SARAH REYNOLDS, Elizabeth Vale.
6th December 1775
Reference Numbert17751206-82
VerdictGuilty; Not Guilty
SentenceDeath > death and dissection

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105, 106. SARAH REYNOLDS , spinster , and ELIZABETH, the wife of DAVID VALE , were indicted, the first for the wilful murder of her male bastard child, and the other for aiding and abetting her in the committing the said murder .


My husband keeps the Temple coffee-house ; the prisoner Vale was our servant ; we hired her on the 15th of September from the Buffalo tavern: about ten days after she came into my service she brought Sarah Reynolds to my house and called her sister; they told me Sarah Reynolds was going to leave her place, Mr. Walker's, the White Hart, in Holborn: about ten days after that Reynolds came to my house from Mr. Walker's; Vale told me Reynolds had not got a lodging; I said she might stay a few days in my house, till she could get her a place; accordingly she was at our house for about a fortnight. Upon the 20th of October a gentleman that lodged at my house said, you must part with one of your maids soon, for she looks very big; I had told Sarah Reynolds before that she looked very big: the next morning I sent for Vale into my room, and told her that it had been taken notice of in the house that she appeared to be with child, and she must not stay longer than the Monday morning, but must get her a lodging, for I believed she was with child: Vale said she had talked to her about it, and that it was not so; that Reynolds had not been well for a twelvemonth; that she had catched cold, which was the reason of her appearing so big; I told her I believed she was with child: on Sunday morning my maid came up to me and told me that Sarah Reynolds was not well, and spoke of complaints she had common to women: I desired my maid not to talk to her very severely upon the matter, for I could not let her stay longer than the next morning; I went down into the kitchen to do my business between twelve and one, and staid till four till the business was over; during the time I was there, Sarah Reynolds appeared very ill, and went backwards very often; I followed her once into the yard, and asked what was the matter with her; I laid my hand upon her stomach, and said I fear you are with child: she said it was no such thing, that she was not well, and if I would give her leave to lie down after dinner she should be better; I came up

stairs between four and five o'clock when my business was done, but I was very uneasy; I sent into Fleet-street to Mrs. Clarke, a midwife, but she was not at home, and I did not know how to proceed: I went to Mrs. Walker to enquire the character of the girl, but she was not at home; I returned home; my husband said Sarah Reynolds was up stairs very ill; I went up stairs about six o'clock, Sarah Reynolds was then sitting up in bed holding her stomach, Vale was standing at the foot of the bed; I begged of Reynolds to tell me what was the matter, I told her I would be her friend, and begg'd her not to bring shame upon my house and distress upon herself; she said people had been plaguing her with knocking at the door; she told me there was nothing at all the matter with her, and if it would give me any satisfaction, she would go out of my house immediately: I asked her where she was going to, she said she would go to her sister's at Mary-le-bon, for she had no other friend: I asked her if she had any money; she said she had not, I gave her a crown; then she desired me to go down and send for a coach, and not let any body be at the bottom of the stairs when she came down: I sent for a coach: Vale came down into the kitchen for a hat for her; in a little more than a quarter of an hour Reynolds came down with a bundle under her left arm, covered with her cloak: I forgot to mention one thing; when I was in the room with her she desired Elizabeth Vale to look up her things, and give her the bundle she knew of, and to get her a shift; she said she must take that bundle; Reynolds came down with the bundle under her left arm, covered with her cloak; my maid came down before her and asked me if she might go with her; I said yes, she might, as the woman was not well: they went away in the coach together: I have a niece that lives with me, Ann Tristram , I asked her if ever she had been with her mother when she was in labour? she said she had; then I desired her to go up stairs and search about the room to see what was there; she came down and said the bed was in a bad condition, and brought a knife that she found under the bolster, but there was no appearance of any thing upon the knife; then the midwife, Mrs. Clarke, came in, I begged her to go up with my niece; they went up; in about three quarters of an hour Vale returned: I told her there must certainly have been a delivery of a child, from what I had heard above stairs; and if she (Vale) did not confess she would certainly be hanged; she answered it is all over: I asked her where is the child; she gave an account that they went to Broad-street, Mary-le-bon, and Sarah Reynolds gave her the bundle; that Reynolds told her she was six months and a fortnight gone with child, and that the lump of flesh was in that bundle; they got out of a coach and went to a gully-hole near Mary-le-bon; that there Reynolds pointed out a place for her to throw the bundle in: I asked Mrs. Clarke how I should proceed: I said I would go to the place where the bundle was thrown in: I sent immediately for a coach. Mrs. Clarke and Vale and I went to the top of Broad-street; then Mrs. Clarke and Vale got out of the coach; but I was so affected with the affair, I did not chuse to go; it was about nine o'clock; they came again with the bundle; we saw a public house open, we went into it: Mrs. Clarke said we will open the bundle now; but I said we will not bring any one into trouble here, as the maid said Sarah Reynolds was not far off: we went into High-street, Mary-le-bon, where we found Sarah Reynolds in bed at her sister's; Mrs. Clarke opened the bundle there, and there was a fine male child, full grown, having hair and nails; and there was a blue and white linen handkerchief tied about its neck; the tightness of the handkerchief had forced the tongue half out of its mouth: the sister of Sarah Reynolds , with the surprize of this, fell into fits; we left the child in the room, and went over the way to the Black Horse, and asked the man to get us a constable; which he did: I related the whole affair to the constable; he went and looked at the child and mother; he sent the child to the workhouse, and asked the midwife if it was safe to remove the mother; she said yes; he sent her to the Middlesex Hospital: I delivered up my maid Elizabeth Vale into his custody.

