Ostler, hanged at Brentwood in 1667 for the Murder (by a Chelmsford Innkeeper and his Family some Years before) of Thomas Kidderminster, a Guest.
THOMAS KIDDERMINSTER was the only son of Walter Kidderminster of Tupsley, in the county of Hereford; but being wronged out of his paternal estate by the intrigues of his stepmother, he was compelled very early in life to enter into the service of the Bishop of Ely, who at length employed him as his steward till the commencement of the Civil War and the commitment of that prelate to the Tower for his unshaken loyalty.
Mr Kidderminster was employed in the management of other gentlemen's estates in Cambridgeshire till, thinking it prudent to convert his property into money, and endeavour to settle upon or sell his estate which he claimed in Hereford shire, after sending his wife to London, who was then pregnant, and telling her he would return in about ten days, he departed from Cambridgeshire, through Essex, with a number of writings, taking with him about five or six hundred pounds in gold.
Travelling in a by road for safety, Mr Kidderminster took a guide with him; but on reaching Chelmsford at night he was discharged. Mr Kidderminster then put up at the White Horse Inn, where it appears he had lain at other times, and was very well known; but there he was murdered on the same night, in April, 1654. The last place his wife heard of him was Cambridge. Then a report was spread that he was gone to Amsterdam, where she sent to inquire for him, but was assured he was not there. After some time she heard he was at Cork, in Ireland; thither she also sent, and made a most diligent and exact search for him, both in Cork and Munster. Again there was a report that he was in Barbadoes, and they sent to Barbadoes to make inquiries after him. She continued constantly inquiring after her husband, till her sister, one day, in 1662 or 1663, reading the newspaper of the day, suddenly cried out: "Sister, here's news of your husband!" upon which she read in the news to this effect —- viz. "That the bones of an unknown person, supposed to be robbed and murdered, were found buried in a backyard in Chelmsford. Whosoever can give notice of any person missing, let them give notice to Mr Talcott, coroner, in Feering, or to the constable of Chelmsford, or to Mr Roper, bookseller, over against St Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street"; and upon comparing the time of her husband's being missing with the time in the newspaper of the supposed murdered body's lying concealed, it appeared to be extremely probable; upon which she immediately went to Mr Roper's, and by his advice set off for Chelmsford, and for want of conveyance went on foot with a friend.
They proceeded on their journey as far as Stratford, where, a little beyond the town, they lost their way, turning to the left hand of the road. At last they came to Romford; and by that time being very weary, went, into a house at the farther end of the town, the sign of the Black Bull, where they accidentally found one Mary Mattocks, who lived at Hornchurch.
Mrs Kidderminster being now very weary, and not able to go on foot any farther, inquired whether any horse could be hired in that town. Mrs Mattocks being present, interposed and answered that there was no horse to be hired, nor any convenience of coach or wagon to be had upon that day. They asked Mrs Mattocks how far it was to Chelmsford; she answered, fifteen miles. Mrs Kidderminster asked her again whether she knew Chelmsford. She replied that she did very well, for she was born and bred there. Did she know the White Horse? She answered very well, and that one Turner, a very honest man, kept it; but that he who kept it formerly was one Sewell, who, if he had had his deserts, had been hanged long ago, for there was certainly a gentleman murdered in the house.
Mrs Kidderminster was now induced to make further inquiry, and told Mattocks that her husband was missed much about that time. Mattocks informed her that the ostler who lived in Sewell's time at the White Horse now lived at Romford. With an intention to gather from him what circumstances she could, she sent for him, but he refused to come; for the messenger having heard part of the discourse communicated it to him, which made him unwilling to come.
Mrs Kidderminster went directly to the White Horse Inn, Chelmsford, where, after some conversation with Mr Turner, then master of the house, he advised them to go to Mrs Sewell's house, at the Shears, in Colchester Lane. When her friend went out to Mrs Sewell, and inquired for the White Horse Inn, Mrs Sewell asked what business he had there; to which he answered that he was come to inquire about a gentleman who had been murdered there some years ago. To this Mrs Sewell replied: "Aye, this is Turner's doings; he has put us to great trouble about it already, but I will be avenged on him." They now returned to the White Horse, where Mr Turner gave his account concerning the discovery and disinterment of the corpse —- viz. that he, Mr Turner, had pales between his neighbour's meadow and his orchard; a great wind having blown them down, he had resolved to make a mud wall; in digging which, they had found a skull with all the teeth in it but one, and a hole on the left side of the skull about the size of a crown. Upon digging on they had perceived that the corpse had been crammed in double. The coroner had sat upon the bones, and the jury had found a verdict of murder committed. A blow upon the side of the head was the cause of the person's death.
