Caversham Lock tells the story of Amelia Dyer one of the most prolific women serial killers of all time. Amelia was a baby farmer in the Victorian era. Michael Conway brings this story to life told through the eyes of the fictional policeman Sergeant Stubbs and Constable Furnivall who are on hand to investigate when a baby’s body is pulled from the water at Caversham Lock.
Having read Amelia Dyer: Angel Maker: The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money it is clear that this book is underpinned by meticulous research however this depressing story is lifted by the engaging relationship between Stubbs and Furnivall. I particularly enjoyed the references to Sergeant Stubb’s roving eye whenever the policemen come into contact with a pretty girl. The language the author uses adds to the atmosphere of Victorian England, both in the style of the writing, and the description of Victorian cities, without being intrusive to the story being told.
The telling a true crime story through a fictional medium can be a bit hit and miss and I was thoroughly impressed with this one; the quality of the writing blended with the known facts of this case gives an immensely readable book. I will definitely be following up on this excellent book by reading Caversham Road
After reading The Ghost of Lily Painter, a novel that draws upon the arrest and trial of Amelia Sach who was a baby farmer based in Finchley, I wanted to know more about how widespread this practice was.
A shocking story about baby farming in Victorian England
This book relays the life story of Amelia Dyer, born Amelia Hobley in 1838, the youngest of 5 children born to a relatively comfortable family for the times. The events surrounding the deaths of the children are truly horrifying. These children were entrusted to her care, often for  pounds to take full responsibility for the rest of their lives thereby relieving their families of any further involvement. The authors describe how many of these were drugged and starved to death. Amelia appears to have started this career by acting as a midwife who for a fee ensured that babies were stillborn before moving on to placing adverts in papers offering to take care of children for a premium. Amelia plyed her trade, intersperced with time in prison and mental asylums for many years before finally being investigated fully in 1896.
This book also goes some way to explain why single women were persuaded that answering the adverts was the answer to their problems, orphanages would often stipulate that their charges be true orphans and a single woman with a child could not easily find employment and ensure their child was cared for. The lack of money was not helped by an act passed in 1830 which meant a single woman could not claim money for the child’s upkeep from the father.
A sad but informative book about a period of history where real poverty enabled such a foul trade to flourish.
Amelia Dyer: The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money
- Women Who Kill (profilesofmurder.com)