Criminal Historian

Working with dead people

When the Wild Woman of the Mountains stole a child

From William Blake's illustrations for Dante's Inferno

From William Blake’s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno

Harriet Haines, or Hayes, was a ‘notorious’ character, known as the Wild Woman of Wales or the Wild Woman of the Mountains, who, since the late 1850s, had chosen to isolate herself from her community, living at the top of a mountain in Caernarfonshire.

She was originally from Ireland, and nobody knew how long she had lived in Wales. What was known, though, was that during summer, she camped at the top of the mountain, and at night, when everyone was in bed, she would climb down to the lowlands to steal fruit and vegetables from local people’s orchards, and milk their cows, thus enabling her to live for free – although at cost to those who were growing food and rearing cows for their own families’ sustenance.

In winter or cold weather, she would wander into other people’s houses – which were rather remote from each other- and ‘pretend’ to be mad. If she came across anyone weak-minded or old in the house, she would demand ‘the best food in the house’ and only exit when other family members came in.

One Wednesday morning in February 1866, it being very cold and wet, Harriet made her way down the mountain to Ty Newydd, Dolwyddelan, to warm herself in someone else’s house. She heard the family return, and hurriedly left the building – but on seeing a toddler playing at the door, grabbed it and made her way back towards the hilltop. Luckily, the child’s mother soon realised it was missing, and ran out to look for her two year old.

She found Harriet with the stranger’s child 200 yards away, but had to struggle with her to get the child from her. She immediately went for the police – which must itself have taken some time – and the nearest police constable located the Wild Woman at Bryn Eithin, near Capel Curig. She was taken to the lock-up at Llanrwst, ‘where she was safely lodged’.

Why did Harriet steal the child? Nobody seems to have asked this question – it was simply assumed that it was the kind of thing a mad hermit would do. Perhaps Harriet saw it as a bargaining tool – if the family gave her food, she would return the child – or maybe she was even lonely, and wanted someone to keep her company on her isolated mountain-top.

However, it seems that up to that point, there had been a fair amount of tolerance towards this woman, who refused to be part of the local community, yet needed its resources. It was only when she abducted a young child that she was finally seen to have crossed the line.

Tolerance was now in shorter supply. The following year, Harriet was described in the press as ‘an awful creature’ who illustrated the barbarity of Wales as a country (ironically, this was in a story repeated verbatim in an Irish newspaper – which completely missed the point that Harriet was herself Irish, not Welsh).

The area the Wild Woman was walking in 1867

The area the Wild Woman was walking in 1867

It was noted that she had twice been ‘captured’  and that she had now ‘been finally run down’ by the local community. A large group of locals got together after having spotted Harriet near Llanfairfechan, and attempted to chase her. A police constable was at the head, and he eventually found this dangerous and awful woman… fast asleep on a mountain that led from Caerhun to Rowen.

The constable woke her up, and at 2am one Friday morning in late July 1867, brought her to the lock-up. At this point, she told him that she thought she had been excommunicated by the Pope and ordered to live a solitary life on the mountain for ten years. However, she now found herself ordered to live in the confines of Caernarfon Gaol for the next month.

On her release, Harriet returned to her former ways, but was still not left alone. In 1881, now ‘aged and decrepit’, she was discovered by another police constable, PC Humphreys, sleeping in an outbuilding on the side of the Llanfairfechan mountain. It was January, and she was half-covered in snow.

She was charged with this offence, and PC Humphreys’ superior, Inspector Hughes, said at Bangor Police Court that to his knowledge, she had been ‘wandering about the mountains’ for years, and that in November 1879, she had been sent to gaol for 14 days for again sleeping in an outbuilding. Apparently, even though she was now an old woman, she usually slept in ‘holes’ on the mountainside, and only ventured down when the weather was simply too bad to stay outside.

When asked to explain herself, she said,

“When I’m up in the mountains, I am almost as far as God; but they won’t let me be near God. They bring me down to this earth again.”

The newspapers felt that this simple statement was evidence that Harriet was of weak intellect; the magistrate, Reverend D Evans, said that it was clear that Harriet would be ‘better off’ in gaol, dispatching her there for another 14 days. Perhaps this was a sympathetic approach – for in gaol, Harriet would at least be warmer (if not warm – Victorian gaols not being known for their luxuries) and out of the snow.

