Little Girl Lost.
In the quiet leafy centre of the village of Prestbury can be found St Peter’s church. Close to the main path which leads up to the church entrance can be found a gravestone showing where a Maria Rathbone has been buried. In this day and age it seems to be a regular occurrence when people refuse to help others, they look the other way and refuse to become involved, however the same seems to be the case back in 1821 when Maria froze to death because no one would come to her aid. The following account tells of her plight:
On December 20th 1821 eight year old Maria, daughter of John and Frances Rathbone was sent on an errand by her mother, got lost in the snow and wandered for miles, calling at a number of farmhouses, where she was refused help. Eventually she was found dead at Lower Peover.
For days her grief-stricken father had searched the countryside in vain. Then one day, a man named George Dooley, an employee of Robert Hibbert, of Birtles who was a perfect stranger to the Rathbone family and had never met the child, had a dream. He dreamt that he had seen the body of a child lying under a willow tree surrounded by water. He told his employer of his dream, and it was on the strength of it that six fellow workmen went with him, and after searching several hours amazingly the girls body was found beneath a willow tree as he had seen in his dream.
At the inquest held at the Crown Inn, Lower Peover, the Coroner, John Hollins, was affected to tears by the story he was told and presented one guinea to the girl’s father. The verdict was “that she perished in consequence of fatigue, hunger and inclemency of the weather.”
However in this day and age it makes you wonder whether the people who turned their back on this poor child would be guilty of culpable homicide.