Sunday, September 14, 2008

Elizabeth Brownrigg - Mary Clifford

Elizabeth Brownrigg (1720-1767). being 47 years of age, was an eighteenth century murderess. 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 hanged at Tyburn in September 1767. Mary Clifford wasn't the only domestic apprentice that the Brownriggs owned, and own them they did. She was just the only one that died, or at least the only one that was reported to have died. How many people they murdered will never be known.

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. They had a total of 16 children. I don't know how many of these children made it to adulthood or if she beat any of them as they grew older.

Mary Mitchell was indentured servant, to her mistress for a number of years, during which she was treated with 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 White Friars bound Mary Clifford to Brownrigg; nor was it 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.

Mary subsequently died from her beating and Mrs, Mr. and the eldest son where brought to trial.

At the trial 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 misdemeanor, 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. Elizabeth Brownrigg can be looked on as a true sadist.

In todays world she'd probably become a dom and get paid to whip women and men alike. But in her day, being a dom was considered prostitution. Now where a woman may beat her charges, she wouldn't reduce herself to being a prostitute. This profession was looked down upon in the mid 19th century. But many people would beat their apprentices. Her mistake was beating an unfortunate apprentice to death. This was murder, where it was legal to beat an apprentice.

Other murderers of their servant girls were: Elizabeth Wigenton, Elizabeth and Mary Branch who beat their 13 year old maidservant, Jane Butterworth, to death in 1740 and were hanged on Saturday, the 3rd of May of that year at Illchester in Somerset and Sarah Metyard with her daughter, Sarah Morgan Metyard, who were hanged at Tyburn on Monday, the 19th of July 1762 for the murder, by starving to death, of 13 year old Ann Nailer

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