There were many shocking crimes committed in the 19th century, and the circumstances of many of them still have the ability to shock us today.
However, the cases of child murders carried out by the parents of the victims, are, and were, perhaps amongst the most shocking of all.
The Lincolnshire Chronicle Tuesday 14th August 1883:-
THE SHOCKING TRAGEDY WALTHAMSTOW
Mr. C. C. Lewis, the Coroner for the Southern Division of Essex, held enquiry at the Lodge of the Walthamstow Cemetery on Friday afternoon, concerning the death of the five children, who were murdered by their father, William Gouldstone, at Walthamstow, on Wednesday night.
THE NURSE’S EVIDENCE
The Coroner having addressed some remarks to the jury on the character of the case, Mrs. Ada Hamilton, who was engaged to attend Mrs. Gouldstone in her confinement as nurse, was called as a witness.
She stated that she had been residing, as lodger, at the house in which the Gouldstones lived for ten weeks.
On August 1st Mrs. Gouldstone was confined of two male children, and since that time the witness had been acting as nurse.
About five o’clock on the evening of the murder she was washing the twins in Mrs. Gouldstone’s bedroom when the prisoner came in.
He went into the kitchen where the two eldest children were playing, the little boy Frederick being with the witness in the bedroom.
Mrs. Hamilton went into the kitchen and said to Mr. Gouldstone, “Oh, you did frighten me – I wondered who it was.”
He made no reply.
HE CAME INTO THE BEDROOM
The witness did not notice anything particular about him, and went back into the bedroom and finished washing the baby when he came in.
He stood at his wife’s bedside, but did not speak to her.
She asked him, “How is it you are home so early?”
He said, “I left the place while the manager had gone to dinner, and I came home.”
His wife then inquired if he had told them at the shop about her being confined, and he said, “No.”
THE CHILDREN WERE PLAYING
With that he took the little boy Frederick off the bed and out into the kitchen. Shortly afterwards when Mrs. Hamilton went into the kitchen she saw the husband sitting on the fire guard, the three children playing on the floor.
He had a piece of string in his hands.
She inquired if he had had his tea, and he said “No.”
THE CHAIR WAS BY THE CISTERN
After telling him that it was ready, Mrs. Hamilton went again to the bedroom and subsequently to the washhouse, where the cistern is.
She, noticing that the chair had been placed by the cistern, asked who put it there, and the little boy Charlie said, “Daddy did.”
She again went back into the bedroom and got Mrs. Gouldstone out of bed in order to remake it.
HE CAME ALONG THE PASSAGE
Just as Mrs. Gouldstone was getting into bed again her husband came along the passage and looked into the room.
Witness said, “You can come in, Mr. Gouldstone.”
He made some answer, which Mrs. Hamilton could not hear.
SCREAMS OF MURDER
She suggested to Mrs. Gouldstone that she should leave the room, and went downstairs.
When she got to the yard door Hamilton heard screams of murder, and rushed upstairs and tried to open the bedroom door.
She could hear Mrs. Gouldstone say, “Good God, he is murdering my children.”
Being unable to open the door witness called for help, and the landlady of the house came to her aid.
“I HAVE KILLED MY CHILDREN”
They tried to force open the door, but failed, and it was eventually opened by the prisoner.
He said, “I have killed my children. I am happy man now. Your other three children are in the cistern.”
He said the latter to his wife.
Mrs. Hamilton saw both babies bleeding from the mouth.
One the children had a bruise on its eye.
Mr. Gouldstone then went into the kitchen, and his wife said to the witness “He killed the other three children; go and see.”
Mrs. Hamilton went into the kitchen, and saw the prisoner coming in at the kitchen door from the washhouse with the boy Frederick in his arms.
He laid him on the floor.
Witness, being frightened, went back to the bedroom, when she went into the kitchen again she saw the three children lying on the ground all of a row, side by side.
THE POLICE ARRIVE
Soon after a policeman arrived and took Gouldstone into custody, when he said his wife, “All the children are dead now; I shall be hanged, and you will be single. You wished them dead, and now they are.”
