Author Topic: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?  (Read 899 times)

Offline This Boy

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The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« on: Wednesday 14 March 18 19:33 GMT (UK) »
My first cousin five times removed was the victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle but was she also a Prostitute and what on earth happened to her in life?

The Carlisle Patriot newspaper on 21st October 1837 carried the following words  about an incident which was also reported similarly both locally and nationally in several other titles:

Joseph Butterworth, aged 64, was charged with having feloniously thrown upon Eleanor Ronson [from my Dalston, Cumberland Ronson forebears] of Carlisle a quantity of corrosive fluid or other destructive matter, whereby the said Eleanor Ronson was burnt and disfigured. Mr. Ramshay appeared for the prosecution.

Eleanor Ronson - On the 29th of September last I was in Carlisle. I did not then live there, I usually sleep at Mrs. Black’s and did so on the night in question. It was after midnight when I went to her house. I knocked at the door, and Mrs. Black said ‘Eleanor, is that you.’ She came to the door and the prisoner came out of his house. I was then standing in the street; it is called Stubb’s Buildings. The prisoner said “damned whore, what are you doing at this time of night.” I said I am not speaking to you, go to your bed!” He then said “You! I’ll disfigure you for the life to come,” and threw vitriol over me, which burnt my cheek and also my gown, I fell down, but was soon got up, and went into Mrs. Black’s. The gown was here produced, it was very much injured, nearly one half of it being burnt to rags.

The prisoner on being asked if he had any question to put to the witness, asked her if she did not come into his house and throw down some liquor which had got to apply to bad leg; and said a great deal about being disturbed by the witness and man, and that the witness Ronson had thrown piece of broken pot at him.

Jane Black.—l live in Stubb’s Buildings. On the night of the 29th September, Miss Ronson came to my house after midnight, she was staying with me at the time. She has a bouse of her own now. When she knocked at my door, I said, “Who’s here. Eleanor that you?” she said, “Yes”; and the prisoner came out of his house and said “ you damned whore! What do you want at this time of night?" was then desired to go to bed, but threatened to disfigure her; he then went into his house and came out again immediately and threw something over Eleanor Ronson which I thought to be dirty water. She fell down and said was burnt. Her dress was new that night; it was also very much burnt. The prisoner in his defence again said a great deal about his being disturbed by bad men and bad women, and that even his property had been injured.

The Jury consulted short time, and then returned a verdict of Guilty.

We understand that Butterworth escaped from the officers. 

Further reports state simply that:

At the opening of the Court on Thursday morning it was stated that the prisoner Butterworth had made his escape, on his way from the Court to the House of Correction. The bailiifs were all called up on the previous evening, and not one of them it appeared could be found who had the prisoner in charge, and it was proved that nearly the whole of them had been very negligent during the afternoon, and that some them were very much liquor. It was the general opinion of the Court that every bailiff who could not prove that he was officially employed 'otherwise at the time the prisoner made his escape, should be mulcted his payment for attending the sessions. The prisoner, we believe, has not yet been found.
Cont'd......


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Offline This Boy

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 14 March 18 19:34 GMT (UK) »
I am researching my RONSON ancestors who are first recorded in Dalston, near Carlisle in 1808 and they remained for well over 150 years.

I can find only one reference to this Eleanor and that is in the 1841 census when she is listed as age 20 at Gatesgill and Raughton in the Parish of Dalston with Garnat Ronson, also aged 20. I know Garnet is one of 6 Children of Joseph Ronson b 1787 and Ann Ronson nee Price born 1794 . Garnett was born at Dalston in 1815 making him about 26, not 20, at the time of the 1841 census. I have lots of information about Garnett as he travels through life. However, I have been unable to find any Baptism, Marriage or Burial records for this Eleanor on Ancestry, Free BMD or Family Search. Neither can I find any other record of her in subsequent Census returns or in other Newspaper articles.

Frustratingly, neither can I find the offender Butterworth or witness Jane Black in the 1841 census at the so called Stubbs Buildings. I understand from a brief reference via a Google seacrh that Stubbs buildings was on English Damside at Carlisle. However, it appears from a report in The Carlisle Journal dated 6th October 1865 that my Ronson relative may have been been moving in circles that were far from illustrious. It reads “ It would be wrong not to mention as amongst the work of this year, a very desirable moral and sanitary improvement in the gutting of Stubbs's Buildings, at the old Sallyport, which for time out of mind had been one of the worst rookeries in the town. These consisted of thirteen wretchedly ruinous tenements, inhabited by Cyprians and other vicious characters the lowest class. The property having passed into the hands of Mr. Slee, painter, he remodelled the vile den so soon as he had been able to eject the vile inmates, a task we need not say of no slight difficulty, and he has now upon the site eight houses of four rooms each, which are inhabited by decent and respectable tenants.”

So, what leads me to think that Eleanour may have been a prostitute?

Eleanor was apparantly about 16 years of age at the time of the acid attack. She was not living in Carlisle (presumably at Dalston), yet she was present there regularly, staying overnight with Jane Black at an address in Stubbs Buildings. She arrived after midnight into what was clearly a dreadful, squalid Victorian neighbourhood reputed, albeit in a much later report,to have been inhabited by Cyprians (prostitutes). She was wearing a brand new dress and the offender said she was with a man, who doesnt seem to feature in the case. Perhaps he didnt want to get involved! The offender also makes much in his defence of being distrurbed by bad men and bad women.  He has clearly been so outraged that it appears he has prepared his acid in advance– one presumes he wouldnt have acid on hand by chance. Maybe he felt justified in carrying out such an attack if the victim was a prostitute. There was much, often hypocritical, Victorian moral outrage towards prostitution. Then he actually tells Eleanor what he is going to do before he throws the acid meaning it is more likely premeditated as opposed to an impulsive act. Moreover, he calls her a damned whore. Taking all this together the inescapable conclusion I must draw, albeit far from certain, is that my poor girl relation had become involved in prostitution at a very young age in the Victorian slums of Carlisle. Does anyone feel I am likely wrong here or am jumping too strongly to such a conclusion? Does anyone read this differently and why? Does anyone think I have missed something that adds to my theory?

Furthermore, stumped again I seek advice or suggestions about my latest mystery: who were Eleanor’s parents. I suspect Joseph and Ann simply as it is perhaps more likely Garnet was with his sister in 1841 than a cousin. Joseph did have three brothers living in the Dalston area at the time although I thought I had fully mapped out the children of each. Then what happened to Eleanor with regards to Marriage?, Occupation? Residence? Or Death?

Any suggestions, comments or opinions will be very gratefully received.

And there was me thinking acid attacks were something new in 2018!


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Offline ..claire..

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 14 March 18 19:47 GMT (UK) »
What a fascinating story !

Remember in the 1841 census ages would be rounded down to the nearest 5 years.

It's possible she may be a little older.

Have you accounted for all Joseph & Ann's children

What about this -  given Ellen could be a shortened form of Eleanor, and so forth

Helen Bapt. 30 May 1818 Dalston daughter of Joseph and Anne Ronson

Claire
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Offline This Boy

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 14 March 18 19:55 GMT (UK) »
Hi again Claire, ;D

Thank you.

I was unaware about the rounding down of ages. That helps. Thank you.

I did have Helen as one of Joseph and Anne's children but it hadn't occurred to me that Helen and Eleanor could be one and the same. Great suggestion.

Offline Greensleeves

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #4 on: Thursday 15 March 18 15:06 GMT (UK) »
Fascinating story, poor woman!  Life was hard in those days and I think I, like you, would reach the conclusion that she was a prostitute, albeit on circumstantial evidence.  It's not often that you can say for certain so we are forced to rely on clues.  Howeverf, in one census a young lady in my family tree is shown as being unmarried but co-habiting with a man.  The enumerator, presumably with a flourish of distaste, put her occupation down as 'Concubine'.  ;D
Suffolk: Pearl(e),  Garnham, Southgate, Blo(o)mfield,Grimwood/Grimwade,Josselyn/Gosling
Durham/Yorkshire: Sedgwick/Sidgwick, Shadforth
Ireland: Davis
Norway: Torreson/Torsen/Torrison
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Offline Gan Yam

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #5 on: Thursday 15 March 18 22:26 GMT (UK) »
There is an interesting, if not slightly steamy, book (fiction but based on fact) about that particular occupation in Carlisle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sex-Victorian-City-Carlisle-Prostitute/dp/095638840X
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Offline lanercost

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #6 on: Friday 16 March 18 00:52 GMT (UK) »
Google Maps link to show you where Stubbs Buildings was: https://goo.gl/maps/sPXGsD3DkMH2
And old map: https://i.imgur.com/wnoJyF1.jpg

Offline trish1120

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #7 on: Friday 16 March 18 09:27 GMT (UK) »
1841 Census
Dalston, Cumberland
Garnat Ronson, 20, Gardener
Ellanor Ronson, 20

If this isnt his Wife it may be your Eleanor and his Sister;

GARNET Ronson christened 8 September 1816 Dalston to JOSEPH/ANNE

EDIT;
1851 He is married to a Sarah with several children, Joseph Ronson, age 66, born Peneybridge, Lancashire, Widr, Gardener, is visiting.
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Cummins, Miskelly(IRELAND + NZ) ,Leggett (SFK + NFK ENGLAND + NZ),Purdy ( NBL ENGLAND + NZ ), Shaw YKS, LANCs + NZ), Holdsworth(LINCS +LANCS + NZ), Moloney, Dean, Fitzpatrick, ( County Down,IRE) Newby(NBL.ENG, Costello(IRE), Ivers, Murray(IRE),Reay(NBL.ENG) Reid (BERW.SCOTLAND)

Offline This Boy

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Re: The victim of an Acid attack in early Victorian Carlisle. Prostitute?
« Reply #8 on: Friday 16 March 18 22:20 GMT (UK) »
Thank you to everyone for your help and interest:

Greensleeves – a great example of some Victorian indignation there. I know of a police officer in our community who about 20 years ago was demoted for recording on official forms a prisoners occupation as ‘Burglar’. Perhaps his ancestor was enumerating in 1841!  ;D

lanercost - Thank you. Really great to see that map. Somehow it adds a little extra depth to this tale to actually see the exact location of Stubbs buildings on an old map. I shall be visiting this specific area (I guess Stubbs Buildings will be long gone now) when I visit Carlisle.

Thanks for that Gan Yam. Brilliant suggestion. I will be ordering that book this weekend and will be happy to pass it on to anyone else who is interested after I have read it.  I also just found and enjoyed a press article about the author and the methods used to research it: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/lifestyle/features/article/Sex-in-Victorian-Carlisle-2dc79918-f0df-42d3-b96d-7889d8993375-ds

Thanks Trish, you are correct with your information. I have the family pretty well sorted from Ancestry. The main question I have not resolved specifically is about Eleanor's Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Residence and Death. The only definite info I have is the 1841 census when, as you rightly point out, she is listed with Garnet. I was initially thinking she was a sister who I had not come across. I am now leaning more to think that Claire’s suggestion may well be right; Eleanor may well be Garnet’s sister Helen b 1818 as I have not been able to find any marriage, census records, newspaper reports, death or burial for Helen. I suppose prostitutes had a good motivation for changing or varying their name. Moreover, I have been able to find lots of information about the lives of Joseph and Anne's other 5 children, including Garnet, but not a single trace of Helen.

Any other suggestions about how I could take this forward will be very gratefully received.