020 8530-8443Monday to Friday 10.30am to 4.30pm



The memorial plaque to Elizabeth Boxall.


Of all those memorialised in Postman's Park, seventeen year old Elizabeth Boxall holds the distinction of having had the longest amount of time pass between her act of bravery, which took place in July 1887, and her death - which occurred on the 20th of June 1888.

In addition, as far as her family were concerned, her death was as much the result of medical neglect and incompetence, as it was from the injuries she sufferred in the carrying out of her heroic act.

According to her plaque in Postman's Park, "Elizabeth Boxall, Aged 17, Of Bethnal Green...Died Of Injuries Received In Trying To Save A Child From A Runaway Horse, June 20 1888."


In July, 1887, Elizabeth had rushed to the assistance of a child who had run into the path of an out of control horse in her street near her East London home; and although she had succeeded in preventing any harm coming to the child, she herself had been kicked by the horse.

Over the next few months her injury had grown worse, to the point she found it extremely difficult to walk.

Then, on the 9th of October 1887, as a result of a heavy fall, she had been admitted to the London Hospital.

Over the next few months she underwent a gruelling regime of hospital treatments, including two amputations of parts of her injured leg.

Then, on June 20th, 1888, she died.

An inquest into her death was held on June 23rd 1888 and, in its issue of the following Monday The Globe carried the following report on the proceedings:-


"There are certain statements, made at the inquest on the body of Elizabeth Boxall, at Bethnal-green on Saturday, which ought to be inquired into.

One was to the effect that, while the girl was at the London Hospital, her leg was amputated just above the knee, without the consent either of the deceased or of her parents.

The girl seems to have thought that she was chloroformed simply that the limb might be examined.

She died from the effects of a further amputation; but ought the first to have taken place under the circumstances?"


"Dr. Macdonald has just held an inquestt at Bethnal-green, into the circumstances attending the death of Elizabeth Boxall, aged 17, of Tagg-street, Bethnal-green.

Mr Joseph Boxall deposed that in July last his daughter (the deceased), whilst attempting to save a child from being run over, was kicked by a horse.

She was taken to the London Hospital, and was sent from there to a convalescent home at Folkestone, from which witness took her on the 11th inst.

She died, however, On Wednesday last.

At the conclusion of his evidence the father said: "They regularly butchered her in the hospital."

The Coroner: "We cannot go into that."

The Father: "I shall speak my mind."

The Coroner: "Certainly; this is a free country."

Mrs Boxall corroborated her husband's evidence.

Dr Berdoe deposed that on Thursday, the 14th instant, be was called to the deceased on an order from the relieving officer.

He saw the deceased, who, with her friends, seemed much embittered at what they considered the bad treatnient she had received at the London Hospital.

The deceased told him that the doctors put her under chloroform for the purpose of, as they said, examining her leg.

But, instead of doing merely this, however, they amputated her leg just above the knee. This was done without the consent of the deceased, or her parents.

A short time afterwards it was found that, to save her life, it was necessary to amputate the rest of the leg, and this was done with the consent of the deceased.

The cause of death was shock consequent upon the second operation.

A juryman said that the consent at the parents of the girl ought to have been obtained for the first operation.

Nobody was present from the hospital, but the jury refused to adjourn the inquiry, one saying that the second operation caused the death.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence."


The allegation that Elizabeth Boxall had been "butchered" by staff at the London Hospital received widespread press coverage and, within days, the hospital saw fit to defend itself against the accusation.

On the 1st of July 1888 Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper published the following letter from William J. Nixon, House Governor of the London Hospital:-

"...My attention has been directed to the reporti:n your paper of an inquest on the body of Elizabeth Boxall.

It appears to have been stated in the course of the inquiry that the patient was "butchered in the London hospital."

The facts of the case are these.

The patient was admitted on the 9th of October, last year, for "contused thigh," the history being that she had some time before been kicked by a horse, and that the injured limb had been further damaged by a fall occurring on the day she was admitted to the hospital.

The examination showed the previously unsuspected presence of cancerous disease. The swelling was full of blood, the thighbone was broken, and its ends destroyed by the disorder, and practically the only chance of stopping the spread of the malady was to perform amputation above the knee; and although the consent of the patient or the friends is always, as a rule, obtained in advance, it was decided, after consultation among those present, that immediate amputation was necessary.

The case went on fairly well for some time; but by January 31st last there were evidences of the recurrence of cancer, and it was deemed essential that the operation of amputation at the hip-joint should he performed.

With the consent of the patient and her friends this was done.

She then improved, and was sent to Folkestone, at the expense of our Samaritan society, in charge of a special attendant.

Here, however, symptoms were shown of the cancerous malady spreading to the lungs, and we were required to remove her, as being unsuited for residence in a convalescent home.

The patient's stay at Folkestone lasted from the 24th May to the 11th June.

On the father's return, he came, I find, to the hospital, and, at his request, some strengthening medicine was given him for his daughter.

We heard no more respecting the case until the account of the inquest appeared in the papers.

Had any intimation of the coming inquest reached us, the hospital would have been represented.

The facts I have stated above would then have been in evidence, and the jury would have been able to form a clear opinion whether there was any ground for imputations of ill-treatment in the hospital, and whether a verdict of "Death from shock" after an operation performed upwards of four months previously, and followed by comparative convalescence, could possibly be a correct verdict.

I am. sir, your obedient servant

Wm. J. NIXON, House Governor."