Sarah Wilmshurst, Killing > murder, 13th April 1743.

Reference Number: t17430413-36
Offence: Killing > murder
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

224. + Sarah Wilmshurst , Wife of Stephen Wilmshurst , was indicted for that she not having the Fear of God before her Eyes, but being moved and seduce by the Instigation of the Devil, on the 4th Day of March , in the Sixteenth Year of His Majesty's Reign, in the Parish of St Gabriel Fenchurch , upon a certain Female Infant, about the Age of three Months, feloniously, wilfully, and of her Malice afore-Thought, did make an Assault, and the said Female Infant in both her Hands did take, and the said Female Infant with both her Hands in an House-of-Office, belonging to the Dwelling-House of Luke Philpot , where there was a great Quantity of Filth and Excrement, did cast and throw, by which casting and throwing into the said House-of-Office, and by Reason of the said Filth and Excrement, the said Female Infant was choaked and suffocated; of which Suffocation the said Female Infant instantly died, and that she, the said Sarah Wilmshurst , the said Female Infant did kill and murder .

She was a second Time charged on the Coroner's Inquest, for the said Murder.

Mary Belfour . I had Mrs Wilmshurst's Child to nurse about five Weeks, it had been six Weeks with another Person, before I had it: - It was the Child of the Woman, the Prisoner at the Bar; she fetched it away from me, and said, it was to go into Wales, to the Gentleman's Aunt, who was the Father of it: - She came to me, about Nine o'Clock at Night, and went away a little before Twelve.

Q. When did she come for it?

Belfour. She came for it on a Thursday Night, about six Weeks ago; she came about Nine o'Clock at Night, and staid till almost Twelve, before she took it out of the House; I thought she had no good Design, because she staid so late, so I followed her into Fenchurch street, and she turned down Star-Alley; there was a Woman followed her, and she went into the Globe-Alehouse, as I was told: I did not see any more of the Prisoner, till I saw her in the Poultry Compter, the Sunday following, and, after having some Discourse with her about the Child; I asked her how the Wounds came on the Child's Head, (for there were several Wounds on its Head) she said she laid no violent Hands upon the Child, but only put it down the Vault.

Q. How do you know it to be the Prisoner's Child?

Belfour. I know that to be the Child I had from Mr Philpot's House, which she had from me.

Q. When was it she told you, that she put it down the Vault?

Belfour. It was the first Sunday, after she was committed; I think it was the sixth Day of March.

Prisoner. I never said any such Thing to you; for I never said any such Thing to any Body.

Henry Gyles I live in the House with Mr Philpot; I am a single Man, and lie in the Shop for Conveniency; about Two o'Clock in the Morning, on the fourth of last March, as I lay in Bed, I heard somebody knock at the Door, and presently I heard somebody come padding down Stairs, which I took to be a Man, and then I heard a Whispering and a rustling as I apprehended of a Woman's Cloaths, and I heard him go up Stairs again, and I thought, she had gone up too; presently I heard something squeak, which I thought at first to be a Dog, and then I heard the crying of an Infant several Times: I wondered what could be the Reason of it; this was in the Entry, and very soon after, I heard the

Child cry at a greater Distance; I could not tell whether it was above, or below, at first; but afterwards, I found it was in the Cellar; I wondered what she should do there, thinks I, she may take it into the Cellar to quiet it, because she will not distrub the Family; by and by I smelt a prodigious Stench from the Excrement, and I did not get up, because I thought, if the Child was in the House of Office, I could not fetch it to Life; some time afterwards; I heard a Woman go up Stairs and draw Water, come down Stairs, and go up again: I was afraid to go out, to see what was the Matter, being a naked Man, for I had no Weapon to defend myself, and did not know, who might be there: About Five o'Clock, I could just discern it Light, and then I went to Mr James's, a Cooper, and told him the Affair, and he came with me, and we searched the Necessary-House, with a long Staff with some Nails at the End of it: I advised her Father of it, and he said, he knew nothing of a Child, for he knew nothing of her Lying in; but he was very willing if there was such a Thing, that it should be brought to a clear Light, and told me, he would enquire into it; which accordingly he did, and she absolutely denied it; he acquainted me with what had passed between them, and he went out about some Business; she sent for me up Stairs, and began to be very robust with me, for aspersing her Character, and said, that she wondered what I meant by it, and the like; and was in a violent Passion with me: I said, I would have the Necessary-House searched, and would not go to sleep till it was done. I went for a Night-Man; I think it was on the Friday, the first Step he took, he moved a Plank which I had moved before, and found nothing there at the first View; then he viewed the Seat of the Necessary-House, and put down a long Fork, or Thing with Prongs, and brought up the Body of an Infant; her Father was with me, when the Child was brought up, out of the Necessary-House.

