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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 Mr. Charles Armstrong

The Old Bailey (October 26, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)

Mr. Armstrong: My wife never told me she suspected Eliza was the child described in the Pall Mall Gazette. She was too frightened to say anything about it.

Stead: Can you tell me when you first heard about the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mr. Armstrong: I cannot tell you, for I cannot read it.

Stead: When did you hear your neighbours say that your wife had sold Eliza?

Mr. Armstrong: I heard that every day from three weeks or a month after my daughter left. The neighbours talked because she did not write; but she did not have any chance to write, I expect. She was supposed to write every month. My wife told me that soon after the child went away.

Justice Lopes: You have never told us that before.

Stead: When the child did not write the neighbours began to talk?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes, and they blamed me too, saying that I was as bad as my wife.

Stead: Did you not tell them that you were not at home when Eliza went away?

Mr. Armstrong: I didn't tell them my business. Do you think I told them that I knocked my wife about. (Laughter) I heard the chaps reading the Pall Mall Gazette, but I would not listen to it, it was too grand.

Justice Lopes: What do you mean by "too grand"?

Mr. Armstrong: Why, it was beastly. (Laughter)

Stead: Did you understand the general drift of the story in the Pall Mall?

Mr. Armstrong: I didn't listen to it, I tell you. It was too bad. The chaps made a regular laughing stock about it.


Stead: What, about the little child?

Mr. Armstrong: No, your paper. (Laughter) When the neighbours found that Mrs. Broughton had received a sovereign they began to smell a rat, I think, and the blame was then put off on her.


Justice Lopes: When did you first learn that Mrs. Broughton had received a sovereign?

Mr. Armstrong: Not before we went to the police-station.

Stead: Did you hear about the sovereign through your neighbours?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: You never asked your wife anything about it?

Mr. Armstrong: No ; I did not want to ask her.

Stead: Were you not on speaking terms with her?

Mr. Armstrong: Oh, yes.

Stead: Living with her, and she getting your dinner every day?

Mr. Armstrong: Sometimes I ain't got no dinner. (Laughter) I told her to go to the police-court.

Stead: When you heard that Mrs. Broughton had had a sovereign did you not ask your wife to go to her?

Mr. Armstrong: She did go to her. She asked for a letter, but could not get it, and then she went to the police-station. When I heard about the sovereign, I felt very cross. It struck me then that my girl went for a bad purpose. People don't give sovereigns away for nothing.

Stead: When you thought that Mrs. Broughton had got a sovereign for a bad purpose you still considered it was not your business to go and kick up a row with her?

Mr. Armstrong: It was not. I would not do such a thing.


Stead: You thought Mrs. Broughton had never told your wife about the sovereign?

Mr. Armstrong: Nor did she until the last thing— until my wife went to the magistrate.

Stead: I think you said that you were in the habit of leaving everything to your wife?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: And she had full power to act for you?

Mr. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: You never deemed it worth while to ask her what explanation Mrs. Broughton had to give about the sovereign?

Mr. Armstrong: It had nothing to do with me.

Justice Lopes: But did you ask your wife?

Mr. Armstrong: No, I didn't.

Stead: Did your wife ever tell you she had heard that your daughter was safe?

Mr. Armstrong: She said she had a letter from Eliza, but there was no place to write back again to.

Stead: You were in and out all the morning on the day when your daughter went away? You were in at dinner with her?

Mr. Armstrong: No ; breakfast.

Stead: If your daughter says she had dinner with you, she is mistaken?

Mr. Armstrong: I very often have breakfast and dinner together.


Stead: And if Eliza states that you said you thought she had nice new clothes on, she is mistaken?

Justice Lopes (to Stead): I have no recollection that she said that. If you want to prove that you must proceed in the regular way.

Stead: What time do you say it was when you finally came back from work on the day Eliza went away?

Mr. Armstrong: Between seven and eight in the evening. Then, when I asked where Eliza was, my wife told me she had gone into service.

Stead: Was that all that happened?

Mr. Armstrong: Oh, dear, no. (Laughter)

Stead: Did your wife ask you for any money for housekeeping?

Mr. Armstrong: She didn't ask me. I gave her 7s or 8s.

Justice Lopes: Was that before or after you struck her?

Mr. Armstrong: Oh, that was before she told me Eliza was gone. She would have got no money if I had known that. (Laughter)

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