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Elizabeth Budd - drunken frolics and a child abduction

Sometimes you happen upon someone who you get glimpses of, but you can’t get the whole picture, like a shadow or someone you spy out of the corner of your eye and then they disappear before you can see them clearly. Elizabeth Budd is one such person and a bit of a tease, flexible with the truth, I think she has a drinking habit.


She says she was born in Westminster in 1859, although I can find no record of her birth and no record of her two marriages, I don’t think she was ever married, and she had no children of her own. The official documents she does turn up on are three census returns and newspaper clippings. Her father John Budd is equally mysterious. When Elizabeth is 10, her mother has already died, and her widowed father marries Phoebe in Ipswich and a year or so later her stepsister Louisa Budd is born.


In 1881 Elizabeth pops up in the census in Dartford, Kent as “Elizabeth Little”. She is 22 and living with her “husband” Edward Little who is a fishmonger, and her father John Budd and Phoebe and her stepsister Louisa. I have no idea what was going on here, there is no record of Elizabeth marrying an Edward Little or an Edward anyone.


Ten years later Elizabeth is back in Ipswich and is living with her “husband” Henry Keating, again, there is no record of their marriage.


Another ten years later and Elizabeth is living with “husband” Henry Keating in Old Foundry Road, Ipswich, with stepsister Louisa Keating, and Louisa’s infant daughter Lily Maud. Louisa had also married a Keating (really married not pretend married) and was now widowed. On the census form Lily Maud is passed off as Henry and Elizabeth’s daughter, and sister Louisa is recorded as a “boarder”. Elizabeth is working as a canvas tent maker and Louisa a machinist of stays, so both doing sewing machine factory work. At this time, 1901, Elizabeth is 41, and she goes on a drunken frolic to Colchester and misbehaved near the asylum, she threw her hat and pushed and kicked a policeman, she was fined 3s 6d. To cover her embarrassment, she lied and said her name was Lily Maud Keating of Old Foundry Road. Also, that month Elizabeth leaves her “husband” Henry Keating and goes to live with Arthur Coveney, a shoemaker in Colchester (who until recently lived round the corner in St Margaret’s Plain, Ipswich).


One afternoon two years later, Elizabeth and Arthur Coveney took it on themselves to get a train from Colchester to Ipswich and abduct Elizabeth’s 7-year-old niece, Lily Maud, from Ipswich to Colchester, on a whim, leaving a trail of chaos and distress until she was returned 24 hours later. It even made the East Anglian Daily Times in 1903 after the court case. I’m not sure I can take anything Elizabeth says as the truth, I may never know who she really is. I’m waiting for the next instalment in the 1921 census next year.

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