Sidney James Alford (1874-75)


An inquest was held on Friday evening at the Council Chambers, before T.H. Hawkins, Esq., Borough Coroner, on the body of Sydney James Alford, aged nine months, infant son of the Rev. E. Alford, Primitive Methodist Minister, who died on the previous evening somewhat suddenly. 

The jurors were as follows:- Mr. W. Bundock, foreman; J. Woodger, T. B. Howe, W. Allen, W. Joplen, R. Frost, W. Bowne, W. B. Salisbury, W. Winterbourne, R.J. Lovell, H. Cullum, R. Allder. 

Mrs. Alford stated that the deceased had been unwell two or three weeks from whooping cough. Two months before he had suffered from bronchitis and was attended by Mr. Ryott. Latterly she had a bottle of mixture from Mr. Taylor, chemist, of Bartholomew-street, and thinking it had done him good, obtained a second bottle. Mr.Taylor did not see the child. Was not alarmed at all about the child. The servant took him out during the day, as she had done almost everyday during the week. About quarter past six he was in the servant’s arms, and had a fit of coughing. Witness took him into her arms. The cough lasted longer and he began to turn black in the face. Immediately sent for Mrs. Attewell, the nearest neighbour, who said she thought it was a fit. Water was applied, and Mr. Hickman, surgeon, was sent for, and he came directly. He said life was gone. 

Mrs. Attewwell, the neighbour who was called in, gave corroborative evidence, and said she had seen the child before during the day, and remarked how nicely it looked. 

Mr. R.A. Taylor, chemist of Bartholomew-street, deposed to Mrs. Alford calling upon him; he made up a mixture in an ounce and a half phial of 24 doses. Each dose would contain 1 drop chloric ether, one-120thpart of a grain of morphia, one-48th part of a drop of prussic acid, three drops of ipecacuanha wine, three drops of compound tincture of camphor, one grain of bicarbonate of potash. The bottle was filled up with two-thirds syrup of horehound, one-third simple syrup. With the exception of simple syrup the others were kept in one mixture. Was particularly careful in mixing; no one could be more so. When Mrs Alford came the second time she said she thought the child was better. Did not advise that the child should be taken to a doctor, as Mrs. Alford did not appear to be sure whether it was whooping cough. Had sold the same mixture and had never known any harm result. Was in the habit of prescribing in such cases. 

Mr. Richard Hickman, medical practitioner, stated that when he arrived the child was dead, but quite warm. From what he was told he believed the child died from a fit caused by the violent coughing. Did not think the medicine Mr. Taylor prescribed was proper; considered most improper to give a child morphia, certainly without seeing it. Did not however think the medicine caused the death of the child. 

A juror asked if the medicine had been analysed, but the Coroner said that would be unnecessary and indeed irrelevant, as the doctor had decided that death was caused by the fit incident to the coughing and not the medicine. 

The Coroner, in summing up, said it was unfortunate the child had not been seen by a medical man, and it was hazardous in the case of an infant to prescribe without seeing it. He was aware chemists did it, but it was a reprehensible practice, for while they were undoubtedly well acquainted with drugs they were not skilled in the nature of disease. His remarks would of course apply generally and not individually. 

The Jury returned a verdict that the child died from a fit caused by a severe attack of coughing; they were also of opinion that there was no blame attached to the chemist. 

Newbury Weekly News 8 April 1875


From top of headstone: In Loving Memory of/ Sidney James/ the beloved child of/ Edward & Susanna Alford/ who fell asleep in Jesus April 1st 1875/ aged 9 months. “Safe in the arms of Jesus.”

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