A Regency guide to your behaviour when being hanged; 1818

Criminals sentenced to death by the bloody code of Regency Britain still had a soul; indeed as the rope was put around their neck, their heads covered and their hands pinioned, the hope of immortality was all they had left, and it was absolutely vital that they died well.
Charlotte Newman, aged about 30, died well. She was at Newgate, a place that excelled in the full ritual of execution. She was found guilty of a crime against property- forging banknotes. If she had starved her child to death, she would have had suffered two years in prison. Creating and passing fake notes was easy, too tempting for the poor and led to a capital punishment.

Q Page8. Top. Hone Protest banknote.

Execution was a public ceremony outside the Debtor’s Door and the criminal that was about to be launched into “eternity” was supposed to play their part to produce a meaningful lesson for the audience. In Charlotte’s case, this involved a solemn procession from her cell which started an agonising 40 minutes before her execution. As Charlotte was being held in Newgate, she would have been privileged to have the Reverend Horace Cotton lead the line, along with the other condemned Mary Ann James (forgery), John Attel (forgery) and William Hatchman (robbery and burglary).The newspapers reported that the “ two women were respectability dressed in black, with white caps and frills”. They also scored highly as the newspapers reported that their sleep had been unsettled; the two men had sleep well and had, according to the newspapers, a tolerably hearty breakfast. That was acceptable, but not as convincing.
This was an excellent start for the two women, and it would not have been the first ceremony they would have enjoyed. The Reverend Horace Salusbury Cotton was four years into his job as the Ordinary of Newgate, but he was already famous for his “ fire and brimstone” Condemned Sermon in which those about to die were confronted an open coffin. It was a public, ticketed event and part of the ritual of state justice. All four of the condemned would have gone through this, and their reaction would have been part of the judgement made about them
Charlotte was a forger, not a murderer, so the level of contrition needed was moderate. As she saw the public hangman holding the rope, she fainted away a little and had to be held while the rope was put around her neck. This was still a reasonable performance- reluctance to be hanged in this case was regarded as contrition; fainting away was an acknowledgement of the punishment; struggling with the hangman would have been unacceptable as it would indicate either cowardice or a refusal to accept the justice of her execution. Weeping bitterly would have been acceptable, as long as it was not caused by self pity. Charlotte did weep bitterly; but it was the right type of weeping. She needed two men to get here to the scaffold but she was being guided and supported, not dragged.
All four were prepared for death and were to be dropped at the same time. There were prayers and handshakes and no recriminations or cowardice. However she did not receive full marks for her efforts. She did ask the mercy of the almighty and confessed to her sins, but made the mistake of claiming that she had been induced into the crime by others- she knew the other two forgers on the scaffold- in order to be transported to Botany Bay and be reunited with her criminal husband.
By the Regency period, an efficient hanging was one of the public expectations. It seems that the rope slipped from the ear of all four victims and ended up under their chin, vastly increasing the agony. Hatchman particularly and one of the other three suffered great agonies as the rope did not break their necks when the platform dropped away. The crowd booed and hissed on two occasions, and some members of the audience fainted away. They would have been an intimidating audience- two women hanged at the same time was a novelty, and the crowd was huge.
At least the audience was reasonably respectable up to that point. Two week later, Horace Cotton presided over the execution of wife murderer David Evans. On the whole he died as well as Charlotte. Most of the respectable checklist was achieved; reconciliation with his 15 year old son, three hours unsettled sleep; acknowledgment of his guilt; melancholia but with fervent prayers; some help needed to reach the scaffold and his appeal to save his soul. He did, however, claim that his wife Elizabeth had been unfaithful to him. You were meant to accept your guilt unconditionally, not search for mitigation. He also had to suffer an audience of London lighterman (bargemen) who had popped over after a nights work to jeer at the victim.
It was Horace Cotton himself he gave the single for the drop, with an appropriate Biblical reference. Evans died immediately; largely because of the outrage at the bungled execution of Newman and the rest by the same hangman earlier that month. Jack Ketch- the nickname for the public hangmen- had got his act together. Evans dangled for the legally stipulated hour and then his body was sent to St Bartholomew’s for dissection.
It did not always go so well. In 1818, the murderer Francis Losch ‘went hard’ into eternity. He stabbed his wife to death, disembowelling her when she refused to continue to work as a prostitute for him. He was truculent and unapologetic at the scaffold. His only regret was that he was being hanged and he refused to admit to his real motives, claiming his wife’s actions had made him jealous. He did not go meekly to the scaffold, requiring wine to quieten him and two people to forcibly point him in the right direction. He was insufficient penitent and resigned and did not accept the justice of his punishment.

After writing this, I found this excellent article by Naomi Clifford
http://www.naomiclifford.com/charlotte-newman-mary-ann-james/
My approach is slightly different, but Naomi provides excellent background research and a different perspective.

More about the legal system in Georgian Britain in my book, out on November 30th 2017For the best price see

http://www.socialbookco.com/book/9781526702548/dark-days-of-georgian-britain

I shall be buying this when it is published in November 2017.

WOMEN AND THE GALLOWS jckt.indd

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-Gallows-1797-1837-Unfortunate/dp/1473863341/

Advertisements

Was it born dead? Concealment of Birth and Infanticide in the Regency.

image002

In the case of Mary Fordham of Hertford, the answer to the bleak question was yes; it was born dead. This mattered in Regency England, and not for reasons of concern for the mother, who had just gone through a traumatic experience. Murder carried the death penalty in Regency England; but then so did stealing lambs or spoons or passing a forged banknote. The difference is that the sentence for Infanticide was usually carried out and the body dispatched to the anatomists for dissection
Mary Fordham was a servant in Stevenage, living in the house of a man called Mr Whittingham. Mary Chapman, a sixteen year old fellow servant had no inkling that Mary Fordham was pregnant, despite living at close quarters. They had shared the same bed on 2nd September 1810 and Chapman had been kept up all night by Fordham complaining about pains in her bowels. Chapman spent the next night in her own room; she went to visit Fordham the next morning and found her room in disarray. Chapman believed that Mary Fordham had given birth, and suggested that she clean up her room and go to work as normal. Later on the same day, Mary Chapman told the mistress of the house what had happened and together they searched the house for evidence of a baby. They found a five foot hole where rubbish was deposited; in the hole was Mary Chapman’s bloody stocking with a new-born boy in it.
Then the story becomes odd as well as grotesque. Mrs Whittingham appeared as a witness and recounted as story about how, about a month earlier, a labourer had entered their house in a scary mask. Although it had been a “frolic”, it had scared both Mrs Whittingham and Mary Fordham and was, according to the Mistress of the house, very likely to make pregnant women miscarry. Why would Mrs Whittingham come up with this story? Was she trying to move the date of conception by claiming that the baby had not gone full term, therefore obscuring the father’s identity- protecting the family honour-or was she trying to provide a plausible reason for the child dying at birth to protect her servant?
An apothecary (not a more expensive doctor) was called. He declared the child full-grown, but could not rule out a miscarriage. There was a wound on the child’s head, and brick the same size with blood on it next to the body. Mary was lactating; the male apothecary examined her breasts to check, truly adding insult and humiliation to unimaginable trauma
It didn’t look good for Mary Fordham, despite the possibility of some support for whatever reason from the family. However, the draconian nature of the Georgian penal system came to her rescue. A surgeon deposed that the blow to the child’s head could have been caused either by a blow from the brick OR as a result of being thrown into the hole after dying at birth. It partly came down to who was believed, whether the defendant cut a good figure in court, and whether conspiracy could be proved. Mary’s applying experience, whatever it was, was one that she would have to do alone; to avoid the accusation of conspiracy ; perhaps her friend Mary Chapman realised this when she suggested that Mary Fordham “clean her room” and then went on to give her enough time to hide the body before she informed Mrs Whittingham
Desperate as her life was, Mary Fordham, as a servant away from home, had some advantages. She had no family to monitor the shape of her body or check out on her sexual relationships. She did not give birth in a room in a slum where the cries of a new-born baby would be heard through thin walls. There was just not enough evidence.
The Newgate report suggested that “the learned judge summed up the evidence with great humanity” The jury followed his hint and found her guilty of concealment of birth only, with a sentence of two years in gaol. That this was the best possible outcome shows the horror of being pregnant, single and powerless in Regency Britain
Lots of children were adjudged to be born dead and their birth concealed. On the same day as Mary was sent to prison, another women, Martha Woods in Winchester received the same punishment

There was very little change in attitudes over the next century .One hundred years later, 1918, also in Hertfordshire, Amy Cook (21), a domestic servant, pleaded guilty to endeavouring to conceal the birth of her male child.

Mr J.H. Murphy, on behalf of the prosecution, said that it was one of those sad cases of a respectable young woman getting into trouble and then trying to conceal the consequences. She had no assistance at the birth of her child, and afterwards hid the body away in a box in her bedroom, and was thus able to resume her work the next day.
Suspicions, however, were aroused, the police were called in, and she eventually produced the body. There was nothing against the prisoner, and probably it was more the fault of the man who got her into trouble than her own for she said that she did not know what to do.
The girl’s mother said her daughter had been well-behaved and had been in good service for several years. Asked by the Judge if she was aware of her daughter’s condition before the concealment, she replied that at about Christmas time she had had suspicions and had challenged her, but her daughter denied that there was anything wrong. She did not see her daughter again until after this affair happened.
His Lordship said the prisoner was young and hitherto had a good character; otherwise he should have passed a more severe sentence upon her than he was going to pass. This kind of offence had been too prevalent in recent years, much too prevalent. Having regard to the circumstances, he should pass the very lenient sentence of 3 months’ imprisonment in the second division.
On hearing the sentence, the prisoner screamed, threw up her hands, and was carried out of Court in a fainting condition.

