Ann Hurlock, 1736-1760

Servant who Panicked after she Gave Birth to a Bastard Child

Faced with the shame and uncertainty of what to do with a new-born bastard child, Ann Hurlock murdered it.

Early Life

Ann Hurlock was born in August 1736 at Tower Hill. Her father was a packing porter to the East India House and died when she was just eight. Her mother worked to care for her and her elder sister, teaching them needlework and how to read. When Ann was twelve, she was sent to become a servant to a friend living in the neighbourhood where she stayed for two years until her mother's death.

She moved to work in Goodman's Fields for two and a quarter years and then lived with a Mrs L-r-ce, a school mistress near Aldgate, for a year and a quarter. From here she went to Mitcham in Surrey, where she was a servant to a Mrs S-v-ny, a leather-dresser, and was seduced by a fellow servant, Joseph H-d who promised her marriage. She left Mitcham in approximately 1759, staying at her sister's during an illness and visiting Joseph when possible, by whom she fell pregnant. She claims that he did not know of the pregnancy.

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Birth and Infanticide

Six weeks before the birth, she was living in Soho Square with her mistress Mrs Legross, before moving with her mistress to lodge in Mr Dudman's house in Paddington.

On the morning of Tuesday 8th April, between three and four am, Ann walked downstairs into the kitchen and gave birth to a baby girl. It was born living, as it cried. She took a kitchen knife and slit its throat, causing a wound three inches wide and four inches deep, almost severing the head from the body. She then hid the body in the cellar.

She complained to Mr. Dudman's servant Sarah Lydburn, who was sleeping in the same room, that her belly ached. She asked Sarah to mop the floor of the cellar and kitchen, where she found blood. Sarah Lydburn called her mistress, stating that she believed Ann had miscarried or was in labour, after which Susannah Derwood (a midwife), and Mr. Gibbs (a constable), were called.

Susannah Derwood examined Ann, and concluded she had recently given birth. She found the child with its head almost cut from the body and a knife in the kitchen covered with blood. When accused, Ann confessed to murdering her living new born baby, saying "she did not know what to do with it".

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Trial and Punishment

Ann was taken to Justice John Fielding, to whom she confessed her crime. She was committed to Bridewell, residing there until May 15th when she was moved to Newgate Prison for her trial.

During the trial, she recanted her previous confession, claiming that she did not take the knife to murder the child, but to "part the burden" from it. She denied ever hearing it cry and later stated it had a "monstrous ... deformity" and "could not bear to look upon it herself, or let it be seen by others in that detestable view".

On Thursday 22nd May 1760 she was found guilty. Following the provisions of the Murder Act, she was sentenced to be executed two days later, and her corpse was to be dissected by the surgeons. According to the Ordinary of Newgate, she looked "confounded and thunder-struck" upon receiving her sentence, and she wrung her hands, wept and wailed.

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Newgate and Execution

While awaiting her punishment in Newgate, she was examined by the Ordinary several times, praying and reading the Bible between each examination. She became increasingly penitent, crying when made to read the ninth chapter of Genesis in the chapel.

She was executed on Saturday the 24th of May at Tyburn.

External Sources

  • London Chronicle. Tuesday, April 8, 1760, issue 513.
  • Public Advertiser. Thursday, April 10, 1760, issue 7924.

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About this Biography

Created by

Victoria Philpott 

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker