We are fortunate today to live in an age where the home is now very rarely a danger. We have smoke detectors helping us avoid outbreaks of fatal fires. We have burglar alarms to protect us and our property from would-be thieves. For those who need it, we have stair-lifts to conquer a potentially life-threatening climb. Technological advancements such as these allow us to feel happy and safe to dwell inside our twenty-first century havens of domestic space. However things have never always been so sans souci.
In my years of research I have come across many cases where the house has turned against its inhabitants through very unfortunate twists of fate. More often than not it is the children of those households who fall victim to these disastrous mishaps. Who would have thought the simple wash tub would be a common killer bringing sadness and despair to many families in Liverpool’s and indeed the country’s, now long gone communities?
On April 12, 1897 two year old Eva Bentley had wandered off into the back yard of her home at No. 37 Clare Road, Bootle. This was the beginning of a very dire set of circumstances. Her father, a grocer and provision dealer, had headed out to work earlier that morning and her mother had just left the room to answer a knock at the door. Worse still, the servant girl the family employed was busy elsewhere in the house. This unfortunate turn of events gave the naïve toddler the unadulterated freedom to explore the wash house, and in particular a wash tub which contained just nine inches of water. To such a tiny figure this meagre puddle must have seemed like an overwhelming ocean and on peering in, the poor girl tumbled over the brim headfirst. Minutes later Mrs Bentley discovered the child dead, her lungs utterly saturated.
A further heart-rending case of note occurred in 1925, when four year old George Reeves of Felton Grove, Stoneycroft was listening to the wireless. The little lad had been seated upon a chair by the radio, headphones on, when he became tired of the disembodied tones. He stepped down from his seat and began to remove the device from his petite ears. In doing so he had the bad luck to stumble over the family cat. This in itself would have resulted in a rather nasty plummet, but the reality of the situation was far more serious. That afternoon Mrs Reeves had been preparing a bath for her boy by the fireplace. She had only just finished pouring another pan of boiling water into the tub and had left for the scullery to fetch some much needed cold to bring it down to a more comfortable and safe temperature. It was into this blistering liquid that baby George found himself splashing about in unimaginable pain. When his distraught mother rushed back to rescue the youngster from the searing heat, his burns had already inflicted critical damage upon his vital organs. George died from scalding later that day with doctors unable to save him.