See also

Family of Joshua BOWERS and Susannah KING

Husband: Joshua BOWERS (1836-1914)
Wife: Susannah KING (1844-1881)
Children: Robert BOWERS (1865-1923)
Elizabeth BOWERS (1868-1938)
Arthur Charles BOWERS (1871-1911)
Frances Ruth BOWERS (1873-1958)
Emily Alice BOWERS (1876-1881)
Laura BOWERS (1880-1881)
Marriage 22 May 1864 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

Husband: Joshua BOWERS

Name: Joshua BOWERS
Sex: Male
Father: Peter BOWERS (1811-1892)
Mother: Mary NICHOLSON (b.1809, bur.1882)
Birth 1836 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Christening 13 Nov 1836 (age 0) St Lawrence, Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1861 (age 24-25) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1871 (age 34-35) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1881 (age 44-45) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1891 (age 54-55) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1901 (age 64-65) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Death 1914 (age 77-78) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Burial 24 Dec 1914 St Lawrence, Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

Wife: Susannah KING

Name: Susannah KING
Sex: Female
Father: Robert KING (1818- )
Mother: Sarah LINDLEY (1825- )
Birth 12 Jan 1844 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1871 (age 26-27) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Death 26 Mar 1881 (age 37) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Cause: Suicide
Killed herself while termporarily insane
Burial 30 Mar 1881 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

Child 1: Robert BOWERS

Name: Robert BOWERS
Sex: Male
Birth 4 Jun 1865 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1871 (age 5-6) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1881 (age 15-16) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Living with Mahala Elliston
Census 1901 (age 35-36) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Death 1923 (age 57-58) Sudbury District, Suffolk

Child 2: Elizabeth BOWERS

Name: Elizabeth BOWERS
Sex: Female
Spouse: Albert Edmund DAY (1864-1937)
Birth 9 Aug 1868 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1871 (age 2-3) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1881 (age 12-13) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Living with aunt & uncle James Bird & Mary Ann (nee Bowers)
Death 24 Apr 1938 (age 69) Little Waldingfield, Suffolk

Child 3: Arthur Charles BOWERS

Name: Arthur Charles BOWERS
Sex: Male
Spouse: Rosanna LEWSEY (1871- )
Birth 5 Nov 1871 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1881 (age 9-10) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Living with James & Sarah Bowers
Census 1891 (age 19-20) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1911 (age 39-40) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Farm labourer
Death 4 May 1911 (age 39) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Burial 18 May 1911 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

Child 4: Frances Ruth BOWERS

Name: Frances Ruth BOWERS
Sex: Female
Spouse: John BUTCHER (1868-1908)
Birth 7 Oct 1873 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1881 (age 7-8) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1881 (age 7-8) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
With father Joshua Bowers
Census 1901 (age 27-28) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Census 1911 (age 37-38) Little Waldingfield, Suffolk
Widow, with brother George Gallant
Death 9 Jan 1958 (age 84)
Burial 1958 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

Child 5: Emily Alice BOWERS

Name: Emily Alice BOWERS
Sex: Female
Birth 8 Dec 1876 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Death 26 Mar 1881 (age 4) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Cause: Murder
Destroyed by Susannah her mother who was temporarily insane

Child 6: Laura BOWERS

Name: Laura BOWERS
Sex: Female
Birth 9 Mar 1880 Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Death 26 Mar 1881 (age 1) Great Waldingfield, Suffolk
Cause: Murder
Destroyed by Susannah her mother who was temporarily insane

Note on Husband: Joshua BOWERS

1861 - Great Waldingfield - ag lab

1871 - Great Waldingfield - ag lab

1881 - Upsher Green, Great Waldingfield - ag lab - wid - visitor

1891 - Upsher Green Cottage, Great Waldingfield - farm lab - with Anna Gallant nee Bird

1901 - Heath Cottage, Great Waldingfield - roadman


1861 - Great Waldingfield - ag lab

1871 - Great Waldingfield - ag lab

1881 - Upsher Green, Great Waldingfield - ag lab - wid - visitor

1891 - Upsher Green Cottage, Great Waldingfield - farm lab - with Anna Gallant nee Bird

1901 - Heath Cottage, Great Waldingfield - roadman

Note on Wife: Susannah KING (1)

1871 - Great Waldingfield

Note on Wife: Susannah KING (2)

Shocking tragedy at Great Waldingfield

Bury & Norwich Post 29 Mar 1881

A fearful tragedy occurred last Saturday morning at the parish of Great Waldingfield about three and a half miles from Sudbury, resulting in the sacrifice of three lives, and not improbably of a fourth. The parishes of Great and Little Waldingfield are of considerable extent, and in the former there are clusters of cottages situated some on the high road from Sudbury to Lavenham, and others near the church and on several so-called “greens”. About half a mile to the south east of the Rectory, approached by a winding green lane and a field path, nestle about a score houses in a hollow known as Upshire Green, and one of these houses will for many years by pointed out as the scene of an awful event.


