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Hannah Hudgell

Charged with Infanticide

in 1889

 

  

 

  In my initial search I have always wondered about the record I had about a death of a baby - Hannah Hudgell by her mother also Hannah in 1889.

 

  I acquired the trial for infanticide of Hannah Hudgell from the Hertfordshire Records office which gave a very detailed transcription of the inquest and trial (see below).

 

  Hannah Hudgell born in 1870 was one of 13 children and previous to her 3 of her sisters had also had illegitimate children, one dying in childbirth, but in 1889 she herself became pregnant and gave birth in the Union Workhouse Bishop Stortford, but on the 25th October she started her long walk home to her parents home in Sawbridgeworth and somewhere on the way she laid the child down in a ditch to die.  

 

It is not known why she did this and she had no explanation for it, so we shall never know.

 

 

 

The Crown Hotel in Old Harlow where the trail took place in 1889

 29th October 1889

 Coroner’s depositions taken

at an inquest held upon the body on a female

child named Hannah Hudgell.

 

Information of Witnesses taken this 29th day of October 1889 at the George Hotel, in the Parish of Harlow in the County of Essex, before Charles Carne Lewis, one of Her Majesty’s coroners for the said County.

Touching the death of a female child named Hannah Hudgell aged 5 weeks, then and there lying dead.

 

 

John Springham of Back Street, Harlow

On his oath saith:

  The 25th instant about half past 3 o’clock I was in the High Road a short distance on the Sawbridgeworth side of the Harlow railway bridge when a younger brother of mine drew my attention to something lying in a ditch from the right hand side of the road there upon that I went and looked at it, my little brother touched it and pulled it up I then saw a child’s head.

  The child was dead. It was enclosed in a coloured apron I left it there and went and told the roads man James Bradley who was at work in the road the Harlow side of the bridge – I went back with him to the spot – but he did not touch the child.

J Springham


 James Parish of Harlow a pensioner

On his oath saith:

 

    On Friday afternoon last about 4 o’clock I was standing upon the Harlow railway bridge when James Bradley called me to him and from what he told me I went and looked in the ditch which is on the right hand side of the High Road and about 150 yards from the Railway Bridge. I then saw a parcel apparently a dark apron.

 

There was about 6 inches of water in this ditch and the parcel was lying in the water.  I got it out of the ditch, and laid it on the side of the bank; I then found that this parcel contained the dead body of a child. There was also a piece of flannel wrapped round the child’s body, Bradley had returned with me to the spot. I sent him to give information as to what I had found to the police and I remained with the child until Leigh Moulton arrived who took charge of it.

 

   There is a footpath by the side of the road and a low hedge between this footpath and the ditch at the spot where the child way lying there is a gap leading into the ditch.

 

James Parish

 

 


 

PC Oscar Moulton

Courtesy of
Essex Police Museum

On this oath saith:

 

  I am sergeant of police at presenting charge of Harlow and on Friday afternoon last about ¼ past 4 I was on duty at the Harlow police station when from information I received I proceeded to about 150 yards the Sawbridgeworth side of the Harlow Railway Bridge and just where the brow of the ditch on the right hand side of the High Road.

 

  I saw the body of a dead child lying there it had the piece of flannel produced and also the napkin produced wrapped upon its body and it was enclosed in the infants night gown also produced I took charge of it and had it removed to where it now lies it is the same child this day shown to the jury.

Oscar John Moulton

 

 

 


Amelia McCarter of Bishop Stortford

On her oath saith:

 

  I am nurse at the infirmary of the Bishop Stortford Workhouse I have today seen the body of the female child viewed by the jury.

 

    And I identify it as the child of Hannah Hudgell a single woman she was delivered this child in the infirmary on the 15th September last she was removed from the infirmary on the 15th October instant taking the dead child with her.

 

  I identify this child by its general appearance and practically by its mouth I identify the flannel belt and night dress produced as belonging to the Guardians of the Bishop Stortford union and those which Hannah Hudgell took away from the union infirmary upon the dead child on the 15th October instant.

 

  This child also had some other clothing constancy, particularly the baby’s blanket, baby’s shirt and cotton binder now produced.

 

  The dead child was full time and healthy child when born and when it was removed it was very healthy and got on very nicely.

 

Amelia McCarter

 


Annie Leslie a widow

On her oath saith:

 

   I am a London pauper in the Lewisham Union, and as attendant to the recovery ward, I recollected a women named Hannah Hudgell being brought to the workhouse on the 14th October instant she had an infant child with her. The 15th October was a Tuesday she was allowed to remain within recovery ward until the following Friday.

 

  I dressed the child twice. I cannot identify the dead child as being that child! Hannah Hudgell fed the child with a bottle as she had no milk herself. She left the workhouse on Monday the 21st October instant. Taking the child with her, she told me she was going home to her mother at Bishop Stortford. She left at about ¼ to 9 in the morning of the 21st October. She had 3f in money with her when she left the workhouse.

 

Amelia Leslie

 


Emily the wife of Samuel Reed – Clay Lane Sawbridgeworth - Platelayer

On her oath saith:

 

  I know Hannah Hudgell and have done so from infancy.  Her parents also reside in Clay Lane and have done so ever since I have known them. On Monday even the 21st October instant between 5 and 6 o’clock I was standing at my front door she was walking along the road towards her parent’s cottage.  She stopped and spoke to me she said ‘Well Mrs. Reed’ ‘how are you?’ I said ‘Ok Hannah is that you?’, she relies ‘yes’ I then asked her where her baby was she relied ‘in heaven’ she hoped I then asked her to come in my cottage and have a cup of tea while she did whilst there she showed me a little parcel which contained a flannel blanker a little shirt a child’s roller and a little bonnet.

 

   I said to her ‘You have never done anything to your little mite have you?’ she relies ‘no Mrs. Reed I have not’  ‘it died in Lewisham workhouse on last Thursday’. I then asked her if she saw it die she said ‘no’ she said the nurse told her lay it in the cot and she was at the further end when it died. I then asked her if she followed it meaning to the burial she said no and had they laid it out they bought it back to look at. She cried whilst she was telling me this she also said she was very fond of the baby she then left my cottage she was not with me more than half an hour.

Emily Reed


PC Charles Gardner

On his oath saith:

   I am a police constable stationed at Hatfield Heath and on Saturday last the 26th October instant on information I received I in company will police constable Pratt of the Herts. Constabulary proceeded to a cottage there occupied by James Hudgell. There I saw Hannah Hudgell I asked her how long it was since she had left the union she said she was transferred from Bishop Stortford to Lewisham by 15th Oct instant.

 

   I asked her if she had a baby with her I then asked her where she had left it. She did not answer the question for a minute or two and then after a while she said she had left it near Harlow Bridge. After cautioning her that if she wished to make a statement I could take it down in writing, and it might be used as evidence again her. She repeated the above and said she was very sorry for what she had done and she hoped to be forgiven. 

 

   I then apprehended her and bought her to the police station at Harlow.

Chas Gardner


Robert Newcombe Day of Harlow - surgeon

On his oath saith:

  On Tuesday last the 27th October I was called to see the dead child and I saw it where the body is new lying at the premises of The George Hotel here. Externally everything appeared to be natural, the child was dirty and appears to have been lying in mud I could not detect any sign of any external violence. On Sunday last I made a post mortem examination.

  On opening the head I found the brain to be perfectly healthy. Upon opening the chest I examined the lungs they laid in their natural position - reviewed them and tested them found they had been thoroughly refined through in every part they were perfectly healthy. They contained no water. The heart was also healthy. After opening the abdomen I found the stomach contained a fair supply of milk in a curdled state.

   No trace of any water in the stomach I opened the intestines and found food also in them - I opened the bladder which contained no water in them the deceased was a fairly nourished child I am of the opinion that the deceased died from exposure so far as I could see there was no trace of death from drowning. Decomposition had commenced.

Robert Newcombe Day


Sworn by the said 'John Springham, James Parish, Oscar

 

John Moulton,

Amelia Leslie, Emily Reed, Charles Gardner and Robert Newcombe Day at

Harlow in the County of Essex this 29th day of October 1889

Before me Charles Lewis  - Coroner

 

The examination of:

John Springham of Harlow Essex

James Parish of the same place Pensioner

Oscar John Moulton of the same place Police Sergeant

Amelia McCarter of Bishop Stortford, Herts. Infirmary Nurse

Annie Leslie of Lewisham, Kent, Workhouse attendant

Emily Reed of Sawbridgeworth, Herts., married women

Charles Gardner of Hatfield Heath, Essex, Police constable

Robert Newcombe Day of Harlow a foresaid surgeon

Frederick Perry of Harlow aforesaid Police constable

  Taken on Oath this twenty ninth day of October in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and eighty nine at the Petty Sessional Court House at Harlow in the County aforesaid, before the undersigned, two of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said County in the presence and hearing of Hannah Hudgell who was charged this day before the Court for that she the said – Hannah Hudgell – on the twenty first day of October one thousand eight hundred and eighty nine at Harlow in the said County of Essex feloniously wilfully and of her malice Aforethought did kill and murder her female infant child.