( From http://www.hertspastpolicing.org.uk/)

The stories are remarkably similar; the main differences are that Amy had a mother she had to lie to, and the father was also blamed-a bit.

 Perhaps more significantly, Amy received a more severe sentence than even the Georgian “bloody code” had suggested one hundred years earlier.

My book-a social history of the Regency- available from November 30/ Feb 2018 in the USA

227 pages, despite what some  websites say!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Days-Georgian-Britain-Rethinking/dp/1526702541/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502132558&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+days+of+georgian+britain

check  lowest price here

http://www.socialbookco.com/book/9781526702548/dark-days-of-georgian-britain

 

 

 

Before she was famous. Jane Austen in the newspapers, 1813-1833

 

Jane makes one of her first appearances in the newspapers in on 6th September 1813. In an event only publicised in the local newspaper   the Hampshire Chronicle   Jane donated one of the lower amounts- half a guinea (10 shilling and sixpence, a week’s average wage for a urban worker ) to the newly established Basingstoke and Alton branch of the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge- an organisation which did what it said on the tin. It produced cheap Bibles and tried to encourage moral reformation. To subscribe to it   meant a desire to be respectable. To have your money accepted and publicised in the newspaper was an acknowledgement of your social position.

Jane’s position in   local society can be inferred from the details in the newspaper. All the committee members were male; Jane, like the other women on the list, were not committee members but additional subscribers, who made a donation rather than purchasing a yearly membership. It is highly unlikely that   Jane attended the meeting at the Bolton Arms Inn- and this was an age when many respectable women did attend meetings of charities. Her letters to Cassandra  around that time suggest that she may not have even been in the county

There are two references; a Miss Austen and a Miss Jane Austin. This may or may not be the same person

Jane had to wait until death to become newsworthy again. Once again, it was a   local event. This notice appeared on the last page of the Hampshire Chronicle as news from July 19th 1817, the day after her death

image002

Perhaps interestingly, this was not a paid for obituary but a piece of local news; her late father was previously a local cleric and it is unlikely that Jane would have received a mention if she had been a daughter of a local shoe maker.

On July 30th, a more or less identical notice appeared in the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, with the omission of her home address.

The newspapers are quiet until 1832; on Christmas Day 1832 the national newspaper the Morning Post made a reference to Jane. This was an advertisement- with the heading “Miss Jane Austen’s novels” ( in the plural, so there must have been some understanding that there was more than one.) Richard  Bentley, the publisher was presenting Sense and Sensibility as part of a series called The Standard Novels and Romances; there were two more identical advertisements, both in London papers, in the week before publication.

The Spectator magazine must have got hold of an early copy, as it has reviewed it by December 31st. The Morning Post reported on its findings. The paper noted their length of time since her death  “  the public took time to make up its mind”. It also hints that the general reader was engaged before the critics

The response to Sense and Sensibility meant that 1833 was Jane’s best year in the papers. By January the Hampshire Chronicle was rediscovering one of their own; “the novel affords diversified scenery of real life, and abounds in moral sentiment, conveyed in the most amusing incidents”.

image002

By March the Morning Post had reached its own, mostly favourable opinion. It took a few pages of reading, but the paper was impressed by her “natural fluency and unsophisticated earnestness”   Her novels rang true- they had “vraisemblance” and knowledge of human character. The was, the reviewer suggested, the ”new novelist of domestic truth”.

In April 1833, Volume 25 of Standard Novels and Romances included Emma. In July, Volume 27 included Mansfield Park and Bentley had sold over 100,000 copies of his series and Austen was clearly his star. The Scotsman liked Mansfield Park – “an admirable domestic tale…at which Miss Austen was has been long acknowledge as unrivalled”-clearly her books were being read in the 1820s by the public before the reviewers in the newspapers.

