Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
 

Elizabeth BROWNRIGG

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Abuse of servants - Torture
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 9, 1767
Date of birth: 1720
Victim profile: Mary Clifford, 14 (one of her domestic servants)
Method of murder: Cumulative injuries and associated infected wounds
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Tyburn on September 14, 1767
 
 
 
 
 
 

photo gallery

 
 
 
 
 
 
The tragical histories and horrid cruelties of Elizabeth Brownrigg 3,1 Mb
 
 
 
 
 
 

Elizabeth Brownrigg (1720-1767) was an eighteenth century murderer. Her victim, Mary Clifford, was one of her domestic servants, who died from cumulative injuries and associated infected wounds. As a result of witness testimony and medical evidence at her trial, Brownrigg was hung at Tyburn in September 1767.

Early Life: 1720-1765

Born in 1720 to a working class family, Elizabeth married James Brownrigg, an apprentice plumber, while still a teenager. She gave birth to sixteen children, but only three survived infancy. In 1765, Elizabeth, James and their son John moved to Flower de Luce Road in London's Fetter Lane. James was prospering from his career as a plumber, and Elizabeth was a respected midwife. As a result of her work, Saint Dunstans Parish appointed her overseer of women and children, and she was given custody of several female children as domestic servants from the London Foundling Hospital.

The Foundling Hospital: Vocational and Educational Debate

Since Thomas Coram had founded it in 1739, there had been constant debate about what the station of the Foundling Hospital's young charges should be. There was debate over whether they were being overeducated, or whether they should be subject to vocational education and trained for apprenticeships, which would lead to future stable lives as domestic servants.

The latter was decided upon, and the Foundling Hospital began to tender older children and young adolescents for vocational training as apprentices in 1759, shortly before the events described in this entry took place. Elizabeth Brownrigg was not the only abusive adult who used hapless children as virtual slave labour, however, as contemporary accounts indicate. After the events described in this entry, the Foundling Hospital insituted greater safeguards of oversight for apprenticeship tendering, and reported cases of apprentice abuse dropped considerably.

Abuse of Servants: 1765-1767

There is little biographical information available to explain her subsequent behaviour. However, Elizabeth Brownrigg proved ill-suited to the task of caring for her foundling domestic servants and soon began to engage in severe physical abuse. This often involved stripping her young charges naked, chaining them to wooden beams or pipes, and then whipping them severely with switches, bullwhip handles and other implements for the slightest infraction of her rules.

Mary Jones, one of her earlier charges, ran away from her house and sought sanctuary with the London Foundling Hospital. After a medical examination, the Governors of the London Foundling Hospital demanded that James Brownrigg keep his wife's abusive tendencies in check, but enforced no further action.

Heedless of this reprimand, Brownrigg also severely abused two other domestic servants, Mary Mitchell and Mary Clifford. Like Jones before her, Mitchell sought refuge from the abusive behaviour of her employer, but John Brownrigg forced her to return to Flower de Luce Road. Clifford was entrusted to Brownrigg's care, despite the Governors earlier concerns about her abusive behaviour toward her charges. As a result, Brownrigg engaged in more excessive punishment toward Clifford. She was kept naked, forced to sleep on a mat inside a coal-hole, and when she forced open cupboards for food because she was fed only bread and water, Elizabeth Brownrigg repeatedly beat her for a day's duration, chained to a roof beam in her kitchen.

By June 1767, Mitchell and Clifford were experiencing infection of their untreated wounds, and Brownrigg's repeated assaults gave her no time to heal. However, Brownrigg's neighbours were beginning to suspect something was awry within her household, and resultantly, they asked the London Foundling Hospital to further investigate the premises. As a result, Brownrigg yielded Mary Mitchell, but Foundling Hospital Inspector Grundy then demanded to know where Clifford was, and took James Brownrigg prisoner, although Elizabeth and John Brownrigg escaped.

In Wandsworth, a chandler recognised the fugitives, and the trio stood trial in the Old Bailey in August 1767.

Brownrigg's Trial and Execution: August-September 1767

By this time, Mary Clifford had succumbed to her infected wounds, and Elizabeth Brownrigg was charged with her murder. At the trial, Mary Mitchell testified against her former employer, as did Grundy and an apprentice of James Brownrigg. Medical evidence and autopsy results indicated that Brownrigg's repeated assaults and negligence of Clifford's injuries had contributed to the fourteen year old's death, so Elizabeth Brownrigg was sentenced to hang at Tyburn.

Crowds condemned her on the way to her execution, and even sixty years later, the Newgate Calendar crime periodical still bore testimony to the impression that Elizabeth Brownrigg's crimes had made on Georgian and Victorian England. Both the Newgate Calendar and Old Bailey trial records are available online, and are cited below.

Online References

  • Elizabeth Brownrigg: Executed for Torturing Her Female Apprentices (sic) to Death (from the Newgate Calendar, Volume 2: 1825: 369-374:
     

  • James Brownrigg, His Wife Elizabeth and Their Son John: Killing: Murder, Killing: Murder, 9th September 1767: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref. t17670909:The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 to 1834:

Bibliography

  • Marthe Jocelyn: A Home for Foundlings: Toronto: Tundra Books: 2005: ISBN 0-88776-709-5
     

  • Ruth McClure: Coram's Children: The London Foundling Hospital in the Eighteenth Century: New Haven: Yale University Press: 1981: ISBN 0-300-02465-7
     

  • Patty Seleski: "A Mistress, A Mother and A Murderess Too: Elizabeth Brownrigg and the Social Construction of the Eighteenth Century Mistress" in Katherine Kitredge (ed): Lewd and Notorious: Female Transgression in the Eighteenth Century: Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press: 2003: ISBN 0-472-08906-4
     

  • Kristina Straub: "The Tortured Apprentice: Sexual Monstrosity and the Suffering of Poor Children in the Brownrigg Murder Case" (p.66-81) in Laura Rosenthal and Mita Choudhary (ed) Monstrous Dreams of Reason: London: Associated Universities Presses: 2002: ISBN 0-383-75460-0
     

  • Lisa Zunshine: Bastards and Foundlings: Illegitimacy in Eighteenth Century England: Columbus: Ohio State University Press: 2005: ISBN 0-8142-0995-5

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Brownrigg, Elizabeth

Elizabeth was born in 1720 to a family named either Hartley or Harkly. She married James Brownrigg, an apprentice plumber, at an early age and went on to produce sixteen children, but as was quite common only three of them survived childhood.

By the time Elizabeth had reached her mid-40s, her husband had prospered and the family had become quite wealthy. In 1765 they moved to their new home in Fetter Lane, London. Elizabeth proved to quite an adept midwife and she was kept very busy. Her practice became so busy that she found it necessary to take on an apprentice from the local workhouse. The first apprentice that she took on was Mary Mitchell. Once the initial one month trial period was over Elizabeth started mistreating Mary, punching, kicking and generally abusing the girl. As the months went by Elizabeth found that she enjoyed the feeling of power the abuse of the girl gave her.She soon took on another apprentice from the workhouse, Mary Jones.

Again, the poor girl was subjected to all manner of beatings and humiliations, not just by Elizabeth but now also by her husband and son who also found pleasure in torturing the servants. Unlike Mary Mitchell, Mary Jones was made of sterner stuff. Even though she was made to sleep under a dresser in the Brownrigg's bedroom each night, she managed to escape early one morning. She was found wandering, dazed and emaciated, and was taken to a hospital. She was blind in one eye and covered in bruises. The hospital wrote to the Brownriggs demanding damages but, because they failed to reply, the matter was allowed to lapse with the hospital informing the Brownriggs that Mary's apprenticeship was terminated.

By this time Mrs Brownrigg had obtained the services of another apprentice, 14-year-old Mary Clifford. Again, the girl underwent all sorts of inhuman treatment. She was given lice-infested clothes to wear, she was beaten, she was hung naked from a hook in the ceiling, she was beaten into unconsciousness with an iron bar. On July 12th 1767 Mary Clifford's step-mother, Mrs Deacon, turned up at the house asking to see the young girl. Elizabeth refused the woman entry and denied that there were any apprentices in the house.

Mrs Deacon was not satisfied with this answer and after talking ot one of the neighbours who confirmed that there were apprentices in the house she fetched the authorities. The Brownriggs again denied that Mary Clifford lived in the house but did produce Mary Mitchell. She was in such a bad way that she was rushed away to hospital to be treated. When the parish officials returned they decided enough was enough and forced their way into the house.

A search of the premises found Mary Clifford in a small cupboard. She, too, was rushed to hospital. Mr Brownrigg was apprehended but, by this time, Elizabeth and her son had escaped. They made their way to Wandsworth and lay low at a local inn. Despite the efforts by the staff at the hospital on 9th August 1767, Mary Clifford died. Her body had been covered in ulcers, cuts and bruises and her mouth had been slashed so she could not speak.

The inn-keeper recognised that his two guests fitted the description of the two persons sought by the authorities and turned them in. They were arrested and taken to Newgate. The three Brownriggs were tried at the Old Bailey. The trial lasted eleven hours with both husband and son blaming Elizabeth for all the wrong-doing. Incredible though it sounds they were believed and the husband and son were fined one shilling and given six month's imprisonment. Mary was found guilty and sentenced to death. On September 14th 1767, Elizabeth Brownrigg was taken by open cart to Tyburn and hanged. 

 
 

Elizabeth Brownrigg

Elizabeth was born into a working class family in 1720 to a family named either Hartley or Harkly. She married James Brownrigg, an apprentice plumber, at an early age and went on to produce sixteen children, only three of whom survived childhood.

By the time Elizabeth had reached her mid-forties, her husband had prospered and the family had become quite wealthy. In 1765 they moved to their new home in Flower-de-luce Court, Fleet Street. Elizabeth proved to be quite an adept midwife and she was kept very busy. Her practice became so busy that she found it necessary to take on an apprentice from the local workhouse. The first apprentice that she took on was Mary Mitchell. Once the initial mutual 'upon liking' one month period was over Elizabeth started mistreating Mary, punching, kicking and generally abusing the girl. As the months went by Elizabeth started to get the taste for maltreatment and took on another apprentice from the workhouse, Mary Jones

Again, the poor girl was subjected to all manner of beatings and humiliations, not just by Elizabeth but also by her husband and son, who also delighted in torturing the servants. But Mary Jones was made of sterner stuff. Even though she was made to sleep under a dresser in the Brownrigg's bedroom each night, she managed to escape early one morning. She was found wandering, dazed and emaciated, and was taken to a hospital. She had become blind in one eye and was covered in bruises. The hospital wrote to the Brownriggs demanding damages but, because they failed to reply, the matter was allowed to lapse with the hospital informing the Brownriggs that Mary's apprenticeship was terminated.

By this time Mrs Brownrigg had obtained the services of another apprentice, fourteen-year-old Mary Clifford. Again, the girl underwent all sorts of inhuman treatment. She was given lice-infested clothes to wear, she was beaten, she was hung naked from a hook in the ceiling and she was beaten into unconsciousness with an iron bar. On July 12th 1767 Mary Clifford's stepmother, Mrs Deacon, turned up at the house asking to see the young girl. Elizabeth refused the woman entry and denied that there were any apprentices in the house.

When Mrs Deacon heard from a neighbour that there were indeed apprentices in the house she fetched the authorities. The Brownriggs again denied that Mary Clifford lived in the house but produced Mary Mitchell. She was rushed away to hospital to be treated. When the parish officials returned they forced their way into the house. A search of the premises found Mary Clifford in a small cupboard. She, too, was rushed to hospital. Mr Brownrigg was apprehended but, by this time, Elizabeth and her son had escaped. They made their way to Wandsworth and lay low at a local inn. On 9th August 1767, Mary Clifford died. Her body had been covered in ulcers, cuts and bruises and her tongue had been cut in two places with scissors so she could not speak.

The innkeeper realised that his two guests fitted the description of the two persons sought by the authorities and turned them in. They were arrested and taken to Newgate. The three Brownriggs were tried at the Old Bailey. The trial lasted eleven hours with the males proving that a lack of chivalry is not a new phenomenon by blaming Elizabeth for all the wrongdoing. The husband and son were fined one shilling and given six months' imprisonment. Mary was found guilty and sentenced to death.

On September 14th 1767, Elizabeth Brownrigg was taken by open cart to Tyburn where she was hanged by Thomas Turlis. After execution her body was taken to Surgeon's Hall and anatomised.

Murder-uk.com

 
 

BROWNRIGG, Elizabeth (England)

Hangman Thomas Turlis had a rewarding task, and the vast crowd were in full agreement with his actions, for once not abusing him too obscenely, when, on 14 September 1767, he executed Elizabeth Brownrigg, a lady assuredly receiving everything she deserved!

Originally a servant, Elizabeth had married James Brownrigg and they lived in Fetter Lane, near Fleet Street in London.

Elizabeth became a midwife and, needing to have assistance in the house, contacted the local Foundling Hospital for some apprentices. Two of the girls were thus employed as servants, Mary Mitchell and Mary Jones, but soon found that they had left the frying pan only to end up in the fire, for Mrs Brownrigg was a cruel and violent woman who did not hesitate to beat them.

