1763: Elizabeth Morton, bad with kids

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1763, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Morton was hanged on Gallows Hill, Nottingham for the murder of her employer’s two-year-old daughter.

Elizabeth, a servant girl employed by the farmer John Oliver and his family in the parish of Walkeringham, was caught after attempting to kill one of the Olivers’ other children. Loretta Loach describes Elizabeth’s crime in her book The Devil’s Children: A History of Childhood and Murder:

In August 1762, Mrs. Oliver found one of her children under some straw in a barn, “struggling in the agonies of death, the blood gushing from its mouth, nose and eyes.” The child recovered and accused Elizabeth. The servant was immediately suspected of having strangled the family’s two-year-old daughter Mary, who had been found dead in her cradle months earlier.

Elizabeth confessed to the crime, but said she had been incited to commit it by a gentleman in black who came to bed with her and told her she must murder two of her master’s children. She could not feel easy, she said, until she had done as he directed. Despite the fact that the report in the Annual Register suggested she was an “idiot” (which would have been grounds for a pardon), she was executed…

After she was hanged, her body was dissected and then buried in a village near her home.

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