Personal information about Mary Ann Povey

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Burial Information

Name on burial register:
   Mary Ann Povey
Burial register image
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Age at death:
Date of burial:
   06 September 1876
Abode at death:
(according to burial register)
Burial register information:
Book number: 1868
Page number: 142
Record number: 3535
Official at burial:
   Coroners warrant witnessed by William T Henham.
Source of information:
  Burial Register
* This entry is awaiting verification.

Memorial Details

No memorial information available at this time.



Obituaries and Newspaper announcements

Mary An Povey
Article source:    Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser
Date of source:    07 September 1876
Copyright:    © Newbury Weekly News


The Borough Coroner (T.H. Hawkins, Esq.) and a Jury as follows —Messrs. J. Staples (foreman), B. Lack, S. Biddis, W. Clark, Rapson, J. Webb, W. Robinson, Beals, W. Hughes, Labon, Allen, Applegate, and Batten—were for four hours on Tuesday evening engaged in conducting an inquiry into the death of a young woman named Mary Ann Povey, the circumstances of which form a melancholy and shocking tragedy painful to relate. The evidence which is given below in extenso, will put readers in possession of the facts and render farther description needless,. 
Mr. R. R. Robinson, surgeon, of No. 1, Carnarvon-terrace, said—The body which the Jury have viewed is that of my servant, Mary Ann Povey. Last Friday week. Aug. 25, deceased asked me if I would pay her her month's wages, as she wished to make a purchase of a bird cage. Gave her her wages, amounting to 11s. 8d. leaving the change out of a sovereign, and four sovereigns besides in my purse. Paid a sovereign away on the next day, which left three sovereigns. On Monday morning, the 28th, I had occasion to go to my purse, and found two sovereigns missing. Told her of my loss, and asked if she knew what had become of the sovereigns. She replied she had not seen anything of them, but would look about and see if she could find them. She returned shortly afterwards and said she could not see anything of the missing money. Told her that I thought it extraordinary she being the only other in the house and the money being safe on night, and said she must know something of them. She replied she did not. On the Sunday evening she had been out, and I observed a new bonnet with a feather in it. Said nothing further to her until Miss Hounsell came home on the Wednesday following. and requested her to ask the girl where she bought her bonnet ; she replied at Mr. Clark's. 
Mr. Biddis remarked whether if a juryman's name was mentioned he should not retire, as he would best appear as a witness. 
The Coroner thought them was nothing to necessitate Mr. Clark's retirement.
Mr. Robinson continued - It was on Sunday Miss Hounsell aked her about her bonnet on her return home. On Monday I went to Mr. Clark's and ascertained she had bought the bonnet and tendered a sovereign in payment. On my return between ten and eleven I found deceased in the dining-room talking to Miss Hounsell. Said to the latter that it is quite clear that deceased had taken the money, for I knew she had nothing in her pockets but the 11s. 8d., less 2s.6d. which she paid for the cage. Deceased was immediately attacked with a fit of convulsions which I took as epileptic as she had complained of her head, and having been extremely forgetful the whole of the week previous. Did what I could to restore her by applying the usual remedies. It occurred to me that the convulsions were very severe, more so than common epileptic fits are; but did not feel quite clear as to whether or not poison had been taken. About twenty minutes or half-an-hour after, I left her rather coming to herself and went to fetch her father who lived at the brick-kiln at Donnington; but finding he had gone an to Copy- hold, went there and brought him back. Returned about 12 o'clock and found her dead. Did not threaten the girl at all, and had no suspicion she had taken poison. Miss Hounsell did all she could to get the girl to admit her fault, telling her that as she was young it was a pity she should lose her character and she would pay the money and deceased could pay her back a shilling or half-a-crown at a time. I left my clothes in my dressing room, and deceased had access to it. She was in the habit of bringing water into the dressing-room. Had never missed anything before but Miss Hounsell had since found some of her property in her box. Deceased, on my return yesterday, had not time to deny having stolen the property, for she fell down in the fit directly I told her I had found where she bought the bonnet. 
MR. CLARK—WiII you ask the witness if he was sure he had the money safe on Saturday night, as deceased bought the bonnet on Saturday morning. 
MR BIDDIS protested as being unparliamentary for a juryman to act as witness.
