The Execution of Elizabeth Martha BROWN
From Broadwinsor at Dorchester gaol on 09 August 1856

She was the last woman to be publicly hanged in Dorset, as witnessed by Thomas Hardy then a young boy of 16.
The experience however stayed with him the rest of his life and he was 86 when he wrote:-

"I remember what a fine figure she showed against the sky as she hung in the misty rain and how the tight,
black silk gown set off her shape as she wheeled half round and back

It had been twenty three and a half years since the last public execution of the fifteen year old Silvester Wilkins in Dorchester. Newspaper reports of the trial and execution of Elizabeth Martrha Brown , many of which are already listed on this site, fail to give any real background to her life prior to her arrest. Dorset author Rosemary Ellerback however, who has written many best sellers under the name of Nicola Thorne, researched her background over a number of years and after some excellent detective work managed to unravel many, but not all, of the mysteries surrounding her early life. In November 2000 she published a novel based on Martha's deeply tragic life called 'My name is Martha Brown' which is highly recommended and can be purchased very cheaply on line.

In creating this fictional account Rosemary has stuck as close as possible to the main events in Martha's life, virtually all the characters actually existed and will therefore feature in peoples family trees. More importantly for us Rosemary also published her research notes under the title 'In Search of Martha Brown' and has made clear in these notes what is fact and what is fiction. This too can be purchased online for not much more than the cost of postage and is interesting in itself. For the genealogist however it is invaluable in filling in the background especially where documentation has not been found such as the absence of her baptsim. Rosemary's work also led to articles in the Dorset Echo on 11th Nov 2000 under the title ' The mystery of Martha Brown' and more recently in 'Dorset Ancestors' under 'Elizabeth Martha Clarke: "a most kind and inoffensive woman'.

The following abridged account for the OPC site is constructed from my own research, mainly carried out before I became aware of Rosemary's publications and therefore contains some additional material but primarily concentrates upon providing corroborative source material & links to other information available for the family researcher.

Compiled by Michael Russell OPC Dorchester - October 2011 to April 2013 - Last update March 2017

Map of West Dorset
With the location of villages associated with her story highlighted

Martha Clarke (1811/12-1856)

Martha was the daughter of John and Martha CLARK and she was born about the year 1811. Her father, described in records as a farm labourer or occasionally as a dairyman, moved around West Dorset in search of work and this led to his children (1) being baptised in a variety of different parishes within a relatively small area as shown above. In 1841 he was living at Pilsdon (2) which sits between Bettiscombe and his home parish of Netherbury. Nobody however has so far discovered where his daughter Martha was baptised, if indeed she was, although the 1851 census (3) suggests that she was actually born at 'Whitechurch' which is almost certainly a reference to the parish of Whitechurch Canonicorum where many marriages took place for this area.

The 1851 census for the parish of Thorncombe also shows that her father John CLARK was born at Netherbury about 1775 (4) and this has now been confirmed by the age recorded on his burial record, so as far as we can tell it is accurate. The parish registers for Netherbury & Salway Ash have two John Clarks born about the right time, one in 1774 and the other in 1776. The first John Clark was the son of William and Ann Clark born on 9th Aug 1774 and baptised there on September 2nd. His siblings were two older sisters an Ann born 1767 and Susannah born in 1771. Rosemary Ellerback however speculates that the other John CLARK , who was born on 22nd May and baptised on 20th July 1776 the son of Richard And Mary CLARK, is more likely to be his as he had a sister Mary born in 1772 , another Hannah in 1775 and two brothers Thomas 1778 and Richard 1780 (5) . All these names were given to Martha's brothers and sisters.

John CLARK married at the age of 25 at St Andrews church in Burstock on 18th February 1800 to Martha the 22 year old daughter of Richard & Martha HUSSEY. Martha had been baptised at St John the Baptists church at Symondsbury on Christmas day 1778 the second of five girls from the marriage (6) . John CLARK died at Painsdown and was buried at Thorncombe (7) on the 25th January 1852 aged 77, and Martha CLARKE at Marshalsea in Marshwood on 4th Oct 1854 aged 76 (5) so they both had a full life and were spared any knowledge about the dreadful fate that was to befall their daughter.

Martha's 1st Marriage to Barnard BEARN - 1831

At the age of 20 Martha (who later in her life also went by the name Elizabeth) married at Powerstock to a widower Barnard [Bernard] BEARN [BERN] some 19 years her senior. They married in St Mary's church shown below on 27th December 1831 and as stated by Rosemary Ellerback in her book she signed her name with a cross so at this stage in her life she appears to still be illiterate. (8)

St Marys Church - Powerstock Dorset
Where her sister Elizabeth was baptised on 7th Feb 1819 and Martha married in 1831
Copywrite Derek Voller and lisenced for reuse under the Creative Commons License

Her husband Barnard BEARN [1792-1841] was a butcher by trade selling his meat at Dorchester, Weymouth and Bridport, and had already had a rather tragic life. His Birth is recorded in the parish registers for Netherby & Salway Ash when he was baptised on 17th June 1792, as having occurred 3 weeks earlier on the 25th May. The registers also reveal that he was the fifth child and third son of William BEARN and Martha DUNHAM who had married in the parish on 12th June 1783(9).

    His grandfather, also called William BEARN, originated from the small hamlet of Hennock in Devon and had married his grandmother Martha COX by Licence at Symondbury on 22nd July 1747. His father William BEARN was their eldest child and baptised at Symondsbury on 31st May 1749 followed by his younger brother Bernard (bap 6th Dec 1752) and his sister Anne (bap 29th Sep 1755). Both brothers initially operated out of Bridport but Bernard married by Licence in Netherbury to Mary BEST on 12th Feb 1793 and they settled in her home parish. Both his grandfather and granduncle died in 1796 when our subject was only 4 years old. His grandfather referred to as William BEARNS Senior died in Bridport and his uncle Bernard in Netherbury but they were both returned for burial at Symondsbury his grandfather on the 28th June and his uncle 8 days later on 6th July 1796.

Barnard's first marriage was at the age of 29 when he was described as being from the parish of Askerwell in Dorset and took place after Banns at Powerstock on 10th April 1821 to a young 20 year old spinster by the name of Elizabeth MAWSON (10). Elizabeth's parentage was itself of some note as she was the illegitimate daughter of Samuel WRIXON a wealthy Yeoman of Powerstock and had been baptised there in 1801. She had two other illegitimate siblings, Sally [Sarah] MAWSON bap in 1803 and Samuel Wrixon MAWSON baptised in 1811. Following the birth of her younger brother her parents married at Powerstock and with the position legalised they were able to inherit his estate when he died from an accident in 1815. The circumstances surrounding the death of Samuel WRIXON ( 1745-1815) are covered in the book "The Gate on the Hill" by Harry S Poole. The importance of this from our point of view is that Elizabeth (described in his will as Elizabeth MAWSON otherwise WRIXON) inherited in 1815 Meadways House and Orchard which was situated by the Maggerton River, and can be found marked on the old tithe maps for the region. She was then still only 14 years old, but it meant that she brought this property with her when she married Barnard BEARN.

Following marriage Barnard and Elizabeth therefore lived at Meadways in Powerstock and their first child Eliza BERN [BEARN] soon arrived being baptised at St Mary's on 10th Feb 1822. Elizabeth however tragically died giving birth to their second child, James BEARN, who was baptised on the 24th October 1823, the day she was buried.

Barnard's second marriage to Martha Clark (see registration left) took place in the same church of St Mary's in Powerstock on 27th December 1831 and was witnessed by three people. One was a William Clark who might be her 17 year old younger brother. The second witness was Ann Clark her 27 year old elder sister, and the last witness was George Down the parish clerk. The Banns register also survives showing that Banns had been read on 11th, 18th and 25th December. This goes some way to explain his being 19 years older than Martha as an established tradesman would have offered her security and living at Meadways was definately a step up the social ladder.

Martha therefore entered a household which included Barnard's nine year old daughter Eliza and eight year old son James by his first wife

Barnard and Martha soon had their own child, whom they named William BERN, baptised at Powerstock on Christmas day 1832, and he was quickly followed by a second son Thomas BERN baptised there on 8th Feb 1834. Tragedy however was to strike Barnard for a second time. It is likely that they contracted one of the infectious diseases prevalent at this time (perhaps measles or smallpox) as both young children, probably because they lacked immunity, died in 1835. William died first on 3rd March, then just 2 years old, followed by his 1 year old brother Thomas on 15th of the same month. Just to prove that fate can really be cruel, Barnard's son James by his first wife also died 6 months later, being buried in St Mary's churchyard on 28th September 1835. According to Rosemary, Barnard appears to have got into financial difficulties and had to promptly leave Meadways in 1839.

On the 4th of May 1840 the couple witnessed the marriage of Martha’s sister Ann to John Record both from Marshwood at Whitechurch Canonicorum but there was no trace of Bernard after that date and if as Rosemary in her book points out John Symes was to state at her trial that Martha (alias Elizabeth) had worked for him for 10 years Barnard must have died circa 1841/2. According to the Western Gazette, when they later reported on her trial, she came out of the marriage with about £50 to her name.

Blackmanston Farm - Steeple Dorset
Where Martha/Elizabeth worked for 10 years
Copywrite Google Earth

Although I cannot locate her in the 1841 Census, by 1851 Martha has started a new life as a housekeeper on a large farm of 382 acres at Blackmarston in the parish of Steeple on the Isle of Purbeck. She describes herself as a widow and is now going by the name of Elizabeth Barnes (3). There is a baptism of an Alessandro Cecckerini the son of Eliza BEARN baptised at Powerstock on 10th March 1847 which suggests that his daughter Eliza was still living and independant of Martha but I cannot trace any further reference to her. Given the extreemly unusual Christian names its always possible that she left with the father and went abroad.

John Anthony BROWN (1830-1856)

The starting point for my research into her husband, John Anthony Brown, was his burial which is recorded at Broadwindsor on 10th July 1856 (11). The curate who completed the return, the Reverend Augustus Newland Delafosse (12), gave John's age at burial as 26 [not 19 or 24 as reported in several newspapers at the time] and helped us out by inserting a side note to the entry with the words "Murdered by his wife" , which seems a bit premature given that her trial did not take place until 23rd of that month. We also have first hand evidence from Martha who stated in her testimony to the Coroner given on 7th July 1856 that 'my husband is 26 years of age'. After Martha's execution the Vicar of Broadwinsor, the Rev S.C.Malan, set out his views in a letter to the Times dated 23rd August 1856 from which it is clear that he and no doubt many others in the village were convinced of her guilt from the outset. John was actually buried at the Holy Trinity Chapel of Ease at Blackdown where a monumental incription still exists a picture of which is in Rosemary's book. This documentation means we can place his birth as having taken place around the year 1830.

