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The wicked Contance Kent, Wiltshire, 1860.
In 1840, in Tettenhall, near to Wolverhampton, a child was born to William and Mary Gough, the third of their children, she was christened in May, as Susan Sophia Elizabeth Gough. Just over a year later, her father William died, leaving Mary Gough with the responsibilty of raising the three youngsters. She seems to have done a fairly good job, although both Susan, and her sister Anne, when they were old enough went into domestic service, Mary Gough, appears to have been a very astute business woman, and managed to get her son William, a good education, and also to move away from the area. Susan meanwhile, obviously not so well educated, must have struggled with spelling all her names, and so shortened them to just Elizabeth Gough. In the 1850s, she was in service to a large family in Edgbaston, Birmingham, but moved to a new job with a family who resided in Road ( now Rode ) in Wiltshire. She would come to regret this decision, for the rest of her natural life, for the family were the Kents, at Road Hill House, which was to become the scene of a sensational murder in 1860.
Samuel Saville-Kent, the head of the family, was a renowned womaniser. Even as his first wife, Mary Ann (nee Windus ) lay dying from an obstuction of the bowels, he was making merry with his childrens governess, Mary Drewe Pratt. His wife had already borne him 9 children, although 4 of them had already died, and she was soon to follow. Soon after, much too soon according to the villagers, he married the delightful Miss Pratt, and she fairly quickly produced another child, Francis Saville Kent. He was to be a healthy young chap, and made good progress, although there was some discontent in the household. This came in form of his rather stroppy daughter, Constance Emilie Kent, and her older brother, William Saville- Kent. So much trouble did she cause, that her father sent her away to be educated, she, only returning home during holidays. Her father also hired a new nursemaid, Elizabeth Gough, described by all who knew her as a pretty girl of 19, a point that would not have gone unnoticed by the randy old goat, Samuel Seville-Kent.
On the night of 28th June, 1860, Elizabeth Gough put the 3 year old lad into his night clothes, and tucked him up in his bed. When she went back to get him up at just after 7am the next morning, he had disappeared. a quick search of the house revealed no trace of him so his father rode off to report him missing, although he did not inform the local Police for at least two hours. The grounds were searched, and in an earth closet in the garden, the body of the child was found. There was a deep stab wound on his chest, and several cuts to his throat which had almost caused decapitation. Superintendent Foley, and his Officers got nowhere with their inquires, making several fatal mistakes and losing time in the process. Under some pressure from the Magistrates, anxious to solve the case, and believing the culprit to be the Nursemaid, Foley was forced to arrest Elizabeth Gough. Unlike the biased and class conscious Magistrates, he did not charge her at this stage, as he had no evidence at all. It was then decided to call in Scotland Yard, and after some delay, Detective Jonathon Whicher, arrived on the scene. Within a short space of time, for he did not believe in the class system, Elizabeth Gough was released, and Whicher homed in on Kents daughter, Constance. Much against the Magistrates wishes, Constance was arrested, and Whicher was given 7 days in which to find enough evidence to charge her. He failed, mainly because of the botched job done by the local Police. She was released, and Whicher was recalled back to London, his career badly dented. There the case then rested, and Elizabeth Gough, although cleared of any involvement in the murder, left her employment and went back to her mother.
By this time, Elizabeths mother was living in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, the proprietor of some houses, and her son William, teaching in a local school. The wicked tongues though were never still, and she found it impossible to get further work. This also effected her sister Anne, who also returned home. One can only imagine the ordeal she was continuing to endure, the horror of her little charge being so cruelly murdered, and the spiteful and nasty gossip she had to face. Then came some sort of salvation, in 1865, Constance Kent, finally, confessed to committing the deed, just as Detective Whicher had believed. It was not soon enough to save his career however, he had been forced out of his post 2 years before. Nor did it make a lot of difference to Elizabeth Gough, the damage had already been done, and she carried on living her quiet life in Keyworth. She never married, nor did she ever admit to having any " relations " with the obnoxious Samuel Saville- Kent. She did however return to her birth place after her mother had passed away, and died in the area in 1911. She had though, had a lucky escape. Just because she was of the lower order, she had been branded a killer, and could have faced an executioner for something she was entirely innocent of. Mr Kent never said he was sorry, after all, she was only the domestic help. Detective Whicher went into retirement, totally vindicated, although never properly compensated for the dreadful treatment he had endured. That Class system would still seem to be around today.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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