Caroline Elizabeth Biggs (1865-1869)

Caroline was the fourth daughter born to Stephen and Margaret Biggs. She was born in Balmain in June, 1865 (Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922). On 4 January 1869 her short life came to an end. She was only three years old. Following is the newspaper report on what happened:

Death from Drowning.— An inquiry respecting the death of a child, named Caroline Elizabeth Biggs, was held before the City Coroner, on Thursday, at the residence of the deceased’s  parents, No. 2, Carlton Villas, Woollahra.

Stephen Biggs stated that the deceased was his daughter, and was 3 years and 8 months old ; the last time he saw her alive was on Wednesday evening ; she was then on the back verandah which opened into the yard ; she had been sitting on his knee for some time, but left him with the intention of going to get some bread-and-butter; about 20 minutes or half an hour afterwards, his wife asked him if he knew where the child was, as she wanted to put her to bed;  they instituted a search for her both on the premises and about the neighborhood, but could find nothing of her; at daybreak on the next (Thursday) morning he sent for a carpenter to take up the flooring boards of the closet, so that a more diligent search might be made; after taking up the boards, the carpenter put a rake down and felt about for some time, when he succeeded in discovering the body of the deceased; the closet was filled with water and night soil; he went for Dr. Quaife; the doctor returned with him and pronounced life extinct. Thomas Thornton, carpenter, and Mrs. Biggs, gave evidence corroborative of that given by Mr. Biggs. Dr. Quaife was of opinion that death resulted from asphyxia from drowning.

Verdict: Found drowned in a watcrcloset belonging to her father’s residence ; but how, or by what means she became drowned there is no evidence to show.

Source: Sydney Mail, Saturday 16 January 1869

What an horrific trauma for the parents, not only the loss of a young and vibrant child but also having to face the inquest that followed, and the public intrusion of the media into their loss. It is little wondered that within a short period they had moved from their residence at Woollahra to a new home at West Street, Petersham.


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