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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) Mphil

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A treasure trove of contemporary documentation..
Richard Webster - The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt

The Evidence of W.T. Stead

The Old Bailey (November 2, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)

Mr. Webster: I desire to say, Mr. Stead, and I hope you won't misunderstand me, that I am not impugning your motives, but I must put a few questions to you in regard to this particular charge. Except for what Jarrett told you, had you any authority for the statements made in the article in the Pall Mall Gazette of July 6th?

Stead: None whatever.

Mr. Webster: I mean that part of it which is below the words "A child of thirteen bought for £5"?

Stead: The first part of the article does concern the purchase of the child.

Mr. Webster: So far as the purchase of the child was concerned, you had Jarrett's word for it, and Jarrett's word only?

Stead: Yes.

Justice Lopes: That article does relate to Eliza Armstrong, I suppose?

Stead: Yes; the whole of the article does refer to the case of Eliza Armstrong.

Mr. Webster: In that article, at the beginning, you say, "I can personally vouch for the absolute accuracy of every fact in the narrative"?

Stead: Yes, I wrote that.

Justice Lopes: Is it correct then, to say that you can personally vouch for it?

Stead: I mean that I had actually by my agents done everything that was described.

Justice Lopes: Surely "personally vouching" does not mean by agents, does it? When a person says I did this or that personally, that does not mean that he did it by agents.

Stead: Well, I am wrong, my lord, if that is the interpretation of it.

Mr. Webster: You meant you personally believed it?

Stead: Yes.

Mr. Webster: This story—of Eliza Armstrong—is apparently the only vouched statement in the whole of the article of the 6th?

Stead: It was the only thing that I had done myself right round, and which therefore I could speak of.

Mr. Webster: You took the greatest care, I suppose, to be perfectly accurate in what you put down?

Stead: I did.

Mr. Webster: And so far as the communication from Jarrett was concerned, you did your best to put down what she told you?

Stead: Yes, I did; but I did not put it down at the time.

Mr. Webster: I refer to what Jarrett told you on June 2nd and 3rd.

Stead: Yes.

Mr. Webster: Had you any statement from Rebecca Jarrett after June 2nd and 3rd, prior to July 6th, when the article appeared?

Stead: No.

Mr. Webster: Did you write the article yourself.

Stead: I did.

Mr. Webster: When?

Stead: I think about June 30th, or somewhere about that time—some four weeks after the conversation.

Mr. Webster: Did you make notes?

Stead: I do not remember that I did.

Mr. Webster: Did you make any notes of the facts at the time Jarrett told you, or afterwards?

Stead: Certainly not at the time, and I do not remember doing so afterwards.

Mr. Webster: Now, the only bad house referred to in this article, is Mrs. Broughton's house, is it not?

Stead: Yes, that is my understanding.

Mr. Webster: Rebecca Jarrett had told you Mrs. Broughton's house was one?

Justice Lopes: But Mrs. Broughton is a person of whom Jarrett says she never knew anything immoral.

Stead: I understood from Jarrett that Mrs. Broughton kept a bad house. Of course I may have misunderstood her.

Mr. Webster: The article of July 6th says: "After some bargaining it was agreed that the child should be handed over to the procuress for £5." Did Jarrett tell you that?

Stead: I wrote all that from what Jarrett told me, as far as I could remember.

Mr. Webster: You say in the article that you "personally vouch" for statements in the narrative. Now, have you the slightest doubt that Jarrett told you it had been agreed to hand over the child for £5?

Stead: I have no doubt about it.

Mr. Webster: You represent in the article that on the Tuesday night, the mother asked Jarrett to take her daughter. Did Jarrett tell you that?

Stead: What I intended to represent was as you state it, but I may have been misled.

Mr. Webster: Did Jarrett ever tell you that on the Tuesday, June 2nd, Mrs. Armstrong positively refused to let the child go?

Stead: Certainly not.

Justice Lopes: Jarrett tells a very different story from what you are telling us now. The object of these questions is to see how far you agree.

Mr. Webster: You must excuse me, Mr. Stead, if I have not the same implicit faith in Jarrett that you appear to have. The article says, "The brothel-keeper sent for Eliza's mother and offered her £1 for her daughter." Have you any doubt that Jarrett told you that?

Stead: No.

Mr. Webster: Did you hear her swear on Friday that she did not?

Stead: I heard Rebecca Jarrett say a good many things in the witness-box which surprised me.

Justice Lopes: Why surprised you?

Mr. Webster: Because they did not agree with what she had told you?

Stead: Quite so; and I thought, perhaps, you bothered her, Mr. Attorney.

Mr. Webster: Then, until you heard the questions I put on Friday, you implicitly believed in Jarrett?

Stead: Yes.

Justice Lopes: Are you shaken at all in regard to the veracity of Jarrett now?

Stead: As to her memory?

Justice Lopes: No. Are you shaken at all in regard to the veracity of Jarrett?

Stead: Well, it may be . . .

Justice Lopes: No; let me have an answer.

Stead: I have said I don't believe her as implicitly as I did.

Justice Lopes: Then may I say you are somewhat shaken?

Stead: I have no longer confidence in her memory.

Justice Lopes: But her truthfulness?

Stead: I believe she intends to tell the truth, but her memory seems very defective.

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