Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Eltham Workhouse Mystery - 27 September 1887

A man, who, for the past two years, has been an inmate of the Eltham (Kent) Workhouse, under the assumed name of Wilton Howard, has just died suddenly from heart disease. He was evidently by birth and education a gentleman, and his conduct while in the workhouse had been most exemplary. He spoke Hindustani, French, and German with fluency and was equally well acquainted with Greek and Latin. His own account of himself was that he was of good family, and that at one time he was in possession of considerable fortune. For many years he served in India as an officer in the East India Company’s service, and retired with a pension. Later on in life, having lost his fortune through injudicious investment in mines, he commuted his pension, and was equally unfortunate in speculating with the amount he received.

At Constantinople he was seized with paralysis, which incapacitated him from work, and, coming home, he stopped at several watering places, until he became destitute at Folkestone. He seems to have exhausted his friends, and he had no other resource but to obtain an order for the workhouse from the relieving officer. At that time he was elegantly dressed. His manners and bearing were always courteous and dignified.

He refused money gifts when offered him and had a great horror of dying a pauper. He carefully concealed his name, his reason being, he said, that he expected to come into a small estate, and he should not like it to be known that he had been an inmate of a workhouse. At his death his linen was found to be marked with an earl's coronet, and he has left a will, but no clue to his identity.

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