It often happens that circumstances which for purposes of a public or private nature had become by the efflux of time matters to be remembered only on special occasions, are by some fact remotely connected with them, brought as distinctly before the mind as in the moment of their existence. This may truly be said of the late murders at Stanfield Hall, the painful remembrance of which has been again pressed upon the attention on the inhabitants of Norfolk, if not generally throughout the country, by the sale, which during the week has been conducted upon the premises, under the able presidency of Mr. Butcher.
But that which might be said of the sale, commencing on Tuesday and continued on the three following days, is more applicable to Monday, when the house was on view. On this last mentioned occasion, the contents on the Hall were removed, indeed had not been disturbed from the fatal night when the murder of Mr. Jermy and his son took place. After Monday, the auction being conducted in a tent erected for the purpose on the lawn in front of the Hall, the house gradually becoming despoiled of its contents, and the various apartments slowly but surely stood either totally denuded or at best were left but in an undressed condition. The day of view was essentially different.
Those who visited this scene of a catastrophe which perhaps of all similar events displayed the severance of family ties most ruthlessly and completely, were it is hoped brought to the spot by feelings far above those of a curiosity which only seeks to be informed upon the habitat of a bloody and domestic tragedy. It is hoped and believed that none, or at least but few visited Stanfield Hall merely to tread upon the mat (yet stained with blood) in the porch where the elder Mr. Jermy fell dead by the wound of the assassin - to be shown where the son was shot down, or where the heavy slugs from the weapon of Rush, portions of the charges which wounded Mrs. Jermy and the female servant, had struck and indented the walls of the passage. That a desire pervaded the minds of those present to see all that could be seen conducted with the murder cannot be denied, but it is to be hoped their chief feelings were those of condolence in the bereavements of such as are yet survivors, and a trust that the progeny of him, who, the victim of uncontrollable passions "made a solitude" where the home affections had set up their most cherished idols, may, through the hopeful surveillance and better example of superintendent friend be led to a more useful life.
To describe Stanfield Hall, its situation and grounds, is of course supererogatory. It is, as thousands know, a mansion of the Elizabethan style - not over aged, not over spacious - surrounded by a moat, situated in a park without a rise, and with several drives, closely, but not heavily timbered. The house and grounds, though for some months pictorially familiar to the public, had up to Monday, been of closed to all persons. The announcement of the view, and the sale of the contents, naturally therefore brought a vast number of visitors to the spot and these, it was curious to remark, were of a class, more nearly allied in situation to the bereaved family than otherwise. But few, comparatively, of the middle classes were present; and those who did belong to this nomenclature, were chiefly composed of respectable agriculturalists and their families, who, resident in the neighbourhood of Stanfield, and many of them possessing personal knowledge of the late Recorder, were attracted thither as much on that account as by other reasons.
In addition to private vehicles the railway conveyed numerous parties from localities seated both on the up and down lines. In fact, upon the arrival of each train through the day, the road from the station to Wymondham was lined by pedestrians, who, on reaching the town were conveyed by flys to Stanfield, which frequently left the King's Head Inn. The road between Wymondham and the Hall exhibited a busy scene, which on approaching the Park became extremely animated. Parties were admitted through the gates of both the Wymondham and Ketteringham lodges, but before being allowed to enter the grounds, each person was obliged either to shew a catalogue, which by arrangement gave the right of admission, or to purchase a copy on the spot. The gates were thrown open, and the company passed up the drive to the bridge across the moat and thence to the house.
The sole entrance to the hall was by the porch where the elder Mr. Jermy met his death, and here during the day knots of anxious visitors congregated and regarded both the porch itself and the spot where the body was found with the greatest interest and attention.
The scene which presented itself within the Hall was singular. On the ground floor are three rooms - drawing room on the left, the dining room also on the left, and the brown parlour, the door of which fronts the spectator. The drawing room was filled early by well dressed company, some of whom proceeded to occupy the sofa, and others the chairs. On surveying the apartment, the only change apparent in the furniture since last used by the family appeared to be a few light battens nailed across the front of the book-case to prevent the contents of the shelves from being displaced. The piano stood open, and several elegant ornaments were ranged on a handsome cheffioneer near the fire place. That many of the visitors were impressed with the inhabited air of the room was evident by the remarks made on the subject, and the observations which fell from several touching the alarm which must have prevailed in the tenants of the apartment on hearing the second shot, the weapon being discharged only a few yards from the door. The drawing room is airy and cheerful, having two windows, one looking towards the bridge, and the other across the moat to the prospect on the Wymondham side of the county.
