Eliza Tharme the Maid-servant – and her illegitimate son

Gossip or fact?

Eliza Tharme was a pretty looking eighteen year old live-in maid-servant at Dr. Palmer’s house. She was the youngest of ten children of James and Mary Tharme from Colton. It is not known if they had a relationship before Palmer’s wife died but there is little doubt that she became his mistress after Ann’s death.

Palmer’s own diary records that on June 26th 1855, nine months after Annie his wife died, Eliza gave birth to an illegitimate son in the Palmer House. Note:- The birth certificate gave the date of birth as June 27th 1855.

Eliza’s child was sent to be cared for by a ‘nurse’ at Armitage some two or three miles from Rugeley. It was claimed that Palmer sent for the young child saying that he wished to see that the child was well. The Illustrated Life and Career of William Palmer of Rugeley published in 1856 added:-

…..The reader will guess the result, the child was seized with convulsions while going home and died shortly after, or as some say on its journey back.”

The boy died on November 17th 1855 in the same year as he was born and just four days before John Parsons Cook died.

Birth Certificate details

No When and where born Name, if any Sex Name and surname of father Name, surname and
maiden surname
of mother
Signature, description residence of informant
When registered
Signature
of registrar
480 Twenty
seventh
June
1855
Market Street
Rugeley
Alfred Thame Boy ? Eliza Tharme Benjn Thirlby
present at the birth
Lower Brook
Street
Rugeley
Thirtieth June
1855
Frederick
Crabb
Registrar
John P Dyall
Superintendent Registrar

Death Certificate details

No When and
where died
Name and surname Sex Age Occupation Cause of death Signature, description residence of informant When
registered
Signature of registrar
480 Seventeenth
November
1855
Armitage
Alfred Thame Male 5 months Son of
Eliza
Tharme
Erysipelas
5 days
Certified
Benjn Thirlby
In attendance
Lower Brook Street
Rugeley
Nineteenth November
1855
Frederick
Crabb
Registrar

In the Rugeley Edition of the Illustrated Times February 2nd 1856 (who spelt Tharme without an ‘e’) we read:-

We next hear of William Palmer in Stafford gaol. Before, however, he is conveyed there, he took a farewell leave of Eliza Tharm, his maid-servant, throwing his arms round her neck, and requiting her illicit love with a £50 Bank of England note.

Gossips hinted that Palmer “might” have poisoned his illegitimate son. Was this the case? Or, was it a case of ‘giving a dog a bad name’?