In January 1849, Peter Drouet’s Establishment for Pauper Children in Tooting, Surrey, was at the centre of a national scandal after many children in his care were suddenly struck down and killed by cholera. The event lead Charles Dickens to write four pieces over the coming months published in the The Examiner newspaper. At least 180 children from the school are believed to have died from the disease. Drouet was charged with manslaughter but subsequently acquitted.

In conjunction with our blog article we have reproduced several contemporary newspaper reports as the national scandal unfolded. The following report appeared in The Examiner on Saturday, 17 February 1849.


Judges’ Chambers.


It will be recollected that after Mr Drouet was admitted to bail by Mr Justice Erle, on the verdict of the jury who sat at the Royal Free Hospital, there were no less than three other coroners’ juries sitting upon deaths arising out of the Tooting affair -the one which was held before Mr Baker, at Hackney, was brought to an unexpected close by the coroner discharging the jury; while on the proceedings which were held before Mr Wakley and Mr Mills, at Chelsea and St Pancras, verdicts of manslaughter were returned, and two warrantg were issued for the apprehension of the accused. His being bailed on the first charge was no protection on the subsequent charges. Accordingly the necessary steps were taken, and notice was given to the guardians of the respective union, that it was Mr Dronet’s intention to apply to be admitted to bail; at the same time the names of those who were to be tendered as bail were sent in. – In the course of the afternoon the accused’s solicitors and the clerks to the respective boards attended at chambers, when, on the part of Mr Dronet, an affidavit was handed in to Mr Justice Whiteman, stating that Mr Drouet was in a dangerous state of illness, and confined to his bed; that if he was bound to attend before his lordship at chambers the exertion would materially accelerate his disease. which would cause a fatal termination. – Mr Justice Wightman thought thie affidavit was sufficient – Mr Drouet’s solicitor said the bail were in attendance, and were ready to justify. – The learned judge said they had better attend before a magistrate in the neighbourhood where Mr Drouet resided, at the same time naming the same amount of bail as fixed by Mr Justice Erle.