The events that occurred before and after the trial and the fate in which Elizabeth Herring faced, is significant in understanding the ways of life in the 1700’s. This blog will bring forth some of the problems in the 1700’s that had occurred in many people’s everyday lives and is still occurring in today’s society. Some of the problems that will be brought to attention is; abuse at this time, drinking and the corruption of the witness and justice system.


     Elizabeth Herring was a woman in 1773 who was married to her husband Robert Herring. She was put on trial because she was convicted of murdering her husband with a knife. She was said to have stabbed him one time in the throat and he died shortly after, this occurred on August 5th, 1773. However, she was not tried until September 8th, 1773. The first witness that was brought to the stand was John Boyle. Boyle testifies that he was there when it happened and he had been just a, “half a yard from them” when it occurred. Boyle’s stated that Herring had gone to her husband and, “Struck the knife into his throat.” Boyle’s stated that Robert had died right away and also mentioned he had not heard them fighting prior to the incident. The second witness was Hannah Darling, owner of the house in which the murder occurred. Darling stated she also had not heard them fighting prior to the murder. She then goes on to describe that Elizabeth had been uttering threats at her husband before the murder occurred. Darling also noted that there had been a large amount of blood present. Darling ends her testimony with the notion that, Elizabeth ran out screaming that she had just killed her husband and committed murder. The third witness was Thomas Duncan. Duncan is a brick layer who was working at Hannah Darling’s property at the time of the murder. Duncan testified that Robert Herring had been facing Elizabeth at this time. Duncan then noted that he could not make out what Elizabeth and Robert were saying but, that they were arguing about something. Duncan had not noticed anything else until he had seen the knife dropping to the floor and the blood pouring out of Robert. Duncan goes on to say that Robert was still alive when he went to help and that he had tried to call for help but no one came. Duncan then went into describing that he had tried to help Robert get to help but, numerous times Robert Herring had stumbled or fallen because of the weakness caused by the injury. The Surgeon shows up just minutes before Herring dies. William Pidley (first surgeon) had taken the stand and claimed that he had been the one that examined Robert Herring on site. Next was James Blythe (second surgeon) who testified that he examined the body as well and agreed that Herring’s neck was cut and the knife had hit a major blood vessel. Elizabeth Herring starts her defense speech at this time. Elizabeth starts by telling every one of the harsh abuse that her husband had committed. Elizabeth also drops the bomb that she and her “husband” were actually not married and that they had never been married, they only lived together for over a decade. Elizabeth then admitted that she is guilty of killing her common law but, she did it for good reason. She then had taken time to address the fact that Darling had always disliked her. Four witnesses are called to the stand to testify on Elizabeth’s behalf. All of which testify that Robert had been an abuser and that Elizabeth was actually kind-hearted. The hearing then ends with Elizabeth stating she was pregnant but, this turns out to be false. Elizabeth was proclaimed guilty of the murder of Robert Herring and she was sentenced to be executed. Elizabeth was then executed by being burned alive at the stake.





     The trial of Elizabeth Herring gives people today something to draw many conclusions from, on what it may have been like back in the eighteenth century. One thing that I have drawn from this trial is the treatment of women by others. The continuous details given in the trial of the abuse in which Elizabeth had been subject to in her everyday life, is eye opening. Men abusing women is still an occurrence in the world today, so this brings it into a more relate-able context for readers. Most of the details of the abuse were taken from the people that were defending Elizabeth. Some had stated  details such as, “he would knock her down with quart pots; stick form in her hand” (quart pots), “he has turned her out of doors without shoes and stockings, and “he has got up and beat her with a poker without a handle.”  These details would suggest that abuse was harsh in this instance but, abuse of women in the eighteenth century was very much present. Even while I was searching for my trial I had run into many other women’s trials that had been found guilty for the murdering of their husbands. In the end of the trial even after the testimonies of people stating that Robert Herring was indeed violent and that had been the reason Elizabeth had been pushed over the edge, she was still found guilty for murder and executed in a non-humane way. Yes, there is no doubt that she should have been found guilty but, given the circumstances in which she endured does it still make it okay to burn someone at the stake?





      Drinking had always been a problem during early centuries and drinking is still a problem now. Although it is not as severe as it was back then, drinking is still a major contributor to the abuse of women. A light can be argued to be shone onto this problem through the trial of Elizabeth Herring. In this trial Robert Herring was never outright stated to be an alcoholic because at this time drinking was another part of a person’s day but, it was poked at. Although it was not directly mentioned the witnesses do point to him drinking beer or throwing beer at Elizabeth when he was having one of his abuser moods. This may not seem as a significant amount of evidence but, do to further research I found out that there had been a “Gin Craze” in the 1700′s and it had carried through till the end of the eighteenth century (although not as many people drank gin in the later half because of acts and taxes raising the price of gin). This may also show the reader the relationship of men drinking and abuse going hand in hand with each other in the eighteenth century as it still does today. The amount of alcohol that men had been drinking at this point in time was less then what it had been in the earlier half of the century. With that being said it was still a huge part of a person’s life if they had the money to be able to afford the alcohol. In Robert Herrings case it is not mentioned that he is poor and in order to get a court time someone would of had to have paid for the trial. This could point to Robert Herring possibly being of the middle class or even the upper class. This would also point to all the reasons for Robert Herring to be a person who drank quite frequently.





     The corruption of witnesses was another thing found in this trial. This did occur to me when first reading it even before Elizabeth called out Hannah Darling for doing exactly this during the statements in which she had given. This would help people from the twenty first century get a glance at what the law had been like then compared to now. Now it is thought to be horrid that someone would lie on the stand but, back then it seemed rather normal which is weird because it always seemed like religion was more intact back then, then it is in the current day. This would have to do with someone’s morals and actually lying to people and God. Through this trial it could be argued that this was true when Hannah Darling (not so darling) starts spewing words in which Elizabeth was said to have said. This is not the case because other witnesses heard nothing and reported that Elizabeth and Robert barely spoke that day and if so it was only a few words. It is also mentioned in the trial that Hannah claims to have not heard them speaking at all and then when she had been asked again she claimed to have heard them arguing. Hannah seems to be flip flopping and changing points that she had mentioned before into something completely made up of her BS.This would contradict and prove that Hannah had gone rogue.



     To tie in with the previous paragraph, this trial helps us understand how corrupt the government and justice system had been at that time. The punishment’s that criminals had been faced with would be argued to be in-humane in the twenty first century(even though what they do for the death sentences now in other states could be argued to be just as in-humane). Elizabeth Herring was punished to be burned till dead at the stake. Others who committed “petty” crimes were sentenced to execution by hanging. It was mentioned by Professor Magrath in class that at this time the executors did not have the science down in order to “effectively” kill someone in the least amount of time. Most people who were burned at the stake were supposed to have a rope tied around their neck, it would then be pulled and this was supposed to break their neck. The thing is that sometimes the people were dumb and did not pull it in time and can anyone guess what happened? That is right the rope burned and this would let the person die the most horrible death possible by being burned alive. This trial also showed us as readers how women were treated and how trials had gone down. Even though Elizabeth did admit to killing her common law, the jury did not even take into account that the only reason this happened was the underlying abuse in the relationship and the possibility that it was just self defense. If one thinks about it, if this was really as bad as it was described, Elizabeth would have been killed at some point and the idiot would have probably got away scotch free. Also, this would show and help people of today understand that most people who committed even a minor offense such as stealing a handkerchief was given the punishment of death.





      I really enjoyed this trial because I was able to view the conversation of many people that were there to defend Elizabeth or testify against her. It was also interesting to hear Elizabeth speak for herself throughout the trial because it showed that she did not care what other’s thought at that time.This trial was an eye opener because of it being a first hand documented source of a trial in the 1700′s because it is from 241 years ago. This trial is also crazy to think about because of the fact that we still are having these problems even 241 years later (we really need to get our stuff together and change this!). Although I do understand she did kill her common law, I do not feel one bit sorry for Robert being murdered just because of being told as a reader and as a woman how he injured her. It is disgusting and I still believe that if she did not kill him when she did he would have killed her at some point. I also thought this brought a lot of attention to the problems that had been causing havoc in society back then. These problems were stated very clearly throughout the trial and also they turned into the underlying cause of murder. A reader may have been more emotional towards this trial because some of the problems (such as abuse) were happening/occurring even as far back as the 1700′s. Abuse is still present now which would make the problem more of a reality to the readers rather then something people today could never fully understand or be exposed to. This article did help readers understand that, the justice system/government was corrupt at this time and its laws were wack and abuse/the impact of drinking on family/everyday life at this time can also be compared to the twenty first century.


