Sweet Fanny Adams

by cobbies69

10th March 2013 Sunday

This weeks post I have decided to venture out from the my New Forest. Not too far away, and still in Hampshire, England. I thought this story was well worth a read for several interesting points. Mostly for it’s sadness and how expressions from our languages can come to life.

My story today starts out on the day of Saturday August 24th 1867. Fanny Adams went for a walk along Tan House Lane, Alton. She was with her sister Lizzie and their 8 year old friend Minnie Warner. It was approximately 1 pm and they were 400 yards from the village when they encountered a man. The girls thought this man, who was dressed in black frock coat, was drunk. He gave Lizzie and Minnie 3 farthings to go and spend on sweets, while his sinister thoughts and evil doing were his intention for Fanny. He offered Fanny a ha’penny (1/2d) to walk to Shalden the next village. Fanny took the money but refused to go with the man. From 1.30pm Fanny was never seen again alive.

The girls returned home at 5 pm and was asked in conversation where they had during their afternoon, by their neighbor Mrs Gardiner, The girls told her about the man in black frock coat. She rushed to find Fanny’s mother and then on the way they met up with the man dressed in the black frock coat. Mrs Gardiner stopped him and asked, ” what have you done with the girl?” His reply was ” nothing, I gave them money to buy sweets, which I often do to the children” He also said that Fanny had left to find her sister and friend. Because of his dress and status as a clerk to the local solicitor, William Clement, this reassured the women and let him go.

Born April 30th 1859

Died August 24th 1867

At 7.00pm Fanny still hadn’t returned home so the villagers formed a search party to look for her. It wasn’t long before they found her. She was in the hopfield, dead, dismembered and mutilated beyond belief. It was a scene of overwhelming brutality. So savage was the butchery that scattered fragments of Fanny’s body kept turning up for days after.

The prime suspect was 29 year old Frederick Baker, Clerk to the solicitor William Clement. Although he protested his innocence, “I know nothing about it,” he said, his clothes were covered in blood, he carried two knives in his pocket and on later examination his diary showed this entry for Saturday August 24th..

“24th August, Saturday – killed a young girl. It was fine and hot”.


Her gravestone is set alone in the cemetery, Old Odiham Road.  There are two paths parallel with the road, and the grave is off the furthest of these, ten yards north east from where the path crosses another at right angles, making a cross roads.   Standing alone.


The Inscription –


This stone was erected by voluntary subscription.


sweet_fa-execution (1)

Frederick Baker was brought to court and it only took the jury 15 minutes deliberation to convict him of wilful murder.

Frederick Baker was hanged in front of Winchester’s County Prison at 8 am on Christmas Eve, 1867 before a crowd of 5000, a large proportion of them women. His execution was one of the last held in public. Afterwards it was revealed that Baker had written to Fanny’s parents before his execution to express regret and forgiveness for the crime that he had committed “in an unguarded hour and not with malice aforethought”. He admitted that he was “enraged at her crying, but it was done without any pain or struggle”. The prisoner denied most emphatically that he had violated the child, or had attempted to do so.



In 1869, in a drive towards healthier  and more convenient food, the Royal Navy Victualing Yard at Deptford came up with a new idea. Rather than issuing sailors with their usual salted meat they gave them tins of mutton instead. The sailors were not impressed by this new innovation or its contents. Comments began circulating around the fleet that the tinned mutton resembled the butchered remains of Fanny Adams – an 8 year old girl brutally hacked to death 2 years earlier. Soon the expression “Fanny Adams” became common naval parlance for “tinned mutton”.

It was then this expression Sweet Fanny Adams or Sweet FA (Sweet F All) which basically means nothing, couldn’t care. Or another similar expression could be ‘Couldn’t give a rat’s ass.  I am not sure if this is known to my American friends. But this is a very popular expression, and now you know how it was born….

CyKlopps28   http://geetoni.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/now-taking-your-requests-2/


thank you09

thank you87


9 Responses to “Sweet Fanny Adams”

  1. what a tragic story; thank you for sharing it and reminding us of the evil that sometimes lurks behind the facade. now we know about sweet fanny adams. thank you. z

  2. Such an excellent example of why we do not just automatically trust someone just because they hold a prestigious job or are connected to someone who does, this is my first reaction, then extreme sadness and energy I feel for this history.

    My heart bleeds for this lost little girl still today. Her parents and the trauma they endured, this low life having the audacity to explain himself to her parents’ saddens me even more for them, and why one earth would he be believed?

    I believe, as hard core callous as it sounds he was let off too lightly. His misery ended for him when they hung him. Far too soon. He had the easy way out. Fanny’s parents were the ones punished for life.

    Although using the actual ‘Not give a rats ass” expression is common in the states, I had no idea and doubt many here do know where this expression came from. Fascinating how slang is born. love to know these bits of trivia Thank you.my Kind Sir, learned something very interesting today. ~ .

    • Hey my lady it is a strange thing that these sayings / expressions that we use each daily are born by these tales, some gruesome as this one, and many nursery rhymes,, but no doubt there are good stories as well. the expression came about the callousness of the navy personal at the time.. thank you my lady as ever for your support and comments..;)

  3. What a macabre background to that saying I have heard so often! If you were given that as a choice of explanation against, perhaps, that it was a non-existent girl a housekeeper claimed to have on the payroll while she kept her wages, I know which I would have thought more likely!

    • I know which one as well, and it is a very sad one but did surprise me as I read more.. but it does like many of these expressions have their sad birth by a slip of the tongue and how people are just plain nasty as well.. but a sad one it is.thank you as always and welcome,,,;)

  4. I love to learn about word or phrase origins. Who knew that “I couldn’t give a rat’s a**” came from such a gruesome tale… Fascinating, Gerry!


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