Luckily there is only one 'John Anthony BROWN' baptised for the whole of Dorset that I can trace and this took place at St Stephens church in the parish of Bettiscombe Dorset on 11th April 1830, the entry listing his parents as Robert and Frances BROWN (13) living at Marshwood . This is neatly confirmed by his marriage certificate where he names his father as Robert Brown a dairyman. His father had actually married his mother Frances DEMAN [Damon or Deamon] on 18th August 1829 (14) at Whitechurch Canonicorum in Dorset which is situated about 2 miles south towards Bridport from Bettiscombe. This has some relevence as the first person to whom Elizabeth went to report her husbands demise was John's cousin Richard DAMON who lived near them at Birdsmoorgate. John Anthony was the first of three children, the others being Christian BROWN baptised at Bettiscombe 25th Dec 1831 who later married as Christiana BROWN to a labourer Thomas BARNES on the 17 Feb 1852 at East Stoke, and a younger sister Elizabeth BROWN baptised there 13th Sep 1840.

In the 1851 Census (3) John is luckily still unmarried and living with his parents Robert & Frances Brown on Blackmanston Farm near Steeple, where his father managed the dairy herd for two brothers John & Robert Symes who ran the 382 acre Farm. The census records John Brown as an agricultural labourer although according to his marriage certificate in 1852 he worked on the farm as a shepherd.

John is correctly shown in the census as 21 years of age and his sisters as 19 and 11. The Western Gazette later described him as 'a fine looking young fellow, standing near 6 feet high' and testomony given at the trial confirmed that he had 'very long thick hair'. The Census gives John and Christian's actual place of birth as Marshwood in Dorset (only about one and a half kilometres west of Bettiscombe where he was baptised) and Elizabeth's as Broadwindsor (5 kilometres east). Clearly the family moved to where they could get work but had all their children baptised at St Stephens. In any event whilst they were living at Blackmanston Farm on the Isle of Purbeck, Elizabeth/Martha was the housekeeper and she became intimately acquainted with John. (3)

2nd Marriage to John Anthony BROWN

Wareham Registry Office 24th January 1852

John BROWN, who seems to have dropped his second name, married Martha BEARNS at the nearest large town; at the registry office in Wareham on 24th January 1852 (15). The witnesses are most likely his aunt Sarah Ann Brown and his brother-in-law Thomas Barns. At her trial Martha was described as 'a woman with short black curls, who wore a quiet appearance'. She was 41 years old when she married for the second time and for many women this marked the end of their child bearing days and this may be the reason she took under her care a small illegitimate child of a relative.
The Birdsmoorgate Community 1852-1856

Following marriage they moved to Birdsmoorgate where John worked as a tranter owning his own horse and waggon. Birdsmoorgate sits on the B3164, the road which leaves Beaminster heading westward passing through Broadwindsor before it comes to the small hamlet Birdsmoorgate in the Marshwood Vale. At the Birdmoorgate crossroads it crosses the B3165 on its way to Thorncombe. At the crossroads sat the Rose and Crown Inn (see picture below) the B3165 coming from the left as it wends its way from Marshwood to exit right heading for Blackdown. This is still an agricultural landscape today as it was in 1856 with small lanes winding between farms but at that time fields were smaller and there was a small cluster of houses along the roads surrounding Birdsmoorgate crossroads. An idea of the layout can be obtained from the 1840 Tithe Aportionment map of Broadwindsor now available to view for members on (top left of this large map). The current layout can be viewed on google earth (Input 'Birdsmoorgate farmhouse' into the search engine). At Martha's trial the prosecution employed a surveyor (Mr. John Purchase of Frampton) to attest to the accuracy of a plan of the village layed before the Jury. A model of the house was also produced but these do not appear to have survived. Rosemary in her book has a reconstruction of the hamlet produced by Graham Chester showing the location of houses where John & Martha and many of the witnesses lived in 1856 which is helpful, but I have produced my own plan concentrating on where the roads led to and who lived there rather than who owned the land or property as I wish to draw out more information on this small community.

Birdsmoorgate 1856

Whilst John travelled the area purchasing household goods and groceries Elizabeth ran a small chandlery shop from their house in the hamlet. According to the Weymouth Journal they were 'in middling circumstances' running a reasonably successful business sufficient for them to acquire several houses and a portion of land. Whilst the former is certainly true I have found no evidence to suggest that they owned several houses and a piece of land. From various accounts from her trial and surviving tithe maps, we know the land on which their house stood was owned by Mary Eliza PINNEY (18) and was situated close to the crossroads. The field within which John Brown kept his horse was actually rented. The house itself is long gone, having been demolished to build some of the outbuildings for Birdsmoorgate Farm. It was in any event partitioned to create two spearate dwellings being divided by a wall made partly of mud and partly of boarding. John and Martha Brown lived in one half, the other being occupied by Francis TURNER a butcher who had only arrived there in March 1856. The prosecution employed a surveyor who stated that 'The floor of the passage in the prisoners house was of mottled stone (Joseph Davis in his testimony stated that it was Curry Mallett stone, a light blue), and the walls whitewashed. The shop was entered from the passage, and there was no other way to the room where the deceased was found but through the shop, which was also paved with flagstones'. He is the first of a number of key individuals who gave evidence at the trial so I will give some background to each of them:-

    (1). Francis TURNER (1830-1891) was the son of a farmer William TURNER and born at Laymore in Crewkerne Somerset. In the 1841 Census Francis is already shown as living in Crewkerne with his uncle Thomas TURNER. The 1851 census is more helpful as it shows that Thomas Turner owns a 190 acre farm at Crewkerne and Francis is still living with him working as an assistant butcher. Francis's sister Susan Turner was to marry Richard Deamon who was working as a carpenter in the same tything (i.e. Laymore Crewkerne) in 1841. They married at Broadwindsor settling there to live - see account of Richard DEAMON given below. Francis no doubt visited his sister there and made his aquaintence with his future wife Elizabeth who also lived down the road in Broadwindsor. We know from his own testimony given at Martha's trial that he moved to Birdsmoorgate in March 1856 and married Elizabeth HITCHCOCK at Broadwindsor on 20th May, so the had only been married 2 months when the murder took place next door (19).

Across the road (as you approach Birdsmoorgate crossroads from Broadwindsor) on the left lived three families who all gave evidence at the trial:-

    (2). The first cottage and garden was where William DAVIS a carpenter and his wife Mary lived. Mary played a central role in the events which led up to the murder.

    William DAVIS (1785-1857) William was baptised at Broadwindsor on 21st August 1785 the son of William & Martha DAVIS. On the 4th October 1819 a bastardy order was issued against him for the costs associated with the lying in of Francis GIBBS a single woman of Broadwindsor, and maintenance of any child resulting from the union. On the 5th March 1820 Francis had the child, a boy, baptised at Broadwindsor with the name of Abraham GIBBS. To his credit William then married Frances GIBBS at Broadwindsor on 20th Feb 1821 and she produced two more children for him, (1st) Sophia Davis who was baptised on 30th Dec 1821 but she died at the age of 7 being buried there on 7th May 1828 (2nd) Lucy Davis who was baptised on Christmas day 1823. Frances died, although I have not so far been able to trace her burial, and Lucy is living with her father at Birdsmoorgate in the 1841 Census, so presumably Frances died prior to 1841. On 26th May 1842 Lucy married an agricultural labourer John HAWKER at Bettiscombe but they settled at Birdsmoorgate and had a family of 3 children by 1851.

    William then re-married as a widower to Mary MILLS (1824-1896) a spinster at Whitchurch Canonicorum on 2nd March 1843. She was the eldest of five daughters of a labourer Samuel MILLS (1802-1889) who married Phebe BOWDITCH (1795-1872) on 1st April 1823 when she was over 5 months pregnant with Mary. Mary was baptised at Hawkchurch on 17th Aug 1823 and was 19 years old when she married William who was 58 and therefore 39 years her senior. Mary's parents lived at Cockpit in Broadwindsor prior to 1861 and stayed there for the rest of their lives. William & Mary had 3 children, (1) Mary Jane bap Bettiscombe 15 Mar 1846, no trace post baptism. (2) William Alfred bap Bettiscombe 29 July 1849 and George Walter bap 3rd May 1856. William was buried at Broadwindsor on 17th March 1857 when his age was given as being 72. Mary remarried at Broadwindsor on 27th April 1876 to the widower Simeon POWELL (1813-1889) a native of Wooton Fitzpaine who was already resident in Birdsmoorgate and gave his occupation as that of butcher. By 1881 however he appears to have taken over the grocery shop Mary ran and he is living with his step son George Davis. Simeon died on 23rd April 1889 at Broadwindsor and his will was proved by Mary. He was buried at Bettiscombe and left an estate of just £58. 5s 10d. Mary died at Birdsmoorgate on 5th June 1896 and was buried at Bettiscombe on the 10th, probate being granted to her son Willian Alfred Davis a retired dairyman. She left an estate of £276. 19s 4d

