Ann Beddingfield (1742–1763) was an English woman who was burned at the stake for her involvement in the murder of her husband.

Ann Beddingfield
18th-century illustration of Beddingfield being burned to death
Born1742 (1742)
England
DiedApril 8, 1763(1763-04-08) (aged 20–21)
Rushmere, England
Cause of deathDeath by burning
SpouseJohn Beddingfield
Criminal chargePetty treason
Partner(s)Richard Ringe

Early life and marriage

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Ann was born in England in 1742, probably in Suffolk.[1]

When she was scarcely 17, Ann married John Beddingfield, a wealthy farmer from Sternfield. They lived on an estate in Suffolk in a large manor house[1] and had two children.[2] Elizabeth Riches and the boys William Masterson and John Nunn also lived with them.[2]

Affair and murder plot

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Around Michaelmas (29 September) of 1761, the Beddingfields hired two servants, the nursemaid Elizabeth Cleobold and the farmhand Richard Ringe. Ann took a liking to the handsome, 19-year-old Ringe, who was flattered by the attention.[3] While Beddingfield and her husband were not on ill terms, she treated him less than kindly and they displeased each other often.[2]

She made her affection known to Ringe and he apparently did not have "the virtue to resist the temptation"[4] as the two began an affair that would last for the next three months. They were not very discreet and four of the household's servants later remarked upon their doings. Eventually, Ann came to propose to Ringe the murder of her husband. He hesitated initially, but was persuaded once she promised to give him half of the estate. Ann seemed to hint at the plot when she commanded her maidservant to:

"Help me to put on my ear-rings; but I shall not wear them much longer, for I shall have new black ones. It will not be long before somebody in the house dies, and I believe it will be your master."

Ringe obtained arsenic[5] from a local chemist[3] and attempted to convince the servant Elizabeth Riches to add the poison to Mr Beddingfield's morning helping of rum and milk, saying he would be her "constant friend". She refused and Ringe later tried to poison Beddingfield himself when he was asked to get water to cool off the hot water that Beddingfield had been given to treat his vomiting. Beddingfield noticed a white sediment in the water and refused to drink it but did not suspect foul play.[5]

Strangulation of Mr Beddingfield

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One night in March 1763, Ringe pretended to sleep while Beddingfield entertained a business associate he had invited over for punch. After Beddingfield went to bed, Ringe sneaked into his room. He lingered there for about 15 minutes before attacking the sleeping man,[2] strangling him with a cord. They struggled and both fell off of the bed.[5] In the commotion they knocked down and bent the bed rod.[2] Ringe then went to the adjacent room where Ann had been sleeping and announced "I have done for him" to which Ann replied, "then I am easy." He did not realise that the maidservant Cleobold was sharing her bed (for warmth).[1] Mr Beddingfield's death was revealed to the household and the coroner was called for. None of the servants informed the coroner of their suspicions.[1] Following a superficial enquiry, the coroner pronounced the death as being the result natural causes,[5] those being him strangling himself in his bed sheets.[1]

Cleobold waited until she received her quarterly wages to report the murder, during the Ipswich Lent assizes.[6]

Beddingfield and Ringe were arrested and put on trial in April 1763. Both were found guilty of petit treason (petty treason). While Ringe was sentenced to hang to death, Beddingfield was sentenced to burn at the stake, a punishment reserved for murderous, unfaithful wives.[1] Both had insisted upon their innocence until a few days before the execution when Ringe confessed.[2]

Death by burning

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Beddingfield was executed on a Friday, 8 April 1763, in Rushmere, Ipswich, alongside Ringe. Prior to his hanging, Ringe addressed the crowd that had assembled, confessing and giving a lecture on "the snares and pitfalls of wicked women." Meanwhile, Beddingfield was burned at the stake[1] and was probably strangled with a rope as the fire was lit.[7]

An account of the events was included in The Newgate Calendar, a collection of moralising stories about 18th- and 19th-century English criminals, and bore an illustration of Beddingfield being burned to death. According to the author, in the case "females will find another warning against the shocking consequences which ever attend illicit love". Though Ringe committed the murder of Beddingfield, Newgate describes Ann as the murderer and Ringe as her "accomplice".[4]

References

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g Commire, Anne, ed. (2002). "Beddingfield, Ann (1742–1763)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications. ISBN 0-7876-4074-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Some Account of the Murder of John Beddingfield". British Magazine. The British Library: 363–369. 1763 – via Cuttings from magazines, etc., relating to the County of Suffolk.
  3. ^ a b Nash, Jay Robert (1989). Encyclopedia of World Crime: A-C. CrimeBooks. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-923582-01-2.
  4. ^ a b Knapp, Andrew (1826). The New Newgate Calendar ... To which is added a correct account of the various modes of punishment of criminals in different parts of the world. J. Robins and Company. pp. 154–158.
  5. ^ a b c d A full and particular Narrative of the Cases of Anne Beddingfield, and Richard Ringe, who were hanged for Petit Treason. The British Library. 1700s. pp. 246–252 – via Cuttings from magazines, etc., relating to the County of Suffolk.
  6. ^ Wilson, Colin (2015). A Casebook of Murder: A Compelling Study of the World's Most Macabre Murder Cases. Diversion Books. ISBN 978-1-68230-010-7.
  7. ^ White, Terence Hanbury (1952). The Scandalmonger. J. Cape. p. 70. ISBN 7250009184.