Are you a married woman and the mother of children? - I am.

Was the child come to its full growth? - Yes: it was Vale's handkerchief that was about its neck; it was the half of a large handkerchief, the other half was about Reynolds's neck.


I am a midwife; I was sent for by Mrs. Woodhouse: I went up stairs with her niece, I saw the appearance of a woman's having been delivered or miscarried in the bed: a knife was found under the pillow, but there were no marks about that knife: I came down and found Vale with her (it was on a Sunday); I asked the maid how did you manage this? why said she it is all over and the child is dead; she said Sarah Reynolds told her she had gone only six months and a fortnight; I asked her where Sarah Reynolds and the child were; she said in Broad-street: Mrs. Woodhouse was in a great flurry; I bid her be quiet, for that the child might be six months and a fortnight only, and be born dead; and I said to the maid, could I or some midwife see the child, for that might satisfy us all; I asked whether the child was with her sister; she said yes: then Mrs. Woodhouse insisted upon going directly, tho' it was late at night, for she was very uneasy about it: I asked Vale if she was sure we could see the child if we went, as her mistress seemed to be in such great confusion? Vale said she would tell the whole truth; that they had thrown the child into a ditch or gully-hole by Broad-street, Mary-le-bon; that Sarah Reynolds had shewn her the place: I asked her who threw it in? she said I did, but I never saw what was in the bundle; she said several times over she never did see the contents of that bundle, though she by the direction of Reynolds threw it into the gully-hole: we called a coach directly and we all went into it; Vale said she could tell the very spot where she threw it in: we drove to the top of Broad-street; Vale and I got out and left Mrs. Woodhouse in the coach; I said we will go to the place and see if there is any likelihood of getting it up, for it was very dark, in order (as I thought it might be but six months and a fortnight) to satisfy her mistress and the girl, as she seemed in great agitations: when I came to the place, Betty Vale said, this is the very place: the bank was not perpendicular, but sloping, and hearing a great current of water run upon the other side, I said, Betty, did you hear it go into the water; she said no, I cannot say I did, but I heard it roll down lump, or to that purport: a man came and cried holloa, what have you lost there? in my flurry I did know what to say; I said the young woman has dropp'd a bundle in the ditch, and will give you a pot of beer if you can get it up: a light was fetched, the man went down in the ditch with the candle; he said, I think I see the bundle, but the candle went out; the man light it and came again; she said she thought she saw it: the man brought the bundle up in his hand to the edge of the ditch; I took it up and put it in Betty Vale 's apron; I gave the man a shilling, and we went away as fast as we could: Mrs. Woodhouse was come out of the coach, and met us as we were going toward the coach; we drove to a public house and went in there; then the coach took us up, and Betty Vale was desired to shew us where her sister was, which was up two-pair of stairs; where I opened the bundle, and there was a full grown child to all appearance.

In your judgment was it a child at its full time? - Yes, a male child; it had a coloured linen handkerchief tied round its neck very tight: I put my finger between and found it so tight that it seemed to be choaked; it was swelled about the throat and mouth with a bluish cast, and the tongue was forced a little out of the mouth by the tightness of the handkerchief.

According to your judgment did that appear to be the cause of the child's death? - Yes, it did.

Was there no defect about the child besides? - It seemed besides to have a little bruise about the throat.

But was there any defect in the child besides? - No.

Is it your opinion or not, that this child was born alive and destroyed by this handkerchief being tied so tight about its neck? - It is my opinion that it was born alive, and that the tying this handkerchief about its neck was the cause of its death: Elizabeth Vale expressed many times that she never knew what was in the bundle: Sarah Reynolds was in bed; her mistress talked to her, but she said nothing.


Upon Tuesday the 24th I was sent for by the coroner to the Black Horse in High-street, Mary-le-bon; where I saw the child with a handkerchief tied very tight about its neck; I untied the handkerchief; the child was really choaked by the tightness of the handkerchief;

the skin of the neck was doubled some part by the tightness of the handkerchief: it was a very fine child.


I am niece to Mrs. Woodhouse. I was sent up to the two pair of stairs room, where Sarah Reynolds had been, to examine the bed and room; the bed was very bloody; I found a knife under the bolster, but there was no blood upon it.


I saw the handkerchief untied; it was tied two or three times exceedingly tight round the child's neck; the neck appeared creased with the tightness of the handkerchief, and the tongue was forced out of its mouth.


I did not kill it; I don't know whether it was born alive or dead.

Q. to Mrs. Woodhouse. Do you know whose handkerchief it was that was about the neck? - It was a half handkerchief of Elizabeth Vales 's; Reynolds had the other half about her neck.


I was at the other side of the bed putting my things on; I was not in the room when she was delivered: my master went up; when my master came down, he said she was very ill; I did not know what she ailed; I went up some time after to carry the china into the bar; she was sitting up when I went up; she desired me to bring her some warm small beer, I went down and got her some; she asked me to lend her a clean handkerchief to put on, and I lent her a handkerchief; how that handkerchief came about the child's neck I don't know; for I never saw the child till the midwife put it on her sister's table; she was delivered by herself; she is no relation, but she came to pay me some money; I thought they would think much of her coming, and that made her say she was a relation, and I did not contradict her.


- BRADLEY sworn.

I live at No 24, Red-lion-alley, Cow-cross, Smithfield; my husband is an appraiser and auctioneer. Vale is a relation of my husband's; I have known her ten years; I never heard any thing amiss of her in my life; she behaved very well in all her places.


I am a brazier. I have known Elizabeth Vale from a child; she is a very industrious, hardworking, honest woman; I have been well acquainted with her twelve years; she is a good mother and a good servant: she has had four children, and one of them is now living.


I have known Vale three years: she is a very sober, honest, industrious woman; she was always a kind mother to her children; she has a fine girl now living.


I have known Vale between five and six years; she is a very honest, hard working woman; she was always good to her children.


I have known the prisoner between four and five years; she was a very honest, industrious woman, and very good to her children.


I have known her rather better than four years; she was a hard working, industrious woman, a good tempered woman, and a very good mother to her children.

Mrs. WOODHOUSE sworn.

She behaved very well in my service; she had lived with me about six weeks, and I had a very good character with her.

Was the bundle she came down with the same bundle that you found in the gully-hole? - It looked like an old petticoat upon the outside when she came down stairs.



REYNOLDS immediately received sentence, this being Monday, to be executed the Wednesday following, and her body to be afterwards dissected and anatomized.

Tried by the Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice ASTON.

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