This Deponent John Springham on his Oath

Saith as follows:-

  I am ten years old and reside with my father in Back Street Harlow on Friday last the 25th October about half past three I was sent to Harlow Mill to fetch some milk – my little brother eight years old went with me, when I got over the railway at Harlow station on the way to the mill, my brother called my attention to a colored apron in a ditch adjoining the road – I could see the apron from the road although there was a little hedge between it and the road I went to it and my brother pulled the apron up and there I saw a baby – it was dead – the apron did not cover the baby’s head – the baby was in the ditch and there was water in it. I didn’t know whether there was any thing on it besides the apron – I did not touch the body but ran and told the road scraper who was working between Harlow town and the station – His name is Bradley.

J Springham

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And his deponent James Parish on his oath saith as follows:

  I am an army pensioner resident at Harlow – On Friday last the 25th October about 4 o’clock from information I had I went with James Bradley to a hedge with a ditch by the roadside about 150- yards on the Sawbridgeworth side of the railway bridge at Harlow station, the ditch was in the right hand side of the road leading to Sawbridgeworth went to the gap in the hedge there in the ditch on the other side of the hedge I saw the print drop produced:- I lifted it up and underneath it I found a baby it was quite dead :- there was fifteen inches of water in the ditch and the head was covered with water. I could have seen the drop from the footpath, I pulled the body out of the ditch and placed it on the ……… with it and sent Bradley go and inform the police. The police came and took charge of the body while I was there

James Parish

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And his deponent Oscar John Moulton on his oath saith as follows:

  I am a police sergeant in the Essex Constabulary in charge at Harlow station. At a quarter past 4 on Friday last the 25th October instant. From information I received I went to a ditch thro a gap in the hedge in the right had side of the road leading from Harlow station to Sawbridgeworth, and there was the body of a female and his deponent Oscar John Moulton recalled on his oath saith as follows: I received the child’s small shirt, roller flannel which Amelia McCarter produced from the prisoners mother.

John Moulton

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And his deponent Frederick Perry on his oath saith as follows:

  I am police constable stationed at Harlow on Friday last the 25th Oct  instant I accompanied Sergeant Moulton to the Road Side between the railway station and Mill at Harlow and there found the body of a female child which I removed to a shed at the George at Harlow.

  It was locked up there and on the following Sunday 27th October I accompanied Mr. Day to the body and remained with him while he made the post mortem examination.

F Perry

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And this deponent Amelia McCarter on her oath saith as follows:

  I am a widow and nurse at the infirmary at Bishop Stortford I identify the prisoner Hannah Hudgell. She was confined in the infirmary at the union on 15th Sept last of a female child - the child  a healthy child - the prisoner was in the infirmary until the 15th Oct instant and during the period she was there I constantly saw the child and its mother - prisoner left on the 15th Oct - both mother and child were then perfectly well.

  I have this morning seen the child of Hannah Hudgell it was dead and produced to me at the George Harlow by police sergeant Moulton: - When the child left the union infirmary it had a black and white shawl on small one over its head: a baby’s print gown - a flannel blanket a cotton roller a shirt a diaper, I believe the shawl which the prisoner is now wearing is the large shawl - the cotton drop and the ............... produced are similar to those in use at Stortford Union :- (The cotton drop produced by James Parish a baby’s flannel belt produced by P C Moulton were produced by Mr. Phelps. The blanket, shirt, roller, small shawl which I saw produced are similar to those in use at the Stortford Union

Amelia McCarter

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And the deponent Emily Reed on her oath saith as follows: -

  I am the wife of Samuel Reed a platelayer reside at Clay Lane Sawbridgeworth - on last Monday week the 21st Oct instant about half past five in the evens I was standing at my door when Hannah Hudgell the prisoner came along :- she said 'Oh Mrs. Reed' 'how are you?’ I said 'Oh Hannah is that you; she said 'yes' I said ‘where’s your baby?’ she said 'In heaven I hope' I asked her to come in share some tea - she came in and she said she should have so if she hadn’t seen me.

  She had some tea - I asked her whether she saw her baby die she said no the nurse told me to lay it in the cot and I was at the further end when it died. She showed me then a little parcel wrapped up in a plaid shawl, within this parcel there was a blanket, a little shirt, a roller and a little bonnet. 

  The plaid shawl was a small one: - it was similar to the one produced (Mr. Phelps was here show the shawl produced by Amelia McCarter) I cannot identify the blanket, shirt, or roller produced - they were rolled up and I didn’t open them (Mr. Phelps was here the blanket, shirt and roller produced by Amelia McCarter, I said to prisoner ' you haven’t been hurting you little mite and she said no Mrs. Reed I haven’t for I loved my baby she cried while she said it - I had no motive for asking her this but it seemed to me to be strange that she should be there as I know she had been confined and also that she had left Stortford for Lewisham I know the day I saw her was Monday the 21st instant as it was our 'fair' day

Emily Reed

Charles I Phelps

J Todhunter


And his deponent Charles Gardner on his oath saith:

  I am a police constable stationed at Hatfield Heath and on Saturday last the 26th October instant from information I received I went in company with PC Pratt of the Herts. constabulary to a cottage at Clay Lane Sawbridgeworth occupied by James Hudgell the prisoner’s father and there I saw the prisoner - I asked her if she had been in Bishop Stortford Union : - she said' Yes I left last Tuesday week and; went to Lewisham' - I asked her ' Did you have a baby with you' she said 'yes' and in reply to a question from either Pratt or me where there she had left the child at Lewisham - she after breaking down and crying said I left it near Harlow Bridge - I then charged her on suspicion with destroying her child and that if she wished to make a statement she could but not without she liked - she said I am very sorry for what I have done and I hope to be forgiven this time - I took those words down and she signed it after I have read it to her in her mothers and Pc Pratt’s presence.

   I then bought her into Harlow.  The statement I now produce is that made by the prisoner (Mr. Phelps here produced his pocket book with such a statement therein) I showed Annie Leslie the body found at Harlow today.

Chas Gardner

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And this deponent Francis Pratt on his oath saith as follows:

  I am police constable in the Hertfordshire constabulary stationed at Sawbridgeworth on Saturday last the 26th Oct instant I accompanied PC Gardner to a cottage in Clay Lane Sawbridgeworth occupied by James Hudgell - I there saw the prisoner Hannah Hudgell she informed us that she had been in Stortford union and transferred thence to Lewisham on the last Tuesday week that she had left Lewisham for Harlow on the last Monday she was asked if she had a baby when she arrived at Harlow and she said yes I left it near Harlow bridge she was then cautioned and charged on suspicion and she said she was very sorry for what she had done she hoped to be forgiven this time PC Gardner took her words down in his pocket book and read it over to her she said it is quite true - he asked her if she was willing to sign it and she did in my presence.

Francis Pratt PC 25

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And On his deponent Annie Leslie on her oath said as follows:

   I am the attendant in charge of the receiving ward at Lewisham union I identify the prisoner Hannah Hudgell she was brought to my ward on the 15th instant about a quarter to twelve she had a baby with her. She stayed in the receiving ward until the following Friday the 18th inst when she went to the nursery I had the opportunity of judging as to the health of the child during that period as I …………….. it and it was always with me - it was a healthy child - I saw the prisoner and her baby next in the morning on the 21st inst a Monday she came to my ward to drop as she was leaving I dropped the baby for her that morning - I put on 2 belly bands, a shirt, a flannel and a print gown and also a white …… one small and one black and while check shawl:- I identify the 2 belly bands short flannel blanket print gown and the small and large black and while shawl produced as those in 'which; I dropped the child of Hannah Hudgell on the morning of the 21st inst after she was dropped I accompanied the prisoner to the lodge carrying the baby for her and saw her leave the premises.

   It was then a quarter to nine in the morning I noticed the time as she told me she wanted to catch a tram at Liverpool street at 1/2 past 10 to go to Bishop Stortford to her mother and I was afraid she would be late. Police constable Gardener showed me a dead baby at The George Hotel Harlow this morning: - I cannot say whether it was Hannah Hudgells baby or not.

Annie Leslie

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


And his deponent Robert Newcombe Day on his oath saith as follows:

   I am a surgeon practicing at Harlow: - on Saturday last the 26th inst I received an order from the coroners to perform a post mortem examination on the body of a female child. I did so on Sunday last the 26th inst - I opened first the chest and examined the position of the lungs and heart and found them natural - I came to the conclusion that respiration had been perfect throughout and I found nothing to cause death. Then I examined next the stomach and found it fairly well supplied with food and no water there.

   I examined the intestines and found food in them. Then the bladder which was empty from such examination I found nothing from which I could form an opinion as to the cause of death. Before the post mortem examination, I examined the child externally and found no marks of violence or anything to cause death. I am of opinion that the body had been there a few days as it was ............ and slight decomposition had set in the lower part of the bowels. I did not think the child was drowned. I examined the brain it was healthy.

Robert Newcombe Day

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter


The Verdict:

  Hannah Hudgell stands charged before the undersigned of Her Majesty Justices of the Peace for this twenty ninth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty nine for that she the said Hannah Hudgell on the twenty first day of October 1889 at Harlow in the said county of Essex feloniously wilfully and of her malice a forethought did kill and murder her female child and the said charge being read to the said Hannah Hudgell and the witnesses of the Prosecution John Springham, Charles Gardener being severally examined in her presence  the said Hannah Hudgell is now addressed by me as follows:-

   'Having heard the evidence do you wish to say anything in answer to the charge? you are not obliged to say anything and may be given in evident again you upon your trial and you are clearly nothing to gain from any threat which may have been holden out to you to induce you to make any admission or admission of your guilt but whatever you shall now say may be given in evidence against you at your trial notwithstanding such promise of threat

 

 

 

And immediately after obeying the direction of the 18th section of the Act Eleventh and Twelfth Victoria, Chapter Forty Two I the said Justice of The Peace did demand and require of the said Hannah Hudgell whether she desired to call any witness and thereupon in answer do such demand the said  Hannah Hudgell nether called any witness’s.

Whereon the said Hannah Hudgell - said as follows

    ‘I am not guilty of murdering the child I laid it down by the side of the road - there was not any water in the ditch when I laid it there and I do trust to be forgiven

Charles J Phelps

J Todhunter.

Reg.

v

Hannah Hudgell

Cor. Deaman J. 3 Dec 89

Verdict: Guilty of manslaughter with a strong recommendation to Mercy

 J Gore Browne

 

 

December 5th 1889

 The Assizes

South-Eastern Circuit

 

  At Chelmsford, before Mr. Justice Denman, Hannah Hudgell, 20, was indicated for wilful murder of her child, aged six weeks, at Harlow on October 21 last.  Mr. Fulton and Mr. Wedderburn prosecuted for the Treasury, and Mr. F. Gore-Brown, at the request of the learned Judge, defended the prisoner. 

 

  The case for the prosecution was that the prisoner had left her child by the roadside on October 21, where it was found four days afterwards dead.  The evidence went to show that when the prisoner and her child were discharged from the union where she had been confined the child was healthy and well. When the body was found it had somewhat scanty clothing.

 

  Mr. Gore-Brown, in his address to the jury, commented on the sad position the prisoner found herself in, through the sin of one who had deserted her in her day of misery and distress.  It was not to be believed that a mother who had always shown the utmost affection for her baby should suddenly expose it in this way.

 

  It was most probably that the infant had died in its mother’s arms during her long tramp from Lewisham to Harlow.  Mr. Justice Denman, in the course of his summing up, pointed out to the jury that three verdicts were open to them – i.e., murder, manslaughter, or acquittal.

 

 The questions for the jury were: - Was the child alive when left by the prisoner? If so, then (2) was it left, intending it to die, or was it left to be found by someone? The jury convicted the prisoner of Manslaughter.  The learned Judge, addressing the prisoner, said, - You have been convicted on the clearest evidence of a very serious crime.  The learned counsel, Mr. Gore-Browne, who at my request defended you, made a singularly powerful, able, and discreet defence on your behalf, and did all that could have been done for you.  I think justice will be satisfied by a sentence of six months’ hard labour.

 


  Hannah Hudgell was working in Croyden in the 1891 census for Thomas Wakeman  a Congregational Minister from Bishop Stortford, I wonder if this was was part of the conditions of the court after her trial.

  In 1896 she married Alfred Jones from Sawbridgeworth and went on to have a further three children

 

 


 

Pamela Bishop ©2002 - 2006  All rights reserved

 

last updated 14/08/2006 19:16

 

 

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