The Tragedy of Emma Saul

by Rosemary Bailey and John Slaughter

This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

The trial was in July 1855 and was well covered in newspaper reports. We learn that Emma was nineteen years of age and was charged with concealing the birth of a male bastard child at Cropredy on 4 April 1855. We also learn that she had first entered the service of George WALKER on 19 December 1854, (so clearly must have been pregnant at the time but it appears that no one had any suspicions of this right up to the time of birth).
The prisoner was unrepresented in court but gave a long statement to the jury. Unfortunately what she said is not recorded in the newspaper reports but it seems clear that her story had a telling effect on both the judge and jury. In his summing up the judge said that it was impossible to listen to her tale without having feelings more of sorrow than anger – anger being directed at the heartless seducer of the girl rather than the girl herself.
Though finding her guilty the jury gave a strong recommendation of mercy. The prisoner had already been in prison for three months and was in poor health. In sentencing, the judge stated that she had already spent longer in prison than he would have awarded as a punishment so he imposed a prison sentence of just one day and then for her to be discharged. This sentence met with approval from the gallery.
Emma was not charged with murdering her baby, just concealing the birth. It was not clear from the medical evidence whether the child was born alive or dead, but the judge’s comments suggest that even if the child had been born alive, but had died as a result of the lack of medical care, that did not amount to murder. 
The newspaper articles are on Findmypast and the images seem to be protected. It is a shame, from our point of view, that her comments at the trial are not recorded, perhaps the newspaper thought that they were too graphic. I do not know if the Court records themselves have survived and would give more information. 
Emma SAUL was baptised at the parish church of Horley, Oxfordshire, on 27 September 1835, the daughter of James SAUL and Jane BROOKS of Horley. After release from prison following her trial, Emma went back to the family home. On the 1851 census the family was at an address given as Far Cottage in Horley. Her father James was the head of the household, aged 56 years, married, an ag lab. Also present were daughters Emma (15) and Elizabeth (11). Mother Jane is not shown nor have I found her elsewhere. She had not died, for on the 1861 Wardington census she appears as a widow, aged 67 years, a pauper.
Sadly Emma died in 1856, only a few months after her trial. James SAUL died in Q2 of 1856, shortly after his daughter.
Emma’s death was taken from the GRO death indexes so we do not known when she died or the cause of death. It seems reasonable however to think that her poor state of health, at the time of the trial, and probably afterwards, was as a result of lack of medical care at the time of the birth of her illegitimate baby.  
I have looked for information about the master George WALKER. He appears on the censuses at Cropredy where he was a malster and farmer. Unfortunately none of the censuses give an exact address for him, other than possibly in the Cropredy Lawn area. (There is a poll book for 1846-7 which lists him at the Brasenose Inn.) He was unmarried and on the 1851 census he was aged 56 years and had both his mother and sister living with him. Also resident was a servant Eliza HAZLEWOOD, who gave evidence at the trial. 
This article is also appearing in the Oxfordshire Family History Journal, December 2019.

The Brasenose Arms

The Brasenose Arms, one place where George Walker, employer of Emma Saul, lived in Cropredy in the mid-19th century. Photo by Motacilla ,CC BY-SA 4.0,