Sources: Carnarvon Herald, undated, but repeated in Freeman’s Journal, 16 February 1866 and Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser, 17 February 1866; Oswestry Advertiser, undated, but repeated in Saunders’s News-Letter, Dublin, 5 August 1867; North Wales Chronicle, 15 January 1881.



The Mugshots of Preston Park

mugshotThe BBC recently published an interesting post on their website that I linked to on Twitter, but is also worth highlighting here.

The story details how Preston Park Museum in Stockton-on-Tees is tracking the lives of prisoners whose mugshots have survived in prison books, but whose personal details or offences have not been recorded or survived.

The mugshot book is believed to be from the North Riding of Yorkshire, and dates to between 1878 and 1896. It is currently being digitised and forms part of the recreation of a police station at the museum.

But some of the individuals are better known than others, and so the museum is attempting to find out the names and other details of anonymous mugshots, with the aim of making the details available to researchers and academics.

They are crowdsourcing this to an extent, posting images of individuals to Twitter and Facebook in the hope that members of the public might be able to help to either identify them or conduct their own research into who they might be.

For more on the project, see this post from one of Preston Park Museum’s staff at the Leeds Beckett University website.


The misfortunes of a Victorian actress

punch2Laura Bentley was in dire straits. A 41-year-old Londoner, she supported her bedridden mother, who she lived with in lodgings in Delancey Street, St Pancras. In fact, their lodgings were nothing more than a single furnished room on the top floor of number 82.

Her wages were not enough to keep the pair afloat, and she had got into financial difficulties. This was mortifying to her; her father had been a gentleman with an income of £500 a year.

Laura had been ‘educated and brought up as a lady’ – but her father had absconded. He then died, and her mother had remarried, this time to a drunkard who spent all the late Mr Bentley’s money. He then seems to have left, leaving Laura and her mother in poverty.

Laura described herself as being of an ‘excitable’ personality; so excitable that at one point, she had to be taken into the insane ward of the Islington workhouse for three days. She was again admitted to the workhouse, and then to the insane or lunatic ward – the Hagar Ward – of the workhouse in 1897. Then living in Camden Town, she was admitted by her uncle, Frederick Roberts.


Laura Bentley's discharge to the Islington workhouse infirmary, 1897, via Ancestry

Laura Bentley’s discharge to the Islington workhouse infirmary, 1897, via Ancestry

She had originally wanted to be an actress, and had worked as such for some time, before an attack of laryngitis left her voice permanently affected. She had therefore found herself ‘disqualified’ from her profession, and so had to take on a job as a machinist. Initially she worked at Peter Robinson’s factory, and then at the Swan and Edgar premises.

But then she lost her job, due to ‘alterations made by these firms’, she said, but also, perhaps, because her health was poor. She had started drinking, and mixing with ‘women of loose character’.  She owed five weeks’ rent, and  the landlady had talked of evicting her due to her staying out all night drinking.

Her mother, who was unable to move her limbs due to chronic rheumatism, had formerly had to be helped by the charity of some local women, and the parish. Now, though, she was entirely reliant on Laura, and both women were on the verge of starving. It was also said that Laura had no friends left to call on for help.

Laura spent her days ‘tramping’ around the city trying to find work, to no avail. The combination of failure in her chosen profession, failure also in her second job as a machinist, and failure to adequately support her mother, may have led her to the drinking (although the mixing with loose women may simply have been out of loneliness and a desire for company).

It also, eventually, led to Laura becoming so ‘weary and distressed’ that she attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the York and Albany Bridge into the Regent’s Canal.

Laura's admission to the lunatic ward of the Islington workhouse, 1897

Laura’s admission to the lunatic ward of the Islington workhouse, 1897

Yet she also failed at doing this.

As she was desperately trying to clamber over the bridge in the dark – it was one o’clock in the morning – hindered by her long skirts, a local police constable spotted her. He ran up to her and grabbed her skirts, pulling her back.

“I beg you to let me do it!” she cried, “I am in fearful trouble! About 4l will save me from suicide, but if you will not let me do it, I will do it another day.”

Instead, she was arrested, and brought to Marylebone Police Court, charged with attempting suicide. She was remanded on bail, with the judge, Curtis Bennett, saying that ‘probably something would be done for her.’

