Thursday, 3 March 2016

Robert Renton 1826 Bromley Kent

In July 1826 the burial of 6 year old Robert Renton in Bromley churchyard would appear uneventful. The parish burial register records his abode as Elmstead which lay outside the town but within the parish and no other detail Kent Online Parish Clerks transcript Burial register.
It is only when one reads the sexton account of the burial that the nature of Robert's death emerges as sexton Edward Dunn records that he was killed by his father and in a later addition that his father was acquitted of his son's manslaughter.
In the London Courier and Evening Gazette of 5 August 1826 the circumstances of the child's death and the acquittal of Robert Renton Senior are described. The Bromley Coroner had arraigned Robert Renton on Coroner's Inquisition charging him with feloniously killing and slaying young Robert.
The child's death resulted from a fractured skull caused by his father "correcting him" for disobedience with a leather strap which had a metal buckle. The child died as a result of a fractured skull.
As was usual before the abolition in the 1840's of the Grand Jury system ( to be superseded by committal proceedings in Magistrates Courts)  in the the case of Robert Renton the Grand Jury rejected a bill of indictment for homicide before the arraignment on Coroner's Inquisition was to be heard by Mister Justice Holroyd.
Both Counsel and Learned Judge identified two fatal flaws in the case against Renton;the record failed to identify the venue  or the means of death of the child and both were required for Renton to be arraigned.
Mister Adolphus for the prosecution and with the Judge's permission described the  more lurid and sensational rumours that had been circulated about the child's death and described the death as an accident. Mister Justice Holroyd also agreed that had a trial proceeded the result could only have been an acquittal as the depositions taken before the Coroner induced in him  a belief that the death was purely accidental.
Robert Renton " a person of respectable appearance" was acquitted and is described as bereft at the death of his son.
Edward Dunn was undertaker for the funeral of Robert the funeral account transcript is Dunn Funeral Account 1826 at Kent Online Parish Clerks and shows that Robert Renton had the child's coffin collected from Elmstead by hearse and a bearer to carry the coffin for interment.
To the 21st century mind such violence by a parent is horrifying but as the report of proceedings the all male process of acquittal saw the child as at fault and justified the parent using force to correct; the "accident" of a fractured skull is condoned by both counsel for the prosection and learned Judge as the father might lawfully discipline the child.
Little else is known of the Renton family who presumaly moved from the area despite exoneration at the Assizes.