Monday, February 21, 2011

Sentencing of Jane Fletcher (1786-1832) of Orleton, Herefordshire

I was provided with a transcript of Jane Fletcher's sentencing by a fellow descendant. I've previously written about her death sentence reprieve, and commution to life transportation:
http://thehistoryofmatt.blogspot.com/2009/01/jane-fletcher-sentencing-in-1803.html

Born at Orleton, Herefordshire, England in 1786, daughter of Richard and Tabitha FLETCHER. Following sentencing and reprive, she was transported to Australia on the 'Experiment' arriving in June 1804. In New South Wales she married Rowland Edwards (1804), then after his death in 1814 she married John Allen. She died in 1832 in the Richmond district.

Her tragic trial was at the Hereford Assizes, the trial being on the 15th March 1803. The transcript of the court records has a note at the bottom 'Transcribed by Carol Bergen from public record office document ref: assi5/123/9 43832'. Transcript (with a summary below):

"HEREFORDSHIRE. The jurors for our Lord the King upon their oath present that Jane Fletcher late of the parish of orleton in the county of Hereford. Single woman on the 26th day of august in the forty second year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the 3rd by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of great britain and ireland King defender of the faith. Her being big with a male child the same day and year at the parish, aforesaid in the county, aforesaid, but the providence of God, did bring forth the said male child alive of the body of her. The said Jane Fletcher, alone and in secret, which said male child to being born alive by the laws of this realm was a male bastard and that the said Jane Fletcher, not having the fear of God before her eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil afterwards towit on the said 26th day of august in the year aforesaid, as soon as the said male bastard child was born alive of the body of her the said Jane Fletcher, the said Jane Fletcher with force and arms at the parish aforesaid in the county aforesaid and in and when the said male bastard child in the peace of God and our said Lord the king then and there being feloniously willfully and of her malice aforethought did make an assault and that the said Jane Fletcher with a certain iron spade with a wooden handle of the value of 2 pence which the said Jane Fletcher in both her hands then and there had and held the said male bastard child in and upon the left side of the neck of him the said male bastard child then and there feloniously and willfully out of her malice and aforethought did strike and act giving unto him the said male bastard child then and there with the said iron spade bu the whole act in the manner aforesaid in and upon the left side of the neck of him the said male bastard child one mortal wound of the length of six inches and the depth of one inch of which the said mortal wound to the said male bastard child on the said 26th day of august in the year aforesaid at the parish aforesaid in the county aforesaid then and there instantly died and that Tabetha Fletcher the wife of Robert Flecther late of the said parish of orleton a labourer at the time of committing the felony and murder aforesaid by the said Jane Fletcher in manner and for in aforesaid feloniously willfully and of her malice aforethought was present aiding, helping, abetting, assisting, comforting and maintaining the said Jane Fletcher the felony and murder aforesaid in manner and pain aforesaid to do commit and perpetrate and so the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid to further say that the said Jane Fletcher and Tabetha Fletcher slain the said male bastard child then and there in a manner and form aforesaid feloniously willfully of their malice aforethought did kill and murder against the peace of our said Lord the king his crown and dignity and the jurors aforesaid upon their oath will further present that the said Jane Fletcher on the 26th day of august in the 42nd year of the reign of our said sovereign lord George the 3rd by the grace of God of the united kingdom of great Britain and Ireland declared king defender of the faith her being big with male child the same day and year at the parish aforesaid in the county aforesaid by the providence of God did bring forth the said male alive of the body of her the said Jane Fletcher alone and in secret which said male child to being born alive by the laws of this realm was a male bastard and that the said Jane Fletcher not having the fear of God before her eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil afterwards towit on the said 26th day of august in the year aforesaid as soon as te said male bastard child was born alive of the body of her the said Jane Fletcher the said Jane Fletcher with force and arms at the paris aforesaid in the county aforesaid and in and when the said male bastard child in the peace of God and our said Lord the king then and there being feloniously willfully and of her malice aforethought did make an assault and that the said Jane Fletcher with a certain iron spade with a wooden handle of the value of 2 pence which the said Jane Fletcher in both her hands then and there had and held the said male bastard child in and upon the left side of the neck of him the said male bastard child then and there feloniously and willfully out of her malice and aforethought did strike and act giving unto him the said male bastard child then and there with with said iron spade by the stroke and cut in the manner aforesaid in and upon the left side of the neck of him the said male bastard child a mortal wound on the length of 6 inches and the depth of 1 inch and the said Jane Fletcher then and there feloniously willfully and of her malice aforethought did put both her hands on and around the neck of him the said child then and there fixed him the said child and did feloniously willfully and of her malice aforethought did choke and strangle of which said mortal wound choking and strangling he the said child there and then instantly died that is said Tabitha Fletcher at the time of committing the felong and murder last aforesaid by the neck Jane Fletcher in manner and form last effort in feloniously willfully and of her malice aforethought to carer present aiding, helping, abetting, assisting, comforting and maintaining the said Jane Fletcher in the felony and murder last aforesaid in manner and form last aforesaid to do commit and perpetrate and so the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid to further try that the said Jane Fletcher and Tabetha Fletcher trial the said male bastard child then and there in a manner and form last aforesaid feloniously willfully out of their malice aforethought did kill and murder against the peace of our said lord the king, his crown and dignity."

Jane was found guilty and sentenced to death:

From Worcester News, 21 Mar 1803"At Hereford Assizes yesterday, Jane Fletcher, aged only 15, for the murder of her new born bastard child, was capitally convicted and sentenced to death."
Her mother was acquitted:

Hereford Journal, 23 Mar 1803"Assizes. At our Assizes, which ended on Friday evening, Joseph Fowke, alias Coft, for stealing a sheep, the property of Thomas Field, of Whitboum; and Jane Fletcher, aged 15, for the murder of her newborn bastard child, were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death; the former is reprieved, and the latter was to have been exectuted on Monday last, but is respited to the second of May next. John Teague, found guilty of forgery at the last Assizes, received setence of death, but was reprieved before the Judges left the city. William Dally, for stealing three pigs, was ordered to seven years transportation. Phebe Griffiths, for uttering in payment several counterfeir pieces, called Shillings; and Priscilla Clarke, for receiving stolen goods, were ordered to twelve months imprisonment. John hardwick for stealing oak plans; Martha Cooke, for stealing a quantity of wool from off a sheep, the property of William Wathen; and Ann Cooke for  stealing a great-coat, the property of Mr. Cobun, Su Tavern, in this city, were sentenced to six months imprisonment. - Tabitha Fletcher, implicated with her daughter Jane Fletcher; Walter ?, charged with the murder of his father; Sarah Pingree, for the murder of her new born bastard child; Thomas Butcher, for sheep stealing; James haynes, for stealing wearing apparel; Harriet Vo?, implicated as an accessary with Priscilla Clare; John Pheasant, for having in his possession two forger notes; and Edward Gwilt, for stealing a pail, were all acquitted."

 
The enoerous legal language of the charge above can be distilled to the following grizzly and tragic:


"HEREFORDSHIRE. That Jane Fletcher of Orleton, Hereford, Single woman, on the 26th of August, 1802, gave birth to a male bastard child. That as soon as the child was born she assaulted the child with an iron spade with a wooden handle of the value of 2 pence, inflicting upon the left side of the neck of the child a mortal wound of the length of six inches and the depth of one inch, and then strangled the child, instantly killing the child. That Tabetha Fletcher the wife of Robert Fletcher of Orleton, was present aiding and abetting her daughter Jane Fletcher.

One can't imagine the circumstances that drove a 15 year old girl to kill her child.

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