Esther Levingston, Archibald .
14th September 1763
Reference Numbert17630914-59
VerdictGuilty; Guilty > manslaughter
SentenceDeath > death and dissection; Miscellaneous > branding

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425, 426. (M.) Esther Levingston was indicted for the wilful murder of Peter Dove ; and Archibald, her husband , for aiding, assisting, abetting, comforting, and maintaining her to commit the said murder , Aug. 20 . *

Matthew Lemond . The man at the bar is a coal-heaver , and lives in Eles's-yard, in the Minories. I being a constable was sent for on the 20th of Aug. from the watch-house, about 11 at night, they told me one Mrs. Ashby had been stabbed in the head, and lay bleeding on the ground, which I found to be true; I was told the woman at the bar had done it, and threatened to set the place on fire that night; I found she and her husband were in their own room, up one pair of stairs; I went up to their door, and knocked, she asked who I was? and what I wanted? I told her I was the constable; (she knew me, for I had had her to the Compter once before for the like offence) I desired her to be peaceable, and satisfy the neighbours that she would not set the house on fire; the more I endeavoured to perswade her to govern her passion, the more outragious she grew, and both her husband and she declared the first that entered the room they would kill them, if they lost their lives for it; this they repeated many times over. There was with me the two Chesney's, father and son, John Dent and the deceased, and others; they were in the dark, we had a candle; the stair case was so narrow all could not get up, some were upon the stairs, there could hardly two stand a-breast at the door; the door opened a little way, I saw a man's arm hold on the top of the door; I gave a little start back, immediately Peter Dove cried out, I am stabbed; he was very near the door; I saw a woman's arm and hand come out; the deceased went down, and in at the next house, I saw him there afterwards with his bowels coming out at the hole. The neighbours all desired I would take the woman away, and said they would assist me; I went up, and took one of the watchmen's staves, and fell to breaking the door; the man at the bar catched the staff, and pulled it through the hole I had made in the pannel, and gave several punches at us, one man he hit over the head, but with his repeating the strokes we catched it, and got it from him, then we broke in; there was another man, a brewer's servant, they wounded in the belly with a shoe-maker's pegging awl; I took the awl out of the woman's pocket afterwards, it fitted the wound; we tied their hands and arms, and had them to the watch-house, and from thence to the Poultry-Compter.

Q. Was any body in the room besides the two prisoners?

Lemond. There were only two or three children, the oldest about 8 or 9 years old. Afterwards I took the prisoners before my Lord Mayor, the man was committed to Newgate, and the woman sent back to the Compter. Peter Dove was carried to the Infirmary in Whitechapel, where he died the Tuesday following, the 23d.

Q. How long was the door open when the wound was given?

Lemond. It shut again in about 2 or 3 seconds.

John Dent . I am a gunsmith. On the 20th of August, when I came home the neighbourhood were in such confusion, they said they could not sleep in their beds, for the woman at the bar had said, she would kill some of the women and set fire to the neighbourhood afterwards; all jointly agreed to have her secured; she passed me while they were telling me this. Soon there was an

outcry, that Mrs. Ashby lay bleeding on the ground. I went immediately for the constable, Mr. Lemond. He, I, Peter Dove , and the two Chesneys, and others, went up to the prisoners room-door; the deceased was close to the door, Mr. Lemond and Mr. Aston were close to the top of the stairs, I, the two Chesneys and deceased were on the landing-place. When Mr. Lemond knocked at the door, they asked what we wanted? the constable said, somewhat I can't recollect now; I said to see what matter of fire you have in your room. I heard a weapon taken up, it chinked somethink like a pair of tongs; I said to the constable, let us be upon our guard, for at the same time I heard the man swear, he would kill the first man that entered the room, if he lost his own life. Soon after I saw the door open and the glimpse of an arm came out, pretty low, the constable was then on my left arm, or rather behind me; the deceased turned to me and said, I am stabbed, or wounded; I said, I hope not; he said, see here; I saw his bowels out about as big as a little apple.

Q. Which side of you did the door open on?

Dent. The hinges were on my left hand. I went to help the deceased down stairs, and did not go up after.

Q. Did you see any knife?

Dent. No, I did not.

Rachael Ashby . On the 20th of Aug. at night, the woman at the bar broke open my place, and took me as I was sitting at my door and hauled me into the street, pulled my petticoates over my head and whipped me as though she was whipping a child, then she took a penknife and stabb'd me on my left temple, (she shewed the wound) her husband came and took her away from me, or she would have murdered me; she said, she would set all the bitches on fire, and make a rare bonfire; I was left lying for dead, facing my own door, with my petticoats over my head.

John Chesney the Elder. I went up to assist the constable, Mr. Dent, my son, and the deceased, went also. I saw the door open about 3 quarters of a yard; the first I saw was the man with his right hand on the door, he had a pair of tongs, or a poker, in his hand which he held up, it was iron: the woman immediately rushed her arm and head out and stabbed the deceased, it was done in a moment, I could not see what it was done with, and the door shut immediately, and was made fast; there was a light with us, but none in their room; the deceased cried out, I am stabbed.

Joseph Chesney the Younger and John Austin confirmed the account given by the last evidence.

Matthew Daniel . I am a pupil in the London Hospital; Peter Dove was brought in about 2 o'clock on the 21st of August, he had a wound on the left side of his belly, a little above his groin, I dressed it; he died on Tuesday the 23d in the Hospital, about 2 in the afternoon, I have no doubt but that wound was the occasion of his death.

As the indictment was laid that the fact was done in Middlesex, all the witnesses, upon being asked, answered the London Hospital was in the county of Middlesex.

Archibald's Defence.

I had been at work very hard, and was got home to bed with my wife and three children, we had been in bed near three hours, these people came in a riotous manner and forcibly broke open my door, there were a great many of them, the streets were lined from top to bottom, some sailors and soldiers, they pelted brick bats into the room, and killed a child five years old, it died last Tuesday, they hit it on the breast, there was a gun-barrel and a hatchet thrown in, they said they would beat my brains out and knocked me down, I was laid for dead.

The woman's defence was to the same purport.

Mr. Lemond. After the deceased was brought down wounded, it was determined to get into the room, and a ladder was set up against the window, and there might be brick-bats thrown in, but not before; I neither saw nor heard of any, and had I, I should have taken the people up that had thrown them in.

They called George Leybourn , who had known the prisoners upwards of three years; he said, the man was a hard-working good natured man, and that the woman had a very good principle to pay people, but was not so even in her temper as some people were.

Esther Guilty Death .

Archibald Guilty of manslaughter .

She received sentence (this being Friday) to be executed on the Monday following, and her body dissected and anatomized.

She pleaded her belly, and a Jury of Matrons were impannelled, and brought in their verdict, Not with Quick-child.

[Archibald: Branding. See summary.]

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