British Executions

Stephen Arrowsmith

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: rape

Date Of Execution: 11 Dec 1678

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


2. Stephen Arrowsmith Indicted, for that he, the 7th. of July last, did ravish and abuse one Elizabeth Hopkins , an Infant , of the age of eight years, against the form of the Statute in that case . To the Indictment he pleaded Not Guilty, and put himself on the Countrey.

The third they were charged with, was Stephen Arrowsmith for the Rape committed on Elizabeth Hopkins. To prove which, a Girl of between 9 and 10 years of Age, gave this Testimony without being Sworn.

That she saw in a Room, the Prisoner lying a top of the little Girl, but what they did she knew not, but the Girls Petticoats were up, nor did she cry out.

The Girl that was ravished, being between 8 and 9, testified that he had had to do with her for half a year together every sunday, that she was hindred from crying the first time, by his stopping her mouth, and that he gave her money afterwards; and she never discovered it, till some of her friends observing her to go as if she were very sore, examined her, and by telling her she would be in danger of hanging in Hell, got her to confess, that the Prisoner was her fathers Prentice.

One Mrs. Cowel did testifie that upon observing her going, and other Circumstances, she did resolve to examine her, and made her confess, which she did, and being searched, was found shamefully abused, and sent to the Doctors to cure.

The like was attested by one Mrs. Sherwin, and by a Midwife, who said, she had got a very foul disease by it.

The Prisoner with a great many tears denied the Fact, and desired some Witnesses might be called. Among whom there was a maid that lived at the Doctors where the Girl was for Cure, who testified that the Girl upon Taxing her, why she did conceal it, said, she took Pleasure in it, and that upon Examination there were no Symptomes on the Prisoner, as the Doctor said, of any such disease as the Girl had, which was indeed the Pox; which was also attested by one Mrs. Rawlins: and the Prisoner protesting his Innocence, alledged that they offered a Composition.

All which notwithstanding, the Court with great detestation and abhorrence of so Horrid and Vile an Offence, told him the Matter was so plain against him, that he must have as great impudence to deny it, as he had wickedness to Commit it; that her consent would not save him, for the Statute provides, that a Child under 10 years of age, should not be abused with, or without her Consent. That the First Violence whereby he stop'd her Crying, made the Rape, had it been a Woman above 10; that if the Parents were so wicked, as to offer a Composition, yet that made not him innocent.

The Jury not seeming satisfied with the Evidence, the Lord Chief Justice Scroggs and others were of opinion, that the Girl that was Ravished, might give in her Testimony upon Oath; but it was forborn for the present, and left to the Jury. Who were sent together to consider of their Charge, with an Officer sworn to keep them according to Law.

That Stephen Arrowsmith was not guilty of the Rape: which Verdict Mr. Recorder, not conceiving it to be according to their Evidence, would not take from them without further deliberation, and labour'd to satisfie them of the Manifestness of the Proof. One of the Jury being an Apothecary, said it was his opinion, that a Child of those years could not be Ravished. Which the Court told him was to Elude the Statute, that having provided a Punishment, had done it in vain, if there were no offence, and so he did tax the Wisdom of a whole Parliament; Which ought not to be Others of the Jury, because the Girls were not sworn, doubted of the sufficiency of their Testimony, and they had nothing but hearsay from the other Witnesses. But the Court told them, in regard such Offenders never call others to be by while they commit such actions, they could expect no other Testimony than from the Party injured, which they had, and with it of an eye Witness, both whom they forbore to Swear, because of the tenderness of their Age; but if they insisted upon it, they should be Sworn.

Upon this the Jury went out again, and while they were deliberating, information was given to the Court, that they had the two Children with them, which was against the Law. Whereupon the Officer appointed to keep them, was sent for, and it being sworn against him, that he had admitted them in, he was sent to Newgate, though he alledged another Officer brought them to him as from the Court, but that Officer swore the contrary, and therefore the other was detained in Custody. The Jury being sent for about this matter, when they came, said, they sent not for the Children, nor desired to have them and the Court to give further satisfaction, swore the Children, having examined them, whether they understood the nature of an Oath, and the danger of Perjury, which they gave a Rational account of. And the Jury went away again.

That Stephen Arrowsmith was guilty of the Rape, and they were discharged till the next morning at Ten of the clock: it being late, the Court was Adjourned till Seven.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 09 October 2011), December 1678, trial of Stephen Arrowsmith (t16781211e-2).