In one of a row of four red brick houses, with pretty little garden plots in front and a large piece of land behind, lives an agricultural labourer named Joshua Bowers, working as horseman for Mr J Walter Hills. He has married twice, and had living with him a grown up son by his first wife and six children (two sons and four daughters) by his second wife. This poor woman since the birth of her last child, about twelve months ago, has been in a weak state of health, and has suffered at times from mental depression. For days together she would remain in bed on the plea that she was too ill to get up, when at other time, even in the late cold weather, she would be up by five or six o’clock in the morning. Frequently she would be hysterical, and when sitting up at meals would burst out into an uncontrolled fit of crying, and be unable to eat her food. She frequently complained of her head, and said the noise of the children was too much for her, and she wanted to get away from them. For some time she was an in-patient of St Leonard’s Hospital at Sudbury, and was only discharged thence on Monday week. While she was in the Hospital, and since her return, her mother has been backwards and forwards to the house, to assist her in the domestic work and in taking care of the younger children. There is an elder girl, Elizabeth, aged 14, who also helped and go the meals ready for her father and brothers, who are all farm labourers. It appears that on Saturday morning Mrs Bowers remained in bed till after her husband and elder children had had their breakfasts, keeping three of the younger children with her – the baby, Laura, about a twelve month old Emily, aged four and Ruth, of the age of seven years. The grandmother went in as usual to help her daughter and grandchildren, remaining till nearly ten o’clock, when she left to go for the weekly parochial relief, leaving the eldest girl at home to clear up. Shortly after the old lady had gone, the mother went downstairs in her night dress into the front keeping room, and took a razor from the cupboard used by her husband, saying that she wanted to cut her corns. The girl thought nothing of it, the mother apparently never having exhibited any homicidal symptoms, and continued scrubbing the floor. A few minutes afterwards, however, she heard a violent screaming, and on going upstairs into the back bedroom was horrified to see two of her sisters lying on the bed bathed in blood, and her mother leaning over the baby with the razor in her hand, as if she were cutting its throat. The poor girl rushed up to her mother and tried to wrench the razor from her, screaming out, “Oh mother, dear! You are killing them; you have killed them. Do, mother, dear, let me have the razor,” A neighbour named Mrs Carter hearing the shrieks for assistance, went in, and saw the poor woman stooping down, and her eldest daughter by her side bravely struggling to get the razor from her. In doing this Elizabeth, the girl, had her hands severely cut. Finding she could not succeed, she, as she says, jumped down the flight of stairs almost at one bound and ran into the road, her clothes streaming with blood, and called wildly for help. Mrs Carter, seeing the mother coming towards her, ran into the front room, and also called loudly for help. Mr Day of the beer house, who lives only two doors off, went in and ran upstairs, but in the few seconds that had intervened the unfortunate woman had cut her own throat, and was found on the bed lifeless by the side of the bodies of the three children. On examining the poor little ones, it was found that the baby and Emily, the two younger ones, were quite dead, but the elder, Ruth, though insensible, was alive. The assistants did what they could to staunch the blood, and at once sent for medical aid. Before very long Dr Holden, from Sudbury, and Mr Horsford, from Melford arrived, and the former bound up the child’s throat and ordered her to be removed to a neighbour’s house. She was not able to say much except that her mother when she returned upstairs with the razor, attacked her first and cut her throat, and then, leaving her on the bed for dead, went and repeated the fearful deed on her sisters. The scene was heart rending and terrible in the extreme. On the bed just as they fell, in pools of blood and in their night dresses, lay the mother and the three little children, all with frightful gashes to their throats. The floor was also covered with blood. The stairs and floors of the lower rooms were also covered with spots, where the eldest daughter had passed. The police officer, Double, who was at once sent for, went to Bury in the afternoon to arrange for the inquest. The Rector, The Rev F J Braithwaite, did all he could to assist by sending women to attend to the bodies, clean the house, and do what was necessary. Inspector Grimwood, on hearing of the event, went over and made arrangements for an officer to be on the spot. For several hours after the murder the house was besieged by the neighbours and visitors, most of whom, however, were properly denied admittance by the Rector’s orders. The terrible event has created immense excitement in the whole district, and much sympathy is expressed for the bereaved husband and father.


Yesterday morning an inquest was held at Thomas Day’s beer house on Upshire Green, before J W Ion, Esq, Deputy Coroner, and the following Jury: Messrs. W Poole (Foreman), J Borley, G Hills, W Hills, H Hills, W Herbert, T Avis, J Steed, J W Hills, J E Bird, W Goody, S Andrews and C Poole.


The Coroner, in opening the proceedings said their first duty would be to inquire into the deaths of Emily Bowers aged four years, and Laura Bowes aged one year, and the Jury having viewed the bodies.


Elizabeth Bowers aged 13 who came in crying bitterly, was the first witness examined. She deposed: I am the daughter of Joshua Bowers who is a labourer living in this parish. On Saturday morning, about half past eleven o’clock, I was downstairs scrubbing the house, and the children were upstairs with my mother. I heard the children screaming, and on running upstairs I saw my mother killing the children – cutting their throats. She had Emily on the bed, and was cutting her throat with a razor.


What did you do? – Got on the bed, sir, and tried to get my mother off. I got hold of her underneath her arms, and got her off the bed. Laura, the baby, was also lying on the bed, and as I got my mother off the bed she drew the razor across the baby’s throat.


What did you do then? - I got my mother down and tried to get the razor, and as I tried to get it, it ran into my right hand.


Did she cut it, or did you do it accidentally? – I got hold of the point of it, and it cut my hand. I got up and my mother got up after me. She held out her arms to get me, and I jumped from top to bottom of the stairs.


Had you the razor with you? – No, sir, I could not get the razor.


Did you hear any more screaming? – No, sir. A few minutes afterwards I went upstairs again, and saw my mother and the two children lying on the bed, dead, with their throats cut.


Did you see her try to get the razor in the morning? She sent my sister Ruth down for it about two hours before this happened: Ruth is seven years old.


Did she take it? – No, sir, I would not let her have it. My mother then came down directly after it; she was in her night dress, and got the razor herself. She said she wanted to cut her corns, because they were so uneasy, and I said, “Won’t the other razor do?” meaning the black-handled one, which my father uses for his corns. She said, “No, your father have not sharpened it like this.” I said, “Mind you don’t cut your feet, mother,” and she made no answer, but took the sharpest razor, and went upstairs.


To a juror: I met Ruth coming downstairs, with her throat cut.


Elizabeth, wife of Charles Carter, engine-driver, of Great Waldingfield, deposed: I live next door to Bowers. About half past eleven on Saturday morning I heard screaming, and ran into Bowers house. I ran to the bottom of the stairs and asked what was the matter. On receiving no answer, I ran upstairs, and when I was about half way up the little girl Ruth came to the top of the stairs holding up her hands, and said, “Oh!” I saw that her throat was cut, and she was covered with blood from head to foot; she had only her chemise on. When I got to the top of the stairs I looked across the room and saw little Emily lying on the bed on her face, smeared with blood. Lizzie, the last witness, was down on the floor, with her mother, and saying, “My dear mother, my dear mother, you’re killing of them, do let me have the razor.” Mrs Bowers was alive then, and had not attempted to cut her own throat.


At this point the witness was suddenly overcome, and attacked with violent hysterics, which necessitated her removal from the room for a time, under the care of Mr Horsford, surgeon, who was in attendance to give evidence.


Thomas Day, beer house keeper, of Great Waldingfield, deposed: I live next door to Bowers. On Saturday morning, about twenty minutes past eleven, my wife called me, and I rushed into Bowers house. I first saw Lizzie and Ruth downstairs; Ruth had her arms spread out, and she was smeared with blood. I went upstairs as quick as I could, and saw the two children lying on the bed, apparently dead. The mother was lying by their side, and I could see that her throat was cut but she was still breathing. I came down as quick as I could, and gave an alarm outside. She was making a rattling noise in the throat when I left. Mrs Carter was not in the house when I went: I saw her outside, and someone was holding her up.


Mr Joseph Horsford, surgeon, of Long Melford, deposed: About one o’clock on Saturday afternoon I went into Bowers house, and attended first to the child Ruth, learning that they were dead upstairs. I afterwards went upstairs and saw Mrs Bowers and the two children, Emily and Laura, all of whom were lying on the bed, with their throats cut. The youngest, Laura, had her trachea completely severed, and the jugular veins on both sides. Emily’s trachea was also severed, and the jugular vein on the right side. Death must have been almost instantaneous in the case of Laura; Emily might have lived two or three minutes after the wound was inflicted.


