Children Become Victims of Gin Craze
gin-soaked much of the time, children became collateral damage.
Two-year-old Mary Defour was a victim of her
mother’s craving for gin. The case is recorded in the Proceedings
of the Old Bailey.
Judith Defour had placed her child in a London
workhouse. On February 27, 1734, she took the child out of the
workhouse for a few hours as she was entitled to do. Then she met
up with a friend identified only as Sukey.
The court document records her sorry story: “On
Sunday Night we took the Child into the Fields, and stripp’d it,
and ty’d a Linen Handkerchief hard about its Neck to keep it from
crying, and then laid it in a Ditch. And after that, we went
together, and sold the Coat and Stay for a Shilling, and the
Petticoat and Stockings for a Groat. We parted the Money, and
join’d for a Quartern of Gin.”
The child died and Judith Defour was found
guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
Murdered for Gin
Mary Defour, illegitimate daughter of Judith
Defour, a ‘throwster’ (a person who twists silk filaments into a
yarn) and John Cullender, a weaver from Spitalfields, was born
about 1742 and baptised in Bethnal Green, London. Judith put the
child in the workhouse, but one day in 1744, she fraudulently
obtained permission to take her out for a few hours. Just a week
previously, the workhouse superintendent had given Mary new
clothes; Judith stripped the child, strangled her with a rag and
left her in a ditch. She then sold the clothes for ‘a shilling and
a groat’ (a groat was four pence, so 7p in today’s money) and she
spent the money on gin.
Judith was tried at the Old Bailey and
sentenced to death. She ‘pleaded her belly’, a means whereby
pregnant women could usually have their death sentences commuted,
but a ‘jury of matrons’ declared that she was not pregnant.
This seems to be the first recorded instance of
a Cullender coming into close contact with the worst effects of
alcohol. A century later the Barnet branch of the family were
staunch teetotallers and all belonged to the Salvation Army,
citing the evil they had seen in London slums as their motivation.
It is not inconceivable that it was this sad story that was at the
heart of that conviction. This story (but not the Cullender
connection) is often quoted in accounts of the conditions that led
to England attempting prohibition, and eventually raising taxes on
gin. It also happened at the time that Hogarth was engraving his
famous 'Gin Lane', and helping Thomas Coram to fund his
revolutionary foundling hospital in London. The Coram Family
Museum opened in 2004; its curator is Rhiann Harris, who also has
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey
36. Judith Defour, was indicted
for the Murder of Mary Defour, otherwise Cullinder, by choaking
and strangling her with a Piece of Line , Jan. 29.
She was a second Time indicted
on the Coroner's Inquisition for the said Murder.
John Wolveridge . I live in the
Fields leading to Bethnal-green. About a Month ago, I heard an
Outcry that a Child was murder'd in the Field. I went to the
Place, and found a Child dead; it appear 'd to be upwards of two
Years old. I found a black Circle about the Neck, and a Mark like
the Print of a Thumb, under the right Ear. Some Gentlemen told me,
they had seen three Women coming from the Place where the Child
lay; and I afterwards found, that one of these three were the
Prisoner, who was the Mother of the Child. I ask'd her, how she
could be so barbarous as to murder her own Infant? She said she
had only stripp'd it about 7 at Night, and laid it naked in the
Ditch; and this was all that I could get out of her for a pretty
while; but at last, in a violent Agony of Grief, she said, Then,
Sir, I will tell you how I did it; but there was a Vagabond
Creature, one Sukey, that persuaded me to it; and was equally
concern'd with me. On Sunday Night we took the Child into the
Fields, and stripp'd it, and ty'd a Linen Handkerchief hard about
its Neck to keep it from crying, and then laid it in a Ditch. And
after that, we went together, and sold the Coat and Stay for a
Shilling, and the Petticoat and Stockings for a Groat. We parted
the Money, and join'd for a Quartern of Gin. The Prisoner made the
like Confession before Justice Chamberlain, insisting upon it,
that the other Creature Sukey was equally guilty.
Elizabeth Scot . The Prisoner
worked with me (at a Throwster's) she came to work at half an Hour
past Seven, the Night the Murder was done, and work'd 'till
Morning - She said, she had done something that deserved New gate,
and at last, told us, she had left her Child in the Field all
Night - We went to the Place, found the Child dead, and then went
to the Church-wardens.
Susan Jones . When she came to
work, over Night, we ask'd her if she had carry'd her Child back
to the Work house (for the Child was kept in the Parish
Work-house, and she had got Leave to take it out for 2 or 3 Hours)
she told me, she had not, but her Mother had. She worked 'till One
in the Morning, and then had a Dram, and would have had another,
but I would not let her. Thn she desir'd a Penny to buy a Roll and
Cheese. I gave her a Penny; but instead of fetching a Roll and
Cheese, she brought in a Roll and a h'p'orth of Gin - Then she
said, she had done something that deserved Newgate. I told her I
hoped she had not wrong' my Mistress, but if she had, her best way
would be to make a plain Confession, and then I believe my
Mistress, would be the more favourable to her. She said it was no
such thing as that; but she had left her Child all Night in the
Field. What? says I, in such a dismal cold Night! How can you be
so cruel ? She said she had not done it, but one Sukey persuaded
her to it. So I bid Elizabeth Scot take a piece of Bread and
Butter, and go with me and the Prisoner to fetch the Child, for
the Prisoner had not told me the Child was dead, and I thought it
would be a hungry as well as Cold. But when we came to the Place,
we found the Child stript and lying dead in a Ditch, with a
Linnen-rag tied hard about its poor Neck.
Jane Prig . The Prisoner came on
Sunday to take the Child out, but I would not let her, without an
Order from the Church-Wardens; so she went away, and came again in
half an Hour, and brought a Note, as from the Church-Warden, and
upon that I let her have the Child out; but I afterwards found
that the Church-Warden had given no such Note - The Child had been
New-clothed but the Thursday before.
Job London . Surgeon. About the
Fore-part of the Child's Neck, I observed part of a black Circle,
like that in executed Persons, and I believe the Violence it was
done with, was the Cause of her Death.
Then the Prisoner's Confession,
before the Justice, being proved, was read in Court.
The Examination and Confession
of Judith Defour, taken this 30th Day of January 1733, before me
one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said County.
' THIS Examinant confesseth,
that about ' two Years and three Months since, she ' was deliver'd
of a female bastard Child, be- ' got on her Body, by one John
Cullender , ' who lives in Spittle-Fields Market, by ' Trade a
Weaver; and that the said ' Child was haptized by the Name of
Mary, ' and that her said Child, Mary hath been ' for some Weeks
past in the Work house, ' belonging to the Hamlet of
Bethnal-green, in ' the said Country of Middlesex; and that she '
went on Sunday last, about 9 or 10 in the ' Morning to the
Work-house, to see her ' said Child, and found the Child had been
' within a few Days new clothed. And that ' she took away her
Child, and kept it with ' her, till about 6 or 7 a Clock in the '
Evening, when being in Company with ' one Susannah - her Surname
to her ' unknown; but that she has a Sister now ' in Shoreditch
Work-house, who (that is, ' Susannah, not her Sister) pursaded
her, ' this Examinant, to sell the Child's Clothes, ' and carry it
into the Fields and leave it ' there. That they went both of them
together ' into a Field near Joan Harding 's, where ' they
stripp'd the said Child, and ty'd a linen ' Rag very hard about
the Child's Neck, ' to prevent its crying out, which strangled '
her, and that afterwards, they went together, ' leaving the Child
behind in a Ditch, ' near dead, to one Mary Witts , who lives ' in
Swan-Yard, in the Parish of St. Leonard ' Shoreditch, and sold the
Clothes, that is to ' say, a Coat, Stays, Petticoat, and Stockings
' to the said Witts, and received for them ' Sixteen-pence, and
that they parted the Money ' equally between them.
The Mark of Judith + Defour.
Taken before me the Day and Year
above written. Anthony Chamberlain .
Prisoner. I did not think to do
any thing to the Child, but that wicked Creature Sukey seduced me
Judith Defour , the Prisoner's
Mother. She never was in her right Mind, but was always roving.
Mary Favoary . I have known her
two Years, and never knew any Harm of her.
The Jury found her guilty.
Ordinary's Account, 8th March
THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE, His ACCOUNT of the
Behaviour, Confessions, and Dying Words, OF THE MALEFACTORS, Who were
EXECUTED at TYBURN, On FRIDAY the 8th of this Instant March, 1734.
BEING THE THIRD EXECUTION in the MAYORALTY OF THE
Rt. Hon. Sir WILLIAM
Number III. For the said YEAR.
Printed and Sold by
JOHN APPLEBEE, in
AT the King's Commission of Oyer and Terminer, and
Gaol-Delivery of Newgate, held (before the
Right Honourable Sir
William Billers, Knt. Lord Mayor of the
City of London; the
Honourable Mr. Baron Carter; the Honourable Mr. Baron Thompson,
Recorder of the City of London; the Worshipful Mr. Serjeant Urlin,
Deputy-Recorder of the City of London; and others his Majesty's
Justices of Oyer and Terminer for the City of London; and Justices of
Gaol-Delivery of Newgate holden for the said City and County of
Middlesex,) at Justice Hall in the Old-Bailey, on Wednesday and
Thursday, the 27th and 28th of February, and Friday the 1st. of March,
1733-4, in the Seventh Year of his Majesty's Reign.
Six Men, viz.
Ralph Holbrook and
Joseph Ditton; and
one Woman, viz.
otherwise Defour, or
Defoy, were convicted of capital Crimes, and receiv'd Sentence of
Most of them having been Young, and all of them
unacquainted with, or not accustom'd to religious Duties and
Exercises, I shew'd them that those performances are so far from being
an impossible task, (as wicked dispos'd People would represent them to
be) that they are not extreme difficult when Men set about them in
earnest. By the grace of God, and care of pious Parents, several good
Souls are train'd up as soon as may be, to the keeping of Baptismal
innocence, and performance of their Solemn engagements. They are
taught to know God, and to fear him, to know good and ill; and in
reverence to God, to do the good, and refuse the ill, as soon as they
are capable of knowing any thing. Now here religion grows up with
them, and corrupt Passions and evil Customs (which are other Peoples
great complaints and difficulties) are stifled and prevented from the
first, and never come to grow headstrong, or have any Power to reign
in them; so that what difficulties they find in religion, are chiefly
the Pains and Services of religious Actions; not those self denials,
and mortification of corrupt Lusts and evil Habits, which create so
much trouble to other Persons.
But the greatest Part, among the chief of whom they
are to be reckon'd, have alas given way to their Lusts, and subjected
themselves to wicked Customs, and their Work is not retaining
innocence, but recovering it, and rectifying and amending
transgressions; now in amending our Lives, and obeying God after we
have made ourselves thus averse to his Obedience, there is difficulty
and pains at first. Our former courses and customs generally must be
alter'd, our Friends sometimes disoblig'd our temporal interest
cross'd and thwarted, and our natural Lusts formerly indulged, now
gain-said and conquer'd. All this is against our inclination, which is
a force upon any Man, and that while it lasts, will make an uneasiness
in Religion. But to cure this, God's grace will be working in us, and
new moulding of our Natures; and by use we shall grow perfect and
inclinable to good Things, which we set our selves to Practice; so
that after God's grace and our own virtuous usage have gone on for
some due Time, the case will be alter'd, and religion will appear not
only a reasonable and beneficial, but likewise an agreeable Thing.
Divine Aids, and good Customs, will give us a new Sence of all our
Duties, and make them almost always fairly tolerable, and usually
delightful Things. And thus our Lord encourages us to his Service.
Take my Yoke upon you, and learn of me, for my Yoke is easy, and my
Burthen light, Matt. 11. 29, 30. And St. John speaking of keeping his
Commandments, for our comforts adds, that those Commandments are not
grievous. 1. John. 5. 3.
Some indeed reply, that there are Severities in
religion, expressed, By cutting off right Hands, and plucking out
right Eyes; to take up the Cross, and patiently suffer Persecutions;
to watch and strive, and wrestle against Spiritual enemies, and that
these are hard things, which they cannot comply with; but it must be
observ'd that these and the like places of Scripture, speak only the
difficulties of Religion in some less common cases, as Persecutions,
in which the increase of difficulty is so answered by a proportionable
increase of Strength, as makes it a tollerable Task to encounter them,
or the hardships of it, at Mens new entering on it, after they had
done much to unfit themselves for it; at which time, as is said, it
doth call for more Pains. Or lastly, such diligent and just care, and
watchfulness afterwards, as admits of comfort and delight, enough to
Sweeten it to us, &c.
Judith Defour, having been convicted for the cruel Murder of her own
Child: I expos'd to her the unnaturalness, and barbarity of the horrid
crime of Murder, more particularly as committed upon her own Infant,
between two and three years of Age, not capable of giving any manner
of provocation to any Person; whose tender Years pleaded for Pity and
Compassion, at the Hands of all Mankind. I exclaim'd against the Sin
of uncleanness, to which she was habitually addicted, which prov'd the
occasion of her after misfortunes, and of her committing Murder upon
her own Child; and this I shew'd her to be almost the same, as
committed upon herself, since the Child was a part of herself: And
therefore I seriously exhorted her to repent of that heinous Sin,
which prov'd her to be void of all bowels of Pitty and Compassion, and
to cry incessantly unto God for Pardon, that she might be wash'd in
the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, who came to do away the Sins of
the World, from the guilt of innocent Blood, and all her other Sins.
They were also instructed in the Nature of true
Repentance, how necessary it was to repent of all their Sins,
particularly of Theft and Robbery, a Crime so destructive of all human
Society, and therefore liable to the highest Punishment, in all
civiliz'd and polite Nations, to which they ought to submit, as a just
Chastisement for their Sins, acknowledging the Afflictions they met
with, to be infinitely less than what they deserv'd; for why should a
living Man complain, a Man for the Punishment of his Sins?
I shew'd them the Nature of the Christian
Sacraments, that they were dedicated to God in Baptism, and that
having broken their Baptisma Engagements in a grievous Manner, it was
requisite to renew their Vows of Obedience to the Laws and Gospel of
Jesus Christ, by receiving the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, wherein
all the Blessings of the new Covenant are made over, and confirmed to
them who truly believe.
When these and many other Instructions were given,
they who could read made regular Responses, and all of them behav'd
well, and were apparently devout and serious, and attentive both to
Prayers and Exhortations. Most of them, especially Crane and Holbrook
wept pretty often, but it may be suspected, that it was more for fear
of Death, than an Effect of true Repentance.
Judith Defour was
very hard-hearted, once she wept when I spoke of Murder; but
afterwards, when I preach'd upon that Subject, she sat quiet and did
not appear concern'd, though I expos'd her Crime in the most moving
and plain Terms: She was altogether ignorant of God and Religion, and
could remember nothing I told her, so that in such pitiful
Circumstances, I have not seen one more stupid, nor less thoughtful.
They behav'd better and more modestly, than such unhappy Creatures use
frequently to do.
Upon Tuesday, the Fifth of March, Report was made
to his Majesty in Council, of the seven Malefactors under Sentence of
Death, lying in the Cells of
Joseph Ditton, for
robbing his Fellow-Servant
Hugh Heughs, by breaking open his Trunk, and stealing thence Ten
Guineas and a gold Ring; and
William Davis, for
robbing his Master, a Gentleman who lives nigh the Town, by going into
his Bed-Chamber, while the Gentleman was asleep, and stealing out of
his Breeches-Pocket Forty Guineas, receiv'd his Majesty's most
gracious Reprieve: The remaining Five, viz.
Ralph Holbrook, and
or Defoy, were
order'd for Execution.
Judith Leford, alias
Defour or Defoy, was
indicted for the Murder of her own Child on the 29th of January last,
an Infant between two and three Years of Age, by strangling it with a
Handkerchief, after she had stript it naked, and then throwing her
into a Ditch, near
Bethnal Green, wounding her in the Head, and leaving her to perish
She was a second Time found guilty upon the
Coroner's Inquest. Death.
Judith Leford, alias
Defour or Defoy,
about thirty Years of Age, of honest, but mean Parents in
gave her no Education at School, and as little did they instruct her
in the Christian Religion, of which she was intirely ignorant. Her
Father having been a French Weaver, she was employ'd in serving the
Weavers, in winding Silk , and such like Business, and in this way she
served one Mistress eleven Years honestly, and with Reputation, and
then leaving her, she went to a Master, with whom she liv'd four
Years, was his House-keeper , and winded Silk for him. In this Service
she fell into bad Company, and had a Bastard-Child, which died; and
then she had another, the unfortunate Child lately murder'd by her, of
which Crime she was convicted, and for which she was to suffer an
ignominious Death, which she very justly deserv'd for such a barbarous
Murder. The Account she gave of the Murder was to this Effect:
The Child was kept in a Work-House, and she used
sometimes to visit her, and make much of her, and to carry her out
into the Fields to give her the Air; accordingly, upon the 29th Day of
January last, she went to the Work-House, and tho Keepers and Nurses
suspecting no manner of Harm, but that before Night she would bring
back the Child, as she used to do, they allow'd her to carry out her
Daughter, with whom she went into the Fields, and another Woman in
Company, which was one of the most vilest of Creatures in or about the
Town. She blamed her for the Murder, alledging, that such an execrable
Villainy never enter'd into her Head; but as they were walking along,
this Woman propos'd to strip the Child, being pretty well cloathed,
and having new Stays, which she told her would fell well; the Mother
spoke faintly against it, but when they came to a Ditch by
barbarous, unnatural Mother yielded to the most wicked Proposal made
by the other Woman, whom she allow'd to strip the innocent Child,
smiling at the same Time in the Mother's Face, and calling out, Mammy;
for she could speak no more, having neither come to the use of her
Tongue, nor Feet: Then they drew a Handkerchief about its Neck, each
of them pulling the Ends of it, in order to strangle the Child; and
lastly they threw her into the Ditch and left her, but the other Woman
observing Life in the Child, upon which the Mother of it went back and
struck her on the Head with a Stone or Brick-brat, which gave the
finishing Stroke. This she was not willing to confess, but when told
of the Wound in the Head, she could not with confidence deny it, but
held her Peace.
They came to Town, and the other Woman sold the
Coat and Stays for a Shilling, and dispos'd of the rest of the Cloaths
for Four-pence, which she said they equally divided, and afterterwards
join'd for a Quartern of Gin with this Sukey (which was the other
Woman's Name) who was concern'd with her; and she hearing that the
Child's Mother was taken up, she fled, as not doubting but she would
have deservedly undergone the same Fate.
When all this was a doing, her Conscience sting'd
her most severely, and she own'd she was in the greatest Agonies and
Tortures imaginable: I ask'd her, if it was in her Power to hinder
her? She said it was, but she only forbid her to do it faintly, in the
mean Time suffering her to do what she pleas'd. The People of the
Work-House asking after the Child, she confess'd the Fact to them, and
to her Mistress, upon which they caus'd her to be taken up, and she
went with her Mistress, and shew'd her the Child lying naked and dead
in the Ditch, who was mightily mov'd with Compassion at so horrid a
I represented to her the dreadful Barbarity and
Cruelty of such a monstrous unnatural Action, where no Provocation
could be given. She did not in the least pretend any Excuse, only that
the other Creature contriv'd, and mostly executed the whole Tragedy.
She was very stupid and had little to say upon any Head. I have scarce
ever seen one so grosly ignorant of Religion, and after all the Pains
I took to inculcate some first Principles, she minded nothing. On
Sunday Afternoon the third Instant, when I insisted upon Murther, she
wept a little; and upon Tuesday following,
Joseph Ditton; one
of the Criminals under Sentence, who always behaved very decently, and
is now repriev'd sitting by her, before I came in, observing her very
careless and indifferent, desired her to repent and to think upon the
dangerous State she was in; she lamented that she was never taught any
thing about God and Religion, and added, O! that my Parents had taught
me something of the Knowledge of God, which I was never instructed in,
till now when (it may be fear'd) its out of time; and sometimes I
heard her fetch grievous Sigh and Groans; these were the only outward
Signs of Repentance I took notice of in her, all the time she lay
under Sentence; only she said, she was very sorry for what was done,
that she never was at Peace since it happened, that she scarce desired
to live; and therefore she made a voluntary Confession she had been
always of a very surly Disposition, and untractable Creature, a
Despiser of Religion, negligent in her Duty to God and Man, and would
take no good Advice of her Friends, nor of any good or sober People.
She drank and swore much, and was averse to Virtue and Sobriety,
delighting in the vilest Companies, and ready to Practice the worst of
Actions. She acknowledged the Justice of her Sentence, and died in
Peace with all Mankind.