Mary Mitchell endured the hardships for a year and then managed to escape, only to be captured by the son of the family, who brought her back to his mother’s tender mercies.

Not long afterwards, the Marys were joined by yet another Mary, 14-year-old Mary Clifford, who was particularly ill-treated by her mistress. For the most trifling offence she would be tied up naked and beaten with a cane, a horsewhip, a broom handle or anything else that came to hand; made to lie in the cold, damp cellar on sacking; and was fed only on bread and water. Later she was confined in the yard, a chain around her neck securing her to the door, her hands being tied behind her.

Mrs Brownrigg’s cruelty knew no bounds, but retribution was in sight when, on 13 July 1767, she stripped Mary Clifford naked and hung her up by her arms to a staple in the ceiling, then whipped her already severely scarred body until the blood flowed across the kitchen floor. But the brutal treatment was witnessed by a neighbour, who sent for the police. On arrival, although they released Mary Clifford from her bonds, ‘her body being one continual ulcer, ready to mortify’, Elizabeth Brownrigg and her son had escaped. The badly injured Mary Clifford died in St Bartholomew’s Hospital a few days later; the Brownriggs, mother and son, were now wanted on murder charges.

The couple had rented rooms in Wandsworth in a house owned by a Mr Dunbar, and he happened to see a wanted poster that included a detailed description of his two lodgers. He promptly informed the police and both were arrested. On 12 September they appeared in the Old Bailey; Master Brownrigg received a prison sentence but, after a trial lasting eleven hours, during which every lurid detail of the injuries sustained by the victim was described, Elizabeth Brownrigg was sentenced to death.

On 14 September, en route to Tyburn scaffold, she was accompanied in the horse-drawn cart by the Ordinary, the Reverend Mr James, and a prison missionary, Silas Told, who afterwards described how the two men sat, one each side of her, continuing:

“When we had fixed ourselves, I perceived that the whole powers of darkness were ready to give us a reception. Beckoning to the multitude, I desired them to pray for her, at which they were rather silent, until the cart began to move. Then they triumphed over her with three huzzas; this was followed by a combination of hellish curses. When we had passed through the gates [of Newgate Gaol], carts had been placed each side of the street, filled principally with women. Here I may say, with the greatest truth, nothing could have equalled them but the damned spirits let loose from the infernal pit. Some of the common cries from the thoughtless concourse were ‘Pull her hat off, pull her hat off, that we may see the b*****s face!’, accompanied by the most dreadful imprecations.”

As they neared the execution site Elizabeth joined in prayers with the Ordinary and acknowledged the justice of her sentence, but on arrival, so great was the uproar that she was held firmly while hangman Thomas Turlis noosed her, tied the rope to the overhead beam of the gallows, then, hastily dismounting, gave the horse a smart slap on the flanks. At that the cart moved away, leaving Mrs Brownrigg to swing in the same manner as she had suspended poor Mary Clifford from the staple – although not by the wrists, but by the neck!

Her body was subsequently taken to Surgeons’ Hall and handed over to be anatomised. After that ‘her skeleton was exposed in the niche opposite the first door in the Surgeons’ Theatre, so that the heinousness of her cruelty may make the more lasting impression on the minds of the spectators attending the dissection sessions.’

As a perquisite, English executioners would sell small lengths of the rope with which they had hanged particularly notorious criminals as souvenirs or for allegedly curative purposes. But this facility was not available across the Channel during the French Revolution, and so French women, desperately requiring such bizarre artefacts to bring them luck at the card table, would contact the appropriate government department in London, pleading to be given the address of the possible supplier!

Amazing True Stories of Female Executions by Geoffrey Abbott

 
 

Elizabeth Brownrigg

There was usually, at least an ambivalent attitude amongst the public towards criminals on their way to execution at Tyburn.  Yes, they had committed crimes but everyone wanted to watch the “Hanging Match” especially if the condemned participated in it and behaved bravely. The crowds along the way and around the gallows would tend to be sympathetic to them. However there was absolutely no public sympathy for the lone woman in the cart on the morning of Monday, September the 14th 1767. 

She had systematically tortured and abused her apprentice girls, eventually killing one of them.  Attitudes to child abuse and murder have not changed over the centuries and people expressed their abhorrence of her crime, praying for her damnation rather than her salvation and saying “the devil would fetch her” and hoping that she would go to hell.