Mrs Carter having sufficiently recovered now completed her evidence. She said: I ran to the front room window, Mrs Bowers had then just got up off the floor, and came towards me, holding out her hands. I ran downstairs as fast as I could, and when I got outside the door I saw Mr Day.


The Coroner in summing up said there could be no doubt but that these two poor children met with their deaths at the hands of their mother, and It appeared to him that there was no other verdict open to the Jury, on the evidence adduced, than one of wilful murder against the mother.


The Jury thereupon returned a verdict in accordance with the Coroner’s View.


A second inquest was then held before the same Jury on the body of Susannah, wife of Joshua Bowers.


Joshua bowers, labourer, deposed: Deceased was my wife, and was 38 years of age. On Saturday morning I left my house about nine o’clock, after breakfast; my wife was then upstairs, in bed, I believe; I last saw her alive when I got up at about five o’clock. She fared to sleep pretty well, and did not disturb me in the night. She has been queer of late, and has been low-spirited at times, for more than a twelvemonth off and on, suffering with pain in her head. For a month she was at St Leonard’s Hospital, Sudbury, and she had only been home a fortnight. On Saturday, being sent for, I came home about twelve o’clock, but I did not go upstairs till about six o’clock in the evening.


A Juror: What was the state of her mind? – She appeared low. When I left home at nine I called to her and asked if she was going to get up. She replied, “Bye and bye,” but that her head was so bad that she should lie a little longer.


Did ever she threaten to do anything like this? – No.


You don’t know that she ever had a thought? – Not in my hearing.


To the Coroner: She has said to me recently that she fared as if she could not have any love for anything – that she should like to love the children, but fared as if she could not have any love for anybody belonging to her.


Has she ever said that she felt the children were a trouble to her? – I have not heard her.


Elizabeth Bowers, the eldest girl, was recalled, and repeated some portion of her former evidence, in order to show how the death of her mother occurred. She said she did not see her mother use the razor on herself. She could not get the razor, and was so frightened that she jumped downstairs. She next saw her mother dead, lying on the bed, a few minutes afterwards: she saw that she had cut her throat. Never heard her mother say she wanted to get rid of the children, or threaten to take their lives. Her mother said nothing while witness was struggling to get the razor. When she was on the bed after the children she said to witness, “Leave me alone, Lizzie.”


Mr Horsford was also recalled and deposed: I have known the deceased about six months, and have attended her off and on during that time. About a month ago she was under my treatment for congestion of the liver, with great depression of spirits. She recovered from the congestion of the liver, but there remained great debility, with great depression. I never noticed any symptoms indicating insanity. O On Saturday I examined the body of the deceased woman, and found a cut extending through the trachea and partially dividing the carotid artery on the left side and the interual jugular vein. There were evidences of her having breathed after the wound was inflicted. She probably lived three or four minutes afterwards. The depression of spirits might have originated from the congestion of the liver, and in the end was probably acute mania.


The Rev F J Braithwaite, Rector of Great Waldingfield, who was present throughout the inquiry, tendered his evidence, and deposed that he had known the deceased for nine years. During the last year she had been suffering from great debility and depression of spirits, and he sent her to St Leonard’s Hospital, Sudbury, last autumn, but she was not able to rest there on account of her anxiety about her children. She returned home in consequence of the advice of the medical man, and remained at home during all the winter in a weak low way. About ten weeks before her death he thought it was not fit that she should be left alone, and arranged with her mother Mrs Robert King, to be with her during the necessary absence of her husband. This continued about three weeks, when deceased expressed a wish to go to the hospital again, and promised to stay there until discharged. He accordingly arranged for her to go, and she remained there till she was discharged by Dr Holden, who reported her to be decidedly better, and she spoke of herself as being much better, though she still suffered from head-ache and occasional depression of spirits. He saw her last Friday, when she went to the Rectory for the present of a dress for one of her children; she then said that though her head was bad, she had been brighter lately. Witness had been of opinion that her case would end in religious melancholy. In his opinion she was a woman of decidedly gentle disposition, and one most unlikely to hurt anybody.


After a brief summing up by the Coroner, the Jury returned a verdict of “Temporary Insanity,” and the proceedings terminated, having lasted upwards of three hours.