Witness further deposed that he seemed kind to the children, but had not looked at the twins.
EMMA CLARKE’S TESTIMONY
The next witness called was Emma Clarke, wite of James Clarke, a carpenter, of 8, Courtenay-place, St. James’s-street, Walthamstow, who said:-
“My husband hired this house. William Gouldstone, his wife and family, had lodged with us for eleven months. He was at that time quite a stranger to me. He was generally a steady man; I only saw him the worse for drink once. He was a calm, placid man, and seemed to be very fond of his wife and kind his three children.
His wife was confined on August 1st, at halt-past ten o’clock at her husband being at home.
THE WORSE FOR DRINK
He was the worse for drink the next night, August 2nd.
He seemed very strange when told him of the birth of the twins, and he never spoke.
The next night he was the worse for drink, but he made no noise or remark about the children.
It was the first time I had seen him the worse for liquor.
THE LOCKED DOOR
Last Wednesday night, at half-past five o’clock, I was in the back garden hanging some clothes up, when the last witness, Mrs. Hamilton, called me.
In consequence of this I ran upstairs as quick as I could. I went to the bed-room door and found it fastened on the inside.
I heard Mrs. Gouldstone say, “He has killed the babies.”
THE CHILDREN DEAD
Mr. Gouldstone opened the door, and said, “You can come in, it’s all done.”
I entered the room and stayed with Mrs. Gouldstone and the nurse.
I saw two babies lying on a pillow. They were breathing. Blood was flowing from their noses and mouths.
Mrs. Hamilton covered them over with a sheet, and I went downstairs and called for the police, after which I returned to Mrs. Gouldstone’s bedroom.
Presently I went into the kitchen with Mrs. Hamilton and saw the tree little boys – Charles, Frederick, and Herbert – lying on the floor of the kitchen. They were in a row, and appeared to be dead. Their clothes were wet as if immersed water, their hair was also wet.
SHE WISHED THE CHILDREN DEAD
I saw Mr. Gouldstone arrested, but I did not hear him make any observation.
By the Jury : I have heard the mother say she wished the children dead – that was when she was worried.
By the Coroner: I did not think she was in earnest. She never said it in conversation.
She had remarked it to the children when they worried her.
The Coroner said that he did not think anything would turn on that.
WILLIAM CHEESEMAN’S TESTIMONY
William Cheeseman, Police-constable, stationed at Lea-bridge-road, said:-
On Wednesday evening last, at about twenty minutes to six o’clock, I was on duty, at St. James’s-street, Walthamstow, when I received information that a man was killing his children at No. 8, Courtenay-place.
I immediately went to the house.
I went upstairs on the landing, and I saw William Gouldstone in the kitchen.
He was in a stooping position over three children side by side, lying on the floor. The three children appeared be dead, and were thoroughly drenched with water.
Mr. Gouldstone had his coat and hat off, and had his shirt sleeves tucked up.
HE SAID HE HAD DONE IT
As soon as he saw me he came towards the door and said, “Good evening, policeman. I have done it now. I am happy, I am ready for the rope.”
I cautioned him that whatever said would used evidence against him.
He then put on his coat and hat, and said, ”Let me see my wife.”
I took him into the bedroom, and his wife said, “Oh, you wicked man, what have you done?”
He said, “I have killed all your children; now you’ll be single again and I shall be hanged.”
His wife said, “Have you any money?”
He said, ” Yes,” and gave her all he had.
He then kissed her and bade her goodbye.
HE THOUGHT OF BUYING A REVOLVER
On the way to the police station he said, “When I took my money last week, I thought of buying a revolver to do it with, but I altered my mind, as I thought it would make too much noise.
I had a job with the two eldest ones, but the other little ones, I soon settled them.
I thought it was getting too hot; I have had five children in about three years and a half, so I thought I would put stop to it.”
QUITE RIGHT, SIR
At the police-station he said, “I’ve done it like a man,” and when he was charged – the charge being read over to him by the inspector – with having murdered these three children (the twins being then alive) he said, “Quite right, sir.”
The hammer produced I received from Mrs. Hamilton.
The inquiry was then adjourned.