Criminal Women: A Mysterious Parcel

By Jo Faulkner, Record Assistant

Records of the North Riding Quarter Sessions, which are held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office, tell many stories. An unusual case that came before the justices in 1869 made headlines across the country.

On 25th August 1869 a securely wrapped hamper was loaded onto a train from Middlesbrough to Guisborough. The worker who weighed the parcel thought he heard sounds coming from the package and at first imagined that it was the station cat.

The parcel was addressed to Mr William Carr, a schoolmaster of Northgate, Guisborough. The package was taken to Carr’s house where he and his lodger George Beaumont opened it. To their astonishment, the men found a five-week old baby, carefully packed and wrapped in a plaid shawl with a note which read: ‘Please take care of this child for George Beaumont is the farther [sic] of it’.

QSB 1869 4/8/16 Evidence in the case against Martha and Mary Falkingham: Note found inside the hamper containing a baby boy

The said Deponent William Carr on his Oath saith

I am a Schoolmaster at Gisbro’. On the evening

of Wednesday last about 25 minutes to 9 I received

the hamper now produced from the last witness.

I assisted to open the hamper and took out

a piece of paper and underneath there was

a child alive in the hamper. The child was

wrapped in the plaid shawl now produced. I gave

information to the police. The paper now produced

was taken out of the hamper afterwards. George

Beaumont is a blacksmith and lodges with me

and has done so for 3 or 4 months. The Relieving

Officer came and took the child away from my

house. The child now in Court is the child who

was found in the hamper.

Wm Carr

QSB 1869 4/8/16 Deposition or statement of William Carr

The shocked men sent for the police and the baby was taken to the Guisborough Union Workhouse. Two women who had made enquiries about sending the parcel were traced. They were Martha Falkingham, a widow and her teenage daughter Mary. The male baby had been packed in a hamper and taken from Stockton on Tees to Middlesbrough by steamer, before Mary had posted him to Guisborough via the train. Martha did not seem surprised when sergeant Newsom of Guisborough attended her home in Stockton on Tees, responding, “You’ll have come about the child. Has it taken any hurt?… Shall I come to any harm by sending it to Guisborough? It is a bad job. I’ve been to a deal of trouble lately, but this will be worst of all”. In fact, both women showed some concern for the baby’s welfare. Mary stated that she had bought the hamper especially for 14d as she wanted it to be as comfortable as possible. Robert Hewitson, the booking clerk at Middlesbrough train station stated that Mary had told him to be very careful with the parcel.

In her deposition, Mary Falkingham, who had given birth to the baby at the workhouse in Skipton, claimed that Beaumont, a blacksmith, had refused to pay for the child, but he had said that if they sent it to him, he would keep it. Beaumont denied this and declared that he had offered to marry Mary, but she refused the offer and demanded only that he pay for the child’s upkeep, as she would not work for it herself.

The said Deponent George Beaumont on his Oath

saith. I am a blacksmith at Gisbro’. The address

on the hamper now produced and the paper now

produced are I believe in the handwriting of

Mary Falkingham but I cannot swear to it.

I was in bed when the child came to Mr Carr’s.

I did not expect it. The last time I saw the

prisoner Mary Falkingham was the night before

she went to Skipton. She came to see me

at the hospital. I knew she was in the family

way. I asked her what she was going to do

with child. She said I must pay for it I said

I would not pay for it but I would marry her

but she said she would not have me. She

also said she would work for the child herself

I said nothing more to her.

Cross Exd I told you I wouldn’t keep the child

if you sent it to me.

By the Bench. The interview I have spoken of was

since Christmas, and I think it was about March.

George Beaumont

QSB 1869 4/8/16 Deposition or statement of George Beaumont

The women were charged with unlawfully and wilfully abandoning and exposing a child whereby the life of the said child was endangered. The criminal court of appeal decided that there was a possibility that the prisoners were not aware that they were committing a criminal offence and a lenient sentence was recommended. Mary and Martha were imprisoned for one month with hard labour.

QSB 1869 4/8/16 Statement of Martha Falkingham

The baby, described as ‘delicate’ died three weeks after the incident, in the care of the Guisborough workhouse. The death of the baby was not attributed to his unusual journey.


Research sources:

Quarter Sessions bundles at the North Yorkshire County Record Office (QSB)

The Quarter Sessions bundles (the working papers of the court) contain a variety of types of documents. Browse our online catalogue for details of the different types of records we hold under the reference prefix QSB

Historic Newspapers 

Some of the more unusual or sensational crimes committed in North Yorkshire were sometimes reported in the local and national press. The NYCRO and North Yorkshire County Council library service holds some collections of historic local newspapers.

It is possible to search historic national newspapers using the subscription websites https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ and https://www.findmypast.co.uk

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