Crimes of Lincoln’s past: The Fossdyke drowning

A 23-year-old Lincoln woman found guilty of murdering her child in August 1895 was spared the death penalty at the eleventh hour.

Hannah Elizabeth Wright confessed to killing her three-year-old son, Albert Edward Wright, by drowning him in the Fossdyke.

Her defence of temporary insanity was rejected by the judge who sentenced Wright to death.

However, a petition to prevent her from being hanged was signed by the bishop of Lincoln, the mayor and deputy mayor, and many of the city’s industrialists.

Under pressure, her sentence was downgraded to life imprisonment five days after the trial.

The court heard that Wright was lodging at 23 Alexandra Terrace with her brother and sister-in-law.

She had previously been in domestic service in Weston, Nottinghamshire, where she had her child, who lived with a babyminder in the village.

Wright was also in a relationship with a Mr Spurr from Branston, who was unaware that she had a child.

Her sister-in-law pleaded with Wright to not hide the truth, although this appeared to make no difference.

Wright said that her son was going to be adopted by a family in Nottingham and that Spurr would never know anything about him.

A day later, Wright visited Weston secretly and took the child back with her.

On the way back to her brother’s house, she stopped by the Fossdyke and drowned her son.

Her behaviour that evening was picked up on by James Fenton of Danesgate, who noticed a woman walking by the canal with a child.

Later that night, he saw the same woman, but this time with no child.

Police visited the house the next day to speak to Wright, who was not in.

The detective explained to the sister-in-law that a young child had been found in the Fossdyke and that they were questioning women who were known to have young children.

When Wright returned, she eventually admitted to the murder.

Her sister-in-law said that she was unnerved by how composed and calm she was about the incident.

She was taken to the police station and said: “I’ve come to give myself up for killing my child.”

After being cautioned she released the following statement:

“I am a domestic servant and have been living at Mr Marshall’s in Branston, but have been staying with my brother at 23 Alexandra Terrace since Friday last. On Monday night a little after nine o’clock I went down by Brayford and threw it into the water and went back to my brother’s directly.”

The events of this story were researched and documented by Douglas Wyn, in Murder & Crime Lincoln.