Infanticide in Early Modern Norfolk

One category of the crime of murder that came to be of particular concern to legislators in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries was that of the murder of newborn children.[1] This concern has been identified as part of the preoccupation during that period with the moral behaviour of the poorer elements of society. Whilst the court records were hardly filled with crimes of this nature, there certainly were many cases of infants being killed by methods such as choking or smothering. In John Myrc’s Instructions for Parish Priests, written in the late fourteenth century, infanticide by smothering is listed as a pardonable sin.[2] Whether this is indicative of a relaxed attitude to the disposal of infants has been subject to debate. It has been suggested that either infanticide was used as a means of population control or that infant mortality was so common that it was virtually impossible to say whether an individual case was due to natural causes or not.[3] Until the mid sixteenth century infanticide was a matter normally dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts, where the punishment would be some form of public penance, often a whipping.[4] Infanticide appeared in medieval secular courts only rarely. Barbara Hanawalt found that in a sample of over four thousand cases of homicide in coroners’ inquests and criminal indictments in the fourteenth century, there were only four instances of infanticide.[5]

When cases did reach the secular courts during this earlier period, juries often treated the accused leniently if they believed them to be suffering from diminished responsibility or mental derangement.[6] Often the fact that the accused could carry out such an act was taken as proof of insanity. This attitude continued amongst some authorities into the early modern period. For example, the seventeenth-century astrological-physician Richard Napier believed that women who committed infanticide must have some sort of mental disorder.[7] Chief Justice Hale also argued, in 1668, that if a woman accused of infanticide had no motive for killing her child and had not concealed the death, then a jury might decide that she was in the grip of a temporary insanity brought on by the rigours of childbirth.[8]

However, more generally, attitudes towards infanticide were hardening. From the second half of the sixteenth century, ruling elites became more concerned with what they saw as a threat to social order by the poor. One of these concerns was that unmarried women who had illegitimate children would become a financial burden on their parish. The 1576 Act ‘for the setting of the Poore on Worke, and for the avoyding of ydlenes’ ordered that every parish should “take order for the kepinge of everye … Bastarde Childe, by chardging suche mother or reputed Father wth the paymente of monie weekely … for the Releefe of suche childe”.[9] The act also required the mother of an illegitimate child to name the father, so that he could be held accountable for the cost of its care, rather than it becoming a parish responsibility. The public nature of the extraction of the father’s name, which was often forced from the unfortunate woman by the midwife or neighbours during the pains of childbirth, only added to the humiliation of being an unmarried mother. When Cicely Large of North Elmham was in agony after giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1626 she went to Elizabeth Mann, the local midwife, for help. However, she refused to “laye her handes uppon her untill she did sett downe and confesse whoe was the Father of her childe”.[10] This made it more likely that such women might try to conceal their pregnancy or even to dispose of the child once it had been born.[11] In 1610 further legislation was enacted that ordered that any ‘lewd woman’ who gave birth to a bastard child should be sent to a House of Correction for one year.[12] The response of the law and the social stigma attached to an illegitimate birth had the effect of causing an increase in the incidence of an even worse crime.

None of these legislative changes, however, made the task of the coroner or the courts any easier. High infant mortality rates due to a number of reasons, including accidents by some ill-trained midwives, made it difficult to always accurately determine the cause of death, or indeed to be sure whether the child had been stillborn or not. It was an equally difficult task for a jury to decide whether an accused woman had murdered her newborn child. In order for someone to be convicted of murder under common law, the onus lay upon the court to prove that the child had been born alive and then wilfully killed. As there were often no witnesses to the birth, particularly in the case of illegitimate children, this was a difficult matter for a jury to determine.

The response of the legislators was to introduce a new statute in 1624, which made the assumption that any woman who concealed the death of an illegitimate child had murdered it. The ‘Act to prevent the Destroying and Murthering of Bastard Children’ stated that “Whereas many lewd women that have been delivered of Bastard Children, to avoid their Shame, and to escape Punishment, do secretly bury or conceal the Death of their Children, and after, if the Child be found dead, the said Women do alledge, that the said Child was born dead”. It then went on the say that in future any woman who concealed the body of a child “whether it were born alive or not … shall suffer Death as in the case of Murther” unless she had a witness to prove that the child was born dead.[13]

The 1624 Act saw significant increases in the numbers of newborn child murder cases coming before the courts. For example, Keith Wrightson found that at Essex assizes the average number of cases per five-year period increased from 1.8 before 1624 to 6.375 after – a 3.5-fold increase.[14] In Norfolk, every recorded seventeenth-century trial dates from after 1624. In theory, anyone suspected of being responsible for the death of a newborn child could be charged with murder, and this included men. The fact that all those charged with newborn child murder in Norfolk during the seventeenth century were women was a result of the opportunity they had to do something about the desperate situation they found themselves in.

