“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Finding Sweet F.A.

The gravestone pictured below can be found in the town cemetery of Alton in Hampshire. The gravestone commemorates a young girl called Fanny Adams who was murdered in 1867. The inscription of the gravestone reads:

 Sacred to the memory of Fanny Adams aged 8 years and 4 months who was cruelly murdered on Saturday August 24th 1867.

Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Matthew 10 v 28.

It seems that on Saturday 24 August 1867 Fanny Adams (aged 8) was out walking along Tanhouse Lane in Alton with her friend (also aged 8) and her sister (aged 7). During the course of this walk they encountered a local solicitor's clerk named Frederick Baker. After offering the girls some money, Baker abducted Fanny and took her into a nearby field.

When the two girls (without Fanny) returned home the alarm was raised and Fanny’s mother and a neighbour went up the lane to find her. Walking up the lane they encountered Baker but did not suspect him of any wrong-doing due to his respectability in the community.

The search for Fanny continued into the early evening and her body was eventually found in the field. It is said that her body had been butchered, with her head, legs and eyes removed and her torso emptied of its organs. Over the course of the next few days all of her missing body parts where eventually found.

Baker was duly arrested, and although he claimed innocence, he apparently had blood on his shirt and trousers and was in possession of two blood-stained knives. The piece of evidence that finally removed doubt of his guilt was his diary entry for the day, which read “24th August, Saturday – killed a young girl. It was fine and hot.”. At his trial Baker was found guilty of the murder and he was hung on 24th December 1867 outside Winchester Jail.

The horrible nature of this murder and the widespread reporting of the crime led to the name Fanny Adams becoming widely known and eventually being perverted into a form of slang.  In 1869 new rations of tinned mutton were introduced into the British Navy and they were widely reviled by the Sailors. It became a Navy joke that some parts of Fanny’s body may have found its way in to this new tinned provision. So the phrase Sweet Fanny Adams sprang up as a slang for this worthless form of tinned meat. Over the years this phrase became generalised to mean “nothing at all”.

If you want to find Sweet FA for yourself, then Alton town cemetery can be found on Old Odiham Road. Fanny’s gravestone is in the south side of the cemetery, to the north of Spitalfields Road. The approximate location is 51.153286, -0.975730.

Fanny Adam's gravestone in the distance.

A close up.

Tributes to Fanny. 

Pictures, Hampshire (September 2014).

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