Victorian London - Sex - Abortion - cases

LAMBETH - Mr. Charles Cunningham, alias Smith, Mr. James Thompson Currie, and Mr. George Thomas - the two former being surgeons, and the latter a chymist - were placed at the bar before the Hon. G.C.NORTON, on a remand for being concerned in using a certain instrument, with the view of procuring abortion, on the person of a young woman at Clapham.
    Mr. Parry, the barrister, appeared for the prosecution; Mr. Robinson, the barrister, for Mr. Thomas; and Mr. Binns attended for Smith, alias Cunningham, and Currie.
    The first witness called was Mrs. Ann Mardon, who deposed that she was the mother of Eliza Mardon, and that she never was aware of her daughter being in the family way. Her daughter had long been in apparent ill-health, and in December last, with the view of a change of air, she had taken a lodging for her in the Hackney-road. She had done this after a consultation with a medical man, but she had had no idea that her daughter was enceinte. With regard to her daughter going to the residence of Mrs. Halcomb she was not cognizant. She went there for four days, at the instance of Mrs. Cornelius, who is Mrs. Halcomb's sister. She (witness) lived in Ely-place, Holborn, and the Rev. George Campbell Gordon came to lodge at her house in the month of November, 1851, and remained there a lodger until last Saturday week, when we left, and had not taken away any of his things. Mr. Gordon is about 53 years old (an unmarried man), and a curate of the parish church of St. Andrew's Holborn.
    The witness was not cross-examined.
    The next witness was Miss Eliza Mardon. - Her manner and self-possession during the severe ordeal she had to undergo were very remarkable. She seems much younger than she really is (22 years), and was ordered a seat by the magistrate. In answer to counsel she stated that she was at present staying at the house of Mrs. Halcomb, 4, Stockwell-road, Private-road, Clapham. She knew a person named the Rev. George Campbell Gordon, who was curate of St. Andrew's, Holborn, and who lodged at her mother's house in Ely-place. In the month of September last, an improper intimacy took place between Mr. Gordon and herself. "In consequence of my state a lodging was taken for me at Hackney in the month of December, and a medical man, Dr. Gillett, was called in to see me. At that time I was not conscious I was in the family way. In passing I met Mr. Gordon, and had some conversation with him as to the state of my health. After that I sent the witness Griffin, an old servant of my mother's, to Mr. Mullen's, a chymist, in Leather-lane, Holborn, to get some pills. When I sent Griffin out, I did not tell her to go to Mullens' shop in particular. I did not mention any shop, nor did I suggest the name of the prisoner Thomas. At that time I had not heard it. The next night, in consequence of what the witness Griffin told me, I went to Mullens' shop myself, and then I saw the prisoner Thomas. I asked him if he was the gentleman that a woman had been to see about a young person. he said 'Yes,' and asked me to walk into the surgery, behind the shop. He felt my bosom and my stomach, and told me that I was in the family way. He said that he had got a friend who would put me all right. I asked him what I should have to pay, and his reply was '10l.' At that time nothing was said as to whether I was married or single. I did not say to him that I was in the family way. I did not believe it till he told me. I said 10l. was a great deal of money to give, and I did not know whether I should be able to get it or not. He said that he should see his friend, and desired me to call again."
    Mr. NORTON. - You have stated that the first time you had connexion with Mr. Gordon was in September. Can you state the last time you had improper intercourse with him?
    Witness. - Not for a month before I left home, and I have been from my home three weeks.
