Fanny Adams

Fanny Adams

Fanny Adams (April 1859 – 24 August 1867) was a young English girl murdered by solicitor's clerk Frederick Baker in Alton, Hampshire. The expression "sweet Fanny Adams" refers to her and has come, through British naval slang, to mean "nothing at all".


On 24 August 1867 at about 1.30 pm, Fanny's mother, Harriet Adams, let Fanny and her friend Millie Warner (both 8 years old) and Fanny's sister Lizzie (aged 7) go up Tanhouse Lane [,+Alton,+Hampshire,+UK&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=image] towards Flood Meadow. In the lane they met Frederick Baker, a 24-year-old solicitor's clerk. Baker offered Millie and Lizzie a three halfpence to go and spend and offered Fanny a halfpenny to accompany him towards Shalden, a couple of miles north of Alton. She took the coin but refused to go. He carried her into a hop field, out of sight of the other girls.

At about 5 pm, Millie and Lizzie returned home. Neighbour Mrs Gardiner asked them where Fanny was, and they told her what had happened. Mrs Gardiner told Mrs Adams, and they went up the lane, where they came upon Baker coming back. They questioned him and he said he had given the girls money for sweets, but that was all. His respectability meant the women let him go on his way.

At about 7 pm Fanny was still missing, and neighbours went searching. They found Fanny's body in the hop field, horribly butchered. Her head and legs had been severed and her eyes put out. Her torso had been emptied and her organs scattered. (It would take several days for all her remains to be found.)

Mrs Adams ran to The Butts field where her husband, bricklayer George Adams, was playing cricket. She told him what had happened, then collapsed. Adams got his shotgun from home and set off to find the perpetrator, but neighbours stopped him.

That evening Police Superintendent William Cheyney arrested Baker at his place of work: the offices of solicitor William Clement in the High Street. He was led through an angry mob to the police station. There was blood on his shirt and trousers, which he could not explain, but he protested his innocence. He was searched and found to have two small blood-stained knives on him.

Witnesses put Baker in the area, returning to his office at about 3 pm, then going out again. Baker's workmate, fellow clerk Maurice Biddle, reported that, when drinking in the Swan that evening, Baker had said he might leave town. When Biddle replied that he might have trouble getting another job, Baker said, chillingly with hindsight, "I could go as a butcher". On 26 August, the police found Baker's diary in his office. It contained a damning entry:

: 24th August, Saturday — killed a young girl. It was fine and hot.

On Tuesday 27th, Deputy County Coroner Robert Harfield held an inquest. Painter William Walker had found a stone with blood, long hair and flesh; police surgeon, Dr Louis Leslie had carried out a post mortem and concluded that death was by a blow to the head and that the stone was the murder weapon. Baker said nothing, except that he was innocent. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder. On the 29th the local magistrates committed Baker for trial at the Winchester County Assizes. The police had difficulty protecting him from the mob.

At his trial on 5 December, the defence contested Millie Warner's identification of Baker and claimed the knives found were too small for the crime anyway. They also argued insanity: Baker's father had been violent, a cousin had been in asylums, his sister had died of a brain fever and he himself had attempted suicide after a love affair.

Justice Mellor invited the jury to consider a verdict of not responsible by reason of insanity, but they returned a guilty verdict after just fifteen minutes. On 24 December, Christmas Eve, Baker was hanged outside Winchester Gaol. The crime had become notorious and a crowd of 5,000 attended the execution. Before his death, Baker wrote to the Adamses expressing his sorrow for what he had done "in an unguarded hour" and seeking their forgiveness. Baker's execution was the last to take place at Winchester.

Fanny was buried in Alton cemetery. Her grave is still there today. The headstone 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.

: This stone was erected by voluntary subscription.


In 1869 new rations of tinned mutton were introduced for British seamen. They were unimpressed by it, and decided it must be the butchered remains of Fanny Adams. The way her body had been strewn over a wide area presumably encouraged speculation that parts of her had been found at the Royal Navy victualling yard in Deptford, which was a large facility which included stores, a bakery and an abattoir.

"Fanny Adams" became slang for mutton or stew and then for anything worthless - from which comes the current use of "sweet Fanny Adams" (or just "sweet F. A.") to mean "nothing at all". It can be seen as a euphemism for "fuck all" – which means the same.

Incidentally, this is not the only example of Royal Navy slang relating to unpopular rations: even today, tins of steak and kidney pudding are known as "baby's head".

The large tins the mutton was delivered in were reused as mess tins. Mess tins or cooking pots are still known as Fannys.


* [ Fanny Adams page] at the Curtis Museum in Alton

* [ Names page] at the Royal Navy web site

* "Why Do We Say ...?", Nigel Rees, 1987, ISBN 0-7137-1944-3.

External links

* [ Fanny Adams's headstone at]

* [ "Execution of Frederick Baker, the Alton Murderer"] , ballad in "Curiosities of Street Literature" by Charles Hindley (London 1871), at the University of Virginia Library

* [;ttFREDBAKR.html "Execution of Frederick Baker"] , song at the Digital Tradition Mirror

* [,+Alton,+Hampshire,+GU34&searchp=newsearch.srf&mapp=newmap.srf Tanhouse Lane at]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fanny Adams —    nothing    Sharing the initial letters of fuck all. She was murdered in 1810, her memory being kept alive in naval slang for tinned meat. Also as sweet Fanny Adams, sweet FA, or FA:     So what can the Inguish hope for? I asked. Absolutely… …   How not to say what you mean: A dictionary of euphemisms

  • Fanny Adams — 1. nothing; 2. very little; next to nothing (initialism of Sweet Fanny Adams or Sweet Fuck All ; see also S.f.a. , Sweet FA ) …   Dictionary of Australian slang

  • fanny adams — Australian Slang 1. nothing; 2. very little; next to nothing (initialism of Sweet Fanny Adams or Sweet Fuck All ; see also S.f.a. , Sweet FA ) …   English dialects glossary

  • Fanny Adams — (also sweet Fanny Adams) noun Brit. informal nothing at all. Origin C19: orig. a naut. term for tinned meat or stew (darkly humorous ref. to the name of a murder victim), now often understood as a euphemism for fuck all …   English new terms dictionary

  • Fanny Adams — Noun. Nothing at all. Usually heard preceded by sweet. Also acts as a euphemism for fuck all . E.g. What ve you been up to Tim ? , Sweet fanny adams since I lost my job. Cf. sweet F.A …   English slang and colloquialisms

  • Fanny Adams — n. Brit. sl. 1 (also sweet Fanny Adams) nothing at all. Usage: Sometimes understood as a euphemism for fuck all. 2 Naut. a tinned meat. b stew. Etymology: name of a murder victim c.1870 …   Useful english dictionary

  • sweet Fanny Adams — Fanny Adams, sweet F.A. n British a. nothing at all. Fanny Adams is a wide spread euphemism for fuck all. b. a pitifully small amount. In 19th century naval slang, Fanny Adams was tinned or cooked meat, a sardonic reference to a girl of the same… …   Contemporary slang

  • Fanny Adams — noun Nothing (sanitized version of fuck all) …   Wiktionary

  • Fanny Adams — n British See F.A …   Contemporary slang

  • sweet Fanny Adams — noun little or nothing at all I asked for a raise and they gave me bugger all I know sweet Fanny Adams about surgery • Syn: ↑bugger all, ↑fuck all, ↑Fanny Adams • Usage Domain: ↑obscenity, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

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