The whole process of childbirth was one that took place within the female realm, from which men were normally excluded. For a married woman this meant the support of friends, neighbours and the midwife in everything from the preparation of clothes for the newborn child to communal post-natal gossiping. David Cressy has argued that even single women were rarely alone, securing the attendance of neighbouring women and assistance from a midwife.[15] The evidence from Norfolk contradicts this; only one of the single women examined at the Norfolk assizes admitted to having anyone else at the birth, in fact most stressed that they were alone at the time. Certainly the act of childbirth excluded men. If a man did try to get involved he was quickly sent away. When John Chambers discovered Margaret Brady giving birth in East Ruston, Norfolk in 1670, he was promptly sent packing and told to “get you about y[ou]r businesse”.[16]

Often it appears likely that the father of the child had not even been made aware of the pregnancy, either because it was the result of a past, maybe casual, relationship and his location was unknown, or because the relationship had broken down, sometimes after a promise of marriage had gone unfulfilled. For most of the single women examined by the courts in seventeenth-century Norfolk, pregnancy and childbirth were experiences that they faced alone, conscious that being discovered would only bring them shame. After Lettice Harpeley of Downham Market gave birth in 1672 she named the father as Richard Chambers, but said that “she never acquainted [him] that she was wth childe neither did he know of her deliv[er]y, although they liv’d as servants together”.[17] Even when the father was aware of the situation it did not necessarily mean that he would be of any assistance. Marie Hebberd became pregnant by her master, Henry Eaton of Holme Hale, Norfolk, in 1622. He first of all offered her money to “persuade & procure her to accuse for Father … divers p[er]sons, with whome she never had anie carnall knowledge”. When she refused, Eaton “brought unto her a bunch of savine wishinge her to take the same, therby to destroy the child”, claiming that “it was a common thinge in London … to use such practice in such cases”. Finally, he “came unto her in a violent and furious manner with a pece of a boarde in his hand threatninge to knocke out her braines”.[18]

Ninety per cent of the forty-two women known to have been charged with the murder of their newborn children in Norfolk during the period of this study were single, most of them in domestic service. They would have been aware that having an illegitimate child could see them lose their position, be ostracised by their neighbours and ruin their reputation and their future marriage prospects. There was so much at stake that some felt that they had no option but to conceal their pregnancy, as well as the child when it was born. Most servant girls probably tried to hide their condition with loose or heavy clothing, but this must have been difficult. Information provided by their mistresses often reveals that they were suspicious and questioned the girls, usually to receive denials. Ann James of Tibenham, Norfolk, informed in 1666 that she suspected that “Elizabeth Cullyer might be w[i]th childe & did often tymes chardge her there w[i]th, but she … did allwayes denie it and s[ai]d it was not soe”.[19]

Neighbours or employers noticing changes in the physical condition of the girls, questioning them, and reporting their suspicions, ensured that popular involvement played a major role in the prosecution of infanticide. Some members of the household or neighbourhood who had suspicions may have kept them to themselves until the child was born, for in many cases when a child’s body was discovered very soon afterwards neighbours were voicing their opinions as to whose child it was likely to be. After Ann Potter discovered the body of a child in a pond at North Lopham, Norfolk, in 1667 she “made it knowne in the streete, whereuppon the next morninge there was Inquiry made who should be the mother”. Francis Gall was immediately suspected and confessed.[20] When a child’s body was found in a pit near Swaffham in 1666, Mary Harvy was suspected to be the mother even though she lived seven miles away.[21]

It was not always the discovery of a body that raised suspicions. Other signs made friends, neighbours or employers suspect that a girl might have given birth. Francis Tills of Mundham was challenged by her mistress after the discovery of blood under her bed.[22] Elizabeth Cullyer’s mistress found “tokens” in her bed by which she knew she had delivered a child.[23] Whilst virtually all the initial challenges to these girls were denied, they were given away when they were checked for signs of pregnancy or having given birth. The usual way for this to be done was to check the girl’s breasts for milk. This kind of intervention seems to be one that a servant could do little to prevent. Laura Gowing has even suggested that in these circumstances a mistress might claim authority over the body of her servant.[24] There were, however, occasions when the suspected mother fought back against this kind of personal interference. When Mary Madders, a midwife from West Walton, was asked to examine the breasts of Joanna Gill she was met with the threat that “if she came to search her she would teare the Eyes out of her head”. When she attempted the examination Joanna turned on her and attempted to bite her.[25]

Once such evidence as milk in the breast had been uncovered it was difficult for the mother to continue to deny that she had given birth and in most cases they would then produce the child’s body, although often still denying that they had killed it. Once Elizabeth Cullyer had admitted to giving birth she “went & fetched the s[ai]d childe lyeinge in the dich holl in the next close wher she … did milke”. She claimed that it was dead when she first saw it, but could not explain a large hole in its throat.[26] Despite continual denials of having given birth, Francis Tills eventually “pulled out a dead childe by the heeles wrapt up in a blew apron from under the bed”, but knew nothing of the swelling on its neck or the discoloured spots about the throat and face.[27] Amie Palding also claimed that her child was stillborn, but said that after its birth “it did slipp out of her hands into an Ash heape”.[28]

Most attempts to conceal the body were doomed to failure. On many occasions it did not get further than being hidden under the bed or behind a chest in the bedroom. Mary Calver hid the body of her child “in her box covered over with linen” and Susan Constable wrapped hers in a cloth and left it in the bed.[29] If the body remained in the bedroom for very long then the resulting stench might lead to discovery, as it did when Mary Joanes found the body of Susan Barker’s child under the bedcovers after “shee smelt A very unsavery smell”.[30] In most cases it seems that the child was left close to where it was born and little attempt was made at real concealment. If the birth took place in the workplace then that is likely to be where the body would be found. For example, when Sarah Moore gave birth in the dairy she hid the child in a nearby muckheap.[31] Joane Thorpe claimed that when she gave birth at the house in Burnham where she was a servant “the childe fell from her [and] she espieing a Boy in the yard not farr from her, to p[re]vent his seeing therof she thought fitt to spurne itt into the muckhill”.[32] It is likely that the risk of being seen taking the body further away resulted in such pathetic attempts at hiding it. On occasions, however, the risk was taken. Although Elizabeth Michell initially hid her child’s body behind a chest in the bedroom, she later wrapped it in her apron and left it by the side of the King’s highway.[33] Isabella Mustins of Great Yarmouth, who was hanged for strangling her child in 1638, threw the body into the water at Great Yarmouth haven.[34]

The narratives that unfold in the examinations of these young mothers reveal the fear that they must have felt at their predicament. They appear to have been left on their own to cope with the problem; few of the stories mention a father, or if they do it is clear that he has taken no responsibility. Initially nearly all of the accused denied ever being pregnant. Francis Tills, for example, said that, “she hoped nobody thought soe of her”.[35] It was only when proof was produced that they admitted that they had given birth. Their stories were then fairly consistent: they were alone when they went into labour and the child was stillborn. Most continued to deny killing the child even when confronted with the signs of violence on the body – not surprising when they knew what lay in store for them if they admitted it. They seemed to be so confused and afraid that they could usually offer no explanation for hiding the body. In only two cases, those of Frances Gall tried in 1667 and Ann Risby tried in 1686, is there the admission that they buried the bodies of their children to avoid the shame.[36]

It is, of course, impossible to now know the real truth of these situations. These were desperate stories told by frightened young girls in a desperate situation. Often when their stories are compared with the information from witnesses clear inconsistencies can be seen that inevitably led to convictions. A typical narrative unfolds in the case of Mary Harvy of Ickburgh, Norfolk. Twelve months previous to telling her story she had been living at Green Inn in the Fens, where she met Thomas Garrett, who “p[re]tended good will towards her”, and she became pregnant. Some months later she became servant to William Bryant of Ickburgh. On Saturday 23 June 1666 she walked towards Swaffham with George Eade of neighbouring Hilborough; after Eade left her near Brides Pitt she went into labour and later gave birth. She claimed that she looked at the child for about half an hour, but as it did not stir she covered it with grass and brushwood and went on her way.

At four o’clock on the morning of Monday 25 June, William Lun, a Swaffham labourer, was walking past Brides Pitt when he “heard a noise like the crye of a hare & draweing neer he found it to be a child, lying on the left side wth the hand uppon the face naked & cryeinge”. He then raised the neighbours who collected the child and took it to Swaffham, where they placed it with Amy Butcher to wet-nurse. “Laying it to the breast she sayeth that it drew the breast sev[er]all times that day & toke the milk downe but continued very stiff & cold & could not be brought to lithnesse or warmeth but continued till about 11 of the clock that night & then dyed”.

When Mary Harvy was suspected to be the mother of the child she was questioned by the constable at Ickburgh, but denied that it was anything to do with her. Dorothy Cushion of Ickburgh was then nominated to examine her, and when she looked at her breasts she “found gray paper with tallowe layd to them” and they were full of milk. Mary then had no choice but to confess, but still insisted that the child was born dead, or, she claimed, she would have stayed with it, “it beinge a lovely & a sweet child”. When confronted by Thomas Daye, the local justice, who clearly understood the legal implication of his question, he asked whether it was her intention to conceal the child. Mary could only answer that “if she had ben able she would have gone to it & seen it”. The elements of this story are to be found in virtually all the others: a father no longer around, a birth alone, the child is hidden but then found, the mother is suspected and questioned but she denies having a child, she is examined and found to have given birth, she then confesses and is left to face a murder charge.[37]

Even stories that had a clear ring of truth to them did not prevent girls from appearing before the assizes. In 1671 Mary Williams readily admitted being pregnant, she named the father and said that they had agreed on marriage. She explained that she lost her child after falling down the cellar stairs and striking a barrel, and claimed to have called out to a fellow servant as she gave birth. It seems unlikely that a married woman would have been charged under these circumstances, but the fact that Mary Williams was single obviously counted against her.[38] Even when there had clearly been a miscarriage this did not always make any difference. In 1671 Mary Pooly explained to the assizes that what came from her was only as big as one of her fingers. Alice Towler, a worker at the house, found the afterbirth, which, she informed, was “of noe great bignes”, and Alice Forde examined Mary’s breasts “but found nothinge of milk in them & further sayth to the best of her judgmt she was not above a quarter gone wth child”. Mary Pooly still faced a murder charge.[39]

As an illustration of the lonely and isolated position these young women must have felt that they were in, it is interesting to reflect on just who was exposing their secret. In the majority of cases where this information is given it was those people who were most closely associated with them on a daily basis – their employers, their neighbours, or their friends. On occasions it was even members of their own family who reported them. Mildred Goulty of Wood Norton was reported by her brother’s wife, who also took the trouble to make an extensive search in order to find the child’s body.[40] Amie Palding’s father discovered that she had given birth and went himself to the local justice for a warrant.[41] At a time when they most needed help they found themselves to be completely alone.

The people who presented these reports would have been just as aware as those they were accusing of the descriptions of infanticide cases contained in seventeenth-century pamphlets and broadside ballads. Here murdering mothers were described with terms such as ‘unnatural’ and ‘monsters’. Even women involved in cases that contained little in the way of gruesome detail could be made to sound inhuman. A narrative of proceedings at the Old Bailey in 1677 reported:

A woman, whose age might have promised more Chastity and prudence, being privately delivered of a Bastard-childe, made shift, by her wickedness, to deprive the poor Infant of that life she had contributed to by her wantonness. She pretended it came by its untimely end, by falling from her body on the floor whilst she unhumanely went from the bed towards the door; but she concealing it above a week under her Pillow, the Law justly Condemn’d her as a wilful Murtheress.[42]

In just a few lines the woman was described as wicked, wanton, and inhumane. But her condemnation as a murderess results from her concealment of the child’s body. Concealment is a consistent feature of such reports and was, of course, the grounds under which she could be charged under the 1624 Act.

In another case well publicised by pamphlet in 1691, that of Mary Goodenough of Bradwell, Oxfordshire, the dire circumstances that led to her becoming pregnant are explained. Being in great poverty, to the extent that she could not feed herself and her two children, she was seduced by a married neighbouring baker, who promised her food in return for committing adultery with him. When she eventually gave birth she hid the child’s body in her bed, but was suspected by her neighbours and discovered. Despite her desperate plight and the judge’s “most becoming Concern and judicious Piety”, the fact that she had concealed the body meant that there could be no reprieve and she was hanged.[43] All of these cases tell a story of desperation – a woman left to face shame and poverty on her own, with only one possible way out. But rather than receiving any help or pity they could only look forward to condemnation – for having a bastard if they kept the child, or for murder if they did not.

Although the salacious detail of husband or wife murder provided the subject matter for a large number of broadside ballads, only a very few dealt with infanticide. It is likely that the tragic circumstances, for both mother and child, made it an unsuitable subject to be singing about. Some of those that did deal with child murder took a different approach and used the ‘last farewell’ form, in which the mother narrates her sad story and tells of her regrets, often as a warning to others. Pamphlets covering the subject also sometimes used this approach. Whilst Fair Warning to Murderers of Infants began by telling the background to the story, most of the pamphlet was taken up with Mary Goodenough’s regrets and advice to her children to follow a godly life.

The ballad No naturall Mother, but a Monster by Martin Parker, took a similar approach. It told a sad tale of a young girl, fortunate enough to be “in a good service, With people of good note”, but, she admitted, her “carriage was too wild … And I was got with child”. She continued to explain that when the child was born “I hid it in the straw, where it was smother’d”, but she was discovered when her mistress noticed the change in her size. She went on to warn others:

Sweet Maidens all take heed,

heedfully, heedfully,

Adde not unto the deed

of fornication,

Murder which of all things,

The soule and conscience stings,

Which God to light still brings,

though done in private.

Her previous good life and later contrition, however, could afford her no help and she was condemned to be hanged at Tyburn in December 1633.[44]

Due to the lack of surviving assize records, it is impossible to determine how frequently infanticide cases were brought before the seventeenth-century Norfolk courts. There have been differing claims regarding how common the offence was. Cockburn claimed that “indictments for neonatal infanticide were relatively uncommon”, finding an average of less than one per year in each of the counties of Essex, Sussex and Hertfordshire during the reign of Elizabeth.[45] Hoffer and Hull, however, found that over twenty-five per cent of all the murders they analysed in Home Circuit records from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries were of children under the age of nine.[46]

From the passing of the 1624 act until the end of the seventeenth century there were forty-two cases of infanticide in the Norfolk records, less than one each year; although it must be borne in mind that assize records survive for only the last third of the century and so there were undoubtedly more. A more meaningful measurement is to compare cases of infanticide with all classes of murder over the same period, as the missing assize records will have no impact on this. There were in total 138 cases of murder and manslaughter during the century, infanticide accounting for 30.4 per cent of them. This is even higher than Hoffer and Hull’s figure of twenty-five per cent, which includes the murder of children up to the age of nine. This indicates that whilst charges of murder of any kind were not an everyday occurrence, infanticide cases did make up a sizeable proportion of them.[47]

Unfortunately, the outcomes of all trials are not recorded. Of those where the verdicts are known, thirty-two per cent were found not guilty and sixty-eight per cent guilty. This compares with a fifty-three per cent conviction rate that Cynthia Herrup found in seventeenth-century East Sussex, and only twenty-seven per cent recorded by Sharpe in Essex. However, the Norfolk figures could well be distorted to some extent by the unknown outcomes. Of those found guilty all but one in the Norfolk trials received a sentence of death, the same outcome as both East Sussex and Essex.[48] All those found guilty of murder in Norfolk were described as spinsters.

Some writers have given the impression that the 1624 statute defined a new crime of infanticide or established it as an exclusively female crime.[49] It did not – it created a circumstance under which the mothers of illegitimate children could be charged with murder, with only the concealment of the birth to be the issue to be proved, but this was not the only circumstance under which newborn child murder could be carried out. If the child was not stillborn or the mother was not single, then it had to be proved, as in any other murder case, that it was a deliberate killing. This applied equally to men and women and, on occasions, men were found guilty of child murder. In 1637 John Barker, vicar of Pitchley, was executed in Northampton for the murder of his illegitimate child, and Beattie has also written of a Surrey man accused in 1698 of strangling an infant born to his wife.[50]

As Sharpe has pointed out, infanticide within marriage would have been difficult to detect, but here presumably both mother and father would have been implicated.[51] There were also occasions when both the mother and her lover were involved in the murder. For example, the title page of the 1609 pamphlet The Bloudy Mother, which tells of “the most inhumane murthers, committed by Jane Hattersley upon divers Infants, the issue of her owne bodie”, illustrates her together with her lover burying one of them in the orchard.[52]

However, despite these examples, newborn child murder was a crime almost always carried out by women and in the majority of cases by single women. As I have pointed out, ninety per cent of those charged with the crime in seventeenth-century Norfolk were single and all those found guilty were described as spinsters. In theory there was very little room for manoeuvre by courts in the handing out of sentences to those charged under the 1624 act. Once it had been established that the child was illegitimate and that its body had been concealed, and there was no witness to say that it had been stillborn, then the death sentence should have been inevitable. On occasion, however, grounds for some flexibility must have been found, as, for example, in the case of Elizabeth Michell of Wilton, charged with the murder of her newborn child in 1673.[53] She was a single woman, so the child was illegitimate, and clearly concealed the body, for she admitted to hiding it in a chest after giving birth alone. Nevertheless, she was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. It is likely that juries were never comfortable with condemning a young woman to death for this crime, as they would have been aware of the desperate situation they found themselves in, and it has been claimed that by the end of the seventeenth century they were becoming increasingly reluctant to do so.[54] It may be that the case of Elizabeth Michell is an illustration of the truth of that claim.


[1] I have used both of the terms ‘infanticide’ and ‘newborn child murder’ to mean the same thing – neonatal murder. However, other writers have given a different definition to the term ‘infanticide’, making it impossible to make accurate comparisons with their analyses. For example, Hoffer and Hull have defined infanticide as the murder of a child under the age of nine. P.C. Hoffer and N.E.H. Hull, Murdering Mothers: Infanticide in England and New England, 1558 – 1803 (New York, 1981), p. xiii.

[2] John Myrc, Instructions for Parish Priests Early English Text Society (London, 1902), p. 42.

[3] E.A. Wrigley, “Family Limitation in Pre-Industrial England”, Economic History Review second series, 19 (1966), p. 105; Keith Wrightson, “Infanticide in Earlier Seventeenth-Century England”, Local Population Studies 15 (1975), pp. 10 – 22; Hoffer and Hull, Murdering Mothers, p. 114; Barbara A. Hanawalt, Crime and Conflict in English Communities, 1300 – 1348 (London, 1979), p. 154. Hanawalt puts infant mortality in the Middle Ages at between thirty and fifty per cent.

[4] R.H. Helmholz, “Infanticide in the Province of Canterbury During the Fifteenth Century”, History of Childhood Quarterly 2 (1975), pp. 379 – 90.

[5] Barbara A. Hanawalt, Of Good and Ill Repute. Gender and Social Control in Medieval England (Oxford, 1998), p. 168.

[6] Naomi D. Hurnard, The King’s Pardon for Homicide before A.D. 1307 (Oxford, 1969), p. 169 – 70. However, Hurnard found one early example where the court rejected a claim of dementia by the accused and she was sentenced to death by burning. The King’s Pardon, p. 169.

[7] Michael MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam. Madness, anxiety, and healing in seventeenth-century England (Cambridge, 1981), p. 83.

[8] Nigel Walker, Crime and Insanity in England 2 volumes (Edinburgh, 1968), volume 1, p. 127.

[9] 18 Eliz I, cap. 3.

[10] NRO, Norfolk quarter sessions, C/S3/26, examination of witnesses concerning a bastard child begotten of Cicely Large, 23.9.1626.

[11] Angus McLaren, Reproductive Rituals: The perception of fertility from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century (London, 1984), p. 130.

[12] 7 James I, cap. 4.

[13] 21 James I, cap. 27.

[14] Wrightson, “Infanticide in Earlier Seventeenth-Century England”, p. 12. Figures calculated from data provided in table 1.

[15] David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death. Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 1997), p. 75.

[16] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/20/3, information of John Chambers, 4.9.1670.

[17] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/26/4, examination of Lettice Harpeley, 25.2.1672.

[18] NRO, Norfolk quarter sessions rolls, C/S3/23a, articles against Henrie Eaton, 18.12.1622.

[19] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/13/4, information of Ann James, 7.1.1666.

[20] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/14/5, information of Ann Potter, 8.4.1667.

[21] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/13/4, examination of Mary Harvy, 26.6.1666.

[22] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/19/4, information of Elizabeth Randall, 2.12.1669.

[23] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/13/4, information of Ann James, 7.1.1666.

[24] Laura Gowing, “Secret Births and Infanticide in Seventeenth-Century England”, Past and Present 156 (1997), p. 93.

[25] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/45/4, information of Mary Madders, 3.10.1682.

[26] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/13/4, information of Ann James, 7.1.1666.

[27] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/19/4, information of Elizabeth Randall, 2.12.1669.

[28] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/43/4, examination of Amie Palding, 9.2.1681.

[29] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/45/4, information of Margaret Youngs, 28.9.1682; ASSI 16/59/4, information of Barbara Weasenham, 2.5.1695.

[30] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/27/4, information of Mary Joanes, 26.11.1673.

[31] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/31/3, examination of Sarah Moore, 16.1.1675.

[32] NRO, Norfolk quarter sessions, C/S3/26, examination of Dionis Graye, 2.5.1627.

[33] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/26/4, examination of Elizabeth Michell, 6.7.1673.

[34] NRO, Great Yarmouth quarter sessions, Y/S1/2, fol. 124, 1.11.1638.

[35] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/19/4, information of Elizabeth Randall, 2.12.1669.

[36] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/14/5, examination of Frances Gall, 8.4.1667; ASSI 16/52/4, calendar of prisoners, 28.7.1686.

[37] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/13/4, examination of Mary Harvy, 20.6.1666; information of Dorothy Cushion, 6.7.1666; information of William Lun, 9.7.1666; information of Amy Butcher, 9.7.1666.

[38] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/23/3, examination of Mary Williams, 25.2.1671.

[39] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/22/3, examination of Mary Pooly, information of Alice Towler, information of Alice Forde, 21.7.1671.

[40] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/26/4, information of Margaret Barnwood, 4.4.1673.

[41] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/43/4, information of Simon Palding, 9.2.1682.

[42] A True Narrative of the Proceedings at the Sessions-house in the Old – Bayly At a Sessions there held on April 25, and 26 1677 (London, 1677), pp. 4 – 5.

[43] Fair Warning to murderers of Infants: Being an Account of the Tryal, Co[n]demnation and Execution of Mary Goodenough at the Assizes held in Oxon, in February, 1692 (London, 1692).

[44] Martin Parker, No naturall Mother, but a Monster (London, 1634), reprinted Rollins, Pepysian Garland, pp. 425 – 30.

[45] Cockburn, “Nature and Incidence of Crime”, p. 57.

[46] Hoffer and Hull, Murdering Mothers, p. xviii.

[47] Cynthia Herrup found a similar proportion in seventeenth-century East Sussex, where 32.6 per cent of all felonious killings were infanticides. Herrup, Common Peace, p. 27.

[48] Herrup, Common Peace, pp. 144, 176; Sharpe, Crime in seventeenth-century England, pp. 135 – 6.

[49] For example, see Walker, “Crime, gender and the social order”, p. 6. Sharpe also wrote of infanticide as a “new offence” to emerge in this period. Crime in Early Modern England, p. 87.

[50] Peter Lake, “A Charitable Christian Hatred: The Godly and their Enemies in the 1630s”, in Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales, eds., The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560 – 1700 (Basingstoke, 1996), p. 145; Beattie, Crime and the Courts, p. 114. Garthine Walker found men implicated in the deaths of eleven infants in a sample of cases from early modern Cheshire. However, not one was convicted. Walker, Crime, Gender and Social Order, p. 154.

[51] Sharpe, Crime in seventeenth-century England, p. 136.

[52] Reprinted in Dolan, Dangerous Familiars, p. 161.

[53] PRO, Norfolk assizes, ASSI 16/26/4, examination of Elizabeth Michell, 6.7.1673.

[54] Amussen, An Ordered Society p. 115.


© Keith Parry 2011



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