The Evidence of Rebecca Jarrett
The Old Bailey (October 29, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)
Jarrett: In the year 1883 I was in work at the laundry in Claridge’s Hotel. It was about the month of May when I went there.
Mr. Mathews [Mr. Russell’s Junior]: Was Mrs. Broughton employed there at the same time?
Mr. Mathews: Was she also in the laundry?
Jarrett: No, in the washing.
Mr. Mathews: And you became acquainted with her?
Mr. Mathews: Did you become intimate with Mrs. Broughton?
Mr. Mathews: Did you visit her at her house?
Jarrett: I did.
Mr. Mathews: On what day of the week was it you went there?
Jarrett: On the Sundays when work was finished. I went three times to tea with her.
Mr. Mathews: Did you tell Mrs. Broughton something in regard to your own past life?
Jarrett: When I used to be in the laundry we used to go into the wash-house during our dinner-hour. There were two young men employed there to look after the machinery. We used to carry on with them.
Mr. Mathews: I desire to take your mind to the occasion on which you told Mrs. Broughton something about your own history.
Jarrett: It came out on those occasions.
Mr. Mathews: Just tell us what it was you told Broughton about your own past?
Jarrett: I told her during these dinner hours that I had been bad and had kept a house.
Mr. Mathews: Did you tell her where?
Jarrett: Yes; I mentioned Manchester to her and Bristol, and I told her that through my health being so bad through having led a gay life, that I had to give it up, and that was why I was trying to get on in the laundry.
Mr. Mathews: Why did you leave Claridge’s?
Jarrett: On account of my bad hip, which got worse.
Mr. Mathews: How long did you stay at Broughton’s that time?
Jarrett: I went on the Monday and left on Thursday.
Mr. Mathews: Where did you go from there?
Jarrett: To St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.
Mr. Mathews: Will you take your mind back to Monday, May 25th. Did you see Mrs. Butler that day?
Jarrett: No; I saw her on Sunday, the 24th.
Mr. Mathews: Tell me, as a fact, whether on that day you had a long conversation with her?
Jarrett: I did.
Mr. Mathews: Was it in consequence of that conversation that you came to London on Monday, May 25th?
Mr. Mathews: Where did you go to that day?
Jarrett: I went to Mr. Stead’s office in Northumberland Street.
Mr. Mathews: Had you a long conversation with him?
Mr. Mathews: Did you tell your history to Mr. Stead?
Jarrett: I did. The whole of it.
Mr. Mathews: What was it that he asked you to do?
Jarrett: He asked me to purchase a child for the object he had in view.
Mr. Mathews: What more?
Jarrett: Mr. Stead said that he would supply me with money to buy the child. I told him I must speak to Mrs. Butler about it first.
Justice Lopes: Were you unwilling to do this?
Jarrett: I was unwilling, but he insisted on it, as I had led a bad life, to atone for what I had done.
Mr. Mathews: Then you said you must speak to Mrs. Butler?
Jarrett: Yes. Mr. Stead then said he would not let me go home, but would write down to Mrs. Butler and tell her what he had asked me to do.
Mr. Mathews: Come now to Tuesday, June 2nd.
Jarrett: I went to Mrs. Broughton’s and she said, “Hello, Beck, it’s you”. I said, “yes”. She said, “Come in and sit down”. I then went in and sat down, and asked her how she was getting on. She said she had not done any work since she left Claridge’s Hotel. Then she asked me how I was getting on myself. I told her that my hip had been bad, that I was not able to stay any longer at work, and that I had gone back again to my old life. Then I told Mrs. Broughton that I had gone back again with Sullivan.
Mr. Mathews: Did she know Sullivan ?
Jarrett: She knew his name, but I don’t say that she knew him personally. When I told her I had gone back with Sullivan, she asked me if I was married. I said I was not married, but I was very comfortable and had got another house. She said, “Good luck to you, old girl. It doesn’t matter whether you’re married or single, so long as you’re comfortable and doing well. I’ve often thought of you, and wondered how you could get about.” I then told her I could get about much better, but had to walk with a stick.
