We have now before us another woman of the demoniac disposition of Mother Brownrigg, and who like her might have satiated the utmost extent of her ferocity, had she not been detected while the children yet lived. She was prosecuted by the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, at the quarter sessions for Surrey, for assaulting Jane Bray and Sophia Ingreen, her apprentices.
Jane Bray deposed, that she was bound apprentice to Elizabeth Hall, a pin header on the 5th of April, 1796. [Note: Some of our readers will be surprised to hear that there are several different branches of business in the making of a pin] The prisoner for a little while used her and Sophia very, well, but after some time began to beat and kick them about, and would drag them up and down stairs, making use of the most horrible expressions. She always kept a rod soaking in brine, with which she used to beat them on their bare skin, when they were undressed to go to bed: if she could not find the rod immediately she would beat them with her fist, and sometimes with the kettle ladle. They both did as much work as they could, but their mistress made them begin at four o'clock in the morning, and continue close at it until ten or eleven at night, always beating them for no particular cause, and very frequently going out without leaving them either a dinner or supper; they never had a belly-full; sometimes they had nothing all day long but six potatoes and a little salt for their dinner.
Ann Harland served her apprenticeship to Hall, and wrought there three or four weeks with the children. She described them as very good girls, but rather weakly, and said, they earned their mistress from 1s. to 14d. daily, which was as much as she could do when she had served twelve months of her time. She corroborated the evidence of the child as to the beating and hours of labour, which she said, were unusually long, as the custom of the trade is to work only twelve hours.
Catherine Heman worked also for Hall, and generally carried her work home to the shop. On calling one day, the [prisoner] was out, as she learned from the children, drinking. When she came to the door and knocked, the children begged her for God's sake, to go to the door, as their mistress would knock them down as she came in. The witness accordingly went to the door, and as soon as the prisoner was admitted, she knocked the witness down. She then went down stairs, and brought up a board, with which she beat the children very severely. Bray had a large lump on her shoulder, and the little girl Ingram's arms and hands were so bruised by continual beating, as to be scarce able to hold her work.
The beadle of Bermondsey deposed, that he found the children straying in the Street between nine and ten at night; he took them home to the prisoner; on his going to leave them there the children cried, and said they should be murdered. The mistress then said she would not take them in at all as that was the case. He then took them to the master of the workhouse; and the parish, much to their credit, instituted the present prosecutlon.
The evidence is given as it relates to both, though the assaults were tried separately, as the same witnesses were on both. Jane Bray was only eleven years of age, and Sophia Ingram only nine.
The jury found the prisoner guilty of both indictments, and the Chairman passed sentence, that she should pay a fine of 3s. 4d. and be imprisoned in the House of Correction six months for each offence: too lenient a punishment.