By August, Pride and Prejudice was the published in Volume 30. In October, all six novels were published in a cheap edition by Bentley, placing Jane on a par with some very well know Regency writers and poets….

image002

 

 

My book on the reality of Jane Austen’s  Britain is out on November 30

 

61l1BkkmGRL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_

“The Dark Days of Georgian  Britain” Pen and Sword

check lowest price here

http://www.socialbookco.com/book/9781526702548/dark-days-of-georgian-britain

or

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Days-Georgian-Britain-Rethinking/dp/1526702541

 

 

 

 

                                     Child Dropping in the Regency

 

Child Dropping

Child dropping was one way that unmarried women in the Regency   dealt with the consequences of an unplanned   or socially unacceptable pregnancy. A child would be abandoned; it would either perish outside, or much more likely, be found and mostly looked after in the workhouse. Then the authorities would react; sometimes harshly, but sometimes with a degree of compassion that the Regency is not particularly known for

By our period 1810-1820, attitudes were softening a little to child dropping, as it was increasingly seen as a desperate act. It is clear that the children were, in the vast majority of cases, meant to be found before they died. In September 1811 some labourers working in a brick field at first light found a three month old girl carefully placed in a place where the workers would be bound to find her. A genteel, well dressed woman had been 15 minutes earlier in the fields and the child was thought to be hers. The child was then sent to the St Pancras workhouse to be cared for.

 In February 1813, a nine month old child was left in the East India Docks, Blackwall and put next to a large consignment of timber on the quayside. This may seem to be a highly irresponsible place to leave a child; but the truth of the matter is that, just like the Hampstead brick field, it was a place of work were there was a time when it would be deserted, but another time when it was equally certain that it would fill up with people who would find the child. The baby was well “clothed and in a thriving state”; it had not been mistreated until the moment of its abandonment and it was not left there to die. These babies were made to be found; for those who wanted their children dead, the River Thames was a few yards away. Newspaper reports would make indirect judgement on the mother through the clues it had.

 Timing and location were crucial for success. These two examples were babies dropped in the early morning outside a busy work place. The other possibility is to place them outside a busy doorway which would be opened regularly. On a busy Saturday night in New Cut, Canterbury  in July 1813 unknown women left her four month old child ( “respectable clothed” )on the doorstep of a large house and she was found almost immediately by a maidservant. The gentlemen who owned the house took the child in, looked after it and made plans for its future at his own expense. It is very likely that this was exactly what the poor mother would have wished for, and may well have planned it.

In November 1813, another female infant, a new born, was found, once again on a Saturday evening and once again at the front of a gentlemen’s house in Bath. She was well clothed, wrapped in something that looked like her mother’s petticoat. She was placed in a hat box with a hole pierced in the front to allow the child to breathe. The box was not new; there had been a name written on the outside that had been deliberately erased. The child, like others, ended up in the local workhouse and the   Poor Law officers offered 10 guineas for information about the identity of the mother, or the people who planted the baby- their determination of “make a signal   example of all such offenders”. However, they also suggested that if the women came forward and had an adequate appalling story to tell, then “they may depend on being treated with every degree of tenderness and delicacy”. The Overseers of the poor finished their newspaper advertisement with news for the mother

NB The Child is alive in the Walcot Poor-House, and is likely to do well

It was a message to the parent. No serious crime had been committed yet. There was a way out.

When did the women become “unnatural mothers”?  They would normally have to do more than leave their child on the door step. They would have to be flagrant or ungrateful. In another example from Canterbury in October 1813, a nine month old boy was left at the door of  a Mr Hutchinson at the Cattle Market. So far, so good; but it was wrapped in an “old cloak “-that was a judgement- and a reward was put out for the identification of the mother. Any such reward would be cost effective, as otherwise the child would be a burden on the parish. The next day a women called Fitzgerald (“Wife of a sailor”, whose husband may have sailed away somewhere during conception) She came back to claim the child and seemed to be given some money to go away (she would have no right to claim money from the parish, but the child may have been entitled). Instead she took the money, got drunk and broke a window and the child ended up back in the workhouse, this time for good.

It may have been a coincidence, but the use of the expression “unnatural mother” or “inhuman wretch” seems to have been more prevalent in the provincial papers; London papers seem to have been more pragmatic. In November 1816, one child   was left outside the Foundling Hospital, a charitable institution which   would have been the ideal placement for such a child. He was covered in green baize, with a sign saying “ live lumber “ The “fine boy” was wearing a fine great coat with silk cuffs on his shirt. Somebody had written a poem to the officials of the Foundling Hospital perhaps in order to charm the boy’s way through the Hospitals admission system

image002

 

It didn’t work. The child was dispatched to the St Pancras workhouse. A reward was offered for the mother; whose poetry and  ability to buy nice clothes meant that she was spared the epithet “ unnatural”

 

My Book ( Pen and Sword November 2017)

61l1BkkmGRL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Days-Georgian-Britain-Rethinking/dp/1526702541/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498384239&sr=1-3&keywords=James+Hobson
Twitter
@about1816
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/groups/240446562958539/Facebook

Twitter- about 1816

My Facebook page..search  “Dark Days of Georgian Britain”