Blanche Emily Early, born in 1882 in Rotherham, is my first cousin, thrice removed and daughter of Priscilla Walker Berry and Jesse Early.
Below are details of an inquest held a few days after Blanche’s tragic death.
THE ROTHERHAM ADVERTISER, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 1901
SAD DEATH OF A ROTHERHAM YOUNG LADY FATAL FALL FROM A BEDROOM WINDOW SUPPOSED SOMNAMBULISM
An inquest was held at the Rotherham Hospital on Monday night before Mr. B. Bagshawe, Deputy Coroner, touching the death of Blanche Emily Early, daughter of Mr. Jesse Early, of 26, Effingham street, which took place on Saturday morning, the 14th inst., as the result of injuries sustained by her falling from a bedroom window, at her father’s house, on Wednesday morning, the 11th inst. The first witness was Mr. Jesse Early, of 26, Effingham street, pork butcher and provision merchant, who said the deceased, Blanche Emily Early, was his daughter and was nineteen years old. She was not strong or healthy in her younger years, but had improved latterly. She assisted her mother in household matters. Witness saw her on Tuesday night, the 10th inst., when she went to bed in her usual health and spirits. In fact she was very cheerful indeed. Her sister and she slept together, and deceased was the first to retire. Witness next saw her about eight o’clock on the Wednesday morning, when she was carried upstairs. He was in bed when he was told she had fallen out of the window and he went out of his bedroom and saw her being carried upstairs. She was unconscious. Dr. Baldwin was sent for and Dr. Locke came at once after which Dr. Baldwin attended her up to her death, which occurred on Saturday morning at half-past one o’clock. Witness had no knowledge as to her having thrown herself out of the window.
The Coroner: Was she a hysterical girl? – No, sir. Had she walked in her sleep? – Not to my knowledge. Was she in trouble? – No, sir. Quite sure? – Yes, sir. You have never heard of her walking in her sleep? – No, sir. So far as you know had there been any quarrel between yourself and anybody? – No, sir According to the report made by the police she appears to have fallen from a window. How do you account for it?
Mr. Early: The only way in which I can account for it is this: my eldest daughter and the deceased slept together, and my wife called them up at half-past seven. My eldest daughter got up first and began dressing herself. She left Blanche in bed. My eldest daughter pulled the Venetian blinds up, and I think that must have startled the deceased. She then got out of bed and went past my other daughter to get into the bath-room as she thought. She put on her stockings and skirt. At the top of the stairs is a bedroom where she kept her clothes, and I think instead of going into the bath-room she had taken the wrong turn. The Coroner: What height is the window from which she fell? I should think about 20 or 30 feet. I mean from the floor of the bedroom to the window. What height is the bottom of the window to the floor? Witness: It is only like a step. Why should she open the window? Witness: It is a window which slides up easily. In fact it flies up. It does not open outwardly. Is there any similarity between that window and the one leading into the bath-room? Witness: In the bath-room the window is much higher. She would have had to climb to get out of the bath-room window. Is that the only explanation you have to give? It seems an extraordinary thing that a girl should walk into a room, open the window and jump out or get out without rhyme or reason. Have you any further explanation? Witness: Not the slightest. My other daughter will tell you more perhaps. By the Foreman of the Jury: Do you think she was awake? Witness: I think not. I think she was in a dazed state. The Coroner: Had she opened that window before? – Yes. By a Juror: Do you think it possible she mistook the window for the door? Witness: That is what we think. It was not quite light and we think she missed the door. Florence Amy Early, daughter of the last witness, said on Wednesday morning week her sister and she were sleeping together.
Deceased went to bed first on the Tuesday night and was asleep when witness got to bed. She was in her usual state of health when she retired to rest. Witness was awakened by her mother at half-past seven next morning and she got up shortly afterwards leaving the deceased in bed and drawing up the Venetian blinds. Witness was then undressed, She had drawn up one blind and was drawing up the second, when her sister got up and went out of the room as she thought to go to the bath-room. Then she heard her go to the other bedroom. The Coroner: I suppose you thought she had gone to the bath-room to wash herself? – Yes. Was it dark? – It was just breaking light. It was very dark that morning. The Coroner: She left the room as you say in this half-dressed condition. What happened afterwards? Witness: I heard her go into the back bedroom and thought she had gone for some clean clothes. Before I could do any more my brother shouted up the stairs that she was in the yard. What I thought was the drawer opening must have been the window. My brother shouted, “Blanche has fallen into the yards.” She was taken upstairs, and after a time regained consciousness, when she said she did not remember anything; she never remembered getting out of bed. The Coroner: Was she in the habit of getting out of bed and walking about the house? – Not lately. Had she ever been? – The time we remember her coming down in her sleep was six years ago. You know that of your own knowledge? – Yes. Did you see her leave the room? – Yes. Did she seem awake or asleep? – I did not notice. I expected she was awake. You thought she was going into the bath-room to dress? – Yes. Lily Woolley, domestic servant at 22, Effingham street, said on Wednesday last she saw Blanche Emily Early come through the bedroom window. Witness saw her sitting on the window sill. She had on her night dress, skirt and stockings. She thought Miss Early was talking to her. Her mouth was moving. Did you notice if her eyes were open? – Yes, they were open. The Coroner: Can you account for this? – I cannot, sir. Why should she fall from the window. Do you know the reason? – No, sir.
The Coroner said there was only one conclusion to be come to. The deceased up to about six years ago had been in the habit of getting up in a somnolent condition, which sometimes did occur, especially with young girls at a certain age. The evidence pointed to the fact that the deceased was cheerful when she went to bed and that she had no trouble. There was nothing suspicious in the case, and there was no reason to suppose that she committed suicide. He thought the verdict of the jury must be that she died from the effects of a fall from a bedroom window whilst she was probably in a somnolent condition. The Jury, at the close of the inquiry, expressed their sympathy with Mr. Early and his family in their trouble.