Hi All, I cant believe I have only just found this excellent forum
A relative of mine drowned in Shadwell basin in 1896, the verdict was accidental death.
Dr Wynne Baxter was the coroner for his case, I have a couple of questions please.
1. Does the fact that Dr Wynne Baxter was involved indicate doubt in the first place over the cause of death ? (did he fall or was he pushed ?).
2.Is there anywhere that there is likely to be record of this ?
IE is there a list of Dr Wynne Baxter's cases anywhere ?
Thanks in advance and kind regards......John
Without having any knowledge of the inquest involving your ancestor, while an inquest was always on the lookout for foul play, likely this particular one was more concerned with safety issues (the case with most of them, only a minority dealt with murder). A medical witness likely determined that the cause of death was drowning, but if any marks of violence were lacking, the coroner and jury would have turned to eyewitnesses to try to figure out what the circumstances were that led to his falling into the water.
I wish I could be more helpful with helping you find an account of the inquest. The short answer is that likely the depositions have been destroyed and your best bet to learn more is to hope that there's a newspaper account of the inquest, as it would have been an open affair and the press may have attended. However, not all inquests were covered and most of those that were are only brief descriptions.
The long answer (feel free to skip): Baxter's records, which numbered some 840 volumes and would have included depositions, appear to have been handed over to the County of London in 1921 after Baxter's death. Unfortunately that happened at a time when the County was already overburdened with inquest records and running out of storage space. It seems that receipt of Baxter's records was one factor that led the County to turn to the Home Office for advice about what records should be kept and what shouldn't: the result was the Home Office's 15 Year Rule that allowed the destruction of depositions, notes of evidence, reports of post mortem examinations, etc., records that were dated from 1875 on.
Now, although this is described as a "rule", this policy was merely permissive and not mandatory (at this same time, the County's Local Govt. Committee was looking at a 25 year figure). Also I should say that the Home Secretary advised that records that were deemed worthy of preservation or that dealt with murder or manslaughter verdicts against persons unknown could be excepted from this rule indefinitely; that would not include any records related to a verdict of accidental death. In 1936, the 15 Year Rule was temporarily suspended pending the creation of a Rules Committee to further consolidate coronial procedure (including the care of inquest records). In November 1941, this Committee had still not been set up but the Rule was put into effect again in the face of a paper shortage; as a war time measure the period of retention was temporarily shortened to 10 years to salvage paper. As near as I can tell, records that were of "permanent public interest" like unsolved murders were still excluded.
Please note: Regarding the depositions related to the Whitechapel murders, these may have gone into the custody of the County of Middlesex as they date from 1888 (before the creation of the County of London in 1889); when the papers of other coroners were turned over to the County of London, I have seen mention made of the executors of estates sifting through the documents, sorting them out.
Below: an inventory of records in the possession of the Record Keeper, London County Hall in 1933 (photo by Robert Linford--Robert, if you mind me putting these up, let me know please. This document is included in the file LMA/LCC/PC/COR/1/55).
Following that is another inventory from 1954 (photo by Robert Linford, same file):
Thanks very much for that very useful information.
(thanks to Robert for the photo)
I did look through 3 local papers last weekend for August 1896 but couldn't find out anything.
Doesn't mean it's not there of course I might have just missed it, I intend to return and have another look.
A visit to the LMA is on the cards for me in the not to distant future.
Thanks again and kind regards John Harvey
Say, your relative's name wasn't Henry Francis, was it? A dock laborer who drowned on his birthday, around early August 1896?
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, August 09 1896.
A TITLED DOCK LABOURER.
One does not often meet with a romance in the grim surroundings of the coroner’s court. At the Stepney Temple, on Friday, however, a remarkable tale was told before Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for East London. It was an inquiry respecting the death of Henry Francis von Steinburg, aged fifty-two, a dock labourer, of 96, Maroon-street, Poplar. The deceased was the son of a titled Frenchman, and assumed the name of Von Steinburg twenty-five years ago, to hide his identity, so that he could earn his own living as a labourer. Very few people knew his history, as he was generally known as Henry Francis. On Wednesday—his birthday—he was working on some barges in the Shadwell basin of the London docks when he fell into the water, and, although everything was done to rescue him, he died before he could be recovered. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”
Dave, Wow, Wow and thrice WOW !
That's my boy !
You may have solved few mysteries in one here !
For a start I have the name as Von Spriedenberg and many,many variants of the name.
Another thing is I dint know it was his birthday.
And the son of a titled Frenchman !
I have told my family that we were related to Germany, but it seems I was wrong.
How did you come by this ? Do you have link for it, I wonder if I could get hold of a copy of the newspaper ?
Hmmmmm, I am getting carried away now
Once again thank you very much Dave.