    (3). Next door lived Richard Deamon, John Brown's cousin and his wife Susan (nee Turner) the sister of Francis Turner. We know from the surveyors report that this house was 130 yards from where John & Martha BROWN lived. Richard DEAMON [DAMON] (1824-1877) was the son of a labourer John DEAMON and born at Crewkerne in Somerset. In 1841 he was living at Ward farm in Laymore Crewkerne with a dairyman on the farm called John DAMON aged 70 and his wife Christiana of the same age. Given the age difference (he was actually 17) this may not have been his father but is likely to have been a close relation. In 1851 he was lodging on a farm at nearby Pilsdon working as a journeyman carpenter and he married Susan TURNER on 16th June 1853 at Broadwindsor after banns had been read on 3 consecutive Sundays (1st; 8th; and 15th May 1853). They settled at Birdsmoorgate for the rest of their lives. Richard was buried at Broadwindsor aged 55 on 13th April 1878 and Susan aged 60 on 11th Feb 1878.
    (4). The nearest house was occupied by Joseph DAVIS (1817- 1867) a farmer of 54 acres and a master builder who according to the 1861 Census was employing 9 men and a boy. With him is his wife Ellen (nee Symes) and three children (1) Frederick Samuel Davis bap Broadwindsor 2nd Feb 1847; he became a draper and lived in Yeovil in 1871. (2) Alice Davis bap Broadwindsor 21st Dec 1849 ; she became a Governess . (3) Herbert John Davis bap 20th Nov 1853. Joseph is shown in the 1849 and 1865 Post Office Directories as a Carpenter of Birdsmoorgate and in the latter as a receiving house for post for the hamlet. Joseph died on 27th August 1867 at the age of 49 and was buried at Bettiscombe on 3rd Sept 1867 where the parish register confirms his abode to have been Birdsmoorgate. Probate was granted on 9th Feb to his brother Walter Davis of Isleworth Middlesex a Butter Factor, John Turner Symes of Great Stanney Hall near Chester Yeoman and his widow Ellen Davis also of Great Stanney Hall. His estate amounted to £450. After his death Ellen is shown the 1871 census as a widow visiting her daughter Alice who is working as a governess at Dalewood in Devon; in 1881 she is the Innkeeper of the Fox Inn at Hilton but by 1891 she is living with her brother John SYMES at Springhead Kilmington Axminster who is a retired farmer. They were both children of a Yeoman Samuel SYMES by his wife Mary. John Symes being baptised at Netherbury on 17th March 1819 and Ellen with her sister Charlotte on 7th Jan 1825. In 1901 Ellen is still living in Kilmington but with her son Herbert J Davis who is running a grocers shop.

At Birsdmoorgate crossroads where the B3164 from Broadwindsor meets the B3165 road from Marshwood to Blackdown sat the Rose and Crown Inn. It does not appear to have changed a great deal since 1856 when it was owned by William STANTON ( 1792-1872) the Innkeeper, although its been a private house since the late 1990's now called 'Rose & Crown House'. William owned half a dozen plots of land either side of the road leaving Birdsmoorgate towards Thorncombe, shown below with the national speed limit sign .

The old Rose & Crown - Birdsmoorgate May 2007 - William Stanton Innkeeper in 1856
Copywrite Chris Downer and & licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    (5). William STANTON [STAUNTON] Senior (1792 -1872) (20) He was baptised on 11th April 1792 at Thorncombe in Dorset. He was the son of William STANTON (1765-1841) by his wife Betty PHELPS (1752-1825) who had married at Thorncombe on 5th Feb 1788. His mother was buried at Thorncombe on 8th March 1825 and his father on 17th Oct 1841 aged 76. In fact the Devon record office have the will of a William STANTON the elder of Thorncombe dated 1829 (Ref 1078/IRW) so it may be possible to trace the family back much further. Returning to William Stanton Senior he is said to have married Elizabeth HANSFORD (1789-aft 1861) but I have not so far located a marriage registration. They had a son William STAUNTON Junior baptised at Thorncombe on 28th March 1828 when William Stanton Senior was working as a mason. By 1830 William Stanton an Innkeeper of Birdsmoorgate is appearing on jury lists in Broadwindsor. He is shown on the 1840 Tithe Map for Broadwindsor as owner and occupier of 6 plots of land at Birdsmoorgate one of which (plot 1690) is the ground on which the Rose and Crown Inn still stands. William and Elizabeth are also shown in the 1841 Census under Broadwindsor as living at Birdsmoorgate. William's occupation is given as that of publican so it's fairly clear that they were running the Rose and Crown Inn from about 1830. In 1851 they are recorded as living at the Rose and Crown Inn on the Census return but it is recorded under the returns for the village of Marshwood (the parish boundary today is just down the road). William Stanton is shown as an Innkeeper and Farmer of 12 acres employing 1 labourer and it was William Stanton Senior that was present in Birdsmoorgate when the murder took place although he does not appear to have been a witness at the trial or even questioned by the coroner. I find this suprising given the Inns close proximity to where the murder took place and the fact that the coroners inquest was actually held at the Inn on the 7th July. Elizabeth his wife died before the next census by which time their son William Stanton junior has taken over the business and William Stanton Senior is shown as a 76 year old widower. There is a death recorded at the GRO of a William Stanton who died in the district of Beaminster in 1st qtr 1872, but I have not been able to locate a burial for him or indeed one for his wife.

    William STANTON [STAUNTON] Junior (1826-1902) Born about 1826 he was baptised at Thorncombe Dorset on 28th March 1828. He trained to become a master baker and married his mothers neice, also called Elizabeth HANSFORD (1826-1888), at Stoke Sub Hamden in Somerset on 11th Jan 1849. Elizabeth was born at Stoke Abbott which is situated only a couple of miles south east of Broadwindsor. Banns for their marriage had also been read at Stepney St Dunstan and All Saints church on 3 consecutive Sundays (3rd; 10th and 17th Dec 1848) so I assume that this is the parish in London where William was working as a baker. Their first 4 sons were born at Poplar in Middlesex but they left London in 1859 and returned to Chard in Somerset in 1860. By 1861 they were living at Montacute in Somerset where William was the Innkeeper of the Philips Arms Inn. They had the following children (1) William Stanton born on 17th April 1850 and baptised at All Saints church Poplar Middlesex 9th June 1850 (2) Alfred William Stanton included on family trees on ancestry but I have not located a baptism for him. (3) Thomas Stanton born 1st March 1856 and bap at All Saints 4th May 1856 (4) Walter Stanton born 24th May 1858 bap 21st Nov 1858 All Saints Poplar (5) Elizabeth Mary Stanton born 4th July 1860 at Chard in Somerset. (6) Sarah Jane Stanton born 12 Nov 1862, bap Bettiscombe 8th Dec 1862 (7) Emma Stanton born 13th Oct 1864, bap Bettiscombe 9th Oct 1864 (8) Joseph Stanton born 4th qtr 1867 (GRO 5a/358) bap Bettiscombe 12th april 1868. The family had moved to Birdsmoorgate by 1871 and taken over the running of the Rose and Crown from his father who was still living with them. Elizabeth died and was buried at Bettiscombe aged 62 on 15th Nov 1888 and William continued to run the Rose and Crown until his death on 24th Feb 1901.

On the left just past at the junction shown in the picture above where the B3165 heads towards Marshwood, was the house occupied by the widow Harriet Knight, a confidant of Martha Brown.

    Harriet KNIGHT nee POMEROY (1809-1884) she married William KNIGHT (1806-1846) a labourer at Broadwindsor on 18th Nov 1827 and they raised 10 children (21) initially at Broadwindsor, then in the parishes of Mosterton in Dorset, Misterton in Somerset, Thorncombe, and Bettiscombe as William sought work as an agricultural labourer. William was baptised at Mosterton on 2nd March 1806 the son of William KNIGHT by his wife Sarah Diment and died at the age of 40 when they were living at nearby Racedown and buried at Broadwindsor on 1st Feb 1846. Harriet shown as a widow is living in Birdsmoorgate in the 1851 Census with 5 of her younger children and still there in 1856 when the murder took place. Later in life (1871) she found work in Broadwindsor as a nurse and died at Coles Cross being buried at Broadwindsor at the age of 75 on 14th Oct 1884.

A little further down the road to Marshwood on the far side was the house in which Elizabeth SAMPSON lived, another key witness at the trial. The field in which John Brown kept his horse belonged to her and was close to her house. The surveyor at the trial measured the distance between her house and that of John Brown's as 123 yards, and the distance to the field as 137 yards.

    Elizabeth SAMPSON. All we know from the trial is that she was married and living with her husband at Birdsmoorgate in 1856. She is not recorded as living in Birdsmoorgate in any census return which makes positive identification difficult. The only Elizabeth married in the Broadwindsor area is Elizabeth ELSWOOD (1783-2868) who married Joseph SAMPSON (1799-869) at Broadwindsor church on 29th Jan 1821. Joseph the son of another Joseph was a Farmer of 14 acres at Courtwood in Broadwindsor. The problem is that they seem to have been steadily in residence at Courtwood Farm right through from before 1841 until their deaths - Joseph being buried at Broadwindsor on 16th May 1868 aged 69 and Elizabeth on 19th Feb 1868 aged 85. If this is her then she was 71 years old at the time of the murder.

Back at Broadwindsor at the church of St John was the curate the Rev. Augustus Newland DELAFOSSE who was quick to express his opinion and attempted to obtain a confession from Martha after she had been found guilty.

    Rev. Augustus Newland DELAFOSSE MA (1825- 1902) He was the 4th son of Rev. Daniel Charles Delafosse (d.1859) the Rector of Shere and born at Richmond in Surrey. He matriculated at Oriel College Oxford on 23 Nov 1843 at the age of 18 and was awarded his BA degree there in 1847 and an MA in 1851. He joined the church being ordained a deacon in 1848 and was made a priest the following year by the Bishop of Winchester. He was initially appointed perpetual curate of St Martha's in Guildford where he served from 1849 to 1852. He was then made curate of Broadwindsor serving from 1852 to 1862 so was there throughout Martha's time at Birdsmoorgate which came under his parish. He married the year of the murder (on 11th Feb 1856) to Catherine DAVEY (b.1827) the eldest daughter of the late William Davey at Redruth in Cornwall by whom he had several children. A copy of their marriage settlement dated 9th Feb 1856 is held at the Cornwall Record Office (Nat Archives Ref X/673/4) under records of the Delafosse and related families In 1862 he was made curate in sole charge of Aylsham Norfolk but died at the age of 77 in 1902 in Portsmouth Hampshire.

The journal also suggests that there was some jealousy by Martha of Mary DAVIS. It quotes an incident probably reported to the journalist by neighbours:- "Suffice it to say that it is probable that there was an initimate connection between the deceased man, Brown , and the woman which was discovered by the convict who on one occasion it is reported, whilst listening under a window of the house where the woman resided, recognised her husbands voice within and heard the disgusting language jocularly incident to such improper interviews. This led to the unfortunate woman, about 12 months since (i.e. 1855) , to violently beat Mary DAVIS for which she was summoned before the magistrates and bound over to keep the peace".

We therefore have a situation where Martha's 1st husband was 19 years her senior so she would not have seen any problem in marrying for the second time to a man 19 years younger than herself. Given the tragedy of her 1st marriage you can see the attraction of John who was 38 years younger than her 1st husband and reputed to be some six feet tall. Mary Davis seems to have been in a similar position as her husband was 38 years older then herself but there was only a six year difference between her and John Brown.

John Brown's Last Day - 5th July 1856

John BROWN often worked with another tranter called George FOOKS who lived a couple of miles north of Birdsmoorgate at Blackdown with his wife Ann and their five children (17). According to the testimony he gave at the trial George had known John Brown for 5 years and that the Brown's had lived at Birdsmoorgate for the last 4 years. He knew him therefore in 1851 the year before John and Martha married and whilst John was still employed on the farm at Blackmanston working as a shepherd. It seems likely therefore that it was George who gave John Brown the idea of becoming a tranter, possibly because long distance jobs he was undertaking needed more than one wagon. Martha is said to have had about £50 from her previous marriage, quite a lot of money in those days, and this was probably the means by which they saw a way to marry, break free from their current situation, and establish their own business.

George also states at the trial that Martha 'kept a shop for groceries' so John would have collected produce from the surrounding farms as well. The nature of his business inevitably meant that John was away from home for long periods whilst Elizabeth was more or less bound to the shop and village. On the way home he would often stop off at one of the local Inn's for a drink and it was said that instead of retiring to bed he would sometimes lie down on the floor and spend the night there. Whilst some newspapers latched onto this to suggest that their marriage was strained it was more likely to be because Martha would be in bed with the small child they were caring for and he did not wish to disturb them. A mattress on the floor or a small trundle bed was common in those days. When George was later cross examined at the trial he said ' I have often seen the deceased and the prisoner together, and have seen them several times a week for the preceding three months, and they always behaved very well to each other'. Also John's cousin Richard Damon, who lived across the road only 130 yards from the Brown's house , also said ' I was frequently in the deceased house and can speak positively that for the last three months they lived comfortably and happy'.

On 5th July 1856 both George FOOKS and John BROWN arranged to travel the seven miles to Beaminster, as they had to deliver a load of poles. So at about half past five on that morning, George called at John and Martha's house in Birdsmoorgate where they had breakfast together. About 9 o'clock George and John set off with both waggons. About half a mile from their house John gave a lift to Mary DAVIS for about a quarter of a mile. She then changed waggons to travel a little further with George Fooks to a field on Atisham farm where she was working. Both George and John arrived at Beaminster about 1 o'clock and left between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. As they entered Broadwindsor they stopped in the centre of the village at the 'Cross Keys Inn' which is shown in the postcard below. This view taken from the croosroads shows the High Street heading North to Mosterton, but John and George would have arrived on the Beaminster road entering immediately right of the picture. Thery entered the 'Cross Keys Inn' ostensibly to get change, but remained there according to George's testimony at the trial for about an hour.

The Cross Keys Inn - Broadwindsor
Now a private residence

From the 'Cross Keys Inn' they continued on their way exiting left from the picture above and proceeded a short distance up Back Lane until they entered the Square the other main cross roads in the centre of Broadwindsor. West Street (their way home) entered the square from the left (the road by the car in the picture left below) and the last building facing them was their next destination the 'George Inn' shown in the picture right below. In 1651 on this spot stood the 'Castle Inn' Broadwindsor's most noted claim to fame as King Charles II stayed at the Inn whilst escaping from the Parliamentarians.

Charles II was defeated at the Battle of Worcester on 3rd September 1651 (Link to an account of his escape) . An attempt to get him away to France failed and on his way back to Trent Manor from Charmouth he stayed at the 'Castle Inn'. Unfortunately about 40 soldiers decided to spend the night as well. Luckily for the King, one of the women travelling with the soldiers went into labour, and in the confusion that followed, no one paid attention to Charles, who was able to escape undetected. The 'Castle Inn' was pulled down and replaced by the current buildings shown in the pictures below. The small cottage attached to the George Inn is acknowledge by English Heritage to have been build circa 1800 and the stone tablet between the windows states "King Charles II slept here September 23-24 1651 erected 4th April 1802

The history of the George Inn however suggests that the 'Castle Inn' was burnt down and the 'George Inn' erected in 1850. Suffice it to say that these buildings were there when John Brown and George Fooks arrived in 1856.

Picture left: King Charles Cottage in 'The Square' - adjoined to - picture right formerly The George Inn - Broadwindsor
Copywrite (1) John M (2) Martin Bodman and both licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In the course of the evening John Brown went to a sadlers named Kerslake and bought a mill belt which he put in a bag and tied to his waggon. They left together and separated at Mounts corner, John proceeding towards his home with his horse and cart. Mounts Corner was the junction on the B3164 with Spectets Lane which leads to Blackdown where George Fooks lived. So he turned off the road immediately before Pilsdon Pen an impressive flat topped hill 277 meters high of some renown as it was the site of a Hill fort with 14 roundhouses.(22) That was the last that anyone saw of John Brown alive.

The Murder - 6th July 1856

About 5 o'clock in the morning of 6th July Martha went to a neighbours house about 130 yards from their own and woke John's cousin Richard DEAMON by banging on his bedroom window, begging him to come immediately as the horse had nearly killed John. Richard went to the house and found John lying on the floor on his right side on a green cushion in the living room; A handkerchief was tied round his head, which lay 3 or 4 feet towards the window, his face towards the grate; he took hold of his left hand but he was quite dead and still warm. The blood was descending from the back part of his head and there was little or none on his face, and none on his shirt. He said to Martha 'John is dead' and Martha said 'Is he?'. Richard said 'Yes' and asked how long he had been there, and where she found him. Martha said she found him at the door-step at two oclock and got him in as well as she could. I asked her why she had not called me before. Martha said he caught hold of her dress, and she could not get away. Martha then begged Richard to call Harriet KNIGHT.

Richard awoke Harriet KNIGHT asking her to go to the Browns house as John had been killed and and then crossed over the road to the field where John kept his horse by Elizabeth SAMPSON's house. By the side of the gate which was closed he found John Brown's hat standing on the crown and stated ' it was where it could not have got from being kicked through the gate and it did not appear to have been struck'. Inside the gate under the rail of a hay-rick he also found the horses blind-halter. There was no mark of blood near the gate but about 6 feet from the gate there was a mark of cord as if a person having cord trousers had laid down there and a little closer to the gate 'there was an appearance as if someone had been sick'. Harriet SMITH who halped Martha lay him out later deposed at the trial that John Brown had been wearing cord trousers. Richard then went to the Rose and Crown and raised William STANTON Senior the innkeeper and his boy, Francis TURNER the butcher and Joseph DAVIS. He went back inside the house and made an exact examination of the passage; but saw no blood anywhere but in the living room. Richard also noticed that one of John Brown's boots was unlaced; the other had a strap instead of a lace. With Joseph Davis and Francis Turner, Richard retraced the route back to the field and took particular notice that there was no mark of blood or scuffing between the House and the gate (which was 137 yards away) nor did he see any mark outside the window where Martha said he had been lying.

Harriet KNIGHT's deposition was also crucial as she stated that she heard the gate of the field where John Brown kept his horse open or shut, and just after, footsteps from that direction. She looked out of the window (from which she could in daylight see the gate, but not that night) to see who it was supposing it was John Brown but was too late to see. She heard the horse grazing in the field but heard nothing more until roused by Richard Deamon. Her evidence on how she found John Brown when she entered their house agreed with that given by Richard Deamon and Harriet clearly doubted that the horse had killed him as she said so to Martha. About half past eight she was joined by Hannah SMITH who lived about a quarter of a mile from the Browns house and Matha asked her and Harriet to lay John out.

The Coroner's Inquest - 7th July 1856

The Coroner's Inquest was held on Monday July 7th at 5p.m. at the Rose & Crown Inn in Birdsmoorgate before Samuel Skinner Cory a magistrate from Bridport. He took statements from Martha Brown; Richard Deamon; Harriet Knight; and George Fooks. A surgeon from Bridport Henry Strangeway HOUNSELL examined the body and found six wounds on his head about an inch in length exposing the skull, the frontal, both parietal and the left temporal bones were much fractured, with protrusion of brain at the frontal wound. On the face over the eyebrow he found a wound more than an inch long and a bruise over the nasal bones. There was a bruise on the back of the neck. Other parts of his body were without any mark or wound excepting a slight injury to one of the fingers of the left hand and an abrasion over the right shoulder.

After examining the witnesses the jury delivered a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. On Tuesday morning 8th July an inquiry took place before the magistrates and after examining the witnesses Elizabeth Martha BROWN was taken into custody and the following day committed to Dorchester Gaol charged with the wilful murder of her husband. She was taken by Mr HULL one of the parish constables and received at Dorchester on 9th July 1856 to await trial.(23)

Elizabeth SAMPSON who lived next to, and owned the field where John Brown kept his horse, was obviously reluctant to take part in proceedings. According to the evidence given at Martha's trial she was not seen by the Magistrates on 7th and had to be subpoeaned to give evidence. The trial report states that this was the preceding Thurday which would have been the 17th but probably was the 10th as her statement is included in Rosmary's Appendix 1 which was taken from the account of the Coroner's Inquest reported in the Western Mail on 17th July. In any event it seems that Martha was charged without the benefit of Elizabeth SAMPSON's evidence being received and I wonder to what extent she was influenced by Martha's arrest. She stated that her bedroom window looks rather towards Brown's house and her statement said that on the morning of the 6th July about 2 o'clock she heard three loud screams or groans the last more faint than the former ones from the direction of John Brown's house for certain, not from the gate where his hat was found which was close to her house. She could not distinguish whether they were a male or female voice. It appeared to be about the distance of Mr Stanton's or John Browns house, certainly from that direction.

The Trial - 21st July 1856

The Trial was held at the Crown Court in Dorchester and took place on 21st July 1856 lasting a day but going on until 10 o'clock at night. Martha's trial was presided over by Serjeant William Fry CHANNELL (1804-1873) aged 51 titular leader of the Home Circuit who was acting judge on the Western Circuit in 1856.

    Serjeant William Fry CHANNELL (1804-1873) Born in Bermondsey Surrey on 31st Aug 1804 the son of Pike Channell, an officer under Admiral Nelson at Copenhagen and Mary the stepdaughter of William Fry. His father left the navy, became a merchant and settled at Peckham where Willian was educated privately. He was articled to a solicitor called Trustin but soon gave up his articles to join the Inner Temple. He was called to the bar in 1827 and had a busy practice both in Surrey and on the home circuit. In 1834 he married Martha Hawkes the daughter of Richard Moseley of Champion Hill in Camberwell but they only had one son. Channell was made a Serjeant-at-Law in 1840 and he and Serjeant Talford led the court until it was thrown open in 1846. In 1884 Channell received a patent of precedence and after Baron Platt was raised to the bench he led the home circuit for some time. In 1856 Baron Platt being taken ill he acted as commissioner of assize on the spring and summer circuits and the winter gaol delivery and hence appeared at Dorchester. On the 12th Feb 1857 he was appointed by Lord Chancellor Cranworth to succeed Baron Alderton in the court of exchequer and was knighted. As a judge he was thought to be conscientious, careful and learned, but very severe to criminals.

    The following individuals were selected as the Jury

    Charles DYKE a widower of Broad Street, Lyme Regis. a tailor & draper by trade employing 13 men and 3 boys by 1861 age 41 (qualified for Jury service 25th Aug 1855)
    Henry LOCKE of Broad Street Lyme Regis a printer, bookseller and stationer age 52 (qualified for Jury service 25th Aug 1855)
    Albion LAYERS of Broad Street Lyme Regis a grover age 50 (qualified for Jury service 25th Aug 1855)
    Robert RADFORD Junior of Broad Street Lyme Regis a cabinet maker & upholsterer age 28 (qualified for Jury Service 25th Aug 1855
    Robaret GALE of South Street Bridport a mason age 47 (qualified for Jury service 25th September 1855)
    Charles LAMBERT of Bowridge Hill Gillingham a yeoman farmer of 100 acres age 31 (qualified for July service 24th September 1855)
    Isaac Foster FOOT of East Street Bridport a butter agent and cooper age 26 (qualified for Jury service 25th September 1855)
    Robert SEYMOUR of East Street Bridport a grocer age 57 (qualified for Jury service 25th September 1855)
    Benjamin HALLETT of West Street Bridport a shoemaker or cordwainer age 60 (qualified for Jury service 25th September 1855)
    Giles Draper PRYER of the parish Charmouth in the hundred of Whitchurch Canonicorum a master mason age 47 (qualified for July service 24th September 1855)
    George RIDGLEY of Majeston in Gillingham a cheesefactor age 51 (qualified for July service 24th September 1855)
    James LOVE of the parish Charmouth in the hundred of Whitchurch Canonicorum a butcher age 38 (qualified for July service 24th September 1855)

A detailed account reported in the Western Gazette on 24th July is given in Rosmarys Book. So I have chosen to add an alternative reporting from a day earlier which was published in the Times Newspaper on Wednesday 23rd July 1856 [Issue22427]


Crown Court.- (before Mr Serjeant CHANNELL).
Elizabeth Martha BROWN was indicted for the wilful murder of John Anthony Brown, her husband, at Broadwindsor on the 6th July (1856). Mr Stock and Mr Compton appeared for the prosecution; Mr Edwards for the prisoner. It appeared that the prisoner and the deceased were formerly fellow-servants on a farm. An intimacy sprang up between them, and, although he was only 19 and the prisoner 40, they were married about five years ago. The deceased then became a carrier, and was, in consequence, frequently from home, and there was reason to believe that the prisoner was jealous of her husband. On the 5th of July the deceased went with his horse and cart with another man, also with his horse and cart, to Beaminster, a distance of about seven miles. On the road they saw Mary DAVIS the woman of whom the prisoner was jealous, and she walked some short way with them.

They left Beaminster on their return home about 4o'clock in the afternoon, but called at a publichouse on their road, where they remained drinking and playing skittles until midnight; they then left the publichouse and proceeded onward until they came to a division of the road, where the deceased and his friend parted, each going towards his own home. About 2 o'clock in the morning a woman called KNIGHT, who lived close to the gate of the field in which the deceased kept his horse, heard footsteps, which she believed to be those of the deceased, going past her house. She had previously heard the gate of the field slam, and a noise as of a horse eating grass. A Mrs FRAMPTON, who lived some distance off, heard screams between 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning, proceeding in a direction from Brown's house.

All was then quiet until 5 o'clock in the morning when the prisoner called up a person called DAMON, who lived some 130 yards off. he immediately got up and went to the Browns house and in an inner room he found Brown lying on the floor on his right side, blood was flowing freely from his head, and his hair was covered with brains and blood. He was dead. The prisoner was standingby; he asked her how it happened. She said she had heard a noise outside the house, and she opened the door,and found her husband - he was bleeding very much. He said "the Horse". She carried him along the passage, through the shop, and into this inner room. DAMON asked her why she did not call him before. She said her husband had hold of her dress, and she could not get away from him until he became weak and faint, and then she pushed him back, and he fell to the ground. DAMON examined the body, but there was no blood on the bosom of his shirt. There was no blood in the passage or in the house except in the room where the body was lying. There was no blood in the road leading from the fieldnor were there any marks of any struggle. The field Gate was 137 yards from the house. His hat was close to the gate as if it had been placed there, and did not apopear as if it had fallen off. A halter was hanging on the rial gate. Other persons were then called up and went to the house. The deceased head was tied up with a hankerchief.

The following evidence is very important.

Richard William BROSTER - I am a surgeon at Beaminster and have been in pravtice seven or eight years. I and another gentleman named GILBERT were requested to make a post mortem examination of Brown. We did so on the Wednesday, in his house. The body was in a coffin, and was dressed for interment. there was a wound over the right eyebrow, dividing the integument, but the bone was not fravtured there; that commenced at the eye, and ran upwrds and outwards. The bones of the nose were broken. There was a small would at the root of the nose, which haddriven in the inner angle of the organ. there was a wound a little above the left eyebrow, triangular, through which the bone protruded. the integument was separated from the bone, leaving the triangular bone protruding. At the side of the left eye, a little behind, was wound running up and down about an inch in length. The open surface of the integument was about a quaretr of an inch. Passing backwards over the head, there was anothertriangular wound, through which the bone protruded. it was about an inch at its base. It was a little bent on on one side, coming up to an angle. Behind that was a wound passing from before, backwards, not triangular. On the top of the head there was another three cornered wound. Quite at the back of the head there was another wound that was divided into two. The left ear was perforated and behind it a long wound divided into two. It did not gape above a quarter of an inch and it was rather more than an inch long. We removed the integument from the skull and found the frontal bone fractured on the left side extendingabove the middle of the orbit upwards and backwards across the parietal bone, and extending into the occipita bone from an inch to an inch and a half. The frontal bone was separated from the parietal about half an inch. I then removed seven pieces of bone that were driven in on the brain, varying in size from about half an inch to three inches. I then removed the brain, and at the back of the head, at the lower part of the brian, there was a large quantity of blood that had been effused. The Plexus of the brian was very much inflamed. The forefinger of the left hand was bruised, but whether it was old or new bruise I could not say.

Either of the wounds I have described would cause death. The kind I have mentioned would. The small wound at the root of the nose, the one behind the triangular wound, or the one behindthe ear would. Such wounds would have caused a great flow of blood. Presuming the deceased to have received the injuries in the field, he could not have gone home without a considerable flowing of blood over the face and over the front of the person. I presume he could not have gone that distance without leaving traces of bloodon the road. The wound in the nose would have bled freely. supposing he was assisted into the house by his wife as she stated, i should think there would be marks of blood, unless her clothes caught it. If he had received the injuries in the field, my opinion is he could not have reached his home - he must have been totally paralyzed. That must necessarily and immediately have been the effect of the injuries. I belive there are three wounds that would incapacitate him from going that distance. all the wounds being there, a person would nothave been able to speak afterwards. Under the three wounds in the brain was so damaged that he could not have lived afterwards. I have been in court during the trial. The decaesed could not have held the prisoner as statedtwo hours after receiving the wounds. he would have been daed.

Before the prisoner left the dock she was asked by the Rev la Foss whether the story about the horse was not trumped up to which she replied "it was ". She added that the way in which her husband came by his death was by falling down the stairs and declared with an oath that "she never struck him at all".

By the JUDGE- there might have been a death grip, but he must have had power previously to grasp her.

Examination continued:- After receiving the wound he would not have power to grasp so. The wounds were not such as would be occasioned by the kick of a horse; one of them might have been produced by the kick of a horse, butthey were not at all like what would be caused by the kick of a horse; they were such as might have been produced by a blunt instrument, such as the back side of a hatchet; striking sidways with the back of a hatchet would produce a three cornered wound- some such as he had described.

Cross examined by the defence: I have never been present when a skull was fractured; i do not know that I have ever seen wounds caused by the kick of a horse or by the back of a hatchet; a flat iron or a poker that had an angular edge would cause such wounds; I have seen about half a dozen fractures of the skull' have seen a patient breathe afterwardsbut not conscious; sometimes when there has been a fractureof the skull persons have lived years afterwards. the wound behind the ear I should think would cause death. the piece of bone was driven into the brian, and deceased could nothave walked after receiving that. there are two other wounds that would prevent him from walking. Witness was also examined on some extraordinary instances of recovery after the bone of the head had been severly fractured.

Re-examined - I looked at the horses shoes; one was in two pieces. I come to the coclusion that they would not produce the wounds - certainly not.

By the Judge:- I belive the man was dead immediately after receiving the wounds.

Joachim GILBERT - I live at Beaminster. i have been in practice 32 years. In Company with the alst witness I made a post mortem examination of Brown. I have heard his account of the wounds; I agree with him, and come to the same conclusion.

Cross Examined: - I know there have been remarkable instances of portions of the substance of the brian having been lost, and the person recovering, but in this case it was merely impossible. The temporal bone was driven in half an inch. I know there are cases in which the bone had been driven in and the person afterwards recovered.

By the Judge:- When there is pressure of bone pn the brian and a portion of the brian esacpes it sometimes affords relief. There was one of the wounds at the top of the head in which I put my finger at least an inch. Ir was impossible for this and the others to exist without a tremendous shedding of blood.

Mr Ewwards:- Addressed the Jury on behalf of the prisoner, urging upon them that the death might have been caused by the kick of the horse, or that some other person might have inflicted the blows, but that itwas most improbable the wife should have done the mischief, as she depended on her husband for her living.