What that would be, he failed to say, beyond suggesting that a gaol doctor should examine her, and that the parish overseers should be notified that her mother might need looking after.

But the records show that machinist Laura Bentley was again admitted to the workhouse – this time St Pancras – in 1903. It was stated at this point that she had ‘no home’. In 1906, again homeless, she was returned to the St Pancras workhouse. Her ‘nearest known relative or friend’ was the same uncle who had had her admitted to the lunatic ward in 1897.

It is clear that Laura’s cry for help – her attempted suicide – did not result in a happy ending. Brought before the magistrates, the only options open to her were prison or workhouse. It seems that the rest of her life was spent yo-yoing between workhouse and lodgings of some sort, between pauper wards and lunatic wards.

It was not the kind of life that an aspiring actress would have envisaged in her youth, but it showed the lack of options, open to many women in Victorian England when they fell on hard times.

Sources: Daily News, 11 July 1898; Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 17 July 1898; workhouse admission and discharge records on Ancestry.

Where an executioner’s experiment was laid to rest

Fred's resting place (© Criminal Historian)

Fred’s resting place (© Criminal Historian)

In the shadow of the Lucy Tower of Lincoln Castle – site of the city’s Georgian and Victorian prisons – is what looks like a peaceful garden. Enclosed by medieval walls, with several trees casting shade over the grass, it is a peaceful environment.

Yet look closer, and you’ll see several small stone markers dotted around. Some are bare, their inscriptions having never existed, or being erased by the wind and rain over time. Others are still clear, though; initials, and a date. For this is the final resting place of many of the criminals who were hanged at the castle in the 19th century.

One of the most clear stones records the initials WFH, and marks the grave of William Frederick Horry. Fred Horry was a nasty character, who has gone down in history as the first person to be hanged by Victorian executioner William Marwood.

Born in 1843 in Boston, Lincolnshire, he was married at the age of 23 to Jane, but the marriage was not happy. They ran a Staffordshire hotel together, but within five years of the marriage, they had separated amidst allegations of alcoholism (on Fred’s part) and adultery (on Jane’s part).

Jane returned to Boston with their children, whilst William stayed in Staffordshire. He tried to see his family, but was abusive, and forbidden from seeing his children. He sold the hotel, moved to Nottingham, and kept trying to see his family.

After one final attempt in 1872, when he was again refused, he bought a revolver in Nottingham, and then travelled to Boston.

He made his way to his father’s house, where his family were staying, and, at 3pm, as Jane walked into the dining room, he raised the revolver and shot her dead.

Horry's Assize record (via Ancestry)

Horry’s Assize record (via Ancestry)

At the Spring Assizes on 11 March 1872, held at Lincoln, he was sentenced to death. On 1 April, he was executed at the castle by William Marwood, using, for the first time, the new ‘long drop’ method of hanging that was seen as more civilised, as it resulted in a quicker death.

Horry may have died quickly, but he lives on, part of the tourist trail at Lincoln Castle, and remembered in the history of the famous executioner.

Fred Horry's final resting place (© Criminal Historian)

Fred Horry’s final resting place (© Criminal Historian)

Throwing baby onto the fire: a tale for Bonfire Night

To mark Bonfire Night in a somewhat macabre way, here’s a cheery tale from the Western Mail of 5 November 1895 (accessed via the wonderful Welsh Newspapers Online site).

Man throws baby onto fire


You can understand why Mrs Vaughan may have wanted to divorce her husband, can’t you?

Wilhemina's divorce petition, from Ancestry

Wilhemina’s divorce petition, from Ancestry

William Thomas Vaughan married  Johanna Friedricke Wilhemina Lehmann in Usk in 1884. He was 27 at the time, and she was 23. Wilhelmina, as she was known, had been born in Germany but settled down to life in the Old Port area of Brecon, where she took on new work as a dressmaker, now that, as a married woman, she could not continue working as a lady’s maid.

Their two children were Otto William, born in 1885, and Friedricke Maria, born in 1886. Whether it was Otto or Frederika who ended up on the fire is not recorded, but at least the unfortunate baby survived.

And there was a happy ending for poor Wilhelmina after her divorce. Although in 1901 she was living in the same street in Brecon where she had been ten years earlier, she was now married to Frederick Harrison, an American four years her junior (they married in Brecon in 1896). She was working as a costumier, and had her daughter Friedricke still living at home – son Otto was now living in Maesteg where he was a grocer’s apprentice.

