Brownrigg, Elizabeth (DNB00)

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BROWNRIGG, ELIZABETH (d. 1767), murderess, was the wife of James Brownrigg, a house painter, who lived at Fleur de Luce Court, Fleet Street. For some years she practised midwifery, and about 1765 was appointed by the overseers of St. Dunstan's in the West to act as midwife to the poor women of the parish workhouse. She had three apprentices, Mary Mitchell, Mary Jones, and Mary Clifford, all of whom she treated in a most inhuman manner. On 3 Aug. Clifford was found in a dying state, hidden in Brownrigg's premises, and died shortly after. James, the husband, was committed for trial. Elizabeth and her son John fled, but were apprehended on the Kith. Elizabeth was tried at the Old Bailey, before Mr. Justice Hewitt, on 12 Sept. 1767, found guilty, and received sentence. Her husband and son were acquitted. It appears that after practising all sorts of diabolical cruelties upon Clifford, the woman Brownrigg tied her up to a hook fixed in one of the beams in the kitchen, and flogged her no less than five times on 31 July. She was hanged at Tyburn on 14 Sept. 1767. Her skeleton was exposed in a niche at Surgeons' Hall in the Old Bailey, 'that the heinousness of her cruelty might make the more lasting impression on the minds of the spectators' (Gent. Mag.) A well-known reference to her crime is made in some verses in the 'Anti-Jacobin.'

[Knapp and Baldwin's New Newgate Calendar, iii. 216-23; Celebrated Trials (1826), iv. 425-31; Sessions Papers (1766-7), 257-76; The Ordinary of Newgate's Account of Elizabeth Brownrigg; Bayley's Life of Elizabeth Brownrigg; Wilson's Wonderful Characters (1822), iii. 321-30; Gent. Mag. (1767), xxxvii. 426-8, where a picture of the ill-treatment of the apprentices will be found, 476.]

G. F. R. B.