Early Modern Crime and the Law

Maria Morris, infanticide

Carmarthenshire, 1795

NLW Great Sessions gaolfiles 4/906/4
15-16: Examinations of witnesses

[15: John Thomas of ?Aberdyar, co. Carmarthen, surgeon and man-midwife]... upon his oath saith he knows Maria Morris late of Lanvaughan in the county of Cardigan singlewoman and hath known her for some time last past that she livd at Lanvaughan with John Thomas esquire... in the capacity of a cook maid from All Saints last past That it had been reported since Christmas that she was with child... That on Monday the thirtieth day of March last [1795] Thomas David who lived as a gardener at Lanvaughan came to the examinants house and desird of this examinant to go over with him to Lanvaughan for that he feard some mischeif had been done there and that Maria Morris had been delivered of a bastard child as he suspected for that he had heard Maria had been very ill the night before & that morning he had found something under the window of the room where she lay such as clotted blood & other matter which had increased his suspicion. That upon this information this examinant soon after went to Lanvaughan and saw Thomas David the gardner who went with him to the place where he had found the clotted blood which he shewd the examinant who concluded from thence that either a miscarriage or some other such circumstance had happend. That he then went into the house, where he says Ann Jones the house maid, Sarah Joseph the dairy maid Catherine Evan of Gwarallt & others collected in the kitchen from whom he was informd that Maria Morris was then above stairs in bed and that she had certainly been deliverd the night before of a bastard child... That thereupon he went upstairs himself into Maria Morris's room where he found her in bed that he observd some blood on the floor by the bed side & some on the sheet. That he then askd her how she did & felt her pulse. He had half an hours more conversation with her and endeavourd to prevail with her to confess whether she had been delivered of a child or miscarryd for he was certain some such thing had happened she for a long time evaded giving him any direct answer but at length positively said that she had neither been delivered of a child nor had she miscarryd & after he had had reasond with her sometime & telling her it wod. be better for her to discover for perhaps upon examining the child he might find that it had rec[eiv]ed no act of violence and if so it wod. be greatly in her favour she at last confessed to him that she had miscarryd for that she apprehended she had three months to come of her time & she for a long time refused to tell the examinant where she had disposed of the miscarriage and frequently told him that if he wod. come there the next day or a day or two after she wod. shew it him but he persisting in his desire to see it at that time and intimating that it wod. be the worse for her she told him it was hid in a cupboard overhead the fireplace in the room over the kitchen and with much ado her prevaild with her to give him the key of the cupboard which she took out of her pocket. He then went to the room... upon opening it he found the child wrapt up in a flannel shift that he carefully examined it found it a female child come to maturity it had hair on its head and the navel string twisted round its neck. That he cod perceive no marks of violence about any part that it had some black spots about the body but nothing that he cod form any opinion by that he did not open the child... he cannot positively say upon oath whether the child was born alive or not but that he believes it was born alive. That he took the child to its mother which she took into bed to her and informd him that the child was born dead...

[16: Ann Jones of Llanwennog, co. Cardigan, spinster]... upon her oath saith that she is now and hath been for two years and upwards last past a servant to John Thomas esqr at Lanvaughan in the county of Cardigan in the capacity of chambermaid That Maria Morris has also been servant to the said John Thomas in the capacity of cook for one year last past and that about February last she this examinant observd the said Maria Morris increase in her waist and suspected the said Maria Morris was with child but she never took any notice to the said Maria Morris of such suspicion not had she any conversation with her on the subject but that this examint and Sarah Joseph who is also a servant to the said John Thomas as dairy maid used frequently to to talk to each other about the said Maria Morris being with child and it was the genral talk of the country and that on Sunday the twenty ninth day of March last, as this examinant was dressing to go to a Presbyterian meeting about three in the afternoon she the said Maria Morris complaind of being ill and went to bed where examinant left her and went to the meeting and upon her return ... about six o' clock she went up to the room to Maria Morris... and asked her how she did as she was still in bed The said Maria Morris answerd she was very ill but said nothing more That examinant left her to go about her work and that about an hour or two after she this examinant together with Sarah Joseph the dairy maid went again to Maria Morris's room and that they took a candle with them but found the door very difficult to open but they both pushing very hard they opend the door and found a large chair had been laid across the door to prevent its being opend That they askd how Maria was when she answerd she was very well and desird them to go out of the room and take the candle with them That examinant went out ot give the people their supper but left Sarah Joseph and the candle in the room That she returnd in about an hour and when she returnd saw on one of the sheets of the bed where Maria lay some blood that she askd Sarah Joseph what it was she answerd she did not know but Maria said not a word That the examinant and Sarah staid very later in the room tho frequently desired by Maria to go out of the room and take the candle with them When at last Sarah said to Maria that she was certain something extraordinary was the matter with her for that she was very strange to them and askd Maria what was the blood on the sheet which Maria said she did not know and cod not account for it but desird them to go out of the room and take the candle with them for they prevented her sleeping which Sarah told Maria that there was a talk in the country that she was with child when Maria said the people were very good in putting about such reports. This examinant observd Maria frequently very uneasy in her bed. That about twelve or one at night this examinant and Sarah left the room and took the candle with them as Maria told them if they staid there the whole night she wod. have no farther conversation with them But at that or at any other time the said Maria never once confessd to this examinant that she was with child. That upon Sarah and examinant quitting the room they went together to the room of Thomas David the gardiner who was then in bed and told him what they had seen and what the suspected and desird to know what was best to be done when he said that he wod. get up early in the morning and go to Doctor Thomas and bring him to Lanvaughan... the next morning Thomas the gardener came to the room where Sarah and examinant were in bed and told them that he had found a good deal of clotted blood and matter under the window of Maria's room which he supposed she had thrown out of the window That examinant and Sarah got up and went with Thomas the gardner to see what he had found... they put a box to cover it till such time as the doctor shod come to examine it. That she then went to Marias room to aske her how she did who said she was better and that she wod. get up presently That Doctor Thomas came then into the room and very soon after told this examinant to go out of the room which she did but that she and Sarah staid at the door to hear the conversation between Doctor Thomas and Maria and after some length of time they her confess that she had been deliverd and that the child was hid in the cupboard overhead the chimney in the room over the kitchen. That she followd Doctor Thomas into that room and... saw him unlock the cupboard... he took out the child wrapt up in a flannel shift and brought it down and laid it on the floor when Sarah and her mother Catherine Evan & many other came in when the doctor shewd them the child...


Indictment 8: true bill but no trial verdict recorded in file.