened, including the police, so really it was not entirely down to Mary surely.

They said that it was surprising that a woman with children of her own should have placed the body where dogs or other animals may have got to it, and they hoped that she had learned her lesson.