The dining-room door on the day of view was kept locked, for the reason that the plate, which consisted of 2100 ounces, in various pieces, was displayed on the table. Visitors knocked and were admitted. Two especially fine articles struck the attention - an elegant epergne, eighteen inches high, standing on a bold pedestal elaborately ornamented with garlands of flowers and foliage, weighing 198 ounces, 15 dwts, and a magnificent silver salver, the border chased, pierced, and displayed the twelve signs of the zodiac - this weighed upwards of 205 ounces. On the walls hung paintings of the Preston family, and a well executed portrait in oils of the elder Mr. Jermy. The apartment is not spacious - indeed the mansion taken collectively is not large - but an air of great comfort pervades this room. For some reason the drawing room was not much visited by ladies, but it was crowded by gentlemen nearly the whole of the day.
The next room is the brown parlour, so called from the prevailing tone of colour, caused by a lining of dark oak. Here also hang a series of old family portraits, and a second but unfinished likeness of the late Recorder. None of these memorials were of course allotted for the auction, the family retaining them. Apart from any fancied interest it might possess, this apartment is worthy examination from the curious specimens of carving it exhibits. The whole room is lined by dark panelling to about half its height. The wall above to the ceiling is coloured of a warm red, the ceiling itself being lighter in tone and divided into compartments by oaken beams, each intersection being marked by small bosses. But although much carved work exists in the room, the "glory" is the fire-place, of massive carved oak, protruding in its upper portion far into the apartment. Near the opening for the stove is the date
ELIZABETH REGINA, A.D. 1583
This room has been used for purposes not generally connected with the family, fishing rods, nets, and other necessary items connected with sport occupying the corners. Here were also a few books. Probably from the legal titles found on the backs the late Mr. Jermy and his son transacted the business connected with the Magistracy here, the volumes being chiefly on legal subjects, and both gentlemen being in the Commission of the Peace for the County.
Emerging from this room, the architectural beauties of the staircase hall develop themselves, but although these attracted many observers, the chief desire of the visitors here was to ascertain the spot on which young Mr. Jermy fell. More than one lady satisfied on this point, tripped lightly across the intervening floor to the dining room, and surveyed the fatal spot from the doorway. This act arose, probably from a desire to view so fatal a scene from the same point as gave to Mrs. Jermy the first knowledge that a bloody catastrophe had occurred in the house. Strongly however as this sympathetic feeling unfolded itself on Monday in the act described, it was far eclipsed in intensity by the desire to be made acquainted with the precise situation of Eliza Chasteney, when, in attempting to shield her mistress, she was herself struck down. The perforated plaster on the wall of the passage, caused by the scattering of the slugs, and the locality of the staircase, to the bottom of which Chasteney was dragged, were regarded with great interest, as indeed were the places in which the papers or notices dropped by Rush, and the ramrod, once thought to have been deposited by him as blind, though now known as belonging to the blunderbuss recently discovered at Potash were found.
The servant's hall, the passage, the stable where Read the cook is stated to have hidden Miss Isabella Jermy, all underwent minute scrutiny. We are bound to state however, that the butler's pantry received but few visitors, nor did the occasional remarks which fell from those who penetrated to this most uninviting place, disclose a very exalted idea of the courage of this domestic, the want of which virtue was frequently contrasted with the heroic conduct exhibited both by Mrs. Jermy, in returning to the spot of danger, in opposition to the importunities of Chasteney, and that of the latter, when finding the resolution of her mistress unchangeable, she shielded her as far as possible by exposing her own person to danger.
The interest of the public, at least regards the melancholy occurrences which had happened at Stanfield, was of course concentrated on the ground floor. Most of the company ascended to the sleeping apartments, chiefly to view a state bedstead. This was magnificent, but heavy in point of taste. A large shield elaborately carved with the Jermy arms stands out in bold relief from the lower portion.
Several persons who had visited Stanfield from a long distance, felt desirous of tracing the path by which Rush reached his house at Potash, after quitting the Hall on the night of the murder. They were informed, however, that James Rush, the son of the assassin had forbidden all approach, and it can be testified that in one instance, where two gentlemen entered a gate at the front on Potash, and advanced a few feet into a field that commands a view of the farm house, they were fiercely commanded by Rush's son to depart instantly.
The sale commenced on Tuesday, and continued on Wednesday and Thursday. Many of the articles realized excellent prices, and the distribution of the contents of this mansion, which must always be historically connected with its fearful tragedy, was ably conducted by Mr. Butcher.
Ref: Norwich Mercury, 9 June 1849. Page 3, Column a,b