On 2nd December 1874, George Lanham had advised his family that he was going to London to take his book of poetry to be published. A few days previously he had given up his job as boiler maker’s labourer at Great Eastern Railways despite having financial difficulties and dependant upon his wife’s money as College Bedmakers assistant at Pembroke College.
From trial evidence, we learn that George was previously employed as a gardener in a College and that he taught in a Sunday school, being a very religious man. He taught himself Latin and Greek and wrote poetry.
He was according to witness statements, very fond of his children, particularly the one who died, (George) and spent many hours playing the fiddle and reading to them.
On the 2nd December, he left his house in Coronation Street to go to the station to catch the London train. He returned home soon afterwards and the maid thought that he had missed his train. He sent the maid out to fetch Arthur from school and when she returned he sent her out to buy some sweets. On returning from this errand, she was sent out for more sweets and returned again after a few minutes. She was then sent to his mother-in-laws house in Newmarket Road with a letter. The maid did not know Cambridge well and he sent her the long way round up Jesus Lane.
When she returned the doors were locked and she could not gain entrance, she then asked a neighbour who sent her to Pembroke College to ask Mrs Lanham to come home. On their return, they broke into a house through a window and found the children and their father upstairs, fully clothed in bed.The neighbour realised that they had taken Laudanum and took immediate action to keep the children from sleeping and tried to make them sick.The police were sent for and they were all taken to Addenbrooke Hospital. The boy George, aged 3, had gone into a seizure and they could not open his jaws to make him ill. George died the next day.The Cambridge Express Saturday December 12, 1874 reports that according to PC Rayment, George Lanham said "I am not at all sorry for what I have done. It has been on my mind for several years. Before I was married, I was treated worse than a dog, since then I have been getting worse. As for my children, they will be taken out of a world full of sin" "I should think they will remand me to see if my children live or die. I hope they have me hung five minutes afterwards, and that is not half bad enough"George Lanham was remanded in custody to await trial.George Lanham was remanded to appear before the Magistrates on 18th December 1874 and then committed to trial at the Assizes.
George Lanham pleaded not guilty.
Witnesses stated that George Lanham was a good father and very fond of the boys, had never been known to be harsh with them or his wife and was "sober".
He had been writing poetry and was trying to get a book published in London. This had apparently been unsuccessful and had caused him depression. However, one witness did state that he had been promised money for his book of poetry.
Dr Humphy, Professor of Anatomy stated that he had examined the prisoner in hospital. The prisoners mind had not been affected, he said that Lanham suffered from melancholy and that he
was quite likely to have delusions about going to heaven and taking his children with him. George Lanham told him that he had fits of hilarity and was quite likely to burst out singing. These were followed by melancholy, after which he had fits of depression and contemplated suicide.
He was much given to reading and studying Greek, Latin, Algebra and medical books.
Rev John Martin, Vicar of St Andrews states that the prisoner had visited him in November and said that he wanted to kill himself and asked whether the vicar would recommend it. About six weeks before the incident, George Lanham had gone to see him with some poems which he (George) wanted to dedicate to the vicar.
John Lanham, the prisoner’s father, stated that "he (George), would not eat properly as a child and would spend hours on a fiddle making a terrible noise" , he further stated that "there were no signs of lunacy in the family, but his wife’s brother had stated he had lots of money when he did not"
George Lanham was found not guilty of murder on the grounds of insanity and was sent to Broadmoor.
Prisoner notes from Cambridge Gaol and Broadmoor give more of an insight into George, or rather the impression people had of him.
Gaol records obtained perhaps give a better insight into the character of the man.
On comments states "His wife states that he has got up in the middle of the night and gone out and that he also on one or two occasions has wandered from home and been absent for two or three days"
August 31 1875 – Report states "Requires decided checking at times being inclined to encourage others to make mischief and to go as far as in the direction of and insubordinate as he dared. Has declined to do any work, saying he did not come here to work. Refused his dinner for two days consecutively, talking loudly about it at the table, saying it was only fit for dogs and he was not going to eat carrion. Wrote a letter for another patient, containing abusive and improper language regarding the management.
April 22 1876 "A vain conceited little man. Studies Virgil, Shakespeare, Mathematics and Music"
George Lanham died on 1st January 1881, of "Heart Disease" in Broadmoor Asylum.
George Lanham is buried in Broadmoor cemetery. There has been no trace of any of his poetry.
Born 26 April 1841 - Cambridge – St Andrew the Less , at no 22 Adam and Eve Row CAMBRIDGE
Parents John Lanham – House Painter and Patty Lanham – formerly Gilbert
Married Lucy Oliver 9th Jan 1869 – St Paul’s Church, Cambridge
Occupation – Gardener and labourer
Died 1 Jan 1881 – Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum
Children of George and Lucy were
Arthur Gilbert – born 12 Feb 1869
Alexander Russell – 19 March 1873
Albert – 16 Feb 1874
George - 1871
If you think you are related then the person to contact is Marian Lanham (email: mtmeldrum@hotmail)
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on: 9 November 2003
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