The Trial of Mercy Hornby: Death of Bastard Child

The Trial of Mercy Hornby: Death of Bastard Child



Mercy Hornby of Stoke-Newington in London, U.K was found guilty for the murder of her illegitimate child on March 15th, 1734, however the trial did not take place until April 24th1734. The child was alive when she threw it into a privy (outhouse), in which the child had suffered from bruises on the head, which then caused the child to die immediately. It is Hornby’s second transgression on the Coroner’s Inquest for a murder case. A Coroner’s Inquest is “the inquiry or investigation as to the cause of death held by the coroner’s court, a tribunal of record, consisting of the coroner and twelve jurymen (the coroner’s jury) summoned for the inquest (OED).”


These six jurors have to be citizens of the community or town that the incident causing death took place; therefore, for the trial there were at least six jurors from the town that the death occurred in. The six jurors for the trial all played many different roles in Mercy Hornby’s life, and the child’s life as well.

The first witness, Elizabeth Husk discusses that she met a woman named Mrs. Pain who was going to visit Mercy Hornby or the prisoner in Stoke-Newington. Then about an hour later, the prisoner was not in good shape, therefore Elizabeth Husk went to go see the prisoner in which the prisoner’s head and stomach hurt. When Elizabeth was at the prisoners house she took notice of her surroundings and saw a bloody-apron, and that she had seen the prisoner throw something down the cellar. At that time, it was not the child being thrown down the cellar, but when Elizabeth saw her throw something down there she noticed a child in the cellar. Therefore, Elizabeth went to her Mistress and told her what she had seen, so they went to look down in the cellar and noticed the child. This is where they saw the bruises on the child’s head, and discovered that it was a new born baby. Thus, Mercy Hornby must have been trying to hide the evidence down in her cellar.

Then the trial begins to discuss what had happened in court. They ask the prisoner and the jurors many questions. Beginning with Elizabeth in which she stated that the kitchen was filthy with the soil of the privy, and then the prisoner goes on to question Elizabeth on what she saw and the state that the baby was in. It concerns me that the prisoner was trying to cover up what she had done, by hiding the baby into the cellar so that people would never find out and would never question her. Some of the witnesses were not very helpful, as they had stated a lot of the same things that previous witnesses had said. But something interesting that the prisoner said when one witness asked her how she came to do so, and the prisoner said “The Devil prompted her.” The next witness was a mid-wife, in which she gave a valuable piece of information that the child was not a brand new, new born, that she couldn’t be that big for a new born, and that it was born alive, and not dead. The prisoner questioned whether the bruises on the baby’s head were from when it fell at its birth, but the mid wife could not say whether it was the cause of those bruises.

One of the witnesses is a surgeon, Mr. Coulson, who stated that he found a massive bruise on the side of the child’s head, which he thought to be the cause of the child’s death. However, the bruise could be from the child falling from the mother, as he stated that children fall with a great force when they are newly born. A few other witnesses, Thomas Pain, and John Jourdan discussed what the cellar was like, in which it was about 6 feet deep, with 3 and a half inches of soil, and soft sand. 



That brings us to the end of the trial, where the prisoner gives her final words, and her view of the story. This is what Mercy Hornby believes happened:

“I was taken very bad in Bed, between 5 and 6 in the Morning. I came down Stairs, and call’d for help as well as I could, but there was nobody else in the House. The next Door was an Ale-house, and a Noise being there, I believe they could not hear me. And being violent ill, and in great Extremity of Pain, I was deliver’d in the Kitchen. I never saw the Child move, nor never laid Hands on it; but it got that Bruise on the Head by falling from me, and then in a fright I took it up and carried it to the Vault.”

They discussed then went on to discuss what Mercy Hornby had done and if it could have been done out of shame, because she did have a bastard child, or maybe it actually was an accident. That being said, the verdict that the jurors gave Mercy Hornby is guilty, and she was sentenced to death.



What would possess a person to murder their own child? Maybe it was an accident, or maybe she had full intention of killing her child, or maybe she made it look like an accident but wanted the outcome to be of her child dying; who really knows, however they may still leave the reader quite concerned and questionable about mothers during the 1700s.

It is crazy to think that someone would actually attempt and succeed with murdering someone. It occurred to me that Mercy could have had some sort of illness, which could be anxiety, depression or post-partum depression. However she or anyone else would have not known that she had an illness because they wouldn’t be diagnosed with illnesses like depression in the 18th century.

Another aspect of the trial that I found fascinating is the fact that the jurors all had some sort of connection to Mercy Hornby. All the jurors knew Mercy Hornby or had some sort of relationship with her; therefore I believe that their opinions were biased. Due to the emotional connection and their own opinions on her, I think that their verdict would be based on what they think of her, and not really on the fact that she may have been innocent. So basically she didn’t really stand a chance against the jurors, because they most likely already had their minds made up prior to discussing with each other her verdict.

The fact that the trial puts great emphasis on the child being a bastard child, truly struck me. Therefore, I wanted to go into further research and further detail to see what exactly the stats were. I was lucky enough to find a useful article that bettered my understanding.

Bastard Children in the 18th Century

A Bastard child is “one begotten and born out of wedlock; an illegitimate or natural child (OED.” In which, that was what the child was from the Mercy Hornby trial. The study that I found discusses how there are different kinds of labeling, whether it is “foundling”,  “bastard”, or “illegitimate”, they all have similar meanings, however they are also very different (Francus 87). There was a major stigma around these words during the 18thcentury, as the social status plays a role in it (Francus 87). People thought that foundlings were bastards, and illegitimacy was the main purpose for abandoning their child (Francus 87).

The article examines how bastard children were seen as a threat to many different areas of the family’s life; they were a threat to parents at that time that were not only poor, but also the upper class, as it would affect their status (Francus 87). Lower class and upper class did however accept illegitimacy; however the middle class families were the people that were the most threatened (Francus 87).

During the 18th century, the rich were able to provide for their legitimate and illegitimate children. The poor and the working classes were not constrained by legal marriages; therefore the illegitimate were welcomed into the family and not a disgrace (Francus 88).  The middle class on the other hand had concerns as they were worried about their status and believed the illegitimate children could bring down their social status (Francus 88).  The article did state that the original source did not discuss the effects of illegitimacy on class mobility; Therefore, I believe it would be interesting if there were an article out there that would discuss that.

Something that I found interesting about the article was that there were statistics on whether there were more male or female foundlings, bastards, and illegitimate children. These statistics are as following: Foundlings had a tendency to be female which were revealed to be legitimate, while bastards had a tendency to be male which were revealed to be illegitimate (Francus 88). As well, it was proven that depending on the amount of funding your family had, and social connections, played a role in the consideration of gender (Francus 88). The researcher of my article did not find any evidence to support that statement; however it is certainly something to look into (Francus 88).

Final Thoughts

Overall, I chose this trial because it really struck me and I found it immensely interesting. I have a great love for children, and it just amazed me but also made me upset to read that a mother would do that type of thing to their own child, even if it was an illegitimate child. Just because the child is considered “unwanted” in some people’s eyes, does not give the mother the right to do that. Another concern of mine was where is the father of the child during this whole thing? Society is always pointing fingers at the mother, and all the wrong that she is doing, so this aspect show’s how there are many double standards. When people think of children, they usually associate them with the mothers and not the fathers, which I do not enjoy at all. Having children is a team effort; therefore the father should be included just as much as the mother, even if it is a bastard child. Trial’s like this show just how short life is, and how precious it is. As one’s life can be taken away them in the blink of an eye. Hence, this trial certainly left me with many questions, and I am hoping that it left you as a reader with many questions too. I believe that after reading a piece of work that one should always be left pondering, and thinking. It made me wonder if she actually did hurt her child, but with the evidence that was shown, it is very hard to believe that she did not kill her child.



Francus, Marilyn. “Virtuous Foundlings And Excessive Bastards.” Eighteenth Century: Theory & Interpretation (Texas Tech University Press) 49.1 (2008): 87-94 Academic Search CompleteWeb. 28 March. 2014

OED Online. Oxford University Press, 2014. Web. 25 March. 2014.




Mustapha Pochowachett 24 May, 1694

by Margaret Lockyer



Mustapha Pochowachett was a Turkish man who was arrested, tried, and charged the committing Buggery. The event occurred on May 11, 1964 and he was seen in court on May 24, 1964. He did not speak English and was therefore given a translator in order to communicate with the court. He was accused of committing Buggery upon a boy named Anthony Bassa who was approximately 14 years old. Bassa was not present during the trail as he was sick. Bassa said that Pochowachett had “used him in a very unnatural manner”. There was only one other person consulted on the case during the trial, a Surgeon. The Surgeon swore that Pochowachett gave Bassa a sexually transmitted disease, and the Surgeon had seen the sores for himself. Pochowachett claimed he personally had no such sores, but a search on his body was never conducted. He was found guilty of Buggery and sentenced to death.


By using this case to explore the 18th Century, I have given myself the opportunity to explore issues directly related to topics that I am interested. I did not want to choose a murder or a robbery because the concept of these crimes is so over saturated in all forms of media that I normally encounter, that I was worried that most viewpoints on the topics are more heavily explored than probably the crimes of sexual assault.

I chose the trial of Mustapha Pochowachett from the Old Bailey database because I believed that it would provide interesting and informative insight into the 18th Century. While technically it takes place in the 1600’s it is still informative about the 1700’s. This is true because cultural and social trends, morals, and ideals do not fit neatly into patterned timelines. There are plenty of examples of fuzzy timelines in History as era’s are defined by events and actions, not by equally patterned dates. This trial is helpful in better understanding in two key areas. The first is the relationships with people of a foreign race in England. The second is the issue of sexual offences and how they are not only perceived but handled.

Relationships Between Races

While doing some background reading on this topic, I found interesting information about Mustapha Pochowachett. He served in the court of King George. During this time period there was a large range of ways the Turkish people were perceived by the English. On one end of the scale they were seen as adversaries to the Christian lifestyle, and on the other end they were looked to as economic partners (Aljenfawi 36). In fact it is largely believed that Catholics were actually hated more than Muslims during this time. Pochowachett was serving in the court with one other Turkish man named Mahomet. While at the time the Turks were not England’s primary adversaries, there still existed much controversy surrounding their positions.  During this time it was believed that anyone who was not from England, or White, or Christian was assigned to being an “other”. There was a perpetuation that the “other” was so different that that the differences were exploded within the mainstream society.

Also during this time there was an abundance of over the top stereotypes about groups that fall into the idea of the “other”. A stereotype that existed about Turkish people was that within that culture there was a prevalent inclination for men to perform sodomy, and therefore a high concentration of acts of sodomy. Since this exploded stereotype existed, it is safe to entertain the notion that Pochowachett was targeted for this particular crime. He was a man in a political position, and he belonged to a sub group of the “other” which had a particularly damning stereotype. It is almost the perfect storm for a sabotage or set up. This is going back to the point that Pochowachett was in a controversial political position, he was so clearly an “other” and he held a political position that it is not outrageous to assume that he might actually be as innocent as he claims. This is a major factor that helped to lead me to question the validity of the charge.

Sexual Offenses

I was particularly interested in taking a closer look at a case that involved a sexual offense. While looking through the database, there was certainly no shortage of this type of offenses. I was looking through a couple different cases of rape, and sodomy or buggery, when I noticed a type of trend. What I noticed was that there seemed to be the tone that sodomy was significantly worse, and less Christian than rape. I find that this phenomenon is really telling about social issues and practices of the 18th Century, particularly issues surrounding the treatment of beliefs about women.

I did some research into the treatment of gay men, and women during this time period. One of the most common facts that I encountered was that in the 17th Century, male sodomites were given a very similar status to female prostitutes. Needless to say this social status was not high. According to the readings I did, this was to reinforce and maintain the assigned gender roles within society. This idea of rigidly enforced gender roles is a major reason why sodomy was considered to be such an awful and unforgivable offense.

My research also led me to the idea that the victim of sodomy was taken more seriously than victims of rape. The different tones in the reports also led me to that assumption. In the reports of rape, it was often specifically mentioned that the victim’s husband, father, or brother even, were upset, or involved, or in some cases even spoke for the woman. There was an effort to draw attention to how the rape affected the men in the woman’s life. This not only shows the society’s compete preoccupation with men at the expense of women, but it also shows why these people thought rape was so bad. My understanding is that rape was considered so bad because it was an offense and a crime against another man. This directly leads to why

In this case the reporter describes Buggery as something “which is so detestable, and not fit to be named among Christians,” (Mustapha Pochowachett, 24th May, 1964). I believe that if this case was tried in court today, the charge would be rape. The charge of rape obviously existed in the 18th Century, so it really got me thinking about how people in the 18th Century viewed sexual assaults. Buggery was considered worse than rape because rape was an indirect offense against another man, but buggery was a direct offense against another man. I think that this fact is really telling about the nature of gender and the treatment of women in the 18th Century in England.


Based on the information I discovered from secondary sources, and class lectures, I was able to draw a few conclusions about the facts of this trial. The conclusions that I have drawn from the case help to convey information about the 18th Century.

The first major conclusion that I made about this trial is that the facts of the case seem unreliable. There is a feeling of suspicion surrounding the facts presented that condemned Pochowachett. The first thing that seems suspicious to me is the fact that the accuser does not appear to be directly involved in the proceedings. He seems to have spoken to someone and had that person relay the information. While this conclusion I have drawn may not be correct, I think that the fact that it is even a strong possibility is enough to call into question the overall validity of the case.

The second thing that seemed suspicious was that the Surgeon did not perform a search of Pochowachett for signs of sores that are a consequence of the sexually transmitted disease he supposedly gave to Bossa. I find it very strange because if the presence of these sores on Bossa were so clearly evidence of the Buggery act, than should they therefore also be present on Pochowachett? The act of a search, to which Pochowachett consented, would have been a clear and simple determinant of his guilt or innocence.

I am not trying to imply that Pochowachett is absolutely innocent, it’s just that the entire time I was reading and looking into the facts of this case, there was just something that did not sit right with me. I have tried to look for specific examples (as seen above) to support this feeling. However, not all feelings can be directly supported. This may be one of those instances where I am looking for a problem that is actually there. I would like to stress that I am not calling Bassa a liar, nor am I claiming that Pochowachett is a saint. I am just saying that the nature of the evidence leaves room for doubt which is in a way quite unsettling when studying this case as factual history. Pochowachett was sentenced to death for his crime, and I cannot help but wonder if it was entirely deserved.

Sodomite or Not… You are NOT Innocent Mr. Bradbury.

Sodomy /ˈsɒdəmi/ is generally anal sex, oral sex or sexual activity between a person and a non-human animal (bestiality), but may also include any non-procreative sexual activity.[1][2][3] Originally, the term sodomy was commonly restricted to anal sex,[4][5] and is derived from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in chapters 18 and 19 of the Book of Genesis in the Bible.[6] Sodomy laws in many countries criminalized not only these behaviors, but other disfavored sexual activities as well.[5][7] In the Western world, however, many of these laws have been overturned or are not routinely enforced.


By this definition and in terms of this case in particular, the act of sodomy is one where there is non-procreative sexual activity involved.  Essentially, a man having a sexual relationship with another man, or more accurately by my definition of this case, a man having a sexual relationship with an uneducated 14-year-old boy.

It is interesting; however, not surprising that the main act of evil in this case is the act of having non-procreative sex and not that a grown man is having non-consensual sex with a boy.  This is because, as far as I could tell, there was no real age of consent.  I read in some places that the age of consent was 10, in other places that it was 16 and in other places that there was no legal age of consent.  There were minimum ages for marriage, which could easily be lowered with parental consent; however, I guess law makers of the time did not think to create a law for an age of consent for sexual relationships, which is why I believe the victim’s age is not brought to question.  But, God forbid two men have sex.  Even though age was not as important in the the 1750’s, I make it a point to look at this trial with a more modern perspective, and I would regard this case to be more so about pederasty than sodomy.  There are many instances through out this trial where the prisoner, Mr. Bradbury does not deny that he said things that were less than appropriate and acted in inappropriate ways.  In fact, it seems as though he may have even been pushing that fact, as to hide his guilt in the actual committing of sodomy.  Which is like basically saying, “I did not completely commit this crime, and therefore I am innocent.” Unfortunately, it seems as though this defence was enough, because there were no attacks to these claims.  No one stood up to say, “Ummm… It’s actually still pretty bad to stalk a young boy around town and sleep in beds with him… Isn’t it?”  But, no.  Essentially, it was okay to act inappropriately in bed with a young man, so long as you did not penetrate him.


There are a few factors that lead to the lengthiness and attention
that was put into this trial.  Firstly, the prosecutor is a 14-year-old boy
who was abandoned by his father after changing his religion from papist
(Roman Catholic) to protestant.  The other factor that leads to the attention that was given to this accusation was that the accused was a Mr. Charles Bradbury, a preacher.  A well-respected and followed preacher of the time, such as himself, could not possibly have committed such a crime.  They may not have been as well aware of this concept at that time, but someone’s title does not necessarily or definitely define them… Luckily for Mr. Bradbury though, during the 18th century, many people trusted the title of a preacher or man of God to do the right thing and to practice what they preached.

The Prosecution
During the prosecution, young James Hearne is continually asked about the numerous occasions that Mr. Bradbury had allegedly committed sodomy with him.  During the questioning, Hearne very modestly described the indecent actions displayed by Bradbury, despite his discomfort in talking about these situations.  I can relate to this discomfort that he displayed, because, I myself, do not wish to re-write these facts, even though they have nothing to do with me:

Hearne. “After we put the candle out, and we were in the bed, he flung his legs about me, and kiss’d me; and first tried with his finger to enter my body, then he tried with his y – d, and did enter as far as he could, and his s – d came from him…”

 Again, I would like to clarify that I see this as a man taking advantage of a boy, and not a man and a man having sex.  However, the court at the time would have seen it as two men having sex, but with one of the men (James Hearne) apparently not being aware of the severity and wrongness of this action, and therefore being taken advantage of by Mr. Bradbury.  Since some of the words are blanked out for modesty’s sake, it can be difficult to understand the true meaning of what was said in the court room; however, I think that we can imagine the correct words in this context.

The Defence
Luckily for Mr. Bradbury, he had many supporters and followers who maintained that he was innocent of any such crime, such as the Pickerings and the Browns.  Their main argument was cemented around the fact that the boy had previously taken back his accusation and had signed a document that stated that he had lied and that he was sorry.  However, I do not know that these couples are the most reliable of the bunch, because they were often seen drunk, and furthermore, had lost this signed document, and needed to get young Hearne to sign it a second time!

You might wonder why Hearne would retract his statement if it were in fact true, but you must understand that this boy was all alone in the world, and depended on strangers to give him shelter and to keep him alive.  Unfortunately, his main access to a roof normally came from Mr. Bradbury’s connections.  By accusing Bradbury of this crime, he would have lost all of that.  To the judge, he claimed that the only reason that he lied and made the retraction was because Bradbury had threatened to kill him, and that his own father too, would kill him for having changed his faith from Roman Catholic to Protestant, if he ever found him, therefore convincing Hearne to retract what he had said and to be aided in leaving the country:

Hearne. He put his y – d into my body. There was stuff came from his body. I said I could not bear it. Then he took it out, and said James, your father swears vengeance against you for following me, and says if he ever sees you, he’ll knock your brains out. I would have you get away. Then I said, I would very willingly go abroad.

The Crime That Shall Not Be Named
I think we all know where I am going with this.  We are (for the most part) all familiar with the popular Harry Potter novels, and know that if I am suggesting that this crime was so bad, that it should not be named–that it was BAD.  Voldemort Bad.  This trial really demonstrates the seriousness that courts and justices had in regards to the act of sodomy.  Just by reading the initial paragraph that summarizes the accusation gives you a really good indication of just how severe this crime was:

Charles Bradbury was indicted, for that he, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being mov’d and seduc’d by the instigation of the devil, on James Hearne , feloniously did make an assault , and the said James Hearne , did carnally know, and with him, the said James, did commit that detestable crime not fit to be named in a christian country, called sodomy , April 14.

 If you think about it, the act of sodomy was like the crime that shall not be named.  Sodomy in the 18th century was the Voldemort of all crimes, if you can believe it.  I realize that in this post, I show my disgust in an older man taking advantage of a young boy, but you should remember that it is sodomy that is being questioned in this trial.  People of the 18th century really did hate sodomy.  They did not care about the age of James Hearne.  They cared that two men had sex on multiple occasions, and they would have been furious and disgusted by it. Of course, we still have intolerance today, but can we all just take a collective sigh of relief that it is no longer punishable by DEATH?  “sigh.”


So, back to the case… We have an incredibly serious crime, a preacher, and an impressionable young man who has switched religions, went back and forth in whether or not he wanted to accuse Mr. Bradbury or not, and who has seemed to be aimlessly drifting along.  Who do you think the people of the time would have wanted to believe?  James Hearne does seem incredibly wish-washy, this much is true; however, he did end up taking the matter to court, thus risking his life and furthermore, disclosing what would have been embarrassing and intimate details about his lying with Mr. Bradbury, which I think would have taken a lot of strength to have done.  I would tend to side with James Hearne, because even though there were no other witnesses to the actual act of sodomy, as they were always alone in a dark room, the fact remains that they were alone in a bed in the dark, plenty of times.

You might remember that I had previously mentioned the lack of anyone standing up and saying, “stalking boys is bad too, Mr. Bradbury…” well, Bradbury would go out of his way to lie with James Hearne.  For example, Mr. Whitaker, one of the people defending Hearne, had said that he had very poor lodgings for both Hearne and Bradbury to sleep in, but Bradbury still insisted upon doing so.  Mind you, Bradbury could have undoubtedly lied elsewhere.

Hearne.  …I went to Mr. Whitaker’s house, that night to lie. Mr. Whitaker said, he had but poor lodging for me; but if I accepted it, I should live there till he got me a master; and on the Tuesday night following, Mr. Bradbury came and desired to know if he could lie there.

 Another important detail about Bradbury’s staying at the Whitaker’s comes from Margaret Whitaker,

Q. Did Mr. Bradbury lie at your house in that time?
M. Whitaker . He did four or five times; the reason why he did it was ; that he was nearer his preaching place, than his own home, and he wanted to spend an evening with my husband. I told him I had a bed, but it was a very small one; where Hearne lay , was up two pair of stairs, he said any place, he did not mind any thing. So I mov’d out of my own bed, and we lay in the little bed, and let him and Hearne lie in our own bed.
Q. Did he lie there four or five times with Hearne ?
M. Whitaker . He did in our bed, and my husband and I above in the other at the time.
Q. Has he ever wanted to lie at your house, before the boy came to your house?
M. Whitaker . No; he never has. I never spoke to him before his coming there .
Q. Did he ever want to lie there after the boy was gone?
M. Whitaker. No, he would not, although I ask’d him several times ; then he would say it was a great way to go, I used to say it was no farther than usual.

What is of particular interest here is that Mrs. Whitaker accurately describes what Bradbury’s reasoning was for having to stay at their house, being because it was closer to his preaching place.  However, after the boy no longer lived there and Mrs. Whitaker kindly invited Bradbury over for his convenience, he declined and in fact replied that it would be contradictioninconvenient for him to stay there.  Thus, directly contradicting and discrediting his previous reasons for having to lodge there, despite the lack of space available.

I would conclude by mentioning that the prosecution was far more compelling than the defense.  Granted, they both had their strengths and weaknesses, I would suggest that the defense had fewer strengths and more weaknesses.

With that being said, the verdict was that Mr. Charles Bradbury was acquitted and therefore innocent.  jon-stewart-huh
Why, you might ask?  Because, seemingly on a whim, young James Hearne again says that he was lying the whole time and that nothing indecent occurred between he and Mr. Bradbury.

Q. to Hearne. Is this the truth? had you this conversation in the Poultry-compter ? what do you say to it?
Hearne. Yes, I had; he is innocent .
Court. You have sworn now he is guilty , how do you reconcile it? do you now say he is innocent?
Hearne. Yes.
Q. […]
Hearne. He is innocent.
Council for the crown .
Has any body spoke to you since you came into court?
Hearne. No . (He cry’d)
Q. What do you cry for?
Hearne . My conscience accuses me; and because I have spoke lies .
Acquitted .

If you read this trial in its entirety, then I think that you will be as shocked as I was by the quick ending.  The questioning went on for a long time, and both sides had said their piece.  Quite frankly, I believed that Bradbury would be declared guilty and he would be punished.  Is it possible that Hearne may have also felt that he was going to win the trial, and therefore had a rushing feeling that he should stop his lies before they ruin someone’s life?  Or, was he still afraid of being killed by Bradbury or one of his followers?  I find it very confusing that a court would take a crime so seriously, just to end it so abruptly with an acquittal.  After looking at the statements from both parties, it is apparent to modern readers that an unlawful and wrong act occurred, on a regular basis. However, we would more likely see this as a crime of pederasty, which is in many cultures a branch of pedophilia, while those in the 18th century, would have seen it as a crime of sodomy.  Since the boy recanted his statement of Bradbury being guilty of sodomy, there was no reason for the court to question the ethics of what did happen.

What Does This Say About the Laws and Ethics in 1755?
From this account of an 18th century trial and crime, I would be stating the obvious, in saying that the justice at the time was not looking at the wrongfulness of the alleged acts in the right way.  At least by today’s standards.  The emphasis being put on the sodomite instead of the rapist, or pedophile or pederast, speaks to the shift of priorities from then to now.  Had this account occurred in this century, then I believe that Mr. Bradbury would not have been allowed to walk free, for not having participated in non-procreative sex, but rather he would be punished, monitored, and publicly shamed for his inappropriate behavior and actions with a young boy for the remainder of his life.

I would like to add, that up until 1861, all proven acts of sodomy were punishable by death.  In order for someone to be guilty of this crime, there would have needed to be two people who witnessed a man penetrate another man and ejaculate.  After 1861, the punishment for this crime was lessened to time in prison; however, less evidence was needed to convict someone of the crime.  Due to the necessity of eye witnesses, very few men were actually convicted in the 18th century, but it was still seen as one of the most detestable crimes.  Oddly, lesbianism wasn’t a big deal.

Hannah Bulman



Jack Sheppard: Housebreaker & Escape Artist Extraordinaire

Sheppard was a thief, a romantic hero, a highwayman of the urban proletariat, a Houdini whom no prison could hold.

ImageOn November 16th, 1724, after four successful escapes from prison, Jack Sheppard was captured for the last time and hanged at the gallows at Tyburn for his crimes of theft. Despite being only twenty-two years of age at the time of his execution and an active criminal for less than two years, he became a notorious figure across the classes for his cunning abilities as an escape artist.

To understand Sheppard’s case fully we need to start at the beginning.

Jack Sheppard was born in 1702 into the lower working class; his father was a carpenter as his grandfather was before him. While Sheppard and his only surviving sibling, Thomas, were still young their father died, leaving their mother to raise them. He spent two years at a school at Bishopsgate Street before beginning his apprenticeship as a carpenter.

His career as a carpenter seemed promising, but before he had completed his six-year apprenticeship, he fell into the company of “abandoned women” in his frequenting of the tavern, Black Lion. One of the most prominent women in his acquaintance was Elizabeth Lyon or “Edgworth Bess” as she was known. And this became the beginning of Jack Sheppard’s criminal career.

Taking advantage of his work as a carpenter, Sheppard frequently robbed the houses he was working on and brought his newly acquired possessions to Edgworth Bess. He decided to make a career out of housebreaking when he realized his success in the act.

The Arrests & Subsequent Escapes:

1. Tom Sheppard was also a carpenter and a thief, and in August of 1773 “he was indicted at the Old Bailey for two petty offences, and being convicted was burned in the hand.” He sought out his brother after his discharge to borrow forty shillings and for Jack to take him on as a partner in crime. Jack agreed and the brothers set out with Edgworth Bess and robbed the shop of linen-draper, Mrs. Cook, as well as the home of Mr. Phillips. Tom was caught and brought into custody when he went to sell some of the stolen goods to Mrs. Cook. In hopes to save himself he offered up the names of his brother and Edgworth Bess, but the two were not found.

A companion of Jack Sheppard’s, James Sykes or “Hell and Fury” betrayed his friend by calling a constable in hopes of receiving a reward upon his conviction. Sheppard was taken into custody, sent before the magistrate, and, upon his orders, was taken to St. Giles Roundhouse. But during the night he broke through the timber roof of the building and made his first escape.

2. Sheppard’s second arrest came on May 19th 1774, when he was crossing Leicester Fields with an acquaintance named Benson. Benson attempted to pickpocket a man out of his watch, but failed and the man cried out, “A pickpocket!” Sheppard was caught and spent the night at St. Ann’s Roadhouse, and was visited by Edgworth Bess who was then taken into custody “on suspicion of being one of his accomplices.” The next day they were seen before a magistrate, charged with felonies and sent to New Prison. They were believed to be husband and wife, and therefore were permitted to lodge together in the room known as Newgate Ward. Within a few days of his stay at New Prison, Sheppard launched his escape. After procuring the required instruments for his escapes from a number of visitors, “he filed off his fetters and, having made a hole in the wall, he took an iron bar and a wooden one out of the window; but as the height from which he was to descend was twenty-five feet he tied a blanket and sheet together, and, making one of them fast to a bar in the window.” The two descended down the rope of blankets, and then proceeded to climb over the twenty-two foot surrounding wall by using the locks and bolts of the gate to pull themselves over it.

3. Joseph “Blueskin” Blake was another notorious thief of the 18th Century who was executed just days before Sheppard’s execution. “Blueskin” became the associate of Jack Sheppard and in their time together they committed countless bold robberies. The two men sometimes entrusted their ill-gotten gains to William Field who promised to find a buyer for their goods. Field betrayed Sheppard and “Blueskin” by stealing their goods and turning information of the two thieves over to Jonathan Wild. Sheppard had made an enemy of Wild when he refused to work with him, and when he heard of Sheppard’s latest robberies he turned him and his accomplice in, which led to their arrest. Wild was otherwise called “Thief-Taker General,” and he was known for playing both sides of the law; he was seen as both a crime fighter and a prominent gang leader.

“On Monday, the 30th of August, 1724, a warrant was sent to Newgate for the execution of Sheppard.”

On the evening of the warrant, two ladies went to Newgate to visit Sheppard. Before their arrival, he had cut into one of the spikes that separated himself from visitors in order to weaken it. When the women arrived he broke the spike free, pulled through the opening and the women helped him down. It is said that some of the guards had been drinking on this night, allowing Sheppard to easily make his escape.

4. By his fourth arrest Jack Sheppard was a household name and he was considered a working class hero.

After his last escape he met up with a friend known only by Page. The men decided to travel to Northamptonshire to visit with Page’s family, but returned to London in under a week. Sheppard, after they returned, spotted a watchmaker’s shop attended by only a boy. He took advantage and made away with three watches. Friends informed Sheppard that serious efforts were being made to bring him back into custody, so it was decided that they would go to Finchley to wait until the efforts of the search died down. But information of Sheppard’s whereabouts reached the “jail-keepers” and he was brought into custody again.

Having been fooled so many times before by Jack Sheppard, strict steps were taken to prevent another escape. “He was put into a strong-room called the ‘Castle,’ (…) loaded with a heavy pair of irons, and chained to a staple fixed in the floor.” This did not deter the great Jack Sheppard. From the statement of Sheppard himself, it is known that visitors were watched allowing him no assistance, but he spied a nail on the floor of his room. He got himself out of his chains, but was unable to flee his cell. When he was found, he was also given handcuffs.

Sheppard attempted a second time to escape his sinister fate. First he released himself from his handcuffs and shackles, and then proceeded to create a hole in the chimney, which led him to the Red Room that had long been abandoned. About the room Sheppard said: “the door had not been unlocked for seven years; but I intended not to be seven years in opening it.” Not long after he opened the door, and made his way into the chapel. He then made his way through a series of rooms and hallways and made his final escape over the wall with the whole escape taking him approximately five hours. Image

Final Capture & Execution:

The fate of Jack Sheppard was secured in his fifth and final arrest due to his decision to indulge himself in the hard stuff. He spent the early evening drinking with his mother, and left her to drink about the neighbourhood visiting with many friends and acquaintances. His companions attempted to warn him about his inebriated state, but he ended the night by being taken into custody and was unable to resist.

He was visited by a countless number of people from all ranks of society during his final days. Sheppard told the visitors stories of his robberies and escapes, and pled with noblemen to intercede. He also frequented the chapel during his time before execution. “Having been already convicted, he was carried to the bar of the Court of King’s Bench on the 10th of November, and the record of the conviction being read, and an affidavit being made that he was the same John Sheppard mentioned in the record, sentence of death was passed upon him by Mr. Justice Powis, and a rule of court was made for his execution on the Monday following.”

Although his fate lay before him, Sheppard did not yet give up. He brought with him a penknife in an attempt to cut away the ropes that held his arms and flee into the crowd, but an officer found it in his pocket (he also cut himself in the process).

Sheppard also asked that his friends place him in a warm bed after his execution and to open a vein. He had been told that this act would revive him.

The attending crowd was sorrowful as Jack Sheppard accepted his fate with decency. It is said that he died with great difficulty. His body was given to his companions and taken to Long Acre to a public-house, and he was later buried in the cemetery of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields.

This is an excerpt from the sermon following his death:

“Oh, that ye were all like Jack Sheppard! — Mistake me not, my brethren, I don’t mean in a carnal but in a spiritual sense, for I mean to spiritualize these things. — What a shame it would be if we should not think it worth our while to take as much pains and employ as many deep thoughts to save our souls, as he has done to preserve his body.”


Final Thoughts:

Jack Sheppard can be said to be the real life version of Robin Hood (although there is speculation that Robin Hood was initially based off of a real man); both were outlaws known for their clever and cunning ways, but, despite their criminal behaviour, they both became known as heroes among the lower class. The two men also dealt with corrupt lawmen in Jonathan Wild and the Sheriff of Nottingham respectively. While Robin Hood is regarded as a philanthropist, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, this is a relatively recent adaptation that was used to appeal to young children.

Despite Sheppard’s criminal behaviour, he remained non-violent throughout his life. He also reached out a hand to his fellow companions (although his help was illegal). During his first robbery with his brother he allowed Tom to keep all of their goods. He also never turned in any of his companions or sought revenge on those that betrayed him.

Jack Sheppard was educated, and he was also viewed as witty and handsome, and became a hero among many. He was immortalized in a number of plays, poems and books after his death, and he was even mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula:

“He is safe now, at any rate. Jack Sheppard himself couldn’t get free from the strait waistcoat that keeps him restrained, and he’s chained to the wall in the padded room.”

So what does Jack Sheppard’s account say about the 18th Century? First, theft was treated a lot differently than it is today. I can hardly imagine someone receiving the death penalty for Sheppard’s crimes. We do not even have the death penalty in Canada. Second, I think that Sheppard’s case says more about us than it does about him. Why was he so popular, why did masses of people celebrate him and his exploits?

I think it is because of his social status. Jack Sheppard was a man of the working class, and in his robberies and escapes he was seen as rebelling against authority as well as the social structures of his time. We can still see this idea today. Think of Bonnie and Clyde who are still celebrated in books, songs, and movies. While many would view the murders they were responsible for as wrong, people are more forgiving about the bank robberies. Maybe this is partly due to the way society feels about banks. Especially in light of recent events in America, the working class views the banks as “robbers.”

The gap between the rich and poor is constantly growing, especially with the vanishing of the middle class. While class structure now seems different than in the 18th century, we do not speak in terms of noblemen and aristocracy, but the vast divide remains – and may be seen to be all the more frivolous today. Think of Beyonce reportedly buying her toddler an $80,000 diamond-encrusted doll, while a woman down the street is unable to provide basic nutritional requirements for her own children. How does this make you feel?

People are working three jobs, looking to food banks for support, and are still straddling the poverty line. And for those of us at the bottom of the economic ladder it seems we’ve also got the most hands in our pockets. People are responding to this gap – think of movements like Occupy Wall Street. Peaceful protest is often quickly shut down, and usually by force. People are not being heard, and situations hardly seem any better than in Sheppard’s day. Think of the wildly popular series, Breaking Bad; a show about a working class man who learns he has lung cancer. He then turns to a life of crime to ensure his family is financially secure after his death. Walter White is tattooed on arms, and displayed on t-shirts for the same reasons that Jack Sheppard has been written about in plays and novels: they both stick up a middle finger to authority and refuse to accept the hand that’s been dealt to them.

Charles MacKay had this to say about the notoriety of thieves in his book, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds:

“Whether it be that the multitude, feeling the pangs of poverty, sympathise with the daring and ingenious depredators who take away the rich man’s superfluity, or whether it be the interest that mankind in general feel for the records of perilous adventure, it is certain that the populace of all countries look with admiration upon great and successful thieves.” 

What are your thoughts on Jack Sheppard and his case?

Sources and further study of Jack Sheppard:




And a song that reminded me of Sheppard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOQ4pkUAFbA

Friendliness Mistaken for Flirtation and the Fight for Love


The eighteenth century, a time commonly thought to have been characterized by happiness and simplicity among many in the modern day, certainly did not live up to those standards on the 26th day of June, 1785. On that fateful day the assailant John Hogan had beaten Ann Hunt within an inch of her life, cast down to the floor like a pile of rubbish then having been hit repeatedly with a common household broom; finally she was violently cut with a razor along her neck, torso, and arms. John Hogan left her there to die. It was not until eight hours later that the said Ann Hunt would succumb to the beating laid upon her skull, and the lacerations given to her throat and body. The murder was later found to be premeditated.

ImageA broom in close resemblance to Hogan’s murder weapon

Trial Summary

At the trial Ms. Hunt was described to have been a young servant to the home of Mr. Orrell, an attorney. John Hogan had been a porter to a cabinet maker. It was at the Orell’s home that Hogan had first met Ann Hunt:

“the prisoner asked her for something to drink, for some water or small beer, this was the first conversation he had with her, she then good naturedly gave him some(…)” Image

A sentiment even more common in modern society

It appeared that Ms. Hunt had a disposition common to many women within the eighteenth century: she had ultimately obliged Mr. Hogan. From thence Hogan had gone to visit Hunt once a week and a close friendship had begun: “this caused a degree of intimacy.” Oddly, John Hogan only went to visit the home on Sunday, the same days that the Orrell’s would have gone to church leaving Hunt alone. Many during the eighteenth century held their spiritual lives in high regard of significance. This Sunday would have seemed much like any other, but on this sacred day Ann Hunt was also murdered. The Orrell’s returned from church that day to discover Hunt, “her throat cut from ear to ear, her breast cut in many places, one of her arms broke, and one of her fingers broke, and a dreadful fracture upon her scull.” At this point in time the Orrell’s thought Ann Hunt might have killed herself. This explanation seemed quite possible because a death like this had been uncommon. It was at the scene that the broom had been found; the razor was later discovered cast into the fire.

Leading up to the Murder

Interestingly, it had been the milkman who described Hogan seen within the area at the same time carrying a nosegay. Hogan’s nosegay had been found in cold blood at the scene of the crime, almost as if it had been his trademark. Along with this circumstantial evidence it was later discovered that some of Mr. and Mrs. Orrell’s belongings had also been stolen from the home and later found to be pawned. Among these objects was a cloak belonging to Mrs. Orrell as well as eight silver spoons. This had been a time before the invention of surveillance cameras, but it was still discovered that a woman living with the accused unknowingly brought the cloak belonging to Mrs. Orrell in to the local pawnbroker.


ImageA modern fashion statement corsage closely resembling the nosegay of three cabbage roses found on the floor at the scene of the crime

The Aftermath

During Mr. Orrell’s testimony he stated that after finding Hunt covered in her own blood and lying lifeless in the corner of the kitchen a surgeon nearby had to be called in for assistance. This surgeon then told Mr. Orrell to immediately take Ms. Hunt, clinging to life, to the hospital where it was found she had several broken bones in her facial structure. Mr. Hogan was soon suspected and it was then decided he should be shown the body of his victim following her death. In modern times those taken in for questioning are often shown pictures of the victim’s body. This is done to see if they express any emotion; Hogan himself was somber. Upon further questioning John Hogan had not been willing to give a response, and for lack of evidence was then released. The surgeon at the time noticed that Hogan had cuts on his hands as if he had been in a fight with someone. Hogan was again taken into custody for further suspicion. This suspicion was drawn from many of the suspect’s clothes containing blood-like stains at the time of first questioning. In the modern era items such as these would often be discarded shortly after a murder, but they were not in this case. Perhaps this was because many people in those times paid well for their attire, or had only owned a few pieces of clothing (which was quite common in those times). Hogan stated he had been involved in a fight. So why didn’t he dispose of his clothes?

In the Court

During Hogan’s court appearance many witnesses, including the milkman, the surgeon, the pawnbroker, and a neighbor who helped the Orrell’s were present. Many statements had reason to believe John Hogan was guilty; he not only denied this fact, but had no alibi. After hearing about the nosegay which was seen by the milkman and left at the crime scene, the belongings of the Orrell’s proven to have been once in Hogan’s possession, the cuts upon Hogan, and the stains found on his clothing showing “very strong resistance” his guilt was further emphasized. This may have been a time before DNA testing, but the court had as much proof needed for the jury to gain a verdict.

Leading up to the Verdict: Another Woman

Shortly prior to this verdict having been given it just so happened that the woman living in the same home as the accused had yet not given her own account of the events. This woman by the name of Elizabeth Pugh stated she had not been married to the prisoner. While the trial does not elaborate why the two were cohabiting together it is quite interesting to question. One would think that a man and woman living together in the eighteenth century was unheard of (See further research below). This woman living with Hogan at the time stated he never had any intent to harm Ann Hunt. His only motive had been:

“he wanted to be great with her, and she resisted.”

The woman prior to the murder had known nothing more than what the papers had published after the death of Hunt. After having questioned Hogan herself (before the trial) she was forbidden to tell anyone because if he found out he would have killed her as well.
Prisoner Statement and Final Plea
All Hogan had to say at the time was that he may have taken the spoons and disposed of them, but he certainly did not kill Ann Hunt. So how did the spoons come into his possession, and why did he later admit to throwing them over London Bridge?

The prisoner did not speak much during the session as if shocked to have been caught. With a multitude of evidence against John Hogan the court stated, “it will be very fortunate that society should be rid of a man so perfectly destitute of all humanity, and whose conduct has been the most barbarous that ever came before a Court of Justice for their enquiry.” Perhaps in the modern era if someone such as Hogan had admitted to the crime at an earlier time they may have gained a lighter sentence. As the court closed it was mentioned by the judge:

“for, to butcher, in that savage and inhuman manner, the unhappy object, who had been but a few minutes before the object of your brutal desires and appetites, argues a degree of savage inhumanity and ferocity, unknown to the nature of the fiercest beasts, reserved for man alone, and thank God, only for such as you! Loaded with such a degree of guilt on your mind, you have shewn a hardness of heart, that has enabled you to view the unhappy victim of your cruelty without emotion, a spectacle so shocking, (…) happy will it be for you, if that trouble and uneasiness is, in the short time you have to live, increased to the utmost degree of horror and remorse; for it is the utmost degree of horror and remorse alone, that can wipe from the guilty conscience the stains of innocent blood, and obtain that mercy from your offended God, which you cannot expect from man.”

It wasn’t until January 11th of the following year, 1786 John Hogan was sentenced to hanging. His final words to the judge were “please your honour, I am innocent of it, and whoever takes my life away, I will never forgive them.”
After his death his body was to be dissected and anatomized. It isn’t mentioned how close of relationship Hogan had with Hunt or precisely what happened that very day of June 26th; Hogan never admitted to anything. What might have happened if Hogan had never been caught? Would he have found another mistress? They always say a new broom sweeps clean, and I guess Ann Hunt just didn’t make the cut! Nonetheless, Justice was given.
In an article by Rebecca Probert assessing cohabitation it is mentioned unmarried man living with an unmarried man was viewed as an act of fornication. These acts were simply unheard of to those within the eighteenth century: “cohabiting couples were treated as fornicators by the church courts, and punished accordingly. Since the start of the twentieth century, however, the law has gradually accepted that cohabitants should be regarded as members of each others family for a whole range of legal purposes” (Probert). While the jury never questioned the relationship between John Hogan and Elizabeth Pugh it would have been interesting to hear their reasoning. Could Pugh have been involved in the murder as well? They were not married, but were they a mutual couple?
As Probert’s article suggests, “All too often, misunderstandings of such terms – and similarly ambiguous terms such as ‘mistress’ – have led to such relationships being categorised as early forerunners of today’s cohabiting relationships, when they are nothing of the sort” (Probert). Could this provide any further insight into suggesting the two were in fact copulating? One could hypothesize that once Pugh discovered Hogan was interested in Hunt she would have had no trouble giving a true testimony at the trial. Perhaps Pugh herself was jealous of the other woman and committed the act herself?
Not only did murder have a consequence, but fornication was also judged: “Those who ignored the summons to court and the subsequent sentence would be excommunicated – a powerful weapon in the context of the time” (Probert). Most matters were taken into account by the church courts of the time. The article states by cohabiting suspicions would rise. Most of these cases are determined to have not led to fornication.
After the decline of church courts the switch was made to have binding contracts between the cohabiting couple. As Probert mentions these contracts were meant to prevent a ruined reputation. Those followed through with cohabitation were often of a higher class: “While any list of eighteenth-century aristocrats who maintained a mistress would be a very long one, the list of those who shared a home with the woman would be much shorter” (Probert). Not only did Hogan possibly murder Hunt, but he was also cohabiting with a woman. As the trial does not go into much detail of the relationship between Hogan and Pugh, it is still worthwhile noting its existence even within the eighteenth century. In modern day the act of cohabitation is becoming more acceptable and prominent.
Violence Among Women
For now let us once again focus on the facts rather than speculation. It is certain that the death of Ann Hunt could not have been preventable. An article by Roderick Phillips states women in distress often fled to the neighbours of their gender: “women gave assistance of all kinds moral support, emotional comfort, physical refuge and protection, and medical assistance” (Phillips). In the case of Ann Hunt help came too late.
This article mentions men would never offer much assistance to a women. These women were often under the control of their own husband. One would wonder what a male neighbour would have done for Ann Hunt who had not been married under the control of a man? The article by Phillips also mentions the beating of a woman was justifiable to a limited degree if their was cause to allow it. An example is given of men attending a dinner party in which a woman was being beaten by her husband. Women were more easily able to intervene in a situation. The men in this example only watched the actions until the husband raised a knife to the women. The reactions would have been quite different from each gender in the time of the eighteenth century.
Neighbours were the closest people who could be a witness of situations. Within the article by Phillips it is mentioned these neighbours provided surveillance and protection. One could imagine that the untimely death of Ann Hunt was so sudden which gave none of the neighbours suspicion to act upon. Her throat was slit so that she could not call out for help.
Within another article by Joanne Bailey violence was suggested to be a sign of the times: “violence in the early modern period was carried out as if it were theatre or a spectacle, occurring in more ‘public’ places in front of witnesses. By the end of the eighteenth century, on the other hand, it was becoming more
(Bailey). This article also states the reasoning men would have to beat a woman in the home: “Early modern men were permitted to respond aggressively to any physical or verbal challenge to their reputation. Traditional forms of manhood, however, came under attack in the long eighteenth century as civility made its mark” (Bailey). Hogan himself was likely enraged having learn Hunt had no such romantic interest for him. This article goes into excessive detail on the subject of beating a woman.
Closing Comments
The memento mori gives voice to the eighteenth century. With the trial transcript for John Hogan given a discussion arises centering the death of Ann Hunt. While most would have thought beforehand that the eighteenth century was quite simplistic, it also was characterized by brutality. Though we may have discussed literature primarily the concept of a memento mori gives historical background. A trial transcript from the eighteenth century allows us to make comparisons and assessments. These further put that information in context.
This trial should have given us information about religion, family and friends, crime scene investigation, technology, eye-witness testimony, etc. Nonetheless even though comparisons were made one can often be left with questions. What was the motive to the murder? Did it accomplish anything? Would Hogan have killed again? These questions and many more peak the interest of the reader. It is quite important though that speculation is not caused.
From completing my memento mori I learned many fascinating concepts. I was quite surprised Elizabeth Pugh was not taken as a suspect. It seemed her testimony was believable. Could there have been a possibility that she committed the murder and framed John Hogan? It is also interesting that the jury can easily come to a verdict. In a modern sense trials can go on for years before a verdict is given. It seems in this time there had been no chance to appeal. One could imagine that many were wrongfully sentenced.
When I chose this trial I found it to be very interesting. As I began I made minor comparisons to the modern day. I began to find myself making more comparisons which made speculation arise. The complexity of this trial can create difficulty as our questions are not always answerable with the information given.
Major comparisons towards society also play a role. From analysis towards cohabitation and the violence of women the time of the eighteenth century is no longer viewed as simplistic. I really enjoyed the opportunity to explore this trial in great detail. If I were to continue posing questions I don’t think I could ever receive an answer that might later be disproven through further research.
Now that I have given my thoughts…What are your own concerning the trial and verdict?
Bailey, Joanne. “‘I Dye [Sic] By Inches’: Locating Wife Beating In The Concept Of A Privatization Of Marriage And Violence In Eighteenth-Century England *.” Social History 31.3 (2006): 273-294. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Phillips, Roderick. “Women, Neighborhood, And Family In The Late Eighteenth Century.” French Historical Studies 18.1 (1993): 1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Probert, Rebecca, ‘From Fornicators to Family: Cohabitants and the Law, 1600-2010’ (June 22, 2011). Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-08. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1869932 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1869932
Image Sources:

Broom: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_images/120314_k6.jpg
Politeness: http://i.imgur.com/h3q2UAq.jpg
Corsage: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fCj8fRwcb6Q/Te73KvL6A4I/AAAAAAAAAAo/VytMiAGFcW0/s1600/Bloody+Flower.jpg
Grey’s Quote: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ljn0ehTJjs1qbpwzeo1_500.png

A modern interpretation possibly of close resemblance to John Hogan’s own character

(Click here to watch the original and dramatic video clip showing the context to this quote)

*Quote only correlates to John Hogan trial / Video clip for viewing and entertainment purposes*

Did he really love her, or were his intentions all along to rob the Orrell’s home?

A Cunning Defence: The Coventry Act Conviction of Coke and Woodburne

Sir John Coventry (d. 1682) was a member of the parliamentary opposition most known for the role that he played in the creation of the Coventry Act of 1671. Coventry, “during a [December, 1670] debate on playhouse tax […] hinted that King Charles II’s interest in the stage was confined to actresses.” Shortly following his comment in parliament, Coventry was attacked and had his nose slit. This attack on Coventry is generally considered to be retaliation by King Charles II: the assailants were given royal pardons to avoid punishment for their crimes. Parliament shortly thereafter passed a new Statute—known as the Coventry Act—making the act of causing injury, by a premeditated assault, a crime:

22 & 23 Car. II. c. 1 – An Act to Prevent Malicious Wounding and Maiming:

Any person on purpose and malice forethought, and by laying in wait, unlawfully cutting out or disabling the tongue, putting out an eye, slitting the nose, cutting off a nose or lip, or cutting or disabling any limb or member of any subject, with intention in so doing to maim or disfigure him; such a person, his counselors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy.

Despite the fact that the Coventry Act describes an offence that would now be convictable under several criminal laws, there was not a documented indictment under this statute for over fifty years following its inception. Unfortunately, no data is readily available on how many cases were tried under the Coventry Act where the defendants were acquitted. However, on March 13, 1721, Arundel Coke (alias Cooke, Esq.), a lawyer, and John Woodburne simultaneously stood trial for “purpose[fully], and of malice forethought, and by lying in wait […] unlawfully and feloniously mak[ing] an assault” (Coke 4) on Edward Crispe. This trial marked the first conviction under the Coventry Act, resulting in the hanging of both men. Unlike many of the trials on this blog, this one had done no great injustice to anyone—both parties offered confessions during the trial and were subsequently found guilty by the jury. The sentencing hearing, on the other hand, was anything but monotonous. Coke presented a very cunning defence, though it ultimately failed. The rulings that are made in response to Coke’s defence, and the events of the trial, allow for some fascinating observations about the legal system of Britain in the 18th century:

(1) the ‘letter of the law’ was highly important to the jury in establishing whether a person was guilty of a crime.

(2) much like today, judges had the ability to make rulings about the ‘spirit of the law,’ setting legal precedents for subsequent trials.

After the defendants had been sworn in, the Clerk of Arraigns provided a—very long-winded—reading of the charges. John Woodburne plead ‘Not Guilty’ to the charge of:

article-0-0004001500000258-730_634x429 on Purpose, of Malice forethought, and by Lying in wait, ma[d]e an Assault unlawfully and feloniously upon Edward Crispe […and] Slit the Nose of the said Edward Crispe, with an intent in so doing to disfigure the said Edward Crispe (5).

Arundel Coke, likewise, plead ‘Not Guilty’ to the charge of “abetting the Fact, which by the [Coventry] act is made one and the same Offense” (5).

The official language of the Coventry Act is probably getting repetitive already—I attempted to count the amount of times some variation of this charge was read in the trial transcript, but I lost count after the first three pages. However, I promise that there is a reason why I continue to highlight the specificity of the law as it was written.

D28Z-DaiichiTrailerHookSeveral witnesses were called to testify against Coke and Woodburne in order to establish the events that unfolded on January 1st, 1721. According to Crispe’s testimony, Coke invited him to supper on January 1st. After supper, about ten o’clock, Coke proposed that the two men walk to a friend’s house. They started out, crossing through the Churchyard adjacent to Coke’s house, when Mr. Coke began making a loud whistling noise. Upon this signal, Woodburne approached Mr. Crispe from behind and gave him a blow to the head, causing Mr. Crispe to lose his senses. Woodburne then used a ‘hook’ to slash Crispe’s face causing severe damage that Woodburne thought had killed Crispe (17). Coke then returned home, according to the testimony of Mr. Brown (another dinner guest of Coke’s), approximately ten minutes later, “out of breathe, as if he had been walking faster than ordinary” (8). When Brown asked, Coke told him that Crispe had “gone home in the dark” (8). However, after a few minutes, Crispe returned to the house “very much wounded and bloody” (8). Crispe explained that he had regained consciousness after a few minutes and stumbled toward the closest source of people–Coke’s house.

The prosecution called Mr. Sturgeon, the surgeon, to speak next (he was destined to become either a surgeon or a fisherman with a name like that, right?). He was called to Mr. Coke’s house to aid Crispe on the night of January 1st 1721, ultimately saving Crispe’s life by stitching his wounds and providing other medical attention. Sturgeon (the surgeon) gave a detailed account of the injuries that Mr. Crispe had suffered. The Counsel focused on one very specific part of Mr. Sturgeon’s testimony though:


Serj. Selby:      Was his Nose slit?

Sturg:               Yes, Sir, the Nose was cut from without into the Nostril; the Edge of the Nose was not cut through, but there was a Cut or Slit in the Nose that went through. I sow’d it up: it was indeed but with one Stitch; it is yet visible, and the nose was cut through (9-10).

Having such a substantial amount of evidence against them, both Woodburne and Coke stood in front of the court, and gave detailed confessions of their crimes. Content with the amount of evidence, the prosecution and the judge sent the jury to deliberate—though it did not take very long to reach a decision. The jury returned in approximately thirty minutes with the verdict of “Guilty,” for both men (26).

The next day—March 14th, 1721—the men returned to court for their sentencing, and this is where the trial got interesting (and why I kept repeating the official charges). Woodburne declined to speak when asked why he should avoid the penalty of death. Coke, however, used his chance to speak, launching into a very clever defence. Coke claimed that the Coventry act was a:

penal statute, and consequently by the known Rule of Law, not to be carried beyond the express Letter of it; consequently no Crime, of what Nature Magnitude soever, can fall within the Purview of it, but such as is Identically the same in every Circumstance, with that described by the Words of the Statute itself…These circumstances must all concur to constitute that particular Crime described by the Statute; and where any of them are wanting, of what Magnitude soever the Offense may be, ‘tis not the Offense which the Statute has specified (28).

Coke argued that in order to be convicted, the details must rigidly concur with the defined parameters of the law as it is written. That is, if all of the elements of the crime do not match the wording of the law, then the crime is not punishable by that law. Coke continued his defence by quoting several legal precedents where a defendant had been acquitted because the crime did not follow the letter of the law exactly, and that a person must be tried for the most serious crime that his actions match (28-29). He then argued that:

In [his] case, if it be taken upon the Evidence of Mr. Crispe, nothing more appear[ed] than the Assault itself: if [Coke’s] Confession be read, the lying in wait, and the Malice forethought, will be proved; but then it will be likewise proved, that [he] had no other Intention but to Kill, and had no other Part, but by giving Orders to Woodburne for that Purpose; and [his] confession must be taken altogether (29).

Coke’s defence—simply put—is that he did not order Mr. Woodburne to maim Crispe, but to kill him. Furthermore, if the jury convicted him due to his confession of hiring Woodburne to murder Crispe, his statement must be taken as a whole. Therefore, because his intentions were to commit murder and not to maim, he must be acquitted of the conviction under the Coventry Act and tried for murder. Coke goes on to say that because Crispe is alive, he obviously cannot be convicted of murdering Crispe, rendering him innocent of any crime (28-29).

If we recall the prosecution’s constant repetition of the Statute parameters, we get the sense that in the 18th century legal system the letter of the law appears to have much more importance than it does today. Further, it allows us to deduce that the letter of the law was considerably more important to the jury than the spirit of the law. The prosecution not only had to prove the actions of a defendant, but prove that those actions fit the crime they were trying a person for; the prosecutors repeated the crimes in the language of this Statute to the jury over and over again:

on purpose and malice forethought, and by laying in wait […] with intention in so doing to maim or disfigure him; such a person, his counselors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of felony.

The prosecutor also focused heavily on the part of Sturgeon-the-surgeon’s testimony that Woodburne had slit Crispe’s nose during the attack (9-10). This is because the Statute gives a series of examples of ‘maimings,’ one of which is “slitting the nose.” I initially wondered why Coke did not present his defence to the jury during the trial, especially if the jury’s decision is heavily dependent on the letter of the law. I have two hypotheses about this: the first is that, because of the mountain of evidence implicating Coke in the attack the jury would have been apprehensive to determine him innocent of any crime. Secondly, Coke felt that a barrage of legal precedents may have been over the heads of an jury uneducated in the minute details of the law—whereas, a judge may have been more inclined to rule that his objections had legal merit.

After Coke gave his impassioned plea for acquittal, the judge made two rulings:

(1)  “whether all the Circumstances of the Statute did not concur in [Coke’s] case, was a Matter of Fact, which the Jury…ha[d] tried; and on such trial they ha[d] found them all to concur” (Coke 35)

(2) despite the fact that murder was Coke’s intention, he would have had to maim Crispe in the process, based on how the conspirators had planned to murder Crispe; thus the intent to maim was integral in the intent to murder (35-36).

These decisions had the ability to provide several lasting ramifications on the judicial system of England in the 18th century. As can be seen with Coke’s defence, legal precedents were already being used to help determine the outcome of cases with similar circumstances—keep in mind that Coke was a lawyer, himself. By choosing to uphold Coke’s conviction—despite a rather witty use of precedents and deductive reasoning—the judge decided that the spirit of the law had still been broken and that Coke was guilty. Therefore, the judge decided that, in this case, the spirit of the law took precedence over the letter of the law. As this was the first ever conviction based on the Coventry Act: An Act to Prevent Malicious Wounding and Maiming, this judge set some very important legal precedents moving forward. It would now be possible for other judges and justices to use this case as a means to convict a person who premeditatedly attempted a murder, but only succeeded in wounding or maiming the person.

The court’s added emphasis on the spirit of the law has increased drastically in the years since 1721: so much so, in fact, that the letter of the law is no longer a widely known term. In what was a relatively minor court case in the 18th century, the Arundel Coke and John Woodburne case would have been monumental in our society because it was the first conviction under a new law. Court cases with such an ability to set legal precedents today gain an immense media following, and can be seen as intrinsic to the direction of a nation. These precedents are often quoted, used, and debated for years, if not decades. One can’t help but think of the historic Roe v. Wade case in the United States as a prime example of a judge setting a legal precedent, and the amount of attention that important cases like these can get. And on one final note: though he was justly convicted and eventually hanged for a heinous crime against a fellow human, one must give some credit to Mr. Arundel Coke; his failed defence was creative, if nothing else.

Works Cited

Coke, Arundel. The Tryal and Condemnation of Arudenl Coke alias Cooke Esq.; and of John Woodburne labourer, for felony, in slitting the nose of Edward Crispe Gent. London, M.DCC.XXII. (1722). 20 February 2014. Web.