Horrible Murder at Whitwell, Norfolk: Four Children Destroyed by their Father!

Whilst searching the newspaper archives (www.nla.gov.au) for articles on my mother’s Yarham relatives who emigrated from Norfolk to Australia in the 19th century, one of the results happened to be about these murders.  I can place Yarham relatives near Whitwell when these grisly murders happened in April 1844.

William Frost, journeyman farmer left alone with his young family while wife Martha popped out to visit a neighbour, killed three of his children; Harriet 5, Charlotte 3 and Eliza 18 months by beating them on the back of their heads with a hammer. The youngest, Louisa, only 10 weeks old, was drowned in a earthen pot of water.

Upon Martha’s return, neighbours hearing her screams rushed to the house, one being Elizabeth Yarham.  Whether Elizabeth is a relative, I’m not sure, but the memory would have remained with her for the rest of her life.

Frost confessed to the murders, the coroner’s jury returning a verdict of wilful murder. He was transferred to Norwich Castle to await trial at the next assizes session. The report mentions that Frost recently joined a new sect called the “Revivalists” and had been very active among them as a preacher. Residents of the district believe he committed the murders under the influence of fanaticism. (original source: Norwich Mercury: reported in the Colonial Times, (Tasmania) Tuesday 13 August 1844).

FROST WHITWELL MURDERS 1844At Whitwell, in Norfolk, on Monday, William Frost, a respectable “journeyman-farmer,” killed three of his children by beating them on the back of the head with a large hammer, and the fourth by holding its head in a pot of water. He seems to have laboured under a fit of religious mania ; for he said that he wished them to go to heaven. He was formerly a preacher among the Ranters, and lately he had joined a sect called “Revivalists.” A Coroner’s Jury have returned a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against the man, who has been committed for trial. (source: The Spectator, 13 April 1844 pg 6)

A Brutal Assault

The Norfolk News, August 3, 1867 page 6
The Norfolk News, August 3, 1867 page 6

The British Newspaper Archives threw up this article about Elizabeth Yarham.   Whether she is related, I honestly can’t say.  Elizabeth lived at Sale.  “Whilst on the road leading to Aylsham” she met Alfred Gaff from the parish of Cawston who attempted to strike up a conversation with her.  Eventually he threw her down and attempted to commit an offence. Regaining her footing he made another attempt, tearing Elizabeth’s clothes in a “shameful manner”.  Alarm was given and Gaff and appeared before the Magistrate a few weeks later.