The Water Doctor’s Daughters Literary Walk; St Leonards.

THE MARSDEN SISTERS MOVE SOUTH

This is an extension of The Water Doctor’s Daughters’ original literary walk  around the town of  Great Malvern, Worcestershire.

In 1876 Dr James Marsden separated from his second wife Mary to pursue an affair with  Sabina  Welch, a servant girl from Malvern.   Emily, the eldest of the surviving Marsden sisters  was now 36.  She set up home with her stepmother in Bournemouth, on the English  south coast.   The two younger girls took lodgings at various seaside towns further east.  They were  living in reduced circumstances,  obsessed with their health and  becoming socially isolated.

In September 1877  Rosa (34) and Alice  (32) moved from Hastings to  No. 1 St Margaret’s Terrace in St Leonards-on-Sea.  However, as Christmas  approached they were packing ready for yet another move.  On December  19th, Emily arrived from Bournemouth  by train to spend the festive season with them.

Today, we can follow in Emily’s footsteps. The railway station was built in the 1850’s, and still stands.

The Railway Station in Warrior Square.

We cross Warrior Square and walk up to St Margaret’s Terrace,  located on the right of the photo below. It’s a steep climb, which may be why Alice and Rose wanted to move. Alice suffered from asthma and rheumatism.

 

 

On the way (in Church Street)  we can visit  the Greek Orthodox Church. In 1878 it was St Mary Magdalene’s Anglican  church, and was where the Marsden sisters worshipped.

 

 

A few more steps brings us to St Margaret’s Terrace, and what used to be a lodging house. Rosa and Alice Marsden took rooms on the top floor.  The landlady’s niece, Mary Kerry,  provided  the young ladies with domestic help.

No. 1 St Margaret’s Terrace, St Leonards – where Rosa and Alice Marsden were lodging.

THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF ROSA MARSDEN

On the evening of Emily’s arrival, Rosa retired to bed first. Fifteen minutes later her sisters heard her cry out.  She could barely speak, but managed to tell Emily that she had taken  indigestion  medicine that  was ‘bad’.  Medical assistance was sought, but  by the next morning she was  dead.  It was not  ‘bad’ medicine, she had taken,  but  deadly ABC liniment;  a combination of  aconite, belladonna and chloroform. Her death certificate spelled out the mystery;

 

Note cause of death;   ‘Deceased came to her death by taking a quantity of belladonna and aconite liniment in mistake for medicine, which was placed in a mixture bottle, but how the liniment came to be replaced, there is no evidence to show.’

There was  no post mortem, as the attending doctor stated that Rosa  Marsden had ingested enough poison to kill a dozen people.  An inquest was hastily convened at The Norman Hotel,  back down in Warrior Square.  Was the death an accident, or something more sinister?

 

 

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