Mr Turner, to vindicate the reputation of the house, had applied to the Justices of the Peace of the county. These had issued out warrants against Sewell, who formerly kept the inn, and his wife, who were taken before the justices; but upon their examination they had denied all knowledge of the matter. The magistrates, however, had bound them to appear at the next assizes. Sewell had died about a fortnight before the assizes, but it was suspected that he had been poisoned by his wife. He had shown visible signs of a troubled mind. He had often desired his wife to allow him to speak to some of the chief men of the town, for otherwise he could not die; which his wife would not permit.
At the assizes Mrs Sewell had appeared , and nothing being positively proved against her, she had been continued under bail till the next assizes, at which time the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Orlando Bridgman, had gone the circuit, and finding that no clear account of the person murdered could be ascertained, nor who were the murderers, he had ordered that notice should be inserted in the newspapers, at Lent Assizes, by which means Mrs Kidderminster had the first intimation of it.
Mrs Kidderminster, returning from Chelmsford, made inquiry at Romford for the ostler, Moses Drayne.
She asked him to describe a man who left his horse behind him when he was ostler at the White Horse, in Chelmsford what clothes he wore for she had some suspicion it might be her husband. He answered that the gentleman was a tall, big, portly man, with his own hair, dark brown, not very long, curled up at the ends; that he wore a black satin cap, and that his clothes were of a dark grey; which she found agreed with her husband's figure. She then asked him what hat he wore. He replied, "A black one." "Nay," said she, "my husband's was a grey one." At which words he changed colour several times, and never looked up in her face afterwards, but told her that one Mary Kendall, who had been a servant at Chelmsford at the time of the gentleman's stay there, could inform her much better.
The justice (Mildmay) now issued out a warrant for the apprehension of Moses Drayne, the ostler, who was immediately committed. After which Mary Kendall was traced to London, and was committed to Newgate. Here she was told by the prisoners that her running away was an argument of guilt, and that therefore she would be hanged; upon which she confessed all to Mrs Kidderminster, and told her she would not have continued so long in an obstinate denial, but that Sewell's daughters had threatened her that if she confessed, they would swear against her, and have her hanged first.
Sewell's wife in the meantime died of the plague; but Mrs Kidderminster, with the special consent of the Lord Chief Justice Bridgman, caused Mary Kendall to be removed from Newgate to Brentwood the day before the assizes.
On the arraignment of Drayne, Mary Kendall gave in evidence that she was a servant maid in the inn where the gentleman was murdered, and that she, having dressed herself in her best clothes, had leave of her master to go to Kilden, where her father lived; and upon her return home that night her mistress bid her fetch a pair of sheets, and lay them upon the bed in the room called the King's Arms. When she came into the room she found the gentleman standing with his back towards the fire, and with his hands behind him. He drank to her, and made her drink up her glass of beer, and bid her go and fetch him a napkin, to make him a cap. He asked her whether she was the man of the house's daughter, or his maid. She answered she was his servant. The master and mistress being in the room all this while, and having supped together with the gentleman, he, in the presence of the maid and the mistress, delivered his cloak bag to the master of the house, and told him there was in it near six hundred pounds and writings of considerable value. Then her mistress bade her go to bed, and lie with the younger children in the farther end of the house, that being not her usual lodging, where she was locked in that night, and her mistress unlocked the door in the morning. She said that between one and two of the clock in the morning she heard a great fall of something, and that it shook part of the house. When she came down in the morning she found her master and mistress, and the ostler, sitting very merrily at the fire, with a flagon of drink before them, none of them having been in bed that night, nor the two daughters, Betty and Priss, who were appointed to lie in the same room where the maid used to lie. She not seeing the gentleman stirring in the morning, after some time asked her mistress if the gentleman had gone. "Yes," answered she, "though you were so good a housewife that you could not get up;" and blamed her for lying in bed so long. She asked her mistress whether the gentleman left her anything. "Yes," said her mistress, "he left you a groat," and put her hand in her purse and gave it her. Then," said the maid, "I will go and make clean the chamber." "No," said the mistress, "my daughters and I have set that to rights already; do you what you are about, and then go to your flax wheel." The chamber door was kept locked for eight or nine weeks afterwards, and no person admitted to enter it but themselves. Once she asked her mistress why that room was locked, and not kept clean for guests as usual: the mistress answered they had no guests fit for that room, for it was kept for gentlemen.