William Vaughan’s fortunes remain unknown; he is harder to track than his former wife. One hopes, though, that he never tried to throw a baby onto the fire again…


How Judge Maule was sent to Coventry for saying it stank

Coventry: smelly?

Coventry: smelly?

In 1845, Judge Maule was sent to Coventry – twice.

Sir William Henry Maule (1788-1858) was a Cambridge-educated lawyer from Middlesex, who was known for his ‘fine judicial sense of humour‘. However, his sense of humour appears to have failed him when he was told to go to Coventry to preside over the Assizes.

He and his fellow learned gentlemen were provided with lodgings in the town, where they would stay for the duration of the Assizes, but Maule was not impressed.

On entering the house, he was ‘struck with the intolerable stench which met him’.  The whole house smelled bad, he said; both upstairs and downstairs were so smelly that it was ‘impossible to remain’.

Someone, possibly the landlord or lady, tried to explain the smell by saying it could be a mouldy carpet; but Maule was not having it. He removed himself to the more pleasant environs of Warwick, where he promptly complained to anyone who would listen that it was both inconvenient and expensive to hold an Assize at Coventry, and that it was therefore pointless to do so.

Having been sent to Coventry once, he was now sent again – by the townspeople. Offended by his attitude, they regarded him as having insulted both them and their home.

They held protests, slandering the judge by making their opinions on his own personal character known; and then gathered together some statistics relating to local mortality, publicising them to show that ‘Coventry is in fact a delightfully salubrious region’.

In an era where cholera regularly struck urban communities, and was believed to be the result of miasma, or ‘bad air’, Maule’s comments about the ‘stench’ of Coventry had an extra significance. The protesting inhabitants argued that

“Judge Maule’s airs were not attributable to the air of Coventry, but to some other cause”

In addition, they argued that Assizes had been held at Coventry for at least 500 years; but the press noted that it was likely, due to Maule’s complaints, that ‘it is not unlikely the result will be to remove altogether the Assizes to Warwick.’

Source: Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 10 April 1845


London Lives: Talking about poverty and crime in the capital

UnknownI’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker’s new book, London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800 (CUP, 2015) – and interviewing Tim about it – for the November issue of Your Family Tree. I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of crime or the history of London.

Here are the authors themselves talking about the publication, from outside the London Metropolitan Archives (thanks to @ourcriminalpast for the hat-tip!):


The November issue of Your Family Tree will be out at the end of October.

Book review: The Crime Museum Uncovered

9781781300411First things first – this is a beautifully designed book. It’s a good slab of a coffee-table book for its £12.99, and is visually striking. That’s not just the front cover, but throughout – the page design is lovely, the choice of black/white/orange works extremely well, and I’d be proud to have written a book that is presented so well by the publisher.

It’s also a bit of a page turner. There’s not that much text on each page – the focus is on the images throughout, which are artefacts and documents taken from the exhibition, and that is absolutely the right approach. Yet it is still difficult to put down. Because there is only a relatively short amount of text per story or theme, the temptation is to ‘just’ read another page or story before you finish.

There is a mix of cases presented here – both famous crimes (or infamous), and those that were once famous but are now rather forgotten about, or those that were always seen as less newsworthy than others, because of their mundanity or commonality. Therefore, there’s something for everyone (as long as you have an interest in crime in the first place, that is).

Those are the good points – and they far outweigh the bad. There are a few typos, which is a shame (for example, one of the murderers mentioned in the book has his name spelled two different ways); an index would have been useful to look up individuals or particular case.

The timeline that the exhibition itself uses would have been good to have more clearly in the book. Although there is a fairly short one that whizzes through the key developments, I would have liked a more comprehensive, slightly more detailed timeline, using a larger font and clearer design for dates. There is always an emphasis here on the criminals and their victims, but I am curious about the detectives themselves, some of whose names are listed, but whose work and lives are ignored or glossed over.

But if you have your interest whetted in a particular case, individual, or artefact, this book will give you the information you need. The photography is very good, and so the book acts as an aide memoire after visiting the exhibition, as well as a standalone introduction to one of the most secretive museums in London’s history.

The Crime Museum Uncovered: Inside Scotland Yard’s Special Collection, by Jackie Kiely and Julia Hoffbrand, is on sale from 9 October 2015, at the price of £12.99. It is published by IB Tauris.

