Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 16 May 2021), May 1774, trial of JANE CORNFORTH (t17740518-23).

JANE CORNFORTH, Killing > infanticide, 18th May 1774.

386. (2d M.) JANE CORNFORTH was indicted for the wilful murder of her male bastard child, by throwing it into a certain privy belonging to Paul Cauldwell , thereby giving to the said child in and upon the belly, a little above the navel, a mortal wound of the length of half an inch, and of the depth of a quarter of an inch, of which said mortal wound the said child did die , Feb. 3 d . *

Paul Cauldwell . I live at Cow-Cross : the prisoner was my cook maid ; she came to live with me the 6th of January 1774. About six in the evening of the 2d of February my servant man, John Williams , informed me there was something in the necessary that should not be; I asked him what; he said that he believed Jenny, the cook, knew best; that he had a suspicion of her because she had kept her room all day; that he had observed when she was at work, in cleaning the grate; she could not got up without laying hold of something to help her up; I went into the kitchen, and asked her what she had been doing, she said nothing; my man returned and said there was a child in the necessary, but he could not get hold of it; I ordered him to fetch a carpenter to pull up the vault to get it out, which was done; I kept the prisoner in the mean time in custody; then the man returned, and said they had opened the vault, and had got the child out alive, but could not bring it in to me; I took off the prisoner's apron, and gave it to him, and bid him bring the child up in that; accordingly the child was brought, and the rest of the servants who had wives fetched them to come to dress it, and do all in their power to save the life of the child; it was dressed and taken to the work-house: it was alive and a male child.

John Mackerness . I took the child out of the necessary at six in the evening on the 2d of February; Thomas Tingle bid me step to the necessary with him, and said we should hear something making a noise; I stood there and heard it; Williams came to me and said what could this be in the vault; he listened and heard the same noise; upon which he got a candle, put it down the hole, looked down, and said there was a child; they bid him say no such thing unless he was certain; he looked again and saw the same, and said it did not seem to move more than the hand. The vault was knocked open, and we reached up the child out of the vault, and laid it down on the floor; John Williams brought the apron and wrapped it up in it, and carried it into the house: the child was alive.

Thomas Tingle . I went to the necessary house: I heard a noise in it; I fetched a candle, put it through the hole, and saw something; I let the candle down again and saw a stick at work upon this that appeared white, pushing it down; there are two vaults one behind the other; I saw the stick as if something was guiding it; I went to John Mackerness , and bid him step with me into the necessary; we stood a little while and heard the noise then in the necessary; Williams came with a lighted candle and looked down; the first time he could not perceive any thing, but the next time he perceived the hand move and said it was a child; he said come and help me out with it; upon this we said take care what you say; it is a dangerous thing, acquaint our master with it; Williams went and acquainted my master, and he ordered the vault to be opened. I found the stick in the back yard afterwards, with soil six inches at the end of the stick; I was sent to fetch Mackerness's wife and my own; when I came back the child was taken out; Williams had it in the apron on the floor.

John Williams . On the 2d of February about six in the evening, Tingle and Mackerness told me something made a noise in the necessary that occasioned me to take a candle and look down; at first I could not perceive what it was, but the second time I saw one of the child's hands moving upon the side of its face; then I called them to come and help the child out; they advised me to go and tell my master; I went, and told him there was more than what should be in this necessary; my master asked me what; I told him I thought Jenny knew best; I went and had the vault broke open, took the child up, and put it on the floor; I told my master we had taken it up, and he gave me the apron to bring it up stairs in; I brought it and gave it to Tingle's wife; the child was then alive, it was a boy. I saw a mark about its navel, and its entrails were out.

Elizabeth Mackerness . On the 2d of February I was sent for to the child; I saw it in an apron in Thomas Tingle 's wife's lap; she desired I would take and clean it, and wash it, for she had not the heart to do it; the child was then alive; I washed it, cleaned it, and dressed it; the prisoner's mistress sent some things to dress the child in, because the prisoner said she had not got a rag. I observed a wound in the belly a little above the navel, and the bowels out about the quantity of a half pint pot full; my master sent for a doctor, Mr. Olive; he came, and was a great while trying to get in the entrails; the wound was so small he was forced to make it bigger to get them in; he sewed up the wound with three stitches; then the child was sent to the work-house; the next day I saw the child at the work-house dead.

Elizabeth Tingle . On the 2d of February my husband fetched me on account of this accident; when I came to Mr. Cauldwell's, the child was brought and put in my apron; it was very dirty; there were coals and ashes upon it, and a wound a little above its navel; the other woman washed and cleaned it; I did a little to it. My master desired the doctor to be sent for; he came and put in the entrails, and it was sent to the work-house. The prisoner was all the time in the kitchen; she sat in a chair by the fire side; I did not hear her say any thing, she only groaned.

