detail plaque

When Joseph Boxall, a tallow chandler, and Jane, a tailoress, got married on 8 March 1857, her address was given as 14 Wageners Buildings (also spelled Wagners or Wagoners). They remained at that address as their children (Charles Henry Joseph, Joseph James, Louisa, Amelia, Sarah Anne, Charles Edwin Henry, Elizabeth Mary, James and John Federick) were all baptised from 14 Wageners Buildings at St. Mark’s Goodman’s Fields, and they were still there when the 1881 census was taken. Wageners Buildings could be found on Gower’s Walk. In 1883, the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company built a goods depot off Commercial Street, obliterating the east side of Gower’s Walk. I do not know whether Wageners Building was on the east side, but in 1891, the Boxall family could be found at 27 Tagg Street, so it is likely that they had to move because of the depot.

1894 Ordance Survey map

1894 Ordance Survey map

For this post we are concerned with daughter Elizabeth Mary, baptised on 15 January 1871. We do not know anything about her youth, but she may have attended the Free School in Gower’s Walk, which also had to relocate to make way for the goods depot. Elizabeth would in the normal course of her life have been unlikely to make the newspapers, but she jumped into the path of a runaway horse which threatened to harm a small child and the injuries she received unfortunately led to her death and an angry letter from the governor of London Hospital.

William J. Nixon, Governor of the hospital wrote to the editor of “Lloyd’s News” that his attention had been drawn to the report in the paper of the inquest into the death of Elizabeth Boxall where the allegation was made that she “was butchered in the London Hospital”. That was, according to Mr. Nixon, not true and he felt obliged to state the case from the point of view of the hospital.

The patient was admitted on the 9th of October last year for “contused thigh”. The history being that she had some time before been kloked by a horse and that the injured limb had been further damaged by a fall occurring on the day she was admitted to the hospital. The examination showed the previously unsuspected presence of cancerous disease. The swelling was full of blood, the thighbone was broken, and its ends destroyed by the disorder, and practically the only chance of stopping the spread of the malady was to perform amputation above the knee; and although the consent of the patient or the friends is always, as a rule, obtained in advance, it was decided, after consultation among those present, that immediate amputation was necessary. The case went on fairly well for some time; but by January 31st last there were evidences of the recurrence of the cancer, and it was deemed essential that the operation of amputation at the hip-joint should be performed. With the consent of the patient and her friends this was done. She then improved, and was sent to Folkestone at the expense of our Samaritan society, in charge of a special attendant. Here, however, symptoms were shown of the cancerous malady spreading to the lungs, and we were required to remove her, as being unsuited for residence in a convalescent home. The patient’s stay at Folkestone lasted from the 24th May to the 11th June. On the father’s return he came, I find, to the hospital, and, at his request, some strengthening medicine was given him for his daughter. We heard no more respecting the case until the account of the inquest appeared in the papers. Had any intimation of the coming inquest reached us the hospital would have been represented. The facts I have stated above would then have been in evidence, and the jury would have been able to form a clear opinion whether there was any ground for imputations of ill-treatment in the hospital, and whether a verdict of “Death from shock” after an operation performed upwards of four months previously, and followed by comparative convalescence, could possibly be a corrrect verdict.(1)

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the original report on the inquest that so enraged Mr. Nixon, but if he is correct in saying that the hospital knew nothing of the inquest, it is indeed strange that they were not asked to give evidence at the inquest. Whoever conducted the inquest should at least have given them the opportunity to state their case as they were accused of “butchering” a patient, a serious charge indeed. Poor Elizabeth may have died of cancer even if she had not jumped in front of a horse, but her brave act to save a child has given her a lasting memorial in Postman’s Park.

Boxall - Postman's Park

Postman's Park

Postman’s Park

(1) Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 1 July 1888.