Eunice the Menace

Sometimes, an interesting thread develops from other, tangentially related matters. This one came in yesterday, and as soon as I saw it, I thought it was fantastic, although it’s sad and somewhat sensitive, too.

Reader and contributor Andy Dennis has been preoccupied for some time researching his bit of Brownhills; Newtown, up on the Watling Street, specifically Howdles Lane and The Fort. In his research, he’s hit upon this tragic history.

I won’t waffle any further, except to thank Andy for a remarkable piece of painstaking research which I’m honoured to host here. Contributions of this quality make this blog what it is.

As usual, comments are welcome, or please mail me at BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. I appreciate the possible sensitivities here. Please do mail if you have any concerns.


1884 Ordnance Survey Map of Howdles Lane and the surrounding area, as Eunice would have known it. Click for a larger version.

Andy wrote:

Hello Bob

Further to my recent message, here is more about Eunice Carter, first referred to on your blog by Pedro, to whom profuse thanks, having stolen some money from her brother (see reply under Howdles Lane – what do you know?)

Hopefully, you will be able to use the attached. It might also elicit something from Lichfield Lore about the location and buildings and I dare say Eunice was not the only Brownhills child to be sent to the Industrial School. Somebody out there might even know what became of Eunice afterwards. I would also be interested if someone can confirm or dispel my admittedly hazy recollection of the cottages where I think she lived. A photograph? Well, maybe that is a wish too far.

The picture, courtesy of Barbara Williams, is of the long-suffering Mary Ann Carter (nee Blythe).

I’ve just noticed the cause of death of Ellen Carter was certified by our old friend J C Maddever MD.



Eunice the Menace


An article was introduced by Pedro on Brownhills Bob’s Brownhills Blog on 25 February 2013.

In summary, the Lichfield Mercury of 26 September 1902 reported that Eunice Carter (13) of Howdle’s Cottages [now Howdles Lane], Brownhills, was brought before the magistrates charged with stealing 1s 4d from her brother. She was sent to be a domestic servant at a home in Burton, but they could do nothing with her and she absconded. She was then ordered by the Bench to be sent to Lichfield Industrial School.

The brother was Enoch Carter (24), same address, an underground worker at a coal mine.

Eunice, as it says, lived at Howdle’s Cottages, now Howdles Lane, Brownhills. The order of census records (e.g. 1901) indicates this was furthest from the Watling Street and I believe this was one of a pair of cottages on the inside of the bend, where No. 60 is today. In my childhood there were two semi-detached cottages with dormer windows that hid mostly behind a tall hedge. I believe these were demolished in 1967.

A Bad Beginning

This is the title of the theft article, but the writer may not have known the real beginning. Eunice was born on 1 January 1889 at Howdles Row, daughter of Ellen Carter, domestic servant and an unnamed father. The birth was registered by Mary Ann Carter, grandmother, present at the birth, also of Howdles Row on 22 January 1889. The reason is that on 21 January 1889 Ellen, age 27, died of puerperal fever after suffering for ten days. The informant was Mary Ann Carter. This from the entries of birth and death.


Mary Ann Blythe. Image kindly supplied by Andy Dennis.

Puerperal fever is a bacterial infection contracted by women in childbirth or miscarriage. Today it is still a killer, but treatable with antibiotics that were not available to poor old Ellen.

From bad to worse

A bad beginning, indeed, but Eunice grew to be something of an impetuous, wild child.

At the time of the theft Eunice was 13 years old. Her mother, Ellen, unmarried, had died in 1889 just three weeks after Eunice was born. Brother Enoch was about 24. (Note: there is a report of an Enoch Carter being had up for illicit gambling, but that was another man.)

Eunice and Enoch lived with their grandparents Joseph and Mary Ann Carter. Joseph had been a farm labourer in Warwickshire, but in his forties had moved his young family to Brownhills to find work at the pit and in 1881 his occupation was coal miner. In 1891 general labourer. In 1901, then 71, his occupation was given as ‘highwayman labr’; presumably, mending roads. Five other children, besides Ellen, had families of their own. Joseph had a hard life and died on 21 Feb 1910, aged 80; cause: senile decay, chronic bronchitis and cardiac failure.

In 1911 Eunice had no occupation and still lived with Enoch and their grandmother, Mary Ann, who would last until 1926. Having such a difficult grandchild could not have been easy for such elderly folk.

The Industrial School for Girls was at Wissage, Trent Valley Road, Lichfield and operated from 1889 to 1925 and, in Eunice’s time, it accommodated 55 girls. It was residential and aimed to provide what we might refer to as disadvantaged girls with life skills, such as ‘reading, spelling, writing, and ciphering, and, as far as practicable, elements of history, geography, social economy, and drawing’. Industrial education included ‘washing, needlework and housework’; in other words preparation for domestic service and child rearing. There was also daily religious education. (British History Online and National Archives: Instructions and Regulations for Certified Industrial Schools.)


Lichfield Union Workhouse – a grim place. Image from the William Salt Library/Stafforshire Past-Track.

It appears the Industrial School did not have the desired affect, for in January 1913 the same paper reported that Eunice Carter, an inmate of Lichfield Union [Workhouse] had been put in solitary confinement having disobeyed the matron. While there she broke a window and when asked to explain she broke another. She was bound over [presumably, to the Union]. (Lichfield Mercury 24 January 1913)

Just three days later, she was up before the Bench again, this time for disorderly behaviour and obscene language and was sent to prison for twenty one days with hard labour. [That was on 23 January, so she would have been released on 15 February.] (Lichfield Mercury 21 February 2013)

On 21 February Mr Buck, the workhouse master, reported that she had behaved better since coming out of prison and was discharged. (Lichfield Mercury 21 February 2013) Perhaps prison had done the trick, or was this a rash judgement so soon after her release?

No further reports appear in the selection available through the online British Newspaper Archive or other records that I have found. There are no likely records of marriage, perhaps no great surprise, and the only other record maybe of her death in 1962 in Birmingham.

References to the Lichfield Mercury via the British Newspaper Archive online.

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