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Name: Gladys Taylor

Burial Number: 0116

Gender: Female

Born: 00/12/1880

Died: 27/05/1886

Buried: 31/05/1886

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Gladys Frances Taylor was baptised on 21st December 1880 at St. Mary, Putney. Her father was Richard Fielden Taylor, a gentleman, living on his own means, born in 1839 in Litchfield, Staffordshire. Her mother was Annie Philadelphia Taylor, nee Williams, born 1843, whose father was a Royal Navy Captain, later an Admiral. Gladys had 6 older siblings, (2 had died in infancy), Annie G., 6yrs, Dorothy M., 5yrs, Winifred E., 3yrs, and Thomas F., 1yr. Two further siblings were born, Christine M., 1882, and Richard B. 1883.
The family moved to Worthing in 1882, living at ‘Devynock’ St. Botolph’s Road. Tragedy struck in May 1886, when three of the youngest children appeared to have been poisoned resulting in the deaths of Gladys Frances, 5yrs, and her sister, Christine Marie, 4yrs, their brother, fortunately, recovered. Reports of the event, headlined ‘Mysterious Deaths’ and ‘Mysterious Circumstances’ were carried in national newspapers countrywide, but no inference was ever made suggesting foul play.
The subsequent local inquest was unable to clarify what had caused the sudden and violent illness that resulted in the death of both girls, and their stomach contents were sent to Guy’s Hospital for an eminent toxicologist, Dr. Stevenson, to examine. No further report was made public about his findings.
The Taylor family continued to live in St. Botolph’s Road with their 5 children and in 1890 when the new borough of Worthing was formed, Richard Fielden Taylor was elected councillor for West Ward, Heene. In the early 1900s, Richard and Annie retired to Torquay, Devon.

Researcher: Maggi Martin

The Grave

Photograph of headstone for Gladys Taylor

Location in Cemetery

Area: WB Row: 1 Plot: 48

Exact Location (what3words): decent.proper.rise

Ashes or Urn: Unknown



No description of the headstone has been added.


In memory of Gladys Frances aged 5 years and 7 months & Christine Marie aged 4 years and 5 months children of Richard Fielden and Annie Philadelphia Taylor who died on the 27th May 1886 "Ere sin could….or sorrow fade death came with timely ..."

Further Information


Name: Gladys Frances Taylor

Gender: Female

Born: 00/12/1880

Town: Unknown

County: London

Country: England


Maiden Name: Not applicable

No marriage information is available for this burial record.

Information at Death

Date of Death: 27/05/1886

Cause of death: From the effects of excessive vomiting and purging followed by delirium and tetanic spasms

Address line 3: St Botolph's Road

Town: Worthing

County: Sussex

Country: England


The following report appeared in multiple national and local newspapers in June 1886.
Two children have died at Worthing under mysterious circumstances. Three children of a gentleman of independent means, named Richard Fielden Taylor, were about four o’clock on Thursday morning taken suddenly ill with excessive purging and vomiting, and by half-past eleven o’clock one girl, aged four years, was dead, and another girl, aged five years, died at half-past three the same afternoon; but the third, a boy, is recovering. At the inquest, which was held on Saturday, it was shown that all the children went to bed in a perfectly healthy condition on Wednesday night. The food partaken of on the preceding day consisted of porridge for breakfast, beef tea for dinner, and bread and butter, with rhubarb jam and fresh milk for tea, one of the three attacked did not, however, partake of jam. The post-mortem examination had been made, but the cause of the illness had completely baffled three medical men, there being no trace of disease or inflammation. Excessive vomiting and purging, followed by delirium and tetanic spasms was the cause of death, but what produced those symptoms there was no means of determining. The symptoms before death were consistent with irritant poisoning, but at the post-mortem examination the appearances were inconsistent with it. The doctor added that he knew of no disease that could simultaneously attack three children and kill two in less than twelve hours without leaving some trace. The drainage of the house was said to be in good order. After an enquiry lasting several hours, an adjournment was decided upon to enable an analysis of the stomachs and their contents to be made by Dr. Stevenson of Guy’s Hospital.

Personal Effects

Money left to others: No value recorded

Current value of effects: Not calculated

Census Information


Living at 76, Charlwood Road, Putney, London. Richard Fielden Taylor, 41yrs, Living on own means, wife, Annie P., 38yrs, 5 children, Annie G. 6yrs, Dorothy M. 5yrs, Winifred E. 3yrs, Thomas F. 1yr, Gladys F. 3 months, plus 2 domestic servants.

Miscellaneous Information

Sir Thomas Stevenson, Toxicologist and expert witness

Born into a farming family in North Yorkshire in 1838, Stevenson was privately educated and showed early talent as a chemist. He entered Guy’s Hospital Medical School in 1859 and won gold medals in anatomy, forensic medicine, midwifery and organic chemistry. He then became a lecturer in chemistry before, in 1878, succeeding Alfred Swaine Taylor – a renowned authority and the school’s first lecturer in forensic medicine. But in 1872 he was appointed to the newly created role of scientific analyst to the Home Office. That saw him involved as an expert prosecution witness in the most notorious poisoning trials of the day.