This sad little story comes from the Kennet and Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf, Bathwick, near Bath.
On the morning of 21st May 1878 Thomas Hawkins, a boat owner and coal dealer who lived at 2 Sydney Wharf, made a terrible discovery. He found the body of a newborn baby boy floating in the Kennet and Avon Canal opposite Sydney Wharf.
Thomas retrieved the child's body and brought it out onto the bank. The poor little fellow was wearing no clothes, and there were no clues as to his identity. There was no weight or cord attached to his body.
At that time Thomas Hawkins was about 36 years old. He was married to Elizabeth, and they had five children. Their youngest, Alice, was only a few months old, so it must have been especially distressing for him to find this poor little chap.
PC Miller took the body of the child from the canal bank and brought it to the Central Police Station. At the post mortem, which was held immediately, Mr C A Moore, coroner's surgeon, established that the little boy's body had been in the water for some four or five days. Mr Moore believed that the baby had only lived for about 2 hours, and that his death had been caused either by suffocation or by drowning.
The Coroner, Mr English, held the inquest later the same day, at which the jury could only concur that the little chap was born alive, but there was not sufficient evidence to account for his death. It seems almost inevitable that he was tragically drowned by a mother who could not keep him.
Rest in peace, little one.
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 23 May 1878
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Tuesday 28 May 1878
The baby’s death was registered at the General Register Office (April to June 1878 in Bath, Volume 05C, Page 440).