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Martha Espley is my wife’s 1st cousin 3x removed. She was born about 1839 to parents John Espley and Sarah Johnson. Martha’s grandparents, James Espley and Martha Silvester, are my wife’s 3x great grandparents.
As far as I can tell Martha had three children “out of wedlock”:-
John Espley – born 12 December 1859
Charles Espley – born 15 March 1862
Samuel Espley – born about June 1870
Shortly after Charles was born Martha found herself in court on a charge of “attempted child murder”.
Below are two extracts from the Chester Chronicle of 9 August 1862.
The first is part of the address to the grand jury at Chester Crown Court on Monday 4 August by Mr Justice Channell.
There was another case upon the calendar in which a woman was charged with attempting to murder her child, of about three weeks old; the case was a very short one; it appeared that the mother had been delivered at the Workhouse, and left of her own accord, taking the child with her, and on the day in question she must have tied up the child’s mouth with a bandage in a way which the prosecution suggested was intended to produce death by suffocation. The woman’s account was that she was in distress, and she proposed to go to the adjoining village to get some refreshment either by begging or some way or another, intending to return to the child, but she denied the charge of attempting to murder it. It might be that the woman bound the bandage round the child’s mouth for the purpose of preventing it from crying, and not to produce the effect which the prosecution attributed to it. A necessary ingredient in the case was whether the intention existed of murdering the child, and if they found that this did not exist, they should ignore the bill. He did not invite them to do so, but merely mentioned it for their consideration. His Lordship referred to an Act of Parliament which made it a misdemeanour to expose any child under two years of age.
This second extract reports on the verdict of the jury.
CHARGE OF ATTEMPTED CHILD MURDER
Martha Espley, 22, was charged with attempting to murder a male child of the age of three weeks, of which she was the mother, by fastening a bandage round its mouth and nose, and throwing it into a field and deserting it, at Buglawton, on the 3rd April.
Counsel for the prosecution, Mr Swetenham; for the prisoner, Mr Brandt.
The jury, after a brief consultation, returned a verdict of Not Guilty.
The image below is from the Criminal Register showing that Martha was acquitted.
Martha subsequently married Samuel Hazeldine sometime in the September quarter of 1875. They had at least five children together over the next ten years.
Martha died, at the age of about 69 in the last months of 1908.