'Market Cross' and Conduit at St Alban's, I. Schneibbilie, 1787.

Mary Ramsay: female impostor

In our latest book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, we recount the adventures of Sarah Wilson, aka Lady Wilbrahammon… amongst other aliases! Sarah was a very convincing impostress and her life is one of those cases when fact proves to be far stranger than fiction. But, although rare, Sarah was certainly not unique. She was perhaps inspired to commit her grand fraud after reading of a girl named Mary Ramsay in the broadsheets. Mary’s story dated to April 1738, but it was widely reported in 1764 just before Sarah’s own antics.

*      *      *

In a ditch, between St Albans and Colney Heath in Hertfordshire, lay a poor starving girl, half-naked and too weak to move. Two bakers were travelling along the road, and they heard the girl’s groans and rescued her, taking her to an alehouse near the turnpike. The surgeon and apothecary, Mr Humphries, was sent for and under his care, the girl recovered.

St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire by Abraham Pether
St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire by Abraham Pether; Manchester Art Gallery

Then the girl told her story. She was Mary Ramsay, nineteen years of age and from Hull in East Yorkshire. Her father had been an eminent surgeon and man-midwife who, when he died, had left Mary, his younger daughter, a fortune of £7,000 and trusted her to the care of his brother (there was an elder daughter living in London who was married to a wealthy Suffolk gentleman named Mr Cooke). Mary’s uncle was kindness itself to his young charge and so Mary suspected nothing when he sent her to London to board with a gentlewoman who kept a school in order that she could learn the manners required for a young lady of fashion. Dressed in a new riding habit and jockey cap, Mary was placed in a stagecoach and given a letter of introduction addressed to the schoolmistress. At the coaching inn at Stamford in Lincolnshire, where Mary had stopped to dine, she accidentally dropped the letter; it was found by a fellow passenger, a sea captain whose name Mary had forgotten. Upon hearing Mary’s story, the sea captain persuaded her to open it. The note – signed by her uncle – was brief and to the point.

Sir,

The person who brings you this is the young woman I told you of. I acknowledge receipt of half the money agreed on, and expect the remainder as soon as convenient.

Lady in a riding habit (unknown artist)
Lady in a Riding Habit; Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery (unknown artist)

Mary had been effectively sold, to a man she did not know. With no-one looking she made her escape, slipped away and travelled on foot for a couple of days. In need of funds, she sold her jockey cap to an old woman and then exchanged her riding habit for a gown and some money, enough to get her to London to find her sister. It proved a fruitless search and so she set out once again, penniless now, resolving to return to Hull. Mary managed to trek as far as St Albans where – in her distressed state – she had been found.

She was the very picture of innocence and the good townsfolk of St Albans rallied around Mary, raising a subscription to clothe her and pay for her journey back to Hull. In the meantime, she lived in the mayor’s house with his family. All was going very well for young Mary until one voice of dissent was heard. A man recently returned from London cast doubt on her story, to the fury of the mayor and the inhabitants of St Albans. This man remembered that he had an acquaintance in Hull and so he wrote to him, to establish the truth of the matter. The reply was unfortunate for Mary. The acquaintance in Hull stated that:

… a surgeon of the name of Ramsay had formerly lived in the neighbourhood of Hull, who was very poor all his life-time, and who was confined for debt in the castle of Lincoln, and died there about ten years before; that he had two daughters, abandoned wretches and common prostitutes, who strolled about the country under various and fallacious pretences; that upon the strictest enquiry, he could not find that Ramsay had a brother; and that if the people of St Albans would pass her to Hull, [Mary] would there meet with her dessert.

Mary protested; the man who had written the letter was a particular friend of her uncle and had colluded in the deception practised upon her. The mayor – not knowing who to believe – directed two letters to gentlemen in Hull, asking for clarification. The answers came back, confirming that Mary was lying. The mayor wasted no time and Mary found herself in the Bridewell where she confessed all. She was a dupe, an impostor, and she was whipped at the cross as a vagrant on the next market day before being packed off back to Hull.

'Market Cross' and Conduit at St Alban's, I. Schneibbilie, 1787.
‘Market Cross’ and Conduit at St Alban’s, I. Schneibbilie, 1787. British Library

That Mary received her comeuppance didn’t deter Sarah Wilson who, just two years after this tale had been published, embarked on her own fantastical adventures. In fact, we suspect the tall-tale about Mary Ramsay to be a complete work of fiction as we can find no proof to substantiate any of it, but that probably doesn’t matter. It was reported as fact and the tale took on a life of its own in the imagination of Sarah Wilson, alias Lady Wilbrahammon, whose story is most definitely true, even though it is not quite as has been reported over the centuries. But, to discover the amazing adventures of ‘Lady Wilbrahammon’, you’ll have to read our book, All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century.

Source:

The Beauties of all the Magazines, selected for the year 1764, vol. iii

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London from Blackheath by Francis Nicholson.

The Fair Swindler of Blackheath

Elizabeth Frances Robertson was born c.1773, possibly in a humble house in the outskirts of the town of Huntingdon where her father worked as a porter to an oilman and her mother as a laundress. She clearly received an education somewhere for she gained employment as a teacher in a boarding school, and did so well that a lady from Cheshire recommended her to the attention of Miss Charlotte Sharpe who ran a boarding school for young ladies at Croom’s Hill in Greenwich. From 1795, Eliza and Charlotte ran the school in partnership.

Croom's Hill overlooking Hyde Vale, Blackheath by Thomas Christopher Hofland
Croom’s Hill overlooking Hyde Vale, Blackheath by Thomas Christopher Hofland; English Heritage, Ranger’s House

Short and somewhat plain in appearance, and badly marked by smallpox, Eliza soon endeared herself to the staff and pupils, not least with the melancholy – but totally fictitious – tale of her childhood. Her father, she said, was dead. He’d upset her grandfather when he married against his wishes and was driven from his home and country, forced to wander as an exile. Mr Robertson ended up in the United States and – claimed Eliza – was given shelter at Mount Vernon by General Washington. There Mrs Robertson joined him and several children were born. An older brother, Eliza told her rapt audience, had been killed in battle, but not before he had married a woman of great fortune and even greater beauty. A sister had married a Captain Pigot who, shortly afterwards, had been killed in a duel, but nothing lost, then attracted the attention, and hand in marriage, of Lord Paget, heir apparent of the Earl of Uxbridge. Eliza was outwardly amiable and sensible, appeared very religious although later described as insinuating in her manner and speaking in an elevated tone of voice.

General George Washington (1732-1799) by John Copley Singleton
General George Washington (1732-1799) by John Copley Singleton; NT, Washington Old Hall

As everyone seemed to have swallowed these lies without murmur, Eliza went further. She claimed that she was entitled to an estate in Scotland, Fascally (it doesn’t exist but she said it was near Perth), after the death of an uncle, Alexander Stuart Robertson, and was an heiress. Lord Kenyon, Eliza asserted, had said she was entitled to this estate. Then, in 1799, Eliza received the news of her mother’s death. She was distraught, bought mourning rings for all her friends (on credit!) and announced that she had come into more money, around 700l. a year. When her grandfather died, she would receive even more, around 15 or 20,000l. Determined to enjoy her supposed new-found wealth, with the help of Charlotte Sharpe, Eliza contacted Mr Creasy of Greenwich, a man of business, to help her gain control of her Scottish estate. Mr Creasy was instantly duped. A surveyor was applied to, who would go to Fascally to give his opinion on the rents and value the timber. The surveyor also later added a somewhat gruesome piece of information to the tale: he recalled seeing a wax model of a dead child… Eliza, while weeping over it, claimed it was a (macabre!) present from Lord Paget and was the likeness of her sister’s child. Miss Robertson didn’t do things by halves! We almost suspect she began to believe her own lies.

London from Blackheath by Francis Nicholson.
London from Blackheath by Francis Nicholson. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Eliza planned to enjoy her good fortune; she wanted a fine house and fixed on a handsome one in the Paragon, an elegant crescent at Blackheath, which was half built. In early 1800, she bought it on credit… Mr Creasy had advanced her 2,000l. of his own money in lieu of her settling matters at Fascally. This Blackheath villa (it was no. 3 on the crescent) was to be finished in the most expensive style. Creasy hired bricklayers, carpenters and painters. The drawing rooms were painted in watercolours by one of the best artists money could buy, the walls in landscape and the ceiling composed of clouds. Floor to ceiling looking glasses in richly carved, burnished gold frames were hung on the walls in other rooms; six mirrors came to 1100l. Mr Driver, a nurseryman, planted the shrubberies and improved the extensive pleasure grounds. Meanwhile, Eliza set up three carriages, a coach, a sociable and a post-chariot and had a card printed which read, ‘Miss Robertson, of Fascally and Blackheath’ which she distributed around all the best houses in the neighbourhood. As we have already pointed out, why go small when you can go large.

The Paragon in Blackheath.
The Paragon in Blackheath. London Illustrated News, 19 April 1947

Creasy also went to Thomas Haycraft’s ironmongery in Deptford; Mr Haycraft had gone to Bath, leaving his two sons in charge. After being assured of Eliza’s status by Mr Creasy, they extended her credit and supplied several items for her new house. In the end, across all the tradesmen, dressmakers and milliners who were approached by Eliza and Mr Creasy, she received credit amounting to an eye-watering 15,000l. against her future expectations.

During the building work, Eliza and Charlotte stayed at Croom’s Hill. (Charlotte Sharpe was later described, unkindly, as having large black eyes, with a rather ferocious expression, pallid skin and sharp features.) Towards the end of June, they set off for Brighton, where they ‘figured away with four horses and outriders’. In August they returned, and Eliza went to Hatchett’s the coachmaker and desired him to make her an elegant chariot, with silver mouldings and raised coronets of silver. A trip to Margate also took place, with Mr Creasy accompanying the ladies. Eliza realised that he might talk to people in Margate and unravel her tales so, near to Shooter’s Hill, she stopped the carriage and told her coachman not to announce Mr Creasy; he seems to have made no resistance to this. He was a married man so had no designs on her fortune, although he may have been in on the scam.

On Shooter's Hill by George Scharf.
On Shooter’s Hill by George Scharf. British Library

Furniture was supplied by Mr Oakley, an upholsterer who had a warehouse on Bond Street. Eliza told Oakley she had great expectations from rich relations in India and was continually receiving presents of great value. Among the number lately arrived was a chimneypiece then lying at India House, and she added that she intended to build a room in which to hold balls or musical evenings. Oakley’s order amounted to almost 4,000l., again, all on credit. With the house beginning to be furnished, servants were hired and Eliza and her ever-trusting companion, Miss Sharpe, moved into their fine new mansion. They were, perhaps, lovers.

A furniture warehouse similar to that owned by Mr Oakley.
A furniture warehouse similar to that owned by Mr Oakley. Morgan and Sanders, from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts.

John Cator, Esq., the wealthy Quaker timber merchant and MP who owned the land the villa stood on, had been a mortgagee on the house and became the landlord. Eliza told him she wanted 850l. to pay the workmen, and that she did not mean to have a lease, but to purchase the house. He loaned her the money.

Oakley was the first to grow suspicious and when half the order had been completed, asked for 1000l. Eliza was hurt by his lack of trust and indignantly said if he doubted her he could write to her sister, Lady Paget, or her cousin, the Bishop of London. If he had further doubts, he could apply to Sir Richard Hill who had known her from infancy or to Sir Edward Law, the present Attorney-General, who could vouch for her. Her boldness won the day, and Oakley proceeded without contacting anyone. But, as suspicions had started to be raised – somewhat too conveniently, perhaps – Eliza’s grandfather now died. She put her entire household into mourning while her creditors looked with interest at Eliza’s increasingly large inheritance.

‘From the manner in which she was going on, he [Oakley] took it for granted that she was a woman that had so much money that she did not know what to do with it, or that she had none at all.’

Then, just before everything was finished, Mr Oakley finally did what he should have done weeks earlier, and called on the Bishop of London and Sir Richard Hill; both gentleman only knew Eliza through her card, which she had left at their door. The game was finally up!

Print via the British Museum: Madora, c.1800.
Print via the British Museum: Madora, c.1800.

Oakley took out a writ and waited for Eliza and Charlotte to return home (she was dining out), but the crafty Eliza realised what was happening, sent her carriage home empty and vanished into the night. Oakley broke in and by 6 o’clock the next morning his men had cleared the mansion of its furniture. Three hours later came in an execution, by which the remaining part of the property was to be sold by auction on the premises.

Mr Creasey, at the last minute, had gained a warrant of attorney from Eliza and took two very heavy hampers from the Blackheath villa, part of the plunder. He also reportedly took the lease of the house, so that while the others were ruined, he was safe. Had he been in on the game, or truly a dupe? Eliza was spotted by a haberdasher in St Paul’s Churchyard who chanced on her in Bishopsgate Street, dressed in men’s clothes and boots, with Charlotte leaning on her arm. After that, the two women, both in their normal dress but heavily veiled, took the Devon mail-coach out of London. They eventually ended up in Penzance in Cornwall where they took rooms in a hotel, Miss Sharp going by the name of Sydenham and claiming Eliza as her distant relative and protégé Madame Douglas, a lady of large fortune from the north of England, travelling for the benefit of her health; being reclusive, Mme Douglas didn’t want to travel with a retinue as the anxiety that would produce would counterbalance any comforts. You bet it would!

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Costume Parisien, 1 décembre 1799, An 8
Journal des Dames et des Modes, Costume Parisien, 1 décembre 1799, An 8. Rijksmuseum

They stayed in during the day, only going out at night with veils over their faces; during their week’s stay they saw no one and the staff grew suspicious. A chambermaid overheard a conversation in which the names of Oakley and Creasy were frequently mentioned, and she’d been reading the newspapers which had reported the swindle. A letter was written to Blackheath but the two ladies got wind of it and left the next day. At length, in early April 1801, Eliza and Charlotte were traced to Huntingdon where they were lodging under the name of Cunningham. Eliza, who had signed everything, was arrested and thrown into the town jail. There, the jailer made a tidy sum by charging people to see his notorious prisoner while Eliza maintained her pretence to the end, insisting she had property sufficient to meet all her debts. She managed to publish ‘an apology’, purportedly to raise money for the support of her friend, Charlotte, who was struggling to pay for lodgings.

Eliza was transferred to Bow Street in London to be examined and ended up in the Fleet Prison from where, with no prospect of repaying her debts, she knew she had little chance of escaping. Thomas Haycroft took out an action against Mr Creasy in the Court of the King’s Bench in the Guildhall. Haycroft was asking for – and won – damages of 485l. 9s. 4d., claiming that Creasy had been the one who vouched for Eliza and said she was good for credit. In a somewhat ironic twist, given that Eliza had claimed he had been the man who said she was entitled to her Scottish estate, Lord Kenyon presided at the hearing.

View of the inner court of the Fleet Prison, with the prisoners playing rackets and skittles on the left, 1807.
View of the inner court of the Fleet Prison, with the prisoners playing rackets and skittles on the left, 1807. © The Trustees of the British Museum

During August 1802, Eliza was represented by no less a person than the famed Mr Garrow in a case she brought to Maidstone assizes to try to recover the goods and furniture Mr Oakley had ‘unlawfully possessed himself of’. Some of the furniture, Eliza claimed, was Charlotte’s property, brought from Croom’s Hill, and she suggested Oakley and his men had helped themselves to more than they were entitled to. Charlotte took to the witness stand, well-dressed and demure, wearing a fashionable ‘gypsy hat’ and said that she had believed all Eliza’s tall tales, and was as hurt and surprised as anyone else to find them false. It didn’t help; Garrow lost this case.

Fashion plate dated October 1801 from the Ladies' Museum: the hat on the left is a gypsy hat
Fashion plate dated October 1801 from the Ladies’ Museum: the hat on the left is a gypsy hat. Los Angeles Public Library

Eliza remained in the Fleet and continued to publish several works. There, in June 1805, aged 32-years, Eliza died of a decline and was buried, on 11 June, in the churchyard of St Bride’s, the only mourners her father, mother and one of the turnkeys of the fleet.

Sources:

Chester Courant, 24 March 1801

Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 6 April 1801

Caledonian Mercury, 9 April 1801

Morning Chronicle, 15 July 1801

Stamford Mercury, 17 July 1801

Caledonian Mercury, 14 September 1801

Oxford Journal, 20 March 1802

Morning Chronicle, 9 August 1802

Caledonian Mercury, 14 August 1802

Staffordshire Advertiser, 14 August 1802

The New Annual Register, Or General Repository of History, Politics, Arts, Sciences and Literature: For the Year 1805

The Paragon, Blackheath (published 16 September 2016 on The Regency Redingote website)

The north front of Windsor Castle from Isherwood's Brewery in Datchet Lane c. 1765, by Paul Sandby.

The Isherwoods: Brewers of Windsor

The Nottingham born artist, Paul Sandby, painted and drew many scenes in and around Windsor and also informal portraits of some of the inhabitants. One of his drawings, held in the Royal Collection, caught our eye: the Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer’s daughters, c.1770-1780. Isherwood is an uncommon surname, and with the father’s occupation, surely it would be possible to track down the forenames of these two young women and complete the attribution?

Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer's daughters, Windsor, c.1770-1780, by Paul Sandby.
Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer’s daughters, Windsor, c.1770-1780, by Paul Sandby. © Royal Collection Trust

The father of these two young women was Henry Isherwood who owned an ale brewery which traded from premises on Datchet Lane/Lower Thames Street in Windsor (around where St George’s School now stands on Datchet Road). From the brewhouse yard, you had an excellent view of Windsor Castle.

View from Mr Isherwood's Brewhouse, Datchet Lane; view down a street, with wagons in a shed at the foot of it, and Windsor Castle beyond, by Paul Sandby.
View from Mr Isherwood’s Brewhouse, Datchet Lane; view down a street, with wagons in a shed at the foot of it, and Windsor Castle beyond, by Paul Sandby. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Henry Isherwood was reputed to be ‘a poor lad’ from Yorkshire who had made his way to Eton in Berkshire where he found work at the Christopher Inn. He married well, to Sarah Kendal (on 5 May 1737 at Hedgerley in Buckinghamshire) whose money helped her husband establish his brewery at Windsor (the town had a thriving brewing industry).

Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood's Brewery.
Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood’s Brewery. © Royal Collection Trust

The couple had three known children, a son, Henry (baptized 9 February 1739) and two daughters, the two young ladies in the drawing above, Sarah (born c.1743) and Christiana Maria (born c.1745). The family prospered and grew wealthy on their business’s profits.

Paul Sandby in 1761, painted by Francis Cotes. The Tate
Paul Sandby in 1761, painted by Francis Cotes. The Tate

Also in the Royal Collection is a drawing by Sandby which features another of the Isherwood family, although the name of the man depicted seems to have got muddled over time. When exhibited at the Royal Academy, the man stood on the far left was just denoted as ‘Isherwood the brewer’, a later mount now attached to the picture claims the man to be J. Isherwood and the notes on the RCT website mark the man out as Henry Isherwood senior. However, this drawing dates to 1760 and the man depicted looks to be very young; we believe that it is more likely the man shown is Henry Isherwood junior, who would have been around 21 years of age in 1760.

On Windsor Terrace, c.1760 by Paul Sandby; on the left is Isherwood, the brewer.
On Windsor Terrace, c.1760 by Paul Sandby; on the left is Isherwood, the brewer. © Royal Collection Trust.

The four men are standing on Windsor Terrace; in the middle is Davis, Windsor Castle’s smith and to the right a man identified as Captain Archibald Campbell (the RCT notes suggest that he is possibly the same man who married Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the painter Allan Ramsay, but as Amelia Ramsay’s future husband saw action in the Seven Years’ War, we’re not totally sure about this).

Windsor Castle from Mr Isherwood's Brewhouse in Datchet Lane, 1780 by Paul Sandby.
Windsor Castle from Mr Isherwood’s Brewhouse in Datchet Lane, 1780 by Paul Sandby. King George III’s personal coloured views collection – SPL Rare Books

Then tragedy struck the family. Henry Isherwood senior died suddenly in 1773… and it was hinted that he had been poisoned.

Henry Isherwood’s will left his family well provided for. His son took over the running of the brewery and also later – for just a short time – became New Windsor’s MP. Henry junior’s death, on 22 January 1797, cut short his parliamentary career. Sarah and Christiana Isherwood were both left financially secure by their father, each receiving 10,000l. They never married. Around 1790, the Isherwood family built a substantial mansion-house, situated in large grounds, at Bushey in Hertfordshire and named Laurel Lodge. There Sarah and Christiana lived in their old age, often visited by their brother’s children. (Laurel Lodge was remodelled in the late 1800s and has now been converted into flats known as Herne Mansions (formerly Sparrows Herne House); it stands in Bushey Heath down Fuller Close, a short distance from the junction of Little Bushey Lane and Elstree Road.) Sarah died in 1820 aged 77 and Christiana in 1827, aged 81. Both women are buried in the churchyard at New Windsor.

We’ve already mentioned Henry Isherwood senior’s melancholy end. We’ll relate the events leading up to his death and leave you to decide if he was indeed poisoned.

The north front of Windsor Castle from Isherwood's Brewery in Datchet Lane c. 1765, by Paul Sandby.
The north front of Windsor Castle from Isherwood’s Brewery in Datchet Lane c. 1765, by Paul Sandby. © Royal Collection Trust

Henry was a member of the Colnbrook Turnpike Commission and on 29 March 1773, he and the other members dined at an inn named The Castle, at Salt Hill outside Slough. The men present were the Hon Mr O’Brien, the Hon Captain Thomas Needham (aged 33 and the eldest son of ‘Jack’, 10th Viscount Kilmorey), Edward Mason Esq, Major Mayne, Mr Cheshire, Walpole Eyre Esq (aged 38 and whose godfather was Sir Robert Walpole, hence his name), Captain Salter, Henry Isherwood, Mr Joseph Benwell, a draper from Eton who was the Commission’s treasure, Mr Pote senior (on business) and Mr Burcombe, the Commission’s surveyor. Over the course of the next two weeks, all but one of the gentlemen were taken seriously ill. At first, the wine was suspected to be the cause; Captain Salter had preferred to drink punch instead, and Mr Cheshire had drunk very little. Both men were only mildly ill. It was initially believed that Mrs Partridge, the landlady, had added a little arsenic to the wine, to ‘refine’ it.

Bachelor's Hall, Robert Dighton.
Bachelor’s Hall, Robert Dighton. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The dinner was turtle soup, followed by fish, jack, perch and eel, spatchcock fowls, bacon and greens, veal cutlets, a ragout of pigs ears, a chine of mutton and salad, a course of lamb and cucumbers, crayfish and, as if you needed more after that feast, pastry and jellies. All was described as:

…plain and innocent, nothing high-seasoned, or that could give cause of suspicion of any bad consequence; the wine, Madeira and Port, of the best sorts. In both articles of meat and drink, the company were moderate, and no excess appeared.

After their dinner, some people were brought in to be examined before the members of the commission, among them a poor man, in a ‘distressed, miserable condition’. He seems to have been in ill-health. Mr Pote, perhaps wisely it seems, had gone out to the gardens of the inn to stretch his legs; he was there on other business relating to the commission but had no need to be present during the examinations. Mr Pote was the only one of the company not to suffer any ill effects, all the others fell ill to varying degrees. Four of the men died: Captain Needham, Joseph Benwell, Walpole Eyre and Henry Isherwood.

The Honourable Thomas Needham (d.1773), in the Uniform of the 3rd Footguards at Ascott, Buckinghamshire, by Thomas Gainsborough
The Honourable Thomas Needham (d.1773), in the Uniform of the 3rd Footguards at Ascot, Buckinghamshire, by Thomas Gainsborough; National Trust, Ascot

Mrs Partridge was horrified and willingly allowed her kitchen and cellar to be fully inspected. Major Mayne’s doctor, Dr James, was of the opinion that his patient’s illness was due to an infection; if it had been poison, he assured the public, the men would have fallen ill within hours, not days. There were reports that a Clerk of the Justices, a Mr Mason who had dined on beefsteaks in a private room in the inn (confusingly, an Edward Mason Esq was said to be present at the commission’s dinner too), was also dangerously ill; the Justices had examined a poor man, brought before them in a ‘dying condition’ from Taplow to be passed to his own parish. This man later died, as did the farmer at whose house he lodged on his journey. Local gossip also claimed that several prisoners had travelled from Reading gaol on their way to London, to be transported for their crimes, and stopped at the inn. Gaol fever could have been the cause.

A view of the interior of a room at an inn in Salt Hill (prepared for the "Montem" dinner in 1793).
A view of the interior of a room at an inn in Salt Hill (prepared for the “Montem” dinner in 1793). © British Library

In short, it appears from the newspapers of the day that there was certainly an outbreak of a contagious fever in the area, but nevertheless, with all the talk of poison, trade at the Castle Inn dropped dramatically and Mrs Partridge struggled for a good twelve months afterwards. And, rumours abounded years later. Years later, Queen Charlotte’s Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe, Charlotte Papendick, in her memoirs recounted the tale and claimed that Mrs Partridge, on her deathbed, confessed.

…she considered it right to disclose the secret of the poisoning now it could no longer hurt any individual, and was at the time purely accidental, she would confess that it arose from the turtle having been left in the stewpans cold, and then heated afresh for the dinner. The cook, renowned for the dressing of this favorite luxury, came down from London late the evening before, expressly for this purpose. He said that as the turtle was better for long stewing, he should do it through the night, during which time he would be preparing various other dainties. He didn’t keep to his word. He slept, let the fire out, and heated the turtle soup up again without removing it from the pan… From the acids used in dressing the turtle, the pan was covered with verdigris. When she showed it to the cook he said he wasn’t aware of harm…

In fairness, Mrs Papendick’s account contains many errors, so we’re not at all sure of her accuracy. Another account also blames the soup, however, again attributing the poisoning to an accidental cause. The soup had been allowed to stand in a copper vessel, and the gentlemen died of mineral poisoning. So, arsenic in the wine, mineral poisoning, a bad batch of turtle soup or an infectious pauper? Sadly, we’ll never know the true cause, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sources not mentioned above:

The Bath Road: History, Fashion & Frivolity on an Old Highway by Charles G. Harper, 1899

Royal Academy: 1934 – Exhibition of British Art c.1000-1860, 6 January 1934 to 17 March 1934

Northampton Mercury, 26 April 1773

Reading Mercury, 26 April 1773

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 5 February 1820

The Scots Magazine, vol 35, 1773

Collectanea topographica et genealogica, 1837

Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte; Being the Journals of Mrs Papendick, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty, 1887

The History of Parliament online

The north prospect of London taken from the Bowling Green, Islington.

Who was she? A mysterious stranger in Regency Clerkenwell

A few days ago, I was browsing through an 1819 copy of the Morning Advertiser looking for something completely different when this story caught my eye.

Around early July 1819, a pretty young woman, reckoned to be in her early 20s, turned up at a lodging house in George Court off Aylesbury Street in Clerkenwell. She was, she told the owner, a complete stranger in London, having just arrived from the country, and asked if she could take a room for a few weeks while she attended to some proceedings in Chancery.

The woman’s appearance was decent and, as she was happy to pay the rent on her lodgings in advance, she was accommodated in the house with no further ado.

It didn’t take the other women who lived there long, however, to notice that the lady was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, however well she might have tried to hide it. A nearby apothecary was called in to attend to her and, in the first week of August, this unnamed woman gave birth to a fine and healthy child (if the evidence we have is correct, on 2nd August 1819).

Extract of an 1806 map of Clerkenwell
Extract of an 1806 map of Clerkenwell, showing Aylesbury Street at the bottom, centre left, and the head of the New River and Sadler’s Wells top right. Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The next day, against all advice to the contrary, the new mother got up and dressed herself.