Mr Sergeant CHANNELL having summed up the Jury retired at 6 o'clock. They were sent for at 10 o'clock and they said they wished to ask some questions of the medical men. Mr GILBERT was sent for and in answer to questions put to him by the jury said that had the post mortem examination taken place earlier the appearances would have been the same, and that it would have been perfectly impossible for the man after having been so dreadfully wounded to get into the inner room even with the assistance of the wife. The jury upon this found the prisoner Guilty and the sentence of death was passed upon her, the Judge stating that he concurred in the verdict. The court was crowded the whole day.

The Confession 7th August 1856
Made before the Governor and the Prison Chaplain Rev Dacre Clemetson

Martha's confession made in Dorchester Prison 7 August 1856 before The Governor and the Prison Chaplain the Rev, Dacre Clemetson.

    "My husband, John Anthony Brown, came home on Sunday morning, the 6th of July at two o'clock, in liquor, and was sick He had no hat on. I asked him what he had done with his hat. He abused me, and said "What is that to you? Damn you!" He then asked for some cold tea. I said I had none, but would make him some warm. His answer was "Drink it yourself and be damned "I then said, "What makes you so cross? Have you been to Mary Davis's?" He then kicked out the bottom of the chair on which I had been sitting, and we continued quarrelling until 3o 'clock, when he struck me a severe blow on the side of the head, which confused me so much I was obliged to sit down. He then said (supper being on the table at the time) "Eat it yourself and be damned," and reached down from the mantelpiece a heavy hand whip, with a plaited head and struck me across the shoulders with it 3 times, and every time I screamed out I said "if you strike me again, I will cry murder" He replied "if you do I will knock your brains through the window," and said hoped he should find me dead in the morning, and then kicked me on the left side, which caused me much pain. He immediately stooped down to unbuckle his boots, and being much enraged, and in an ungovernable passion at being so abused and struck, I seized a hatchet that was lying close to where I sat, and which I had been making use of to break coal for keeping up the fire to keep his supper warm, and struck him several violent blows on the head I could not say how many and he fell at the first blow on his side, with his face to the fireplace and he never spoke or moved afterwards. As soon as I had done ill would have given the world not to have done it. I had never struck him before after all his ill treatment, but when he hit me so hard at this time I was almost out of my senses, and hardly knew what I was doing!" Signed ELIZABETH MARTHA BROWN

The utmost efforts were made to save her life. Petitions were sent from several towns in the country and on Friday R.B.Sheridan Esq M.P. and the Rev Dacre Clemetson proceeded to London to wait on the Secretary of State for the Home Department to try and obtain a reprieve but to no avail. Martha was visited in her cell by her sister, and her brother and his wife, and her murdered husbands father.

Execution 9th August 1856
From accounts published in the Times 11th Aug 1856 Page 10 issue 22443
Daily News London Monday 11th Aug 1856 and
Lancaster Gazette 16th Aug 1856 Page 2 Issue 3619

This morning (Saturday) a few minutes after 8 o'clock Elizabeth Martha BROWN was executed on a scaffold erected over the gateway of the new entrance leading to the Dorset County Gaol in North Square.

About 7 a.m. the under Sheriff (C.Henning Esq) the sheriff officers and javelin men, met at the county hall, and proceeded to the gaol, by the old entrance, where they arrived at about a quarter-past seven. The usual formula was then gone through. viz:- The under sheriff knocked at the door, which was answered by the Governor (J,V.Lawrence Esq.) who asked "Who is there?" The answer given was "The sheriff of Dorset, who demands the body of Elizabeth Martha Brown now under sentence of death, that execution may be done upon her". They were then admitted to the prison, the sheriff proceeded to the cell, the javelin men and sheriff's officers remaining in the passage of the prison. They again left the place of execution at 8 o'clock.

There was a large crowd, in spite of the thick hazy rain which was then falling. Precisely at 8 o'clock the prison bell peeled forth its solemn and warning knell, and the culprit and the officers left the prison and slowly wended their way to the scaffold, which was situated at some distance. The prison van was in readiness at the gaol door to convey the culprit to the place of execution but she preferred walking. Accordingly they moved forward through the prison grounds at a very slow pace.

The culprit behaved with much fortitude and did not up to the last moment appear to shed a tear. She on leaving her cell shook hands with the chief under warder and other officers. On her way to the scaffold her demeanour was extraordinary. The attendants on either side were entirely overcome, while the culprit bore her awful position with the greatest resignation and composure.

The Chaplain the Rev Dacre Clemetson conversed with her on religious subjects and she appeared to engage in fervent devotion and prayer, with her hands clasped firmly together and eyes upturned.

On arriving at the place of execution she walked with firmness up the flight of 11 steps. Her female attendants here left her in the hands of the executioner. A cordial was then administered to her, a portion of which she drank. The rev Chaplain was unable to proceed further with her than the place of pinioning. he was most deeply affected but the Rev Henry Moule accompanied her to the platform. The pinioning being completed, the culprit in company with the executioner the proceeded up the next flight of stairs, 19 in number, to the platform, and still walking with a firm step crossed the platform to the next flight which led to the gallows which with a slightly faltering step she then ascended.

Calcraft then proceeded to place the fatal rope over the beam. having drawn a white cap over the culprits face he adjusted the rope round her neck and retired from the scaffold; he however appeared to have forgotten to tie the culprits dress and for that purpose re-assended the steps. Having again retired he immediately drew the fatal bolt and instantly the wretched woman fell with great force and after a few struggles ceased to exist.

After the body had hung the usual time it was taken down, placed in a plain coffin, and buried within the precincts of the gaol.

[From 'Dorset Ancestors Article 25th December 2009']

Martha's journey from this world to the next took four to five minutes and this can be put down to the cruelty of her executioner: William Calcraft, the hangman who favoured the short drop technique and presided over her departure from this world. Calcraft's successor later commented "Calcraft killed, I execute...." Today society would see Martha as a victim not a killer. We must hope a more sympathetic justice awaited her.

Martha's body was interred in the burial yard in Dorchester Prison and whilst digging her grave a Roman mosaic was found which is now (2017) fixed to the staircase wall of the County Museum. Link to the Dorset County Museum website and an account of the 'History of the Dorchester Gallows'. Page down to see an image of the 4th century Dorchester Prison Mosaic

Genealogical Notes and Sources :-

(1). SIBLINGS: Rosemary in her book lists 11 children from the marriage of John CLARK to Martha HUSSEY at Burton Bradstock on 18th February 1800 and identified from parish registers at the DHC baptisms for nine of them as shown below. I have no doubt about the accuracy of Rosemary's information but have added notes on other on line source material identified relating to these events. Where an (*) has been added an image is available on for members.

    1.1. John Clark: - baptised 26th Dec 1801 - Broadwindsor (Source PR entry*:- Dec 26th John s of John & Martha Clark)

    1.2. Richard Clark: - baptised 19th Oct 1803 - Broadwindsor (Source PR entry*:- Oct 19 Richard s of John & Martha Clarke also CLDS Film 1279487 Bishops Transcripts for Broadwindsor - Rosemary Ellerback gives the year as 1802 but the image on Ancestry is for 1803)

    1.3. Ann Clark: - baptism not located - circa 1806? (Source 1851 Census born Hawkchurch Devon) : Ann was a witness at Martha's fist marriage to Bernard Bearn on 27-Dec 1831 : Ann's Marriage at Whitchurch Canonicorum Dorset, Banns register 268 John Record bachelor and Ann CLARK spinster both of the parish of Marshwood banns were read 22nd; 29th March and 5th Apr 1840*. Marriage register not yet available except at DHC or GRO 2nd qtr 1840 Bridport dist Ref 8/89. Rosemary states that the witnesses at their wedding were William Bearn and his wife Martha her sister.
      1851 Census : Class: HO107; Piece: 1860; Folio: 353; Page: 33; GSU roll: 221008 at Ven in the civil parish of Stoke Abbott Dorset John Record head married age 35 Agricultural Labourer born Whitchurch Dorset; Ann Record wife married age 45 born Hawkchurch Dorset [became part of Devon 1896]; Mary Ann Record daughter age 10 born Uplyme Devon; William Bartlett unmarried a lodger age 21 born Marshwood. Mary Ann Record, birth at GRO 4th qtr 1842 Chard Ref 10/356. Ann appears to have then died as John Record is in the 1861 Census RG9/1482/page 5 living at Bampton in Devon working as a shepherd on a 370 acre farm owned by a Daniel Legg. [vitz: John Record, Servant, widower, aged 44 a shepherd, born Dorset Whitechurch ]

    1.4. Robert Clark: - baptised 25th Dec 1807 - Broadwindsor (Source PR entry*:- Dec 25 Robert son of John & Martha Clark also CLDS Film 1279487 Bishops Transcripts for Broadwindsor)

    1.5. Mary Clark: - baptised 23 Apr 1809 Netherbury & Salway Ash (Source PR entry*:- 1809 April 23 Mary of John & Martha Clarke ): She married Bartholomew Gale : Banns* entry 228, Bartholomew Gale bachelor and Mary Clarke spinster both of Marshwood Vale were read 9th; 16th & 23rd July 1837. Marriage GRO 3rd qtr 1837 Bridport dist Ref 8/71. Rosemary states that one of the witnesses was Thomas Clark presumably her brother.

    1.6. Hannah Clark: - baptised 25 Dec 1810 - Thorncombe (Source PR entry*:- Hannah daughter of John Clarke & Martha his wife baptised Dec 25 1810)

    1.7. Martha Clark: - baptism not located - circa 1811? (Source born 'Whitechurch' see 1851 census)

    1.8. Thomas Clark: - baptised 24 Jan 1813 - Thorncombe (Source PR entry*:- Entry 2 in the baptism register, Thomas son of John & Martha Clark abode Vembury Thorncombe, a Dairyman, by Rev CW Egerton). Said to be at his sister Mary's wedding in 1837.

    1.9. William Clark: - baptised 10 July 1814 - Netherbury (Source PR entry*:- Entry 77 in the baptism register, William son of John and Martha Clark, abode Netherbury, a labourer, by Rev E Moorland - Rosemary Ellerback gives date of 17th but image has 10th). William was a witness at Martha's fist marriage to Bernard Bearn on 27-Dec 1831

    1.10. Elizabeth Clark: - baptised 7th Feb 1819 - Powerstock (Source PR entry*:- Feby 7th Elizabeth daughter of John & Martha Clark abode Powerstock profession Dairyman by RL Dillon BA Curate: also OPC transcription and CLDS film 1239224 - In the parish of Poorstock [now called Powerstock] Elizabeth daughter of John & Martha Clerk baptised).
      Rosemary Ellerback in her book refers to the remote possibility that Elizabeth may have married Robert Rawlins as she is in the 1841 Census with 3 children living in the same house as John & Martha Clark. I think she can be ruled out as Martha's sister. I have now located her in the 1851 Census in Bettiscombe Poor house with Robert and her children. The 1841 census only gives ages in 5 year bands whereas the 1851 census asks for an exact age which was given as 39 [i.e. born circa 1812 and her place of birth as Hawkchurch about 3 miles West of Marshwood. The birth of her children make it likely that she married circa 1832 and there is an appropriate marriage of Robert Rawlings to Elizabeth Newbury at Whitechurch Canonicorum on 1st Aug 1831. The Banns have also survived and were read on the 26th June; 3rd and 10th July 1831 when their home parish was given as Marshwood. All in all this does not seem to be our Elizabeth.

      The other possibility that Rosemary quotes is the marriage of an Elizabeth Clark to a Henry Bartlett at Netherbury on 24th Feb 1840. No parentage is given for Elizabeth but Henry's father was John Bartlett a Labourer. They appear to be in the 1841 Census taken on 6th June living at South Bowood Netherbury with his father shown as John Bartlett an Agricultural labourer aged 40/44. Henry also an Ag Lab gives his age as 20/24 and born in Dorset. Elizabeth's age is given as 15/19 and that she was born outside of Dorset. Even though Elizabeth's age is a bit young I am pretty sure that this is the right family as next door to the Bartlett's lived the Cook family and listed there is Joseph Cook aged 20/24 who is recorded as a witness to their marriage. The other witness Susan Bartlett is likely to be a relation of Henry's and there is a Susan Bartlett aged 15/19 working as a female servant in nearby Broadwindsor who might be a sister of contemporary age with Elizabeth. Nothing can be read into the absence of any further details of the bride as the rector saw no reason to record details for most brides marrying in the parish. Nor did he bother to say whether married by Banns or licence. Aged 19 Elizabeth would have required parental consent. The 1851 Census seems to be conclusive as we find Henry living on the Island of Jersey at St Peters Valley Road with Elizabeth and their children. Henry is still shown as an agricultural Labourer aged 31 (1820) born at Netherbury Dorset and Elizabeth gives her age as 28 (1823) and born in Devon which fits neatly with what we know from the 1841 Census. They have 3 children all born after arrival in Jersey. This rules out this Elizabeth as well and leaves us with the mystery that we cannot locate a baptism for Martha; nor the existence of Elizabeth after her baptism, and that Martha lived by the name of Elizabeth at Blackmarston prior to her second marriage, and died as Elizabeth Martha Brown.

    1.11. Charles Clark: - baptised 1st Feb 1821 - Thorncombe (Source PR entry*:- Entry 456 in the baptism register; Charles son of John & Martha Clark abode Thorncombe, a Dairyman, by Rev CW Egerton. Rosemary Ellerback gives the year as 1820 but image is for 1821

      Charles married on 19 Jun 1845 to Sophia the daughter of Daniel Larcomb in her home parish of Broadwindsor. They are in the 1851 Census living with his parents and their 3 children at Painsdown Thorncombe. By 1861 they had moved to Pilsdon in Dorset living at Trusthams farm where Charles was an agricultural labourer with their 3 surviving children. In 1871 they are back in Broadwindsor with their 13 year old daughter Ann.

      Their children were (1) Emily bap* at Pilsdon 4th Oct 1846, buried Thorncombe 11 days after her younger sister on 8th Dec 1853 aged 8 years; (2) Martha bap* Thorncombe 21 Jan 1849 and with her parents in 1861 (3) Rosanna bap* Thornecombe 28 Nov 1850 buried 27th Nov 1853 (4) Mary Ann bap* Thorncombe 8th Aug 1852 and buried 1853 aged 12 m (5) Emily born at Broadwindsor in 1855 but baptised at Bettiscombe 28th Oct 1855 - alive 1861 (6) Ann bap* 2nd May 1858 at Pilsdon - alive 1871).

    1.12. NOTE:- In carrying out my own research I also came across the following additional baptism which may have relevance. The baptism is 9 months after the marriage, and 13 months before the next known birth:- In the baptism register for the parish of Hook [Hooke] Dorset: Benjamin Clark son of John & Martha Clark baptised Nov 1800 - Source Bishops Transcripts CLDS Film 1239201. Hook is also within the general area in which John Clark is known to have worked. I have not so far been able to locate him in later records [Note:- The Benjamin in the 1841 & 1851 Census returns appears to have been born at Sturminster Marshall and be older by about 6 years although I could not locate a baptism at Sturminster]. At some point the original parish registers for Hook need to be viewed to see whether this can add any additional information

(2). In the 1841 Census Class: HO107; Piece 281; Book: 12; Civil Parish: Pilsdon; County: Dorset; Enumeration District: 11; Folio: 3; Page: 9; Line: 9; GSU roll: 241337. John Clark aged 66 and Martha 60 were living at Pilsdon but by the time of the next census they were living at Painsdown in the parish of Thorncombe with their son Charles & his wife Sophia and their 3 children.

(3). 1851 Census Class: HO107; Piece: 1856; Folio: 415; Page: 3; GSU roll: 221003 shows:- At Blackmanston in the parish of Steeple Dorset [On the Isle of Purbeck].

    Martha's future husband and his family are at the top of the page entry 8 in the schedule. Shown as Robt Brown Head mar,age 43, a Dairyman, born Marshwood Dorset; Frances Brown, wife married, age 46, born Crewkerne Somerset; John [i.e. John Anthony] Brown son unmarried age 21, Agricultural labourer, born Marshwood; C. [i.e. Christian] Brown, daughter unmarried age 19 born Marshwood; Eliz [i.e. Elizabeth] Brown, daughter unmarried age 11 a scholar born Broadwindsor Dorset.
    Again we have Rosemary Ellerbeck to thank for discovering that Martha Bearns now calling herself Elizabeth Barnes is at entry 11 at the bottom of the same page. We know from reports of the trial that they met during this period and that she worked for 'a gentleman as housekeeper in the Isle of Purbeck' The Glasgow Herald 25th July 1856 refers to this being in a farmhouse. She is listed as Eliz Barnes, a servant, a widow, aged 37 years (1814), a Housekeeper born Whitechurch and is working for a 46 year old local unmarried farmer called John Symes who ran the farm with his 40 year old unmarried brother Robert Symes. Although this gives a birth year of 1814 for Martha/Elizabeth, she was referred to as being a 44 year old shopkeeper when she was arraigned for the willful murder of her husband and as 44 or 45 throughout her trial so I have used 1811 in this account. Personally I do not think the change in name has any untoward connotations. The surname of 'Barnes' is probably how the enumerator heard the name 'Bearns' said to him. Why she started calling herself Elizabeth is not known but she had a sister close to her own age called Elizabeth and of course it was the Christian name of her husbands first wife but it was also fairly common to use an alias. Above all she was generally referred to in the press as Elizabeth Martha Brown and her death is recorded as such at the GRO, so there was no attempt to conceal the use of both names.

(4). 1851 Census Class: HO107; Piece: 1862; Folio: 303; Page: 10; GSU roll: 221009-221010. shows:- item 35 in schedule: At Painsdown Thorncombe John Clarke, head, married, age 76, a farm labourer, born Dorset Netherbury: Martha Clarke, wife, married, age 70, a farm labourer's wife, born Dorset Symondsbury; Charles Clarke, son, married, age 30, Labourer, born Dorset Thorncombe; Sophia Clarke, sons wife Married age 32, Labourers wife, born Dorset Broadwindsor

(5). Netherbury & Salway Ash parish register has the following entries regarding children of Richard CLARK who married Mary MAYERY [or MAGERY] at Netherbury following Banns on 18th Feb 1768 *:- (1) Mary born 7th Jan 1771, bap 30th Jan 1771 and buried an infant 8th Feb 1771 (2) Mary born 10th Feb 1772 (bap 11th), (3) Hannah born 2nd March 1775 (bap 3rd) (4) John born 20th July 1776 (bap 22nd Nov) (5) Thomas born 16th May 1778 (bap 24th) (6) Richard born on 2nd Apr 1780 (bap 26th)

(6). The Children of Richard & Martha HUSSEY baptised at Symondsbury* were:- (1) Joanna (bap 25th Jan 1778) (2) Martha (bap 25th Dec 1778) (3) Honor (bap 6th Apr 1780) (4) Mary (bap 21st May 1781) (5) Rose (bap 7th July 1782)

(7). Source Thorncombe PR Entry* :- Entry 964 John Clark abode Painsdown 25th January 1852 age 77 by Rev John Marsh: Marshwood PR Entry*:- Martha CLARKE abode Marshalsea Marshwood 4th Oct 1854 age 76 years by Rev Richard Tuder Curate

(8). CLDS Poorstock, Dorset, England; Collection: ; BTs; Date Range:  1821 - 1837; Film Number: 1239224. Already transcribed at OPC :- Barnard BEARN & Martha CLARK married 27-Dec 1831 [BTs] Note:- An image of their Banns entry and marriage are now available at or the DHC (1) in the Banns Register of the Parish of Powerstock it states " Bearnard BEARN widower and Martha CLARK spinster both of this parish Banns were read on Sunday 11th Dec 1831; 18th Dec 1831; and 25th Dec 1831 all by the Rev W Brewsher. Side note in the Banns register married at Powerstock 27th Dec 1831. (2) In the Marriage Register "Bernard BEARN of this parish a widower and Martha CLARK of this parish a spinster were married in this church by banns ('with consent of' crossed out and left blank) this twenty seventh Day of December 1831 by me Willm Bewsher Bernard Bearn signed his name + the mark of Martha Clark. Witnesses William Clark and the mark of Ann Clark + George Down Entry 116 in the Register

(9). The children that I have traced from the marriage of William BEARN to Martha DUNHAM at Netherbury Dorset on 12th June 1783 are:- (1) Martha born 27th May 1784 - bap 7th June 1784 (2) William born 12th Nov 1786 - bap 26th Dec 1786 (3) Mary born 16th Apr 1788 - bap 20th May 1788 (4) James born 29th Dec 1789 - bap 26th Jan 1790 he married Sarah Hansford at Askerwell on 22nd Feb 1819 and is a blacksmith at Long Bredy with 4 children by 1841. (5) Bernard born 25th May 1792 - bap 17th June 1792 (6) Thomas Dunham born 17th Sep 1797 - bap 28th Aug 1797. Rosemary in her book only refers to two brothers James and Thomas and a sister Martha.

(10). Rosemary Ellerback has correctly used the surname Elizabeth MAWSON in her book which is taken from her marriage record, but the family surname is recorded using many different spellings. OPC also transcribed the Bishops Transcripts in 2003 and these were also recorded by CLDS on the IGI Film Number: 1239224 - this marriage record gives her maiden surname as MONSON. Elizabeth was actually baptised as Betty (a colloquial form of Elizabeth) the base born daughter of Betty MOYSTON at Powerstock on 11th Oct 1801. In her book Rosemary refers to her mother having had '3 children out of wedlock before she married the father of the last two'. This is because her younger sisters baptism is recorded as Sally [i.e. Sarah] the base born daughter of Betty MAWSTON who became the subject of a bastardy order against Samuel WRIXON the same year. Her brothers baptism is recorded as Samuel Wrixon base born son of Betty MAWSON on 30th June 1811. Whilst there is no clue in the baptism records as to Elizabeth's father she is acknowledged as his daughter in Samuel WRIXON's will in 1815. The birth of a son made all the difference to Samuel who decided to legalise their position to clear the way for them to inherit his estate. Shortly after the birth of his son Betty now calling herself Elizabeth MAWSON married by licence her children's father in Powerstock on 1st Aug 1811.

CLDS These records have been transcribed for OPC from the 'Dorset Parish Registers' produced by W P W Phillimore & Edmund Nevill and published in 1906. however have recorded her surname as MAWSON and I have seen similar surnames in Powerstock such as Masoon or Mayston. The Bishop's Transcripts have also been used for the years 1732 to 1837: These record his first marriage :- Barnard BEARN & Elizabeth MONSON married 10-Apr 1821 [BTs]:- They also show the baptism of his son and death of his wife.

(11). The burial register for the parish of Broadwindsor Dorset has the following entry "Entry number 12 . John Anthony BROWN of Birdsmoregate buried July 10th 1856 age 26 years by Rev A.N. Delafosse with a side lined note * Murdered by his wife 6th July 1856 " . His burial was at the Holy Trinity Chapel of ease at Blackdown within the parish of Broadwindsor which was built in 1840 and is situated about 4km west of Broadwindsor. MI Ref 61.

(12). Crockfords Clerical Directory 1868

(13). The baptism register for the parish of Bettiscombe Dorset records " John Anthony Brown the son of Robert & Frances Brown was baptised at Bettiscombe Dorset on 11th April 1830". His mother was known colloquially as "fanny" and her name is recorded as such on the baptisms of both his sisters. fanny gives her birth place in the 1851 census as Crewkerne in Somerset.

(14). Banns for the marriage of Robert Brown a bachelor to Frances Deman a spinster, both of the parish of Marshwood survive in the Whitchurch Canonicorum Banns registers. They were read on the 7th, 14th and 21st June 1829. There marriage is in the marriage register there and took place on 18th August 1829

(15). GRO 1st qtr 1852 Marriage of John Brown to Martha Bearnes [signed as Bearns - District of Wareham Ref 5a/489. see image in text

(16). The official court record under evidence given by Mr Stock the prosecutor it states " The prisoner and the deceased were formerly fellow-servants in the same farm house".

(17). Although known as George Fooks his full name was George Genge FOOKS and he had been baptised at Whitchurch Canonicorum in Dorset the son of Mary Fooks on 26th December 1808. (Although I have not investigated the matter it seems likely that he was a descendant of George Genge FOOKS the son of Robert and Joan Fooks who was baptised at Whitchurch on 15th June 1783). He later married as George Fooks to Ann MILLS (b.1809) on 24th day April 1832 at Broadwindsor after banns were read on 3 consecutive Sundays (8th 15th and 22nd April) : They had the following children (1) George Mills Fooks baptised twice, 1st as George Fooks on 8th Nov 1832 at Broadwindsor, and then as George Mills Fooks on Christmas day 1832 at Whitchurch Canonicorum. He became a plasterer by trade and married Elizabeth Hyde a native of Church Knowle in South Stoneham Hampshire where he was working in the 2nd qtr 1861. They lived and raised a family in Southampton before returning to Church Knowle and then moving back to Broadwindsor. He was living with his parents, his wife Elizabeth and his children at Broadwindsor in 1871. (2) Andrew George Fooks bap 25th May 1834, at Broadwindsor aged 27 unmarried with the family in 1861 Census (3) Elizabeth Fooks bap 14th June 1835 at Broadwindsor (4) Jonas Fooks bap 29th May 1836 at Broadwindsor who is in the 1841 Census at Burstock but died 3rd qtr 1842 district of Beaminster (5) Mary Fooks bap Whitchurch Canonicorum but shown as resident at Broadwindsor on 29th Sep 1839 (6) Joan Fooks bap 8th Jan 1843 at Burstock (7) Harriet Fooks bap 21st Dec 1845 at Burstock (8) and Fred Fooks bap 9th Sep 1849 at Whitchurch Canonicorum.

George Genge FOOKS (1808-1890) - George started life as an agricultural labourer but although still listed as such in early census returns Ann is on her own with their 5 children in the 1841 Census at Burstock. George has in all probability already purchased a cart and horse by this date and is working away. They are together in Broadwindsor in 1851 and 1861 during which time we know from trial records that he was working locally as a carter. In 1871 George Fooks senior has progressed to become the Inn Keeper at the George Inn in Broadwindsor and is with his wife Ann, son, daughter-in-law and their grandchildren. By 1881 he is a Farmer living with his wife Ann at Blackdown. George Genge Fooks died at Blackdown on 29th March 1890 aged 81 with his will being proved at Blandford by John Vincent of clapton in Crewkerne Somerset a licenced Victualler and Harriet Ann Plowman of Blackdown spinster his granddaughter.

(18) Mary Eliza PINNEY The Pinney family were wealthy landowners in Dorset but I have not so far been able to clearly identify her. On the 1840 Tithe maps she is shown as owning 27 plots of land in Broadwindsor one of which was plot 1647 on which stood the house garden and orchard in which the Brown's lived. In 1840 the occupier was shown as John Smith.

(19) Francis TURNER (1830 - 1891) His testimony stated that he went to bed about 11 o'clock that night and was called between 5 and 6 o'clock Sunday morning by Richard DAMON and accompanied by him went into Brown's house. This strongly suggests that he heard nothing to arose him during the hours that the murder took place despite there only being a mud and board partition between the houses. They raised a family of 9 children the first six being baptised at Bettiscombe but with their abode recorded as Birdsmoorgate. The rest were baptised at Broadwindsor where their 2nd & 3rd children were also buried:- (1) Flora bap 25th Oct 1857 (2) Elizabeth bap 27th Feb 1859 buried 20th Feb 1863 (3) Thomas bap 11th Nov 1860 buried with sister Elizabeth 20th Feb 1863 (4) William Thomas bap 29th May 1863 who later proved his fathers will (5) John bap 4th Dec 1864 (6) Annie bap 20th Oct 1866 (7) Alice bap 7th Mar 1868 (8) Alfred bap 7th Mar 1868 (9) Edward bap 3rd April 1878 at the age of 5 years. The family lived at Birdsmoorgate up to 1865 then Childhay until 1870 before returning to live at Laymore in Crewkerne by 1871 where he took over running the 123 acre farm. By 1881 the farm had been reduced again to 50 acres and Francis died there on 27th Feb 1891 leaving an estate of £1,247. 14s 1d.

(20) William & Elizabeth STANTON (1792-1872) - Do not confuse with the William STANTON bap 14 Aug 1796 at Thorncombe the son of James & Mary Stanton who is consistently recorded as a cordwainer or shoemaker by trade. He married twice 1st to Edith Park (born c1799) at Broadwindsor on 19th Sep 1820. They had 3 children baptised at Thorncombe 1 of which died in infancy. They were both arrested for assault in 1827 (See Dorchester Prison Admission and discharge registers) and fined £1 and given a months prison. Edith however died in prison and the register states "Departed this life (discharge date is recorded as 17th May 1827), her body was delivered to her husband Wm Stanton on Saturday night the 19th May 1827 to be buried at Thorncombe her parish". She was interred there the following day aged 28. William re-married to Elizabeth PAUL who produced another 6 children. They lived at Thorncombe in 1841 and Lyme Regis 1851 and 1861.

(21) Harriet KNIGHT (1809-1884) Her children were (1) George bap 13 Jan 1828 buried Broadwindsor aged two on 21st Mar 1830 (2) George bap BW 14th Nov 1830 - died 1879 (3) Sarah Ann bap BW 25 Nov 1832 - died 1910 (4) Susan bap BW 25 Jan 1832 bur 25th jan 1835 (5) John bap BW 3rd Jan 1836 (6) Elizabeth born Mosterton Dorset c 1839 (7) Marian born Misterton Somerset c 1842 (8) James born at Thorncombe bap BW 26th May 1844 (9) Sarah bap Bettiscombe 8th Nov 1846 (10) Susan born Bettiscombe 1st qtr 1860

(22) Several views taken from the top of Pilsdon Pen are on Google Earth but the Hill fort is actually north of the tag they have placed on the map - although easy to spot. Interestingly Pilsdon Pen was was bequeathed to the National Trust by the Pinney family (see 18 above) in 1982

(23) The Dorchester Prison Admission and Discharge Registers can be viewed on (go to card index; input 'Dorset' and from the listing provided select the Register. Input 'Elizabeth Martha Brown' and the first two records relate to her. For those who do not have access her entry in the Register is:- (1) Number: 129 Name: Elizth Martha Brown Age: 44 Received: 10th July 1856 Committed: 9th July 1856 By Whom Committed: JT Bullen Esq Offence Kill & Murder When Tried: Summer Assizes 1856 When Discharged: 18th July 1856; Former convictions: None Of what persuasion Church & (2) Number: 239 Name: Elizabeth Martha Brown Age: 44 Received: 18th July 1856 Committed: 18th July 1856; Offence Murder; When Discharged: Executed Augst 9th 1856

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