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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sarah Lloyd

I came across a short extract about a maid servant called Sarah Lloyd. In 1800 in England over 200 crimes carried the death sentence. This poor girl was one of those caught up in this system.
On the night of the third of October 1799, Sarah Lloyd, then 22 years old, admitted Joseph Clark, her lover, into the house of her mistress, Sara Syer, in Benton Street. She stole a watch and some trinkets while Clark set the house on fire. They were both caught.
At Bury Assizes the girl was sentenced to death for her stealing while Clark was acquitted. How unfair this system was towards women. Petitions were presented but these all failed. Just before the execution date, 9th April 1800, the governor of Bury Goal received a respite for one 'S. Hop.' Thinking this must be a mistake, and the reprieve was meant for Sarah, he postponed the execution until the 23rd of April and sent enquiries to the Home Secretary.
But no mercy was shown and the girl was hanged. Capel Lofft, a reforming magistrate of Groton, sat beside her on the executioner's cart, cut her down after hanging and tried in vain to restore her life.
When the news that it was all over reached Hadleigh, the distraught mother hanged herself too.
Sarah Lloyd's memorial is on ruined wall in Bury St. Edmunds Churchyard. It reads 'May my example be a warning to many".
I have no idea what happened to Joseph Clark; was he just relieved to be free or as distraught about the injustice as Sarah's mother?
It's a horrific thought that such injustices still happen to women today in some parts of the world.
Fenella Miller


Mary Ricksen said...

What an interesting historical tidbit. Love this stuff. Poor Sarah, a victim of the system.

Fenella Miller said...

I'm thinking this would make a good sub-plot in a Regency suspense. My protagonist could be related to the magistrate who tried to revive her.