Published in November 2017
Women and the Gallows 1797–1837: Unfortunate Wretches
131 women were hanged in England and Wales between 1797 and 1837, executed for crimes including murder, baby-killing, theft, arson, sheep-stealing and passing forged banknotes. Most of them were extremely poor and living in desperate situations. Some were mentally ill. A few were innocent. And almost all are now forgotten, their voices unheard for generations.
Mary Morgan – a teenager hanged as an example to others.
Eliza Fenning – accused of adding arsenic to the dumplings.
Mary Bateman – a ‘witch’ who duped her neighbours out of their savings.
Harriet Skelton – hanged for passing counterfeit pound notes in spite of efforts by Elizabeth Fry and the Duke of Gloucester to save her.
Naomi Clifford has unearthed the events that brought these ‘unfortunates’ to the gallows and has used contemporary newspaper accounts and documents to tell their stories.
The Disappearance of Maria Glenn
Taunton, 1817. What seems a simple newspaper report of elopement gone wrong turns out to be a rollercoaster story of crime, coercion, illusory triumph and fraudulent defeat. Barrister George Tuckett wakes to discover that his 16-year-old niece Maria Glenn, reputedly the heiress to West Indian sugar plantations, is missing. He discovers that she has been abducted by the Bowditches, a local farming family, who intend to force her to marry one of their sons. Maria is rescued and Tuckett starts investigating the crime himself, uncovering a complex and disturbing web of lies and impersonation. At a drama-filled trial that is the talk of the country, four people are sentenced to prison. When a cabal of powerful people in Taunton begin a campaign to destroy Maria’s testimony, her supporters fall away and she is openly vilified. Her enemies have her arrested for perjury and, after a ramshackle trial, she is forced to flee into exile. Yet the story of conspiracy and deception does not end there, as Maria and her uncle were to suffer one final and devastating betrayal. But was Maria telling the truth? Both sides had given utterly different versions of events during the trial so it was clear that someone had to be lying.
In the pipeline for 2018
The Murder of Mary Ashford
Just after midnight on 26 May 1817, Mary Ashford left a party in a village near Birmingham in the company of Abraham Thornton, a local bricklayer with a bad reputation. A few hours later she was found drowned in a stagnant pond. She had been raped.
Thornton was soon on trial for his life but, to the widespread consternation of almost everyone from the local gentry to the humblest labourer, he was acquitted.
In a last-ditch effort to find justice, the victim’s brother was persuaded to use an archaic process to prosecute Thornton again, only to find himself confronted with an extraordinary challenge harking back to medieval times. In court, the accused threw down a gauntlet and demanded his right to trial by combat. As that legal process played out, new and disturbing theories emerged to explain why Mary died.
In a fresh and many-layered exploration of this notorious case, Naomi Clifford sheds new light on the events leading up to Mary’s death, the motivations of the killer, and why, for two centuries, the truth of what happened remained hidden in plain sight.
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