The Authentic Eclectic

How the Cruel Murder of a Little Girl Became a Joke

Remembering Fanny Adams

Nichola Scurry
4 min readJan 15, 2022


Black and white photo of a little girl in a white dress walking through grass with her back to us, Nichola Scurry, Medium
Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash, free to use under the Unsplash License.

Have you ever heard English people use the expression “Sweet Fanny Adams” as a euphemism for “f*** all”?

“What did you do today?”

“Sweet Fanny Adams.”

Until recently, I didn’t know that Fanny Adams was a real person, an eight-year-old girl who was cruelly murdered in 1867. Now that I know her story, whenever I think about Fanny Adams I feel like crying. Not just because an innocent child was killed, but also because a couple of years after her death her name became synonymous with a joke.

Who was Fanny Adams?

Fanny Adams was born on 30 April 1859 in Alton, in Hampshire, southeast England. Alton was a pretty market town surrounded by breweries and hop fields. Earlier in the century, Jane Austen lived nearby.

Fanny was the daughter of agricultural worker George Adams and his wife Harriet. She was a sister to Ellen, George, Walter, Lizzie and Lillie Ada. The family weren’t rich, but the children were well-clothed, fed and housed. They didn’t suffer from poverty.

The Adams family were well-regarded within their community. They possibly lived next door to Fanny’s grandparents. Also next door to her grandparents lived Minnie Warner, Fanny’s best friend.

At eight, Fanny was described as pretty and tall for her age. She was intelligent and did well in school.

Fanny was mostly known in the small village for being a cheery, polite and content young girl who always had a smile on her face. True Crime England

Fanny Adams was a nice kid. Even though she lived 155 years ago, she sounds just like the little kids that are around today.

The murder of Fanny Adams

Disclaimer: I’m not going to go into the details of Fanny’s murder because I find them distressing. If you’re curious, you know how to look things up online. Nor do I wish to talk much about her killer. This is Fanny’s story, not his.



Nichola Scurry

Australian human living in Barcelona, writing mostly about popular culture with a twist of quirky. If you like my writing, I like coffee.