The Crime Museum Uncovered, Examined

IMG_9761This morning, I was able to attend the press preview of The Crime Museum Uncovered, the Museum of London‘s major new exhibition, which opens to the public this Friday.

I have previously written about the exhibition on this blog and on the History Today website, where I had expressed concern about how the exhibition might end up mythologising criminals, through its publicity focus on the likes of the Krays and the Great Train Robbery.

So did the exhibition allay my fears? Mainly, yes.

IMG_9737There has been a concerted effort on the part of the curators to keep in mind that every crime has a victim as well as a perpetrator. Where possible, they have included photographs of both offender and victim(s), so that the visitor is always reminded of those who have suffered as a result of violence.

This has been particularly well done in the case of the display about the Great Train Robbery. It is easy to forget, given the fact that a movie was made about one of the robbers, and another was made out almost to be a folk-hero, that there was a victim – Jack Mills, the train driver. In the exhibition, in the middle of an array of artefacts, is a striking black and white image of the injured Mills, bandaged and bruised. There is no detailed commentary about this – there is no need. He is at the centre of the display, where he should be.

And the uneasy questions that might arise from an exhibition of crimes, criminals and criminal artefacts are not evaded – they are faced straight-on. The final room of the exhibition is an area for contemplation, where visitors can submit their views on computer screens, or sit and listen to talking heads discuss issues around the exhibition – including the key one:

“Should this collection be open to the public?”

Here, the likes of Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove and KCL Chair of Philosophy Law Leif Weinar join individuals from the Met, the Crime Museum and the London Mayoral office, as well as Jackie Keily, co-curator of the exhibition, to talk about the exhibition and the issues it raises.

Perhaps the main problem of the exhibition lies in the sheer amount of information it presents – through items rather than words. There is so much to look at that more than one visit may be needed to do it justice.

There is also the problem of emphasis. The emphasis is not on the Crime Museum’s early history; at the long-lead press preview, I was told this was because of a relative lack of artefacts from its early period – all of the Crime Museum’s early material was going to be included, which suggested there wasn’t that much. But there is – and it has been crammed into too small a space.

The recreation of the Crime Museum room to house these earlier artefacts is a great idea, and the room has been designed well as a space. But it is too crammed with stuff, meaning that it is difficult to view everything clearly. The prime example is that of the criminals’ death masks, which are fascinating – but they are placed round the room on a high shelf, making it difficult to see them very closely.

Too high, m'lud!

Too high, m’lud!

Criminal records are all put together under the glass of a table, too many for the space. For those of us particularly interested in the early history, it is frustrating not to be able to see everything clearly.

IMG_9723To get from this space to the more spacious room that details themes and individual cases, visitors make their way through a corridor where the nooses used to hang notorious figures line one side.

This is done well; each noose, with a small label detailing who it was used on, against a backdrop of a Victorian image of a crowd baying at an execution.

The first room in the exhibition, which leads into the ‘recreation’ of the Crime Museum is also a perfect way to start, with its introduction to the museum and its timeline of key events in policing history. If anything, I would have liked more of this history and context.

The only thing I didn’t like was the first thing you see when you come down the stairs to the exhibition space – a modern police car, all brash and well-lit. It seems to sit incongruously with the darker tones of the exhibition and its primary focus on a prior history.

But the Museum of London has an incredible pedigree of producing absorbing, informative, yet interactive and easy to follow exhibitions, such as its Dickens and Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men ones, both of which I enjoyed.

IMG_9745This doesn’t fail either; a lot of thought and research has gone into uncovering the Crime Museum.

Although I may have liked to see more input from criminal historians (not just me!), it’s still a thoughtful, and careful, exploration of crime and those involved in it – criminals, victims, policemen, and others within the criminal justice system who have had to deal with often disturbing or upsetting cases, but who have, till now, been neglected.

The Crime Museum Uncovered opens on 9 October and continues until 10 April 2016; tickets can be purchased from the Museum of London here.

Tomorrow, on this blog, I will be reviewing the book that accompanies the exhibition – The Crime Museum Uncovered: Inside Scotland Yard’s Special Collection.





