Ann Wycherly - her child was an encumbrance.
Ann was a twenty eight year old mother of
two illegitimate children who in December 1837 was living with the children in
the workhouse at Drayton (now Market Drayton) in
Ann left the workhouse with her two children on Thursday the 14th of December and the three were recognised early in the afternoon by a James Freeman. By Ann was exhausted and knocked on the door of the cottage of one Sarah Newbrook, asking her if she could rest there for a while. Sarah allowed her to do so and noted that she only had the infant child with her.
On Friday the 22nd of December, William Poole, a farm labourer saw something floating in a pit on his employer’s land near Chipnal. He went and informed the farmer, Mr. Butters, and between them the two men were able to pull the small object out of the pit and onto the bank where they were no doubt horrified to find it was the body of a little girl.
An inquest was held at the Noah pub and
William Crutchley the governor of the Drayton
workhouse identified the body as that of Ann Wycherly. The inquest found that the cause of death was
drowning but noted that the girl’s body and head had several bruises. William Crutchley
obtained an arrest warrant from the local justices of the peace and went in
search of Ann. He found her soon after
in service at
She was tried at the next assizes which
took place on Wednesday the 14th of March in the courtroom of the imposing
Shire Hall in
In his summing up Baron Alderson told the jurors that even if someone else had been the instigation for Ann to carry out of the murder that did not in anyway diminish her guilt or responsibility for the crime. The jury did not even retire before finding Ann guilty.
Baron Alderson now proceeded to sentence
Ann to death and asked if she had anything to say. She told him “she was with
child”. He therefore ordered the
courtroom doors to be locked and empanelled a jury of matrons from the women in
the public gallery to see if she was pregnant.
Ann and the other women were sent off to the Grand Jury room where after
close examination that took best part of an hour she was declared not to be
quick with child. Before he left
After the problems experienced with the
collapse of the gallows at Ann Statham’s hanging in 1819 a new portable gallows
had been built, of similar pattern to the one used at
In the condemned cell Ann had told the Governor, Thomas Brutton that she was not afraid to die and again implicated Charles Gilbert in the killing. On the Friday the gaol chaplain, the Reverend Buckeridge gave her the Sacrament.
A few minutes before nine on the Saturday morning the usual procession emerged from the main gate of the prison to the solemn tolling of the prison bell. It was headed by the sheriff of the county, Thomas Brutton followed by the Reverend Buckeridge, Ann, two turnkeys and the hangman, Samuel Haywood. Ann was able to climb the steps up to the platform unaided where she prayed with the chaplain before being pinioned, hooded and noosed. As the chaplain read the burial service the drop was operated and Ann fell a short distance into the box like structure. According to the local newspaper she struggled for less than a minute before hanging still. At her body was taken down and moved into the prison for burial in the small graveyard that was adjacent to the solitary confinement cells. Unusually this execution only drew a small crowd as it was thought a reprieve was likely.
It seems that the motive for the killing was that the child was an encumbrance to the new relationship and neither Ann nor Charles Gilbert wanted her.
Ann was one two women and two men who were condemned at the same assizes but the other three were all reprieved. The other woman was fifty nine year old Hannah Heath who had also been convicted of killing a child. It was reported that Baron Alderson was surprised by the jury’s guilty verdict in her case and obviously recommended a reprieve.