She was remonstrated with on the danger to which she exposed herself, but she made light of it. This and other circumstances drew the attention of the people in the house more particularly towards her…

Four days after the birth of her child, and under close observation from the family and other lodgers, the young woman was seen to leave George Court, carrying a small box under her arm. Two women who were fellow lodgers followed her, one of whom was a Mrs Baker, a printer’s wife. The mysterious young woman and her two spies wended their way some distance across the fields of rural Clerkenwell towards the New River (really a form of canal dating from 1613, created to supply London with fresh drinking water from a series of Hertfordshire springs). When near Sadler’s Wells, where the New River terminated in a reservoir known as the New River Head, it looked as if she was going to throw the box she carried into the water, but then changed her mind and instead veered away over the adjoining fields.

Sadler's Wells from the bridge over the New River.
Sadler’s Wells from the bridge over the New River. © The Trustees of the British Museum

With Mrs Baker and her friend still in hot pursuit, our mystery lady headed across the fields towards Islington and made for a secluded area where she sat down, opened the box, took something out and tied it in her shawl. Then she closed the box, picked up both it and the bundle tied in her shawl, and walked on until she came to a gentleman’s house. There she put both the box and bundle down and was about to walk away when Mrs Baker and her accomplice caught up: they darted forward and grabbed hold of her. Once the box was opened, as they’d suspected, they found the baby, naked and gasping for breath. The infant’s clothes were wrapped in the shawl.

Mrs Baker called for a watchman and ‘the inhuman mother’ (as a newspaper report termed her) was apprehended and marched to the watch house.

View from the New River, Islington in 1816.
View from the New River, Islington in 1816. © The Trustees of the British Museum

It was now that a sensational twist to the tale was revealed, if we believe the reports which surfaced. During a search of the woman, ‘upwards of 1000l. in good Country and Bank of England notes were found in her possession’. To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of over £50,000 in today’s money, a small fortune then, as now. Certainly enough for her to have disappeared and set up in a house with her child, rather than abandon the babe at the doorway of a gentleman’s house.

Taken overnight to the workhouse, before she could be hauled before the Hatton Garden magistrates the woman fell into a fever. A reluctant inmate, she slowly recovered but stubbornly refused to answer any questions about her identity.

Clerkenwell workhouse
Clerkenwell workhouse (via Wikimedia)

This snippet of factual evidence sounds like a great start to a work of historical fiction. We already have many different theories buzzing around our heads as to how the young woman had found herself in this position.

We’ve searched for more information on her, hoping to find out her name. That still, unfortunately, eludes us, but we did find one more newspaper report. The lady’s husband turned up to claim her! We’ll relate the report from the newspapers but, attempting to read between the lines, we are still left wondering as to the truth of the matter. Incidentally, no further mention was made of the huge sum of money that she was supposedly carrying: was this myth or just a further strand of the whole mystery? She had, remember, paid for her rent at George Court in advance. Money worries don’t seem to have been an issue for her.

The north prospect of London taken from the Bowling Green, Islington.
The north prospect of London taken from the Bowling Green, Islington. The head of the New River can be seen centre left, with Sadler’s Wells next to it. Beyond lies Clerkenwell and the hubbub of the City of London. Folger Shakespeare Library

The couple were from Yorkshire, and the husband was of ‘respectable appearance’ and seemed dutifully affected by his wife’s distress. He claimed that she was suffering from the ‘consequence of a severe hurt she had formerly received in her head, was at times deranged, and he could no otherwise account for her leaving a comfortable home, and acting in the extraordinary manner she had done, than by supposing she was under the influence of the disorder to which she was subject’.

The magistrate agreed to bail the woman as long as her husband entered into a recognizance for £50 and found two other householders who would each join him in promising £25 each, to secure her future appearance at the court. The Yorkshire husband pleaded against this: could he not provide the full £100 himself, for he didn’t know anybody in London who would be prepared to stand as the additional surety? He went further, urging as a reason:

the deplorable state of his family, one child having died since his wife left her home, and two lying at present in a state of imminent danger.

The magistrate commiserated with the man, but rules were rules. If he couldn’t meet the required bail conditions, then his wife must remain in custody.

And there, sadly, we must also leave her until such time as further information comes to light. In the meantime, we reckon there’s a novel in this story for anyone disposed to write it and rescue our mystery woman. Which way would you take it: was she fleeing from her husband or was his story of woe true? How did she come by the injury to her head in that case? Why did she want to give up her child? And, all that money! Where did that come from?

Sources:

Morning Advertiser, 12 August 1819

The Morning Chronicle, 18 August 1819

Cave Dwellers of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Known as the ‘rock houses’ they are a well-known feature of the town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands and only a few miles away from Newstead Abbey, home of Lord Byron.

A View in Newstead Park, belonging to the Rt. Hon. Lord Byron. Print by James Mason. Yale Center for British Art
A View in Newstead Park, belonging to the Rt. Hon. Lord Byron. Print by James Mason. Yale Center for British Art

Rumour has it that Robin Hood and his Merry Men had used the rock houses as hiding places – true or not we will never know (it’s a great legend though), but either way, they were extremely old, cut into the local sandstone and were used as homes until the beginning of the 1900s.

View of the rock houses c1775. Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. British Library. Although very faint you can just see the rock houses below the windmill.
View of the rock houses c1775. Samuel Hieronymus Grimm. British Library. Although very faint you can just see the rock houses below the windmill

Robert Watson (1779-1839) and his wife Elizabeth née Moor, were one such couple who lived there in the early part of the 19th century. As Robert died prior to the first census taken in 1841, unfortunately, there is no information about his early life, occupation etc, we do however know that they had six children – William, Robert, Mary, John, Elizabeth and their youngest Sarah, who was born in 1810.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Their lives would not have been easy, all eight of them living in such a small dwelling, trying to make ends meet to avoid the poor house. It was often thought that these houses were the modern equivalent of squats, however, this was not the case as confirmed in a letter of 1843 from the Poor Law Commission Office, which stated

A habitation within a rock, for which the occupier pays a yearly rent, is such a dwelling place as would come within the meaning of the word ‘house’ and would consequently be a subject of rating to the relief of the poor.  
A habitation within a rock, for which the occupier pays a yearly rent, is such a dwelling place as would come within the meaning of the word ‘house’ and would consequently be a subject of rating to the relief of the poor.

In an 1813 newspaper report, we learn that whilst those rock houses had probably been there for a long time they were by no means safe and the newspaper article reported that

a melancholy accident happened at one of the rock houses – as Robert Watson with his family were partaking of breakfast the roof suddenly fell in and completely buried one of his children, about three years of age, it was dug out of the ruins dreadfully bruised and dead – the rest of the family escaped unhurt.

That child was their youngest daughter, Sarah. By 1841, Elizabeth Watson was widowed but remained in the family dwelling, after all, where else could she have gone?

1841 Census for the rock houses - Elizabeth Watson, widowed. Click to enlarge view
1841 Census for the rock houses – Elizabeth Watson, widowed. Click to enlarge view

By this time the small community numbered just under 100 people, many were stone masons, framework knitters and chimney sweeps. One of the main occupations prior to 1841 was that of besom maker (a broom made from twigs, tied with a stick), but by 1841 only two remained – John Cheesman and Joseph Freeman.

Illustrated London News 06 August 1910
Illustrated London News 06 August 1910

One of the framework knitters (an occupation we have looked at previously) was George Gilbert (1779-1853), who lived there with his wife Sarah and their grandson a John Day, aged 12, according to the 1841 census, their son had died in childhood and their daughter Roseanna had married the son of the neighbouring family, Robert, son of Robert and Elizabeth Watson who we mentioned earlier.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Sarah’s marriage to Robert took place at St Peter and St Paul church, Mansfield on March 1st, 1826, so, a long and happy life ahead of them, or so you might think, but this marriage was to be very short-lived.

At the end of August 1826, Robert Watson appears to have moved from Mansfield to Uppingham, Rutland, (with or without his new bride is unclear) at which time he was arrested for robbery along with a companion Henry Jones. It was alleged that they broke into the slaughter-house of a Mr Fludyer and stole a butcher’s frock, an apron and a piece of venison which was discovered wrapped in the frock. Both Robert and Henry were committed to trial at Oakham at the following session. GUILTY AS CHARGED.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

Robert, a stonemason, was sentenced to transportation, despite petitions from his parents Robert and Elizabeth, of Mansfield, who stressed that he was of good character, from a large family and that he had never been in trouble before and how distressed the family would be if he were to be imprisoned.

The court was having none of it and Robert was sent to The York, a hulk or prison ship to await transportation, where he remained until April 1827 when he boarded The Marquis of Hastings and began the long voyage that was to take him to New South Wales where his sentence of seven years was to take place.  The convict register of New South Wales described Robert as 5 feet 9 inches, brown hair, ruddy complexion, grey eyes, missing one of his upper front teeth.

HMS York shown in Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour with the convicts going on board. Plate from Shipping and Craft by E W Cooke, 1829
HMS York is shown as a Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour with the convicts going on board. Plate from Shipping and Craft by E W Cooke, 1829

Quite how good his conduct was we may never know, but it can’t have exactly been exemplary, as six years into his sentence in 1833, he was sent to Norfolk Island, for life. This was however rescinded at the beginning of 1841 and he was given a Certificate of Freedom.

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.
Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

So, what of his new bride? Did she await his return? Well, it appears that Roseanna continued to live in one of the rock houses but wasted little time finding a replacement for Robert, clearly, she felt he would never return.

A little over two years after Robert’s departure Roseanna presented her first child for baptism, at the same church in which they had married, so clearly the child was not Robert’s son and no father was named in the register, a performance which she repeated virtually every two years until 1844, on each occasion Roseanna gave her address as Rock House, so she had obviously remained there after husband had been transported. At some stage, she took up with a John Day, as to whether he was the unnamed father of her children, who knows, but her eldest son, named John, was with his grandparents on census day in 1841.

People continued living in the rock houses until the turn of the century, they are now sadly derelict and overgrown – such an interesting piece of local social history, all but disappeared.

Sources

Nottingham Gazette, 18 June 1813.

Draft letter from the Poor Law Commission to Richard Goulding. MH 12/9360/63

The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Friday, September 01, 1826

New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867

Featured Image

Rock Houses by A.S Buxton. With thanks to Mansfield Museum who hold the copyright.

View of Port Royal, Jamaica by Richard Paton, 1758

A Serial Killer on the island of Jamaica, 1773

Their Sentence, Pride and Malice I defy

Despise their power, and like a Roman die.

We were busy researching something completely different about Jamaica and stumbled across this story. Whilst we’re unable to add anything much to it we thought it was worth sharing with you – a bit gruesome, but we do write about All Things Georgian, after all.

A view of Harbour Street, Kingston from - A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica
A view of Harbour Street, Kingston from – A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica

This story begins on 16th March 1773 in Spanish Town, Jamaica with the hanging of a Lewis Hutchinson, aka, Mad Master; but what warranted such a sentence?

Accounts of what led up to his hanging vary, and quite who he was, we’re unable to ascertain. Reports say he was from Scotland, but there’s no trace of a Lewis Hutchinson being born or having lived there, so far as we can tell. One newspaper report initially referred to him as James Hutchinson but then part way through changed his name to Lewis – so we’re none the wiser.

During the 1770s there were plenty of Scottish men who established sugar plantations in Jamaica, aiming to make their fortunes with the use of slaves to work the plantations. Hutchinson was no different. He owned the Edinburgh Castle plantation in the St Ann district of Jamaica and had around 24 slaves. (The Legacies of British Slave-ownership Project notes that after the time of Hutchinson, Edinburgh Castle had just under 100 slaves).

Kingston and Port Royal from Windsor Farm from A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica
Kingston and Port Royal from Windsor Farm from A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica

Hutchinson, it would seem had a penchant for shooting any white man who came anywhere close to his land. Now, Dr Jonathan Hutton, an English doctor owned the close by Bonne Ville plantation with around 60 slaves, 30 male and 30 females and spent his time between Jamaica and his home in Lincolnshire.

The story goes that Hutchinson had a dispute with Dr Hutton over land boundaries, as Hutchinson felt that Hutton had encroached onto his land and this angered him greatly; so one evening when Dr Hutton was riding home accompanied by one of his slaves who was carrying his sabre when Hutchinson took the sabre from the slave and told the slave to pass on his compliments to Dr Hutton and to tell him that he had taken his sabre. Hutton either ignored or didn’t realise what had taken place.

Planter and his wife, attended by a servant c1780. Yale Center for British Art
Planter and his wife, attended by a servant c1780. Yale Center for British Art

Sometime later, Hutton and his young daughter, Mary, aged about 8 years were out riding when they encountered Hutchinson who, without provocation, struck the doctor with the sabre which had previously taken.

Dr Hutton was severely injured and was carried back to the estate to recover, but his recovery was poor. He managed to travel to Kingston to make a formal complaint about Hutchinson, but nothing appeared to have been done about it, and as he was so ill, he gave up and decided to make the long journey back to England for treatment. Once there he had an operation for trepanning. He eventually returned to Jamaica a year or so later and sought to have Hutchinson arrested.

Jamaica: a sugar plantation. Coloured aquatint by P. Fumagalli, ca. 1821 Wellcome Collection.
Jamaica: a sugar plantation. Coloured aquatint by P. Fumagalli, ca. 1821 Wellcome Collection.

A soldier by the name of Callender and some other men were sent to Edinburgh Castle to arrest him, but Hutchinson realised what was about to happen; he fired a shot at Callender and killed him. He was eventually overpowered and arrested and taken to Spanish Town gaol.  His castle was searched, where some 43 watches were found, along with a large quantity of clothing and other objects which proved that, as people had suspected, he had committed other murders.

If his slaves were to be believed, he murdered many people and threw their dead bodies down an extremely deep sink hole near the property. There were also rumours that he drank his victims’ blood and then dismembered them.

A West Indian Creole woman attended by her black servant c1780. Yale Centre for British Art.
A West Indian Creole woman attended by her black servant c1780. Yale Centre for British Art.

Another story that circulated was that he had befriended a young white man who was taken ill. Rumours were that Hutchinson had aided the young man’s recovery and when recovered Hutchinson sent him on his way.

It seems that as the young man left the castle, Hutchinson waited, made his way to the rooftop of the castle, took aim and fired a shot which killed the young man. How true that story is no-one can confirm.

Hutchinson was, however, only tried for the one crime and as such was hanged only for that. Over time people have investigated the claims of the dead bodies being thrown down the sinkhole but after much searching, there seems to be no substantive evidence to support this claim.

Young Mary Hutton, aged only eight at the time of her father’s attack, returned to London at some stage with her mother Christiana and on the 8th September 1778, although still a minor, was married at St Catherine Coleman church, London to a John Pottinger. The couple returned to Jamaica where Mary and her husband continued to run her father’s plantation, Bonne Ville; they had 45 enslaved people there in 1792 and after the abolition of slavery, Mary made two claims totalling £1,000.

Just as aside, for any of our readers or their family who play Assassins Creed 3, did you know that Edinburgh Castle is featured in it?

Sources used

A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica

Caledonian Mercury 26 June 1773

Historic Jamaica by Frank Cundell

Legacies of British Slave owner database

Featured Image

View of Port Royal, Jamaica Richard Paton (1717–1791) National Maritime Museum

 

A Duel in Hyde Park 1783

On the evening of the 3rd September 1783, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Thomas sat down and wrote his will.

London, Sept. 3, 1783

I am now called upon, and, by the rules of what is called honour, forced into a personal interview with Colonel Gordon. God only can know the event, and into his hands I commit my soul, conscious only of having done my duty. I therefore declare this to be my last will and testament and do hereby revoke all former will I have made at any time. In the first place I commit my soul to Almighty God, in hopes of his mercy and pardon. I leave 150l in bank notes to my dear brother, John Thomas Esq. I also bequeath unto him whatever sums may be due to me from the agent of the 1st Regiment of Guards, reserving a sufficient sum to pay my debts and bequeath to him all my books and household furniture and everything of which I am now possessed. I give and bequeath to Thomas Hobbs. My servant 50 which I request my brother will pay him. What debts may be now owing I request my brother will immediately discharge.

Fred Thomas

P.S. I commit this into the hands of my friend Captain Hill, of the first Regiment of Guards.

Why is this will significant? It’s not the most interesting or especially informative. Well, because the following day, Fred Thomas had an ‘interview’ with a Colonel Gordon, but not an interview for a job, or a chat or a disciplinary meeting. He was meeting a Colonel Cosmo Gordon for a duel and was clearly wanting to ‘put his house in order’ before the event. The postscript was added to his will after the event took place.

Fred’s opponent was Colonel Cosmo Gordon, the third son of William Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen (1679-1746) and his wife Anne, who was living in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square.

William, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen; British (Scottish) School
William, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen; British (Scottish) School; The National Trust for Scotland, Haddo House
Lady Anne Gordon, 3rd Wife of the 2nd Earl of Aberdeen, with Her Son, Alexander, Lord Rockville; British (Scottish) School
Lady Anne Gordon, 3rd Wife of the 2nd Earl of Aberdeen, with Her Son, Alexander, Lord Rockville; British (Scottish) School; The National Trust for Scotland, Haddo House

The two gentlemen in question had a long-standing military dispute and General Gordon accused Lieutenant Thomas of besmirching his good name and demanded satisfaction as you can see in this letter from Gordon to Thomas

Cosmo Gordon, Great Marlborough-street, 20th of June 1783, seven o’clock.

 Sir,

 Having had a full and honourable acquittal of the charge you brought against me, I desire you will give me personal satisfaction, and meet me with a friend and two brace of pistols and a sword, at the Ring, in Hyde Park.

 Your injured obedient servant,

Cosmo Gordon 

Addressed to Colonel Thomas.

View near the Ring in Hyde Park, looking towards Grosvenor Gate, during the Encampment 1780 by Paul Sandby.
View near the Ring in Hyde Park, looking towards Grosvenor Gate, during the Encampment 1780 by Paul Sandby. The Royal Collection Trust.

The duel went ahead on the morning of 4th September 1783:

At six in the morning, the pair met at the Ring in Hyde Park to fight the duel. It was agreed upon by their seconds, that, after receiving their pistols, they should advance (eight paces being the usual distance apart required), and fire when they pleased.

On arriving within about 8 yards of each other they presented and drew their triggers at virtually the same time, but only the Colonel’s pistol went off. Fred having adjusted his pistol, fired at the Colonel, who received a severe contusion on the thigh.

Their second pistols were fired without effect and their friends called to reload them. After which they advanced to almost the same distance and fired. Fred fell, having received a ball in his belly causing a wound one inch long but fourteen inches in depth. body. He received immediate assistance from the surgeon, who was in attendance.

Whilst the injury appeared severe it was not instantly fatal. From the said 4th to the 5th day of September, Frederick languished, but on the 5th day of September, the said Frederick Thomas died as a result of his injury. An inquest was held by Thomas Prickard on 6th September 1783.

Cosmo Gordon was charged with murder and appeared at the Old Bailey but was eventually found NOT GUILTY.

Frederick Thomas was buried a few days later, on the 10th of September 1783 and his name appears in the burial registers of St George’s Hanover Square, which covered St George’s Fields, Bayswater, at this date.

Sources:

Stamford Mercury 25 September 1783

The Old Bailey Online, City of Westminster Coroners: Coroners’ Inquests into Suspicious Deaths

The History of Duelling by John Gideon Millingen

City of Westminster Archives provided confirmation of the entry in the burial register

Featured Image:

A Military Encampment in Hyde Park, 1785. Inscribed in pen with brown ink, verso, center: “Drawn on July [1785?] | by | James Malton”, Signed and dated, verso, in pen with brown ink, “1875 | by | James Malton” Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Centre for British Art

Guest Post by Naomi Clifford – A new life in America: The emigration of Abraham Thornton

We are delighted to welcome back to our blog fellow Pen and Sword author, Naomi Clifford who loves nothing better than nosing around old archives to find stories of forgotten people.

Today Naomi’s going to share with us some information about her latest book, so we’ll hand straight over to her.

—‖―

In Ford Madox Brown’s painting The Last of England, painted in the middle of the 19th century, a young couple on the deck of a ship bound for Australia gaze grimly out to sea, the White Cliffs of Dover behind them. Perhaps they have left hunger and trauma behind them. Perhaps they are merely convinced that better fortunes lie overseas.

Ford Madox Brown’s The Last of England (1855). © Birmingham Museums Trust.
Ford Madox Brown’s The Last of England (1855). © Birmingham Museums Trust.

Emigration grew throughout the early part of the century: the Irish potato famine, changes in farming and industry, high taxes – all contributed to a great movement of people to dominions across the water. Many went to Australia and Canada but America was perennially popular.

Although there are no reliable statistics before about 1800, it has been estimated that in the first decade of the 19th century more than 20,000 people emigrated to America from the United Kingdom, most of them from Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. A good proportion of them earned their passage by hiring themselves out as indentured servants, their labour sold on by the captain after landing. Some were veterans of the long wars with France, who had been unable to settle or find employment. Others simply found life in Britain and Ireland untenable: wages were low and food prices were high. The steerage of packet ships crossing the Atlantic was stuffed with the labouring poor and their families, who no doubt earnestly hoped for significantly better prospects overseas.

Abraham Thornton, who in the middle of September 1818 left the family farm at Shard End in Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire and travelled to Birmingham to catch the stagecoach to Liverpool, was not one of these.

Abraham Thornton worked as a bricklayer for his father, a respected builder in Castle Bromwich. This portrait, sketched in court, was published in The Observer on 8 February 1818.
Abraham Thornton worked as a bricklayer for his father, a respected builder in Castle Bromwich. This portrait, sketched in court, was published in The Observer on 8 February 1818.

His reason for quitting England was simple: he was hated, notorious throughout the country. In the opinion of most people, he had escaped his rightful fate: swinging on the gallows for the brutal rape and murder of Mary Ashford.

Mary Ashford, a farm servant working for her uncle, went to a party in an inn near Erdington on Whit Monday 1817 and left accompanied by Abraham Thornton and others. Her body was found in a stagnant pond early the next morning. Engraved by J. Thompson from a portrait by John Partridge.
Mary Ashford, a farm servant working for her uncle, went to a party in an inn near Erdington on Whit Monday 1817 and left accompanied by Abraham Thornton and others. Her body was found in a stagnant pond early the next morning. Engraved by J. Thompson from a portrait by John Partridge.

Thornton, the only suspect in Mary’s death, was tried at Warwick Assizes in August 1817, but to the surprise of many was acquitted. Rumours that witnesses and jurymen had been paid off by his father were rife and a few months later Mary’s brother started a civil prosecution in London. The case gripped the country, partly because early on in the proceedings Thornton challenged his accuser to hand-to-hand combat, and the rest of the case was devoted to deciding whether this could legally take place. The public was appalled when the case collapsed. Thornton seemed once more to have evaded justice.

Canning Dock & Custom House, Liverpool, engraved by T. Hughes after a picture by W. H. Bartlett, published in Finden's Ports and Harbours..., 1842. Steel engraved print, good condition. Size 18 x 14.5 cms including title, plus margins. Ref F8482. Image courtesy of ancestryimages.com.
Canning Dock & Custom House, Liverpool, engraved by T. Hughes after a picture by W. H. Bartlett, published in Finden’s Ports and Harbours…, 1842. Steel engraved print, good condition. Size 18 x 14.5 cms including title, plus margins. Ref F8482. Image courtesy of ancestryimages.com.

Once in Liverpool, Thornton browsed the newspapers for a suitable passage. He booked a place on the American-owned packet ship The Independence which was scheduled to sail for New York on the 25th. Fixed sailing dates was a recent innovation, brought in by a group of New York Quaker businessmen who developed the idea of creating a ‘shipping line’ by contracting several vessels to sail on specific dates between established ports. In autumn 1817 they advertised the first service in the Black Ball line, using large three-masted square-rigged schooners. Sailings started in January 1818.

Soon two ships were travelling across the Atlantic each month each way. Rather than follow the trade winds across the Atlantic, the American captains preferred the most direct route – it was rougher but faster. Thompson incentivised his team: If an eastbound sailing was completed in under 22 days or westbound in under 35, the captain was given a new coat, and a dress for his wife.

Liverpool Mercury, 18 September 1818. © Board of Trustees of the British Library.
Liverpool Mercury, 18 September 1818. © Board of Trustees of the British Library.

The Independence was not one of the Black Ball ships (rival shippers were quick to copy Thompson). In the end, however, Thornton was prevented from boarding after he was recognised by a fellow passenger who objected to the prospect of being at close quarters for at least six weeks with a possible murderer.

Hull Packet, 3 November 1818. © Board of Trustees of the British Library.
Hull Packet, 3 November 1818. © Board of Trustees of the British Library.

Aged 25, and of average height, broad and beefy, with a square jaw and thinning dark hair swept forward over a bald patch, Thornton was easy to recognise. His portrait had appeared in numerous pamphlets while the case was in play and had been printed in The Observer.

It is quite possible that in Liverpool he wore the same black hat, black coat and beige leggings he had on at his numerous court appearances in London. There was also something less tangible but equally notable – an aloof confidence, which had so struck the newspaper journalists who saw him in court that they remarked on it in their reports.

Liverpool Mercury, 18 September 1818. © Board of Trustees of the British Library.
Liverpool Mercury, 18 September 1818. © Board of Trustees of the British Library.

A few days after failing to board The Independence, Thornton managed to leave England. He bought a place on The Shamrock which was aiming to leave ‘immediately’ for Baltimore, which probably meant ‘as soon as the agent had booked sufficient cargo and passengers’.

Baltimore. Engraving by J. B. Neagle after the drawing by J. R. Smith, probably 1825-1829. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection. The New York Public Library. 
Baltimore. Engraving by J. B. Neagle after the drawing by J. R. Smith, probably 1825-1829. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection. The New York Public Library.

Most of those who disembarked The Shamrock would have moved on pretty swiftly – Baltimore was the primary gateway to the West. Thornton, however, apparently headed north to New York and into almost complete obscurity.

Back in England, there were rumours about what had happened to him but none can be verified. Like many a traveller before and after him, he found protection in the vastness and anonymity of the US.

The Murder of Mary Ashford: the crime that changed English legal history by Naomi Clifford.

Over the years, the Ashford-Thornton case became known primarily for its effect on the statute book – it led directly to the rescinding of two medieval laws, appeal of murder and trial by battle – rather than the question of Thornton’s guilt or innocence. His solicitor and others speculated that Mary had not been raped and murdered but had drowned herself in remorse for ‘transgressing’ with Thornton in a field on their walk home. Naomi Clifford has uncovered evidence to show that the truth about the events of that night has been hiding in plain sight for 200 years…

The Murder of Mary Ashford: The Crime That Changed English Legal History is published by Pen & Sword. Introductory price £11.99.

To discover more, check out Naomi’s blog, Love, Life and Death in the Georgian era. Naomi is also on twitter.

Previous titles by Naomi Clifford are The Disappearance of Maria Glenn and Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches, both published by Pen and Sword.

Notes 

Daniel Fearon, Fearon, Henry. Sketches of America: A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles (1818). London: Longman et al.

James Flint, Flint’s Letters from America: 1818-1820 (1822). Edinburgh: W. & C. Tait.

The trial of Lord Baltimore for alleged rape

Frederick Calvert was born in the early 1730s, son of Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore. His father was a Gentleman of the Bedchamber in the service of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, the son of King George II. Educated at Eton, Frederick Calvert was subsequently described as being ‘one of their less reputable pupils’ for reasons which will become clear.

Frederick Calvert, 6th Baltimore.
Frederick Calvert, 6th Baltimore. Wikimedia Commons

In his early twenties upon the death of his father, Frederick inherited the title 6th Lord Baltimore and shortly after married Diana Egerton, the daughter of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater. This marriage was a disaster and the couple formally separated after only three years of marriage due to his obsession with other women. He was very much a young man of means, spending money like water, taking mistresses left, right and centre, with forging a career full of extravagance and licentiousness.

Frederick Calvert, 6th Lord Baltimore. Courtesy of thepeerage.com
Frederick Calvert, 6th Lord Baltimore. Courtesy of thepeerage.com

It is reputed that his obsession for sexual gratification was such that he converted his house into a something more akin to a seraglio and that it was most certainly not the sort of place that any respectable woman would consider visiting. He even used Elizabeth Griffenberg, wife of Dr Griffenberg and Anne Harvey otherwise known as Anne Darby to find suitable women for his pleasure.

