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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) Mphil

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Richard Webster - The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt

The Evidence of Mrs. Broughton

The Old Bailey (October 25, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)

Mrs. Broughton: Mrs. Armstrong went with me to my room, and I said to Jarrett, "Here's the mother of the girl that came in yesterday." Mrs. Armstrong asked Jarrett if she was the person that wanted the girl as a servant, and she said, "Yes. Are you the mother of the child?" Mrs. Armstrong said "yes". Jarrett said, "Are you willing to let your child go?" Mrs. Armstrong said, "What do you want the child to do?" She said, "to clean the carpets, and likewise the oilcloth on the stairs and hall." She added that she was occupying a six-roomed house at Wimbledon. With that Mrs. Armstrong said, "My Eliza shall go if it's as servant you want her."

Justice Lopes: Let us be very careful about this.

Mrs. Broughton: She said, "My Eliza shall go."

Justice Lopes: Is that all?

Mrs. Broughton: Yes.

Justice Lopes: You said just now that she said, "If it's as servant you want her?"

Mrs. Broughton: She said "Eliza shall go as servant." Mrs. Armstrong asked how much Jarrett would give her a week. Jarrett said she wouldn't give her anything for the first month, but would buy her clothes.

Mr. Poland: Did Mrs. Armstrong hear that said?

Mrs. Broughton: Yes. She said that after the first month she would give her money "into her hands." The mother then took Eliza home to wash her and Jarrett and I remained together. About half-past ten in the morning she had given me a sovereign. She said "Nancy"; I said "Yes Becky"; she said, "I'm going to stop to dinner." She held her hand out with the palm downwards and said, "Take this money". I did not see what it was. I said, "No, Becky, I don't want anything to buy dinner with, for I've got it in." "Well, Nancy", she said," I promised you I should try to pay you some day for the kind assistance you done towards me in and out of hospital." I said I didn't expect anything, for what I had done I had done with a good heart. She put a coin into my hand. I did not look to see what it was, but put it behind a vase on the mantelpiece. It remained there till between one and two. When my husband came in at twelve o'clock we had dinner. After we had had dinner Eliza came back without her mother, and Jarrett asked her if she was ready to go out with her to buy the clothes. Eliza said, yes, and they went out together. While Jarrett was away, I looked at the coin I had put behind the vase and found that it was a sovereign.

Mr. Russell (to Mrs. Broughton): With regard to this money which Jarrett gave you on the day Eliza was taken away, you said previously you thought she handed you a shilling?

Mrs. Broughton: I said I did not know whether it was a shilling or sixpence.

Justice Lopes: You knew it was money. Why on earth did you not look to see what it was?

Mrs. Broughton: Because I was getting my husband's dinner. I had no bad opinion in my mind at the time.

Mr. Mr. Russell: On your oath, before Rebecca took the child away, did she not give you £2?

Mrs. Broughton: No, sir; so help me God; only one sovereign.

Mr. Russell: Do you recollect what hour it was when Mrs. Armstrong came in and asked you to lend her sixpence?

Mrs. Broughton: That was between two and three o'clock, after the clothes had been bought.

Mr. Russell: If Mrs. Armstrong has said that what she asked for was the loan of one penny, to buy something to quiet the baby, is that true or not?

Mrs. Broughton: It is not the truth. She asked me for sixpence. I saw Rebecca hand something to her, but I could not tell what it was.

Mr. Russell: Whether it was a shilling or sixpence, you do not know?

Mrs. Broughton: Only from Jarrett saying "here is a shilling for you, Mrs. Armstrong."

Mr. Russell: Now, the child went away with nothing on except the new clothes which had been purchased?

Mrs. Broughton: Yes.

Justice Lopes: The old clothes were left in your room?

Mrs. Broughton: Yes.

Mr. Russell: Did you not think it strange that the old working clothes should be left behind, if Eliza was going into service?

Mrs. Broughton: I did not know. The mother could have had her opinion and I mine.

Justice Lopes: What clothes could Eliza work in if her old ones were left behind?

Mrs. Broughton: I do not know.

Mr. Russell: Did not all this strike you as strange?

Mrs. Broughton: Nothing bad at all.

Mr. Russell: You keep on saying "Nothing bad". Did not all this strike you as being odd?

Mrs. Broughton: I cannot say that it did.

Mr. Russell: Eliza having gone away on June 3rd, when was it that the neighbours began to talk about what had become of the child?

Mrs. Broughton: The neighbours did not commence to talk until Mrs. Armstrong abused me.

Mr. Russell: Until the neighbours began to talk about the disappearance of the girl, did Mrs. Armstrong abuse you, or say one word to you with regard to the child?

Mrs. Broughton: The neighbours said nothing to me until the mother abused me.

(examined by Stead)

Stead: On July 10th or 11th, Mrs. Armstrong came round to your house to tell you of the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mrs. Broughton: She came and read a bit of it, about some child called Lily. She talked to me about the article. Nobody had spoken to me about it before.

Stead: When she got frightened about the article, what did she say to you?

Mrs. Broughton: She abused me. She blamed me for the child going away, saying if it had not been for me, the child would not have gone.

Stead: Did she say that you had had money for her child?

Mrs. Broughton: No. She said she would have me and Jarrett up. A lot of people were there, and I did not answer her at all.

Stead: She accused you of having sold her child to a notoriously bad woman in the presence of a large number of people, and yet you said nothing?

Mrs. Broughton: I said nothing.

Stead: Has Mrs. Armstrong abused you since then?

Mrs. Broughton: Not since.

Stead: You are friends again now?

Mrs. Broughton: I speak to her.


Stead: Do you think Mrs. Armstrong received a sovereign that day?

Mrs. Broughton: I don't know what I didn't see. (Laughter) I saw money put into her hand, but I don't know what it was.

Stead: You never took any steps to assure Mrs. Armstrong that you were not the person referred to in the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mrs. Broughton: No. I nearly dropped at the thought of being charged with selling a child for £5.

About this website

I founded this website in 2001 to assist me in my own research on W.T. Stead, little knowing then that it would become the largest online resource on Stead's life and career. Today this site is used by students, scholars and institutions around the world and has significantly contributed to the Study of W.T. Stead and the evils which he campaigned against. I hope you find it useful.

If you have a question that explicitly concerns any of the content on this website, feel free to Contact me and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience. However, please note that I no longer work in academia. With a very "busy" business to run, the time I can spare responding to enquiries through this website is finite, to say the least. So, please do not ask me to do research for you or assist in matters of family history.

Finally, though this website includes a section on Stead's obsession with spiritualism, I myself am not remotely interested in the subject. So, if you think you have seen Stead's ghost in your kitchen or believe you are the reincarnation of the great editor himself (or anyone else who died on the Titanic), I beg you not to tell me about it..

Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil