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.


Guilty For Being A Woman : The Trial of Elizabeth Roberts

The 18th Century was a difficult time for women, and the legal system was no exception.  Women were deemed the property of their fathers, brothers, and husbands and considered to be the “lesser” being. Because of these perceptions, if a woman murdered the dominant male figure in her life there were grave implications.  This type of murder could even be considered petty treason, which was punishable by being burned at the stake. This notion of male-hierarchy placed women at an even further disadvantage in an already questionable legal system.  There are countless trials that exhibit this inequality, where women were condemned simply because of the perceptions surrounding them as a woman.

Today we have the ability to look at many of these legal events because of the Old Bailey site that has electronically recorded the proceedings that occurred in the Old Bailey Courthouse.  Let’s explore one of these trials and get a better understanding of the difficulties women faced, as well as get a better sense as to how the legal system functioned in the 18th century.


Trial Summary

The trial of Elizabeth Roberts (Bostock) is of particular interestElizabeth Roberts was accused of petty treason and killing her husband, Richard Bostock on the 22nd of May, 1725.  Richard died of stab wound to the left side of his body. Elizabeth’s trial was held at the Old Bailey on the 30th of June, 1725.  There were a number of witnesses who spoke at the trial, as well as Elizabeth’s own defence statement.  I will provide a detailed summary of what happened during that fateful trial.

Watchman Ball was the first to speak.  Ball described hearing a jumble in the Bostock household between 11 and 12 at night.  Perusing the noise, Ball said he went to the door and Elizabeth answered.  Ball said that Elizabeth requested the Watchman to call for her husband at the Cock Alehouse.  Ball noted that he was surprised of their marital status and commented on how “they lived an abominable life together”.  Ball said he did not fulfill her request, but came back at the end of his round to find Richard standing with the door ajar.  According to Ball, when he approached the door Elizabeth came running down the stairs completely nude and proceeded to slam the door, pushing Richard unto the street.  Ball said he heard quarrelling after that, but did not bother to investigate further as his shift was ending.   Later, Ball told the court he heard someone yelling for the watchman and sent for the constable.  Ball then stated the constable found Richard dead on the floor and drenched in blood. 

Nicholas Cooper was the next to speak.  Cooper’s social status and relation to Elizabeth and Richard is not shared in the trial notes.  Cooper remembered hearing Elizabeth calling for the watchmen and asking Cooper to come inside to help her husband.  In this statement, Cooper said that Elizabeth believes Richard passed out drunkenly; however, Cooper said he told her that he was very much dead.  Cooper then stated that Elizabeth said, “I am afraid I have given him an unhappy Blow. – For God’s Sake call a Surgeon”.

The constable, Nathaniel West spoke after Cooper.  West said that he went to the residence around 1 in the morning and found Elizabeth sitting in a melancholic state with the deceased body sitting at her feet and his head draped on her lap.  West presented Richard’s bloody clothing to the courtroom as evidence from the scene.  The constable then concluded his statement by saying on several previous occasions he has heard Elizabeth screaming “murder!”, suggesting a history of quarrelling

Swarton, who was another watchman, proceeded next.  Swarton said he was on duty around 11 at night near the Bostock residence.  He said he saw Richard standing outside his house waiting to get in for a considerable amount of time.  Swarton said that another woman who lived in the house came to let him in.  Swarton recalled there being cries of “murder!” and presumed that Richard was beating Elizabeth.  Swarton stated that Richard then came outside to talk to him and told Swarton that he had given Elizabeth a good beating.  Swarton said that when he told Richard not to beat his wife Richard replied, “My Wife! says he, Damn her, a Bitch, she’s none of my Wife, and I’ll turn her a-drift to-morrow.”  Swarton then concluded that he left and came back only after Richard had died and that Elizabeth stated Richard had done it to himself.

Joseph Barker was a neighbour of Elizabeth and Richard and  spoke after Swarton.  He recalled that he and his wife were lying in bed when they heard a ruckus below.  Barker stated that they did not think much of it, as it was a common occurrence.  Barker said that when he was called down after Richard had died Elizabeth said that Richard had inflicted it on himself. 

After all of the testimonies, the surgeon gave his statement that Richard’s cause of death was indeed a stab wound that pierced his lung through his 7th and 8th rib.

 Finally, Elizabeth gave her defence.  Elizabeth stated that she had been working late and retired to bed, as she was very tired.  Elizabeth said that Richard then came up and beat her “barbarously” and pulled her out of bed and pulled off all her clothes.  Elizabeth stated that this was a frequent occurrence and she would usually go downstairs in an attempt to calm him down and coax him to bed.  Elizabeth also stated that she was never married to Richard.  However, Elizabeth said that she did not go down as soon as she would have normally and believed that Richard stabbed himself out of drunken vexation.  She stressed that his intent was most likely not to kill himself, but an attempt to terrify her.  Elizabeth supposed that when he realized the wound was deep he went to clean himself and then fainted, which is where she claimed to have found him.  Elizabeth also refuted Mr. Cooper’s statement and said, “as to what Mr. Cooper swore about my saying I had given the Deceased an unhappy Blow, he mistook my Words; for I said, that the Deceased had given me many an unhappy Blow.”


The jury acquitted Elizabeth for charges of petty treason, but convicted her of the murder of Richard Bostock and sentenced her to death.

For more interesting information on the trial check out these links to the original texts!



What Does This Mean?

As you can tell from reading this summary, it is a very complex and disturbing situation surrounding Elizabeth Roberts.  I did not want to leave many details out, as I believe Elizabeth’s innocence is found in those details.  This detailed summary allows us in the 21st century to look at the extremely detrimental perceptions and predicaments women faced in the 18th Century courtroom and society in general.

One of the most prevalent and intriguing aspects of this case is the reference to Richard’s abusive behaviour towards Elizabeth.  Every one of the courtroom speakers mentioned witnessing Richard’s violent behaviour towards Elizabeth either the night of his murder or previously.  Despite all of these accounts of both physical and verbal abuse, Elizabeth’s guilt is not questioned in the end.  This shows how little consideration was given to Elizabeth’s living conditions with Richard.  It also allows us to understand what it meant for a women to be considered  “property” and how many women were treated as property by the dominant males in their life.

Because of 18th century perceptions, Elizabeth was essentially doomed from the beginning.  Being a female immediately placed her at lower social power during this era in general, let alone the patriarchal courtroom.  There is also the issue concerning the reveal that Elizabeth and Richard had been living together when they were not in fact married.  Because this era demanded either virginal or marital chastity, it was a big problem that Elizabeth was living with a man out of wedlock.  Not only is Elizabeth a female, but she is considered a “tarnished” woman, because of her presumed sexual relations with a man she is not married to.  If Elizabeth had any chance at all going into this trial, that information would have almost without a doubt persuaded the court away from her innocence.

Elizabeth’s court defence is very interesting as well.  Elizabeth is extremely well spoken in her final plea of life.  She remains calm in her language and presents a logical alibi for Richard’s death.  Acknowledging Richard’s abuse to her was both brave of Elizabeth and aligned to what every witness stated.  There is some evidence that perhaps Richard had also raped her, as he had ripped off her clothes; however, she never mentions sexual abuse specifically.  This could relate to the modesty issue of the 18th century.  Perhaps Elizabeth purposely left that out to better her position of the court.  It could also represent the blurred lines surrounding what was considered sexual abuse during this time.  Elizabeth also makes an intelligent refute to Mr. Cooper’s statement that she had given Richard an “unhappy Blow.”  This shows that Elizabeth was able minded and also understood how to provide a good courtroom argument.  Yet, even with these tools and intelligence, Elizabeth was not able to persuade the court.

The trial setup itself comments on the issues that Elizabeth faced as a woman in this situation.  Everyone that testified was male (even though the neighbour’s wife also heard what happened the night of Richard’s death).  Even with multiple testimonies that supported Elizabeth’s defence, it was all discredited in the end.   The Old Bailey jury was also completely male, which left Elizabeth alone to fight for herself in the courtroom as a female.  Despite the petty treason charges being dropped, Elizabeth was still convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

For more info on gender and crime during this era check this out! http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Gender.jsp#genderjustice


Did She Do It?!

So, was Elizabeth innocent?  Did Elizabeth kill Richard?  Or did he kill himself in a drunken rampage?  Although we can never know for sure, that will not stop me from theorizing!  I believe Elizabeth is innocent.  Elizabeth’s account matches the multiple descriptions of Richard’s drunken, abusive behavior.  It is very plausible that a disturbed and drunken man like Bostock would accidentally stab himself. However, I believe Elizabeth is innocent regardless of whether or not she killed Richard Bostock.  Even if she killed Richard, I would deem her the right of self-defense.  If this trial  happened in the 21st Century Elizabeth’s case would definitely be implicated with rights to self-defense.  But, this sadly did not apply to Elizabeth. Because of her situation as a female in the 18th century and because of the 18th century law concepts, the court did not acknowledge her right to self-defense.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I found this trial to be quite disturbing.  Elizabeth faced a life of abuse and ultimately paid for it with her own life.  This societal construct is something that women in general would have to face during the 18th century.  On relative terms, I am personal thankful that Elizabeth was acquitted for petty treason and did not have to face the stake.  Perhaps acquitting Elizabeth of petty treason was some minuscule way of the court acknowledging Elizabeth’s abusive situation, but that is probably a generous stretch and still does not make me feel any better about Elizabeth’s tragic fate.  Overall,  Elizabeth’s trial is an excellent window for us in the 21st century to look into the 18th century courtroom.  This trial allows us to analyze the very serious societal and legal implications for women during this era.  I would say that in the 21st Century we can rely on a more unbiased legal system than the 18th century.  I also believe that there is a better understanding  of abuse victim’s rights.  Unfortunately, it is definitely not eradicated and we still  see these legal injustices happen in tragic cases like the recent Steubenville rape trial.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and I hope you have gained some valuable insight into the societal and legal structure of the 18th century!

Your Turn!

What do you think about this trial?  Do you think about Elizabeth’s verdict?  Was this a fair trial? What does this say about the 18th Century? And how far do you think the 21st century legal system and women’s rights have come since the 18th century?

Let’s get some discussion going! Leave a comment below & take the poll! :)

Robert Hallam: Two Birds, One Stone

On December 9th, 1731, Robert Hallam viciously beat his wife, and threw her from their bedroom window. An act that resulted not only in her death, but the death of their unborn child, who was by various accounts due to be born any day. In today’s society abortion is illegal after a certain period of time as the fetus is then considered – a living – human being. That fact in mind, with Hallam’s wife Jane being due any day, her child would without a doubt be considered alive; especially since it could have survived outside of the womb at this stage.  However, Hallam was indicted and put on trial for the murder of his wife, but not for that of his viable, although unborn infant. To bring even more force behind Hallam’s murder of his wife is that there appears to be evidence that the murder was preconceived in some manner. My argument therefore is that Robert Hallam should have been tried and held accountable for a double murder – for taking both his wife’s and his unborn child’s life knowingly.
According the Old Bailey transcripts and the Ordinary’s Account, Robert Hallam had an often tumultuous relationship with his wife; an uneasiness which began shortly after they started up a “Publick house” together.  This pub was primarily run by Hallam’s wife, however, he accounts that she often drank on the job or frequently about their home. He also calls attention to the prospect that during this time Jane was participating in various affairs with other men – a fact he became privy to by word of mouth and then at some later date by his wife’s own confession. It was a result of these factors that seem to have initially caused Hallam to begin beating his wife, an act that happened so frequently that his neighbor Ann Anderson says it was “custom1”.  While the facts Hallam gave about his late wife Jane are denied and found unbelievable by those who were familiar to her and the family, Robert Hallam repeatedly states them as fact.
The beatings that Hallam’s wife underwent were not simply private affairs in their family home.
Ann Anderson claims that “His Wife shew’d me her Arms twice, a good while ago, and they were as black as your Lordship’s Gown”, with a similar story being told by a Mary Carman. Another woman named Elizabeth Emerson says that two to three times a week she heard Jane cry out murder and had often gone to help Jane escape by holding back her husband. It was also repeatedly said by their neighbors during the trial that there was only a “deal partition” in between their rooms, which meant that they could very easily hear the arguments and the beatings in the Hallam household taking place.  A Mr. John Fleming states that having lived next to the Hallam’s for a number of years, he has overheard cries of murder – particularly in the three weeks leading up to the death of Hallam’s wife.
On that particular note, I want to finally introduce you to the idea that Robert Hallam preconceived the idea of murdering his wife.  It is not such an unfounded notion as one might think, for Mr. Fleming and an Ann Brewit both tell the court of a prior attack Robert Hallam made on his wife Jane about half a year prior; where he assaulted her, threw her upon the bed and with a knife in his mouth swore that he would “rip her up”.  Mr. Fleming further lends weight to this idea as in accordance to his previous statement said that in the three weeks before her death Mr. Hallam “came home in a jealous fit, and beat her, and swore he’d murder her, if he was hang’d for it”.  This was not all that Mr. Fleming overheard that night, he relays Robert Hallam’s harrowing words: “Damn ye, for a Bitch…I’ll send you, and your Infant to the Devil together! I’ll split your Skull, and dash your Brains against the Back of the Chimney – I know I shall come to be hang’d at Tyburn for ye”.
With these graphic overheard descriptions that Mr.Fleming shares with the court it is easy to say that the tension between Robert and Jane was palpable, and through Elizabeth Emerson and Mary Carman’s testimonies we learn that Jane suspected very strongly that she was in some immediate kind of danger. Carman states that two weeks prior to her death Jane had stayed with her Saturday through to Sunday, where she confided that “If anything should happen to me extraordinary, those People at the next Door will swear my Husband’s Life away” and again in Elizabeth Emerson’s testimony we hear an eerily similar forewarning in which Jane fears for her life so much that she asks Emerson to leave her cellar door open so she might run and hide herself inside when her husband comes home. This request that Jane made was to be on the eve of her soon to be murder.
Now, the manner of Jane falling from the window was not something that was easily covered up and there are some discrepancies within witness statements that point to two very different outcomes of her fall. However, before I continue that particular notion I would like to call attention to the words Robert Hallam spoke immediately after coming outside to collect Jane’s body, “Goddamn the Bitch, she’s drunk, and has thrown herself out of the window”. Dead or alive at this point, it really doesn’t matter. By these words alone we can surmise that Robert Hallam was not overly concerned, if at all, by his pregnant wife lying prostrate in the street having fallen two stories. With various accounts stating that he pushed her out of the window this seems at best a botched cover story to explain matters away to the growing crowd and keep the ordeal as contained and private as possible.
The two different accounts on how Jane fell from the window differ in whether or not she threw herself out of the window or was shoved; and by whether or not she was able to, with Hallam’s assistance, go back inside their home. Think about that for a minute, a pregnant woman in her final trimester falling two stories onto the stone ground below having enough strength – being alive enough to get up and walk with some assistance back into the house. It is ridiculous; Swan Anderson himself states “Walk! No, it was impossible she should”.  I myself believe that Robert Hallam threw her from their bedroom window as the discrepancies in what happened take place after he tells a Lydia Stevens “Have you heard this Unhappy Fate? My Wife has thrown herself out of the Window”.  This Lydia Stevens goes on to report talking to Jane who says “I unfortunately drop’d myself out of the window”, and accounts for a pain in her abdomen but otherwise gives absolutely no mention to her unborn child and begs Stevens to stand as a witness should her husband go to trial. Jane allegedly tells the same thing to her brother Andrew Radbourn and makes the same effort to gain a defence for her husband. This is the same woman who, while being attacked, begged for her life and for that of her unborn child.  I read this as an attempt by Robert to build a falsehood about the events and as a direct hint toward his unconcerned nature, as his contempt towards the baby come through all too clear in “Jane’s” recounting of events. These accountings of what happened that night are easily read as a falsehood also due to  the testimony by George Taylor, who was subpoenaed by both the prosecution and the prisoner, Robert Hallam. Taylor said that he will speak the truth on both sides, and then reveals that Hallam said “If he could raise 10 Guineas, there was one who would raise Evidences to confront the King’s Evidence, and prove his Wife was Lunatick, and confirm any thing that his own Witnesses would swear to”.  This certainly does not lend much weight to any of Hallam’s witnesses’ testimonies and by extension Hallam’s innocence.
I briefly mentioned above that Robert Hallam held some contempt towards the unborn child. I say this because of the account he made of Jane committing adultery, and that while unproven there is a chance that the child was not his, and while that itself is a chance, I think very strongly that Hallam believed the child was not from him.  When Jane was talking to Elizabeth Emerson the day before her murder, she says that her husband had kept account of her reckoning and wants her to lay her child to a man in the country.  If Robert Hallam believed strong enough that the baby was not his – even wanted it to be sent away,  then his unconcerned nature towards the baby’s life is perhaps then justified in his eyes.
Hallam was an educated man, and it is easy to assume that he would have understood the fragile nature of a pregnancy – that any amount of severe trauma would endanger the infant and also that delayed action in the death of his wife would kill the infant inside of her.  Within the transcript of the trial it is stated that Hallam retrieved their midwife before eight o’clock on Thursday morning, and by different accounts Jane was reported dead between six and seven. That means that Hallam let his wife lie dying since about twelve or one o’clock after he pulled her back inside from the street after her fall, and waited longer still before calling the midwife in to deal with the pregnancy. Sarah Lane, the midwife, reports that Jane’s face, hands and feet were quite cold but her body retained some warmth at the time that she arrived into the room. Lane here believed that Hallam’s wife was dead but that she had “no great skill in the dead” and so bade Hallam to get a Doctor.
Joseph Woodward the doctor, who came to oversee the body, stated that Jane had been dead for quite some time. He did not undertake an examination of her body until that Saturday, upon doing so he stated that “the abdomen was full of contused blood, the womb was rent 7 inches, and the infant, which was dead, but full grown, was forced out of the womb, all but its feet” and conclude that the fall from the window was the immediate cause of both Jane and her child’s death. Lane, the midwife further states that the child was full grown and “black from head to foot”.  Throughout the entire transcript of the trial witnesses state that Jane was so close to giving birth that they initially upon hearing her shouts thought that she was in labor and even thought the same thing after her fall due to groans and outcries they heard through the deal partition.
What we have learned here is that Robert Hallam had a grievous hatred towards this unborn child either by extension of his turbulent relationship with his wife or by the possibility that the child was not his. In either case we see a gross negligent attitude towards the preservation of his wife Jane and to that of the unborn child’s life so much so that he ignores how close to giving birth his wife was and picked a fight with her so heinous that he ultimately shoved her from their bedroom window, and then delayed by hours seeking any kind of assistance to prevent the double loss of life that night. While Robert  Hallam was only tried for the murder of his wife, he so too was guilty of the death of the unborn child inside her womb. He should have therefore been held guilty of a double homicide by the justice system. A system which seemingly overlooked an innocent infant’s life.

All quotations from the Trial Transcription are taken from the Old Bailey Session Papers: Robert Hallam

Anthony de Rosa: Accused by the Insane

Anthony de Rosa was convicted of murder and robbery and was sentenced to death by hanging on March 23, 1752. Being a foreigner it almost seemed as though Anthony’s fate was determined before he stepped foot in the Old Bailey. This trial is an excellent example of how discrimination isn’t an issue that is new to society. In fact, discrimination and bias have roots in the past and are also in the present and most likely will continue in the future. When analyzing the trial and conviction of Anthony de Rosa it is important to note that there was not one person, other than Emanuel de Rosa who was from a mental hospital, who had observed Anthony de Rosa murdering William Fargues. Not to mention, the court allowed his account of the murder to be a credible piece of evidence, which makes it unclear if he actually committed the murder. The guiltiness of Anthony in this trial is irrelevant due to the lack of circumstantial evidence, few reliable witnesses and an unfair trial free of bias. Anthony took his last breath as his life ended when the board was removed from beneath his feet at the tree of Tyburn on the 23 of March in 1752.

According to the speculative account of Emanuel de Rosa, it was a cloudy and misty night on the evening of June 11, 1751 when Anthony de Rosa arrived at the home of Emmanuel de Rosa. He told his friend that he needed some extra money so the two men set off for town where they met up with William Fullager. Once the three were together they walked around looking for someone who looked like they could potentially have a few coins on them. The men waited until about ten o’clock when the sun started to go down and the darkness rolled in. The men crossed over a road where they spotted their soon-to-be victim, William Fargues. Anthony requested that Fargues hand over all the money that he had on him at once but Fargues quickly replied with, “I have no money for myself!” This response did not satisfy the three men so Fullager swiftly jumped forward and hit Fargues on the head multiple times with a stick that had a piece of iron drove into the end of it. After what I am sure was a pleasant beating to the head… Emanuel held down a struggling Fargues with force as Anthony fiercely stabbed him multiple times in the chest. They quickly took what little money he had on him and fled the seen of the crime leaving Fargues in the middle of the road for someone to find him.

Not long after the brutal murder was committed, Emanuel de Rosa was detained for disorderly conduct and was thrown into Bridewell Prison and Hospital, which at this time was a facility that treated the insane. Emanuel claimed that he was unable to live with himself after what he had done to Mr. Fargues and that his conscience was eating away at him. Emanuel preceded to call upon one of the guards at the facility and descriptively told him what had happened on that dreadful night of the murder. In doing this, he was deemed evidence of the crown and his life was preserved. As soon as the story of the murder was told, the guards called upon Anthony de Rosa to go to Bridewell where he was immediately taken into custody. When they searched him Anthony had a knife with him, which the guards immediately deemed as the murder weapon. Anthony de Rosa would be tried at the Old Bailey and a jury of his peers would determine his fate.

On February 19, 1752 the trial for Anthony de Rosa was held at the Old Bailey Court House in London, England. He was being detained for the murder of William Fargues. There were many people, men and women, who took the stand describing what they knew about the murder on June 11, 1751. At the beginning of the trial it was publically stated that the prisoner, Anthony de Rosa, was a foreigner. This clearly shows bias just as the surface of the trial was being brushed and it potentially foreshadowed how the rest of the trial would unfold.

There were many witnesses or “evidence” as they were called, who took the stand to tell their story. The brother and father of the deceased were first. Both with the same name, Peter and Peter Fargues took the stand stating that the deceased had a nice supper with them on the night of the murder. After dining with them Fargues had left, it was around ten o’clock in the evening and it was notably dark outside. Both men were not sure of any money Fargues had on him when he left the house. Isaac Hendrop had also taken the stand and in his account he told the jury about how he came across the murdered William Fargues. He explained that he was walking down the street when he saw a few men huddled around something so he curiously approached them to see what was going on. When he reached them one of the men said, “I believe a gentlemen here is murdered!” Hendrop proceeded to describe the body as he saw it in saying that it was in a very strange posture in a deep rut. His hat and wig were not on his head and his body was still warm when he picked up his hand. He then left the scene and returned ten minutes later noticing that the body temperature of Fargues had significantly decreased. “He had life when I left him!” Hendrop had stated, and when he returned he no longer possessed life. There was a fourteen-year-old boy by the name of William Etheringham who took the stand next. He told the jury that on the night of the murder he had seen three men (he assumed to be the men who committed the murder) about a hundred yards away from where the murder was committed and they seemed to be out of sorts walking back and forth. Despite seeing whom he thought looked like Anthony, Etheringham did not see anyone commit any murderous actions.

There were additional accounts and other witnesses who took the stand, all of who had accounts of what Anthony had done in the weeks before or even the day of the murder, but none of the murderer in action. There were accounts from those who had found the body, those who had cleaned the body, the coroner and even a surgeon but no one had seen the murder take place. The account of Emanuel de Rosa was the original story that has previously been told; he is the only one who claims to have witnessed the murderer in action, partly because he took part in it. The question is, can we trust the only eyewitness account of the murder when it is given by a man who had previously been admitted into Bridewell? At this time Bridewell was a prison and a hospital for the insane! How can we be certain that Emanuel is telling the truth or that he is just plain crazy? Are we able to consider this statement credible?

The fate of Anthony de Rosa was doomed before the trial at the Old Bailey even began. First, it was publically stated in the courtroom that Anthony was a foreigner, which clearly indicated bias. To say that we do not know if that statement would make this case bias is false. If the fact that Anthony was a foreigner was irrelevant then it would not have been mentioned because it would not have mattered. Second, a man who had recently been admitted into a psychiatric hospital gave the only eyewitness account of the murder of William Fargues. Yes it is reasonable to take this man’s statement into consideration but should they really have relied on it for a solid piece of evidence? Unfortunately we will never know the true story of Anthony de Rosa or if he even murdered William Fargues. Bias and discrimination were not uncommon during this time and the trial and hanging of Anthony de Rosa would certainly not be the last to take place in the Old Bailey courthouse.

All information was taken from Ordinary’s Account, 23rd March 1752, the Newgate Calendar and the trial transcript from the Old Bailey.

“I am innocent of it all, for it was not me that did it” – Henrietta Radbourne

On July 11th 1787, Henrietta Radbourne stood at Old Bailey Court in front of Mr. Justice Wilson, witnesses, and twelve jurors on her case of murder and petit treason. Henrietta’s case was remarkable as she was charged with both murder and petit treason combined in one account, later found guilty of murder but was acquitted of petit treason. [1] The two charges Henrietta was indicted for were serious crimes in the eighteenth century. The more serious of the two crimes Henrietta was charged for at the time would have been petit treason. Back in the eighteenth century petit treason was considered an aggravated form of murder which involved the killing of a master by a servant, a husband by his wife, or any other type of superior killed by his inferior. The punishment for petit treason was much more severe than the punishment for murder, which is the only account Henrietta got convicted for, and for women convicted of petit treason they were burned at the stake, a tradition that remained until 1790.

Henrietta’s case was different for the eighteenth century because Henrietta was charged with both murder and petit treason for the murder of Hannah Morgan, who was Henrietta’s mistress.  Hannah Morgan was struck, cut, stabbed, beat and penetrated by a stick with a bayonet attached to it.

Type of stick Henrietta Radbourne allegedly used against Hannah Morgan. Attached a bayonet to the end.

Hannah Morgan’s injures consisted of a mortal wound to the top of her head, length of one inch and a depth of one inch, as well as four other stab wounds to head, bruising on her right hand and her left hip. Hannah Morgan survived her initial attack and held onto her life for several weeks until she succumbed to her wounds. However the case was not so clear cut as it seemed. Much of the evidence was circumstantial or hearsay but considered strong enough to see Henrietta guilty of murder. I plan to argue that Henrietta was convicted due to being part of the lower class.

Henrietta Radbourne was told by some neighbours, Henry and Rebecca Holmes, to apply through a town agency to look for a job as the stigma that had been put on Radbourne would not be of help in finding her a job. Henrietta’s stigma was that she lived in a home with John Radbourne; they were not married, and she had a child with him. The child did not survive and John left Henrietta. Those events lead to the stigma put onto Henrietta which required her to seek a job through an agency. Henrietta was set up to be a servant for Hannah Morgan and stayed at Hannah’s house for the duration of her employment.  Within a few days Hannah Morgan began to experience unsatisfactory service with Henrietta and some strange feelings about Henrietta and asked her to quit.

This is the particular door lock common for the eighteenth-century and would have most likely been the type of lock on Hannah Morgan’s bedroom door.

On the 31stof May Henrietta had entered Hannah’s room and asked her mistress if she had said her prayers that night; Hannah did not like this comment and quickly told Henrietta to remove herself from the room and go and say her own prayers. After this comment Hannah then got up to secure the house including the door lock on her own bedroom door, which was much tougher to lock than usual. At approximately three o’clock on the morning of the 31st, neighbours and watchmen heard screams of fire and murder. Watchmen and neighbors arrived at Hannah’s home and could not get the front door open as it was secured. Both the watchmen and neighbors entered the home through the front parlor window.  The first witness brought to the stand was William Cranfield who stated that when they had entered the home they had all seen Henrietta on the staircase. Cranfield went to go and unlock all the doors in the home Henrietta stated to him: “for God’s sake, come, and help my mistress, she is murdered.” Cranfield responded to Henrietta: “do not frighten yourself, I will open the back door, and let some people in.” Cranfield then stated to the jury that this was all that passed between him and Henrietta and they did not speak anymore afterwards. This conversation was also overheard by Edward MacDonald, who was one of the watchmen on the scene.

All that found Hannah Morgan in her bedroom all saw the same sight; blood running down her head, blood all over the floor, blood on the doors and windows. Sometime after everyone began to gather around Hannah’s home and the surgeon had been called, Constable William Brown arrived on the scene. Brown searched the home for anything suspicious and did not notice anything then went upstairs to speak with Hannah. Brown was lead to Hannah who was put onto the bed and tried to get Henrietta out of the room for some privacy. Brown alleged that Henrietta would not remove herself from the room, she continuing to wash cups and saucers, and that he had to take her by the arm and remove her. Brown, based on Old Bailey Session’s papers, is unable to tell the court what passed between him and Hannah but afterwards went to search Henrietta’s room and upon examining the bed believe there to have been another person in the bed with her. Brown was the one who found the alleged murder weapon in Hannah’s room next to her fireplace. The weapon contained traces of grey hair and from seeing those hairs perceived this as the murder weapon.

Unfortunately for Henrietta none of the witnesses called came to her defence. Henry and Rebecca Holmes, who recommended Henrietta to the town agency in search of the job, both testified against Henrietta. Rebecca Holmes claimed that Henrietta told her that she, Henrietta, would soon come into some money from a recently deceased aunt and uncle. Henrietta enlisted the help of Rebecca to get Henry to tell John Radbourne that she would be coming into money and if he would marry her then it would be both of theirs. Both Rebecca and Henry stuck to this story. Henrietta came to her own defence upon hearing this and stated:

“Mrs. Holmes has told a great many infamous stories already, I did not say any such thing to her; it is through them that I am brought here, and the last time that I was before the Justice, I was persuaded by Holmes himself not to say anything at all about it.”

Henrietta wanted to stress to the Judge and jurors that it was the Holmes that brought her to this situation and it was they would had went into Hannah Morgan’s home and killed her. Henry Holmes responded to Henrietta’s statement by telling the Judge and jurors that he and his wife only brought Henrietta there, in reference to the job, by helping her receive the job. Henry also stated that he and his wife never once urged Henrietta to do anything wrong, only to do well at her new job. Even Henrietta’s ex John Radbourne did not help Henrietta. John Radbourne called her a liar, he did not know if she was lying about the inheritance but that he did perceive her to be a liar. Henrietta stated to the jurors that the inheritance was real and that it was from her brother she would receive her share from her deceased aunt and uncle:

“I told him before I left him, that when my brother came of age, I should have twenty or thirty pounds if he pleased to marry me, because he did not like we should live together in that way of life; my brother has got another estate left him lately, which is by my uncle and aunt, who are both dead, and this last estate my brother designs to give me.”

After all the previous witnesses were called, a final and crucial witness was called to the stand. Surgeon John Heavyside was the attending doctor to Hannah Morgan. Heavyside was the doctor who determined that Hannah’s death was attributed to the blunt force trauma and the cut wounds she received on the night of the 31st. Heavyside was also the only one present at the time of when he asked Henrietta what had happened that night. Heavyside stated that he told Henrietta to try and save herself. Heavyside expressed that Henrietta  tell the truth to which she told him that she allowed Henry and Rebecca Holmes into Hannah Morgan’s home that night and they were the ones who committed the attack. Heavyside then presented the court with a letter signed by Hannah Morgan. The letter, read by James Crofts the magistrate for the county of Middlesex, retells the tale of how Hannah was attacked by an unknown assailant and that Hannah believes that it could only have been Henrietta. Hannah Morgan’s letter stated that:

“She verily believes no other person was in her house but the person now present who calls herself Henrietta Radbourne; and this informant says that she did maliciously assault her in her dwelling house as aforesaid, with intent to kill and murder her, and her goods and chattels being in the said dwelling house, feloniously to steal, take and carry away.”

Henrietta only has but one thing left to say to the jurors and Judge:

“I am innocent of it all, for it was not me that did it, I have no witnesses at all here or elsewhere, but here are two people that is here that did it, at this present time, and they persuaded me not to say any thing; and when I was at Litchfield-street, they told me not to say any thing, for if I did I should be done as well as them, and I, ignorant of the affair, never said a word about it.”

Henrietta stuck with the belief that Henry and Rebecca Holmes were the cause for Hannah’s attack and inevitable death. Throughout the case it is known that Henrietta is a poor woman who has a stigma of having a child while unwed. Both these traits led Henrietta to be perceived as capable of murder. The court perceived Henrietta’s motive was to gain the money, items and home from Hannah’s death in order to get out of a bad situation. It was shown through the case that Henrietta’s word was not accepted as they as a quick scapegoat for Hannah’s death. They did not have to look far for someone to have blame, and a poor maid that no one cares about. The eighteenth-century court system is also very much flawed compared to the twenty-first-century court system. Although the eighteenth-century did not have the same technology as we have today it should not have allowed them to be ignorant to the very non-circumstantial evidence against Henrietta. As stated earlier, much of the evidence given was passed down through word and not so much action. Being poorly perceived in the public eye as a maid, a women, a liar, and not married put a huge stigma on Henrietta. Henrietta’s case shows that even if you don’t have a lot of evidence to go by, be careful of what you say and do, because all of that can be used against you.

[1] Simpkin, W, and R Marshall. The Critical review, or, Annals of literature. 2. London: 1791. 38. Web. Retrieved on October 26, 2012 <https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=_usvAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&authuser=0&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA38>

all quotations from the Trial Transcript are taken from the Old Bailey Sessions Papers: Henrietta Radbourne

Charles Macklin and The Fop’s Misfortune

Charles Macklin, wearing a less controversial wig.

On December 10th 1753, an actor named Charles Macklin stood in front of a judge, responsible for defending himself in court from a most remarkable charge, a charge so eccentric that it fits more comfortably in the dramatic pieces Macklin performed than in real life. At first glance, the circumstances surrounding Macklin’s alleged crime seem completely and utterly ridiculous. There is, however, more to this case than meets the eye: upon further examination, Macklin’s actions can actually be seen as completely plausible. I plan to argue that Charles Macklin’s actions show a man who was a product of his time: indeed, he was merely a member of his society – obsessed with appearances (both from dress as well as reputation) above all else.

Macklin, an actor employed at the Drury Lane Playhouse, was accused of murdering his co-star, a man by the name of Thomas Hallam. Both Macklin and Hallam were acting in a play called The Fop’s Fortune, with Macklin playing the part of Sancho the Spanish Servant in previous night’s performance. Multiple eyewitnesses noted that at some point during the play, Macklin and Hallam became involved in an extremely heated argument, the subject of which is integral to the case: an otherwise completely unremarkable wig. The witnesses told the court that Macklin had worn the wig during the previous night’s performance, but had discovered that Hallam was now in possession of it (it is important to note here that the wig in question was described as a “Stock Wig,” meaning essentially that it came out of a communal trunk, and therefore did not truly belong to anyone other than the Playhouse’s costume dresser herself).

Convinced that Hallam had snuck into his dressing room and taken it, Macklin accused him of being a “rogue” and a “black guard scrub rascal” and demanded the swift return of the costume piece. Hallam gave it back at once, claiming he had found a better one, and for a time, things seemed to have settled down.  However it seems as though Macklin was not content with leaving things as they were, so he jumped up and lunged at Hallam and plunged a stick –which Macklin notes was another prop for his character – through Hallam’s left eye. Immediately after committing the heinous deed, Macklin was seen to throw the stick into the fire in shock and sit down. In his defense, Macklin maintained that he was concerned for the victim: a witness for the defense remembers that Macklin showed “the utmost Surprize, by his turning about, and throwing the Stick in the Fire, and he shew’d a further Concern, when he felt of the Eye-Ball.” If this witness is to be believed, Macklin thought it would be comforting to Hallam (who was convinced his eyeball had fallen out) to assure him that it was still in his skull by sticking a finger in his eye socket and feeling around. That Macklin received the conviction of manslaughter rather than murder is just as odd as his case, for his defense seems to have consisted of two points: he showed concern for the victim (by, for all intents and purposes, injuring him further) and that both the wig and the stick were parts of the costume for his character. In fact, as I argue later on, manslaughter is not necessarily the more lenient of the penalties, especially for a man in Macklin’s profession.

If the invasion of his dressing room was the issue in question, it might be easier to understand Macklin’s motives . Instead, the trial documents clearly tell a different story: Macklin seemed to be concerned with nothing besides the fact that his preferred wig had been taken to be used by another actor. The question remains: why did he find this to be such an offense?

18th Century society is well-known for its interest in the way people presented themselves, just as actors typically are. With these two separate needs to “look the part” combining, it is not difficult to imagine that such a crime could be committed in the name of keeping up appearances. During the trial, Macklin outlines the importance of appearance to not only his job, but to him personally:

I plaid Sancho the Night before, and the Wig I then used was proper for the New Play, and absolutely necessary for my Character; the whole force of the Poet’s Wit depending on the lean meagre Looks of one that wanted Food. This Wig therefore being so fit for my purpose, and hearing that the Deceased had got it, I said to him, You have got the Wig I plaid in last Night, and it fits my Part this Night.”

From the above testimony, it becomes incredibly clear that Macklin’s entire view on acting centres around the notion that the costume makes the character, in the same way that the clothes made the man in the 18th Century. If a man places so much importance on his appearance when he is pretending to be someone else, it makes sense to infer that he places just as much importance on his appearance in his own personal life, as well. With so much pressure both from within himself as well as from society to look appropriate, it is quite plausible that Macklin would have felt extreme measures were necessary in order to protect the way he looked onstage.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the entire case is that the conflict between Macklin and Hallam was actually resolved by the other members of the company before Macklin attacked Hallam and fatally wounded him. Once again, Macklin’s reasoning becomes murky: if he got what he wanted from Hallam and the rest of the company, why did he feel the need to take revenge? The answer to this question may shed more light on 18th Century society as well. Hallam is said to have returned the wig to Macklin, but only after Mrs. Greenwood, the costumer dresser, gave him a new one. When he received the new wig, Hallam showed off his new wig directly in front of Macklin and was heard to remark “he lik’d it better than the other”. Given Macklin’s established penchant for appearances, it is quite plausible that not only was having a nice appearance important to Macklin, but what was more important was having the nicest appearance. Because the nature of fashion in the 18th Century was a constant game of one-upmanship through an escalating scale of wig and dress size, it makes sense that Macklin would have been grievously offended by the implication that Hallam had a fashionable leg up on him.

While physical dress is undoubtedly the main element of one’s appearance, the reputation of a person can be equally as integral in the upkeep of a good appearance. When Macklin’s physical appearance was compromised by Hallam taking the wig, all he had left was his reputation. The final nail in Hallam’s proverbial (and literal) coffin came when he debased Macklin’s reputation as an upstanding citizen.When asked why he wouldn’t give Macklin back his wig when the argument began, Hallam was heard to have said “he might have asked me for it in a civil Manner, and not have attack’d me like a Pick pocket.” Hallam also called Macklin a liar on many different occasions throughout the argument.With a man as concerned with how he appears to others as Macklin was, the last thing Hallam should have done was call him a liar and a Pick pocket. Macklin obviously considered himself a productive, well-kept member of 18th Century society, so to compare him to what amounted to scum in the 1700s would have been a truly offensive tactic.

To the uninformed reader, the tale of an actor killing his co-star over who got to wear a specific wig by stabbing him through the eye with a stick seems rather ridiculous and outlandish. However, when the appearance-obsessed society of the time is considered, Macklin – a man robbed of his well-kept appearance, both through dress and reputation – might have been seen as completely justified (though not innocent) in his attack. In this case, the perpetrator was merely a man succumbing to the pressures of his society to “keep up appearances.” Under as much pressure as he was, it is quite unsurprising that Macklin lashed out, it was just an unhappy accident that his lashing out was fatal. While Macklin clearly showed concern for his victim and the attack itself was clearly an accident brought on by a sudden rage (not to mention the various character witnesses he was able to procure who assured the court of his kind nature), manslaughter seems a more appropriate conviction than murder. Interestingly, the punishment for manslaughter in this case was branding. Macklin was branded as a criminal for his actions, and in a profession that reflects the 18th Century importance of appearances, having a permanent burn mark on one’s skin is certainly a heinous punishment fit for a heinous crime.

All quotations from the Trial Transcript are taken from the Old Bailey Sessions Papers: Charles Mechlin