Death of Laura Curtis

Great aunt Laura was only a name in a list of birthdays and deaths kept by our gran, her younger sister. Laura’s great granddaughter then made contact via the Ancestry website and a lot more life, and unfortunately rather a lot of death, was added to the bare bones.

Laura, born 1885, was the seventh child (out of eleven) of Robert Smith Neal/Ellen Elizabeth Watts – see the Neal family page.

Laura Neal 1902

Laura Emma Neal married Robert Stanley Horace Curtis (b 1884 Norwich, d 1949) in Norwich July 1903 – she was just 18. Their child Ethel Laura was born only a few months later in December 1903. The life of this small family was harsh and short. The cause of Laura’s death in August 1904, according to the inquest, was “gunshot wounds accidentally caused” – by her husband.

Read more in the attached transcriptions of newspaper articles – in pdf (Acrobat) format:

Initial news, plus inquest, of Laura’s death

Funeral of Laura Curtis

Remand and committal of Robert Curtis

The Times coverage 10th November 1904 of the trial (which took place 8th November) – click for larger size:

Press cutting

In essence, he got 5 years for manslaughter.

Robert remarried, to Mabel Pleasants Hipper 1909 Norwich, and can be found in the 1911 census with his parents, occupation jobbing gardener. There is a further marriage, to Alice Botwright in 1919, but nothing to show what happened to Mabel. Alice died 1926, and Robert appears to have had a fourth marriage, to Josephine Gladwell in 1927. Robert died 1949, Josephine probably 1968.

The death must have had a large impact on the Neal family, but no stories on this event were handed down. Is it unreasonable to speculate that it influenced when/how younger sister Emily got married, which wasn’t until her late twenties? And her parents, presumably active members of Magdalen Road Congregational Church – did their faith support them, or perhaps their religious views on sex before marriage contributed to a gap between them and daughter Laura?

4 thoughts on “Death of Laura Curtis

    1. Ethel Laura is shown as with her father (and his parents) at the 1911 census, and married John Wilkin 1929. I have been in touch with a granddaughter of hers (indeed she got the Norwich press cuttings from the archive).

    1. Hi Linda
      There are two processes here – the inquest jury looking at the cause of death, held shortly after the incident, and the murder trial jury, deciding guilt for the deed. Given the inquest decided it was an accident, there is an unanswered question on who then took it to a full trial. I’m not an expert on the legal process!

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