Coveting clothing: six women, one theft, in 18th century London

An 18th century laundress - the occupation of Ann Taylor

An 18th century laundress – the occupation of Ann Taylor

On 9 December 1789, laundress Ann Taylor and Elizabeth Wylie, a needlewoman, were put on trial at the Old Bailey, accused of stealing four pieces of cambric fabric from a warehouse in St Martin’s Lane.

This was a crime alleged to have been committed by two women, against two women; the muslin and ready made linen warehouse, near the Strand, was owned by two sisters, Ann and Anna Maria Tapp.

At the time, Ann Tapp said, Taylor and Wylie were the only customers in the warehouse shop, having come in to buy a neckcloth, or cravat.

While Ann Taylor was paying for it, Elizabeth Wylie went to the window to look at another neckcloth that was on display there. As that happened, Ann Tapp said:

“Two other women came in while they were in the shop; I turned round to speak to them other women, and I thought I heard something move while I was speaking to them; I fancied they took the cambric; I missed it directly.”

The Tapps’ father then came into the shop, and Ann Tapp told him her suspicions. She went to the magistrate in the evening – presumably after the shop had closed – to report Taylor and Wylie for grand larceny (the cambric being valued at £3, well over the amount that would make the offence the lesser one of petty larceny).

At trial, the counsel, Garrick, tried to suggest that Ann Tapp had originally thought the other two customers had stolen the cambric, and that the paper she had said the cambric had been stored in had originally been referred to as ‘waste paper’. Garrick clearly felt the offence was trivial, perhaps because of the gender of complainants and defendants. He asked Ann Tapp,

“You know that this indictment imputes a capital offence to each of these prisoners? You did not know, perhaps, that this indictment affected the lives of the prisoners?”

Ann Tapp was made to feel guilty for bringing the complaint; before Garrick, she said she would be “very sorry” to know that Taylor and Wylie were suffering. Her own family’s fortunes were then brought up; her father was in “very distressed” circumstances, and wasn’t it the case that the business was actually her father’s, and she simply worked there for him?

Ann Tapp, rightly, objected to this question, as it suggested that she could not possibly be in charge herself, as a woman and daughter. She confidently asserted that it was her and her sister’s business:

“She is in partnership with me, and no other person; my father has no interest in the business at all but what I choose to give him; it is one thing to assist a father who is in distress, and another to be a partner. The trade is quite independent of my father; he is not answerable for anything that goes in, or anything that goes out.”

Her father, Francis, was also called on to give evidence, and clearly referred to the warehouse as being “my daughters’ shop”. He said when he turned up at the shop, either Ann Taylor or Elizabeth Wylie admitted to taking the cambric and wanted to leave, but he wouldn’t let them. He rang the bell in the shop to call the servant, and told her to run and get the constable. When he, and the magistrate, Thomas Mumford, turned up, one of the accused ran up to the shop counter and dropped the cambric’s paper, saying, “Lord bless me! Here is some waste paper lays!” to try and make out that she had discovered rather than stolen it.

Garrick was not convinced. He thought the Tapps were overestimating the value of the cambric, and suggested that they were trying to make the two accused women face the death penalty, therefore being unduly harsh towards two of their own gender. But although Elizabeth Wylie called two witnesses to attest to her good character, both she and Ann Taylor were found guilty and sentenced to death.

The pardon granted to Elizabeth Wylie and Ann Taylor in 1790, via Findmypast.

The pardon granted to Elizabeth Wylie and Ann Taylor in 1790, via Findmypast.

This was not the end of the story, however. The jury had recommended the pair to mercy, and in 1790, two petitions were submitted to John William Rose, Recorder of London, asking for clemency in the case. The petitions were submitted by the women themselves, and by two aldermen and another alderman who also happened to be a London MP.

They argued that they were not only innocent of the crime, and that the failure of the other two women in the shop to appear as witnesses for the prosecution affected their trial, but that the early trial – which took place just a week after the alleged theft – had prevented them from finding either sufficient character witnesses, statements of previous good character, or sureties for their good behaviour. In addition, Ann Taylor said that she was a widow with three young children to support.

Their heartfelt petitions worked. The Recorder recommended mercy, on condition that they find financial sureties for good behaviour for the time equal to the remainder of their sentence. In December 1790, Elizabeth Wylie and Ann Taylor were formally pardoned, a year after being sentenced to death.

Sources:, ref t17891209-7, TNA HO47/12/54 (read at TNA) and TNA HO13, accessed via

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