It was in 1768 however, that he found fame, but for all the wrong reasons. In March 1768, he found himself on trial, accused of raping a young woman, Miss Sarah Woodcock. Also accused, as accessories to the fact, were Griffenberg and Harvey.

A Perspective View of Tower Hill and the Place of Execution of the Lords Kilmarnock and Balmerino on Monday 18 of August 1746.
A Perspective View of Tower Hill. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Sarah, the daughter of Joseph Woodcock was a milliner and lived near Tower Hill in London with her father and sister. It was in November 1767 that Mrs Harvey visited her shop, was impressed by her beauty and recommended her to Lord Baltimore as someone he might enjoy meeting. With that, he visited her shop twice on the pretext of buying articles from her. He then invited her to attend the theatre with him, but she said that due to her strict upbringing she refused to attend such a venue.

Baltimore, not one to accept failure, was alleged to have hatched a plan to get Sarah to his house by using Mrs Harvey, who was to visit Sarah and persuade Sarah to make up a pair of bespoke laced ruffles for a lady who, if she liked them would become a good customer. Harvey called the next day and paid for the ruffles and asked that they plus some other items be brought to her house in Shoreditch, to which Sarah duly complied. Sarah was then persuaded to travel with Harvey to meet the lady she had spoken of. On reaching the destination she was greeted by Baltimore and Dr Griffenberg and persuade to stay for tea. The evening drew on and Sarah explained that her absence would be noticed, and she needed to get home. Somehow, despite her anxiety, Baltimore persuaded Sarah to stay longer and to have supper with them.

A Milliner's Shop.
A Milliner’s Shop. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

At this stage, Baltimore began to behave improperly toward her with assistance from Harvey and Mrs Griffenberg. Sarah again attempted to leave but was told that no coach could be summoned to take her home and that she would have to stay. They all tried to persuade her to go to bed, but Sarah would not settle and walked about the entire night. In the morning Sarah spotted a young woman walking past the window, she tried to summon her to ask her to let her father know that she was being held there against her will. This attempt to free herself proved unsuccessful.

Baltimore and Dr Griffenberg appeared and were astonished at her behaviour as Baltimore had promised that she could go home at twelve o’clock. Sarah said she wished to leave immediately. Baltimore, on the other hand, had other ideas and declared his undying love for her and showed her a letter he had prepared to send to her father, along with two hundred pounds, reassuring him that his daughter was safe. Sarah disbelieved him, again she tried to reach the window to shout for help but in vain. Sarah by then realised that she could not escape and wept for hours. A letter, it appeared had been sent to her father to meet someone named Smith for Sarah received a reply not from her father, but from her sister.

Sarah was then to spend another night under the roof Baltimore, still distressed, she only calmed when talking to Harvey about a young man who she was very fond of and that they were to settle in business as soon as the marriage should take place.

The following morning Sarah again pleaded with Baltimore to let her go home. At this stage, he became angry and threatened to either throw her out of the window, or send her home in a wheelbarrow, with her petticoats tied over her head, but still, he would not let her leave. Sarah by this time was becoming ill and Baltimore insisted she drink some medicine. After supper he made six several attempts to ravish her within two hours; but she repulsed by him in such a determined manner, that it was impossible for him to accomplish his dishonourable purpose. The following day she was taken to his country estate at Epsom, where she experienced several more acts of indecency. They then returned to London, where Sarah hope to attract the attention of someone she knew in her bid for freedom.

William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield by Jean Baptiste van Loo. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Sarah’s friends, especially a Mr Davis worked out where she might be being held, so went to Baltimore’s house and briefly attracted her attention before Harvey stopped this dialogue. Mr Davis then informed her father of his discovery who immediately took advice from a friend who recommended he apply to Lord Mansfield for a writ of habeas corpus. In the meantime, Baltimore told her that she should see her father and he said he would make a settlement on her for life if she would acknowledge that she had been well treated. This she agreed to, in the hope of obtaining her freedom. She was then told that Mrs Harvey had been taken into custody. The attorney called at Lord Baltimore’s house with a writ of habeas corpus.

A View of Bloomsbury Square in London, 1787.
A View of Bloomsbury Square in London, 1787. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Eventually, he was permitted to speak to Sarah and seemingly ascertained that she was there by her own consent, but that she was anxious to see her father. With this he left, but all parties were summoned to Lord Mansfield’s house in Bloomsbury Square, where Sarah was examined by Lord Mansfield and she told him that she was willing to live with his lordship, but that she desperately wished to see her family and friends first until she realised that he had the power to free her from the situation.

Mrs Griffenberg and Harvey were arrested and taken into custody, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Baltimore. Having been apprehended Baltimore and the women were granted bail to appear at trial in Kingston, Surrey.  The case with all its graphic detail was heard and somehow Baltimore appeared totally convincing. It took the jury just one hour and twenty minutes to reach their verdict – all three were found – not guilty.

Have escaped conviction he decided that there was nothing more for him in England, so sold his entire estate, packed his bags and left for Europe accompanied by an entourage of women. In 1770 he wrote his will, perhaps knowing that his life was to be short-lived. To give him his due, he tried to ensure that as many of his illegitimate children would benefit from his estate. Quite whether he made provision for all of them, remains unknown.

On 4th September 1771 Frederick, Lord Baltimore, proprietor and Governor of Maryland died in Naples from a fever.

The City of Naples.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

His body was returned to London, where it lay in state at the Great Room of Exeter Exchange on the Strand. After mourners had retired, a mob broke into the room where the body lay, stripped the room of everything and were preparing to throw the corpse and coffin out of the window, but were prevented at the last minute by a guard who spotted them. Ultimately, he was taken for burial in the family vault.

That concludes the life the of Frederick Calvert, but what became of Sarah after her ordeal? Well, reader, you may well be relieved to know that she found happiness as just a few months later, on 2nd August 1768 Sarah’s name appeared in the marriage register at St Botolph Without Bishopsgate.  She married the young man John Davis. If that name looks familiar it is because he was the gentleman referred to in the court case.

Marriage of John Davis to Sarah Woodcock in the presence of her father Joseph
The marriage of John Davis to Sarah Woodcock in the presence of her father Joseph

Sources used:

Manchester Mercury 15 October 1771

Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty, January 23, 1772 – January 25, 1772

Eton School Archives

The Ipswich Journal 26 October 1771

Newgate Calendar online – full trial

 

A prospect of the city of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in his Majesty's Phoenix Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

‘Darkey Kelly’, Brothel Keeper of Dublin

Dorcas Kelly aka Stuart, aka ‘Darkey Kelly’ was a brothel keeper and reputed witch in Dublin in the late 1750s but found notoriety on 7th January 1761 when she was partially hanged then burned at the stake, for allegedly murdering shoemaker, John Dowling on St Patrick’s Day 1760. Her ghost is still said to haunt the city.

Simon Luttrell of Luttrellstown in Turkish Costume Jean-Étienne Liotard - date unknown. The Athanaeum.
Simon Luttrell of Lutrellstown in Turkish Costume Jean-Étienne Liotard – date unknown. The Athanaeum.

Over time, however, the story of her demise took on a life of its own which has now become entrenched into Dublin folklore, so much so that a pub in the city has been named after her. It was reputed that Kelly, whose brothel was in Copper Alley, Dublin became pregnant with the child of Simon Luttrell, Lord Carhampton, a member of the Irish Hellfire Club and that she had demanded he pay maintenance for the child. Legend has it that he not only refused to pay but accused her of witchcraft and that she sacrificed her child in some sort of bizarre satanic ritual. The body of this alleged child was never found, but nevertheless, Kelly was sentenced to death.

This account from the Leeds Intelligencer, 21st September 1773 gives an account of the method used to sentence Elizabeth Herring to death; it appears that a similar method was used for Kelly.

It is only recently that more accurate accounts of her crime have come to light. As to whether she did in fact murder John Dowling, we will never know, but true or false, she was sentenced to death. At her trial, she had pleaded her belly, but a jury of midwives ascertained that she was not, in fact, pregnant; had she been, she would have given her a reprieve. It is interesting to note that women were both strangled and then burned, whereas men guilty of murder were hanged without the additional torture.

A prospect of the city of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in his Majesty's Phoenix Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
A prospect of the city of Dublin from the Magazine Hill in his Majesty’s Phoenix Park. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

It was almost thirty years later the World newspaper of 27th August 1788 carried an historical account of her death, which added fuel to the story. It was claimed that in the vaults of her house in Copper Alley, were found the bodies of five murdered gentleman and amongst them was supposed to be that of Surgeon Tuckey’s son, who went missing and had never been found.  So not only was she a witch but now a serial killer – but was she? No mention was made of this at the time of her death.

Interestingly this latter part of the story only came to light when her ‘sister’ and successor, Maria Lewellin (Llewellyn) found herself accused of procuring a child aged twelve or thirteen, Mary Neal (Neill) for the use of Lord Carhampton’s son, Henry Luttrell. So far there has been no way to ascertain whether Kelly and Lewellin were biological sisters or merely described as such because they ran the same brothel.

A Rake's Progress: The Orgy by William Hogarth.
A Rake’s Progress: The Orgy by William Hogarth. Sir John Soane’s Museum.

The story tells that John Neal and his second wife, Anne, lived close to Lewellin’s brothel. John was a hairdresser who was apparently rather too fond of a drink and somewhat neglectful of his family and customers. He had a young daughter, Mary, by his first wife. Reports state that Mary was enticed into delivering a letter to the house of Madame Lewellin. On arriving there she was taken inside, and it was then that she was allegedly raped by Henry, Lord Carhampton. Afterwards, she managed to leave the house but didn’t tell her parents what had happened for some time. Lewellin was arrested, tried and sentenced to death for her part in the crime. However, proof seemed to appear from other prostitutes who supported Lewellin, claiming that the child was lying about the whole thing and that she was actually, at the tender age of twelve or thirteen, a prostitute. Needless to say, Carhampton denied even knowing the child and so Lewellin was released and ultimately freed.

In the meantime, both of Mary’s parents were arrested for robbery and imprisoned, where Anne, who was heavily pregnant, died. What became of Mary and her father we may never know.

Other Sources used

An Authentic Narrative; being an investigation of the trial and proceedings in the case of Neill and Lewellin.

Curious Family History: Or Ireland Before the Union by the author of the Sham Squire

Ireland before the Union: with extracts from the unpublished diary of John Scott, Earl of Clonmell, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, 1774-1798. A sequel to The sham squire and the Informers of 1798

A Brief Investigation of the sufferings of John, Anne and Mary Neal by Archibald Hamilton Rowan

 

The Arsenic Poisoner

Elizabeth Hinchcliff, aged 14, stood before the court at the Old Bailey, on September 19th, 1810, indicted, that, on August 16th, 1810 she administered a deadly poison, arsenic, with the intent of murdering her employer, Ann Parker, two children in her employer’s care, Christopher John Stanley and Samuel Smith.

The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.
The Old Bailey. Microcosm of London.

Ann Parker was a spinster living a quiet life at 14, Tavistock Row, in the heart of Covent Garden, she also ran a school and a shop which sold perfumes and medicines.

A Perspective View of Covent Garden. Courtesy of Yale Center British Art
A Perspective View of Covent Garden. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

According to Ann Parker, Elizabeth had been telling her for a couple of months that the lower part of the house was overrun with rats, so Elizabeth sent her off to Mr Midgley in the Strand to fetch some poison to deal with the situation.

Cries of London: buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Cries of London: buy a trap, a rat trap, buy my trap. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

When Elizabeth returned Ann put the poison in the back locker of a large writing desk but did not lock it and sent Elizabeth off to make tea for her and the school children. Elizabeth returned with the tea and was then sent to buy some mortar to put over the rat-holes after the poison had been administered. Ann then prepared food for the children, poured her cup of tea which was left to cool during this time. When she finally came to drink it, it tasted normal whilst in her mouth, but as soon as she removed the cup she felt a sort of heat in her throat and exclaimed ‘there is pepper in this tea’.

 Taking an emetic. Courtesy of Wellcome Library
Taking an emetic. Courtesy of Wellcome Library

The children continued taking their tea as Ann became more unwell, with pain in her stomach, back and thighs. During this time two of the children were also taken ill. There was no sign of Elizabeth, Ann assumed she was still out buying the mortar and initially thought that Elizabeth had added pepper to the tea as a trick, but she checked that the poison had not been opened, just to be sure and convinced herself that it hadn’t. Elizabeth returned and was confronted by Ann and denied having tampered with the tea. Ann quickly put on her hat and pelisse and rushed to the chemist to ask how the poison had been packaged to make sure it had not been tampered with and en route she was violently sick. She was worried that both she and the children would die before she could get to the chemist.

Mr Midgley, the chemist was summoned to appear before the court to give his account of the packaging:

I am a chemist and druggist in the Strand. On the 16th of August, I received a note from Mrs Parker, the prisoner brought it; she says, I will be obliged to you to favour me with some more poison to kill the rats, as I am overrun. Upon which I put up a parcel of two ounces of arsenic. The prisoner requested to have more than the usual quantity, as they were dreadfully overrun. I put up two ounces in one parcel, that was all that she had; it was marked on the outside, poison, on the outer paper, and the inside paper, arsenic, poison.

He was asked how the package was tied and if it had been altered:

The knot was twisted when it was returned by Mrs Parker; it was tied in my usual way, a double knot, not twisted. When I arrived at Mrs Parker’s, the child Stanley was very sick. I tasted the tea, it had a strong metallic taste, I boiled some arsenic in the same herbs, which I bought of Mr Butler, the appearance of the tea is not altered by the infusion of arsenic.

Elizabeth was immediately found GUILTY of attempted murder and sentenced to death. It was asked that the court should show her mercy because of her age and her parents being honest people. The jury did take account of her age and her sentence was changed to transportation.

 

Elizabeth left England on May 9th, 1812 on board the convict ship, The Minstrel, which, accompanied by another convict ship, The Indefatigable, sailed via Rio de Janeiro to New South Wales, arriving almost four months later. We have no idea what her life would have been like on board, but certainly not an easy one, certainly according to ship records there were deaths during that passage.

A convict ship entering Sydney harbour. National Library of Australia.
A convict ship entering Sydney harbour. National Library of Australia.

The following year, on July 24th, 1813 Elizabeth was issued with a Ticket of Leave, but for some unknown reason, it was subsequently withdrawn, until it was reissued on January 6th, 1820.

Whatever the reason, Elizabeth remained in Australia and she obviously did find happiness though, as in April 1824 she received permission to marry fellow convict, George Greenhill, a young man, slightly younger than her.

South view of Sydney, New South Wales, 1819, taken from the Surry Hills [picture] / J.L. pinxt. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
South view of Sydney, New South Wales, 1819, taken from the Surry Hills / J.L. pinxt. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
George too had demonstrated good behaviour and had been appointed to the post of a police constable. He was described in the records as being five feet eight inches, with light brown hair and blue eyes. Sadly, we have no physical description of Elizabeth.  George had arrived onboard the Hadlow, having been sentenced to death for burglary, commuted to transportation, in 1818.

Liverpool, New South Wales [picture] / I. Lycett delt. et execute. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
Liverpool, New South Wales I. Lycett delt. et execute. Courtesy of National Library of Australia
The couple married at the recently opened St Luke’s church, Liverpool, on the outskirts of Sydney. The only other sighting of the couple was on the 1828 census when George’s occupation was that of a labourer and in 1829, George was issued with a Ticket of Leave, then in 1836, he was given a conditional discharge. Elizabeth remained in Australia with George until her death at aged 50, in 1846.

No record of the couple having had any children remains, so we can only assume that there were none. Shortly after her death George, who had become an upstanding member of the community, remarried and lived out his days in Sydney.

Sources used

Old Bailey Online

Convict registers for Australia

Featured Image

A woman suffering the pain of colic. Etching after G Cruikshank. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library

 

Runaway Spouses – Naming and Shaming

1753 saw the arrival of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. This was seen to be a way of banning clandestine marriages once and for all. Parental consent was required for any person wishing to marry below the age of consent, i.e. 21. The marriage had to be conducted in church during the day by a clergyman, banns had to be read or a license issued. Falsification or errors made could result in the marriage being nullified.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Libary
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Libary

Those unable to afford to buy the license could risk going to a city parish where they would not be known and have the banns published by a clerk, who was perhaps a little less vigilant than in your local area and who might not check the validity of your residence.

If all else failed there was always the option to make the potentially long journey to Gretna Green where, due to a loophole in the law, you could marry with few questions asked, although the validity of such a marriage might be questionable.

Gretna Green, or, the red-hot marriage, c.1795. Lewis Walpole Library
Gretna Green, or, the red-hot marriage, c.1795. Lewis Walpole Library

So, you have found yourself married and now decided it’s not for you. Your wife is nagging you and the children are screaming, the baby is crying. How to escape this intolerable situation. As a woman, there was little choice. Very few mothers would walk away from their offspring and as a wife you were as good as owned by your husband, but for a man, if wealthy you could divorce your wife. If the financial means for divorce were lacking, then one further option was simply to run away.

Before and after marriage
Before and after marriage.

It was, however, a crime in the Georgian Era for men to abandon their wife and family, as by doing so the family would become reliant upon the parish to support them, so it was important to have these men apprehended and returned to the bosom of their family as soon as possible. The way to try and trace these men was by naming and shaming in the newspapers, complete with name, age, occupation and a brief physical description. How many of these men did return home is unknown, but clearly obtaining their safe return was not through lack of trying on the part of the authorities. Here is an example from the Kentish Gazette, October 1st, 1816

Run Away

And left his wife and family chargeable to the parish of Frindsbury, James Apsly, known by the name of ‘Jemmy Rags’, he is about five feet ten inches high, a native of Aylesford, dark complexion, scar on his left cheek and a mole on the tip of his nose. Whoever will give information where he may be found, to Mr Edward Ross, Overseer of Frindsbury, shall, on his apprehension, be rewarded for their trouble.

Women did run away from their husbands, the difference being that if the husband wished his wife to return he would most likely put an advertisement in the local paper, something like this one reported in the Chester Chronicle, September 27th, 1799, along with a comment by the newspaper itself

A man at Condover, near Shrewsbury, advertising his runaway wife, thus concludes:

he will not be answerable for any debts she may contract until she returns to him again, and make him some acknowledgement for her misconduct.

We are at a loss to know what sort of acknowledgement it should be that would entirely satisfy a man in such a situation!

A Nincompoop, or Henpecked Husband. © The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

And, from the Leeds Intelligencer July 17th, 1797:

A Runaway wife

Whereas Elizabeth, the wife of me, Eli Baron, of Hunslet, in the parish of Leeds, Pot Vender, has absconded without any cause or provocation of my part:

Notice is therefore hereby given,

That whoever harbours her after this notice will be prosecuted: – she is about fifty-three years of age, broad set and dark complexioned.

He will not be answerable for any debts she may hereafter contract.

As Witness of his hand                                                        Eli Baron

The interesting point to note about many of these appeals for the wife to return is that they appear in almost the same format each time, the man’s priority is not necessarily the safe return of his wife, but that people are publicly made aware that their spouse has left them and that they are therefore no longer financially responsible for them. The majority also seem to wish to share the fact that it was not their fault, that they had done nothing to provoke their wife to leave them.

Husband discovered in act of kissing a maid . Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Husband discovered in an act of kissing a maid. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Two murders in a Derbyshire village 1815 and 1819

The first murder took place about a couple of miles from the murderer’s home of Litton, a pretty village in the middle of the Peak district, a mere stone’s throw from the beautiful Chatsworth House. The murderer, one Anthony Lingard was one of the several children born to Anthony Lingard senior and his wife Elizabeth.

Anthony Lingard, the younger, reputed to be aged 21 but who was in fact 25, was charged with the murder, by strangulation, of one Hannah Oliver, a widow aged 48. Hannah was the keeper of the turnpike gate at Wardlow Mires, in the parish of Tideswell.

Wardlow Mires, Derbyshire
Wardlow Mires, Derbyshire

According to the evidence given, Lingard committed the robbery and subsequent murder on the night of 15th January 1815. Having killed Hannah, he left her house taking with him several pounds and a pair of new, red, women’s shoes. He immediately went to see a young woman, Rebecca Nall, in the village who was pregnant with his child and offered her some money and a pair of new shoes if she would agree to say someone else was the father of her unborn child. Rumour of the murder spread quickly, and mention of the shoes convinced the young woman it was Anthony that had committed the crime. She tried to return them to him but he merely said that it was nothing to do with him and that he had got the shoes in exchange for a pair of stockings form a travelling packman.

In court, no-one believed his story and judge summed up the evidence for the jury, who took a matter of minutes to conclude that he was guilty. The judge, Mr Justice Bayley, then proceeded to pass the death sentence upon Anthony.

Anthony resigned himself to his fate and forgave the girl who gave evidence against him, before being taken to the drop in front of the county gaol, Derby. After a short time occupied in prayer, he was launched into eternity. He met his fate with a firmness and seemed very calm at the end, which was on 28th March 1815.

Before the judge left town, he directed that the body should be hung in chains in the most convenient place near the spot where the murder was committed, instead of being dissected and anatomised.

The treasurer’s accounts for Derbyshire 1815-16, show that the punishment of gibbeting cost a considerable amount of money. The expenses for apprehending Lingard amounted to £31 5 shillings and 5 pence, but the expenses incurred in the gibbeting reached a total of £85 4 shilling and 1 penny, and this was in addition to the ten guineas charged by the gaoler for conveying the body from Derby to Wardlow.

Subsequent toll keepers apparently complained about the noise of his bones creaking in the wind, so after some considerable time, his remains were cut down and buried. There remain even today rumours of ghosts and people avoid that area after dark.

The body of Hannah Oliver neé Richardson, widow of Joseph Oliver was buried at the parish church in neighbouring Stoney Middleton.

Burial of Hannah Oliver January 17th 1815 at Stoney Middleton
Burial of Hannah Oliver January 17th, 1815 at Stoney Middleton

Some four years later Hannah Bocking, another local girl from the village of Litton, aged just sixteen, was also to meet the same fate as Anthony Lingard.

Hannah was tried for the poisoning of her friend, Jane Grant, who had angered her as Jane had succeeded in securing a job and Hannah had not.  She purchased arsenic on the basis that she had rats she needed to kill some ten weeks prior to committing the crime. She added the arsenic into a cake which, under the guise of civility, she offered to her victim. The excruciating torment in which Jane Grant died seemed to awaken no remorse in the guilty mind of Hannah.

During the long imprisonment which preceded the trial, Hannah showed no contrition. She showed no emotion when the sentence was passed and simply accepted her fate. During the night preceding her execution she slept soundly, and when the time arrived she ascended the platform with a steady step.

At the trial, Hannah implicated other members of her family, including her sister. It was not until the sentence of death was passed that Hannah retracted this and claimed sole responsibility for her actions. She was hanged at Derby on 22nd March 1819. After hanging the usual time her body was taken down to be delivered to the surgeons for dissection. Great anxiety was expressed by her friends who wished to have the consolation of interring her body, however, the law at this time would not permit it.

St John the Baptist, Tideswell
St John the Baptist, Tideswell

Her victim, Jane Grant was buried at the neighbouring church in Tideswell, her entry unmistakably noted by the vicar denoting how she died – by arsenic poisoning and who it was that took her young life.

Burial of Jane daughter of Jane Grant of Litton
Burial of Jane daughter of Jane Grant of Litton, which took place September 19th, some considerable time after her death.

Sources used

Parish Registers for Tideswell & Litton.

Parish Registers for Stoney Middleton

Nottingham Gazette, and Political, Literary, Agricultural & Commercial Register for the  Midland Counties. 31 March 1815

Derby Mercury 09 January 1878

Northampton Mercury 28 January 1815

The execution and confession of Hannah Bocking, aged 16, of Litton

Bristol Mirror 03 April 1819 

Derby Mercury 25 March 1819

The Last Days of Mary Ann Burdock

We are delighted to welcome back to our blog, the author Naomi Clifford. For her book Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches, Naomi researched the stories of the 131 women who were hanged in England and Wales between 1797 and 1837. Here she outlines the last days of the notorious poisoner Mary Ann Burdock.

Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches by Naomi Clifford

For 25% off the RRP and free UK P&P phone 01226 73422 or visit Pen and Sword Books and use discount code WATG25 on the checkout page.

People passing by the solid stone gatehouse on Cumberland Road in Bristol would not necessarily be aware that it is all that remains of the city’s New Gaol and that it holds a truly grisly history. Two women were executed on the flat roof above the entrance: Sarah Harriet Thomas, the last person publicly hanged in Bristol, in 1849, and Mary Ann Burdock in 1835. [1]

Gateway to Bristol's Gaol, by Linda Bailey, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikicommons.
Gateway to Bristol’s Gaol, by Linda Bailey, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikicommons

A record crowd waited hours in the rain to witness Mary Ann’s final moments, at 1.40pm on 15 April 1835. The Bristol Mirror estimated the numbers at 50,000 and described it as ‘the largest assemblage of human beings we ever beheld’, their mass stretching ‘the entire line of Coronation Road, from the distance of 200 yards beyond the New Church, to the Bridges, and from the top of the river banks down nearly to the water’s edge’. While they assembled there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere; people did not seem overly impressed with the seriousness of what was about to happen.

Then at about 1.30pm, if they were close enough to get a good view of proceedings, they watched a small female figure dressed in black appear on the platform accompanied by the prison Governor, under-sheriff, turnkeys, executioner and the chaplain, the Rev Jenning. They might have heard Jenning intoning the funeral service… ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life…’ At this point, as understanding that events were reaching a climax rippled through the crowd, the feeling amongst the spectators changed. A ‘shuddering and anxious silence’ pervaded.

Bristol New Cut showing the New Gaol and gateway
Bristol New Cut showing the New Gaol and gateway

Those close enough to the gatehouse would have perceived that there was a hiatus on the platform while an umbrella was called for – whether for Mary Ann or for the Chaplain was unclear. Probably only the official entourage on the platform and the newspaper reporters, who were allowed special access, would have heard the Governor ask Mary to move to her place on the trapdoor and her refusal: ‘I will wait for the umbrella.’ The Governor again insisted and again she refused. But the Rev Jenning resumed reading the service and Mary Ann was led reluctantly but not resisting to the drop. The journalists noted that her face suddenly drained of colour.

Why was there such a degree of interest in this particular execution? Why such enormous crowds? Certainly, Mary Ann’s gender was a draw. This was the first hanging of a female in Bristol since 1802 when friends Maria Davis and Charlotte Bobbett were dispatched on St Michael’s Hill holding hands, punishment for abandoning Davis’s 15-month-old son on Brandon Hill where he died of exposure, and the first since 1832 when William Clarke, Thomas Gregory, Christopher Davis and Joseph Kayes were hanged for rioting. There was the added factor that Mary Ann was young – 30 or 35 at most – and attractive, and her crime had given her a new level of local notoriety. The public was much exercised at the time by an apparent spike in poisoning murders by women.

Mary Ann Burdock in court, Bristol Mirror, 18 April 1835
Mary Ann Burdock in court, Bristol Mirror, 18 April 1835

Burdock was born Mary Ann Williams at Urcop near Ross on Wye in Herefordshire. Aged 19, she joined the household of Mr Plumley, a poulterer living in Nicholas Street, Bristol but was abruptly sacked for petty theft and ‘other improper acts’. Soon afterwards she married Charles Agar, a tailor, but he left her and she then lived with Mr Thomas, a married gentleman’s servant. Later, she ‘formed a connection’ with Mr Wade, who kept a lodging house at 17 Trinity Street. A son and daughter were born but it is not clear who their fathers were. Mary Ann appeared to live by her wits. She was illiterate and, as the middle classes tut-tutted to each other, had no knowledge of religion.

It was in the Trinity Street house, in October 1833, that one of the lodgers, Mrs Clara Smith, a widow in her fifties, was suddenly taken ill with severe stomach pains and expired soon afterwards. Mary Ann told anyone who was interested that Mrs Smith had died in poverty and had no relations and she herself hastily arranged a burial for her lodger at St Augustine’s Church.