Mr. Mathews: What else passed between you at that time?
Jarrett: I said to her, “Do you know what I’ve come up for?” She said, “no, I don’t”. I explained to her. Then I added, “but she must be pure.” I said, “if you will help me now, and get me one, I will pay you for your trouble”.
Justice Lopes: What did she say?
Jarrett: She did not say anything. Then a young girl passed through the passage and Mrs. Broughton brought her into the room and said to me, “is this the sort you want?” I asked the girl how old she was. She told me she was about sixteen. I told her she was too old; I wanted one between thirteen and fourteen. I believe the girl went out of the room and called the girl Lizzie Stephens, who came in. Directly I saw her I told her that she would not suit me—that she was too old. She left the room. Then I said to Mrs. Broughton, “I don’t want such a one as that; I want one that is more interesting looking and pretty.” Lizzie Stephens was not interesting at all. After that Eliza Armstrong came in.
Mr. Mathews: Was she with any one?
Jarrett: No, she came by herself. She asked me If I was the person who wanted a girl, and I said, “yes”. Then I said, “where is your mother?” She went over and fetched her mother into the room. Mrs. Armstrong asked me if I was the person who wanted the girl and I said “yes”. She asked me where I came from. I said, “from the country”. She said that she should not let her girl go away from her. Then Mrs. Armstrong told me the girl was working somewhere near, where she was earning a shilling or two for herself, and that she should not let her go with me. The mother then went away, and the child with her. That was all that passed between us that day.
Mr. Mathews: Was anything said about your having a six-roomed house at Cray don or Wimbledon?
Jarrett: No, nothing of the kind was mentioned that day.
Mr. Mathews: Or that you were married to a commercial traveller?
Jarrett: Nothing was said about my being married.
Mr. Mathews: Did you say to Mrs. Armstrong that the girl would be required to scrub oilcloth, etc.?
Mr. Mathews: Did you tell her that because you could not kneel, you wanted a girl to assist you?
Mr. Mathews: When Mrs. Armstrong and Eliza left, was there any further conversation between you and Mrs. Broughton?
Jarrett: I begged her to try and get a girl for me. She promised to see what she could do, and I said I would come back the next morning. On Wednesday morning, June 3rd, I went again to Mrs. Broughton in Charles Street.
Mr. Mathews: Whom did you see when you got there?
Jarrett: Mrs. Broughton herself. She was alone. She told me that she was hard-up, and that she had no money because she had been on the drink. I said to her, “Nancy, when are you going to give it up?” Then, as I feared I might be betraying my character, I had to draw in my words. She told me she was dying for a ‘livener’. (Laughter) That meant that she was feeling faint. (Laughter). I then gave her half a sovereign and she went out and got some whisky. I told her to have some— that she would be better. She returned me the change—95. 6d. I think. Then I said to her “Nancy, have you got me a girl?” She said, “No, I couldn’t get you one; I did try.” I said to her, “I’m very sorry, for I’ve come from the country and I don’t want to go back without one.” Mrs. Broughton then went down the street.
Mr. Mathews: What did she say when she returned?
Jarrett: She said “Eliza’s mother’s coming up to you again.” Then Mrs. Armstrong came into the room, and she said to me “Are you still in want of a girl?” I said, “Yes. Are you willing to let me have Eliza then?” She said, “Yes; for after you left yesterday Eliza did nothing but worry me about it.” There was only me, Mrs. Broughton and herself in the room at the time. Then I said to Mrs. Armstrong, “Do you know who I am?” She said, “Well, I saw you down the street when you was on your crutches.” I said, “I have gone back again with Sullivan to live with him, and we keep another house.”
Justice Lopes: What house?
Jarrett: A gay house. I added, “I want a little girl about your daughter’s age. She must be pure.” Then I asked her if Eliza was pure. She said, “Yes.” I told her for an immoral life and that if she liked to let me have her, I would give her some money.
Mr. Mathews: Give whom some money?
Jarrett: Mrs. Armstrong. She hesitated and drew back a little. Then she said, “Very well. I will let her go.” I said, “Are you quite willing to let her go?” She said, “yes”.
