Stanfield Hall, near Wymondham, in Norfolk, was, on the night of Nov. 28th, 1848, the scene of the most horrid murders ever perpetrated. On that night, about 8 o'clock, Isaac Jermy, Esq., then Recorder of Norwich, was shot dead by an assassin, in the porch of his own mansion. His only son, Mr. Jermy Jermy, was also shot dead within the house. Mrs. Jermy Jermy, and her servant Eliza Chastney, were fired at and wounded by the same murderous hand.
The first intelligence of these murders and of the attempted murders excited universal horror. They appeared so inhuman and atrocious that public curiosity was excited to the highest possible pitch. All the reports published in the local and metropolitan journals were read with the greatest avidity. The antecedent circumstances, and the proofs which fixed the commission of the crime on the actual perpetrator were gradually unfolded.
James Blomfield Rush, a farmer well known in Norfolk, and a tenant under Mr. Jermy, was at once suspected, and soon afterwards apprehended. He underwent many examinations before the Magistrates, was committed, tried, found guilty, and condemned.
This narration will comprise particulars, 1st - respecting the Stanfield Hall estate, the localities, &c.: 2nd - respecting the Preston family, and the late Mr. Jermy: 3rd - respecting Rush and Emily Sandford his victim: 4th - respecting the horrible tragedy at Stanfield Hall: 5th - a summary of the proceedings before the Magistrates: 6th - summary of the proceedings at the trial.
Stanfield Hall estate is an old manor, in one of the divisions of the parish of Wymondham. The Hall is about two miles distant from that town, and is a large handsome building in the Elizabethan style of architecture. The main building is in a square form, - and the front has been extended by the offices or servants' apartments. The building is of white brick with stone dressings, and mullioned bay windows to the south. It has a porch surmounted by battlements, and flanked with turrets. The chimneys are moulded, and the whole front has an imposing appearance. The principal entrance is by the porch, over the doorway of which are placed the armorial bearings of the Jermy family. The porch opens into a spacious hall, 18ft. by 17ft. 9in. which has a finely-groined ceiling. From this hall we pass into the "stair- case hall", l7ft. 6in. by 19ft. 6in.; it is richly decorated, having a splendid pendant ceiling and stained glass windows. The drawing and dining rooms are on the south side: they are 28ft. 2in. by 18ft., and are well lighted by handsome bay windows to the south, and by windows on the east and west. Adjoining the dining room, to the west, is the brown parlour, so called from its being panelled with old brown oak. These rooms are very commodious and well fitted up; they contain some good family portraits. From the staircase hall we pass into a lobby, 9ft. 8in. by 8ft. 6in.; thence into passages to the servants' apartments, and to the side entrance. There is a handsome winding staircase out of the staircase hall to the upper rooms, which are well lighted and fitted up. The fronts are 117 feet from north to south, and from east to west 63 feet. The distance from the porch to the side entrance is 40 feet. The mansion is enclosed by a moat; and surrounded by a park. The moat is crossed by a bridge directly in front of the house. A road about a mile in length crosses the park from north to south, and at each end of this road or drive there is a lodge and gate; that on the north being called the Ketteringham gate, and that on the south, the Stanfield gate. Between the Hall and Potash farm-house the ground lies flat, but is well covered with trees.
This estate, which was the scene of the late atrocious murders, has become invested with an extraordinary interest. It is of very ancient date, and the ownership of it can be traced up to the time of William the Conqueror, when it was the property of Earl Warren, afterwards it passed to the "Bigods," and in 1306 it was held by "Katherine, wife of Robert Fitz-Osbert." The Curzon family were the next owners, and afterwards the "Appleyards," who held it from 1349 till the middle of the 16th century. In 1564 it became the property of James Altham, who sold it to Edward Flowerdew, Esq. In 1642 it was purchased by Sir Thomas Richardson; and his eldest son, Thomas Lord Richardson, Baron of Cramond in Scotland, had two sons, Henry and William; the former had no issue; and the latter by his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Daniel, Goldsmith, Norwich, left two children, William Lord Richardson and Elizabeth; the former having died without issue, the latter became heiress of the property; she married in August 1735, William Jermy, the only son of John Jermy, Esq. of Bayfield, and died without issue; her husband afterwards married in 1751, Frances, daughter of Jacob Preston, of Beeston Saint Lawrence, who upon his marriage settled by deed dated October 5th, 1751, the greater part of his property, including the estate and manor of Stanfield, in trust for the benefit of himself, under certain limitations, and at his decease subject to an annuity of £400 to his wife for the benefit of the children, should there be any; this annuity was secured to Mrs. Jermy for a term of 500 years, created upon the estate and vested in the name of Thomas and Isaac Preston her brothers, the said annuity to commence at the decease of William Jermy, and if there were no issue, the trustees were by means of the term of 500 years to raise the sum of £5000, to be paid to Mrs. Jermy in addition to her annuity of £400.
Mr. Jermy died without issue, and in his will dated Dec. 12, 1751, he left all his property for the benefit of his widow, and at her decease the estate was entailed on Jacob Preston her nephew; and should he die without male issue, then to Thomas Preston her brother, and his male heirs, who were to assume the arms and surnames of the testator William Jermy; and failing issue of Thomas and Jacob Preston, the property was to go to the use of the male person named Jermy, nearest related in blood to the testator. The will was proved 17th March, 1752. Frances Jermy the widow, afterwards married John Mitchell, Esq. M. P. for Boston, Lincolnshire.
On August 15, 1758, a deed was executed between Mrs. Jermy, Isaac Preston, (on behalf of his son then a minor) Thomas Preston, and Mr. and Mrs. John Mallinson (the latter of whom was heir at law). A fine was levied on all the property of the late William Jermy, for the purpose of confirming the provisions of the will, with exception of the limitation to the nearest male heirs of Jermy; and the copyhold portions of the estate were surrendered by Mr. and Mrs. Mallinson, and as a consideration some property at Pulham was made over to them.
At this time resided at North Walsham, an attorney named Francis Jermy, who was believed to be the nearest male heir of William Jermy; and in order to bar the limitation in the latter heir male, should Jacob and Thomas Preston die without issue, a negotiation was entered into with him, and a bargain and sale was effected, by which he assigned all interest in the estates of the late William Jermy to Isaac Preston. Another branch of the family resided at Yarmouth, and he for the sum of £20 assigned all his interest of the estate in question to Isaac Jermy.
In 1768, Isaac Preston died, and by his will dated Nov. 25, 1764, left all his estates to his son Jacob, to whom the Stanfield Hall was first demised. In 1772, Thomas Preston died, the second devisee in the will; he left no issue. In 1787, Jacob Preston died, also without issue. Isaac Preston, the eldest son of Isaac Preston by a second wife, succeeded to the estate; he suffered a recovery of the estate in 1792, and died in 1796, also without issue; he entailed by will, dated 6th July, 1792, all his estates on his brother, the Rev. George Preston, the father of the late Recorder, Isaac Jermy.
The Preston family, of which the late Mr. Jermy was a descendant, originally came from the village of Preston, in the hundred of Babergh, Suffolk, and settled at Beeston St. Lawrence, in the hundred of Tunstead, in Norfolk.
Jacob Preston, of Old Buckenharn, in Norfolk, was the fourth son of Wm. Preston, of Preston, and his wife Rose, daughter of Mr. Whipple, of Dickleburgh. Jacob Preston died in 1680, and is interred at Old Buckenham. In 1640, Sir Henry Hobart conveyed the manor of Beeston, with the advowson, to Thomasine, the widow of Jacob Preston; and their son, Jacob Preston, came into possession in 1658. He was an ardent loyalist, being an attached and favourite servant of Charles I,; and one of the four gentlemen appointed to wait upon that unfortunate monarch, during his imprisonment. Charles, as a last tribute of affection, presented him, when on the scaffold, with an emerald ring, which is still preserved at Beeston Hall. He married Frances, daughter of Sir Isaac Appleton, of Waldingfield, in Suffolk, and Bokenham house, in Norfolk. Their son, Isaac, knighted at Whitehall, by William III. in 1695, is considered the common ancestor of the Preston family, a branch of which has ever since continued to reside at Beeston Hall. Sir Jacob Preston, who now possesses the Beeston property, is a descendant of a female branch of the family. Elizabeth, the daughter of Isaac Preston, Esq., of Beeston, married Henry Hulton, Esq. of Andover, Hants, and their son, Thomas Hulton, assumed by royal license, the surname and arms of Preston, and was created a baronet on the 30th of May, 1815. He married Elizabeth, daughter of George Adams, Esq. of Lichfield, who died without issue. His second wife was Jane, the youngest daughter of Thomas Bagge, Esq. of Stradsett hall, in this county and their eldest son, the present baronet, was born on the 25th of January, 1812. Sir Thomas died on the 21st of April, 1823. The late Mr. Recorder Jermy was a son of the Rev. George Preston, and was born on Sept. 23rd, 1789, and educated at Westminster School. He graduated at Christ Church, Oxford. On leaving college, he became a student of Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the Bar as a Member of that Society. He married Miss Mary Ann Beevor, daughter of the late Sir Thomas Beevor, Bart., and sister of the present Baronet. This lady died in 1823, leaving two children, namely, the son who was murdered on Nov. 28th, and a daughter.
Mr. Jermy in 1832 married a second time, the lady being Miss Fanny Jephson, daughter of the Rev. Mr. Jephson, Prebendary of Armagh, in Ireland. This lady died in October, 1835, leaving a daughter, Isabella, only a few weeks old at the time of her mother's death.
In 1837, the Rev. G. Preston died, leaving his son, the late Mr. Jermy, heir to Stanfield, and his other entailed property. Mr. Jermy, previous to his father's death, was called Mr. Preston; soon after that event, he took the necessary steps for complying with the stipulation in the will of Mr. Jermy, that the possessor of his estates should assume his name and arms; and accordingly in 1838, the late Recorder took the name and arms of Jermy, by license from the Crown. He was a County Magistrate, and one of the Chairmen at Quarter Sessions. He was also Recorder for the City of Norwich, and a Director of the Norwich Union Insurance Office.
In a former part of this narrative, it is stated, that one of the male relatives of William Jermy had disposed of his reversionary interest in these estates to Isaac Preston, for the trifling consideration of £20: this occurred in the year 1754. In June, 1838, when the Rev. George Preston's furniture and library at Stanfield Hall was advertised for sale, a person named Thomas Jermy, a grandson of the John Jermy before named, with a cousin of his, named John Larner, put in their claim to the estate, and served notices both upon the auctioneer and Mr. Jermy, to stop the sale. Larner attempted to obtain possession of the Hall, but was shortly ejected by Rush (who was then acting as bailiff for Mr. Jermy,) and a party of labourers. He then cut down some timber, and carted it away. He and is party were apprehended for the offence, and they were convicted in penalties; but he was acquitted. Shortly after, placards were posted in the neighbourhood, stating their intention to obtain forcible possession of the Hall; and on Sept. 24th, 1838, Larner, and a solicitor named Wingfield, obtained the assistance of about a hundred labourers and others, broke open the Hall door with crow bars; and, having entered the mansion, proceeded to turn out the domestics that were in the Hall, and barricaded the premises. Military assistance from Norwich was sent for, which in a short space of time arrived, and Larner and eighty-two of the rioters surrendered themselves, and were taken to Norwich Castle. They were tried at the Lent Assizes in April, 1889: the charge of feloniously and tumultuously assembling being withdrawn, they all pleaded guilty of simple rioting. The ringleaders, Larner and Wingfield, were sentenced each to three months' imprisonment, and the others to shorter periods. Since that time, there have been no steps taken to disturb the possession of the estate, till the appearance of Rush's pamphlet, and one or two notices written by him, ostensibly for the purpose of serving Jermy and Larner; but with what motive appears evident from his trial, and the forged documents.
We now proceed to state some particulars respecting Potash Farm, and James Blomfield Rush, the occupier. The farm is in Hethel, and adjoins the Stanfield property on one side, and Ketteringham on the other; and it is surrounded on three sides by different roads leading to towns and villages in the neighbourhood. The house stands close to a bye road leading into the main road to Wymondham. It is situate seven furlongs from Stanfield, and three miles from Wymondham. It is a large brick building, with a porch entrance into a passage, having apartments on each side, and above them sleeping rooms. There are numerous outbuildings and offices at one side, and at the back of the house. It had many visitors during the first few weeks after the murders: and the peculiar construction of the interior, with the multiplicity of doors communicating with the exterior, excited much observation. The rooms are all small; the best sitting-room, with Mr. Rush's and Emily Sandford's room, and James Rush, junior's, room; are papered; one on the ground floor is painted; and the rest are white-washed. Rush and Emily Sandford occupied apartments in the end of the building. These were originally one room, and are divided by a thin partition; whatever is said or done in one room, could be heard in the other. Rush chose the front door as the entrance to his apartments, and the family were compelled to use one of the back approaches from the farmyard. All the doors to his own rooms were secured by extra bolts and locks. Rush's and Emily Sandford's apartments were well situated for secrecy; being flanked by a short passage, and closed by a thick door with extra bolts and locks. When Emily Sandford was first taken to Potash Farm, she was kept in these apartments for seven days. There is a large closet in the room which Rush occupied where Superintendant Hubbersty found the disguise mentioned in the evidence taken at the inquest and before the magistrates, on the examination of Rush. Another disguise was also found in his closet, - one for the whole person, being, in fact, a widow's dress. This dress was quite new, and there was a black crape bonnet, with a double frill, hanging by it. It is said to have been made to fit Rush's figure exactly; and the frill to the bonnet rendered it difficult to discern the wearer's features, though everything could be seen from underneath it. In this disguise, it is asserted, that Rush was known to go out, more than once; and but a few weeks before the murders were committed, he is said to have been seen in Wymondham, attired in it. Some parties recognized, and followed him; but he succeeded in escaping in the darkness of the night.
It has been stated and believed, he was a near relation to the late Mr. Jermy; but there is no ground whatever for the supposition. It does not appear that Rush ever pretended to be any relation of the murdered gentleman.
The particulars of Rush's history may be briefly stated:- His father is a gentleman now living, resident near Wymondham; and his mother, Mary Blomfield, a daughter of Mr. James Blomfield, of Tacolnestone. He was an illegitimate child; and his mother recovered damages in an action for breach of promise of marriage, brought against the gentleman stated to be his father. When he was two years old, his mother married Mr. Rush, of Felmingham, a farmer, who was very successful in business, and who appears to have treated young James Blomfield kindly, and allowed him to take the name of Rush. The lad was educated at the school of Mr. Nunn, of Eye. In 1824, he became a tenant under the Rev. S. Fitman, of Aylsham; and in 1828, he married Miss Soames of that place, and then he removed to Wood Dalling, and held a farm under W. E. L. Bulwer, Esq. Whilst at Wood Dalling, he was accused of having set fire to a wheat stack, but he was not tried for the offence. He was indicted at the March Assizes, 1881, for "aiding and assisting" in the rescue of a man from custody. No verdict was taken, and he was discharged on entering into his own recognisances to keep the peace. In 1835, he took a farm at Felmingham, under the Rev. George Preston, for eighteen years, and at £110 yearly rent. In 1886, he took the Stanfield Hall Farm, under the same landlord, at a rent of £500 yearly. He became Mr. Preston's steward and adviser in all matters of business.
The Rev. G. Preston, father of Isaac Preston, (the late Mr. Jermy,) died in 1837, and Mr. Jermy, coming into the possession of the estates, also employed Rush as his steward, but rescinded his leases, having found that they were illegal. This created the first ill feeling between the parties. Mr. Jermy granted new leases to Rush, but, as he alleged, at higher rents. He afterwards took the Potash Farm, in Hethel, under Mr. Calver; this farm adjoining the Stanfield property, and being very convenient for occupation. It being for sale, Mr. Jermy wished to become the purchaser, and he authorised Rush, who fixed the value at £3500, to buy it for him. Rush attended the sale; and having bid £3500 for Mr. Jermy, bid £3750 for himself. Mr. Jermy, though much annoyed by this transaction at first, was induced to lend Rush the money, on mortgage, to complete the purchase: the equity of redemption, or the ownership, therefore, belonged to him. A number of mortgage deeds were executed, the last of which is dated Sept. 28th, 1844, and it recited several prior mortgages. The effect of it was, that a sum of £5000 in all was charged upon the estate, by way of mortgage, in favour of the late Mr. Jermy; and it contains a provision that the money is to remain upon the security of that estate, until the 30th November, 1848. The interest upon the sum of £5000 was four per cent, or £200 per annum; and Rush became tenant, so as to enable Mr. Jermy to distrain for rent.
Rush now held three farms - the Potash Farm, the Felmingham Farm, and the Stanfield Hall Farm and while he occupied the latter, he lived at the farm house. In October, 1847, he was in arrear of rent for the Stanfield Farm, and Mr. Jermy put in some distresses. Rush, being ejected, went to live at Potash Farm. Mr. Jermy also brought an action against Rush, for breach of covenants. This action was tried at the March Assizes, 1848, and it, as well as the previous distress, seemed to have occasioned in Rush's mind rancorous feelings towards Mr. Jermy. He published a pamphlet, which professed to be a report of the trial, and contains the following passages:-
"For even if the villain had behaved as he ought to have done, to have acted with common honesty, I should never have done much good; not half so much as I should, if I had remained at Dalling."
"And this is no reason why I should be ruined in character by this villain, as well as my property being all swallowed up by him."
"This fellow Jermy has no right to this Stanfleld property; he knows it, and he knows I know it as well; his whole conduct in keeping possession, and taking the name of Jermy, and his behaviour to those poor people who have a right to it, has been most villainous, and disgraceful to any man who can have any pretension to respectability; and which I should be most happy to prove, when called on to do so."
And again, he says-
"In concluding the account of the trial, will follow a case drawn up so as to show who is the real owner of the Stanfield Hall estate, and the means this fellow has taken to keep the real owner out of possession. Why I have published it is, that some one who has money, may come forward and see that justice may be done to this Mr. Jermy, who is the owner, and who is kept out of possession for want of means to employ counsel, and to have the matter brought to trial."
"I do hope some one will come forward and oust this fellow, who has not half so much right to the property as I have, much more the right heir, if it was properly brought forward; and that is why I think everything has turned out for the best, if those poor people should be put into possession through any steps I have now taken, and am about to take."
"If there is any truth in the Bible, such villainy is sure to be overtaken, and that when it may be least expected."
When in London, in April, 1848, Rush sent a letter to his son, of which the following is a copy.
"MY DEAR JAMES, - I received your letter this morning, and thank you for it. I do not see what you could have done better than you have.
I have at last got Jermy in a fix, and the rogue and villain knows it as well. How he will act now will soon be seen; at all events he now knows if he ruins me, I can him, or you would not have seen him as you have; but I do not want you to let any one know this, except your wife and her aunt. After this kindness and faithfulness to you, you ought to have no secrets from them. Send the pony and gig up to Rockham's for me on Sunday morning, about nine o'clock, as I shall not return before, unless I hear your grandmother is worse; if she is I shall take a horse and gig from Norwich, and will write and let you know; but trusting in God for the best, and with kindest regards to your wife, believe me to be,
J. B. RUSH
Angel Inn, Islington, 28th April, 1848."
This letter and the preceding extracts, sufficiently show the malignant feelings which Rush cherished towards Mr. Jermy.
In 1842 or 1843, Mrs. Rush died, leaving nine children; and, subsequently, Rush, having advertised for a governess, Emily Sandford applied for the situation, and was engaged. Her father was a respectable man, and was employed as clerk by Messrs. Crowder and Maynard, a firm that carried out an extensive business in London. Rush seduced this young woman, and took lodgings for her at Mrs. Acome's, No. 2, Mylne Street, Pentonville, London where he visited her as her uncle.
Meetings were held by Rush's appointment at these lodgings, and some letters passed between him, and the claimants to the estate. The following is a copy of one dated October 2nd, 1848, from Rush to a Mr. Read, who had assisted the claimants.
"DEAR SIR - I expect to be in town tomorrow, instead of Wednesday, as I wrote you; and as I now think you have got a lawyer, who will do all in his power to have justice done to Mr. Jermy, I will at once let you and Jermy know how far I am disposed to assist you. You must, in order that I may do so, have Mr. Jermy up to town tomorrow, Tuesday evening; and you, Mr. Larner, Mr. Larner's eldest son, and Mr. Jermy, must meet me at my lodgings, and I will at once tell you my plan, which I think will give them the estate. There is still one point I must beg to observe, and that is, that no one but us five, and the lady who is going to lend the money, to carry my plan into execution, is to know what we are doing, till I think proper. It will in no way interfere in the course your lawyer is taking, but it will materially assist him, as soon as he has fulfilled his agreement, particularly in recovering the advowson from the man Jermy, alias Preston. But all this I will explain. You will have Mr. Jermy up, as I shall want his father in Norfolk, to take possession; and if you and Mr. Larner think it advisable, after you know my plan, Mr. Larner may come, and you will write to say at what time I may expect to see you all, unless Mr. Larner's son should be unable to meet us. Trusting that God, who has hitherto ordered all things for the best, will assist us in this,
I am, yours truly,
JAMES BLOMFIELD RUSH.
"P. S. - Above all, do not talk in any way to Jermy. I would not have him know. He is a clever man, but must not be trusted in anything we have to do with in this matter."
On October 3rd, the parties met at the lodgings in Mylne Street, there being present, Thomas Jermy, Larner, Charles Larner, junior, and Rush, who pointed out Emily Sandford as a lady of property, who would help them to regain their inheritance. The interview resulted in the following written agreement; it being in Emily Sandford's handwriting.
London, 3rd October,1848.
"Memorandum of an agreement made this 3rd day of October, 1848, between Thomas Jermy, of the parish of Upper Tooting, in Surrey, John Larner, sen., No. 9, James' Street, Featherstone Street, City Road, London, X , Charles Larner, jun., in Wiltshire, on the one part, and James Blomfield Rush, of No.2, Mylne Street, Pentonville, London, on the other part:- That is to say, Thomas Jermy, John Larner, and Charles Larner, jun., agree for themselves, their heirs, administrators, or assigns, to let to the said James Blomfield Rush, his heirs, administrators, or assigns; and he agrees to hire all those two farms in Felmingham, Skeyton, and North Walsham, in the county of Norfolk, now in the occupation of the executor of the late Mrs. Mary Rush, or, previously to that, in the occupation of Mr. John Rush, and the said James Blomfield Rush, for the term of 21 years, commencing from the 11th day of October, 1848, and ending October 11th, 1869, at the annual rent of £230, payable in two equal half- yearly instalments, on the 6th or April, lady day, and the 11th of October, Michaelmas day, after deducting landlord's taxes and tradesmen's bills, for what the aforesaid James Blomfield Rush may think are necessary for the repairs of the dwelling houses and farm buildings on the said estates; the aforesaid rent, after making the aforesaid deductions, to be paid to the aforesaid Thomas Jermy, John Larner, sen., and Charles Larner, jun., their heirs, administrators, or assigns, as they respectively come into possession of the aforesaid property.
That the aforesaid James Blomfield Rush agrees, as soon as conveniently he can, after the signing of this agreement, to put Thomas Jermy into possession of the said estate, and to do all he can, legally, to assist him in maintaining possession and that, if he suceeds, that he, the said James B. Rush, is to be allowed, from the aforesaid rent as it becomes due, to re-imburse himself all reasonable expenses he may incur in keeping him, the aforesaid Thomas Jermy, his heirs, and assigns, in possession; and also all reasonable expenses he, the said James Blomfield Rush, may incur, in obtaining possession of the Stanfield Hall estates, for the aforesaid parties. In witness, we, the undersigned, have hereunto set our hands, the day and year above written.
THOMAS JERMY, his X mark.
JOHN LARNER, sen., his X mark.
RICHARD READ, Witness, 2, Red Bull Yard, Thames Street, City of London.
EMILY SANDFORD, Witness
"And it is further agreed, that the aforesaid Thomas Jermy and John Larner, sen., do sign another agreement, worded in every respect like the above, except as to the date, at Felmingham, on Thursday, the 12th day of October next. In witness our hands, as above,
THOMAS JERMY, his X mark.
JOHN LARNER, sen., his X mark.
RICHARD READ, Witness, 2, Red Bull Yard, Thames Street, City of London.
EMILY SANDFORD, Witness"
When the execution was put into Felmingham Farm, in October, 1848, Rush persuaded Jermy and Larner to go there, and gave them, as he termed it, possession. He wished them to remain, but they declined, and returned to London, he defraying their expenses. During these proceedings, he professed to have found a will of the late Rev. George Preston; and it is said, that he placed the alleged will in the hands of a solicitor in London.
On October 6th, Emily Sandford, by Rush's directions, left London for Norwich, and from thence to Potash Farm; and on the evening of October 10th, Rush, and a lad, named Savory, took her in a gig to Stanfield Hall. He left her at the bridge, and went in himself to see Mr. Jermy; but what occurred inside is unknown. When Rush came out, she was taken in a gig to Norwich, where she first lodged at the Bowling Green Inn, then at the Swan Inn, and afterwards at Mrs. Stacey's, in Theatre Street. While she was at these lodgings, Rush visited her, and produced a paper for her to sign, dated October 10th. She hesitated to sign it; but eventually she put her signature to it. It purported to be a memorandum of agreement, made this 10th day of October, 1848, by Mr. Isaac Jermy, Recorder of the City of Norwich, that is to say-
"I agree for myself, my heirs; administrators, or assigns, to let to James Blomfield Rush, of Felmingham, his heirs, administrators, or assigns, all those two farms lately occupied by Mr. John Rush, and the said James Blomfield Rush, for the term of twelve years, from Michaelmas, 1848, at the annual rent of £300, and that a lease and counterpart thereof should be prepared, at the expense of the said James Blomfield Rush, his heirs, administrators, and assigns, with the same covenants as are now contained in the lease of the aforesaid John Rush, and James Blomfield Rush. And that a clause should he inserted in the said lease, that my son, Jermy Jermy, is to have the right of shooting over the said farm, and to have a sitting room and bed room provided for him, whenever he might require the same in the shooting season; and that he shall be boarded in the farm-house, and pay whatever may be reasonable for the same. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand
Signed, ISAAC JERMY,
JAMES BLOMFIELD RUSH.
Witness - EMILY SANDFORD."
Afterwards, Emily Sandford was dissatisfied with having signed this agreement. She wrote to Rush about it, and said she could not be a witness. She kept a copy of her letter, and when Rush next saw her, he scolded her for writing on such a subject, and tore the copy of her letter in pieces. He afterwards induced her to write the following agreements, and to sign her name as a witness to them; the name of Isaac Jermy having been written in before she signed.
"An agreement made, this 10th day of October, 1848, between James Blomfield Rush on the one part, and Isaac Jermy, Esq., Recorder of Norwich, on the other part. The said Isaac Jermy agrees to let the said James B. Rush have the £5000 on the Potash estate, three years over and above the time mentioned in the mortgage deeds, at four per cent., computing the three years from the expiration of the ten years, as mentioned in the said mortgage deeds. And the said J. B. Rush agrees to pay the interest of the same as heretofore, and to observe all the stipulations and covenants mentioned in the aforesaid mortgage deeds, and the said Isaac Jermy agrees to do the same. As witness our hands, the day and year above written,
JAMES B. RUSH.
Witness- EMILY SANDFORD."
"It is hereby agreed to, by me, Isaac Jermy, of Stanfield Hall, that if James Blomfield Rush gives up all what papers and documents he holds, relating to the Stanfield Hall and Felmingham estates, and do all that lies in his power, in maintaining and keeping me, or my heirs or assigns, in possession of the said estates, that I will give up all claim I have on him, the said James B. Rush on the Potash estate, and will burn all the mortgage deeds I hold on the said estate, and give up the writings of the same to the said J. B. Rush within twelve months from the date hereof, and give him a lease of the Felmingham farms for twenty-one years, on the same terms and conditions as he now holds an agreement from the present claimant, Thomas Jermy. In witness thereunto the undersigned have set their hands, this 21st day of November, 1848.
"I James Blomfield Rush, do, in consideration of the above, herewith give up all the papers and documents relating to the above estates, that can in any way affect the title of the aforesaid Isaac Jermy, and agree to do all I can to assist in maintaining and keeping possession of the said estates, for the aforesaid Isaac Jermy, his heirs, or assigns.
JAMES BLOMFIELD RUSH.
Witness - EMILY SANDFORD."
It was proved at the trial, that the name "Isaac Jermy" was not in that gentleman's handwriting on either document.
On November 21st, Rush had placed himself in this position - He had documents in his possession, signed by Thomas Jermy and Larner, by which he would become their tenant upon advantageous terms, if his plan were carried out. He had forged an agreement, purporting to be signed by the late Mr. Jermy, cancelling the mortgage deed, and more likely to be of use after Mr. Jermy's death, than during his life.
During the latter part of November, Rush had been in the habit of going out at night, and returning late, pretending to be on the look out for poachers. On Friday night, Nov. 24th, and on Monday night, the 27th, he went out. He had procured a family ticket for Madame Dulcken's Concert, to be given in Norwich on the following night. On the Monday, Mr. Rush, junior, and his wife, went to Felmingham, and the female servant also left the house, so that the only persons remaining, were Rush, Emily Sandford., and a lad, named Savory. A charwoman came on the Tuesday morning, did her work, and went away again. During the afternoon of that day, Rush was out, and at the Ketteringham gate he met a young woman, named Cooper, and enquired whether Mr. Jermy was at home. She having answered in the affirmative, he went across the fields to the Stanfield gate. On the same day, a boy, by his orders, littered down a quantity of straw, from the homestead to the fields towards Stanfield Hall. A portion of the path which had never before been littered with straw, was then littered by Rush's direction; and the straw ceased where the green sward began, so that he could walk from his house towards Mr. Jermy's mansion, without any danger of his footsteps being traced.
Rush returned home about five o'clock, and asked when the dinner would be ready. Emily Sandford said it would soon be ready; and he said, "There is just time for me to go into the garden, and fire off my gun;" and he accordingly went into the garden, and discharged his gun, and then went in to dinner. At half-past five they sat down to tea, alone in the house. They had been sitting at tea, when Emily Sandford observed him to be a good deal agitated; and he said, in answer to her inquiry, "I have been thinking a good deal about the story we read the other day of the Scottish chief," (alluding to a well- known story of Robert Bruce, about the battle of Bannockburn,) "where he said, he lay upon his back, and saw a spider, which had suspended itself from the ceiling, swinging itself with a view apparently of reaching a beam. The insect tried six times, and succeeded the seventh; and then said the Scottish chief, ' I have tried six times; and as the insect tried six times, and succeeded the seventh, I also shall succeed.'" He said, I have tried several times: I think I have tried five or six times, and the next time, perhaps, I shall be successful." Emily Sandford expressed her alarm - What can this mean! it must be something more than poachers." He had stated that he had been out after poachers, and he said, "I should like you better if you don't ask me why," or words to that effect. She observed him to be extremely agitated, and at that time supposed him to be in tears. Tea was over, and he left the room, and went upstairs to his bed room. He came from his bed room, and went out, sometime between seven and eight o'clock. She heard him go out, but nobody saw him leave the house. He had put on a disguise, armed himself with either guns or pistols, and enveloped himself in a large cloak. He no doubt proceeded by the nearest route to the hall.
The night was dark and windy, and therefore well suited for a murderer's purpose. Rush having been convicted and condemned, there can be no impropriety in speaking of him as the assassin.
Soon after 8 o'clock, the late Mr. Jermy's dinner being over, he was sitting alone in the dining room. Mr. Jermy, jun. and his wife had retired to the drawing room; they were about to partake of tea, and to amuse themselves by a game at picquet, the cards being on the table. Mr. Jermy was in the habit of going outside the hall after dinner, and on this evening he left the dining room and proceeded to the porch in front of the mansion. Rush, who knew Mr. Jermy's habits and expected him to come out, was standing near the porch, resolved upon murder. As soon as Mr. Jermy reached the porch, Rush presented a gun, or pistol, loaded with slugs to his breast, fired, and shot him through the heart. He fell down backwards and instantly expired. Rush immediately went to the side door, entered and proceeded along the passages leading to the staircase hall, dropping two papers on the floor. He passed close to the butler, who affrighted at the appearance of an armed man in disguise, retired to his pantry. He passed on to the door opening into the stair case hall. Mr. Jermy, jun. who had heard the report of the pistol, was proceeding to the same door, and was about to pass through the doorway on one side, while the armed man was going into the hall from the other side. They met; Rush drew back, and presented the gun or pistol to young Mr. Jermy's breast, fired, and he also fell down dead in the hall. The murderer passed on into the dining room; no doubt with the intention of exterminating the whole family. Mrs. Jermy still in the drawing room, on hearing the second report, immediately went into the ball, and passed over the dead body of her husband. Eliza Chastney, one of the female servants, on hearing her mistress screaming for help ran up to her, and holding her by the waist, cried out, "My dear mistress, what is the matter?" At this moment, Rush came out of the dining room, and seeing the two females opposite him in the recess, he levelled his weapon, fired twice, and wounded the servant in the leg, and Mrs. Jermy in the arm; they both fell. The murderer then made his escape by the side door; leaving death, misery, and woe, in that mansion which only a few minutes before was the scene of happiness.
He did not however escape before some of the servants had made their observations of him. Strange to say, several persons were standing at the gate close to the bridge, heard the reports fired, and heard the alarm bell ringing, but did not imagine that anything serious had happened. A man who had been employed in the stables, hearing the reports and thinking that the hall was attacked by a band of ruffians, went round the back of the hall, swam across the moat, and ran to Mr. Colman's house, near the Stanfield gate. He obtained a horse from Mr. Colman, and rode to Wymondham spreading the alarm as he went.
A telegraphic message was sent to Norwich for the police, and soon after a number of armed constables started off in conveyances to the hall. Mr. Yarington, the superintendent of police, caused telegraphic messages to be transmitted along every railway in the kingdom, and gave a description of Rush; a curious fact, as no intelligence had then reached Norwich as to who was suspected.
In the meantime the scene at Stanfield Hall was one of utter dismay. The cook had fled to the coach house with Miss Jermy. The butler had rushed to Mr Gower's, another farmer for assistance. The maid servants were conveying their wounded mistress upstairs. Eliza Chastney was lying wounded upon the ground. Mr. Jermy, sen. was lying dead in the porch of his own house, everybody being then uncertain as to his fate. Mr. Colman, Mr. Gower, and his two sons, as soon they received information of what had happened, proceeded to the hall. Mr Skoulding, a surgeon, arrived in a gig, and by the light of the lamps saw the dead body of Mr. Jermy lying in the porch. As these gentlemen were removing the body into the drawing room, the blood poured out of the wound all along from the porch to the room. The dead body of Mr. Jermy, jun. was removed into the same room, and they were laid side by side upon the carpet. Upon examination of the bodies, it was found that Mr. Jermy's wound was on his left breast, large and bleeding profusely, the clothes being singed; a proof of the close proximity of the assassin to his victim. The wound of Mr. Jermy, jun. exhibited only a small perforation on the right breast. Mr. Cann, a magistrate living at Wymondham, Mr. W. Clarke, and other gentlemen, as soon as they received information proceeded to the hall; notices were sent to the County police as well as to Norwich; and a telegraphic message was transmitted to the city for Mr. Nichols, the family surgeon, who soon afterwards arrived.
The Norwich police reached the hall between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning, and Mr. Cann directed them to proceed to Potash farm house, the residence of Rush, and to watch there till the morning. They went accompanied by Constable Pont of the rural force, and attended strictly to their instructions.
Between 9 and half-past 9 o'clock, Rush's knock was heard at his own door. Emily Sandford went to the door to open it, but without a light, and she did not see him come in; she returned to the sitting room, and he went upstairs to his own room, and in a short time came down again, without his boots and coat. He told her to make haste and put out her fire and go to bed; and before he left her he said, "If any inquiry is made about me, say I was not out more than ten minutes." He then went upstairs to his bed- room. She followed, after she had put the fire out, and asked him where she should sleep. He told her, that she was to sleep in her own room; that being the first time she had done so, for a considerable length of time. She went to bed, and between 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning, Rush rapped at her door, and desired her to let him in; she got up, unbolted the door, and let him in. He came trembling to her bedside, and said, "Now, you be firm, and remember that I was out only ten minutes." She was extremely agitated, and inquired, what was the matter? but he would only tell her that she might hear of something in the morning. Taking hold of his hand, she observed that he trembled violently; and being in a state of the utmost alarm, she also began to tremble, so much that he thought she had got the ague, and he went and fetched a great coat, to lay upon her bed. During that night, a good deal of conversation passed between them.
The police as directed surrounded the house, and watched till the morning. They waited till day- break, when they saw Rush strike a light. A lad named Savory, made his appearance from the back of the house, and the police sent him to call his master. He did so; and Rush came down, and opened the door. He was apprehended, and a search having been made in the house, the police found in a closet, two double-barrelled guns, some bullets and shot, two cloaks, and other articles. Rush was allowed to have his breakfast in the house and during that time he was in the charge of a constable. When apprehended, he said, "Good God, I hope they do not think it is me; it is rather a serious charge." Emily Sandford was in the room, and he said to her, "I am accused of murdering Jermy and his son, but that fellow Clarke has done this; it is he that has caused me to be suspected, but you and Savory can clear me, for he washed my boots at half-past five, and you know I did'nt go." After a pause he said, "Have you been asked any questions ?" The woman said, "Yes." He said, " It is unfair, they have no right to ask questions." She said, " That stout man asked if you went out last evening, and I said you went out at eight o'clock for about a quarter of an hour." He then said, "I was not out more than ten minutes, and you know I had my slip shoes on." The woman said, "I don't know if you had or not; I did not see you put your boots on." He replied, "I have no doubt I shall be suspected because we have lived on such bad terms, but lately the old one and I have been more friendly; but the young one was my greatest enemy." He again said he was sure some one had told him the time the affair happened. He several times asked for his cloak, as he wanted to put it on. He was soon afterwards conveyed to Wymondham Bridewell, where he underwent several examinations before the magistrates.
From an early hour in the morning, persons of all ranks arrived at the hall, to make inquiries as to the reality of the foul deeds reported to have been perpetrated. The writer was shown into the room where the dead bodies were lying. They presented a hideous spectacle. A number of magistrates, and several members of the family arrived, and were speedily followed by Colonel Oakes, and several superintendents of the rural police. Many labourers were employed in cutting a drain, to draw off the water from the moat, with the view of finding any weapons that might have been thrown in. A strict search was made in the fields, lawn, and grounds, for anything likely to afford evidence. Rush was brought from Wymondham in the custody of the police, and a constable was sent for Emily Sandford. The greater part of the day was occupied in the examination of witnesses in the housekeeper's room, and in Mrs. Jermy's room. Mrs. Jermy, Eliza Chastney, Watson, and others, were examined, and their testimony tended to criminate Rush, who was remanded to Wymondham Bridewell.
The papers which had been dropped by the murderer, were found to be the covers of a book, and the following statement was written on them :-
"There are seven of us here, three of us outside, and four inside the hall, all armed as you se us two. If any of you servants offer to leave the premises or to folloo, you will be shot dead. Therefore all of you keep in the servants' hall, and you nor any one else will take any arme, for we are only come to take possession of the Stanfield Hall property."
"THOMAS JERMY, the owner."
This was written in a large printed style, and spelled as we have given it.
On Wednesday morning, the news of these horrible murders created intense excitement in Norwich; and there seemed to be only one opinion as to who was the perpetrator. Words would fail to depict the universal abhorrence of the deed. It was felt that in Norfolk, considered one of the most advanced counties in England in civilization, an act of deeper atrocity had been committed, than any which had stained the annals of Ireland. All execrated the assassin, who had made a human shambles of a peaceful mansion, and glutted his ferocious revenge upon unoffending victims.
The only weapons found on the morning after the murders, were the two double barrelled guns, in the closet in Rush's room; and as it was next to impossible that both these weapons were used, and it was very doubtful if either, the utmost care was taken, and exertions were made by the police to discover the actual weapons, particularly along and near the line the murderer was supposed to have returned. Search was made for foot marks - as the night and the weather generally having been wet, and the ground of a stiff nature, an imprint of feet might probably remain. This search was in vain. The police took possession of the farm on the Wednesday, and from that time the strictest possible search in the house commenced. Besides the black dress we have spoken of, a grey and black frontlet female wig, and a long black false veil as for a female head-dress, were found in a box in Rush's closet in his room. In a concealed well in the closet below were found the forged deeds, which were produced on the examination by Mr. Cann, and which formed so extraordinary a link in the case. In a subsequent search, a black wig of a particular make, with mustachios and whiskers coming round and under the chin, was found in a box. The examination of the premises was not limited. Not a corner of the house at Potash or the premises, escaped investigation. The chimneys were searched, stoves taken out, floors taken up where there was the least appearance of a concealment; the moat was emptied of its water and mud; the ponds (of which it will be seen there are several,) and the ditches emptied and cleared; the hedges searched by the inch; stacks thrown down and examined; fields, where it appeared that the surface had been at all recently disturbed, were reploughed, and the soil examined as the plough proceeded; every piece of grass land pierced with sharp spears with hooks, by which means any loose sod would be discovered, and spears without hooks were driven in to discover any concealed hole; the woods near also underwent a close examination; in short, no steps the mind could suggest were neglected or despised. Enquiries without end were made in every place where it was possible weapons might have been purchased; none have been discovered, although it was perfectly ascertained that Rush at one time had a revolving pistol, by which many persons imagined the foul deeds had been perpetrated.
The greatest excitement prevailed throughout the county, during the whole of the lengthened investigations before Mr. Press the Coroner, and the magistrates at Wymondham. On Thursday, the 30th, summonses were issued for a Jury to hold an inquest at Wymondham, when the jurors were sworn in. They then proceeded to Stanfield Hall, where they viewed the bodies. On their return to the King's Head, the inquest was adjourned till the following day. After repeated examinations of the different witnesses, for which purpose the inquest was adjourned from time to time, and also in the hope that Mrs. Jermy and the maid might be enabled to give evidence, the Jury found a verdict of WILFUL MURDER against JAMES BLOMFIELD RUSH, and the Coroner issued his warrant.
On Tuesday, December 5th, the mournful ceremony of consigning the mortal remains of the two deceased gentlemen to the grave, cast a gloom over the town of Wymondham and the neighbourhood. During the morning, the deep-toned bell of the church tolled a funeral knell at intervals, and the shops were generally closed, as a tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased. Soon after one o'clock, the relatives and friends of the family arrived at the hall, and by that hour, the hearses and mourning coaches were in waiting. Great precautions were taken to prevent what was passing being known to Mrs. Jermy; and the object was attained by the quietness and profound silence with which all the movements had been conducted, about the mansion. Large quantities of straw were laid down in the carriage-ways and footpaths leading to the hall, in order that the noise of carriage-wheels, and of the tramping of the horses, might not penetrate to the apartments of the unhappy lady.
The arrangements for the funeral were admirably made by Mr Blakely, of Norwich. No persons, except those invited, were allowed by the police, to enter the park-gates; and the funeral was a strictly private one. The two hearses were drawn up outside of the moat, in front of the hall, and at twelve o'clock, the coffins containing the bodies, were quietly conveyed to, and placed in the hearses. The mourners and friends of the family then took their places in three mourning coaches, which contained T. Preston, Esq., of Lowestoft; (only surviving brother of the late Recorder); Sir Thomas Beevor, Bart., (brother of the late Mr. Jermy's first wife); Mr. T. Beevor, Mr. P. Le Neve Foster, Mr. West, Mr. Bracey, Mr. Jephson, Mr. Chevalier, Mr. Hartcup, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Nichols, and Mr. Tunaley. Mr. Colman and Mr. Blakely were in a chaise. Mr. Cook, Mr. Gore, Mr Standley, and others, clad in mourning, closed up the rear on horseback.
The funeral train proceeded, at a slow pace, towards Wymondham church, - a distance of two miles from the hall: and there was a large number of commiserating spectators throughout the line of road. When the procession arrived at Wymondham, it was found that an immense concourse of persons had assembled in the streets, and in the church-yard; every face appearing to wear an aspect of deep sympathy and concern. On reaching the fine old parish church, the two coffins (which were of plain oak) were moved into the edifice, and placed on trestles it the middle-aisle, near the pulpit. The church was, at this time, filled with the most respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The mourners having been accommodated with seats, the first part of the funeral service was read, in an impressive manner by the Rev. David Jones, curate of Wymondham. At the conclusion of the epistle from the Corinthians, the corpses were in conformity with the usual custom, removed from the church, and conveyed to a vault, specially constructed for their reception, on the south side, by Mr. Woodbine, of Wymondham.
The reading of the prayers was then continued by the officiating minister, and never was the profoundly solemn and affecting burial service of the Church of England listened to with deeper attention, or more marked respect. Many of the now vast assemblage, particularly the female portion, were melted to tears, and when the clergyman came to the passage, " We give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver these our two brothers out of the miseries of this sinful world," his emotion almost stifled his utterance, as if at that moment his Christian faith and hope sorely struggled with that natural and humane regret, which was so painfully depicted on his own, and the countenances of all around. At this moment the midday sun shone out in his fullest splendour;
"The blue sky bent over all;"
and as the minister proceeded to whisper these words of heavenly comfort and consolation to the bereaved mourners, which the all-but-inspired liturgy of our church affords, when, in the language of the Apostle, she calls upon the living not to sorrow as men without hope, his deeply attentive audience seemed to be forcibly impressed with the realities of the world to come. Few but reflected, with unutterable horror, on the deed that suddenly had deprived two of their fellow-beings of life, and sent them to their last account, " With all their imperfections on their heads." Surely, if the murderous assassin, who levelled the fatal weapons, could have pictured the sorrowing faces of friends and neighbours, which were then upturned, in fervent prayer, around that venerable pile, his arm would have faltered in its deadly aim, and some softening influences would have turned him aside from his black and execrable purpose. Mixed with feelings such as these, were emotions of the tenderest sympathy - "For we have all of us one human heart." And this was an occasion for all worldly animosities to be forgotten.
After a few moments of stillness and silence, the coffins were gently lowered into the vault. Some of the mourners descended the stone steps to see where they were placed, and soon returned. The inscriptions on brass, were - on one, "Isaac Jermy, Esq., died November 28th, 1848, aged 59 years." On the other, "Isaac Jermy Jermy, Esq., died November 28th, 1848, aged 27 years."
This sad and touching ceremony having been concluded, the mourners and others returned to the hall; and the multitude of people quietly dispersed.
The first examination of the prisoner before the magistrates, was at Stanfield hall, on Wednesday, November 29th. It was communicated with the utmost care, to Mrs. Jermy and to Eliza Chastney, that it would be necessary for the magistrates to take their evidence, in the presence of a person who had been apprehended on suspicion of having committed the foul deed which they had witnessed; and every precaution was taken to render this interview as bearable as possible to the afflicted widow, and her suffering servant. When Rush had been brought into the room, Mrs. Jermy detailed the horrifying scene which she had witnessed, and stated her firm belief; that Rush was the man who fired the pistol. Rush put several questions to her, which Mrs. Jermy answered with great firmness. He was then taken to the apartment in which Chastney was lying, who also stated what she had seen, and expressed her unhesitating belief that Rush was the person. He put several questions to her, without shaking her evidence. They both described the person of the man who fired the pistols, as being disguised; but having noticed the general figure, and being well acquainted with that of Rush, they believed him to have been the assassin.
The second examination was on the following day, at the Bridewell, Wymondham, before the Hon. and Rev. R. Wilson, Sir J. P. Boileau, and other magistrates. Witnesses were called, who had seen Rush on the previous afternoon, in the vicinity of the Hall.
Emily Sandford was questioned, as to the time that Rush went out and returned, on the evening of the murders. She, at first, said he was out only ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour; but when pressed to state the full length of time he was out, she reluctantly admitted, it might have been half an hour, or three quarters of all hour; she was reading a book, and did not notice the time.
Mr. Stanley, a merchant of Wymondham, said he went to the Hall soon after he had heard of the murders. When he reached the Hall he found the doors closed; but he obtained admission, by stating who he was. He found that the servants were very much alarmed, and they shewed him two papers, picked up in the hall. The purport of the writing on these papers, was to threaten the servants, that if they did not keep quiet, they would be shot. Several of the servants were examined, and they related what had taken place.
While the examination was going on, Mr. Rush, jun., came into the room, and had some conversation with his father; who told him to take care of the property, and the business, till he should be set at liberty. The young man appeared very much affected by the situation of his father.
The magistrates, finding that they could not hear all the witnesses on that day, thought it would be best to adjourn the inquiry. Mr. Rush objected to that, as it would detain him in custody, and he considered there was no evidence against him, as what had been adduced against him that day was very contradictory. The magistrates assured him, that they had made up their minds to commit him on the capital charge, though then they might further remand him. He expressed great surprise at this decision, and requested that he should be allowed to have his own bed and bedding, from his house. This request was granted, and the inquiry was adjourned till Saturday.
On Saturday, December 2nd, the magistrates resumed the adjourned investigation, during which the prisoner behaved with the greatest coolness.
Emily Sandford, who had been brought from the Potash Farm, the same day, made some important disclosures; and gave a different account of Rush's movements, to what she had previously given. She admitted he had been out much longer, on the night of the murders, than she had first stated; and that, after he returned, he appeared very much agitated, and told her if any inquiries were made, respecting him, to say that he did not go out till 9 o'clock; and that he did not stay out more than ten minutes.
Several other witnesses were examined but their evidence was not material.
The magistrates, at the close of this inquiry, resolved to remand Rush to Norwich castle. About ten o'clock he was fettered and placed in a carriage; a crowd of people standing round when he was taken away. He arrived at the castle shortly after eleven o'clock.
On Monday, December 4th, the magistrates held their adjourned court, at the castle. Amongst the magistrates present were, the Hon. and Rev. R. Wilson, W. R. Cann, Esq., Sir J. P. Boileau, Bart., and the Rev. E. