1803: John Hatfield, Beauty of Buttermere deceiver

Add comment September 3rd, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1803, the Maid of Buttermere was widowed by the hangman. (She only used to be a Maid, of course.)

Before he was the presenter of BBC’s venerable In Our Time program, Melvyn Bragg wrote a historical novel about (and titled) The Maid of Buttermere

This legendary beauty bound for legendary sorrow entered literary annals and the nation’s romantic consciousness courtesy of a 1792 travelogue by Joseph Budworth (aka Joseph Palmer) titled A Fortnight’s Ramble to the Lakes of Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland. The 35-ish Budworth/Palmer met the girl in her Cumbrian village and honored or embarrassed her with a breathless chapter celebrating Mary Robinson’s allure:

Mary of Buttermere

Her mother and she weere spinning woollen yarn in the back kitchen. On our going into it, the girl flew away as swift as a mountain sheep, and it was not until our return from Scale Force that we could say we first saw her. She brought in part of our dinner, and seemed to be about fifteen. Her hair was thick and long, of a dark brown, and, though unadorned with ringlets, did not seem to want them; her face was a fine oval, with full eyes, and lips as red as vermilion; her cheeks had more of the lily than the rose; and, although she had never been out of the village (and I hope will have no ambition to wish it), she had a manner about her which seemed better calculated to set off dress, than dress her. She was a very Lavinia,

Seeming, when unadorn’d, adorn’d the most.

When we first saw her at her distaff, after she had got the better of her first fears, she looked an angel; and I doubt not but she is the reigning Lily of the Valley.

Ye travellers of the Lakes, if you visit this obscure place, such you will find the fair Mary of Buttermere.

After this, a side trip to ogle the Lily of the Valley became part of the regular itinerary of Lake District visitors for a couple of years. How Mary felt about, or leveraged, her strange celebrity can only be guessed at but ten years onward she was still unmarried.

Enter John Hatfield.

This fellow made his wastrel’s way by imposture and cozening, having charmed his way into the company of the Duke of Rutland and two different heiresses. He overdrafted all these fortunes and paid some visits to debtors’ prison.

By the time he turned up in the Lake District, he was impersonating an M.P. named Colonel Hope, and under this name wooed and won our fair Lavinia. The poet Samuel Coleridge, who happened to be in the area on a walking tour, wrote up the event for the Oct. 11 edition of London’s Morning Post.

Romantic Marriage

On the 2d instant a Gentleman, calling himself Alexander Augustus Hope, Member for Linlithgowshire, and brother to the Earl of Hopetown, was married at the church of Lorten, near Keswick, to a young woman, celebrated by the tourists under the name of The Beauty of Buttermere. To beauty, however, in the strict sense of the word, she has small pretensions, for she is rather gap-toothed, and somewhat pock-fretten. But her face is very expressive, and the expression extremely interesting, and her figure and movements are graceful to a miracle. She ought indeed to have been called the Grace of Buttermere, rather than the Beauty. — She is the daughter of an old couple, named Robinson, who keep a poor little pot-house at the foot of the small lake of Buttermere, with the sign of the Char, and has been all her life the attendant and waiter, for they have no servant. She is now about thirty, and has long attracted the notice of every visitor by her exquisite elegance, and the becoming manner in which she is used to fillet her beautiful long hair; likewise by the uncommonly fine Italian hand-writing in which the little bill was drawn out. Added to this, she has ever maintained an irreproachable character, is a good daughter, and a modest, sensible, and observant woman. That such a woman should find a husband in a man of rank and fortune, so very far above her sphere of life, is not very extraordinary; but there are other circumstances which add much to the interest of the story. Above two months ago, Mr. Hope went to Buttermere upon a fishing expedition, in his own carriage, but without any servants, and took up his abode at the house kept by the father of the beauty of Buttermere, in the neighbourhood of which he was called the Honourable Charles Hope, Member for Dumfries. Here he paid his addresses to a lady of youth, beauty, and good fortune, and obtained her consent. The wedding clothes were bought, and the day fixed for their marriage, when he feigned a pretence for absence, and married the beauty of Buttermere. The mistake in the name, the want of an establishment suited to his rank, and the circumstance of his attaching himself to a young lady of fortune, had excited much suspicion, and many began to consider him an impostor. [sic] His marriage, however, with a poor girl without money, family, or expectations, has weakened the suspicions entertained to his disadvantage, but the interest which the good people of Keswick take in the welfare of the beauty of Buttermere, has not yet suffered them to entirely subside, and they await with anxiety the moment when they shall receive decisive proofs that the bridegroom is the real person whom he describes himself to be. The circumstances of his marriage are sufficiently to satisfy us that he is no impostor; and, therefore, we may venture to congratulate the beauty of Buttermere upon her good fortune. The Hon. Alexander Hope, the member for Linlithgowshire, is a Colonel in the army, a Lieut. Colonel of the 14th regiment of foot, brother, to the Earl of Hopetoun, and Lieutenant Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

Unfortunately Coleridge labored under a false Hope, and the wide publicity of this union instantly validated the locals’ suspicions of the suitor: plenty of Londoners knew that the real Colonel Hope was off in Vienna. Within a month (Nov. 8) the very same journal printed a lengthy article under a less flattering headline:

Fraudulent Marriage

[The following advertisement has been issued for apprehending the pretended Colonel Hope, who lately married the Buttermere Beauty]

Notorious Imposter, Swindler, and Felon. — John Hatfield, who lately married a young woman (commonly called the Beauty of Buttermere), under an assumed name. Height about five feet ten inches, aged about 44, full face, bright eyes, thick eye-brows, strong but light beard, good complection with some colour, thick but not very prominent nose, smiling countenance, fine teeth, a scar on one of his cheeks near the chin; very long, thick, light hair, with a great deal of it grey, done up in a club; stout, square shouldered, full breast and chest, rather corpulent and stout limbed, but very active, and has rather a spring in his gait, with apparently a little hitch in bringing up one leg; the two middle fingers of his left hand are stiff from an old wound, and he frequently has a custom of putting them straight with his right: has something of the Irish brogue in his speech, fluent & elegant in his language, great command of words, frequently puts his hand to his heart, very fond of compliments, and generally addressing himself to persons most distinguished by rank or situation, attentive in the extreme to females, and likely to insinuate himself where there are young ladies; he was in America during the war, is fond of talking of his wounds and exploits there, and on military subjects, as well as of Hatfield Hall, and his estates in Derbyshire and Chester, of the antiquity of his family, which he pretends to trace to the Plantagenets; all which are shameful falsehoods, thrown out to deceive. He makes a boast of having often been engaged in duels; he has been a great traveller also (by his own account), and talks of Egypt, Turkey, Italy, and in short has a general knowledge of subjects, which, together with his engaging manner, is well calculated to impose on the credulous. He was seven years confined in Scarborough gaol, from whence he married, and removed into Devonshire, where he has basely deserted an amiable wife and young family. He had art enough to connect himself with some very respectable merchants in Devonshire as a partner in business, but having swindled them out of large sums of money he was made a separate bankrupt, in June last, and has never surrendered to his commission, by which means he is guilty of felony. He cloaks his deceptions under the mask of religion, appears fond of religious conversation, and makes a point of attending divine service and popular preachers. To consummate his villainies he has lately, under the very respectable name of the Hon. Col. Hope, betrayed an innocent but unfortunate young woman near the Lake of Buttermere. He was on th 25th of October last, at Ravenglass in Cumberland, wrapped in a sailor’s great coat and disguised, and is supposed to be now secreted in Liverpool, or some adjacent port, with a view to leave the country.

He was indeed captured, convicted on three counts of felony forgery related to his pretense, and hanged on market day at Carlisle.

For the Beauty of Buttermere, the addition of this humiliating personal tragedy only deepened her charm to the literary set. William Wordsworth‘s lengthy autobiographical poem The Prelude contains in Book VII a meditation on the now-older Mary as a doting mother settled in with a respectable farmer, her youthful beauty and her consequent fame both receding into time.

I mean, O distant Friend! a story drawn From our own ground, — the Maid of Buttermere, — And how, unfaithful to a virtuous wife Deserted and deceived, the Spoiler came And wooed the artless daughter of the hills, And wedded her, in cruel mockery Of love and marriage bonds. These words to thee Must needs bring back the moment when we first, Ere the broad world rang with the maiden’s name, Beheld her serving at the cottage inn; Both stricken, as she entered or withdrew, With admiration of her modest mien And carriage, marked by unexampled grace. We since that time not unfamiliarly Have seen her, — her discretion have observed, Her just opinions, delicate reserve, Her patience, and humility of mind Unspoiled by commendation and the excess Of public notice — an offensive light To a meek spirit suffering inwardly. From this memorial tribute to my theme I was returning, when, with sundry forms Commingled — shapes which met me in the way That we must tread — thy image rose again, Maiden of Buttermere! She lives in peace Upon the spot where she was born and reared; Without contamination doth she live In quietness, without anxiety: Beside the mountain chapel, sleeps in earth Her new-born infant, fearless as a lamb That, thither driven from some unsheltered place, Rests underneath the little rock-like pile When storms are raging. Happy are they both — Mother and child! — These feelings, in themselves Trite, do yet scarcely seem so when I think On those ingenuous moments of our youth Ere we have learnt by use to slight the crimes And sorrows of the world. Those simple days Are now my theme; and, foremost of the scenes, Which yet survive in memory, appears One, at whose centre sate a lovely Boy, A sportive infant, who, for six months’ space, Not more, had been of age to deal about Articulate prattle — Child as beautiful As ever clung around a mother’s neck, Or father fondly gazed upon with pride. There, too, conspicuous for stature tall And large dark eyes, beside her infant stood The mother; but, upon her cheeks diffused, False tints too well accorded with the glare From play-house lustres thrown without reserve On every object near. The Boy had been The pride and pleasure of all lookers-on In whatsoever place, but seemed in this A sort of alien scattered from the clouds. Of lusty vigour, more than infantine He was in limb, in cheek a summer rose Just three parts blown — a cottage-child — if e’er, By cottage-door on breezy mountain-side, Or in some sheltering vale, was seen a babe By Nature’s gifts so favoured. Upon a board Decked with refreshments had this child been placed ‘His’ little stage in the vast theatre, And there he sate, surrounded with a throng Of chance spectators, chiefly dissolute men And shameless women, treated and caressed; Ate, drank, and with the fruit and glasses played, While oaths and laughter and indecent speech Were rife about him as the songs of birds Contending after showers. The mother now Is fading out of memory, but I see The lovely Boy as I beheld him then Among the wretched and the falsely gay, Like one of those who walked with hair unsinged Amid the fiery furnace. Charms and spells Muttered on black and spiteful instigation Have stopped, as some believe, the kindliest growths. Ah, with how different spirit might a prayer Have been preferred, that this fair creature, checked By special privilege of Nature’s love, Should in his childhood be detained for ever! But with its universal freight the tide Hath rolled along, and this bright innocent, Mary! may now have lived till he could look With envy on thy nameless babe that sleeps, Beside the mountain chapel, undisturbed. Four rapid years had scarcely then been told Since, travelling southward from our pastoral hills, I heard, and for the first time in my life, The voice of woman utter blasphemy — Saw woman as she is, to open shame Abandoned, and the pride of public vice; I shuddered, for a barrier seemed at once Thrown in that from humanity divorced Humanity, splitting the race of man In twain, yet leaving the same outward form. Distress of mind ensued upon the sight And ardent meditation. Later years Brought to such spectacle a milder sadness, Feelings of pure commiseration, grief For the individual and the overthrow Of her soul’s beauty; farther I was then But seldom led, or wished to go; in truth The sorrow of the passion stopped me there.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Pelf,Public Executions

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1763: John Brannon, Joseph Jervis, Charles Riley, and Mary Robinson

Add comment December 28th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1763, four thieves hanged at Tyburn to great public indifference.

They were of such scanty account that one is hard-pressed to find a newspaper report of the executions; even the Ordinary of Newgate didn’t bother to publish on them until weeks later, when he could combine them with a pair of February hangings. (Perhaps because, as he notes in his account, three of the four were Catholic and so gave the Anglican minister short shrift on the confessional front.)

Two of the men — and also one prosecutor, the victim Peter Manchester, who was robbed of his prize money — appear to have been recently from royal service in the just-concluded Seven Years’ War: early avatars of the crime wave that would engulf London as demobilized soldiers and seamen swamped its labor market.

six persons were capitally convicted and received sentence of death, for the several crimes in their indictments set forth, viz.

John Brannon, John Edinburgh, Joseph Jervis, Charles Reiley [Riley -ed.], Mary Robinson, and Mary Williams.

And on or about Friday the 16th of December the report of the said malefactors being made to his Majesty, by Mr. Recorder, two of them were respited, namely, John Edinburgh, for horse-stealing; and Mary Williams, for being concerned with Charles Reily and Mary Robinson in the robbery of Peter Manchester; and the remaining four ordered for execution on Wednesday December the 28th, and were accordingly executed.

1. John Brannon was indicted, for that he, on the King’s highway, on Thomas Worley did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person one pair of silver shoe-buckles, value 10s. his property; and Jane Blake, otherwise Buckley, spinster, for receiving the same, well knowing them to have been stolen, October 17.

The prisoner Brannon was one of five in a desperate gang, who attacked the prosecutor Worley, and another, John Paget, in Church-lane, White-chapel, about 12 at night. Having searched them and found no money on them, they took a pair of silver buckles from each, and a handkerchief from Paget: Mean time Esq. Gore’s chariot passing by, they fired two pistols at it, because the coachman would not stop. Brannon was positively sworn to, as one of the two first that came up to the prosecutor, and held a pistol to him while he was robbed. He was detected and taken the next day by means of Jane Blake offering the buckles to a pawn-broker, Mr. Samuel Spencer, who stopped them, secured her, and sent constables to search her lodgings, where they took Brannon, found the other pair of buckles and the handkerchief before mentioned, and also a pair of horse pistols loaded.

His behaviour after sentence was in general such as became his unhappy condition; but being under the influence and direction of the church of Rome, he gave no account to me of his accomplices, or any other fact: Nor did he pretend to deny this, either at his trial or afterwards, as indeed there was no room for it. He appeared to be about thirty years of age, was born in Dublin, was by trade a Carver, and had served six years in the Royal Navy.

2. Joseph Jervis was indicted, for that he, on the 14th day of November, about the hour of two in the night, on the same day, the dwelling house of Joseph Hill did break and enter, and steal one silver spoon, value 1s. the property of the said Joseph in his dwelling.

This convict lived in King-street, Spitalfields; but how he supported himself there, whether by any honest labour, doth not appear either by his own confession, or the evidence of several witnesses for him, who gave only a negative character, that they never heard any ill of him. And supposing he had practised this wicked scheme of breaking into houses, and plundering them in the hour of deep sleep undiscovered for a time, ’tis hard to imagine how they could hear any ill of him, however criminal. As to the present fact, he had prowled away as far as Kingsland, a mile or two, at midnight, to perpetrate it. But here, luckily for the publick safety, he was mistaken in his mark, and fell upon a house well inhabited by a master Carpenter and his workmen: The former, awakened by the noise of wrenching open the frame of a cellar window, alarmed two or three of his men, who came upon him, and with some difficulty seized and secured him; in effecting of which, by means of his resisting and endeavouring to escape in the dark, he had received two unlucky strokes, one with a pistol and another with a hanger, both on the head; by which he was wounded, and made more deaf and stupid than he was before, for he laboured under both those defects during the time between sentence and execution. After he was apprehended, he was found to be furnished with a tinder-box, a dark-lantern, a candle, and an iron bar flatted at one end. A silver spoon was also found upon him, the property of Mr. Hill, the prosecutor.

He had the artifice to plead on his trial, that he was non compos, out of his mind, and knew not what he did. But being reminded by the Court that his situation was very serious, and no proof of this assertion being offered, it was urged no farther. After conviction and sentence passed, he still appeared to be very hard of hearing and dull of apprehension; so that it was a difficult task to instruct and prepare him, whether this was real or partly affected. He said he was born at Hertford, where he learned to read and write, and then was brought up to the trade of dressing flour, which he afterwards followed for several years in London, in or near Houndsditch; he was now about forty-five years of age.

After he had been daily visited, assisted with prayers, and the plainest instructions, he was now and then questioned what progress he had made in his preparation for an awful change; but could give very little satisfaction in that matter, only said, he would trust to Providence; meaning, that he would give no farther account of his past life, nor confess any other facts; tho’ he did not pretend to deny he was guilty of any other.

When he found himself included in the Death-warrant, it did not much affect him, as he seemed to expect it. Endeavours were renewed to prepare him for the holy communion; but with no better success; he pleaded he had lost his memory, as well as his apprehension; and that what he read or heard made little impression, and was quickly gone from him; so that he seemed incapable of celebrating that sacred act of remembrance. However, there seemed to be a greater want of disposition than capacity. To arouse and quicken him, therefore, to a sense of his duty in this respect, he was permitted to be present, and very near, at the administration of the communion in the chapel, the day before he suffered; so as that he could hear and see all that was spoken, or done, without admitting him to partake of it. Several intelligent good neighbours were present now, and on other occasions, who took opportunities to speak familiarly to him before and after service, in order to bring him to a better disposition. But neither did these means kindle in him that desire, which we hoped. He still continued in a languid indifference. As he could still read, and as his last evening was now come, a brief but excellent little tract on spiritual communion was put into his hands, to assist and raise his thoughts this last night of his life. He returned it to me the next morning, and said he had read it. Being asked whether he understood it, and applied it to himself? he replied, he did, as well as God gave him leave; his usual answer to such questions.

3, 4. Charles Reiley, labourer, and Mary Robinson, and Mary Williams, spinsters, were indicted for that they, in the dwelling house of Francis Talbot, near the King’s high-way, on the body of Peter Manchester did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person four guineas and one half-guinea, his property, against his will, October 18.

The prosecutor, Peter Manchester, was a sailor, come to town about a week, and had received five guineas prize money the very day of this robbery. Passing along Salt-petre Bank, he was forced into this house by Williams and Robinson, shut in, and his purse violently taken from him by these two women, assisted by Charles Reiley. He was also beaten by the women, while Reily threatened to cut off his hand, if he did not let go the purse to him; by which means Reily got it, containing four guineas and a half, and he and Robinson ran off with it. The prosecutor pursued, but missed them; he then applied to two of his shipmates and a constable to assist him. By help of these, and others, the two women were found out, and apprehended the same night. Robinson being searched, had two guineas and a quarter found concealed upon her. The two guineas she confessed before the Justice next day to be the property of the prosecutor, and that they were given to her by Charles Reily, one for herself, and one for Mary Williams, to reward them for their trouble; and that he kept two guineas and a half, the remainder of the money. But luckily for Williams she had not fingered the guinea; which circumstance, together with her not being able to follow Reily, to get her share from him, seem to be the distinguishing considerations, which might turn the scale for a respite to one of these three, rather in her favour. As for Reily he was caught in the very trap for such creatures of prey. The prosecutor being at Hicks’s-hall next day, to prefer a bill of indictment against them, had intelligence that Reily was then drinking at Newgate, only as a voluntary visiter, went directly and found him there; and tho’ he fled, and had a long run for it, from thence to St. Dunstan’s church, he was there taken, detained in the cage at St. John’s, Wapping, examined, and committed, having confessed the fact, but said it was the first.

Being all three convicted the 10th of December, they came up to chapel the 11th, being Sunday morning, tho’ they professed all to be of the church of Rome. Yet Reily, to my surprize, joined in the service, made his responses, read his part in the Psalms and the Liturgy very distinct and intelligible, as if well acquainted with it. On questioning him, after divine service, he let me know, that he was brought up in an hospital for children on a Protestant foundation in a great city, where he received a common share of good learning and the principles of Christianity, but was now determined to die in the faith of the church of Rome; for which he could give no better reason, than that his father died in that persuasion. Endeavours were used to reason him out of this very groundless and weak resolution, and proper books put into his hands for that purpose, particularly a Protestant Catechism and a New Testament, both which he soon after returned, without suffering them to make any good impression upon him. As to the fact for which he was convicted, he said, he was not in the house when the fray began but, having his lodging there, came in, in the midst of it, and so was drawn in.

He was bred up to the sea from a lad, served his time in the Merchants service, in the New York trade; and between six and seven years since, entered into the King’s service, a volunteer, at Cork, in which he has continued ever since, till discharged about six months before from the Orford of 70 guns, in which he had been at the taking of the Havanna, from whence he came home in her; and had also a share in two Spanish prizes, the St. Jago and St. Charles, taken by the Orford in company with the Temeraire and the Alarm, a little before the peace extended thither. After he was a prisoner in Newgate, he was told that a dividend of 3l. 17s. a man was paid the 26th of October, which he did not receive, and believed he had much more due to him. In the same ship, he said, he was at the taking of Cape Breton and Quebeck, for both which he received some prize money. — He was about 30 years of age.

4. Mary Robinson was much about the same age of thirty, and had passed thro’ various scenes, in her way, which was none of the best. She had been at the cities of Bath and Bristol for five years, to which she came from Dublin, where she was born. She had left her husband there, having sold his goods and quitted him, because, as she said, he had used her ill. While she was under sentence, she owned she had been a wicked sinner in all respects, except the crime of Murder.

The Morning of EXECUTION, Dec. 28.

OF the four convicts, there being only Jervis who adhered to the church of England, he went up and attended to the duties of the chapel, as well as his imperfect state of sensibility and attention would permit. He was sincere and sensible enough to acknowledge the justice of his sentence; and also owned expressly that this was not his first offence of this nature; but would give no particulars of time, place, or persons. For, either he could not be convinced it was his duty, or else he could not be persuaded to comply with it; still persisting to say, that his memory was so bad he could not recollect any fact, or he did not see what use or satisfaction it could give the world, or any injured person, to confess it. To set this in a strong light before him, a plain case was put; Suppose you had been robbed, would it not give you satisfaction to know who did it? And what is become of him? Whether living or dead? Whether hardened and going on still in his wickedness, or penitent and reformed, at least past the power of offending any more. Would it not be a great ease and benefit to you to put an end to your doubts and suspicions? Would it not be the same to innocent persons, who might be suspected, to be cleared of those doubts and suspicions? Surely it might, to the saving of their character, their liberty, and their livelihood. Reason and justice, no less than our rational religion and our excellent church, join in requiring this mark of sincere repentance from dying criminals: And let those who teach, or think, or act otherwise, see to it.

There is the more reason to speak thus freely, because this duty is too often made a stumbling-block to several unhappy persons under sentence, whose preparation is obstructed, and rendered more difficult, by the contrary poisonous principles sown in the prison by some disguised enemy; tho’ it must be owned there is no need of this, while the native pride and corruption of the human heart, unmortified, are sufficient to harden it against this duty, and every act of self-abasement.

In a word, I could form no apology in my own mind for this criminal not complying with this duty, but his defect of apprehension and memory before-mentioned.

We used the Litany, and other proper acts of devotion in the chapel, in which he joined tolerably well for the most part. After which he was directed to meditate on proper subjects, or read in the way to the place. When he went down from the chapel, which was about twenty minutes before nine, he was asked, Are you resigned? He answered in the affirmative. Do you find peace and hope in your breast, on a sure foundation? He replied faintly in the same manner.

The other three convicts of the church of Rome, were kept ready in their cells, not in the Press-Yard, or Little hall, as usual, for what reason, as I did not enquire, so I did not learn. But all were detained about an hour later than usual, till after ten, on account, as it was said, of some necessary part of the apparatus not being provided in time.

After the Sheriff was set off in his chariot, preceded by proper officers on horseback, then followed the first cart with Charles Reily and Mary Robinson; and in the second were John Brannon and Joseph Jervis. In a little more than an hour they arrived at the place, where they read and repeated their prayers very earnestly, with an audible voice; the last offices of prayer were performed for Jervis, while the others were exercised in their own devotions. They were all greatly affected, the woman wept and bewailed herself much, till the cart being driven away, they all resigned their lives.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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