#52Ancestors – Week 29 – “Newsworthy“
John Kilburn Howe, older brother of my 2nd great grandmother Margaret Howe was in the news following the shocking death of four year old John Harbottle in Bishop Auckland, County Durham during the summer of 1841.
The August 27th edition of the Newcastle Courant reported on the child’s inquest where it was stated that John Kilburn Howe had given him a “cup of rum”
The alcohol was thought to have caused the boy to have convulsions which resulted in his death and “the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter”
John Kilburn Howe and the child’s mother Elizabeth Harbottle, “a woman of loose character” were committed for trial at the County Assizes Court in Durham.
Born in 1816, John Kilburn Howe had grown up in the Bishop Auckland area where a few months prior to the inquest, he had been recorded on the 1841 census, still living with his parents John Howe and Margaret Kilburn and younger siblings, Edward and Mary
Also living with the family was a Margaret Howe believed to be John Kilburn’s wife Margaret Liddle whom he had married in 1836.
The fact that John Kilburn was a twenty five year old married man with a steady job working as a Blacksmith alongside his father makes me wonder what he was doing visiting the house of a single mother in the early hours after a nights drinking!
Was he a dubious character, or was it a case of alcohol impairing his judgement, resulting in a tragic loss of life as sadly still happens today?
John Kilburn Howe and Elizabeth Harbottle had to wait, presumably in Durham gaol, six months for their case to be heard as the Assizes Court only sat twice a year in August and February.
There was very little reported in the newspapers about the trial as it seems the case was dismissed quite quickly by the jury and the pair were discharged on 21 February 1842.
I assume there was not enough evidence to prove it was the alcohol that cased the death of poor young John Harbottle and today I imagine John Kilburn and Elizabeth would have been charged with other offences under the child protection laws which were sadly non-existent in Victorian England.
Move to Newcastle
What John Kilburn did immediately after his court appearance is not known, but by 1851, the entire Howe family, including my great grandmother Margaret who had married in Auckland during 1846, had moved to the Elswick area of Newcastle, Northumberland.
John Kilburn’s wife Margaret seems to have stood by her errant husband and the pair were recorded on the 1851 census as living together on the same street (East Elswick Terrace) as my 2nd and 3rd great grandparents.
Six years later on 18 Oct 1857, John Kilburn died suddenly at the home of his father who registered the death.
He was just 41 years old and cause of death was recorded as “apoplexy” indicating a sudden loss of consciousness perhaps caused by a stroke.
Margaret did not have any children with John Kilburn and it is not know what happened to her after her husbands death.
Looks like they probably moved away due to the scandal
Hopefully link below works to PDF version of local history book “Elswick through the Years”
Click to access elswick-through-the-years1.pdf
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Nice Thank you
very interesting story…especially that they were acquitted – I had assumed that a conviction was automatic. Still, the death of the child was tragic – I wonder if the boy’s mother every forgave herself.
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A little late Theresa but thankyou for the comment