Q. What Age did the Child appear to be of?

Gyles. Those who are Judges took it to be about three Months old; Robert Hobbins is the Night-Man, who took the Child up.

Q. Where does the Prisoner live?

Gyles. In the House with her Father.

Court. You say, when you were in Bed, you heard a Person come padding down Stairs; Who was that?

Gyles. That was the Journeyman, who let her in.

Q. Did he ever own any Thing to you, of her bringing in a Child?

Gyles. No, quite the contrary: - The Child was pulled up by its Cloaths.

Q. How did the Child appear?

Gyles. The Surgeon declared, there were Eleven punctured Wounds in the Head; I did not see the Wounds; the old Gentleman being with me, and in an Agony of Tears, I cannot say, but it moved me prodigiously, that I did not look at the Child, when I heard the Nightman say he had got it.

Prisoner. You say, Mr Gyles, you did not know I was with Child, when you knew very well I was with Child, and you are the Person that got the Child.

Gyles. This is an Accusation entirely false; but however, it is impossible that it can do you any Service; I have spoke the Truth, and nothing but the Truth; if you could lay it to me, Why did not you lay it to me?

[Mr Alderman Marshall said that he knew Mr Gyles, that he had an opportunity of knowing his Character; that he was an honest, sober Fellow, and always behaved well.]

Gyles. The Accusation is entirely false; she always denied she was with Child, and People have laughed at her for denying it; when she has gone to Market, the Butchers have said, she should have Things cheaper than another, because she was with Child, and she always said it was Fat.

Edward Sherrard . The 4th of March, between One and Two in the Morning, Sarah Wilmshurst knocked at the Door, I came down Stairs, and let her in, and then I went up Stairs, and the Prisoner followed me, and I went to Bed.

Q. Had she any Child with her, or any Bundle?

Sherrard. I saw no Child, nor no Bundle, that she had.

Q. Had you ever a Candle?

Sherrard. I had no Candle; - there was a Man at the Door, with a Candle and Lanthorn.

Q. Was there any Body along with her?

Sherrard. I did not see any Body. I open'd the Door a-jar, let her in, fastened the Door again, and then went up Stairs, and the Prisoner said she would follow me, and she came up Stairs directly.

Q. Did not you strike a Light?

Sherrard. Yes, I did, and the Prisoner fetched the Light away.

Q. Upon your Oath, did not you see a Child she had?

Sherrard. Upon my Oath, she had no Child.

Q. When she came to fetch this Light, did not you see a Bundle she had?

Sherrard. She had no Bundle.

Elizabeth Wade . I was in Bed, when the Prisoner came to the Door, and I heard a Man-Servant in the House, go down and let her in, and the Door was shut; he returned up to his Room, and in a little Time after, came down again, and he did not stay long before he went up again, and a little while afterwards I heard the Prisoner come up.

Q. Did not you hear a Child cry?

Wade. Yes.

Q. Where did you hear the Child cry?

Wade. In the Inside of the House.

Q. How do you know it was the Prisoner that went up Stairs?

Wade. I am pretty sure it was her - I heard a Woman come up.

Q. How do you know that Woman was the Prisoner?

Wade. I do not know that there was any Body else in the House.

Q. Where did she go after she went up Stairs?

Wade. She went into Sherrard's Room.

Q. Did you think it was her because of her going into Sherrard's Room?

Wade. I do not know any Thing of that.

Q. Did she appear to be with Child?

Wade. I took her to be so, but her Mother told me she was not; and she used stiffly to deny it; I enquired in the Morning who came in with a Child, and I did not hear any Thing of it till the Afternoon.

Q. What did not you hear till the Afternoon?

Wade. I did not hear till the Afternoon who brought in the Child.

Court. I think you said you heard the Prisoner come up.

Wade. Yes I did, but I did not think there was Murder in hand.

Jury. Where was Sherrard when you heard the Child cry?

Wade. He went up Stairs as soon as he let her in; I heard the Child cry by that Time he got into his Room; but I did not make any Observation of it, not thinking what was in Hand.

Jury to Sherrard. Did not you hear the Child cry?

Sherrard. No, I did not hear the Child cry.

Court. Is there any Body that knows of this Woman's being with Child?

Mary Belfour . I saw her at the House where she lay in, and then she was big with Child.

Q. How long was that before the Child was brought to you?

Belfour. The Prisoner had the Case of it the Month she lay-in, and then she left it with the good Woman, where she lay-in, (with Mrs Kendry) and I believe it might be there about three Weeks, or a Month more before I had it.

Jury. Did she own the Child to be her's

Belfour. Yes, she did, and I am very positive it was her Child; I used to go frequently and see the Prisoner, and her Child, at that Person's House.

Robert Hobbins . (Nightman) I was sent for by Mr Gyles, to search the Vault for a Child; and when I came there, I found a Board had been taken up, and I could see nothing there; I called for a Piece of Candle and a Bit of Clay and put it down the Seat of the Vault, and saw something lie three or four Inches above the Soil, like a Bundle, and I took a Drag, with three Tynes, (it was about three Foot from the Top of the Seat) I took hold of it with my Drag and put my Right-Hand down and brought it up with my Hand: Says I, Here is the Child; says I, I will see whether it be a Boy or a Girl; I took out a Pin and undid the Clout and found it to be a Girl, and the Child's Feet or Legs were not at all wet; I saw some Blood just by the Side of the Temple, notwithstanding the Soil that was upon it - the Blood appeared thro' the Soil.

Q Did you see any other Wounds upon the Child?

Hobbins. There's a Gentleman can give a better Account of that than I can.

Prisoner. What did you take the Child up by?

Hobbins. I took it up with a three-Tyned-Drag which took hold of the Cloaths.

Prisoner. Was there no Iron at the End of it?

Hobbins. Yes.

Prisoner. Perhaps the Child might receive a great deal of Prejudice from that?

Hobbins. No it could not, I did not touch any Thing but the Cloaths with it.

Mr Springate I am an Apothecary. I was present with the Surgeon when he examined the Body, and I found eleven punctured Wounds, which I apprehend were done either with a Pair of Scissars or the Point of a Knife, but none of them had entered the Skull, and it was our Opinion that none of them were the Occasion of the Child's Death; the Wounds were on the Side of the Head, and one of them was a little above the Right-Eye.

The Prisoner's Defence.

About seven o'Clock in the Evening, the third of March, I went to fetch my Child from that Woman's, ( Mrs Belfour ) who had it to nurse, and I believe I staid till about eleven o'Clock, and I was

not to come Home till twelve, because Mr Gyles said by that Time every Body would be in Bed, and he would let me in as he has several Times; I used to give a Knock with my Knuckles under the Window, and that was to give him Notice that it was me, and he has let me in many a Time; this is true, and I could assert it if it was the last Word I had to speak. I went into a House to get a Pint of Drink, in order to pass away the Time, and I had not been in the House above two or three Minutes, before a Man came with a Constable, and used me as if they had a Suspicion, that I had a Design to drop the Child; and there were some People dogged me, but I did not know that then; and they said I must go to the Watch-house, I did not make many Words, but went to the Watch-house, which I believe was between one and two o'Clock, and then the Child began to be uneasy. I said I had no Money (for I knew I had paid the Nurse one Week's Money that Night, and had but three half-pence in my Pocket) says I, if any of these Men will be so kind as to see me Home, I will satisfy them for their Trouble; but they abused me, and made use of a great many bad Expressions, and said I had a Mind to make away with the Child; I said I had no Thoughts of making away with the Child, for all the World knew me to be a tender Mother; and one of the Watchmen gave me such a shove, that I fell down with the Child in my Arms. Said I, Pray do not go to kill me nor the Child neither, for you shall see I will satisfy you; and he took hold of my Arm, and shoved me down again; at the End of Mincing-Lane, and the Marks of the Fall were seen when I was in the Compter; and the Child fell out of my Lap; the Child cried, and the Watchman d - d me for a B - h; and he knocked at the Door twice, before any Body came to open the Door, then Edward Sherrard came down and let me in; I turned my Back towards him, because he should not see the Child; for I was not willing he should see it, and Henry Gyles took the Child from me, as I hope to be saved, and took it into his Room. - Henry Gyles , as soon as the Door was open said, You have a Mind to ruin me. Did not I give you a Pint of Victuals of the Child's, and was not the Child to be in your Room all Night?

Gyles. No, there is no Truth in it, I did not see the Child.

Prisoner. How can you say so, when you know you took the Child into your Room.

Q. What did Gyles say when you came in.

Prisoner. Gyles said to me, G - d d - n you, you have a Mind to ruin me; so I went up Stairs, and Sherrard gave me a Bit of Candle, and I laid down on the Bed, and fell asleep.

Q. What became of the Child?

Prisoner. I left the Child with Henry Gyles . In the Morning about six o'Clock, I heard the Shops opening, and his Shop was opening, and he did not use to open so very early. - This was before six in the Morning; I enquired after Mr Gyles, and the Man told me he was gone to the Keys to take a Walk. I did not know but he might be gone to get a Nurse for the Child, for he was to have provided a Nurse for it, and that was the Reason of my taking it from that Woman, and the Child was to go down into Wales; Pray did not I tell you so, Mrs Belfour?

Mrs Belfour. Yes, you did say so to be sure.

Prisoner. I used to get the Money of him for the Child, and always paid her for the Child, for it was always a Pleasure to me to take Care of what was born of my Body.

Mrs Belfour. Indeed you always paid me very justly.

Prisoner. I took the Child away from the other Nurse, because it was almost starved.

Q. You spoke of the Child's going down to a Person in Wales; What was the Reason of that?

Prisoner. Mr Gyles bid me say so. I got the Money form Mr Gyles, and I used to make and mend, and wash his Linnen; I had nothing else to provide for, being in a good Father's House. - After I had given Gyles the Child, I went up Stairs and fell asleep; but I was to have been in his Room all Night, and to have gone out with the Child the next Morning. In the Morning about eleven o'Clock, my Father told me there was a fine Story raised of me; that I had made away with my Child. Said he, I did not know you had a Child; says he, Mr Gyles tells me you had a Child which you brought in last Night, and that you put it down the House of Office. I said to my Father, he cannot say that to my Face surely; says my Father, If you know yourself to be innocent, you must clear up the Point. I said I will very readily do that. I believe my Father did not know I had a Child, nor none of the Family, except my Mother, and to be sure she did. Says my Father to Mr Gyles, Sure this Thing cannot be true, you will not be so base as to say so? Yes, says he, I will, and I will take my Oath of it upon twenty Bibles. My Father said, if such a Thing was done, it would be better for me to go out of the Way; and if I had done it, if I had not known myself innocent, I would have gone. No, said I, I am innocent of the Thing, and therefore I will not go away. My Lord, I

I will tell you this one Thing farther, if you please to give me Leave: Henry Gyles said to me, If I would say that Edward Sherrard put the Child into the Vault, he would give me five Guineas: No, I said, I will not, he is innocent of the Fact, and I would not do it for all the World: Gyles doubted very much whether I would pay the Woman the Money; and he thought the Child could be nursed at two Shillings a Week, and this Woman had three. I can call a great many to my Character to shew that I was always an indulgent Mother; I have had ten Children, and no Body can say but that I always used them tenderly - I have a Husband, but I have not seen him these two Years; I was unhappily with Child by this Man, and no Body knew it but my Mother, and Henry Gyles and that Woman (meaning Mrs Belfour.)

Court to Gyles. This Woman says, you took this Child from her when she came in.

Henry Gyles . Yes, I hear what she says.

Court. Was it so or no?

Henry Gyles . No, my Lord, I never rose out of my Bed till I smelt the Stench.

Court. She says you are the Father of the Child, what do you say to that?

Henry Gyles . My Lord, I know nothing of it; I do, upon my Oath, declare, that she never told me a Word of her being with Child, and I knew nothing of her having a Child living till I heard the Child cry in the Entry, I declare it solemnly.

Prisoner. Did you never lie with me?

Henry Gyles . No, I never did; she has used Means to induce me to do it, but I solemnly declare I never did.

Elizabeth Hatfield . I have laid the Prisoner of five Children, but I did not lay her of this Child.

Prisoner. Mr Gyles advised me to keep it a Secret, and so I sent to a Person who did not know me.

Mrs Hatfield. The last Child I laid her of was about two Years ago, at her Father's, and she said, that was her Husband's Child. - I never apprehended that she ever shewed any Cruelty to any Child.

Jane Philpot . I have known the Prisoner nine Years, and know her to be a tender Mother; she nursed me with one Child, and used me and my Baby very tenderly.

Mary Tolley . I have known the Prisoner fifteen Years, and always knew her to be a very indulgent Mother, and all her Family are very honest People.

Elizabeth Whiting . I have know her between five and six Years, and always knew her to be a very tender Mother

Luke Philpot . I come to speak in Contradiction to what has been said, with Respect to Mr Gyles's Character; and I do know that Mr Gyles has attempted to get to Bed to a young Woman, a Servant of my Father's, since this unhappy Affair happened; this is true, notwithstanding Mr Gyles's great Virtue.

Mary Dorrel . I have known the Prisoner between eight and nine Years; she has been a tender Mother to all her Children.

Luke Philpot . There are several more Witneses, but they can say no more than what has been said already, that she has always been a tender Mother, and that I know she has been. Guilty , Death .


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