The Coroner replied that Mr. Clark was not acting as a witness, but performing his function as a juror by asking questions. 
Witness said that his money was safe on Saturday night, as he always made up his accounts on Saturday night. 
MR. BIDDIS—Then deceased could not have bought the bonnet with your money. 
Witness, on further consideration, said —My money was right on Friday night. Saturday night was a mistake which I would wish to correct. 
MR. BIDDIS thought they were not come for the purpose of trying the poor girl of robbery. They had to ascertain the cause of death. 
The Coroner—We must take the evidence; you will be at liberty to make any remark at the close of the inquest. 
MR. BIDDIS—lt will be no use then. 
The Coroner—You must not think that I wish to bring any accusation against the deceased. If it is shown the girl took poison we must ascertain her motive. 
MR. BIDDIS - It is not clear to my mind that the girl robbed Mr. Robinson at all. 
The Coroner—l do not my she did. 
MR HUGHES—What was the price of the bonnet ? 
MR. CLARK - 9s.11d. It was not a bonnet but a hat. 
MR BIDDIS—Where did the other sovereign go to ? Was it found on her? We shall want to know where the 11s.8d. went to which was paid as wages. 
MISS MARY JANE HOUNSELL, residing at 1, Carnarvon Terrace. said, Between 10 and 11 on Monday morning, deceased came into the dining room to me. She was excited but well. She came of her own accord. I asked whether she would confess having taken the money and I would forgive her; she denied it; she remained with me about tan minutes. Immediately Dr. Robinson returned she went off into hysterics, and the convulsions followed directly. She continued in convulsions until she died, about 12 o'clock. Her last words were, "I did not spend the whole of the sovereign on my hat." The convulsions were dreadful, her head and heels almost met. She was not conscious; she had previously said, "Let me die." She had strong ammonia applied and that revived her, and it was then she made the remark. Had never heard her say any thing about taking poison. She seemed exceedingly bright that morning when she came into my room to call me. She was not despondent when accused of taking the money. She seemed a strong, hearty and cheerful girl, and was never ill during the six weeks she was in the house. There was a great deal of foam. but she did not vomit. When she became quiet I thought she recovering, but she then died. Deceased said that "Before God, she had never spent the money.” Do not think she was aware Dr. Robinson was gone out to make inquiries of Mr. Clark. After her death I went up to her bed room, and found a note with pen accross it. The letter was given to Supt. Bennett, and two bottles were also handed  to him: one was a scent bottle and another contained something liquid. 
BY THE JURY . — Before Dr. Robinson returned I urged her to confess, and liking her as a servant I would forgive her. and pay the doctor out of my pocket. Deceased did not leave the room, and had no chance of taking any thing. Deceased cried, and I think if she had remained conscious she would have confessed
The letter above referred to was handed round to the Jurymen. It was written on a sheet of note paper but only the first page was written on and it terminated abruptly:
"My dear frens (?). I just rote these few lines two let you now what his to be don with my close for I shan’t wan” - 
Mrs. HARRIET SARGENT, living at 8, Carnarvon-terrace, said—Yesterday morning Mr. Robinson came to me and asked me to step in as his servant was in a fit, and had robbed him. Went in directly and found her lying on the floor. She was very much convulsed, and had never seen anyone like it before. Sprinkled her face, and she caught her breath and said, "Hold my hands open." She clenched my hands very much. My fingers are quite sore now. Sprinkled her face afterwards, and thought she was coming to. She said, "Hold my hands tight." Those were the last words she used. Was with her over an hour, and left her as though she was asleep. She had no convulsion afterwards. I left before Mr. Robinson returned. I tried to lift her up, but she seemed so stiff and heavy. Her eyes seemed to start from her head, and phlegm came from her month. After I returned home, between 12 and 1, Dr. Robinson came in and said the servant was dead, and asked me to step in. Went a few minutes afterwards and remained with Miss Hounslow nearly the whole of the afternoon. 
Dr. WATSON said—l am a doctor of medicine, and a duly registered medical practitioner. By instruction of the Coroner I made a post mortem examination this day on the body of deceased. Carefully examined every organ in the body. The brain was very much conjested, but otherwise healthy. The chest, heart, and lungs were healthy, and also the liver and kidneys. Removed the stomach with its contents, which I placed in a jar, as also the intestines, which I placed in another jar. On examining the contents of the stomach I found a little undigested food and mucous. There was so smell. I carefully applied what I oonsidered the necessary tests, and I discovered by two separate tests the presence of strychnine. On my to Mr. Robinson's the Sergeant of Police gave into my hand three bottles ; one an empty one, appeared to have had hair oil ; another nearly empty with a few drops of castor oil; and the third, about two ounces of a colourless liquid, The latter I examined with two separate tests, and I discovered in it the presence of strychnine. Should think from half a grain to a grain of strychnine would be sufficient to cause death. Am of opinion there was enough strychnine in the stomach to cause death. In a person dying from strychnine poisoning the symptoms would be violent convulsions. Death would be slower or quicker from the amount taken. There must have been some amount from the clearness of the tests. The head was very congested caused by the violent convulsive action. The body was also rigid. In my opinion death resulted from strychnine. It would be possible for a girl living in a doctor's house to get strychnine. In a doctor's surgery there would be a pharmacopoeia preparation, containing one grain and two drachms (two tea-spoonfuls). The post-mortem was made in the surgery, and I saw half a bottle labelled "Liquor Strychnine," and a poison label attached, and would be accessible to any one going into the surgery . People die of strychne in as short a time as half an hour, but death would depend on the susceptibility of the person. 
Mr. Biddis—l had a dog die in two minutes from a dose of strychnine. 
MARTHA COOK, aged 14, living in Back-lane, said —On Sunday night I slept with Mary Povey. She was in good spirits and seemed quite well. Did not know that she was in trouble of any kind. We got up about six o'clock. Slept with deceased all last week to keep her company. The first day I went down there she said she took poison the first week she was at Mr. Robinson's because Mr. Nicholls went there and accused her of stealing. She was formerly servant to Mr. Nicholl. She did not say how much poison she took. She did not say if it made her ill. She said the other servant threw water over her. She said that Mr. Nicholls said he would send the police after her. She did not ay anything on Monday morning, and I left her at six o clock. Don't know what made her tell me about the poison. One day during the week we were is the surgery and she pointed out a bottle of poison. At the time she said she took poison we were at dinner. Never mentioned it to any one. Did not think it was true. She did not say the name of the servant who sprinkled her with water. Did not believe she could have taken poison. Have known her two or three years. 
THOMAS POVEY, father of the deceased, living at Donnington Brick Kiln, said, Saw my daughter a week ago last Sunday. After she left Mr.Nicholl’s she came home for a week. Mr. Nicholl had lost an umbrella, but he could not say that she had taken it; he forgave her, and it was arranged. My daughter was remarkably lively and cheerful. never had fits. She was out on Sunday night and told some one she had been frightened about some ghosts. Mr. Robinson came and fetched as from Copyhold, and said he had lost £2, and that my daughter had had it. She was dead when I arrived. Had never heard her say any thing about destroying herself. She was in trouble about a young man with whom she had a correspondence. 
MERCY POVEY, step-mother, deposed that the letter was in the hand writing of deceased. Did not know anything about the young man to whom reference had been made. 
The Coroner, in summing up, said there could be no doubt that poison was the cause of death. and that her own hand administered the dose ; and there was no evidence to show that she was otherwise than in her right mind. Replying to a Juror, the Coroner said that the symptoms of an epileptic fit and strychnine poisoning were very much alike, and due allowance must be made for the alarm caused by the event, and the absence of anything like suspicion. 
The room was cleared, and after deliberating over an hour, the Jury returned a verdict that deceased committed suicide by strychnine. The inquest commenced at 6.30, and extended until past eleven. 
The deceased was buried yesterday afternoon at Newbury Cemetery. The body, on its arrival at the gates, was taken direct to the grave. A short address was given by the Rev. W. T. Henham, who stated that the offices of the Church were denied to persons who destroyed themselves under such circumstances, and he trusted the sad event would convey a salutary warning to all. Though he could not read the Burial Service he would nevertheless offer a few prayers, which he trusted would not be without some consolation to the living. The rev. gentleman accordingly did so. There was a numerous attendance of persons, who behaved themselves throughout with great propriety. 
This obituary entry is awaiting verification.

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