The object of this hatred was 47 year old Elizabeth Brownrigg. She had been born in 1720 to a working class family and as a teenager had married James Brownrigg, an apprentice plumber. The couple had sixteen children, of whom just three survived to adulthood, such was the rate of child mortality in those days.

The marriage was a success and over the years James’ business did well and Elizabeth also ran a successful business as a midwife from her home at Flower-de-luce Court, in London’s Fetter Lane. She was appointed by the overseers St. Dunstan's-in-the-West  parish to take care of the poor women in the workhouse which she did very well, apparently showing much kindness and consideration to these women. She decided to take on an apprentice girl to assist her, such was the demand for her services. 

Mary Mitchell from Whitefriars was to be the first unfortunate girl to join the family in 1765. She was quickly followed by Mary Jones.  Both girls endured frequent physical and verbal abuse, with regular beatings for the smallest mistakes. At this time a young person could join a tradesman or woman for a month “on liking” and if at the end of the month both parties still “liked” each other the youngster would agree to become bound as an apprentice for a period of years. 

Initially Mary Jones was treated very well but after her trial period ended she became increasingly abused.  She made plans to escape having noted that the key was left in the front door over night and managed to find her way to the Foundling Hospital where she was examined by it doctor who discovered that she was covered in bruises and sores.

The governors of the hospital had their solicitor send James Brownrigg a letter, threatening a prosecution if he could not explain the girl’s injuries.  Brownrigg however ignored the letter and it was decided by the hospital to take no further action.  (Does this sound familiar in present day child abuse cases?) Mary Mitchell stayed with the Brownriggs for around 12 months before resolving to leave. She too managed to escape from the house, but was spotted in the street by one of the Brownrigg’s sons who forced her to return home, where she was treated with even greater cruelty for having tried to leave.

In the meantime another poor girl was to be apprenticed to the Brownrigg’s by the overseers of the precinct of Whitefriars. 14-year-old Mary Clifford joined the household in early 1766.  Initially she too was treated well but as soon as she was legally bound to the Brownriggs, the serious abuse began.

Mary’s stepmother, also Mary Clifford, went to visit her on July the 12th 1767 but was refused entry by one of the servants, who had been instructed to do this and to deny that the girl was there. Mrs. Clifford was not satisfied with this and having consulted with her husband, persuaded Mr. Deacon, the Brownrigg’s next door neighbour to post one of his servants, William Clipson, to watch the Brownrigg’s house and yard. 

On Monday the 3rd of August William saw a badly beaten and half starved girl in the yard, so the matter was reported to Mr. William Grundy, the overseer of St. Dunstan’s, who went to the house with Mr. Elsdale the overseer of White-Friars precinct, who knew Mary and demanded that the Brownrigg’s produce Mary, which after an altercation they did. William Clipson however did not identify the girl he had seen in the yard as Mary Clifford (she was Mary Mitchell), so Mr. Grundy ordered a proper search of the house despite threats of litigation from the Brownrigg’s. 

Mary Clifford was eventually found locked in a cupboard. Her step mother described her as being in “a sad condition indeed, her face was swelled as big as two, her mouth was so swelled she could not shut it, and she was cut all under her throat, as if it had been with a cane, she could not speak; all her shoulders had sores all in one, she had two bits of rags upon them.”

She was taken straight to hospital while Mr. Brownrigg was arrested but Elizabeth and her son managed to escape. Mary Clifford died in hospital on the 9th of August 1767. The inquest into her death returned a verdict of wilful murder against James and Elizabeth Brownrigg, and their son John. An arrest warrant was issued against Elizabeth and John and adverts placed in the newspapers.

Arrest and trial

Elizabeth and John moved around London disguising themselves as best they could, finally taking lodgings in Wandsworth, at the house of a Mr Dunbar, who kept a chandler's shop.

On the 15th of August Mr. Dunbar read one of the advertisements in his newspaper, from which he identified his lodgers as the Brownriggs. He summoned a constable and mother and son were arrested and remanded to Newgate.

They came to trial at the September Sessions of the Old Bailey on the 7th of that month before Sir Robert Kite. Their case took eleven hours to hear with Mary Mitchell appearing as the star witness for the prosecution. 

16 year old Mary Mitchell had been with the Brownriggs for just under two and a half years and told the court that she had been mistreated as soon as her probationary period as an apprentice had ended and that Mary Clifford had began to be abused after the completion of her month trial period when she became legally bound.  Mary Mitchell described how Mary Clifford had been beaten over the head and shoulders with a walking cane and a earth-brush by their mistress and also hit by John Brownrigg. 

She also stated that Mary Clifford was made to sleep “on boards in the parlour, sometimes in the passage, and very often down in the cellar”.  Apparently the girls were often locked in the cellar at night.  Somewhere around a year before her death, the then 15 year old Mary Clifford was starving and desperate for food so she broke open a cupboard and was caught.  For this she was made to strip naked and was severely beaten.  She was now kept locked up in the unlit cellar at nights with no bedding.

Mary Clifford, it seems, was also occasionally beaten by others members of the family.  Mary Mitchell described how John had whipped her with a leather belt about the head and shoulders for not making up a bed to his satisfaction.  This whipping re-opened wounds from previous beatings.  Mary Mitchell also recounted that James had beaten Mary Clifford with an old hearth-brush, but this was the only time she had seen him abuse her.

The evidence against Elizabeth was more damning.  Mary Mitchell said that Elizabeth “used to tie her (Mary Clifford) up in the kitchen “when first she began to be at her, she used to tie her up to the water-pipe, with her two hands drawed up above her head.” For these beatings Mary Clifford was stripped naked.  Elizabeth beat her most commonly with a horse-whip and “seldom left off till she had fetched blood.” 

It would seem that this phase of beatings had begun in the Spring of 1767 and that it was succeeded by tying the poor girl up to a hook which was put up in the kitchen specially for the purpose.  Mary Clifford suffered weekly whippings tied up to this hook.  Mary Mitchell told the court that no one else in the family normally whipped Mary Clifford, although on one occasion John had taken over from his mother.  She also testified that Mary Clifford was chained to a door by her neck having attempted to obtain food and drink one night and broken down some boarding. 

Elizabeth was away for about a week during which time Mary Clifford made something of a recovery although her back and shoulders were covered in scabs and bruises.  Elizabeth accused Mary of not doing any work while she had been away and on the Friday morning once more tied her up to the hook in the kitchen and beat her.  She suffered several more whipping sessions during that day and was left naked through the day and the night.  Mary Mitchell told the court that she and Mary Clifford were effectively kept prisoners in the house.  Mary Mitchell was cross examined on her evidence by both Brownriggs, but held up well.

Testimony was also heard from James Brownrigg’s apprentice, George Benham who confirmed much of what Mary Mitchell had said.  He also told the court that he visited James Brownrigg in the Compter (small lock-up prison), after his arrest, who had told him to go and take down the hook from the beam in the kitchen and to burn all the sticks in the house.  He testified that Elizabeth had told him and Mary Mitchell that if Mary Clifford’s stepmother visited the house asking for Mary she was not to be admitted as Elizabeth had told them that “the girl's mother was a bad woman, and might teach bad things to her daughter”.

Evidence was heard from the Overseers and from the doctor at the workhouse hospital where Mary Clifford was taken after her removal from the Brownrigg’s house.  William Denbeigh described Mary’s injuries thus : “The top of her head and shoulders and back, appeared very bloody; I turned down the sheet, and found from the bottom of her feet to the top of her head almost one continued sore, scars that seemed as if cut with an instrument upon the body, legs, and thighs; upon one hip was a very large wound; it spread about half the palm of my hand.” 

On the 5th of August Mary was transferred to St. Bartholomew's hospital where she was seen by Mr. Young, the surgeon, the following day, who confirmed the medical evidence.

In her defence Elizabeth stated that “I did give her several lashes, but with no design of killing her; the fall of the saucepan with the handle against her neck, occasioned her face and neck to swell; I poulticed her neck three times, and bathed the place, and put three plaisters to her shoulders.” Mr. Young, the surgeon disputed that Mary’s neck injury could have been caused by a saucepan handle.

The Brownrigg’s produced several character witnesses but they were not believed by the jury. 

At the end of the trial James and John were acquitted of Mary’s murder but were ordered to be detained on an indictment of assaulting and abusing Mary Mitchell, for which they were subsequently sentenced to six month's imprisonment and fined one shilling each.

Elizabeth was found guilty, and on Friday the 11th of September the judge told her “It is my duty to pronounce sentence in accordance with the law, that you are to be taken from hence to the prison from whence you came; that you be removed on Monday next, the 14th of this instant September, to the usual place of execution, and there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead; your body afterwards, to be dissected and anatomised, according to the statute - and God have mercy on your soul." 

