Wednesday, 21 November 2012

UPDATE of the Past News 20th November 1858

Catch up on the full story of last weeks NEWS...........

*Amelia Hinks

Amelia’s amazing recovery left her rather disturbed.  At first she refused all food and drink and became “frightfully excited” requiring great force to hold her.  Her conduct was described as “very strange”.  Rather worryingly she had a wish to “destroy her father and mother”.  The newspapers described one such incident when the family were asleep Amelia went downstairs and set a light several items including some needle work (which her mother “set great store upon”) and the curtains.  She then returned to bed.  The cause of the fire was unknown to the parents as they thought that Amelia had remained in her bed all night.  Amelia did however confess to the fire.  Sadly for the poor young girl, she was described as living “neither alive nor dead”.
Amelia’s story was reported all over the United Kingdom, including an article in the Falkirk Herald, 30th December 1858, by Mr Nelson, surgeon who visited her August 1858.  He gave the following details of the incident –
Amelia was the living at Bridge Street, Nuneaton with her parents, her father was a harness maker.  She was aged 12 years and 9 months and was supposed to be suffering from pulmonary consumption.  Her symptoms were headache, cough, loss of appetite and she was emaciated.  On examination the doctor could not find any chest infection. 

Amelia was sent to Leamington for a change and to visit friends, but after a short time she became much worse and her parents fetched her home.  Again Dr Nelson was called upon to examine Amelia.  It was from this time that she began to refuse food or medicine.  On 18th October around 03.30am she apparently died.  She was described as  having “groaned heavily, waved her hand, turned her head to the light, dropped her jaw and died”. 
The laying out then began, she was washed, wrapped in clean linen, her jaw was tied, penny pieces were placed on the eyes, her hands were placed by her sides and her feet were tied together.  She was then moved into another room, laid on a sofa and two books were placed on her feet.
The grandfather had visited  at 9am and the scene became one of confusion as he was adamant that he had seen movement.  The Doctor was again called and found Amelia to be breathing, with a "feeble" pulse of around 75 beats a minute.  The doctor ordered movement of the limbs and a warm flannel was applied and after about 2 hours she eventually gained consciousness and spoke. 

The next day at 4pm she again groaned heavily, and relapsed into the same state as she had previously.  This lasted for 6 hours and 14 minutes.  She had refused food whilst conscious only taking water applied to the lips.  She stated that she did not want to eat or drink again until “she did so in heaven”.  For the next week she refused food and drink despite the desperate requests from her parents. Eventually the doctor forcibly gaged her and with an elastic tube fed her beef tea and arrowroot.  This must have caused Amelia great distress and she began 10 days of moaning, night and day.
A two am one morning as we already heard, she set fire to the items and then she ran into the street in her night dress shouting “murder”.  Amelia’s father put the fire out and his hands were badly burned.  After this outburst she then began swearing and blaspheming for the next 60 hours and then after sheer exhaustion she relapsed into a state similar to earlier, her eyelids closed, teeth clenched and muscles rigid.

This situation was causing great anxiety to her family and friends and a plan was hatched to “trick” Amelia into submission.  The doctor told her parents to sleep in another room and to lock Amelia in her room alone – this was done so that Amelia could hear to conversation.  The father was then placed in a closet within the room, so that he could observe Amelia’s actions.  True to their expectations at around 1am Amelia opened her eyes, removed the bed clothes and sat upright.  She then got out of bed “as nimbly as ever” and went towards the food which had been left out for her.  She tasted the food then retired to her bed with a quantity, pulling the bed clothes back over her.
Doctor Nelson gave the following opinion of the case  –
“Considering that her mother has at times been hysterical, I am inclined to consider it one of hysteria of an aggravated character, complicated probably with a morbid condition of the brain”
Amelia was born in 1846, the daughter of Henry and Sarah Hinks.  The family was large, in the 1861 census just three years after the onset of Amelia’s condition she is living with her parents, one older sister, 2 younger sisters, 3 younger brothers, a servant and an apprentice saddler.  They still lived at Bridge Street, Nuneaton.  By 1871 the family have moved to a new area, they are now living at Park Street, Walsall.
What became of Amelia after that is unknown.  If anyone can add to this story please let me know.

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