It is 143 years since a pregnant Deptford teenager was allegedly murdered after a class-crossing affair.
SARAH TROTTER learns about a Lewisham group launching to stop violence against women on the anniversary of her death.
The death of a pregnant Deptford maidservant - allegedly by the hands of her upper-class lover - shook Victorian London.
Jane Clouson was just 17 when she was found beaten up in Kidbrooke Lane, Eltham, and managed to gasp "oh let me die" and the name of her suspected killer Edmund Pook before dying shortly after in 1871.
The teenager was having an affair with her employer’s son Mr Pook who was cleared of her murder - despite a bloodied hammer found near the crime scene which he had bought earlier.
There was public unrest afterwards – as many felt he had been cleared because of class status - and the tragic tale was splashed across national newspapers at the time.
Thousands lined the streets for her funeral where women - dressed in maids’ uniforms in support of Jane - carried her coffin to Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery.
On the 143rd anniversary of her death, a group of women gathered at her grave on Saturday (April 26) to launch Lewisham’s campaign group Women Against Violence Expressing Solidarity (WAVES).
They wore black and carried purple flowers – echoing the funeral of Blackheath-born suffragette Emily Wilding Davison – to lay flowers at her memorial.
One of the founders of WAVES, Kirsty Lowe, who lives off Belmont Hill, Blackheath, said: "At a time when rape and domestic violence statistics are going up, we feel a need to build visible support for an approach that tackles violence against women and girls.
"The response to Jane’s murder shows that Lewisham’s communities have a strong tradition of public concern about violence against women and girls."
The 36-year-old, who works as a publicist for women who have experienced violence, added: "We welcome Lewisham’s commitment to implement a violence against women and girls strategy."
The campaign group will work with local charities to stop violence against women and has the backing of Lewisham Council, MP for Lewisham East Heidi Alexander and MP for Lewisham Deptford Joan Ruddock.
Lewisham Council cabinet member for community safety Councillor Janet Daby said: "We as women and citizens who have a voice should use it and do what we can to speak up on behalf of those women who cannot."
She went on to say she was increasingly concerned for boys exposed to violent images where views of sexual relationships are distorted and that positive changes were needed.
John Hancock, a surviving relative of Jane Maria Clouson, said: "The work that WAVES in Lewisham does is very important.
"I wish there was something similar in 1871 as my cousin Jane Clouson may not have been murdered."
To get in touch with WAVES email firstname.lastname@example.org