But Mrs Smith was not poor. Quite the opposite. She was known to hoard large quantities of cash because she did not trust banks and kept her money, possibly as much as £3,000, in a locked box in her room. It did not go unnoticed that soon after her death, Mr Wade and Mary Ann started doing noticeably well: Wade was able to pay off his debts and bought £400 worth of stock to start a business. But Wade’s own run of luck was short. By April 1834 he too was dead and within weeks Mary Ann was bigamously married to Paul Burdock. She was still legally married to Charles Agar, of course.[2]

A few months later, Mrs Smith’s relatives, who had been living abroad, arrived in Bristol and started making inquiries about her estate. Suspicions were aroused. Mrs Smith’s body was exhumed and the contents of the stomach sent to the analytical chemist William Herapath of Bristol Medical School, who identified arsenic.

On 10 April 1835 Mary Ann came to trial at the Guildhall before Sir Charles Wetherell, the same hardline anti-Reform Recorder of Bristol whose arrival in Bristol for the assize in 1831 had provoked civil disturbance during which four people were killed and 86 wounded and after which Clarke, Gregory, Davis and Kayes were hanged.

Bristol Riots: The Burning of the New Gaol from Canon's Mars by William James Muller
Bristol Riots: The Burning of the New Gaol from Canon’s Marsh by William James Muller; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

Mary Ann’s trial lasted three days, ending with a nine-hour summing up by Wetherell, after which the jury retired for 15 minutes and returned a verdict of Guilty. Execution was inevitable [2].

Two days later, on the morning of her death, dressed in a black dress, bonnet and veil and wrapped in a dark shawl, Mary Ann attended the condemned service in the prison. She sat in chapel ‘sullenly silent, never once rising or kneeling’. At one o’clock, leaning on the Governor’s arm, she was led out to the press room situated under the platform in the gatehouse to be prepared for the gallows. Her bonnet and shawl were removed, her arms pinioned, a white cap placed on her head and the rope put around her head. According to newspaper reports, it was only then that she responded to Jenning’s prayers and uttered loudly ‘Lord have mercy on my soul’ and ‘Christ have mercy on my soul.’

Understandably, she was in no hurry to proceed to the next stage and when reminded that it was time to go said, ‘Dear gentlemen, the time is short – it is hard to die.’ She asked to be remembered to her husband, who seems to have abandoned her, and friends. Faced with the stairs up through the gatehouse to the roof, she again hesitated but when the Governor offered assistance, declared that she could manage.

On the platform, the executioner William Calcraft fastened the rope to the gallows, pulled the white cap over her face and placed a handkerchief in her hand. This was to be the signal she was ready for him to release the trap door. Within seconds she dropped the handkerchief and was hanged. ‘A thrill of terror pervaded every countenance,’ according to the Bristol Mirror. Mary Ann died relatively quickly ‘with a slight convulsive movement of the hands’, her ‘stoutness’ apparently helping to speed her end.

Mary Ann Burdock’s body was taken down from the gallows and casts were made of her head and bust for the use of doctors at Bristol Royal Infirmary, after which it was buried within the precincts of the gaol, the Anatomy Act of 1832 having ended the practice of dissection of murderers’ corpses. Three weeks later ‘P.R’ wrote to Richard Smith, chief surgeon of the Infirmary, with the conclusions of a phrenological analysis of the casts, which concluded that they indicated Destructiveness, Combativeness, Secretiveness, a lack of Benevolence as well as ‘a masculine degree of force and energy’. That energy was, of course, now extinguished.[3]

The next and last person executed on the roof of the gatehouse was 19-year-old Sarah Harriet Thomas, convicted of bludgeoning her elderly employer to death. It was a traumatising scene. Sarah was dragged struggling and screaming to the roof of the gatehouse, pleading for mercy until the end. The prison governor fainted.[4]

The gaol closed in 1883, replaced by the prison at Horfield, and the site was sold to Great Western Railway. The gaol ruins were gradually removed and the ground levelled for rail yards and buildings. The gatehouse, now Grade II listed, is all that remains. Now a shiny new development is planned, the entrance to which will be through the gatehouse. As they pass through perhaps residents and visitors will spare a thought for the souls who were dispatched just a few metres above them.

Notes

[1] A total of nine people were executed on the flat roof above the entrance to the gaol. The original gatehouse, first built in 1820, was demolished in 1831, having been damaged in riots, and was rebuilt in 1832. Historic England.

[2] Bristol Mirror, Royal Cornwall Gazette 18 April 1835.

[3] Charles Agar, Burdock’s legal spouse, later sued Stuckey’s bank for the contents of Mary Ann’s bank account, some of which was probably ill-gotten gains from Mrs Smith. He won.

[4] Bristol Mirror, 2 May 1835.

 

Murder in Bedfordshire

During our research for A Right Royal Scandal which features Flitwick and Ampthill, we came across this shocking murder which took place on Monday, 1st December 1788, in Flitwick Wood, just two miles from Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

The victim was an Elizabeth White, of Ampthill, who according to her sisters, went out on the morning of the murder to meet a Joseph Cook(e), a baker of Steppingley, near Ampthill and told them she would be home by dinner time. There was speculation that Cook was a criminal and that she had gone to meet him for money (there were also rumours which were found to be untrue that she was pregnant). Elizabeth never returned.

A Distant View of Ampthill Park by George Shepherd, (active 1782–1830). Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
A Distant View of Ampthill Park by George Shepherd, (active 1782–1830). Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Her body was discovered between eleven and twelve the following day by an old man and his two sons, as they were gathering sticks in the wood. Her throat had been cut, an incision of about four or five inches in length, and down to the neck bone. There were four or five wounds near her mouth, her jaw bone had been broken and three of her upper teeth were bent out-of-place, her cheekbone was fractured, there were also several wounds and bruises on her head, one wrist was badly bruised and one of her fingers had been cut off just above the nail in a slanting direction, and another finger had been cut down to the second joint. A white-handled case knife with about an inch broken off from the point, and the blade of a new pen-knife (both very bloody) with the piece of her finger, were found on her cloak, close to where the body lay.

The Coroner’s Jury sat to discuss the death. Mr Boldington junior, surgeon, at the request of the jury, cut open her head and found upon the head and face ten wounds, but no other fractures other than on the cheek and jawbone; it was his opinion that the bruises were given with the claws and face of a hammer.

Cook was arrested and with other corroborating circumstances was committed by the Coroner to Bedford gaol to await his trial. The newspaper reported that he was a married man and described his wife as a very neat, decent woman, saying the couple had three or four fine children.

At the assizes, the trial took upwards of nine hours and the jury went out for an hour and a quarter before pronouncing their verdict: death! At the time of his demise, Cook acknowledged his guilt to the clergyman who attended him and he was then taken to the place of execution in a post-chaise. After the hanging, his body was cut down and delivered to the surgeons for dissection.

St Andrew, Ampthill © Copyright Paul Billington
St Andrew, Ampthill © Copyright Paul Billington

Elizabeth was buried on 6th December 1788 at St Andrew’s church, Ampthill.

The Tragic Tale of the Death of Ann Hoon, 1796

When aged just twenty-one years of age, Ann Rollstone was married to Thomas Hoon, a labourer, at the parish church in Longford, Derbyshire, about six miles from the town of Ashbourne. Just nine months later the couple produced their first child, a beautiful baby girl whom they named, Elizabeth.

Longford Church. © sarumsleuth via Flickr
Longford Church. © sarumsleuth via Flickr

Tragically though their joy at this birth was to be short-lived as the child died the following April. Despite this loss and unknown to Ann at the time, she was already pregnant with their second child, another daughter whom they named Ann, after her mother. Ann was born at the end of January 1795.

The couple’s life continued as it did for most people, with Ann looking after the home and raising their daughter and Thomas going out to work.

In March 1796, this picture of domestic bliss was about to end abruptly as the story will now show from Ann’s trial at Derby Assizes. This tragic story came to the attention of the newspapers of the day due to its unusual nature.

On Friday last this poor creature, who is the wife of a laboring man, was about to heat her oven, and being short of wood, had broken down a rail or two from the fencing round the plantation of a gentleman in the neighbourhood, some of her neighbours threatened her with prosecution and told her she would be transported for it.

This so much alarmed her mind and the idea of being separated from her child, whom she had always appeared remarkably fond of, so wrought on her imagination, that she formed the horrible design of putting her to death, in order that, by surrendering herself into the hands of justice, she might be executed for the murder, and so be forever reunited in heaven with the baby whom she had loved more than life.

(Kentish Gazette, 22nd March 1796)

Her story continues – no sooner had her husband had gone to work she began to hatch a plan to put this dreadful thing into action. She decided that the best way to do this was to fill a large tub with water and plunge the child into to it causing it to drown. However, when she took the child in her arms and was just about to plunge her into the water, the baby, smiling up at the mother’s face, disarmed her for the moment, and Anne found herself unable to commit the dreadful act.

Having composed herself, she then lulled the baby to sleep at her breast, wrapped a cloth around her and plunged her into the tub, and held her under water till life became extinct.

She took the baby out of the tub and carefully laid her dead body on the bed. She then collected up her hat and cloak, went outside, locking her street door after her, and took the key to a neighbours for her husband to collect when he returned from work.

She then proceeded to walk about eight miles to a magistrate (which would, in all likelihood have been at Derby). When she arrived, she knocked on the door and asked to be admitted. Ann then proceeded to tell the magistrate the whole story, desperately wishing to be executed immediately for what she had done.

Derby Prison as it was previous to the riots of 1831.
Derby Prison. Courtesy of British Library

About an hour after she had left, her husband, Thomas, returned home from work and to his very great shock and dismay he found his dear little infant lying stretched out on the bed. It had such an effect upon Thomas, that he was insensible for quite some time. When he had composed himself he enquired of neighbours as to whether they knew where his wife was and was told that she went out about an hour earlier, but no-one knew where she had gone. Distraught he simply sat down by his dead infant and waited for Ann to return.

Derbyshire Assizes. © Enjoying Derby via Flickr
Derbyshire Assizes. © Enjoying Derby via Flickr

Ann did not get her wish of execution but was instead sent for trial at Derby Assizes whereupon it transpired that there had, in fact, been ‘many instances of insanity over the past four years’ and it was felt that this was the most likely cause of her dramatic action. This mitigating evidence was taken into consideration by the jury and somewhat surprisingly they found her … not guilty of such a heinous crime. It is well known that at that time many juries were reluctant to convict women of intentional killing and in fact, infanticide was not particularly rare during the Georgian Era and there are quite a few cases that appeared at The Old Bailey.

What became of the couple after this terrible event remains a mystery, did they return to the marital home in Longford or did they move elsewhere? There are baptism records for a William and a Thomas Hoon at Derby in 1800 and 1805 respectively, with parents named as Thomas and Ann Hoon: could the couple have moved to Derby for a fresh start? We may never know, we can only hope.

 

Featured Image

Family Sitting Outside a Rural Cottage, Attributed to George Morland, Courtesy of Buxton Museum

Sold for a pot of beer and a shilling!

On August 10th 1817 the marriage took place between Charles Skinner and Mary Gower, at Speldhurst, Kent, the union of two people in Holy matrimony. This seemingly happy union was to last for the next ten years until John Savage appeared on the scene.

We turn to an account of a court case in the Globe newspaper of July 26th, 1828 which took place at the West Kent Quarter Sessions. Charles Skinner, Mary Skinner and John Savage, of the parish of Tonbridge, were indicted for a misdemeanour. The misdemeanour being:

one of those disgusting transactions which were frequently mentioned in the newspapers, and which by a vulgar error, were imagined to be lawful. It was by many persons supposed that if a man became tired of his wife, he might take her to a public market with a halter round her neck, or (as in the present instance) a handkerchief round her waist, and there publicly sell her. Such proceedings were both illegal and immoral, whether the parties were or were not all agreed. Sometime the wife was sold against her will; but in this case, there was an agreement by all parties before they left the cottage at Speldhurst, in which they all lived.

Matrimony: may the Devil take them that brought you and me together.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Charles and Mary had separated in the respect of being husband and wife, but they continued to live under the same roof along with Mary’s new lover, John Savage. The cottage they all lived in belonged to the parish and this unusual living arrangement came to the attention of the officers responsible for the cottage. Charles and Mary were told in no uncertain terms to ‘behave themselves’.

Clearly ‘behaving’ was not an option and they decided upon a different course of action so that they could retain possession of the cottage. So, with that, Charles and Mary went to the tap-room of the George and Dragon public house in Tonbridge. Then, after a while, John Savage appeared in the pub and the drama began. Making sure that people heard, Charles, having tied a silk handkerchief around his wife’s waist, said to Savage, “Will you buy my wife?” Savage replied, “Yes, what will you have for her?” Charles replied, “A shilling and a pot of beer”. Savage agreed to the bargain and Mary was handed over to him with Charles saying to her ‘If you give me that handkerchief I have nothing more to do with you”. She then gave him the handkerchief and they went away.

Thwick-Thwack
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Mr Pollock, prosecuting, concluded by observing that these people ought to be taught that what they had done was both immoral and illegal, that by their punishment other people might be warned that such transactions could not take place without impunity.

William Hook who was one of the overseers of Speldhurst confirmed that Charles Skinner was a pauper of the parish and that he had resided in the cottage belonging to the parish for three years, but was now in the workhouse because of this transaction. Hook also pointed out that the couple had already been warned at the Monthly Vestry that if he permitted Savage to live in the house, and cohabit with his wife, he must leave the cottage; if he had more room than he wanted, the parish would find somebody to put in it, but apparently Skinner took no notice of this warning.  John Smith the landlord of the George and Dragon was called to give his account of the events of that evening.

He confirmed that on June 2nd that Charles Skinner went in first and ordered a pot of beer and shortly after Savage arrived, the transaction was carried out. He confirmed that there were about four other people present who also witnessed it. Skinner and Savage assumed that this would make it all legal – how wrong they were! As each witness gave their version of events, all were consistent that Skinner had, in fact, sold his wife for a shilling and a pot of beer.

The learned Chairman intimated that there was not enough evidence to support a charge of conspiracy, but that the transaction took place could not be denied.

The defendants were called to give their account of the event. Mary simply laughed and said, “My husband did not wish to go along with my wishes and that was the reason I wished to part”.

Six Weeks after Marriage
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The learned Chairman, in summing up, observed that this indictment was rather of a novel nature. He did not think the charge of a conspiracy had been proved. These people had been living together in the same house, but in what manner it was not now necessary to inquire; and even it was, a mere rumour was not sufficient to reply upon that point. Besides the count of conspiracy, there were two others, charging the defendants with making the sale, and it appeared that such a sale did take place. The lady certainly did not rate her own value very highly; for a pot of beer and a shilling was the only consideration given for that valuable commodity.

The jury, without hesitation, found all of them guilty. They were each sentenced to serve one months hard labour.

 

Featured Image

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Elizabeth Morton and ‘The Gentleman in Black’

Elizabeth Morton was baptized May 4th May 1747 in the small, rural Nottinghamshire village of Misterton, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth. She had three siblings – Mary (25th September 1743), Thomas (25th Sept 1757) and Ann (1757).

All Saints Church, Misterton, Nottinghamshire.
All Saints Church, Misterton. Courtesy of Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project

When just 15 years old she had gained employment as a servant in the neighbouring village of Walkeringham, just over 2 miles from her home, for a farmer John Oliver and his wife Elizabeth née Clark. At that time the couple had three daughters:

Ann (baptized 12th October 1758);

Mary (baptized 7th June 1760);

Rebecca (baptized 20th May 1762)

Their son John (baptized 29th May 1763) was not born until after the incident in question.

St Mary Magdalene church, Walkeringham, Nottinghamshire.
St Mary Magdalene church, Walkeringham. Courtesy of J. Hannan-Briggs

On 10th August 1762, Elizabeth was committed to Nottingham county gaol, by Daniel Newton, one of the coroners. She was charged with the murder of an infant about two years of age, the daughter of John Oliver. The Leeds Intelligencer of 24th August 1762, reported that Elizabeth had strangled the child with her hands as it lay in the cradle. The newspaper also stated that:

there is too much reason to suspect, that this unhappy girl has murdered two other young children, in different places, where she was taken in to look after them. She is a stout made girl, has little to say for herself, can neither read nor write, and appears to be of a brutish disposition.

Some seven months later, on 10th March 1763 at the Nottingham Assizes, her trial for a capital offence began i.e. the murder of a two-year-old child and the attempted murder of another child, who survived and had recovered. Also for attempting the life of another of the children, whose neck she had almost twisted round, and hid it in some straw in the barn, where it was found by its mother struggling in the agonies of death. At her trial, Elizabeth claimed that she had been incited to commit the crime by a ‘gentleman in black’ who came to her during the night (alluding to it being the devil who made her commit the crime).

The Derby Mercury of 11th March 1763 described her as:

a most profligate harden’d young wretch, the reason she gives for such inhuman acts, is that the children were cross and troublesome. Execution was respited for the time being on account of her youth.

The Derby Mercury of 1st April 1763 noted her demise.

Yesterday Elizabeth Morton, a girl of only 16 years of age, was executed at Nottingham (being her Birth-Day) for the murder of her master’s daughter, a child of two years old, who liv’d at Walkeringham, near Gainsboro’. Her behaviour since she received a sentence of death has been decent. She never denied the fact but could give no satisfactory account of the motives that induc’d her to commit so shocking a crime. She was attended to the place of execution by a prodigious concourse of people where after the usual time spent in prayer with the minister, she was tuned off about one o’clock much frighted with the terrors of death.

After her death, her body was given to a surgeon of Calverton near Nottingham, to be dissected, then buried in a village near her home.

According to The annual register, or a view of the history, politicks, and literature, for the year 1763

‘… it is probable that she was an idiot …’ 

This would if proven, have been sufficient grounds for a pardon, the register gives no indication as to whether this was tested or not.

On a final note, having found the baptism records for John Oliver’s children there are also two corresponding burials at the time Elizabeth was charged with the murder of the two-year-old. Mary was buried on 5th August 1762, but there is also an entry for the burial of Rebecca who would have been a mere three months old on 3rd August 1762 – did she die from natural causes or was she also one of Elizabeth’s victims?

 

Featured Image

Nottingham Gallows. Courtesy of University of Nottingham 

 

Views in the Levant: Paestum, c.1785.

An Italian honeymoon ends in tragedy, 1824

Caroline Isham, the eldest daughter of the Reverend Charles Euseby Isham, married Thomas Welch Hunt, the Squire of Wadenhoe in Northampton on 9th February 1824. The marriage took place at Polebrook where Caroline’s father was rector of the parish.

Caroline Hunt, née Isham, painted to commemorate her marriage in 1824.
Caroline Hunt, née Isham; British School, 1824; Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery

The couple were both young; Caroline was 22 years old at the time of her wedding and Thomas was 27. Moreover, Thomas Welch Hunt was a wealthy and amiable gentleman. Their future looked bright.

Thomas Welch Hunt, painted to commemorate his marriage in 1824.
Thomas Welch Hunt; British School, 1824; Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery

A short time after the marriage, the new Mr and Mrs Hunt took an extended Grand Tour of a honeymoon on the continent, heading for Italy. The Napoleonic Wars were at an end and British tourists were once more able to travel across mainland Europe. They made first for Rome and then travelled south, stopping at the coastal town of Salerno in the Kingdom of Naples before, in early December, continuing on to the small town of Eboli in order to visit the ruins of the three Greek temples at Paestum. They were in wild and dangerous countryside where banditti roamed and English visitors were warned to carry pistols.

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1824.
Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1824. Rijksmuseum.
Perhaps Mr and Mr Hunt were dressed similarly when they visited Paestum?

The hills became less picturesque as the Hunts carriage travelled from Salerno but Eboli itself was a handsome town, built on the slope of the hills. Beyond Eboli was the plain of Paestum, with large tracts of dark green shrubs which had a dismal and desolate appearance when viewed from the higher ground of Eboli but which were myrtles, ten feet high, standing in a pasture which fed water buffalo (kept for making cheese from their milk). A traveller in 1822 was to recall that there ‘was something solemn and imposing in the silent loneliness of this monstrous expanse… [our driver] pointed out to us a spot, where, about two years since, two Englishmen had been stopt… [and] robbed of everything, even to their shirts, and sent literally naked back to Eboli, where these travellers had been so incautious as to exhibit diamond pins, and gold watches and seals’.

A View of Paestum by Antonio Joli, 1759.
A View of Paestum by Antonio Joli, 1759 (via Wikimedia).

There were three groups of English tourists visiting Paestum; the Hunts, a Mrs Benyon and her two daughters and three midshipmen from the Revenge, Charles Alex Thorndike, a Mr Hornby and Mr Thompson. Thomas and Caroline Hunt spent the night at a ‘miserable little inn at Eboli’, and unwittingly placed themselves in mortal danger.

Between Salerno and Eboli by John Robert Cozens, 1782.
Between Salerno and Eboli by John Robert Cozens, 1782. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

The landlord was a rogue and a villain, in league with the lawless men who terrorised the vicinity. Naples had changed hands a few times during the Napoleonic wars but, from 1823, was – for the second time – under the control of the Bourbon, King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and maintained by an Austrian garrison. A Corps of sixty pardoned highwaymen had formed part of the king’s troops in Sicily under the command of a Chef de Brigade named Costa, also a former criminal and a fervent anti-Jacobin. They had not received their pay for some time and – it was rumoured – had reverted to their old trade, roaming the plains of Paestum and preying on visitors to the ancient ruins. Unbeknown to the Hunts, their landlord at the inn alerted the banditti. Mr Hunt had been careless – or imprudent – in putting his expensive travelling accoutrements on display. The eagle-eyed landlord had noted their value.

…the landlord, observing that he [Mr Hunt] had silver mounted cruets, and silver backed brushes in his dressing-case (a wedding present he had received), communicated with a band of brigands that infested the neighbourhood.

The next day – Friday 3rd December 1824 – the banditti were stationed, ready to pounce on the unwary tourists. Mrs Benyon and her daughters were their first victims. As they left the ruins at around one o’clock in the afternoon they were held up, threatened and relieved of their valuables but allowed to continue on to Salerno where they were expecting to meet up with the other two English parties. By nightfall, Mrs Benyon was convinced that misfortune had befallen her fellow travellers and penned a hasty and unfortunately prophetic letter to the Minister at Naples, ‘it is much to be feared that resistancemay have led to dreadful results’.

Travellers Attacked by Banditti by Philip James De Loutherbourg, 1781.
Travellers Attacked by Banditti, 1781 by Philip James De Loutherbourg. The Tate

Thomas Welch Hunt and his wife Caroline were the next victims of the troop of brigands. They set off in their carriage from Paestum but had only travelled about half a mile when a man jumped out from behind a hedge and stopped the horses; another man leaped on to the footboard of the carriage and demanded money from the servant travelling on the box before throwing him to the ground and holding him fast there. In all, there were six highwaymen, all masked and armed; one pointed his musket at Mr Hunt (who was unarmed) and another targeted Caroline. Mr Hunt gave the men his purse but repeatedly asked for at least two or three carlins (a Sicilian silver coin worth about fourpence) to be returned to him, perhaps trying to convince them that he had no other money or valuables with him. Caroline – terrified – begged her husband to just hand over everything; the men knew there was a box in the carriage containing the silverware and they wanted more than just Mr Hunt’s purse. But Thomas Welch Hunt was obstinate and imprudent; he was also deaf to his wife’s pleas and bravely contemptuous of the threats made by the men pointing their muskets at the couple. “If you do not immediately give up everything, we will shoot you”. “You dare not do that”, responded Mr Hunt. Caroline recalled the fatal moment:

The words were no sooner uttered than we were both unfortunately shot. I wish he had not been so obstinate, and I am sure they would not have acted so rashly – but pray do not tell my husband I said so. They all made their escape without delay without taking a single article from us.

The servant who had been on the box took one of the horses and galloped as fast as he could back to the ruins at Paestum to find the three midshipmen. The carriage, with the wounded couple inside, headed back the same way.

Views in the Levant: Temple Ruins at Paestum, c.1785.
Views in the Levant: Temple Ruins at Paestum, c.1785. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Mr Hunt and his wife were gently carried into the ruins and it was clear that they were both mortally wounded. A ball had passed through Mr Hunt’s right breast, and another had passed clean through Caroline’s left hand and left breast. Medical aid was sent for and a message also sent to Mr John Roskilly, an eminent English surgeon resident at Naples (who had treated Percy Bysshe Shelley a few years earlier). Thomas Welch Hunt was too injured to be moved and he died amid the ruins of the Greek temples at seven o’clock that evening; Caroline had been taken to a nearby farmhouse where she was tended to but not told of her husband’s death. The next morning (Saturday) she was able to tell Mr Thorndike what had happened but after that she became weak and she died in the early hours of the Sunday morning. Mr Roskilly arrived at noon on the Sunday, too late to be of use but it was he who discovered what had become of Thomas Welch Hunt’s body. It had been taken to the church and the local surgeon had opened the body before placing it – upright – in a narrow closet, unclothed and with the body still open. Roskilly was able to prevent Caroline’s remains suffering the same fate.

The young, newly married couple were buried side-by-side, and a tablet to their memory is located nearby in the churchyard of Christ Church in Naples; another was placed back in the church at Wadenhoe.

The memorial plaque at Naples to Thomas Welch Hunt and his young bride, Caroline.
The memorial plaque at Naples to Thomas Welch Hunt and his young bride, Caroline. The Phraser

The brigands were rounded up, accused and found guilty of the Hunts murder.

EXECUTION OF THE ASSASSINS OF MR. AND MRS HUNT

NAPLES, APRIL 28, 1825

The assassins of the unfortunate Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, whose case excited so deep and extensive an interest, were executed last Saturday, 23d inst. The Neapolitan journal, which, as you may remember, avoided making any mention of the distressing affair at the time it happened, and which only alluded to it lately, when the malefactors were discovered, inserted yesterday a long article on the subject. It appears, that immediately after committing the crime, the villains had kept themselves closely hidden, and by means of the wife of one of them, who denounced certain innocent individuals, misled for some time the pursuits of the police. At last, however, the whole mystery was cleared up, and the following individuals secured: – Felice Solito, aged 32, a peasant; Biagio Manzo, 32, a colono, (or little farmer); Liberato Letteriello di Vincenzo, aged 26, a peasant; Pietro Antonio di Pasquale, aged 28, a wine seller, or tavernajo; Maria Vittoria Calabrese, aged 39, wife of Biagio Manzo; Marianna Cirmo, aged 30, wife of Liberato Letteriello, Raffaele Frasca, aged 30, a guardiano campestre, (or man armed for taking care of country property); and Nicola Maria Petrelli, whose condition is not mentioned, aged 38. These persons were brought before the Military Commission of the Province at Salerno, according to a decree of King Ferdinand, dated 3d October, 1822, which orders that all briganti, or companies of robbers, be tried by martial law, and executed immediately after conviction. The Commission… declared Solito, Manzo, Letteriello, and Di Pasquale, guilty, recommending, however, Solito to Royal mercy, as his evidence had principally discovered the secrets of the crime, in which also he had taken the least part. Of the other individuals, accused of being privy to the desperate projects of the assassins, and of having lent them arms and assistance, one, viz. Cirmo, was acquitted in toto, and the other three detained in prison for further examination.

The three ordered for execution were carried down to Eboli and shot, at three o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday. The brutal ruffians, the sanguinary destroyers of defenceless youth and beauty, died like dastardly villains as they were. Those hearts which had the baneful energy to arrive at the excess of crime, which could dictate the cruel blow that was to send to a premature grave two beings rich in merit, in love, and in happiness; and that was to wound the hearts of thousands of the just and virtuous, trembled and sunk at their own sufferings. They moaned, they shrieked, nor could all the consolations of religion give them strength to face their punishment.

It appeared on the trial that the criminals took to the road, for the first time, the day before our unfortunate country people fell into their hands.

Probably the last likeness of Caroline Hunt née Isham which survives is a plaster cast medallion, done by Neri while she was in Rome and which was in the possession of a descendant of the Isham family, Gyles Isham, in 1950. Intriguingly, either the original or a second copy was bought at an antique show in Massachusetts and was in a fragile box alongside a similar one of Rosa Bathurst, another young Englishwoman who also died in Italy in 1824 (Rosa drowned in the Tiber). It is not known how their two medallions ended up together, but you can read more about them by clicking here.

Cameos of Caroline Hunt née Isham (left) and Rosa Bathurst (right).
Medallions of Caroline Hunt née Isham (left) and Rosa Bathurst (right).

 

Sources not referenced above:

Scots Magazine, 1st September 1822

London Courier and Evening Gazette, 20th May 1825

The Story of Wadenhoe by the Wadenhoe History Group

Tragic Honeymoon by Gyles Isham; Northamptonshire Past and Present, 1950

 

Header image:

Views in the Levant: Paestum, c.1785. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Old Hastings by Edward William Cooke, 1834-1835. Victoria and Albert Museum

On the trail of the Hawkhurst gang of smugglers

In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, we mention her uncle by marriage, John Dundas who married Helen Brown, Grace’s determined and strong-minded maternal aunt who was a constant presence in Grace’s formative years.  In 1748, some six years before Grace was born, John Dundas was a Captain in the 34th Regiment of Foot and was placed in command of a troop of soldiers hunting two fugitives from Newgate Prison.

William Gray and Thomas Kemp had been arrested for smuggling, both members of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers and thieves who terrorised the south coast of England from Kent to Dorset during 1735 to 1750.  On the 30th March 1748, these two, along with five other smugglers who were all being held in Newgate, managed to escape, all taking different routes through the London streets.  Five of them were soon taken, but Gray and Kemp got clean away.  They evaded capture for some weeks until, in mid-May, the following report appeared in the newspapers:

By an Express from Hastings we have an Account, that William Gray, who lately broke out of Newgate, was last Tuesday Morning retaken by a party of Lord Cobham’s Dragoons, under the Command of Capt. Dundass, of Cholmondeley’s Regiment of Foot and carry’d to that Place; and that Kemp, who broke out at the same Time with Gray, narrowly escaped being taken with him.[1]

Chasing Smugglers on a Rocky Coast; British School
British School; Chasing Smugglers on a Rocky Coast; National Maritime Museum

William Gray stood trial and was sentenced to be transported for seven years; the Penny London Post reported on 27th July 1748, that Gray had given the Government information regarding smugglers and he was to be pardoned, however, he remained in Newgate and the General Evening Post, 19th November 1748 mentioned that he was so ill his life was despaired of.  Thomas Kemp was recaptured along with his brother in 1749, after breaking into a house armed with pistols; both were sentenced to death.

More information on John Dundas and his wife Helen Brown can be found in our book which documents not only Grace’s life but those of her extended family as well.

[1] London Evening Post, 17th May 1748.

Featured image:

Old Hastings by Edward William Cooke, Victoria and Albert Museum

St James's Palace with a View of Pall Mall; National Trust Collections

The Mysterious Marriages of Thomas Nelson

Charlotte Hayes, née Ward, aka O’Kelly was a highly successful Georgian brothel keeper and for those of you have watched the TV series Harlots you will know her as the character, Charlotte Wells.

Actress Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells in Harlots
Actress Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells

We have briefly touched upon Charlotte in another of our blog posts about Samuel Derrick and much has already been written about her, but we came across her name in the newspaper in connection with another matter regarding her coachman and her cook, which simply had to be investigated further.

Possible portrait of Charlotte Hayes
Possible portrait of Charlotte Hayes

London Courier and Evening Gazette, 5th September 1815

THIRTY POUNDS REWARD – MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE – The said Reward will be paid to any person who will give such information as shall ascertain the time and place of marriage of Thomas Nelson. He was Coachman to Charlotte Hayes alias Mrs O’Kelly, Marlborough-street, in 1770 and soon afterwards kept a House the Corner of Hollen-street and Wardour-street; then lived in Winsley-street; in 1775 kept the Larder in Gerrard-street, Soho; then a House is Norris-street; in 1777 the George in Drury-lane; then the Cardigan Head, Charing-Cross; afterwards Almack’s, 56, Pall-Mall; and died at No. 60, Pall-Mall, in 1792.

His Will describes his Widow as Mary Nelson, the daughter of John and Mary Fogarty, but it is supposed he married Mary Kelly (who was Cook to the said Charlotte Hayes) by whom he had two Children, and who died in Duke-street, St. James’s, about 1785. Apply to Mr. Fielder, 9, Bennett-street, St. James’s.

We’re going to claim the £30 reward for this as we have found the marriage certificate that John Fielder was searching for.

17th April 1781 – Thomas Nelson of St Sepulchre married Mary Fogarty, also of St Sepulchre, by banns and in the presence of Sarah Fleming and Thomas Collier
17th April 1781 – Thomas Nelson of St Sepulchre married Mary Fogarty, also of St Sepulchre, by banns and in the presence of Sarah Fleming and Thomas Collier

But … everything is not quite as it seems. Clearly, he married Mary Fogarty as it’s there in black and white and he was also very specific in his will, leaving everything to his ‘loving wife Mary, daughter of John and Mary Fogarty’.

When you dig deeper there are one or two anomalies. Thomas states he was a bachelor – was this true? Thomas appears to have moved around somewhat, changing his address and occupation.

Some ten years previously there was a reputed marriage for a Thomas Nelson to a Mary Kelly, the cook to Charlotte Hayes. So far there is no evidence that this marriage actually took place but, on 1st August 1774 at St Clement Danes, we find the baptism of a girl named Charlotte who seems to be their daughter, then on 26th August 1777 at St Mary-Le-Strand the baptism of a second daughter, Sophia Augusta. She was named as daughter of Thomas and Mary Nelson of Drury Lane.

It wasn’t until 12th February 1816, when a case came to court pertaining to Thomas’ daughter Sophia Augusta, that things began to unravel. John Fielder, named in the above newspaper report was clearly trying to gather evidence against his wife Sophia whom he married in 1797.

The 1797 marriage record of John Fielder and Sophia Augusta Nelson.

John wanted the marriage nullified after almost 20 years, as he claimed that when he married Sophia her mother Mary gave permission, as Sophia was a minor, but that her mother, Mary (née Smith) was not married at the time and therefore should not have given her permission and that Sophia was born illegitimate.

So we now have three women all named Mary, connected with Thomas Nelson – Mary Smith, Mary Kelly and Mary Fogarty. The only one we can validate as his legitimate wife is Mary Fogarty.

During the case witnesses were produced, one of whom asserted that Nelson was married to Mary Kelly in April 1771, but we can’t find any proof to support this claim.

Mr Watts, an upholsterer, deposes that he furnished a house for Mr Nelson, upon his marriage with one Mary Kelly; that he, the deponent, was not present at the marriage, but he remembers their going out to be married; that, on their return they were married, and he dined with them upon the occasion, that they lived together two or three years, but then disagreed and parted; that he the deponent, was a trustee for Mrs Nelson; that he believes that he died in 1792, but knows that she was alive many years after the year 1788.

Interior of the Pantheon, Oxford Road, London by William Hodges and William Pars, 1770s; Leeds Museums and Galleries
Interior of the Pantheon, Oxford Road, London by William Hodges and William Pars, 1770s; Leeds Museums and Galleries

That in 1774 Mr Nelson removed into a street opposite to the Pantheon, in Oxford Street from thence to Gerrard Street, Soho, where he kept the Royal Larder, and lastly to Drury Lane, in 1776, at all which places he kept a gaming house and that whilst he lived in Gerrard Street, he went one evening with the deponent, to Bagnigge Wells.

Bagnigge Wells, 1783 © The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

That they there met with two young women, one of whom, Mary Smith, who from that time lived with Mr Nelson as his wife; that they had four children, to one of which he, the despondent, stood godfather; that he believes it was Sophia Augusta, and that she was born in 1777; that he often saw her during her infancy and latterly at the house of her mother, in Pall Mall, as Mrs Fielder.

If you are confused by this, spare a thought for us as we have tried to untangle it. Overall, though it would appear that Thomas Nelson cohabited with one or perhaps two Marys and produced several children including two daughters, then proceeded to walk up the aisle with Mary Fogarty, to whom he remained married until the end of his life (Thomas Nelson died in January 1792). It seems feasible that the witnesses in the court case could have been induced to lie to support Mr Fielder’s claim or quite simply believed that he was married to Mary Kelly and took the couple at their word. As to quite what the truth of the matter is we will probably never know – a secret he took to his grave.

For more information on Charlotte Hayes and the incredible but true story behind Harlots, see The Covent Garden Ladies: The Extraordinary Story of Harris’s List by Hallie Rubenhold.

Featured Image

St James’s Palace with a View of Pall Mall, British (English) School, National Trust Collections

 

There’s nothing like washing your dirty linen in public!

Which is exactly what happened in this case.

Portrait of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, in a garden, a statue of Minerva beyond , 1761. Attributed to Adriaen Carpentiers (1739–1778)
Portrait of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, in a garden, a statue of Minerva beyond, 1761. Attributed to Adriaen Carpentiers (1739–1778)

Edward Weld, son of Humphrey Weld and Margaret Simeons of Lulworth Castle was taken to court by his wife the Honourable Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Aston.

The couple married June 22, 1727, but according to Catherine, her husband was impotent. The trial took place in 1732. The couple had lived together for the vast majority of their marriage, but Catherine confirmed that the marriage was never actually consummated.  Edward acknowledged that she was ‘able, apt and fit for the procreation of children’.

At this point Catherine decided that they could no longer cohabit; Edward’s view, however, was, that ‘many married people live together like brother and sister’. The couple were Catholic and as such deemed marriage to be as sacrament. Edward confirmed to Catherine’s father that it was true, the marriage had not been consummated, the reason for this being that he had ‘an outward defect which prevented him from consummation‘. Catherine’s father recommended that Edward visit a doctor who he felt sure would be able to quickly remedy this problem.

Three midwives were produced:

…that they are all well skilled in the art and practice of midwifery, and have very carefully and diligently inspected the private parts of the Hon. Catherine Elizabeth Weld, which are naturally designed for carnal copulation; and that to the best of their skills and knowledge she is a virgin and never had carnal copulation with any man whatsoever.

Depositions on behalf of Edward were made:

Edward Weld Esq. deposed, that he was of the age of 26, and has all the parts of his body which constitute a man perfect and entire, more particularly those parts which nature formed for the propagation of his species and the act of carnal copulation, in full and just proportion and was and is capable of carnally knowing Catherine Elizabeth Weld, his wife, or any other woman. And during the time he cohabited with his wife, his private member was often turgid, dilated and erected, as was necessary to perform the act of carnal copulation; and that he did as such time consummate his marriage by carnally lying wit and knowing his wife.

Mr Williams, an eminent surgeon, deposed that Mr Weld came to him in June 1728 and that upon examining his penis, he found the frenulum too straight, which he set at liberty by clipping it with a pair of scissors, and on examining that part again the next day, found nothing amiss in the organs of generation.

Five surgeons carried out an inspection of Edward too and agreed that he was perfectly capable of carnal copulation.

Having heard all the evidence, in a nutshell, Catherine Elizabeth was told to return to her husband and, in effect, to ‘put up and shut up’ the wording being that she should ‘remain in perpetual silence’. It was a decision which many felt at the time was cruel and unjust.  In order to save face, Edward decided to counter-sue Catherine for libel and won but could not remarry until Catherine died in 1739.

Burial of Edward Weld December 20, 1761

Edward died in 1761 and his will dated April 17, 1755, makes for interesting reading as he left the majority of his estate to his son, Edward (born 1741), with other beneficiaries named as his second son John (born 1742), third son Thomas (born 1750) and daughter Mary (born 1753).

So, was the marriage eventually consummated? Presumably not, for after Catherine’s death Edward went on to marry Mary Theresa Vaughan (who died 1754) with whom he had the above-named children.

Edward Weld (junior) by Pompeo Batoni. Painted days before he died in 1775.
Edward Weld (junior) by Pompeo Batoni. Painted days before he died in 1775.

June 12, 1773, Edward Weld’s son, Edward wrote his will. He made reference to his late wife, the Honourable Lady Juliana (who died 1772) and left everything to his brother Thomas. His will was proven November 7, 1775, just after he died from a fall from his horse and only four months after he married Maria Smythe (married July 13, 1775, at Twyford, Hampshire), who was later to become Maria Fitzherbert, the secret wife of the future King George IV but, as Edward Weld junior didn’t have chance to update his will, Maria was left with nothing at his death.

Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1786-1788. Courtesy of NPG
Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1786-1788. Courtesy of NPG

Featured Image

Lulworth Castle created by Margaret Weld, mother of Edward Weld senior. Courtesy of SPL Rare Books

 

The state of our prisons in 1788

As you do, we have just stumbled upon a book titled ‘An Account of Prisons and Houses of Correction in the Midland Circuit’, which provides details of the conditions within the prisons following a review carried out by John Howard Esq., prison reformer, on behalf of the Duke of Montagu, so we thought we would share some bits with you.

john-howard-1789-by-mather-brown

Howard’s aim was to review the physical condition of the prisons, and the benefits or otherwise of the prisoners themselves.

The morals of prisoners were at this time as much neglected as their health. Idleness, drunkenness and all kinds of vice, were suffered to continue in such a manner as to confirm old offenders in their bad practices, and to render it almost certain, that the minds of those who were confined for their first faults, would be corrupted instead of being corrected, by their imprisonment.

Hogarth, William; A Rake's Progress: 7. The Rake in Prison; Sir John Soane's Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-rakes-progress-7-the-rake-in-prison-123979
Hogarth, William; A Rake’s Progress: 7. The Rake in Prison; Sir John Soane’s Museum

Howard made a series of recommendations regarding prisons including these:

Every prison be white-washed at least once every year, and that this be done twice in prisons which are much crowded.

That a pump and plentiful supply of water be provided, and that every part of the prison be kept as clean as possible.

That every prison be supplied with a warm and cold bath, or commodious bathing tubs, and that the prisoners be indulged in the use of such baths, with a proper allowance of soap and the use of towels.

That attention be paid to the sewers in order to render them as little offensive as possible.

That great care be taken, that as perfect a separation as possible be made of the following classes of prisoners. That felons be kept entirely separate from debtors; men from women’ old offenders from young beginners; convicts from those who have not yet been tried.

That all prisoners, except debtors be clothed on their admission with a prison uniform and that their own clothes be returned to them when they are brought to trial or are dismissed.

That care be taken that the prisoners are properly supplied with food, and their allowance not deficient, either in weight or quality.

He also recommended that gaolers were to be  paid a proper salary, that religious services take place and that no swearing was to be permitted. A surgeon or apothecary be appointed to tend to the sick. That attention be paid to the prisoners on their discharge and that, if possible some means be pointed out to them by which they may be enabled to gain a livelihood in an honest manner.

Thomson, W.; The Upper Condemned Cell at Newgate Prison, London, on the Morning of the Execution of Henry Fauntleroy; Museum of London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-upper-condemned-cell-at-newgate-prison-london-on-the-morning-of-the-execution-of-henry-fauntleroy-50839
Thomson, W.; The Upper Condemned Cell at Newgate Prison, London, on the Morning of the Execution of Henry Fauntleroy; Museum of London

The book provides brief details of the finding at some of the prisons, so we thought we would share a few of these with you:

County Bridewell – Warwick

A new prison is finished and occupied. There are separate apartments and courts with water, for men and women; and vagrants have a court and apartments separate from the other prisoners. Allowance, as in a gaol.

No coals: no employment at present; but a long room, ten feet and a half wide is provided, with looms, and other materials for work.

1788, Feb. 15        Prisoners – 10.

Birmingham Town Gaol

The court is now paved with broad stones, but dirty with fowls. There is only one dayroom for both sexes, over the door of which there is impudently painted ‘Universal Academy’. Neither the act for preserving the health of prisoners, nor clauses against spirituous liquors are hung up. The gaoler has no salary, but still a licence for beer.

1788, Feb. 14                Prisoners – 13.

British (English) School; Daniel Lambert (1770-1809); Compton Verney; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/daniel-lambert-17701809-54647
British (English) School; Daniel Lambert (1770-1809), Keeper of Leicester Gaol around 1788; Compton Verney

Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Two rooms. No court: no water. Keeper’s salary only £4

1788 Aug. 7.                     No prisoners.

Tideswell, Derbyshire

An old house lately purchased. Prisoner were formerly confined in a room in the inn keeper’s public house. No allowance, keeper’s salary £20

1788, Aug 3.      No prisoners.

County Gaol at Nottingham

At the entrance is this inscription on a board ‘No ale, nor any sort of liquor sold within the prison’. Gaoler’s salary now £140. The prison too small. The debtors in three rooms, pay 2s a week each, though two in a bed. They who can pay only 6d are in two rooms below, confined with such felons as pay 2s a week. The other felons lie in two dark, offensive dungeons, down thirty-six steps called pits, which are never white-washed.

Another dungeon in 1787 was occupied by a man sentenced to two years solitary confinement. The town ‘transports’ and criminals are here confined with the county felons, which it may be hoped the magistrates will soon rectify. The room used for a chapel was too close, though when I was there, only one debtor attended the service. Allowance to felons now 1 and a half pence in bread and a half penny in money. Five of the felons were county, and give town convicts.

1787, Oct 23,    Debtors       9

                          Felons etc. 21

1788, Aug 6,     Debtors   12

                          Felons etc. 10

County Bridewell, Folkingham, Lincolnshire

No alteration in this offensive prison. Court not secure. Prisoners locked up. No water: no employment. Keeper’s salary £40 out of which he maintains (of starves) his prisoners.

1788, Jan. 17,   Prisoners 3

Lincoln City and County Gaol

No alteration. Through the window of the two damp cells, both men and women freely converse with idle people in the street, who often supply them with spirituous liquors till they are intoxicated. No court: no sewers: no water accessible to the prisoners. Gaoler’s salary augments £20 in lieu of the tap.

1788, Jan 16   Debtors none. Felons etc. 5

County Gaol at Northampton

Gaoler’s salary £200, out of which he is to give every prisoner three pints of small beer a day.

In the walls of the felons court there are now apertures for air. The prison clean as usual. The new room for the sick is over the Bridewell, with iron bedsteads and proper bedding. The bread allowance to felons is a fourpenny loaf every other day (weight 3lb 2oz). County convicts 2s 6d a week.

1787, Oct 27 Debtors 9.  Felons etc. 20.

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The Humours of the Fleet. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

The murderer who painted Voltaire, an 18th century crime

Theodoré Gardelle, an enamel painter and limner, was born in 1721 in Geneva, Switzerland into a family of goldsmiths, jewellers and miniaturists. He received a good education which included the study of anatomy. Theodoré, against the initial wishes of his father, decided to become a painter, and as such he criss-crossed between Paris and Geneva from the age of sixteen years. In Geneva, around 1754 or 1755, he became known to the celebrated Voltaire and painted his picture, later enamelling it upon a copper snuff-box.

Around the age of 30 years he fell in love with a Mademoiselle Dupin who lived with his maternal aunt in the neighbouring house and who had previously been in the care of a hospital (probably a form of orphanage) from a young age. Theodoré took his love to Paris but his friends refused to consent to their marrying. An account of his life written after his death says that he met and married a woman at Paris whose name was Nouel and by whom he had two children. Had Theodoré then abandoned Mlle Dupin, or is this the same woman under a different name? Either way, Dupin or Nouel, he actually married neither, as made clear in several sources, simply living with the mother of his children without the legality of a marriage. Theodoré does not seem to have found the success he hoped for in Paris, even though he went there with a recommendation from Voltaire, and began to think of travelling further afield in search of work. The Duc de Choiseul, the French Foreign Minister, suggested London. There are rumours that he wished Theodoré to spy for him

Portrait of Voltaire by Theodoré Gardelle, c.1754/5 © The Trustees of the British Museum
Portrait of Voltaire by Theodoré Gardelle, c.1754/5
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Seeking work, Theodoré travelled to Brussels and possibly also to Holland, although he glosses over that in the account of his life he later wrote and perhaps for good reason. Did he travel through Holland simply on a journey to England, or did he stay for a period of time in the country? We’ll come back to Theodoré’s possible stay in the Netherlands at the end of this article, with some information which will prove crucial to this narrative.

In April 1760 he set sail from Helvoetsluys in the Netherlands for Harwich, landing there on the 1st May. In the summer of 1760 he journeyed to London (although he neither spoke nor understood much English) and lodged for three months at the house of Mrs Ann King (described as a ‘merry gentlewoman’ and a ‘gay showy woman, of a doubtful character, who dressed fashionably and was chiefly visited by gentlemen’) in Leicester Fields (now known as Leicester Square), almost opposite Frederick, Prince of Wales’s apartments, before moving to lodgings in Knightsbridge for a few months. That coming to an end, he made the fateful decision to return to Mrs King’s, where he took the second floor of the house.

A View of Leicester Square, London c.1753 by Thomas Bowles. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
A View of Leicester Square, London c.1753 by Thomas Bowles.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Mrs Ann King had been born in Durham and had received but a poor education. She had been a virtuous woman, brought up by a ‘sober, honest mother’ who had become blind in her old age and whom Mrs King had looked after, until a journey to London. There she had made the acquaintance of some ‘ladies of the town’ and of a nobleman who kept her for five years. Together with a small annuity from the nobleman, and a frequent gratuity from a surgeon who ‘often had favours from her’, she lived comfortably, opening up her house to gentleman lodgers and affecting to be called Madam King.

She was to meet a terrible end. On the morning of the 19th February 1761 Theodoré murdered Mrs Ann King in her own home, before gruesomely cutting up her body in an attempt to dispose of it and cover up his crime. Although he eventually admitted his guilt, he tried to present it as an event which was not premeditated.

Portrait of Theodoré Gardelle © The Trustees of the British Museum
Portrait of Theodoré Gardelle
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Theodoré had sent the servant, Ann (Nanny) Windsor, who had only been employed a fortnight, out of the house on an errand, to deliver a letter and buy him some snuff from Mr Peter Fribourg, a fellow Swiss who kept a snuff-shop in the Haymarket. As the maid was worried that there would be no-one to hear the front door if a visitor called while she was out, Theodoré offered to sit in the parlour. Mrs King’s bedroom suite was on the same floor, with a door adjoining the parlour. No-one but Theodoré and Mrs King were in the house; the other lodger, Mr Wright who occupied the first floor together with his servant, Thomas Pelsey who had the use of the garret, had left for a few days. Theodoré subsequently claimed that Mrs King had begun to abuse him, possibly about a picture he had painted of her which she had not found flattering. He denied he had entered her bedroom with any intention of forcing himself on her. Mrs King struck his breast, Theodoré claimed, and, calling her a ‘var impertinante Woman’ he pushed her, whereupon her foot tangled in her bedroom carpet and she fell, striking her head against her bedpost. Blood was pouring from the wound and from her mouth and, frightened that the unfortunate lady would prosecute him for attempted murder, Theodoré took the decision to commit actual murder. Grabbing an ivory comb with a sharp taper point designed for composing curls in the hair, he stabbed Mrs King in her neck (although at his trial he claimed it had not punctured her skin and her death was due to her fall). Pulling Mrs King’s prone body onto the bedsheets, so that they rather than the floor should soak up the blood, Theodoré then fell into a faint before coming to when he heard the maid return. Locking Mrs King’s door behind him he claimed that he trembled so much that he struck his head several times against the wainscot, a calamity with which he would explain the marks and bruises which were subsequently noticed on his face (Ann Windsor recalled that he had a little bump over his eye and a black eye-patch on, neither of which had been present as she left the house).

Shortly afterwards he managed to dismiss the maid; she thought that her mistress had behaved indiscreetly with Theodoré and was ashamed to face her and accepted her dismissal from Theodoré. With one problem out of the way another presented itself; Mr Wright’s servant Thomas came back to take up his lodgings on the evening of the murder. Theodoré said that Mrs King had gone away on a visit to Bristol or to Bath, and began to plan how to dispose of the body. Various people came and went from the house, including a prostitute engaged by Theodoré’s friends to ‘cheer him up’ and who stayed for a few days, sleeping in Theodoré’s room (the lady in question, Sarah Walker, claimed to be merely a servant looking for a lodging and engaged as Mrs King was away). He took a small box to his friend Monsieur Perronneau, saying it contained colours of great value (necessary to his painting) and asked him to look after it. The box was later found to contain a glove, a gold watch and chain, bracelets and ear-rings.

It was on the Tuesday following the murder that Thomas noticed an unpleasant smell. Theodoré said that somebody had put a bone in the fire. Dreadfully, he was probably telling the truth! On the Thursday Thomas went with a newly-hired charwoman, Mrs Pritchard (who didn’t live in), to examine a tub filled with blankets, sheets and a bed curtain in the back wash-house, which had been soaking there for some days. Thomas now suspected foul play and took his concerns to his master, Mr Wright.

Theodoré had been engaged in disposing of poor Mrs King’s body, cutting it into pieces.

A gruesome depiction of the crime from the Tyburn Chronicle, 1768
A gruesome depiction of the crime from the Tyburn Chronicle, 1768

It was Saturday 28th February when Theodoré Gardelle was taken into custody, suspected of the murder of Mrs Ann King although, at that point, her body had not been found. Sir John Fielding (the ‘Blind Beak’) sent men into the house on Leicester Fields to search for her. They found blood in Mrs King’s bedroom and a bloody shirt in Theodoré’s room, together with a blood stained shift. The ‘necessary’ was found to contain the bowels of a human body and the ‘cockloft’ (a small loft under the ridge of a roof) a breast, part of a body and bones. In the garret fireplace were the remains of burnt human bones. Theodoré later claimed that, in the ten days between the murder and his discovery, he had not fled as he feared an innocent person might then be accused of the crime and suffer for it.

On his arrival at the New Prison in Clerkenwell, Theodoré attempted to take his own life with an overdose of opium. When this failed to have the desired result he tried swallowing several halfpennies, which only had the effect of making him ill. When he was subsequently admitted to Newgate on 2nd March, he was chained to the floor and watched constantly to prevent any further attempts. He wrote from Newgate to his mistress in Paris, the mother of his two children who were then aged around four and one year old, advising her to return to Geneva and throw herself on the mercy of his family lest the children should be taken upon a charitable foundation and brought up as Roman Catholics in Paris (Theodoré was a Calvinist or a Presbyterian). He also wrote to his mother and sisters in Geneva, insisting that his crime was accidental and not performed with any intent and commending his children to their care.

View of Geneva, with an Artist Sketching by Stadler; The National Trust for Scotland, Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/view-of-geneva-with-an-artist-sketching-195874
View of Geneva, with an Artist Sketching by Stadler; The National Trust for Scotland, Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park

The trial took place at the Old Bailey on the 1st April. As Theodoré was a foreigner, he asked that half the jury also be foreigners and an interpreter was employed. The verdict was that Theodoré Gardelle was guilty of murder, and the sentence was death, to be carried out as soon as possible and his body to be dissected and anatomized, although it was instead hung in chains on Hounslow Heath. Theodoré’s execution took place on the 4th April 1761, in the Haymarket and facing Panton Street.

So, do we believe Theodoré’s account? Or do we suspect that he entered Mrs King’s bedroom with the intent of enjoying her favours, by force if necessary? And that Mrs King, rather than striking him in his breast, instead thumped him in his eye in her attempt to fight him off before he murdered her? The author of The Life of Theodore Gardelle, published shortly after his death, certainly through this was the case, and that Theodoré feared Mrs King would accuse him of rape. A gentleman who had travelled to England from the Netherlands also thought along the same lines.

A gentleman just arrived from Holland, says, that some years ago Gardelle (who was executed last Saturday in the Haymarket) lodged with a German woman named Verbest, near the market place in the Hague; that they were very great together, and used often to ride out in a chaise, but that all of a sudden she was found missing, upon which Gardelle gave out that she was gone to Francfort [sic], and that he himself was to sell her effects and follow after. Accordingly he soon converted every thing into ready money, and went off, tho’ not without some shrewd suspicions from the neighbours, who apprehended foul play. These suspicions, however, subsided; but about a twelvemonth ago, a Dutch peasant cleaning out a muddy well just in the skirts of the town, the body of a woman was found there, which coming to the ears of the neighbourhood where Mrs Verbest lived, with some other particular circumstances attending, makes it but too probable that Mrs King was not the only person murdered by him.

 

Header image:

Leicester Square, London, British School, National Trust Collections

 

Sources:

Newgate Ordinary’s Account, 4th April 1761

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1st April 1761

The Annual register, or, A View of the history, politicks, and literature, of the year 1761, published London 1762

The Life of Theodore Gardelle, Limner and Enameller, 1761

The Tyburn Chronicle: Or, The Villainy Display’d In All Its Branches, volume 4, 1768

Derby Mercury, 10th April 1761

The Ipswich Journal, 11th April 1761

 

Guest author : Naomi Clifford – The Story of Rebecca Hodges

Today we return from our summer break and are delighted to welcome back to ‘All Things Georgian’ one of our previous guest authors, Naomi Clifford, author of the true life Regency mystery, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn.

616ASr+2WoL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_Naomi is presently researching women who went to the gallows in the late Georgian period for her next book. During her research she came across the story of Rebecca Hodges, so we will have you over to Naomi to tell more.

The Georgian justice system, inconsistent, brutal and stacked against the defendant as it was, still had room to accommodate those whose actions were beyond their own control. During my research into the women who were hanged in England and Wales in the late Georgian era, I came across a case which would now probably be prosecuted as stalking.

In 1818 Rebecca Hodges was indicted for setting fire to hayricks at Ward End near Aston and appeared before Judge Garrow at the Warwick Shire Hall. It was a notable case, not because rural arson was especially unusual but because of the long and disturbing history between the accused, Rebecca Hodges, a servant, and Samuel Birch, her former employer.

B1975.3.1044
A Farmhouse, by William Henry Hunt, courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

One Saturday in 1802, Rebecca left Birch’s farmhouse to fetch water. On her return on Monday, Birch dismissed her for being absent without permission. She decided that she would exact revenge. Over the next seven years, unrecognised because she dressed in men’s clothes, she followed him. On 27 February 1809, having bought a horse pistol and moulded her own bullets (she pressed lead with her fingers), again dressed as a man, she travelled to Ward End, on the way encountering a young lad at the turnpike house of whom she asked several questions about Birch, including whether he had gone to market and what horse he rode. Then she stalked Birch around his farm, hiding in an outbuilding until the moment was right. At around ten o’clock in the evening, she, peered through the kitchen window to check that Birch’s housekeeper and niece Sarah Bradbury had gone up to bed, lifted the latch of his farmhouse, crept up behind him as he slept in a chair and shot him twice, one of the bullets lodging in his head.

Birch did not at first realise that he had been wounded, but his niece and housekeeper Sarah Bradbury, alerted by the gunshot, came downstairs and saw that his head was ‘all over blood’. Mr Vickers, a surgeon in Birmingham, was fetched. He trepanned Birch’s skull and retrieved the bullet. The patient survived but suffered lifelong effects.

103293
Courtesy of the National Army Museum

Still dressed in male attire and carrying the loaded pistol, Rebecca was arrested in Birmingham, probably for showing some sort of erratic behaviour, and taken to Birmingham Gaol: William Payn, the gaoler, said later that he thought she had ‘broken out of a place of confinement’. He offered to send for her relatives in order to get her properly cared for, but she said it would be no use as she would just be arrested again.

‘For what?’ asked Payn.

‘For shooting a man,’ she replied.

In the courtyard she walked obsessively in a figure of eight and hung her head.

Later, once the connection between her confession and Mr Birch was known, she was brought to the Birmingham police office where she encountered Mr Vickers, the surgeon who had treated Birch. She said, ‘He [Samuel Birch] is not dead, I hope?,’ and when asked whether Birch had ever ill-treated her, replied, ‘No, never.’ She claimed that they had had a romantic relationship and, although she liked Birch very much.

Sir John Bayley, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery by William Holl Sr, after William Russell, stipple engraving, (circa 1808)

Rebecca was tried in front of Judge Bayley. It was clear that she had committed the deed and that there had been a large degree of planning, but the question was whether she was in her right mind. Francis Woodcock, a magistrate living in Worcestershire, told the court that she had lived in his household for three years and had shown symptoms of insanity, talking to herself, going missing, dancing alone in barns and fields and picking up sticks in one place and laying them down in another. He said she was ‘virtuous but harmless’. Her sister also gave evidence, describing her walking without shoes or wearing only one of them, going out with few clothes on and on one occasion trying to hang herself. Justice Bayley thought that she was not in her right mind and told the jury that if they had any doubt they should acquit her, which they did. She was ordered to be incarcerated in Warwick Gaol as a criminal lunatic. In 1816 she was transferred to Bethlehem Hospital in London, where after fourteen months she was discharged, the doctors there declaring her perfectly healthy.

Bethlem Hosptial at St George's Fields 1828

After Rebecca returned to Birmingham in early 1818 she lived a hand-to-mouth existence of casual employment, possibly combined with part-time prostitution. She often got drunk and was locked out of her lodgings. One constant was her resentment of Birch and after writing letters to him, pleading and threatening by turn, she once more travelled to the farm at Ward End intent on revenge. This time she fire to his haystacks, another capital offence.

Tennant, John F.; Loading the Hay Wagon; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/loading-the-hay-wagon-18819
Tennant, John F.; Loading the Hay Wagon; Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage

She was soon arrested and the circumstantial evidence against her was overwhelming. Witnesses spoke of a woman wearing a long dark cloak and bonnet; similar clothes were found in her lodgings. A linen draper, called as an expert witness, confirmed that a section of purple spotted scarf found near the fire matched one in her possession. A tinder box that had been discarded on the road contained small pieces of cotton resembling the material of one of her gowns.

Mezzotint of Sir William Garrow, 1810, held in the Harvard Law Library

During the trial Rebecca loudly and repeatedly berated and insulted the witnesses, each time Garrow patiently exhorting her to wait until it was her turn to question them. But despite his instruction to the jury to ‘keep in mind… the dreadful punishment that must necessarily follow a conviction’ they did not even pretend to discuss her possible innocence and within three minutes delivered a guilty verdict. While Rebecca screamed for mercy (‘My Lord, have mercy upon me! … Oh spare my life! Only spare my life, my Lord! I’m innocent! I’m innocent!’) the judge sentenced her to death and warned her not to entertain hopes of a respite.

In law there were four kinds of insanity: perpetual infirmity of mind from birth; the result of sickness, grief or other accident; intermittent (classed as insanity when it manifested and at times of lucidity not so); and a state arising from ‘vicious acts’ such as drunkenness. Rebecca Hodges’ gun attack on Mr Birch may have had been planned well in advance but her erratic behaviour before this  showed that she was not in her right mind and was enough to persuade the judge.

e008299403-v6
Courtesy of the Library and Archives, Canada

Rebecca did not go to the gallows. She was respited and her sentence commuted. In 1819 she was transported for life on board the Lord Wellington in the company of two other Warwickshire women, Elizabeth and Rebecca Bamford, who had themselves narrowly avoided execution. They had been deeply involved in the family business of forgery and uttering and their sixty-year-old mother, Ann Bamford, had been hanged the previous year.

Rebecca Hodges Transportation record
Rebecca’s transportation record

In Australia, Rebecca continued to cause concern. She was first placed in the factory at Parmatta, later sent out to work as a domestic servant. Her propensity to go missing landed her in trouble in 1824 and she was punished with another spell at Parmatta. She was described in 1827 as ‘incompetent to any kind of work’. In 1838 she was granted a conditional pardon. Her date of death is unknown.

Sources:

Bury and Norfolk Post, 8 March 180; Northampton Mercury, 25 April 1818.

Willis, W., An Essay on the Rationale of Circumstantial Evidence (1838). London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans.

On Insanity: Mr Amos’s Lecture on Medical Jurisprudence. London Medical Gazette, 2 July 1831.

Unknown (1818). Trial of Rebecca Hodges. Warwick: S. Sharp.

A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

Murder at Kippax Hall

Granville William Wheeler Medhurst was born c.1765 at Kippax, the son of Thomas Medhurst, Esquire. In 1787 he married Sarah Jennings at St Mary’s in Lewisham, Kent. The new Mrs Medhurst was described as a dutiful wife and tender mother, and one of the most amiable of women. Living at the stately Kippax Hall a few miles from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, life seemed good; Mr Medhurst was reported to have £7,000 per annum. It was later reported that eight children were born to the couple, and that five of these were living on the fatal night of 3rd/4th May 1800.

Pontefract Castle; Alexander Keirincx; Pontefract Museum

Under the veneer of their gilded life, there was a problem. Although it seems to have been kept largely from the servants for some time, Medhurst was becoming deranged and anxious. He was convinced people were coming to take him away and that his loving wife was plotting to poison him. Mrs Sarah Medhurst was certainly fully aware of the condition of her husband, even to the extent of contemplating taking the children and leaving him for some time. If only she had…

During the early spring of 1800 the servants too had become aware of the state of mind of their master. He had appeared in turn sullen, deranged, anxious and withdrawn. On the evening of Saturday 3rd May 1800 Medhurst entreated his servants to retire early for the night. Some, like the cook and nursery maid, slept at Kippax Hall, others had their own home in the nearby village. Thomas Spinke was one who slept in the village, and he recounted how his master said he wished his family to go to bed early and wanted the house to be quiet. The house was to be far from quiet however.

The cook, Ann Dickinson, protested about retiring early; she had not finished her duties and a small fire still burnt in the kitchen hearth. Along with the nursery-maid Ann Tyson she slept in the children’s nursery which had a connecting door to Mrs and Mrs Medhurst’s rooms. There was a bit of a fuss and the children began to cry; Mr Medhurst said he could smell burning, that he was to be poisoned, and peered from the windows convinced there was someone at the gates who was coming for him. His wife decided to sleep with her daughters in the nursery as Medhurst proposed to sleep with a drawn sword and two pistols under his pillow and the women locked the connecting door.

All was quiet for a time and then they were disturbed by Mr Medhurst demanding the door be opened or he would shoot his way through it. Still fully dressed and with his sword in one hand and a pistol in the other, he entered the nursery and demanded the nursery-maid confess to him, waving his sword above her head and finally rapping her skull with the hilt. His wife cried, “My dear, don’t kill your servant, kill me, if you take any one’s life, take mine”. Medhurst gave his wife a knife with which to protect herself and promised not to hurt her. Tenderly he touched his wife and said “you won’t hurt me”, to which she replied “no, let us go to bed”. The cook saw her master unload his pistols and then everyone retired, the trusting lady of the house bidding her servants, “God bless you” as she left them to go with her husband.

A Trusty Maid; George H. Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

Thomas Spinke returned to Kippax Hall around half past six o’clock the following morning and was in the stable when the two eldest Medhurst children came to find him, crying and asking him to come to the house. Creeping upstairs into the Medhurst’s bedroom he saw his mistress lying on the bed, her feet hanging down. Spinke knew not if she was dead or alive but watched as the master of the house appeared from behind a curtain, still fully dressed and carrying in his hand a drawn sword, ‘bloody, fresh, and wet’. Driving Spinke from the room, Medhurst locked the door.

Thomas Spinke took the children away from the house, with their father crying out to them from an upper window. The eldest boy shouted back, “you villain, you have killed my mama, and if I had a pistol I would shoot you through the head’”. Medhurst replied “you are mistaken, I have not hurt your mama”.

A constable was sent for as well as the Pontefract volunteers, but with the master of the house armed, dangerous and roaming the upper floor there was a stand-off which lasted some time before one of the volunteers, a brave man, managed to find a way in (there were two doors to the Medhurst’s bedroom suite, and only one had been locked) creep up behind Medhurst and disarm him.

An inquest was taken at the hall on the body of Mrs Medhurst, and a charge of wilful murder was laid against her husband, Granville William Wheeler Medhurst. Sarah Medhurst was buried at Kippax on the 6th May 1800.

York Castle showing the gaol buildings and courthouse to the left. English Heritage
York Castle showing the gaol buildings and courthouse to the left.
English Heritage

When the case came to trial, Medhurst’s defence was insanity and this was corroborated by experts and witnesses. He was therefore acquitted of murder but ordered to be confined in the gaol at York Castle. There he remained until the 26th November 1802 when he was given over to the care of Dr Thomas Monro of Brook House, upper Clapton (a man accused of ‘wanting in humanity’ towards his patients) and a committee established to manage his estate at Kippax during until his son was of age. It was this committee who petitioned to have Wheeler removed from Brook House to a ‘House for the reception of Lunatics’ in Middle Mall, Hammersmith. A warrant for his removal was provided in the summer of 1816.

Brook House © The Trustees of the British Museum
Brook House
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Granville William Wheeler Medhurst lived to 77 years of age and, when he died in 1840, was confined in Moorcroft House at Hillingdon near Uxbridge in Middlesex, a lunatic asylum which was run by Dr James Stillwell until his death the year before. In his old age he had suffered from rheumatism and was allowed to take supervised trips to the seaside for so that the air and sea bathing might prove beneficial. He was buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist in Hillingdon, and his fortune devolved to his grandson, Francis Hastings Medhurst.

But there is yet one more twist to this tale. When Medhurst died, his grandson was in prison, convicted of the manslaughter of a schoolfellow, Joseph Alsop. On 9th March 1839, at Dr Frederick Sturmer’s school, the Rectory House Academy at Hayes, young Medhurst had accused another pupil, Dalison, of breaking the glass of his watch. When Alsop leapt to Dalison’s defence a scuffle ensued which ended with young Medhurst taking a clasp-knife from his pocket, opening it and stabbing Alsop in his stomach. Although not instantly fatal, within just a few days Alsop was dead.

Francis Hastings Medhurst was accused, as his grandfather had been before him, of wilful murder and taken to Newgate. The charge was transmuted to one of manslaughter for which he was found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment in a house of correction.

Sources:

Hereford Journal, 14th May 1800

Hampshire Chronicle, 19th May 1800

Leeds Intelligencer, 4th August 1800

The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year, vol. 82, 1841

The Newgate Calendar

Findmypast criminal records

Header image:

Photograph of Kippax Park House, Lost Heritage

18th century crime and punishment

For what were regarded as the most heinous crimes the penalty was death, in some cases, this was commuted to transportation. Prison was another option, in the case of some women, the ‘shrew’s fiddle’ was used as a way of punishing women who were caught fighting in public.

Today, however, we thought we would take a look at what in modern society could possibly be regarded as ‘naming and shaming’ – the public use of either the stocks or the pillory.

Eyam Stocks Britiain express
The stocks in the village of Eyam, Derbyshire, courtesy of Britain Express

Stocks and pillory’s date back centuries, but even as late on as the Georgian era their use was still extremely evident as at least several days a week there was mention of them being used in the newspapers. The stocks were mainly a mechanism used to confine the prisoner by their ankles and usually accommodated two people at once. The pillory was a similar mechanism however, it had three holes, one for the neck and two smaller ones either side to secure the wrists. Again these were often designed to take two prisoners at once.

Here in Britain, the use of the pillory as a method of punishment was not abolished until 1837 despite several attempts to have it scrapped much earlier in the 1780’s, but the stocks remained for a few more decades.

We’ll leave you to decide whether the punishment fitted the crime.

London Evening Post, June 9, 1750 – June 12, 1750

On Saturday last two women stood on the pillory at St Margaret’s Hill, Southwark, for keeping a bawdy house and being instrumental in debauching several young girls.

The pillory at Charing Cross This engraving was published as Plate 62 of Microcosm of London 1809
The pillory at Charing Cross This engraving was published as Plate 62 of Microcosm of London 1809

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, March 9, 1756

Yesterday two of the thief-takers stood in the pillory in Smithfield, and as soon as they were fixed the mob began to use them very severely, which usage continued near 40 minutes during which time Eagan, otherwise Gahagan was killed, and then the mob desisted from throwing anything at them for the remaining part of the hour. They were both carried back in the cart to Newgate, but as Eagan was dead, his body was put into a place called the Pump room and the Coroner has issued

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Thursday, May 6, 1756

Gloucester, May 1

This week was held here the general quarter sessions of the peace for this country, when John James, for felony was ordered to be transported for seven years and Mary Morris for keeping a bawdy house, was ordered to stand in the pillory at Cirencester, fined 5l. and to be imprisoned till the same be paid, and then to give security for her good behaviour for three years, and also to remain in goal till such security be found.

Strutt, William; Stocks Closed Firmly with an Upward Tendency; Kirklees Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/stocks-closed-firmly-with-an-upward-tendency-21598
Strutt, William; Stocks Closed Firmly with an Upward Tendency; Kirklees Museums and Galleries;

London Evening Post, April 1, 1760 – April 3, 1760

Francis Hayes was tried on two indictments, the first for violently assaulting Anne Lemman, an infant aged seven years with an intent to commit rape and thereby giving her the foul disease; and the second indictment was for violently assaulting and abusing Mary Swan, an infant aged eight years, with an intent also to commit rape, and thereby giving her the foul disease. On the first, he was sentenced to imprisonment for six months, to stand in the pillory and to give 100l security for his good behaviour for three years; and on the second he was sentenced to six months imprisonment after the former time was expired, to stand once in the pillory and to give 100l security for his good behaviour for three years.

Public Ledger or The Daily Register of Commerce and Intelligence, Thursday, January 8, 1761

Yesterday a man and a woman stood on the pillory on the south side of St Paul’s, opposite the Sun tavern, for keeping a disorderly house, notwithstanding, they behaved with the utmost assurance, they met with no ill-treatment from the populace.

Cocking the Greeks courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
‘Cocking the Greeks’ courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, October 23, 1765

Worcester, Oct 17

On Saturday last, one Elizabeth Hollington stood in the pillory in our corn market being convicted at the quarter sessions last week, of being a cheat and imposter and endeavouring to extort money from a gentleman of the parish on pretence of being with child by him.

Public Advertiser, Monday, August 16, 1790

Saturday two footmen for an unnatural crime underwent their sentence by standing in the pillory at Hay-Hill, Mayfair, for one hour, between one and two. Their reception was extremely warm, by a very numerous, but we cannot add a brilliant spectatory; the women especially treated them with an abundance of eggs, apples and turnips.

Gruesome Murder at the Grey Coat School in 1773

As is often the way we were researching something completely different when we came across the story of a gruesome murder which we thought we would share with you that took place at the Grey Coat School (the one attended today by David Cameron’s daughter).

Grey Coat School

Henry Lockington, a young man aged about twenty years, was examined on suspicion of having willfully murdered Alice Martin, a nurse at the Grey Coat school (commonly known as the Grey Coat hospital) in Tothill Fields, Westminster.

Greycoat school
Courtesy of British History Online

The newspaper, The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser dated  Thursday, March 11, 1773 provides the details:

It appeared by the evidence of Mr. Boorten, master of the school and four of the charity children, that the prisoner came to the hospital on Saturday evening, Monday noon and Monday evening, that he always asked to speak with Mrs. Martin and that after being let in he was not so keen to go out the gate.

Miss Berry proved that Mrs. Martin, after letting him out, told her on the Sunday that he was the son of an acquaintance, that he came to borrow money, that she had lent him a guinea, that his mother owed her four guineas, and that he then wanted more than a guinea, and offered her his note; but being an apprentice, she did not choose to lend her money on such security.

A hat and a bloody knife found in the apartment of the deceased were produced, when Mr. Walker of James Street, Covent Garden (the master of the prisoner), after being sworn in the manner an oath is usually administered to a member of the Kirk of Scotland, declared he believed the hat to be the property of the prisoner, and one of his journeymen swore to having seen the knife in the possession of Lockington.

The lad appeared to be exceedingly penitent and confessed that he had committed the murder, he could give no account of why he did it, but a motive of covetousness.  Twenty-two guineas and some other matters the property of the deceased were produced by Mr. Bond who found them on the prisoner when he apprehended him.

The death wound was a cut four inches across the throat, where the incision was so deep that the wind pipe was nearly parted.  The deceased also received a cut on the head and another in the side of her face; it appeared that she did not fall till she quitted the room in which the wounds were given by the prisoner.

Murder is one of those horrid crimes at which nature revolts; and it rarely happens that the wretch who wars against humanity, and assumes the dreadful power of depriving a fellow creature of existence, escapes the merited punishment.

Alice Martin was buried Thursday 11th March 1773 at St John the Evangelist, Smith Square, Westminster.

We tried to find out what became of Henry, expecting a sentence to be handed down, but instead we found his death in the newspaper, but no explanation as to how he died. From the Old Bailey Session Papers is seems likely that he was due to be transported as his name was amongst a list of felons for whom their sentence was transportation.

died in gaol

He was buried as a dissenter on 10th April 1773 at Bunhill Fields burial ground. no explanation was offered as to the cause of his demise.

Henry Lockington

 

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Header Image

Westminster Abbey from Tothill Fields [where the Grey Coat School was situated] by John Varley, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Other Sources

The Ipswich Journal 13 March 1773

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 18 March 1773

Middlesex Journal or Universal Evening Post , April 6, 1773 – April 8, 1773

London Lives 

Image of Grey Coat School was courtesy of  Ash Rare Books

18th Century Female Bruisers

We have previously written about women fighting whether it be ‘Lady Barrymore, the Boxing Baroness’, ‘The Petticoat Duellists’ or the 18th Century boxing match for the hand of a farm lad. We know that pugilism was not totally a male domain and that women fought for money including the likes of Hannah Hyfield and Elizabeth Wilkinson.

Star (London, England), Thursday, January 2, 1800

Today, however, we’re going to take a closer look at a superb painting by John Collet which depicts two female bruisers. It is difficult to tell whether these two women were a couple of the regular fighters who appear to have existed. The picture is incredibly detailed and Collet gives us some clues.

Collet, John; The Female Bruisers; Museum of London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-female-bruisers-50752
Collet, John; The Female Bruisers; Museum of London

At the window above the poster are two lovers – or could it be a nod to the building actually being a brothel?

Female Bruisers - lovers at the windowLooking at the woman on the left she appears to be quite well dressed with a pocket watch on a chatelaine hanging down from her waist and a bracelet on her wrist. Her bonnet and cloak on the floor and the three children to her left closely examining her fur muff. At the bottom left-hand corner, we can see the start of a cock-fight. The man just behind her is having his pock picked – so perhaps indicative of the type of neighbourhood she’s in. The butcher has come out of his shop which is in the background; is he offering her some smelling salts or similar?

Female Bruisers - central scene

If we look to the top of the picture we can just about make the wording of a poster advertising a play The Rival Queens which was being performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1771.

The Rvial Queens

The Rival Queens - Public Advertiser, Saturday, March 30, 1771
Public Advertiser, Saturday, March 30, 1771

On the right of the picture, we can see that the other woman appears far less well dressed, as you can tell she isn’t wearing stays, and the man who appears to be trying to help her up from the ground has his hand rather too close to a place it probably shouldn’t have been!

Female Bruisers

We also took a quick look in the newspapers of the day for any other examples and found a couple more to share with you.
Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Friday, December 27, 1765

Yesterday afternoon a severe battle was fought in the ruins of St. Giles, for five guineas a side, between two noted female bruisers, the one from Brick-Lane, Spital-fields, and the other of Buckrage Street; when the championess of Buckrage Street after a contest of 25 minutes came off victorious, with loud huzzas from at least 3000 spectators.

London Evening Post, September 3, 1767

Wednesday a bloody bruising match was fought in the ruins of St. Giles, between two noted bruisers, the one from Newtoner’s Lane, the other from Brown’s Gardens, when the former, after a contest of 20 minutes was crown’d with victory, amidst the plaudits of a vast crowd of spectators.

UPDATE

Since writing this blog we have found an interesting one in the Weekly Journal, Oct 1, 1726, that we had to share with you as it provides us with a snippet of information at the end, almost as an afterthought about their wearing apparel

They fight in close jackets, short petticoats coming just below the knee, Holland drawers, white stockings and pumps.

Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer), Saturday, October 1, 1726

A curious case of child stealing in nineteenth-century London

At the beginning of March 1821 a gentleman naming himself as Mr Probus, a minister of the Episcopal Church, took lodgings at the house of an undertaker, no. 12 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. Mr Probus was around 35 years of age, slender with a sallow complexion marked by small-pox scars, dark haired and with, as was realised too late, an ‘insinuating’ manner of address. He applied for a smart and genteel looking boy to wait on and be a companion to a young gentleman at a fine boarding-school (nearly equal to a college, he claimed) in the city of Lincoln. The boy would be brought up in a most respectable manner and given a first-class education, in return for doing little more than fetching fruit and pastries for the young gentlemen from a nearby village. He was inundated with applications.

JMW Turner's birthplace in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. © The Trustees of the British Museum
JMW Turner’s birthplace in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Mrs Mary Ann Hurrell was the wife of a somewhat impoverished boot and shoemaker who lived at no. 27 Upper Ogle Street, Foley-lace, and at 36 Goodge Street, Marylebone. (Perhaps one address was her home and one her husband’s business premises?) She had two children from a previous marriage, a son named Benjamin Hawthorn aged 13 years and his sister, Georgiana, aged 11. Benjamin, a fine looking lad, had a good singing voice and Georgiana, every bit as charming as her brother, was articled to Mr Warburton, a professor of dancing in Burton Crescent. Mrs Hurrell saw Mr Probus’ advertisement and thought it would be an ideal opportunity for Benjamin. Accordingly, mother and son waited upon the minister on the 3rd March.

(c) National Trust, Wimpole Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
At the shoemakers shop, British School, c.1825. (c) National Trust, Wimpole Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mr Probus was especially taken with Benjamin and put his mother’s apprehensions at rest, saying that his own son was a pupil at the Lincoln academy. A Dr Nutall was to give young Benjamin a character reference but Mr Probus called on the Hurrell’s a few days later to say that he had met with a gentleman who knew Dr Nutall, who had given him every satisfaction concerning Benjamin, and there was no longer any need to call on him. The next day Mrs Hurrell took her son to Mr Probus’ lodgings where the young lad was fitted out with a new suit of clothes provided by Probus, who asked if Benjamin might stay with him that night (he had taken a bed for him at the next house). If any alarm bells were ringing for Mrs Hurrell, she ignored them.

The next day Benjamin told his mother that Mr Probus’ son was not at the Lincoln academy but had in fact died six months earlier, of water on the brain. Mr Probus now proposed to adopt Benjamin as a replacement for his own son and to bring him up as a gentleman, and also confessed that it was he who owned the boarding-school. He then asked if Mrs Hurrell would bring Georgiana to his house as he wished to ‘make her a present of a handsome dress’. The gullible woman duly did as she was bid, despite the ever-changing story, and left her two children alone with Probus. On her return, little Georgiana was so richly attired that her mother hardly recognised her.

Innocence: Head of a Young Girl by William Etty, c.1820; Paintings Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/innocence-head-of-a-young-girl-32746
Innocence: Head of a Young Girl by William Etty, c.1820; Victoria and Albert Museum

Probus now wanted to take both children with him to Lincoln, promising to care for them as if they were his own and to place Georgiana with a friend of his in Lincoln who kept a school. To this the Hurrell’s consented, believing that they were giving the two children a chance to be brought up in a genteel fashion, and the little party left London for Lincoln the next day with promises to write at every opportunity. The first letter Mrs Hurrell received was dated the 17th March but written from York, not Lincoln.

Old Ouse Bridge, York by G. Wilson, c.1820; Fairfax House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/old-ouse-bridge-york-9734
Old Ouse Bridge, York by G. Wilson, c.1820; Fairfax House

Mr Probus had swiftly abandoned any attempt at maintaining his deception. Signing himself as F[rederick] Williams, he told the wretched mother that her daughter, now renamed Caroline, was dancing on the York stage and that he ‘could sooner part with my life than with [the children]’. Georgiana added a few lines to the letter from her new ‘dear papa’ and said that they were happy. She signed herself Caroline.

