Newgate Calendar - MARY FORDHAM


Tried at Hertford, the 18th March 1811, for the Wilful Murder of her Bastard Child, Found Guilty of Concealing its Birth, and Sentenced to Two Years' Imprisonment

IN the former part of this Volume we have given two cases of this unnatural crime. The following discloses still worse circumstances against the unnatural mother; in fact, in each the criminals deserved severer punishment.
Mary Fordham was indicted for the wilful murder of her bastard child, by giving it a blow on the head with a brick, of which it died on Saturday the 3d of September 1810. The circumstances of the case, in evidence, were as follows:

Mary Chapman, a girl of 16, stated, that she lived fellow-servant with the prisoner, at a Mr. Whittingham's, at Stevenage, in the month of September last. She had no suspicion that the prisoner at the bar was with child; on the Friday night she slept with the prisoner, who complained all the night of a great pain in her bowels, and was so very restless, that she prevented the witness from getting any sleep.

The next night the witness went to sleep in another bed by herself; and when she got up in the morning she went into the prisoner's bed-room; she was lying in bed, and the floor near the bed-side was disfigured. The witness told her to get up and clean her room, which she did, and went about her work the whole of that day. In the course of the morning the witness acquainted her mistress with what had happened; they searched the garret together, in one of which there was a hole in the floor, about five feet deep, which they put rubbish into. Here they found a stocking of the prisoner's, which was bloody, and lifting up an old bee-hive, they discovered the body of a child lying under it; they did not take up or move the body, but sent for the apothecary.

Mrs. Whittingham deposed to the same effect with the last witness, as to the finding the body of a child in the hole. On cross-examination, she said, about a month before this time she recollected that the prisoner and herself had been both very much frightened by a man in a mask coming into the house. It was one of the labourers did it in a frolic, and the effects of such a fright upon a pregnant woman was very likely to produce a miscarriage.

Robert Jones, the apothecary, stated, that he was called in and saw the child, but he could not undertake to say whether it was born alive or not; it was a full grown child. Upon examining it there was found a contusion on the left side of the head, sufficient to have occasioned its death. He examined the prisoner, and from the state of her breasts he could say that she had been pregnant, but could not determine whether she had miscarried or not. About a foot from the child a piece of brick was found (which was produced,) it had marks of blood upon it, and corresponded with the wound on the child's head.

George Hickes, a surgeon, deposed, that he examined the wound; on opening the scalp, he found four contusions on the bone beneath. On cross-examination, he said the four contusions might have been occasioned by the child's fall on an irregular surface, such as the piece of brick produced; and if it had been thrown down the hole dead, it would have had the same appearance. The learned judge summed up the evidence with great humanity, and left it for the jury to determine. The wound on the head might have been occasioned by the child's being thrown dead into the hole. If they were of that opinion, they would acquit the prisoner; but they would then say whether they found her guilty of concealing the birth of the child. The jury acquitted her of the murder, but found her guilty of the concealment of the birth of the child; upon which she was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.


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