The Tryal of Eleanor Beare

The Tryal of Eleanor Beare of Derby, England

August 15, 1732

[The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 2, August 1732, p. 931-2. Internet Library of Early Journals.]

Eleanor Merriman, now the Wife of Ebenezer Beare, indicted for a Misdemeanor, in endeavouring to persuade Nicholas Wilson to poison his Wife, and for giving him Poison for that End:

Indicted a second time by the Name of Eleanor Beare, for a Misdemeanor, in destroying the Foetus in the Womb of Grace Belfort, by putting an iron Instrument up into her Body, and thereby causing her to miscarry.

Indicted a third time, for destroying the Foetus in the Womb of a certain Woman, to the Jury unknown, by putting an iron Instrument up her Body, or by giving her something to make her miscarry.

Pleaded Not Guilty.

Counsel for the King -- Gentlemen of the Jury, you have heard the Indictment read, and I must observe to you, that the Crime for which the Prisoner stands indicted, is an Offense of the highest Nature, next to Murder itself; it is the Instigation of a Man to kill his Wife, in the most secret Manner, in order to keep it from the Eyes of the World, and thereby to escape the Punishment due to such a Crime, by giving her Poison in Drink, of such a Nature, as should not work suddenly but my degrees, and thereby to kill her without any Suspicion of Murder; and it is owing to the good Providence of God, that the Man did not give his Wife the Poison, for if he had, and she had died, the Prisoner would have been tryed for the Murder.

Call Nicholas Wilson.

Court -- Do you know the Prisoner?

Wilson -- Yes.

Court -- How long?

Wilson -- It is about 3 Years since I unfortunately met with the Prisoner at a Publick House at Wirksworth; after some Conversation, she told me I was young, and could not take my Liberty for fear of having Uneasiness with my Wife, but if I would be ruled by her, she would put me in a way to be rid of it. I ask'd her how? She said she would give me something to give my Wife in her Drink which would do her Job. I told her that we should both be hang'd. She said I need not fear that, for it would not kill her suddenly but by degrees, and that it would never be suspected. In a few Days I met with the Prisoner again, and she gave me something in a Paper to give my Wife in her Drink, and told me it would quickly do her Job. I took the Paper and buried it, and went Home and told my Wife what had pass'd between me and the Prisoner; and she desired me to keep out of her Company; and I have never seen her since, till now I see her at the Bar.

Prisoner -- Did not you hire one Mary Tecmans to poison your Wife; and did not you receive some Poison (if it was Poison) from her, and afterwards send for me, and tell me the Stuff you had from Mary Tecmans would do no Good?

Evidence. [Wilson] -- No, I had the Stuff from you and no other, and I buried it as above.

Call John Wilson.

Court -- What have you to say to the Prisoner?

J. Wilson -- Since she was in Prison she sent for me, and told me she had something against my Brother which would touch his life, and desired he would keep out of the Way at the Assizes.

Counsel -- Your Lordship will observe, that the Prisoner fearing Nicholas Wilson might be an Evidence against her, had that Contrivance to send him out of the Way.

Call Hannah Wilson.

H. Wilson -- My Husband told me he had received something from the Prisoner, which she bid him give me in some Drink, and it would shut me quickly.

To the Second Indictment.

Counsel -- Gentlemen, You have heard the Indictment read, and may observe, that the Misdemeanor for which the Prisoner stands indicted, is of a most shocking Nature; to destroy the Fruit in the Womb carries something in it so contrary to the natural Tenderness of the Female Sex, that I am amazed how ever any Woman should arrive at such a degree of Impiety and Cruelty, as to attempt it in such a manner as the Prisoner has done, it has really something so shocking in it, that I cannot well display the Nature of the Crime to you, but must leave it to the Evidence: It is cruel and barbarous to the last degree.

Call Grace Belford.

Grace Belford -- I lived with the Prisoner as a Servant about ten Days, but was not hired, and I was off and on with her about fourteen Weeks: When I had been with her a few Days there came Company into the House, and made me drink Ale and Brandy (which I was not used to drink) and it overcame me; my Mistress sent me into the Stable to give Hay to some Horses, but I was not capable of doing it, so laid me down in the Stable; and three came to me one Christopher, a young Man that was drinking in the House, and after some Time I feared I was with Child by Christopher; upon that, my Mistress asked me if I was with Child, I told her I thought I was; Then she said if I could get 30 shillings from Christopher, she would clear me from the Child, without giving me Physick. A little Time after, some Company gave me Cyder and Brandy, my Mistress and I were both full of Liquor, and when the Company was gone, we could scarce get up the Stairs, but we did not get up; then I laid me on the Bed, and my Mistress brought a kind of Instrument, I took it to be like an Iron Skewer, and she put it up into my Body a great Way, and hurt me.

Court -- What followed upon that?

Evidence. [Belford] -- Some Blood came from me.

Court -- Did you miscarry after that?

Evidence. [Belford] -- The next Day after I went to Allestree, where I had a Miscarriage.

Court -- What did the Prisoner do after this?

Evidence. [Belford] -- She told me that the Job was done. I then lodged two or three Nights with one Ann Moseley (now Ann Oldknowles) and coming one Morning to see the Prisoner, I called for a Mug of Ale and drink it, and told her I was going Home; then came in John Clark, and on the Prisoner's saying I was going home, he said he would give me a Glass of Wine to help me forward, which accordingly he did, out of a Bottle he had in his Pocket, then I took my Leave of him; and when I was a little Way out of Town, I fell down at a Style, and was not well, I lay a little while, then got up, and went to Nottingham that Night.

Call Ann Oldknowles.

Court -- Do you know of any Thing of Grace Belford having a Miscarriage?

Evidence. [Ann Oldknowles] -- I know nothing, but when she lay with me, I saw all the Symptoms of Miscarriage on the Bed where she lay.

Call John Clark.

Court -- Do you know the Prisoner?

Clark -- Yes, I have frequented her House.

Court -- Did you ever hear her say any thing that she had used Means to make a Woman with Child miscarry, by putting any kind of Instrument up their Bodies, or by giving them any thing to take inwardly?

Clark -- Yes, I have.

Court -- Have you seen her Instrument for that Purpose, or have you seen her use any Means to make any Woman with Child miscarry?

Clark -- No, but I have heard her say she had done it, and that she then had under he r one Hannsh ------, whose other Name I know not.

Court -- Have you heard her say she had been sent for for these wicked Practices, or had any Reward for causing any one to miscarry?

Clark -- I heard her say she had been once sent for to Nottingham, and, as I remember, She said she had five Pounds for the Journey.

Prisoner -- Did not you say you never heard me say anything of using any Means to cause Miscarriage in any Person, or saw me use any Means for that End?

Clark -- No, I said I never saw you do anything that Way, but had heard you say you had done it. Would you have me forswear myself?

Prisoner -- No, but I would have you speak the Truth.

Clark -- I do.

Then the Prisoner called several Persons to speak in her Behalf, but only two appeared, and they only gave her Friends a reputable Character, and said the Prisoner had had a good Education, but they knew nothing of the latter Part of her Life.

Mr. Mayor -- The Prisoner at the Bar has a very bad Character, and I have had frequent Complaints against her for keeping a disorderly House. Many Evidences were ready in Court to have proved the Facts she stood charg'd with in the third Indictment; but his Lordship observing that the second Indictment was proved so plainly, he thought there was no Necessity for going upon the third.

His Lordship summed up the Evidence in a very moving Speech to the Jury, wherein he said, he never met with a Case so barbarous and unnatural. The Jury, after a short Consultation, brought the Prisoner in Guilty of both Indictments, and she received Sentence to stand on the Piliory, the Two next Market-Days, and to suffer dole Imprisonment for Three Years.

Derby, August 18, 1732. This Day Eleanor Beare, pursuant to her Sentence, stood for the first Time in the Pillory in the Marketplace; to which Place she was attended by several of the Sheriff's Officers; notwithstanding which, the Populace, to show their Resentment of the horrible Crimes wherein she has been charged, and the little Remorse she had shown since her Commitment, gave her no Quarter, but threw such quantities of Eggs, Turnips, Ect. that it was thought she would hardly have escap'd with her Life: She disengaged herself from the Pillory before her the Time of her standing was expired, and jump'd among the Crowd, whence she was with Difficulty carried back to Prison.

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