Mr Hurrell replied to the letter and asked for the two children to be returned to their home but the only answer was another letter dated the 10th April, briefly saying they were too busy to write more than once a month, were all well but leaving York and asking the Hurrell’s to address any future letters to the Rev. F. Williams at Mr Smith’s, shoemaker, Stonegate, York. On the 3rd May the Hurrell’s received another letter, in the handwriting of Mr Probus aka Williams but signed by ‘Benjamin and Georgiana Frederick Jameson’ (the trio’s new surname) and written from Hull where they were performing and making a great deal of money. Their ‘father’ performed slight-of-hand tricks, Georgiana danced and Benjamin sang, to the admiration of all. They enclosed a paragraph from a Hull newspaper.

There is now performing at the Music Hall, Albion-street, in this town, a Miss Jameson, only nine years of age, a most beautiful and interesting child, In dancing she is, for her age, unrivalled, and her singing is admirable; Mr. Jameson’s slight-of-hand performance gives the greatest satisfaction; and Master Jameson, as a singer, though only 13 years old, is a second Braham. Mr. J. and his interesting young family will perform in Leeds this present Saturday evening, and on Monday and Tuesday next, when they will quit Leeds for Wakefield.

Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 11th May 1821.
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 11th May 1821.

The Hurrell’s received no further communication and, worried that their children might be carried out of the country, scraped together enough money to allow Mr Hurrell to travel north in search of his stepchildren. He set off on the 1st July, heading first to York where he found that the ‘Reverend Williams’ had made a large sum of money from their exploits upon the stage before absconding the city, leaving behind a quantity of unpaid debts with the local tradesmen. Mr Hurrell tracked them to Leeds, Wakefield, Hull, Lincoln, Boston and Stamford where the ‘Reverend Williams’ had become Munro Ridgway, then to Coventry, Leicester, Doncaster and Birmingham. The imposter frequently changed his name and his supposed character, defrauding shopkeepers as he went. The trail went cold and a heartbroken Mr Hurrell returned to London and his wife. They applied to the Magistrates, who asked that the case might receive some publicity in the hope that the children could be traced, but could offer little else in the way of assistance. Mrs Hurrell, it was recorded, left the office in tears.

Stamford Mercury, 15th June 1821.
Stamford Mercury, 15th June 1821.

But the publicity had the desired effect!  On the 12th August the little troop were recognised in Billesdon, Leicestershire and the imposter was soon safely in custody in Leicester gaol. Mr Hurrell hurried there to a tearful but joyful reunion with his two step-children. Money was found for Georgiana to return to London by coach but Benjamin and his step-father had to walk the distance. But eventually they were all home and reunited. Mr Probus, alias Williams had been convicted under the Vagrant Act and, unless anyone he had defrauded acted to prosecute him, he stood to get clean away with his crime as the Hurrell’s were too poor to afford to prosecute him, much as they wished to do so. With no further mention of the fraudster in the newspapers, it would appear that is exactly what happened.

N.B. Joseph Hurrell married the widowed (and pregnant) Mary Ann Hawthorne on 18th February 1817 at St James’s in Westminster. At least three children were born to the couple, William Flower Hurrell on the 5th June 1817 and Oscar and Maria who both seemed to have died as infants. Benjamin may be the Benjamin Workman Hawthorn who was born c.1809. He grew up to be a piano forte tuner and maker and also a professor of music, relocating to Doncaster where he died in 1869.

Sources:

Stamford Mercury, 17th August 1821

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, 27th August 1821

 

Header image: ‘The Wellington Coach’ (The Newcastle-York-London Mail) by John Cordrey, c.1818. Ferens Art Gallery.

Castle Bow, Taunton. Somerset Museums

George Lowman Tuckett

Today, we would like to welcome a return visitor to our blog – Naomi Clifford whose book The Disappearance of Maria Glenn: A True Life Regency Mystery has just been published by Pen and Sword, and we can’t wait to read it.

We will now hand you over to Naomi to introduce you to an intriguing character, George Lowman Tuckett.

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In the middle of a September night in 1817 Maria Glenn, aged 16, vanished from her uncle’s house in Taunton, Somerset. She had been taken by the Bowditches, a local yeoman farming family who wanted to marry her off to the second son. George Lowman Tuckett, Maria’s uncle, immediately suspected that the Bowditches knew that she was the probable future heiress of her grandfather’s valuable sugar plantations in St Vincent.

Maria had spent the summer at their farm just outside Taunton where she and two of her young cousins had been sent to recover from whooping cough. There was ample opportunity for the family to find out what she was worth. Of course, in 1817, once a girl was married, all her possessions, now and in the future, would belong to her husband.

When I was writing the book, I had to build a picture of Tuckett from the bare bones of his biography and from glimpses of him in the lives of other people. Apart from two publications about his niece’s case and one letter in the county archives at Dorchester, he left a surprisingly small footprint. There are no surviving images of him, which is surprising given that he went on to be, if only for a short time, a Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica (but we’ll come to that later).

George Lowman Tuckett was born in 1771 at Bridgwater in Somerset, the second of his father William’s sons by his first wife Martha Lowman. William was appointed Stamp Act distributor on St Kitts in the West Indies but by 1770 he was back in England, living in Bridgwater, where he was at various times a solicitor, Recorder of the Corporation, Stamp Duty Distributor for Somerset and mayor of Bridgwater.

922497_22f7467b
Copyright Ken Grainger

In 1789, after boarding at Exeter School George went up to St John’s College, Cambridge. He followed his father into the law, taking his pupillage with the brilliant but notoriously grumpy Vicary Gibbs, who specialised in the laws of evidence.

Vicary Gibbs
Vicary Gibbs

It is not known how Tuckett made the acquaintance of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived at Ottery St Mary in Devon, but the two young men were close enough for Tuckett to take action when Coleridge, impoverished and suffering from depression, disappeared from Cambridge University in late 1793. While Coleridge’s family anxiously tried to track him down, it was Tuckett who guessed that he would have told his old Christ’s Hospital school friends where he was. He persuaded them to break their confidence, after which Coleridge, who had joined the Royal Dragoons under the name Silas Tomkyn Comberbache, wrote Tuckett an angry letter criticising his love for truth-telling. It is not known whether they communicated again. Truth-telling was important to Tuckett.

coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tuckett was admitted to the Middle Temple in London in 1796, after which he completed two years’ practice in England. Two years after that, he sailed to Grenada in the West Indies. On 11 July 1800, aged 30, he married his 17-year-old first cousin, Martha Lowman, daughter of his mother’s brother George Lowman, on St Vincent. The following year he was appointed Solicitor-General of Grenada but his career was seriously affected when Martha became ill and they were forced to come to England. With the exception of a couple of years in Jamaica, where Tuckett practised at the bar, they stayed in England for the next two decades, settling initially in Taunton.

While they were living in Taunton, 11-year-old Maria Glenn, Tuckett’s wife’s sister’s daughter (and his own his second cousin – they intermarried quite a lot) joined them. By now George and Martha had five children (they went on to have another), a remarkable achievement given that Martha had an unknown but debilitating illness. Tuckett and Martha adored Maria – she was everything a genteel Regency girl was meant to be. Shy, bashful, obedient and, above all, innocent about men.

St Mary, Taunton
St Mary Magdalen, Taunton

After Maria’s disappearance, in order to build evidence against the family he believed abducted her, Tuckett became a detective. There was no police force to do this work, of course, and although he could have hired an investigator, the work required sensitivity and attention to detail. Also, Tuckett has time on his hands: from what I can tell, his career as a jobbing barrister on the Western circuit was not very taxing.

He travelled extensively around Dorset and to London to interview witnesses and sometimes to conduct an impromptu identity parade. It was his practice to ask someone to describe the person they had seen at a particular time. Then he would present Maria and ask if this was who they meant. When they failed to recognise her, he concluded that Maria had been deliberately impersonated by her enemies. Of course, it’s not a technique that would be acceptable in a court of law now. What happened when the case came to court, and subsequently when the Bowditches sought revenge, is detailed in my book.

He was thorough and determined. He sometimes presented as severe and cold-hearted but underneath he was loving, generous and loyal, with a fundamental commitment to Maria and an acute sense that it was his Christian duty to tell the truth.

Many years later, when Tuckett had managed to resume his West Indian career, he showed the same compassion and adherence to the truth. By 1827, he was appointed Judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Jamaica and then in October 1831, with the death of William Anglin Scarlett, the acting Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica. Earl Belmore, the Governor of Jamaica, told Tuckett that it was his intention to appoint him to the post, but after the Christmas rebellion of 1831 (the Baptist War) he was ejected from office and forced to return to London. Although his actions had been approved by the Jamaican Privy Council, Sir Joshua Rowe was given the post of Lord Chief Justice. Tuckett’s brief period of service has all been but forgotten. The Jamaican historical archives have no portrait of him and no information about his role.

It was the end of Tuckett’s legal career and afterwards, he lived in retirement, supporting his four surviving children, none of whom married. Martha died in 1837. On 4 November 1851, he died from heart disease, aged 80, at his home in Ilfracombe, Devon.

If you want to read more, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn: A True Life Regency Mystery is available now from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops.

You can also visit Naomi’s excellent website by clicking here.

 

A Distant View of Lincoln Cathedral; Peter de Wint; National Galleries of Scotland

Grisly murder in eighteenth-century Lincolnshire

Our blog today is a grisly one as we relate the story of two barbarous murders in eighteenth-century Lincolnshire.

Mr Rands, the Lincoln post-master had cause to have some words with his servant who was thrown into jail by his master owing to a considerable debt. Later set free after paying £5, the servant left in high dudgeon, swearing he would be revenged upon his master.

A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West by Joseph Baker, 1742; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-view-of-lincoln-cathedral-from-the-west-81935
A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West by Joseph Baker, 1742; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)

On the 2nd January 1732/3 a traveller was stopped by two men near Ancaster and robbed of a small sum of money and his horse. He was, it turns out, extremely lucky that this was all he lost. Two hours later the two men met with William Wright, an 18 or 19-year old youth from Market Rasen. He was travelling in his chaise from Ancaster where he had spent the day with a friend, and had a second horse tethered behind. Wright recognised the post-master’s servant and, as the two men were both upon the one poor horse, offered the man a ride on his spare horse. They parted company at an inn, after a disagreement, but the men knew where William Wright was heading and lay in wait for him. At Faldingworth near to Market Rasen, at around five o’clock in the evening darkness, the two men murdered young William although he put up a brave fight. His throat was cut and his head almost severed, and his body was then put back into his chaise and one report said that some flesh was cut from his leg and ‘tied’ upon his face. The murderous pair left, having rifled the corpse’s pockets and taking the two horses with them, leaving the gruesome discovery to be made by a milkmaid. It was assumed that Wright had been murdered to silence his tongue and prevent discovery of his assailants.

A day later the young post-boy, a lad named Thomas Gardner (or Gardiner) who hailed from the village of Nettleham to the north of the city and who was around the same age as William Wright, was found murdered upon the road from Lincoln to Grimsby. Both his throat and that of his horse had been cut from ear to ear and his post bag had been stolen. Reputedly he was made the to blow his horn, before his tormentors told him that he had just sounded his ‘death peal’. Again, his murder was to silence him, but was it also, as it turned out, from hatred of his employer, Mr Rands the post-master.

Post boy (The Project Gutenberg eBook, City Scenes, by William Darton)
Post boy (The Project Gutenberg eBook, City Scenes, by William Darton)

Suspicion immediately fell upon the post-master’s former servant, Isaac Hallam, and his description, and that of his accomplice, was circulated along with a reward of £40 for any information leading to the capture of the murderer of William Wright.

One of the Persons supposed to have committed the said Murder, is a slender bodied Man with a thin Face, wearing a light-coloured natural Wig, and a white straight-bodied Coat, with carved or chequer’d Buttons on it, with a blue wide Riding Coat lined with yellow, and Brass Buttons; he rode upon a block lean Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisked Tail. And another of the Persons supposed also to have been concerned in the said Murther, is pale-fac’d and marked with the Small-Pox; he had on a straight bodied grey double-breasted Coat with black Buttons, and a light-colour’d Riding Coat, and a light-coloured natural Wig, and rode on a brownish Bay strong Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisk’d Tail. They also took from the Deceased, and carried off, a strong dark brown Punch Gelding, full aged, trots well, and paces also, and has a small star on the Forehead, and no other white about him; he is about Fourteen Hands and a half high, and as a long whole Tail, if not altered.

It was not many days before the keepers of Salisbury gaol realised that one of two men who had lately been committed there appeared to be the sought after fugitive. Isaac Hallam, together with his brother Thomas, had committed a robbery near to the city of Salisbury, although it seems their victim, in this instance, was allowed to escape with his life.

The George, Stamford (via The Telegraph).
The George, Stamford (via The Telegraph).

The two brothers did not deny the charges laid at their door and, loaded with irons, were brought back to Lincoln for trial in a coach and six from Salisbury by way of London.  On the 19th February they lay at the George in St Martins at Stamford on their journey to Lincoln. Isaac showed some concern for his acquaintance William Wright who, he said, had behaved ‘so bravely’, but Thomas seemed not to care less and neither brother showed a jot of remorse for the poor young post-boy although Thomas declared he had only held Gardner’s hand while Isaac cut the boy’s throat. They had intended their list of victims to be longer, set on murdering all those whom they stole from, and on their hit-list was Mr Benjamin West (or Wells), the son of the Lincoln Carrier, a Mr Harvey and, top of their list, Mr Rands the post-master. If they had managed to murder him the two brothers would, they said, ‘have died with Pleasure’. On their entrance to Lincoln, crowds had started to gather from the Bar Gate and along the two-mile route to the Castle, and the brothers were met with jeers, hisses, shouting and, in sorrow for poor murdered Thomas Gardner, post-boys blowing their horns.

A View of Lincoln from the South at Little Bargate by Peter de Wint, 1824; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-view-of-lincoln-from-the-south-at-little-bargate-82035
A View of Lincoln from the South at Little Bargate by Peter de Wint, 1824; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)

The trial was a short one as both Isaac and Thomas Hallam admitted their guilt, not only to the murders but to some sixty-three other robberies, and both men were sentenced to be executed and hung in chains. Before the sentence was passed, they were asked if they had anyone to speak on their behalf and Isaac had the nerve to call on his former employer, Mr Rands. They also asked for a fortnight’s stay of execution but this was, quite rightly, denied them. They left the court, but not before telling the judge that they ‘they hoped to meet with a more favourable judge in the other world, and valued not what man could do to them’.

On the 16th March 1732/3, at nine o’clock in the morning, the two convicted murderers were taken to the gibbet which lay around a mile outside Lincoln. There Isaac was hung and his body placed in the irons while his brother watched on – one report said that Thomas fainted at the sight. Thomas Hallam was then taken to Faldingworth Gate, eight miles further on, to the site of William Wright’s murder where he suffered the same fate as his brother.

Thomas Gardner was buried in his home village of Nettleham. The burial register reads:

Tho: Gardiner a post boy found murdered near Langworth Street was Buryed the 6th Day of Jany – 1732.

Local legend says that no grass grows around his grave. William Wright was buried at Market Rasen.

Isaac Hallam - grave
© Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

NB: Many sources say erroneously that the brothers were arrested at Shrewsbury and not at Salisbury, and most give the date of their execution as the 20th March – however, the Stamford Mercury of Thursday, March 22nd 1732/3 clearly states their demise as ‘Friday last’.

 

Sources used:

Stamford Mercury, 11th and 25th January 1732/3, 1st and 22nd February 1732/3 and 22nd March 1732/3

Derby Mercury, 18th January 1732/3 and 1st and 15th March 1732/3

Daily Journal, 12th March 1732/3

The London Gazette 13-16th January 1732/3

Ipswich Journal, 10th March 1732/3

Lincolnshire Villains: Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates by Douglas Wynn, 2012

 

Header image: A Distant View of Lincoln Cathedral; Peter de Wint; National Galleries of Scotland

Burglary, French servants and Mrs Elliott’s aunt – a 1778 crime gone terribly wrong

Janet Edmondes was one of the constant presences in the life of the courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  She was Grace’s maternal aunt and by the late 1770s was on to her third husband, Colonel Thomas Edmondes.  Janet is mentioned frequently in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott but the following is a little extra information, especially for the readers of our blog and containing some information not found in our book.

36 Old Queen Street via British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol10/pt1/plate-75
36 Old Queen Street via British History Online

The Edmondes’ London townhouse, no. 36 Old Queen Street, was the target of a burglary on the 14th March 1778. Janet had owned the house before her marriage to Colonel Edmondes, when she was the widowed Mrs Kelly, and she had taken over the house from the disgraced Reverend William Dodd, the Macaroni Preacher of whom we have written before (click here to read about him). Dodd had ended his days by swinging on the gallows at Tyburn, convicted of forgery.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison had been hired by Colonel Edmondes in January of that year as a butler and master’s man. The Colonel had discharged the man employed as a footman soon after and had then left London (his brother died this month and it is likely that this is the reason for the Colonel’s departure) and so the only occupants of the house on the night of 14th March were Janet, three maids, including Mary Giles the cook, and Francis Lewis Crimison. Crimison had gained permission to go out and see his wife and he returned around 10 o’clock in the evening with Janet, after which the cook fastened the house up for the night and retired to bed. All was silent until the early hours of the morning when the night watchman knocked at the door. John Wadding, the watchman, had heard a pistol being discharged inside Janet’s house and on calling out heard a man inside the house cry that he had been attacked and was tied up. Constantia Jones, one of the maids, answered the door to the watchman.

Crimison claimed that three men had entered the house and he had fired a shot at one before they had tied him up, but the watchman could find no sign of any such shot in the room. The watchman stated that Crimison’s hands were tied but very loosely to his ankles and he could have easily freed his hands. A pane of glass was broken in a window, the shutters were open and a considerable amount of property had been stolen.

Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762 © The National Portrait Gallery
Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762
© The National Portrait Gallery

John Clarke, one of Sir John Fielding’s men, soon realised that the robbery must have been committed by someone in the house. By dint of examining the broken pane of glass and the shutters surrounding it, he came to the conclusion that what force had been used had been from the inside of the building and not the outside and, tellingly, a cobweb across the window had not been disturbed. Janet was reluctant to suspect any of her servants but once some of the missing goods were discovered at Crimison’s wife’s house the game was up for him. He took Clarke to the cistern at the Edmondes’ house where the rest of the goods were.[1]

The stolen goods are listed in full at the end of this article. They belonged to Colonel Thomas Edmondes, Charles Henry Mordaunt the 5th Earl of Peterborough (Janet Edmondes’ nephew and therefore Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin) and the Right Honourable Lord George Germain (later the 1st Viscount Sackville), although all were in the house of Colonel Edmondes.

George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760 © The National Portrait Gallery
George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760
© The National Portrait Gallery

The London Evening Post asserted that ‘Francis Lewis Grimeson’ was a Frenchman and carried the following warning.

We hope this discovery will warm gentlemen against taking into their families foreign, or indeed any servants, without enquiring into their characters, which was the case here.  The superior confidence place by people of fashion, at this time, in foreign servants, is unaccountable, since every day’s experience proves how unworthy they are even of an equality with natives.[2]

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison, was tried at the Old Bailey on the 29th April 1778 and being found guilty was sentenced to death by hanging. On the 24th June 1778, he was taken from Newgate to Tyburn where he was executed.

Burglary - Newgate
Elevation of the front of the new prison, as it appeared before it was rebuilt following the 1780 riot; part of a larger plate with a further view of the New River Office; illustration to Maitland’s ‘The History of London’, 1772. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A little biographical information on Frances Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison and his wife follows. He married, as Francis Lewis Grimeisen, on the 4th November 1777 at St Peter and St. Paul in Mitcham, Surrey. His bride was Ann Ruth Lee of Clerkenwell St James.  Just a month before the burglary, in February 1778, Francis and Ann had baptised a daughter, Anna Maria Christiana Grimeisen at St. Clement Danes church.

Left a widow by his execution, Ann Ruth Grimeisen possibly married again as Ruth Grimeisen, a widow of St. Luke’s, Finsbury to William Gabriel on the 27th September 1780.

Notes:

[1]Old Bailey Online

[2]London Evening Post, 17-19th March 1778.

 

And finally, for interest, the rather lengthy list of stolen goods:

a gold ring, set with diamonds, value £40

a silver pin, set with a diamond, value £10

a silver shirt buckle, set with diamonds, value £10

two pairs of silver shoe buckles, set with stone, value £5

a gold neckcloth slider, value 10 s. 6 d.

a silver cream pot, value 20 s.

two silver ragoo spoons, value 20 s.

a silver marrow spoon, value 10 s.

twelve silver tea spoons, value 24 s.

two pairs of silver sugar tongs, value 20 s.

eight silver table spoons, value 40 s.

a silver sugar basket, value 40 s.

two silver ale-cups, value £6

four silver scewers, value 20 s.

a silver strainer, value 15 s.

a silver strainer spoon, value 5 s.

a silver fork, value 10 s.

a cork-screw with a silver handle, value 5 s.

a silver tea-pot, value £5

a cane with a gold head, value 20 s.

a silver tea tray, value £50

a silver salver, value £10

two silver waiters, value £10

a pair of silver candlesticks, value £10

a silver sauce-boat, value 50 s.

two silver salts, value 20 s.

a silver mustard castor, value 35 s.

a silver mustard spoon, value 5 s.

a silver bread basket, value £10

two woollen cloth coats, value £3

2 woollen cloth waistcoats, value 20 s.

two pairs of woollen cloth breeches, value 20 s.

eleven pairs of silk stockings, value 50 s.

a woollen cloth coat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a woollen cloth waistcoat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a pair of woollen cloth breeches, value 10 s.

a gilt sword knot, value 20 s.

 

Header image: Attribution: Hallwyl Museum / CC BY-SA

More detail on Grace and her Aunt Janet can be found in our book, An Infamous Mistress.

A Trusty Maid; Geroge H Hay; Hospitalfield Arts

A tale of deceit in late 18th and early 19th century Essex

Today’s blog concerns a tale of deceit in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Essex.

Henry Cranmer of Quendon Hall in Essex educated and raised Captain Joseph Cranmer Gordon Esq as his own son, and perhaps he really was so. Gordon continued to receive financial support even as an adult, with frequent remittances of money. Suddenly, however, they ceased.

Upon investigation, Joseph Cranmer Gordon discovered that his benefactor was ‘in a lunatic state’ and controlled entirely by a man named James Winton and a Mrs Margaret Greygoose who had cut off Mr Gordon’s allowance. A commission of lunacy was taken out and Mr Gordon was appointed in control of Henry Cranmer’s estate, much to the annoyance of James Winton.

Quendon Hall via British History Online.
Quendon Hall via British History Online.

James Winton appeared before the commissioners in a menacing fashion, in full regimental uniform with ‘an immense and massy iron truncheon by his side, and a brace of double-barrelled pistols thrust under his girdle’. He was there to prove the sanity of old Henry Cranmer, but instead James Winton’s own sanity was doubted. A verdict of lunacy against Henry Cranmer was proved, as was the threatening behaviour of James Winton – he was shortly afterwards sent to Chelmsford gaol for antagonising one of Cranmer’s tenants.

Both James Winton and Joseph Cranmer Gordon had served in the Essex Militia; Winton wrote an ‘insolent letter’ to Gordon, mentioning that the pair had met once at a mess dinner and pointedly saying that ‘he had served the King for ten years, had been in battles where he had seen the brave nobly die’ and that he wished to meet Gordon upon his return into Essex. Winton was seen to strut around wearing a brace of pistols, with the intention of provoking his rival into a duel.

Estate Staff in a Servants' Hall by Nicholas Condy (1793–1857) (c) Mount Edgcumbe House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Estate Staff in a Servants’ Hall by Nicholas Condy (1793–1857)
(c) Mount Edgcumbe House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mrs Greygoose had been born Margaret Lacey, the granddaughter of Henry Cranmer’s nurse. Her mother was also named Margaret Lacey and she lived at Quendon Hall, as Cranmer’s housekeeper and his mistress. Brought up almost as one of the family by the gullible Henry Cranmer, in 1787 she married the footman, one James Greygoose – it would appear that Henry Cranmer was oblivious to the fact that his footman had married Margaret Lacey for, in a deed written in 1789 in which he gave her five properties, he described her as ‘Margaret Lacey, spinster, now resident at Quendon Hall’ (her mother had married a man named Gregg and moved out, so it could not be that lady who was referred to).  The deed gave the properties to Margaret Lacey in case she survived Cranmer, with a power of revocation during his lifetime. Before long, around 1792 or 1793, Margaret abandoned her husband. Eloping from Quendon Hall to live with James Winton as his wife.[i] A Mr Street was intimate with the household at Quendon Hall at this time and questioned Henry Cranmer about Margaret; Cranmer was anxious for her to return.

Mr Street asked him [Henry Cranmer], as she was a pretty woman, whether he was induced to do this as a reward for kind services: to which he replied, No, – he had never but once attempted to kiss her, and then she had boxed his ears, but he would have married her if she had conducted herself properly.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

James Greygoose was buried at Quendon on the 3rd November 1805 (he continued as a servant to Henry Cranmer) and on the 9th June 1806, at St James’ in Clerkenwell, Margaret Greygoose married James Winton. It was this union and, it appears, James Winton’s influence which led to them treating Henry Cranmer as something of a ‘golden goose’. The Commission into his lunacy took place towards the end of July, just weeks after their wedding.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Margaret was, however, well-matched to James Winton. After the Commission had decided Henry Cranmer was a lunatic she took him [Cranmer] out for a ride and contrived to lure him into a waiting chaise and spirit him away, retaining her hold over him. The Lord Chancellor was applied to, and Henry Cranmer and Mrs Winton were eventually traced to a house in Camden. After some resistance, he was eventually taken back to Quendon Hall and Captain Gordon.

Henry Cranmer died in 1810 and, without access to Cranmer’s wealth, by November 1812 James Winton ‘formerly of Somer’s-town, in the county of Middlesex, and late of Quendon, in the county of Essex, gentleman’ found himself a debtor in the King’s Bench Prison.

NB: Joseph Cranmer Gordon is referred to as John Cranmer Gordon in some of the newspaper reports.

Sources:

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 3rd August 1798

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 20th September 1803

Morning Advertiser, 1st August 1806

Morning Post, 1st August 1806

Bury and Norwich Post, 6th August 1806

Morning Chronicle, 6th August 1806

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 15th November 1806

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 13th August 1811

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 16th August 1811

Hertfordshire Genealogy

Historic England

Notes:

[i] Margaret Lacey and James Greygoose married at St Leonard’s in Shoreditch on the 26th July 1787.

Header image:

A Trust Maid by George H. Hay, Hospitalfield Arts

Kidnap and Attempted Murder in the 18th Century: Viscount Valentia’s ancestry

Arthur Annesley, Baron Altham and Viscount Valentia was the downfall of Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  Their indiscretion in a London bagnio (a high class brothel) led to her divorce from her portly little doctor of a husband, John Eliot.

Although too much of a distraction from Grace’s story to be included in our book on her, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Valentia’s immediate ancestors have a fascinating story which we recount here.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

His father, Richard, was the younger brother of Arthur Annesley, 4th Baron Altham (1689-1727).  Baron Altham had one son, James, who was twelve years of age when his father died, however Baron Altham had become alienated from his son and sent James to an obscure school where his death was announced.  At Baron Altham’s death his brother Richard claimed the titles and estates and arranged for his nephew, who was still alive, to be kidnapped and sold as an indentured labourer to an American planter for a seven year term.  James survived and managed to return home in 1741 and instigated an action against his uncle, who had now also become the 6th Earl of Anglesey on the death of a cousin in 1737, to reclaim his estates.

Valentia - plantation

Richard’s defence rested on whether James had been born to his father’s legitimate wife, Mary Sheffield who had died in 1729, or to a maidservant, Joan (Juggy) Landy.  James was successful in this action, but due to appeals by his uncle he was prevented from taking possession of his properties and spent many years in penury.  Richard attempted to have his nephew charged with the murder of a poacher.

The trial in which James Annesley stood tried for murder occurred in 1742. He had been out shooting sparrows with his friend Joseph Redding who was a gamekeeper when they saw a man named Thomas Egglestone and his son poaching fish. They went over to try to take the nets and Annesley’s gun discharged accidentally, killing Thomas Egglestone. All kinds of shenanigans went on behind the scenes before the trial came to the Old Bailey to induce the witnesses to accuse Annesley of murder. Annesley, to his distaste, was described to the court as a mere labourer.

The TRIAL of JAMES ANNESLEY, Labourer, at the Sessions-House in the Old Bailey, July 15, 1742 before the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Baron Parker, &c for the Murder of Thomas Egglestone, on Three Indictments; viz. At Common Law, on the Coroner’s Inquisition, and on the Black Act.

‘My Lord, I observe that I am indicted by the Name of James Annesley, Labourer, the lowest Addition my Enemies could possibly make Use of; but tho’ I claim to be Earl of Anglesea, and a Peer of this Realm, I submit to plead Not Guilty to this Indictment, and put myself immediately upon my Country, conscious of my own Innocence, and impatient to be acquitted even on the Imputation of a Crime so unbecoming [to] the Dignity I claim.’

James Annesley and Joseph Redding’s defence was as follows, and the full transcript of the court case can be read on the Old Bailey website here.

Court. Mr Annesley, you are indicted in a very unhappy Case, what have you to say for yourself?

Mr Annesley. My Lord, I am very unable to make a proper Defence, having by the Cruelty of those, whose Duty it was to protect me, been deprived of the Advantages of an Education I was entitled to by my Birth.

All I know of the melancholy Accident in Question is, that on the unfortunate Day mention’d in the Indictment, I went out with my Gun, in company with my innocent Fellow-Prisoner, to shoot Sparrows, as I usually did. As we were going along, Mr Redding, who is Game-Keeper to the Lord of the Manour, saw some People a poaching within the Royalty, upon which he proposed to go and seize their Nets, I followed him, the Deceas’d threw the Net into the River, and the Boy jump’d in to pull it across, to prevent which, I stoop’d to lay hold of one of the Ropes that trailed upon the Ground, and at the same Instant, the fatal Instrument I had in my other Hand, hanging by my Side, went off without my Knowledge, and to my great Grief as well as Surprize. My Behaviour, immediately after the Accident, was, I hope, inconsistent with a Temper that could murder a Man I had never seen before, without one Word of Provocation.

Whatever may be the Determination of your Lordship and the Jury, great as the Misfortunes of my Life have been, I shall always consider this unfortunate Accident as the greatest of them all.

Court. Mr Redding, what have you to say for yourself?

Joseph Redding. My Lord, I am Game-Keeper to Sir John Dolben, Lord of the Manour of Yeoveney. On the first of May last, in the Afternoon, Mr Annesley and I went out a walking; we saw a Crow, and Mr Annesley made an Offer to shoot at her, but I called to him not to fire, for that she was too far off: Soon after I saw Egglestone and his Son a fishing with a Casting-Net, upon which I said to Mr Annesley, I would go and endeavour to take their Net away, as it was my Duty to do; according I went up to the Deceas’d and demanded the Net, which he refused to deliver to me, and threw it into the River, one End of the String being about his Arm, I then laid hold of the String, and pulled, whilst the Boy endeavoured to draw it cross the River, and presently I heard the Gun go off (my Back being towards Mr Annesley ) and saw the Man fall down. – I said to Mr Annesley, I hoped he had not shot the Man, he said no, but turning up the Flap of his Coat, we saw he was shot; upon which Mr Annesley cried out, What shall I do! and expressed so much Concern, that I am sure it was quite an accidental Thing.

James Annesley and Joseph Redding were found not guilty of murder, but guilty of chance-medley (a killing that lacks malice aforethought) and left the court room as free men. Thwarted in his plan to see James swing at Tyburn, Richard also made attempts on his nephew’s life – the Penny London Post carried a very thinly veiled report which hinted at this in connection with one of his chosen assassins, a man named Thomas Stanley.

Thomas Stanley, mentioned in this Paper of Friday last to have been committed to Newgate under a strong Party of the Guards, by Henry Fielding, Esq; for lying in wait to assassinate the Hon. James Annesley, Esq; made a stout Resistance when taken, but the Constables at length trip’d up his Heels, and carried him before the Justice. This Fellow is a most notorious Ruffian, and is the same Stanley who was tried at the Commission of Oyer and Terminer in Dublin, for being concerned with one Murphy, one Stephens, and several others in a Conspiracy to assassinate Mr Annesley and Mr Mackercher, and lying in wait with Fire-Arms and Cutlasses to carry it into Execution: On that Occasion, after full Evidence had been given against him, and the Court appeared thoroughly satisfied of his Guilt, he escaped Conviction by an Accident, one of the Jurors being suddenly seiz’d, or pretending to be seiz’d, with an Epileptic Fit; which obliged Mr Annesley and Mr Mackercher, at the Request of the Court, to consent to quash the Indictment, rather than keep the Court and Jury sitting to wait his Recovery: Nevertheless, considering him as a very desperate dangerous Fellow, the Court remanded him to Prison, till he should find good Security to their Satisfaction. How he has since been let loose is a Mystery! —— It was very remarkable, that this low Ruffian was supported on that Trial by a Bar of six of the most eminent Lawyers in the Kingdom of Ireland.

Penny London Post, or The Morning Advertiser, 16th February 1750

The Honourable James Annesley Esquire by George Bickham the Younger, after Kings, line engraving, 1744 © The National Portrait Gallery
The Honourable James Annesley Esquire by George Bickham the Younger, after Kings, line engraving, 1744
© The National Portrait Gallery

James Annesley married twice, having children by each wife before dying in 1760 without fully establishing his claim to the titles and estates.  His first wife was Mary Lane, the stepdaughter of a Mr Richard Chester of Egham near Staines in Middlesex, an innholder (he appears to have been the landlord of the Swan at Staines, where he also held the position of Postmaster), and he had married her in 1741 at St Bride’s Church, a year before he stood trial for murder.[i] By Mary, James Annesley had a daughter. The daughter was Mary, baptized on the 26th May 1743 at St Mary’s in Battersea; she married Charles Granville Wheler on the 9th June 1764 at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster. Mrs Mary Annesley died in 1749.

Last Sunday Evening died of a Consumption, Mrs Annesley, Wife to the Hon. James Annesley, Esq; who claimeth the Estate and Honours of Earl of Anglesey, leaving only one Daughter, a Child six Years old.

London Evening Post, 23rd December 1749

James married his second wife in 1751 at Bilborough in Kent. She was Margaret I’Anson, granddaughter of John Bankes of Kingston Hall (now known as Kingston Lacy) in Dorset. James had three children by his second wife: Margaret Bankes Annesley (born 1753, died 1765), Sophia Bankes Annesley (born 1756 and died in infancy before 1760) and Bankes Annesley (born 1757, died 1764).

On Friday last the new-born Son of the Hon. James Annesley was baptized by the Name of Bankes; the Sponsors were, the Hon. Baron Smythe, the Hon. Mrs Spencer, and John Bankes, of Kingston-Hall in Dorsetshire, Esq; after whom the Child was named.

London Evening Post, 12th November 1757

© Henry Kellner via Wikimedia Commons
Kingston Lacy
© Henry Kellner via Wikimedia Commons

James died in 1760, with the question of his entitlement to the Anglesey estates still unresolved. His son died three years after his father, thereby ending any further claims and his uncle Richard had himself died in 1761.[1]

On Monday was privately interred at Lee in Kent, the Corpse of the Hon. James Annesley, who has left behind him one Daughter by his former Wife; and by his last Wife, the Daughter of Sir Thomas I’Anson, Bart. one Son and one Daughter.

Newcastle Courant, 26th January 1760

On Saturday last died of a Fever, at his Mother’s House in Westminster, the only Son of the late Hon. but most unfortunate James Annesley, Esq; by whose Death, his Right to the whole Anglesey Estate in England and Ireland, devolves on his two Sisters, the surviving Daughters of the said James Annesley. This Youth being the last of the Male Line of the Body of Arthur the first Earl of Anglesey, the Honours of Earl of Anglesey, and Baron Newport Pagnel, in England, and of Viscount Valentia, and Baron Altham, in Ireland, are extinct by his Death; Richard, the last Earl of Anglesey, who died about two Years ago, having left only three Daughters, by Ann, Countess of Anglesey, his Wife, but no legitimate Male Issue.

Newcastle Courant, 12th November 1763

Richard had married twice in 1715, once bigamously, and had by his second bigamous wife three daughters (Dorothea, Caroline and Elizabeth) before he threw her out around 1741 (he had deserted his first legitimate wife almost immediately).  Perhaps the cause of his disregard for his bigamous wife in 1741 was the fact that his first had conveniently died, hence technically leaving him a widower and, in September 1741, he married in secret Juliana Donovan, delaying a second, more public wedding until 1752.  By Juliana he sired Arthur plus another three girls, Richarda, Juliana and Catherine.[2]  At Richard’s death in 1761 a distant cousin claimed the Earldom of Anglesey, stating that Arthur, the son, was born illegitimate and this was upheld due to the secrecy surrounding the 1741 marriage leaving Arthur with the right to succeed to his father’s Irish titles only, those of Baron Altham and Viscount Valentia.

(c) Fylde Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Village Wedding by Thomas Falcon Marshall
(c) Fylde Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

On the 10th May 1767 Arthur Annesley, Baron Altham and Viscount Valentia, married Lucy Lyttelton at St. James in Westminster, the daughter of George Lyttelton, the 1st Baron Lyttleton of Fortescue.  Baron Lyttleton had both money and influence and Valentia hoped, with his father-in-law’s help, to rescue his earldom as Baron Lyttelton was anxious to see his daughter a countess.  This was not to be, a further legal challenge resulted in the final decision on the 29th April 1771 that Valentia’s claim to the Earldom of Anglesey was not valid.

George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend pen and ink, 1751-1758 © The National Portrait Gallery
George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton by George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend, pen and ink, 1751-1758
© The National Portrait Gallery

Three years later he was to be instrumental in Grace’s downfall, recounted in full in our book.

As first time authors this is a thrilling time for us, not least because we are longing to share the information we have uncovered during our many years of research into Grace and her family. We have lots which is new and hitherto unknown, and we are honoured to have been allowed to include within the pages of our biography some very rarely seen pictures connected to Grace and to her family.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

 

[1] Richard Chester and Mary Lane (the mother of the Mary Lane who married James Annesley, married at St Benet’s Paul’s Wharf in London on the 26th January 1738. Richard Chester died in 1744 and his widow who had inherited his estate, in 1750, was declared bankrupt – James Annesley, in his will, honourably and generously provided an annuity for his former mother-in-law even though his first wife had died years before.

[2]He also had two further illegitimate children, a namesake son by Mrs Ann Saulkeld of London and a daughter named Ann by Mrs Mary Glover of Newport Pagnell.

 

Sources:

Old Bailey Online

John Martin, ‘Annesley, James (1715–1760)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/564, accessed 18 Sept 2015]

Wills of James Annesley (mistranscribed as Armesley) and Richard Chester, National Archives

The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, volume 19, 1750

Landed Families Blogspot

Crimes of the Clergy: The Rev. Septimus Hodson

On Christmas Day 1808, Miss Fanny Chapman wrote in her diary the following entry:

Mrs Porcher in a letter to Cooper tells him it is reported in London that Mrs Fenwick is going to be married to Mr Hodgson, the infamous seducer of many of the girls at the Asylum some years ago!!!

This somewhat vague but tantalizing comment needed further investigation to establish more about this ‘infamous seducer’ but the chances of finding him seemed like a mammoth task and possibly not one worth pursuing until now. George and Amanda (custodians of Fanny Chapman’s diaries) recently began looking at a will that provided some clues as to his identity and to cut a long story short, they have tracked him down, so it seems only right to correct Fanny’s spelling of his name (it was Hodson) and then to ‘name and shame’ him. So here we go with a grizzly, if not unfamiliar story.

Septimus Hodson was born 17th February 1763, the son of Rev. Robert Hodson and his wife Mary in Huntingdonshire. He was educated at Caius College, Cambridge after which he was ordained into the priesthood.

Having found his parents and education we began to look for any potential marriages for him. The first marriage we came across took place when he would have been under the age of 21! The Marriage Act, 1753 did allow couples under 21 to marry by Banns, as in this case, either with parents consent or if the parents did not forbid it.

ann bell

This was to be a very short marriage as Ann Hodson née Bell was buried at St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon on the 14th May 1784.

St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon
St Mary with St Benedict Church, Huntingdon
© Robert Edwards via Wikimedia

A little under two years later on the 15th March 1786 Septimus married Miss Charlotte Affleck, the daughter of Rev W. Affleck, who conducted the ceremony at All Saints Church in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Septimus - marriage at Stamford

On the 7th March 1788 he became a preacher at Tavistock Chapel, Broad Court near Drury Lane, amongst his duties he was appointed Chaplain-in-ordinary to George, Prince of Wales.

Septimus and Charlotte produced 5 children during this time, Charlotte (1790), William (1791), Charles Phillip (1793), Robert Eyres (1795) and finally Gilbert (1796).

This extract from The Aldine Magazine of Biography, Bibliography, Criticisms and the Arts of 1838 provides quite a picture of contented domesticity and to a certain extent ignores what was to follow apart from a reference to Septimus being accused of plagiarism!

Never shall I forget calling on the above mentioned gentleman, upwards of forty years since, on behalf of a poor country curate who was anxious to come to London on literary pursuits, and to fill the situation of assistant reader, then vacant at the Asylum. I was introduced to the Rev. Mr. Hodson, in his peculiarly neat and handsome apartments, where his accomplished and beautiful wife, and I think the finest family of children I ever saw, were partaking of a dessert. He politely asked me to partake, and pressed me to take wine, which I did; and from his easy and graceful manner, his handsome form and figure, and animated countenance, added to those of his smiling cherubs of children, on whom my eyes were fixed, I thought I never witnessed so much conjugal happiness and domestic felicity in my life.

By 1789 he had been given the living of Thrapston in Northamptonshire. He had also been appointed chaplain to the Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road, in the parish of Lambeth. This is the point at which the horrors of his actions became clear and for once we do put a serious warning – this account from 1823 is reported as being true and if so it is quite distressing 

V0013797 The female orphan asylum, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The female orphan asylum, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth. Coloured engraving by A. McClatchy after T. H. Shepherd, 1828. 1828 By: Thomas Hosmer Shepherdafter: A. McClatchy and Leonard Wild LloydPublished: 7 June 1828 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
The female orphan asylum, Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Coloured engraving by A. McClatchy after T. H. Shepherd, 1828.

VILE ACTIONS OF THE REVEREND SEPTIMUS HODSON

Child violator, formerly Chaplain to the Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road.

“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.”

The Asylum of which Mr. Hodson was an unworthy Chaplain, educates and provides for numerous female Orphans, who otherwise would be consigned to lives of infamy and ruin.

Mr. Hodson was celebrated as a preacher, and noted for the uncommon sanctity of his manners; he had a fine person, and always assumed such a sincerity of heart in delivering his exhortations from the pulpit, that the chapel was crowded to an overflow whenever he preached; but alas! he was fair without and foul within. The Monk of Lewis’s novel was not more infamous, and whilst outwardly attending to the salvation of the helpless Orphan’s souls he was inwardly meditating the ruin of both body and soul.

From his situation, he had access to the Orphans, at all hours, and a little child, named Fox, about thirteen years of age, was selected by him for the object of depraved debauchery.

In fact he violated the hapless Orphan’s person; to call it by the name of seduction would be untruth: for surely a child at her time of life could only be a passive instrument in the hands of one, whom she had been taught to look up to with fearful obedience.

The pregnancy of Fox, as a natural consequence of illicit intercourse, ensued, and she, most probably tutored by the artful and lustful priest, delivered herself in a certain office in the chapel yard; and there left the infant, which she imagined would never be heard of.

Suspicions, however, were immediately awakened, and the infant was found, and as a natural effect of contrition and fear, Fox pointed out the father of her offspring. The Governors and Committee were horror struck at the Reverend Divine’s hypocrisy and depravity; but they had no power to punish him beyond dismissing him from his office, and striking his name from the list of Chaplains, which was instantly done, in as marked a manner as possible.

The Reverend Violator, incredible as it may appear, was suffered to retain his gown; and we cannot help reflecting that the good Bishop Porteus, then in charge of the Metropolitan see, must have been very strangely misinformed respecting this hideous transaction, or he would never have permitted the criminal to escape with impunity.

Mr. Hodson now resides on his living at Thrapston in Northamptonshire; we are sorry for it, he merits the severest punishment; penitence, it is true, can atone for any crime, but few repent in affluence and prosperity; it is poverty and obscurity, disgrace and obloquy, that wring the sinner’s soul, and make him sensible of all he has lost upon earth, and the little he has to hope for in heaven.

Such corrupt pillars only for a time uphold a fabric by deceitful support that it may fall unexpectedly with more tremendous ruin: and they should be at once levelled with the ground, never more, to rise in a conspicuous situation.

If we hear anything more of this fortunate sinner, it shall be recorded; such a person cannot remain long in obscurity; success will throw him off his guard at last, and the punishment so long delayed come with tenfold vengeance on his head, when the stings of a guilty conscience are made additionally severe by the bodily pangs of old age.

The Ipswich Journal, 14th October 1797, reported that ‘The Prince of Wales has commanded that the name of a certain Rev. Seducer be erased from the list of His Royal Highnesses Chaplains’ and that he has been ‘suffered to resign, in consideration of the services he has rendered to the charity’.

The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 12th October 1797 confirms the story.

A Clergyman, Preacher to the Asylum, has lately seduced a young woman, retained as a singer in the Chapel of that Charity. By which act, the man has ruined himself and family, disgraced the Charity and his profession, brought shame on the unfortunate object of his passion, and set a most unpardonable example for a man of his character to the world.

 

Morning Chronicle Friday October 27 1797 - cut article - use
The Morning Chronicle of 27th October 1797 described him as ‘The Clerical Seducer’

 We did, of course, wonder what happened to Miss Fox; did she survive this horrific experience and what became of her?

The answer appeared in The Morning Post and Gazetteer of 26th January 1801:

The girl that was seduced by Septimus Hodson at the Asylum is now married to a gentleman of about seven thousand a year, and now goes regularly to the asylum, every Sunday in her own carriage.

This report was not quite accurate and later revision was published in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 2nd February 1801

The statement in the Papers respecting the Asylum Girl of the name of Fox, who was so basely seduced by a late Chaplain of that Charity, is erroneous. She is neither married to a Gentleman of 7000l. per annum, nor attends the Asylum every Sunday in her own carriage, because she has succeeded no more to the one than the other:- but, from her exemplary conduct, she has wedded a widower near Barnet, who is possessed of about 500l. per annum, with whom, and his amiable family by a former wife, she now partakes of a domestic felicity, not very frequently enjoyed.

The Monthly Visitor and Entertaining Pocket Companion, Volume 12 described Miss Fox as ‘the asylum warbler’ but so far we haven’t managed to track down her marriage. She was noted as a beauty and had received offers of marriage from several gentlemen before the Reverend Hodson debauched her (which does suggest that she was older than thirteen years). She was retained as a singer in the Chapel, and contemporary newspaper reports give the information that the child was not born alive but Miss Fox suffered a miscarriage. It was during this traumatic event and whilst she feared that she was dying that she gave the information which proved the Reverend’s guilt (no-one had suspected she was pregnant until she lost the child).

The girl is an orphan, bred up from infancy in the charity, and afterwards articled to it as a singing girl. She is very pretty, and rather of a gay than grave appearance; and has had several offers of marriage. A gentleman of property has solicited her hand.

(Ipswich Journal, 14th October, 1797)

On the other hand, we find that by the 14th March 1809 Septimus had been widowed and had married again, his next wife being Frances Fenwick, the widowed daughter of G. Burden. The service was performed in Doncaster, Yorkshire again by his father-in-law, Rev Affleck. Frances was the one referred to in Fanny’s Diary.

Frances 1809

This marriage proved to be a financially lucrative one for Septimus as his wife had inherited the Bywell estate in Northumberland from her late husband and upon her death, it transferred to Septimus, who then sold it for £145,000.

Then finally, at All Saints South Kirkby, near Wakefield, Yorkshire on the 16th October 1826 he married once more, his final spouse being Margaret Holford, author; her most successful work was a historical verse romance entitled Wallace, or, The Fight of Falkirk. She was also a good friend of Robert Southey and another close associate of hers was Joanna Baillie, a Scottish poet and dramatist.

Joanna Baillie 1762-1851, Dramatist by Mary Ann Knight.
Joanna Baillie 1762-1851, Dramatist by Mary Ann Knight.

 

Margaret Holford

Hodson was to die on the 12th December 1833 in his seventy-first year. The inscription of his grave at St John the Evangelist, Sharow, near Ripon, Yorkshire reads:

Sacred to the memory of the Revd.Septimus Hodson late Rector of Thrapston in the county of Northampton And Perpetual Curate of Little Raveley In Huntingdonshire. He died on the 12th day of December AD 1833 In the seventy first year of his age. His widow offers this poor brief tribute To his beloved memory ‘I shall go to him, but he will not return to me’.

He left £1500 in his will (about £75,000 in today’s money) to his wife, so despite this shocking incident in his life he appears to have married well, produced several children and lived an enjoyable life, we can only hope the same was true for Miss Fox. Was it all true about Miss Fox, we really don’t know so we will leave it for you to draw your own conclusion.

Although we haven’t manage to find a picture of Septimus there is an engraving of him dated 1790 held in the Royal Collection but not yet digitized.

 

Sources:

The Clergy Database

The Crimes of the Clergy; Or, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken, issues 1-13

The Gentleman’s Magazine, volume 87, 1800

Literary Memoirs of Living Authors of Great Britain, 1798

Find a Grave

The Monthly Visitor, and Entertaining Pocket Companion, volume 12, 1801

An historical, topographical, and descriptive view of the county of Northumberland, and of those parts of the county of Durham situated north of the river Tyne, with Berwick Upon Tweed, and brief notices of celebrated places on the Scottish border. 1825

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740

William Parsons: 18th Century highwayman, swindler and rogue

When the sun of my life is in its zenith, and I should be expected to shine in meridian lustre, behold me, like a fair opening flower, blasted by a Southern wind. See me, in a shattered bark, ready to launch in a tempestuous Sea; no chart to guide, no compass for to steer my course by, but left to the rough waves and the howling winds, till that I sink beneath the dreadful storm. How shocking is the prospect! And was a dismal night-piece is here!

This anticipation of my miseries is still enhanced by the cruel wracking thoughts of never seeing you, nor my dear injured son; yet, perhaps, we may meet again, in realms of never ending bliss, no more to part. . . . Time seems to tread with hasty strides, and new-fledged wings, and hurry me to my approaching fate. O fatal doom!

(Extract from one of the last letters written by William Parsons to his wife)

William Parsons, Esquire, second son of Sir William Parsons of Short Hill and Stanton le Wold in Nottinghamshire, led a somewhat tumultuous if short life, ending it by swinging from the gallows at Tyburn.

William Parsons
William Parsons

His mother was Frances, niece to Mary, Duchess of Northumberland. Born in Red Lion Square in London, the son of William and Frances Parsons and baptized on the 1st January 1717/18 at St. Andrew’s in Holborn, young William was educated at Eton where he began his criminal career. Caught stealing from a local bookseller, he was publicly flogged for his misdemeanours.

Because of this he was taken out of Eton and placed as a midshipman on board a sloop bound for Jamaica. Instead he absconded and fell in love with a doctor’s daughter living at Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire, only to be foiled when his uncle found him and returned him to his ship.

Arriving in Jamaica, William immediately made for England and Waltham, to return to his love, and was again intercepted by his uncle and this time sent to Newfoundland. On his return from this venture, he found that, owing to his escapades, his expected inheritance from his great-aunt, the Duchess of Northumberland, had gone to his sister, Grace, instead, who was reported to have been bequeathed between £15,000 and £25,000 (he endeavoured, with the help of his sister’s footman, to have her abducted and, once married to the footman, intended to split her fortune between them but this plan was foiled). Following the death of his mother from an apoplectic fit at her lodgings in Piccadilly in 1735 his father remarried two years later to Isabella, the widow of Delaval Dutton.

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740
Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740

Sir William, his father, now got him a place in the service of the Royal African Company of England and our hero travelled to James Fort on the River Gambia, but that did not suit him either and he was once more soon on his way back home to England, threatening to shoot anyone who stood in his way of doing so.

Fort James
Fort James

His uncle, Captain Mark Dutton, who lived at Epsom, took William into his house and treated him almost as his son: William repaid his generosity by getting one of the serving maids pregnant and he was soon shown the door (history has not recorded the fate of the serving maid, but possibly she received similar treatment from the master of the house).

Seduced by a Miss E___s, who could not marry as she would forfeit her inheritance if she did so, our hero’s last chance of redemption came when, hearing that his father was in town, he went to his house and, kneeling before Sir William, threw himself on his mercy.  A reconciliation between them took place and William, on the recommendation of his father, attempted to enlist as a private in the Life Guards. But they wanted him to pay seventy guineas to join and William was pecuniarily embarrassed while his father had already departed for Nottinghamshire, leaving behind just five shillings for his errant son.

And so William now embarked properly on his career as a fraudster and criminal. He passed himself off at Vauxhall and Ranelagh as an army officer but in reality hunting for a young girl in command of her own fortune to prey upon. Mary Tregonwell Frampton of Kensington, just eighteen and reportedly left an heiress by the recent death of her father (John Frampton of the Exchequer), fell for his machinations and, on the 9th February 1740/41, at the Chapel on King Street in Westminster, she became the wife of William Parsons and he became the master of her fortune. She had £12,000 and £4,000 was given over to Parsons on their marriage; the remaining £8,000 was used to buy Exchequer Annuities and Parsons received the annual interest on these.

The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto
The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney

A son, Mark, was born to the couple on the 19th November 1741 (baptized on the 10th December that year at St. James in Piccadilly), followed by William Dutton Parsons, born on the 21st March 1742/43 (and baptized in the same church as his elder brother on the 11th April 1743), but who died young.

William’s family was delighted with this turn of events, and the improvement in his condition and reputation. He was helped to an Ensigncy with Colonel Cholmondeley’s regiment of foot and William saw action in Flanders, being promoted to Lieutenant, while his wife and son remained in London living in Poland Street and Panton Square.

The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745 by Felix Philippoteaux, painted in 1873
The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745 by Felix Philippoteaux, painted in 1873

But William was living too fast, encouraged by a false friend named only as Doctor N___ (possibly Northgate) to squander his wife’s fortune at the gaming tables, and disaster soon overtook him. On his return to England he was chased by creditors and could not return to his young family at Panton Square; instead he took lodgings, calling himself Captain Brown to evade notice. But, true to form, he debauched his landlord’s daughter and fathered two children on her.

A baptism at the London Foundling Hospital on the 19th July 1747 for a Grace Parsons may be one of these two children, named for William’s sister who had married a wealthy Mr Lambert from Kent earlier that year (by the time of her marriage her fortune was being estimated at £30,000). Parsons’s philandering also reputedly took in Lady Frances Vane (formerly Hamilton, née Hawes), who is named as Lady Frail in his Memoirs.

The_Foundling_Hospital_a_birds_eye_view_1753_engraving_by_T.Bowles_after_L.P.Boitard__Coram_in_the_care_of_the_Foundling_Museum
The Foundling Hospital, 1753, engraved by T. Bowles

At Deal, in 1745, as he was about to board a privateer, an attempt was made to apprehend him but Parsons shot and wounded one of the men in his desperation to make the ship, threatening to kill anyone who prevented him. He got as far as Ireland before being taken ill and put ashore. There, when he ran out of money, he drew bills on eminent London tradesmen enabling him to return to England where he lived in some style in Plymouth.

London Evening Post, 2nd January 1746
London Evening Post, 2nd January 1746

Passing as Richard rather than William Parsons his need for ready money induced him, with a female accomplice, to return to London and swindle a parson and a jeweller, and he even stooped so low as to steal from men who classed themselves his friend. Inevitably he was taken into custody. By the