Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Body of a Child : My Ancestors Involved in a Mystery

My last blog post referred to two of my Jolly cousins - well, second cousins three times removed to be precise. This time I'm embarking on another Jolly story, as shared recently by my third cousin. She has contact with a Jolly descendent who sent her an article which involves our 3 x great-grandfather Josiah Jolly, who was with two of his sons Josiah Jolly (jnr) and Charles or David Jolly (our second great-grand uncles), when Josiah (jnr) discovered the body of a baby in a field.

*At the time of this event Josiah Jolly (snr) and his wife Susan were living in Plough Street, Bungay. The Plough Inn mentioned below was on this street. Today, Plough Street is known as Wingfield Street. Josiah Jolly (jnr) had married the previous December and the 1851 census return (taken 30 March 1851) puts them both at Shipmeadow Workhouse as Inmates.

The Bury and Norwich Post Newspaper, dated 27 August 1851, reported:

Body of a child found: -- On Saturday evening, as a labouring man, named Jolly, was going home from his work, in the company of his father and brother, he went into a barley-field near St John's-Hill, to gather some rabbits' meat. He saw a parcel lying there, three or four yards from the gate, apparently done up in white cloth. He mentioned it to his father, who told him to leave it alone, as someone might have placed it there intentionally and would come for it. On the following Monday morning, on going to work, he again saw the parcel, and on examining it, found it was an old basket, wrapped up in a cloth, and inside another cloth he found the body of a female infant. The cloth round the body was marked with red cotton, "C.E.O.T." Information was sent to the police, and an inquest was held before Mr Lawrence, on Tuesday, at the Plough Inn*, where Chas. W. Currie, surgeon, who made a post-mortem examination of the body, deposed that it was that of a full-grown infant, and must have been perfectly healthy when born. He did not discover any external marks of violence : it had lived but a very short time, if it had lived at all...


The article my cousin received was from The Bungay Society Journal, No 71, dated December 2010. Here is an extract:

On Monday 18 August 1851 the police received information that the body of an infant had been found on a field near St John's Hill. Local Inspector Nagle went immediately to the spot, and was handed a basket, containing the body of a child by a labourer, Josiah Jolly, who had discovered it.
The following day an inquest into the death was held in the town. Mr Lawrence, a coroner from Ipswich had been summoned to attend, and the sessions were held at the Plough Inn, in Wingfield Street. At that time pubs were often used for such proceedings if there were no other public building available. The Plough was an ancient tavern, and was the last building in Bungay to retain a thatch when it was finally demolished in 1964.
The coroner heard this evidence from Josiah Jolly. "I am a labouring man, and live at Bungay. About half past seven on Saturday evening, as I, my father and brother went to the gate of a field near St John's Hill, intending to gather some rabbits' victuals, and as I was getting over the gate, I saw a parcel lying in the field, about four yards from me, which I pointed out to my father. He desired me to leave it alone...When we reached Mr Sewell's house on the Ollands, I saw him standing by the gate talking to three persons who appeared to be begging and I told him what I had seen...On the Monday morning, as I, my father and brother were going past the same field I went to the gate to see if the parcel was still there and on seeing it, took it up, and brought it into the road to my father. I untied the cloth and found an old basket, on opening which I saw something pinned up in a cloth. I took out the pin and began to remove the cloth, when I observed a child's foot...

On 22 August 1851 the police apprehended a woman named Leggate, against whom there were some peculiarly suspicious circumstances. She was remanded in custody until the 28th, and afterwards consented to a medical examination, but it was certified that she had not given birth to a child, and was discharged.
The final inquest was conducted on 6 September, with negative conclusions. The Jury returned a verdict that the child had "been found dead, but whether born alive or not, the Jury have not sufficient evidence".
It as further reported that many rumours had been in circulation, one traced to a man named George Codling, who was said to have stated that the parcel containing the body had been seen at Jolly's house on the Sunday preceding the day of the discovery in the field. As Codling refused to attend the inquest and confirm his statement before the Jury, the coroner concluded that it was just malicious fabrication: for which he regretted that there was no punishment...

Ordnance Survey Map of Bungay
Shows St John's Hill, The Ollands & Wingfield Street
Click to enlarge

It would appear that my Jolly ancestors had a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or were mixed up with and embroiled in misdemeanours, rumours, and, pardon me for saying so, a series of unfortunate events.


  1. All very curious. My thoughts turn toward a woman rather than a man being responsible for this deed - I don't think a man would have been so meticulous in wrapping up a dead child.

  2. Thank you for your comments Ann, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Where would a man get a pin from anyway? Surely these items would have been in a woman's possession, not a man's. Particularly a working class agricultural labourer! xx

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  4. What a very sad tale. Some ancestors do have that facility for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  5. Finally catching up on Blog Debra, such a very sad tale, I feel so sorry for the lady that was the mother of the baby it must have haunted her all her life & definetaly I think like Ann, it had to be a woman who put the child there...xx