If ever there was a tragic life albeit all to brief Lily Evans’ was it. She was born to parents William and Emma from Nechells on July 2nd, 1884 weighing a mere 10 ounces and being no longer than 9 inches in length.

 Her Mother was something of a drinker and encouraged by a showman named Mr Baker decided to allow her new born, Lily to be put on show for up to 15 hours a day where she was given the nickname the “Lilyputian Wonder”, for this Emma Evans would be paid 30 shillings a week of which most of it would be spent on drink.

A Mrs Whitfield was employed by Baker to make clothes for Lily while she was on display. It was from Mrs Whitfield that Baker would earn his nickname “The Birmingham Barnum”. Baker declared that “Every person from her majesty down to the lowest subject should pay a visit” to see Lily.

Despite what we may think today Lily was an extremely popular attraction, being displayed every five minutes for up to 16 hours a day till as late as 10pm. Unsurprisingly this took a toll on Lily’s health. One day she suffered a convulsion and despite taking her for a drive in the open air to try and revive her and the attendance of a Doctor, Lily died. She was six weeks old.

Many people felt that Emma Evans should be charged with manslaughter, following a court case in which it emerged that she was planning to put Lily on display even in death. The coroner in an act of great charity agreed to take the matter no further if Emma promised to give her daughter a decent burial. Even this though was to become somewhat shambolic.

The undertaker displayed her tiny coffin in his window until the night before the funeral. On the day they ordered the coffin to be opened to check that Lily was inside and that her Mother had kept her word. Once the funeral procession had begun to make its way to the cemetery large crowds began to emerge, with Emma Evans being booed and jeered. It got so bad the Police had to be called to maintain order.

Lily Evans was laid to rest in Warstone Lane Cemetery in an unmarked public grave (Section B, Plot 1791)

Unburied Treasures Audio Tour – Mrs Whitfield (written and performed by Sarah Spilsbury)

Further Reading

Weekly Mail, 30th August 1884, page 8, ‘Performing A Midget to Death’, National Library of Wales

Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries Project


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