Mr. Cauldwell. When I came down into the kitchen; I said, Jenny, it is strange to me you could commit an act of this kind; I would have put you into the hospital to lie-in if you had acquainted me of this matter; all the answer she made to that was, what could she do?

Elizabeth Tingle . I examined the bed; it was stained with blood, and the after-burthen was between the bed and the sacking, wrapped up in a coarse apron.

Elizabeth Mackerness . I was with Mrs. Tingle when she examined the bed, the bed appeared in the condition as it would if a woman had lain-in there; the sheets were not there; we found them in a washing tub in the cellar.

Ann Hooker . I am a midwife: I was sent for to the work-house to see if the after-burthen was come from this woman, because they had not found it; I examined her, and she told me the burthen was between the bed and the sacking, wrapped up in a coarse apron; the women had found it before I got there. I saw the child alive at ten at night. The prisoner told me to tell her mistress where the sheets were to be found which she had dirtied in her labour; she said they were in a tub in the corner of the cellar; I went to her mistress, and she sent me to Tingle and Mackerness, who had found the sheets and were then washing of them; the next morning at eight o'clock I went to see the child, and found it dead; I went to the prisoner and told her the child was dead; I did not find any thing the matter with her, only she said she had the head ach; the child was at its full growth; had its hair and nails; I asked her how she came to cut it; I told her there was a cut a-cross the belly above the navel; the bowels were out; there was a mark on the shoulder, and confusions in the face, but not such as to kill, only bruise; upon this the prisoner said if it was done, it was with the stick she poked it down the vault with; I asked her how she came to throw ashes in upon the child; she said because she thought the soil was not deep enough to cover it.

Mr. Thomas Olive . I am a surgeon: I was sent for on the 2d of February between six and seven o'clock, to look at this child; accordingly I went and found it in the lap of a woman in Mr. Cauldwell's kitchen; a considerable parcel of the small intestines came through a small wound about three quarters of an inch above the navel; I could not return them into the abdomen till I had dilated the wound; when I had cleaned and returned them, and stitched up the wound, the child was then alive. I had a good deal of difficulty in reducing these intestines into the place; some few ashes or cinders were upon them; they were not wounded: the wound appeared as if it had been made with a sharpish instrument, though not a knife; it was rather too irregular to be made by a knife; I saw no other particular marks; I think the wound could not be made by a blunt stick; it might be by meeting some sharp thing in the soil, or in throwing the child down, or by a nail in taking it up. I believe the wound and the intestines being so long exposed to the cold air were the occasion of the child's death; when the child was dead I opened it before the coroner, and could plainly discover which were the intestines that had been exposed to the cold air, because they were discoloured. The child lived seven or eight hours; I opened it to see if the wound had been done with a knife, because I think if it had, it was almost impossible but some of the intestines must have been wounded; upon the whole I have no doubt but the child's life was lost by this wound and the intestines coming so out of its body.

Mary Jarvis . I am mistress of the work-house: the prisoner was brought to the work-house on the 2d of February, between six and seven o'clock, in an hour after the child was brought; I was desired to take care of the child, as it would be the means of saving two lives if I could preserve it; I sat up all night with the child; it lived till half past four in the morning; then I went to the prisoner and told her the child was dead; I asked her how she could commit so rash an action, and how the wound came on the belly; she said she believed it was by poking it down the vault with a stick, but she believed she was out of her senses when she did it, or else she had not done it.

For the prisoner.

Margaret Jarvis . She was servant to me seven months. I heard of this by accident: she was a tender, humane, good natured girl; she bought some new linen about four days before she left my service, which was the Tuesday after Christmas day.

Bridget Gray . I never heard but she was a humane tender girl; I bought five or six yards of linen for her a day or two after she went to Mr. Cauldwell's.

Susannah Bridge. The Sunday before this happened she called upon me, and desired me to come to her on the Sunday after; she said she had given warning to come away, because she had something very particular to tell me; she told me she would come and lodge with me; I never heard any thing amiss of her before; she is a humane tender girl.

Lydia Lane. I have known her from a child; I never heard any thing bad by her, nor to the contrary of her being a tender humane girl.

Matthias Dale . I have known the prisoner six years: she is very tender and affectionate to wards children; she is humane and charitable.

Francis Gray . I have known her two years, though but little till the last six months, and at that time she was a very tender good sort of a girl: I heard her say she put the child to bed to keep it warm.

John Davis . I have known her eight months: she bore a good character, she was charitable and humane to the poor when they came to the door, and very kind to children.

Guilty . Death .

She immediately received sentence (this being Saturday) to be executed on the Monday following, and her body to be afterwards dissected and anatomized, which sentence was executed upon her accordingly .