    Witness (in continuation). - On the following Monday, or two or three days afterwards, in the evening, I think I saw the prisoner Thomas at the shop in Leather-lane. He told me he had seen the gentleman and "he would do the job for the 10l." He did not say what he was to do. That was all that passed. He did not mention the name of his friend at that time. I was told to call, and though no time was mentioned I did call again in a day or two afterwards. I think it was in the evening; and I told the prisoner Thomas that I was not quite right. He asked me if I lived at home, and I told him I lived with my mother. He did not ask my name, but he gave me a bit of paper with Dr. Smith's address upon it. That paper I have lost, but it stated that Dr. Smith could be seen from 11 to 12 o'clock at Mr. Currie's, No.10, Norfolk-street, Tottenham-court-road, near the Middlesex Hospital. I went to Mr. Smith's address, and asked for him. On doing so I saw the prisoner Cunningham, who came out from the behind the counter. The shop was a chymist's shop, and the prisoner Cunningham asked me if I was the young person Mr. Thomas had been speaking to him about. I said "Yes." At this time I think Mr. Currie was in the shop, but I can't say whether he was near enough to hear what had been said. The prisoner Cunningham, alias Smith, said to me, "Go into the surgery," and I went. He pulled down the blind, and was going to examine me, but he would not do it without the money down. I told I had but 2l., which I took out of my purse, and placed them on the table. He said he could not give his advice until he had the 10l. down. I said I had not got it with me, but that I had got it at home; and I asked him if he would arrange to come down to my lodgings at 4 o'clock the next day. Before that I had asked Mr. Gordon for the money, and Mr. Gordon gave me the 10l. I called again at the prisoner Currie's and saw a woman, and asked if Dr. Smith was at home. The woman said "No," but called Dr. Currie. I asked hmi if Dr. Smith was at home. He replied in the negative, but that any message that I left he would deliver to him. Accordingly, I left a message for Dr. mith to call on me at my lodgings. He came, and I gave him the 10l. He told me to lie on my left side on a sofa in the room, and I did so. He used some instrument under my clothes. A full quarter of an hour elapsed during the operation. I cannot tell how far the instrument went, but during the operation, in which both the prisoner's hands were engaged, I felt something going round like a worm or a corkscrew. There was not any particular pain. He told me to bear it patiently, and after half an hour I got up. He asked me "how I felt;" I said "pretty well," and then he left. He came again every day for about a week. I never saw the instrument, but I believe he used it every time he came. On each occasion that he came the operation was the same. I lay on my side every time and felt a pain, a short pain, when the instrument was used. At the end of the week he said "he was quite satisfied that everything was done that he could do; that I was no longer than two months gone with child; and that there had not been anything formed." This was all he said to me as to my being in the family way. He added "that he had cleared the womb completely out." About a week after this I went home to my mother's, where I remained for two months. In that time I frequently saw Mr. Gordon. I told him I was not in the way I should wish to be. He said he would write and ascertain if Dr. Smith would see me again. I called two or three times at the prisoner's Thomas's, and he said he should forward any letter or message to Dr. Smith, and eventually, I wrote a letter to Dr. Smith, and give it to Mr. Thomas, making an appointment with the former to meet him at 24, Essex-street, Strand, a lawyer's. There I went to an empty room at the top of the house, in company with a Mrs. Cornelius, who is sister to Mrs. Halcomb, in whose house I now live. The prisoner Smith came to us in the empty room, and then again performed another operation on me the same as before, and with an instrument, as I felt a similar pain.
    Mr. NORTON. - What! perform an operation in an empty room! Was there no furniture of any sort in it?
    Witness. - Only a carpet with a sort of couch or sofa bedstead. I lay on the latter, with my face to the wall. He then told me it was "polypus," and used the instrument as before. He told me I must get away from home for a week, and desired me to take a lodging; and, in consequence, I got the lodgings where I am now staying. It was on the 11th of April that I was in the empty room in Essex-street, and on the Tuesday following I went to Stockwell. After getting my mother's consent to go to Mrs. Halcomb's I wrote to the prisoner Smith to request him to call on me at my new lodgings, and left the letter at Thomas's, requesting him to forward it. Thomas inquired what Dr. Smith had said about me, and I said "a polypus." Smith called on me on the day I removed to Stockwell, and he then used instrument in the back parlour at Mr. Halcomb's, while I was in the same position as before, with my face to the wall. By his desire I had first locked the door and pulled down the blind. He came again on the Wednesday and Thursday, and applied the instrument as before. On the Friday and Saturday, he brought me some powders, which were taken in water, and were very nasty to the palate. They were of greyish colour, and gave me great pain in my stomach, and so I told Dr. Smith. On the Tuesday or the Wednesday he used the instrument again, but did not say anything about the powders. On the Saturday, I fell very ill indeed, and sent for him to the lodgings he had taken at Stockwell. He came between 7 and 8 on the Sunday morning and inquired how I was, and I said "very ill." He replied that the "pains were coming on." He came again in the middle of the day, when I told him I felt much worse, and he said, "it will be soon over." He came a third time, in the afternoon, and remained sitting at my bedside two or three hours. On Friday and Saturday he wished me to get up, but the pains were so great that I could not do so. On the Sunday evening, when my mother arrived, Dr. Smith was in the room with me, but on hearing her voice he left and went into another room. My mother finding me so ill, said she wished a doctor to see me, and while she was gone for a doctor Dr. Smith returned to the room. My pain at this time was very great, and Dr. Smith took something from me with his hand, which he put into a piece of paper and carried away with him. The prisoner Smith callde on me on Monday, when he said he was very glad to see me going on so well, though I was very poorly, and I have never seen him since.
    Mr. Robinson declined putting any questions to witness, but Mr. Binns was about to cross-examine her when she became so faint and weak that it was deemed necessary to send for a glass of wine for hear and remove her into the fresh air.
    . . . . Mrs. Grace Holcombe deposed, that she resided at No. 4, Private-road, Stockwell, and the prosecutrix was brought to her house by the last witness on the 12th of April. About an hour and a half after she arrived the prisoner Cunningham was introduced to her by the name of Smith, and he said he was the family doctor, and that he had attended the proscutrix for some time, and she was suffering from polypus. After this Cunningham came to the house every day, and on the Sunday following the prosecutrix appeared to be very ill, and from her appearance witness suspected she was in the family way. Her mother came to see her on that day, and upon her expressing her intention to fetch a medical man the prisoner left the house, and when she had gone out he returned, and she saw him go to the bed where the prosecutrix was lying and take something from it, which he wrapped up in paper and took away with him. Her opinion at this time was that the prosecutrix had miscarried. She saw the prisoner again the next day, and told him that she thought the other doctor would like to see what it was he had taken away, and he said he had got it buried, and had paid the sexton half-a-crown for doing so.
    Dr. Greenwood, a medical gentleman residing at Clapham, deposed that he was called in to see the prosecutrix on the 18th of April, and at that time she presented all the appearances of a woman who had just been delivered, having been four or five months in the family way. His examination of the person of the prosecutrix confirmed this opinion, and he was satisfied that the prosecutrix had been recently delivered of an abortion.
    Dr. Greenwood underwent a long cross-examination by Mr. Serjeant Miller, but the greater part of the evidence was not a of a nature for publication. The object of the examination was to show that women were subject to certain maladies which might be mistaken for pregnancy, but, although he admitted this was so, he stated, at the same time, that it did not at all alter his opinion with regard to the present case.
    . . . . . .
    Mr. Justice TALFOURD then summed up the whole case in the most careful and minute manner; and
    The Jury, after deliberating fro about 20 minutes, returned a verdit of Guilty against Cunningham, and Acquitted the other two prisoners.
    The prisoner was at once called up for judgment; and
    The learned JUDGE, after expressing his entire concurrence in the verdict of the jury said, there could be no doubt that he had been guilty in the particular instance before the Court, but there was too much reason to believe that he had been carrying on a wicked trade, and that he had abused the noble science to which he belonged for the most based purposes. Under such circumstances, his duty left him no alternative but to pass a severe sentence, which was that he be transported for 15 years.

The Times, May 06 & Jul 07, 1853