In accordance with the Murder Act of 1752, it was mandatory that the body of a murderer should be dissected after execution. It was normal for those being condemned for murder to be sentenced on a Friday to allow them an extra day of life, i.e. the Sunday.

Execution

Elizabeth was taken back to Newgate and fettered (handcuffs and leg irons) in the condemned hold. She was allowed only bread and water.  It is reported that she confessed to and acknowledged the enormity of her crimes to the Reverend Joseph Moore, the Ordinary of Newgate, over the weekend.  There was a moving scene in the Press Yard on the Monday morning when James and John were allowed to see her for the last time.  She embraced John and the three of them prayed together.  She is quoted as saying : “Dear James, I beg that God, for Christ's sake, will be reconciled, and that he will not leave me, nor forsake me, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.”

Her irons were removed by the blacksmith and her hands and arms tied with cord. The rope placed around her neck and she was put into the cart, accompanied by Thomas Turlis, the hangman, to make the journey to Tyburn.  When she finally got there she prayed with the Ordinary and asked him to tell the crowd that she confessed her guilt and acknowledged the justice of her sentence.  She was turned off and after hanging for half an hour her body was put into a hackney-coach and taken to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.  Her skeleton was later hung up in the Hall as a permanent exhibit.  Her execution drew a huge and hostile crowd, such was the feeling against her.  Reverend Moore later wrote “This unchristian behaviour greatly shocked me and I could not help exclaiming : Are these people called Christians?”

 
 

The Complete Newgate Calendar
Volume IV

ELIZABETH BROWNRIGG

Executed at Tyburn, 14th of September, 1767, for
torturing her Female Apprentices to Death

ELIZABETH BROWNRIGG was married to James Brownrigg, a plumber, who, after being seven years in Greenwich, came to London and took a house in Flower-de-Luce Court, Fleet Street, where he carried on a considerable share of business, and had a little house at Islington for an occasional retreat.

She had been the mother of sixteen children, and, having practised midwifery, was appointed by the overseers of the poor of St Dunstan's parish to take care of the poor women in the workhouse; which duty she performed to the entire satisfaction of her employers.

Mary Mitchell, a poor girl, of the precinct of Whitefriars, was put apprentice to Mrs Brownrigg in the year 1765 ; and at about the same time Mary Jones, one of the children of the Foundling Hospital, was likewise placed with her in the same capacity; and she had other apprentices.

As Mrs Brownrigg received pregnant women to lie-in privately, these girls were taken with a view of saving the expense of women-servants. At first the poor orphans were treated with some degree of civility; but this was soon changed for the most savage barbarity. Having laid Mary Jones across two chairs in the kitchen, she whipped her with such wanton cruelty that she was occasionally obliged to desist through mere weariness. This treatment was frequently repeated; and Mrs Brownrigg used to throw water on her when she had done whipping her, and sometimes she would dip her head into a pail of water. The room appointed for the girl to sleep in adjoined the passage leading to the street door, and, as she had received many wounds on her head, shoulders and various parts of her body, she determined not to bear such treatment any longer if she could effect her escape.

Observing that the key was left in the street door when the family went to bed, she opened the door cautiously one morning and escaped into the street. Thus freed from her horrid confinement, she repeatedly inquired her way to the Foundling Hospital till she found it, and was admitted, after describing in what manner she had been treated, and showing the bruises she had received. The child having been examined by a surgeon, who found her wounds to be of a most alarming nature, the governors of the hospital ordered Mr Plumbtree, their solicitor, to write to James Brownrigg, threatening a prosecution if he did not give a proper reason for the severities exercised towards the child.

No notice of this having been taken, and the governors of the hospital thinking it imprudent to indict at common law, the girl was discharged, in consequence of an application to the Chamberlain of London. The other girl, Mary Mitchell, continued with her mistress for the space of a year, during which she was treated with equal cruelty, and she also resolved to quit her service. Having escaped out of the house, she was met in the street by the younger son of Brownrigg, who forced her to return home, where her sufferings were greatly aggravated on account of her elopement. In the interim the overseers of the precinct of Whitefriars bound Mary Clifford to Brownrigg; it was not long before she experienced similar cruelties to those inflicted on the other poor girls, and possibly still more severe.

She was frequently tied up naked and beaten with a hearth broom, a horsewhip or a cane till she was absolutely speechless. This poor girl having a natural infirmity, the mistress would not permit her to lie in a bed, but placed her on a mat in a coal-hole that was remarkably cold; however, after some time, a sack and a quantity of straw formed her bed, instead of the mat. During her confinement in this wretched situation she had nothing to subsist on but bread and water; and her covering, during the night, consisted only of her own clothes, so that she sometimes lay almost perished with cold.

On a particular occasion, when she was almost starving with hunger, she broke open a cupboard in search of food, but found it empty; and on another occasion she broke down some boards, in order to procure a draught of water. Though she was thus pressed for the humblest necessaries of life, Mrs Brownrigg determined to punish her with rigour for the means she had taken to supply herself with them. On this she caused the girl to strip to the skin, and during the course of a whole day, while she remained naked, she repeatedly beat her with the butt-end of a whip.

In the course of this most inhuman treatment a jack-chain was fixed round her neck, the end of which was fastened to the yard door, and then it was pulled as tight as possible without strangling her. A day being passed in the practice of these savage barbarities, the girl was remanded to the coal-hole at night, her hands being tied behind her, and the chain still remaining about her neck.

The husband being obliged to find his wife's apprentices in wearing apparel, they were repeatedly stripped naked, and kept so for whole days, if their garments happened to be torn. Sometimes Mrs Brownrigg, when resolved on uncommon severity, used to tie their hands with a cord and draw them up to a water-pipe which ran across the ceiling in the kitchen; but that giving way, she desired her husband to fix a hook in the beam, through which a cord was drawn, and, their arms being extended, she used to horsewhip them till she was weary, and till the blood flowed at every stroke.

The elder son one day directed Mary Clifford to put up a half-tester bedstead, but the poor girl was unable to do it; on which he beat her till she could no longer support his severity; and at another time, when the mother had been whipping her in the kitchen till she was absolutely tired, the son renewed the savage treatment. Mrs Brownrigg would sometimes seize the poor girl by the cheeks and, forcing the skin down violently with her fingers, cause the blood to gush from her eyes.

Mary Clifford, unable to bear these repeated severities, complained of her hard treatment to a French lady who lodged in the house; and she having represented the impropriety of such behaviour to Mrs Brownrigg, the inhuman monster flew at the girl and cut her tongue in two places with a pair of scissors.

On the morning of the 13th of July this barbarous woman went into the kitchen and, after obliging Mary Clifford to strip to the skin, drew her up to the staple; and though her body was an entire sore, from former bruises, yet this wretch renewed her cruelties with her accustomed severity.

After whipping her till the blood streamed down her body she let her down, and made her wash herself in a tub of cold water, Mary Mitchell, the other poor girl, being present during this transaction. While Clifford was washing herself Mrs Brownrigg struck her on the shoulders, already sore with former bruises, with the butt-end of a whip ; and she treated the child in this manner five times in the same day.

At length the parish authorities were persuaded to take action, and Brownrigg was conveyed to Wood Street Compter; but his wife and son made their escape, taking with them a gold watch and some money. Mr Brownrigg was carried before Alderman Crossby, who committed him, and ordered the girls to be taken to St Bartholomew's Hospital, where Mary Clifford died within a few days. The coroner's inquest was summoned, and found a verdict of wilful murder against James and Elizabeth Brownrigg, and John, their son.

In the meantime Mrs Brownrigg and her son shifted from place to place in London, bought clothes in Rag Fair to disguise themselves, and then went to Wandsworth, where they took lodgings in the house of Mr Dunbar, who kept a chandler's shop.

This chandler, happening to read a newspaper on the 15th of August, saw an advertisement which so clearly described his lodgers that he had no doubt but they were the murderers. A constable went to the house, and the mother and son were conveyed to London. At the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey the father, mother and son were indicted, when Elizabeth Brownrigg, after a trial of eleven hours, was found guilty of murder, and ordered for execution; but the man and his son, being acquitted of the higher charge, were detained, to take their trials for a misdemeanour, of which they were convicted, and imprisoned for the space of six months.

After sentence of death was passed on Mrs Brownrigg she was attended by a clergyman, to whom she confessed the enormity of her crime, and acknowledged the justice of the sentence by which she had been condemned. The parting between her and her husband and son, on the morning of her execution, was affecting. The son fell on his knees, and she bent over him and embraced him; while the husband knelt on the other side.

On her way to the fatal tree the people expressed their abhorrence of her crime in terms  which testified their detestation of her cruelty. After execution her body was put into a hackney-coach, conveyed to Surgeons' Hall, dissected and anatomised; and her skeleton was hung up in Surgeons' Hall.

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact