Frances Palser.
2nd July 1755
Reference Numbert17550702-21
VerdictNot Guilty

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275. (M.) Frances Palser , spinster , was indicted for the murder of her female bastard child . She stood likewise charged on the coroner's inquest for the said murder, June 6 .*

Anne Dickerson. I am servant to Mr. Hopsore at Highgate, and have been two months this day. The prisoner was my fellow-servant ; she had lived there about 12 months before me; I took her to be dropsical the first day I saw her; she and I used to lie together. I went to bed on the Thursday-night yesterday was month, and whether she came to bed to me or not I can't tell. I awoke at 5 in the morning, and went down without dressing myself to the clock in the hall, to see what o'clock it was. There I saw her. I ask'd her how she came to be up so soon? She said she was not very well, and was coming up to lie down again. I went into bed, and presently after she came up, and lay down by me with her cloaths on. She desired me several times to get

up, between 5 and 6, and said she was not very well. I got up about six. She asked me to get her something to drink; and said she was very ill. I said I wou'd make her some mint and balm tea, She said she could not drink it. I said I would get her any thing else. She said she had made herself some caudle, but it was too thick. I ask'd if I should make her any better? She said she did not care if I did. I made her some, and carried it to her. When I went down I was surprised to find the doors open.

Q. What doors?

Dickerson. The kitchen door, the necessary-house door, and a door behind it. I went into that place behind the necessary, and look'd about, and miss'd some brickbats out of it. This gave me a suspicion that her distemper was not dropsical, but otherwise; for I saw something about the kitchen that was not there before.

Q. What was that?

Dickerson. I saw some blood about. She drank the caudle, and lay there after my mistress was got up.

Q. Did you say any thing to the prisoner of your suspicion when you carried her up the caudle ?

Dickerson. No; I did not. After she had drank it, I went down into the kitchen again; then I went up to her again, and ask'd her how she did? She said she was no better. Then my mistress rang the bell. This was about 7 o'clock. She ask'd me what o'clock it was: I went and told her. She rang the bell again about 8, and ask'd for the prisoner, who was her own maid. I told her she was very ill, and could not come down. My mistress got up, and went up to see her, and I with her. She told us she was very ill. My mistress came down stairs, and mull'd her some wine, and sent it up to her. I shew'd my mistress what I had observ'd in the kitchen as soon as she went there. After that my mistress sent to Mrs. Haines, a neighbour, to know what was good for her. Mrs. Haines came, and went up to her. When she came down, I told her what I had seen in the kitchen; then she said she thought there was something more than what she had told her was the matter with her; and ask'd me if I had look'd in the necessary? I said no. Sometime after that I look'd down there, and saw some brickbats down in it, and told my mistress of it; and in the afternoon the child was found there; but I was above-stairs when it was found.

Cross examination.

Q. Where did you see this blood?

Dickerson. Some on the hand-towel, some on the ground, and some on a piece of flanel.

Q. Did you hear her call in the necessary-house?

Dickerson. No; I did not. I slept very sound.

Q. Was there any impression in the bed where she lay?

Dickerson. I could not tell; for I got up in a flurry upon missing her.

Q. Do you know of any preparation she had made of child-bed linnen?

Dickerson. No; I never saw any.

Barbara Walton . I was sent for to Mr. Hopsore's on the 6th of June, about 8 at night, as near as I can guess. I went up to the prisoner, and found her upo n the bed, and asked her how she did ? She made me no answer.

Q. Did she know you before?

Walton. No; I never saw her before. I examined what was the matter with her, and told her she'd had a child.

Q. Had you been shew'd any thing in the kitchen?

Walton. No; I had not then.

Q. Are you a married woman?

Walton. I am a widow, and a midwife. I asked her where the child was? She said I sentenced her very hard. I said she'd had a child; and bid her tell where it was. She said she'd had none. I told her I was sure of it; and if she had not, there was all that belong to a child with her. Then I went down, and told her mistress there was a child somewhere; and we imagined it to be in the necessary-house. Her mistress took a candle, and went along with me there, and look'd down, and saw a parcel of brickbats there. We called the next door neighbour. He and his man came to search it. I went up to the prisoner, and had finished all there. When I came down, there lay the child by the hall door. I wrap'd it up, and carried it to the prisoner, and bid her look at it, and see what a fine child there was. She looked at it, but said nothing.

Q. Was this child at full growth?

Walton. There is no certainty as to that; it had nails on its fingers, and hair on its head. I thought it was at full growth.

Q. Was it male or female?

Walton. It was a female child.

Q. Was there any experiment made in your presence, to know whether it was born alive?

Walton. No; there was not.

Q. Were there any wounds on it?

Walton. No; no more than what the brickbats had made. There was a little wound on the arm, another on the thigh, and the head pretty much bruised.

Q. Do you think it was born alive?

Walton. There is no certainty as to that.

Cross examination.

Q. Is it not common, when child-bed pains are coming upon a woman, to have a tendency of going to the necessary-house ?

Walton. Yes; very often.

Q. If she had been drawn to the necessary-house by these pains, might not this child suddenly slip from her?

Walton. It is very possible.

Q. From the appearance of the child, how long might it have been born, do you think?

Walton. About 14 hours.

William Walden . I was sent for to search the necessary-house. I went with my servant, and was present after we had taken up the floor. When he took the child out of the necessary-house, we laid it upon the steps going into the hall door. Mrs. Walton had a pail of water fetched, with which the child was washed; then she took it up stairs.

Benjamin Colebourn . I am a surgeon. The prisoner being ill, I was sent for. I inquired of the mistress, and the first evidence; and suspected there either had or would be a labour. I ask'd the prisoner a few questions; and told her she should send for a midwife. She told me she had no business with a midwife. I told her there was something in her body that wanted to be fetched away, or she would die before morning. Then she consented. I told her, after the midwife had been with her, I would order her what was proper; but before she had been with her, I could not order her any thing. After the midwife had been with her, she came and told me she'd had a child. Then I ordered her something; and the next day I saw the child in the prisoner's room.

Q. Was the child at full growth?

Colebourn. It was as much as I can judge of a child.

Q. Why was not the experiment made on the child's lungs?

Colebourn. The coroner asked me whether I thought the child was born alive? I said it was very difficult to distinguish that. After that he said, will you try the experiment upon the lungs ? And there was water brought up. I asked him what he did expect upon that? He said, for me to give a final answer, whether it was born alive or not. Then I declined it, as looking upon it not conclusive.

Cross examination.

Q. Have you ever known a case where the child has been at full growth, and has been stillborn ?

Colebourn. I have, many.

Q. Have not women always a tendency to go to stool when in strong labour pains?

Colebourn. The major part have: I believe 18 in 20.

Q. Might not that be a reason of her going there?

Colebourn. I can't say what were her reasons.

Prisoner's defence.

I had occasion to go to the necessary-house, between 4 and 5 o'clock; the clock struck five while I was sitting there. There I had an uncommon pain took me, and the child dropt from me; and I sat there some time before I could stir. I had some child-bed linen, which I made in my spare time; and I had sow'd it into my quilted petticoat by my side. I called when my pains came upon me, but could not make any body hear me. The reason I did not let my child-bed linen be seen, was this; I had lived with my mistress a year and a quarter, if I had staid till the 13th of the last month; and I had no money to support me in my illness, without I had staid my quarter up; and if I had let my case be known before, I should be turn'd away, and not have that quarter's wages.

To her character.

Fra. Hathey. I have known the prisoner from a little child. We were both born at Wooten-underhedge in Gloucestershire, from whence she came about a year and an half ago. I lived over-right against her. The children there were

as fond of her as possible, and she seemed to take as much delight in pleasing children. Of all that ever I saw of her I should be far from thinking her guilty of doing a murder.

Mary Hathey . I have known her 20 years in Gloucestershire. She always had the best of characters. I really think she would not be guilty of killing a child.

David Rice. She lived at my house, when she was in Mr. Hopsore's service, fourteen months. She behaved very well during that time.

James Rice . I have known the prisoner sixteen years. I came from Gloucestershire. She bears a general good character there. I never heard she was suspected of any ill thing. She is of a very good disposition toward children. I have reason to believe she would not be guilty of such an action as she is charged with.

Mary Whithouse . I have known her thirteen months. I live an opposite neighbour to Mr. Rice, where she lived. I always took her to be a very sober girl.

Richard Mason . I have known her about two years. She had a universal good character by all that knew her.

Elisabeth Pember . I lived in the house with her at Mr. Rice's. We always thought her a very sober body; far from a cruel disposition.

Anne Siden . I live next door to Mr. Rice. I have known the prisoner about fourteen months. She was always a pretty behaved body. She has taken my children out of my arms and play'd with them. She had a universal good character.

David Rice again. I am an apothecary. I remember an instance of the like kind: The midwife was playing at cards, and the woman was suddenly taken, and dropt the child suddenly on the floor; that child had nails on its fingers, and hair on its head.

Acquitted .

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