Justice Lopes: Was anything said as to the amount of money?
Jarrett: No sum was named. I believe Eliza Armstrong came into the room then.
Mr. Mathews: What passed in her presence?
Jarrett: I said to Eliza, “I hear you’ve been worrying your mother to let you go with me. Are you quite willing to come?” and the child said “Yes”. Then I said to Mrs. Armstrong, “What sort of clothes has Eliza got?” She said, “Only what you see she has on now, and a jacket and a hat.” I told Eliza to go and put her hat and jacket on and come with me and I would buy her some more clothes. Mrs. Armstrong heard me say that. Eliza and her mother then left and Mrs. Broughton and I were alone in the room. I said, “Nancy, I’m very glad I’ve got a girl to go back with me.” I took my purse out of my pocket and I brought two sovereigns out of my purse. I put them into Mrs. Broughton’s hands and said, “Mrs. Broughton, this is for your trouble in getting me the girl, and if she does prove what I want her to be, more money shall be sent to you afterwards.” I did not say how much.
Mr. Mathews: What did you mean by “What I want her to be?”
Mr. Webster: We don’t want what she meant, but what she said.
Jarrett: I meant that she should be pure. Mrs. Broughton knew what I meant, because I had told her before.
Mr. Mathews: Was anything said to Mrs. Armstrong or Mrs. Broughton about the girl being required for a servant?
Jarrett: Nothing at all. I told Mrs. Armstrong I would take the girl and, if she was what I wanted her to be, she should be kept, but if she was not, I would return her the same way as I took her.
Mr. Mathews: Is it a fact that the money you gave to Mrs. Broughton was to get dinner with?
Jarrett: Nothing was said about dinner when I gave her the money.
Mr. Mathews: When you gave her the money was anything said about its being for the kindness she had shown you, and the debt you owed her?
Jarrett: Nothing of the kind. I said it was for her trouble in getting the child.
Mr. Mathews: During the dinner-time did Eliza Armstrong come back with her hat and jacket on?
Jarrett: Yes. I asked her if she was ready to go with me, and she said “Yes”. Then the child and I went out and I purchased some clothes for her. I put on her new clothes in Mrs. Broughton’s room. While I was dressing Eliza, Mrs. Armstrong came in with her mouth bleeding. She told me that she wanted to go to a funeral, but her husband would not let her go, and that he had given her a blow in her mouth. She had the baby in her arms. She came into the room and asked Mrs. Broughton to lend her sixpence till Saturday, as she wanted the money to pay her fare to the cemetery. I went across to her and I said, “Here, Mrs. Armstrong, here’s a shilling”— which was really a shilling. Then the thought struck me that I had promised her money, and that that was what she meant. I had my purse in my hand from which I had taken the shilling. I followed her to the door. It was then that I gave her a sovereign. It was then that she said, “This will do much better”.
Justice Lopes: Did you say to her that it was a sovereign?
Jarrett: No. I said, “This is according to my promise to you.”
Mr. Mathews: What did she say?
Jarrett: She said, “This will do better”, and she went away.
Mr. Mathews: Did she look at the sovereign?
Mr. Mathews: Had she looked at the shilling?
Jarrett: No. She went straight away. She did not even say thank you.
Mr. Mathews: After you gave Mrs. Armstrong the sovereign, did you see her again?
Jarrett: No. After Eliza was dressed I said to her, “Now Eliza, go in and bid your father and mother good-bye”. The child went. She came back after a little while. I said to her, “Have you seen your father and mother?” She told me her mother was out and that her father was lying on the bed. I said to Mrs. Broughton “What a strange thing her mother doesn’t come to see her off.”
Justice Lopes: The mother having sold her child to you for immoral purposes, you thought it strange she did not come to see her off?
Jarrett: Yes. At three o’clock we started off— Mrs. Broughton, Eliza and I. We went into a public house and Mrs. Broughton and I had something to drink. In the middle of Edgware Road Eliza and I got into an omnibus and said goodbye to Mrs. Broughton.