Sad Death at Bowes Park, November 1886

In recent times we have heard much discussion about questionable journalism. Sensationalist stories in poor taste however, are nothing new - one of the earliest British tabloids was the Illustrated Police News.

Published weekly  from 1842 it gained notoriety though the coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders in Whitchapel. It continued with melodramatic reports backed-up with lurid illustrations, and an unhealthy sprinkling of scare stories about "foreign threats" until the early part of the 20th century

In its time the Illustrated Police News was called the "Worst Newspaper in England" How things have changed eh? Who could now possibly imagine a sensationalist national newspaper drumming up fear, distrust and xenophobia?

This story, reproduced below, tells the sad story of the drowning of local girl Annie Chase in the New River at Bowes Park. It was first was published on Saturday November 20th 1886





Enquiries are being made by the Metropolitan police into the circumstances attending the death of Annie Chase, a servant girl, aged 18 whose body was recovered in the New River at Bowes Park, on Saturday morning last week. It has been rumoured in the neighbourhood that the appearance of deceased rather suggested the idea of foul play but the facts already ascertained negative this opinion and point to misadventure.

At half past eight o’clock on the night of Friday last Annie Chase left the house of Mr. Stone, the residence of her master in the High Road, Wood Green to fetch a little boy who had been spending the evening of Guy Fawke’s Day with the children of Mr Hopper, in the Myddleton Road. The girl, however did not call for the child.

Two sons of Mr. Hopper at about a quarter to nine p.m., went into the back garden, which adjoins the New River and they heard cries of "Murder” and “Help” proceeding from the water. Knowing that there was no path open to the public on the bank nearest their house the elder lad, follows by his brother ran round to the opposite side; the stream at this point entering a tunnel of three-quarters of a mile in length. The boys discerned some person struggling in the canal or cutting which is hereabouts some five foot to seven feet deep and ten or twelve yards broad. They tried to reach the drowning girl with a clothes prop, neither being able to swim, and failing they threw the pole in her direction, and quickly returned to the other bank for a second prop which they used from that side in the same way, again without avail.

The girl, whom one of them supposed at first to be a boy, was again borne by current nearest the further shore, and the boys once more sped thither. The elder shouted, “If you are alive, speak;” but there was no answer and the body was swept into the tunnel. Archibald, the younger of the two, returning to the house, was immediately by his mother to the Wood Green which is distant half a mile and within a few yards of Mr. Stone’s house and it was just nine o’clock when he reached it. A dragging party was organised the same night, and the hat of the deceased was picked up at the Wood Green end of the tunnel, but it was not until eleven a.m. on Saturday that the body was found a little way from the Bowes Park entrance of the tunnel.

There were marks upon the mouth and ear of the deceased which were taken as indications of violence, but in the opinion of Dr. Hocken, who examined the corpse at the police station, that they are grazes such as might have been expected, the excoriation of the lips probably having been caused by the prop in the effort to render assistance. The body was removed to the Tottenham mortuary, where it awaits an inquest.

There is no evidence to show how the girl could have got into the river, and it is pointed out that she could not have reached it without going out of her way; but it is conjectured that she passed her destination in the Myddleton Road without knowing it, as she was directed to go to the last house before she reached the arch and there is nothing to show that the tunnel exists.

By traversing some building land where there were three bonfires alight she would be able to cross the river by means of a footbridge, and it is believed that, misled by a firework display at a neighbouring house she was making her way there. To do this she must have climbed over some iron fencing, and as the night had been very wet the steep bank was slippery. The footbridge, scarcely four feet in width, is inconveniently constructed and insufficiently protected, and the supposition is the unfortunate girl missed her footing in the dark, fell into the water, and was carried under the bridge towards the tunnel. A footprint in the mud was noticed on Saturday morning.

The deceased, who was of attractive appearance was engaged to be married, and had a very good character. Her mother lives at Wood Green.

Views: 1206

Comment by Stephen Middleton on April 5, 2013 at 19:51

Lindsey didn't mention any bodies being found on the recent clean-up of the tunnel. The area is obviously going up market!

Comment by Lindsey Berthoud on April 8, 2013 at 13:59

Strikes me that you'd have to try quite hard to drown in the New River. Even if it was up to 7 feet deep - it barely seems about 4 ft deep usually - the current surely wasn't any faster then than it is today? 

Thanks for unearthing the report, Richard, it's a great read. I wonder what really happened?

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