Some time afterwards, on a Sunday, her master gave her the key to fetch his cloak out of his chest in his chamber; there she saw the gentleman's suit of clothes, and his cloak bag, which she saw him deliver to them. About nine weeks afterwards her mistress sent her up into the room where the gentleman had been murdered to fetch something, it being the first time she had been in that room since it had been locked. She searched over the room, and looked upon the tester of the bed, and there she saw the gentleman's hat, his hanger, boots, and the satin cap which she took off the gentleman's head and hung upon his hat and laid it upon the table, when she made a cap of the napkin, and put it on the gentleman's head. She took the gentleman's hat, his hanger, boots and cap, and carried them down to her mistress and the ostler. She said to her mistress: "You said the gentleman was gone to London in a coach; did he go without clothes, or did you lend him some? For I saw his clothes in my master's chest, and these thing are his too." The ostler said: "You lie like a w —- —-; those things are mine." The maid answered: "You are a rogue; I am sure they were the gentleman's; I know not whose they are now." Her mistress hearing the maid and the ostler quarrelling, she fell upon the maid, and there arose violent words betwixt them, when her mistress broke her head in three several places, so that the blood ran about her ears. The maid talked the louder, and asked her mistress whether she intended to murder her, as she did the gentleman. Then her master hearing this disturbance came to them, and persuaded her to hold her tongue and be quiet. She further deposed that the ostler had from his master sixty pounds of the gentleman's money, for that some short time after the murder he lent sixty pounds to a woman who kept the Greyhound Inn in the same town; and that that must be the money, for the ostler was worth nothing of his own at the time of the murder; and that the ostler had the gentle man's clothes, which she had seen in her master's chest; and that the ostler sent them to one Clarke, a dyer in Modsam, to have them dyed into a liver colour. The dyer asked him why he would have the colour altered, since they were of a better colour before: the ostler answered that he would have them dyed because he did not like the colour; and that about a twelvemonth after he dyed the grey hat black. Then she deposed further, that her master raised himself to a good condition on a sudden; for before, he was so poor that his landlord would not trust him for a quarter's rent, but would make him pay every six weeks; and that he could not be trusted for malt, but was forced to pay for one barrel under another. That shortly after, they bought a ruined malt house and new built it, and usually laid out forty pound in a day to buy barley. There was seen, upon a sudden, a great change in the daughters' condition, both as to their clothes and otherwise; and if she bought but a hood for one of the daughters, there was a piece of gold changed; and they were observed to have gold in great plenty.
There were two women, one of them a washerwoman of that town, and the other a Quaker, that lived next house to Mr Sewell, who both gave evidence at the trial. The washerwoman was going by the house very early, between one and two in the morning, to wash in the town, and the Quaker was sitting up for her husband, who was not then come home. They both of them made oath that about those hours they heard a noise in Mr Sewell's house, and a man's voice crying: "What! will you rob me of my money, and murder me too? If you take my money, spare my life." Then they heard something that fell very heavy, and a noise as it were of chairs and stools thrown about the room, and all the lights put out, and after that no further noise was heard.
The next morning these women inquired at the inn what might be the occasion of the noise the night before, for they thought they heard somebody cry out "Murder!" But they were answered they must be mistaken, for there was no noise there, nor was any person in the house but their own family.
William Denton, Mr Kidderminster's servant in the Isle of Ely, was produced as evidence to prove the horse and the gentleman's clothes and hat, which he did.
Upon this evidence the jury found Moses Drayne, the ostler, guilty; and after sentence he was remanded to prison, where he was about to make a sincere confession, but his wife, coming in in the meantime, took hold of him, and bade him hold his tongue and confess no more, for if he died for it he should hang nobody else.
Moses Drayne having confessed that Betty, the eldest daughter, had a share in the murder, and Mary Kendall having sworn at the trial that the two sisters were not in bed that night the murder was committed, moved the coroner to procure a warrant from a Justice of the Peace to apprehend the two sisters; which being done, they were bound over to appear at the next assizes. When the assizes came, both the daughters appeared, and a bill of indictment was preferred against them to the grand jury; against whom Mary Kendall gave the same evidence that she had done before at the trial of Moses Drayne, and also what he had confessed in the prison. But the grand jury, thinking the evidence not sufficient to find the bill, returned an ignoramus, and the two sisters were discharged by proclamation.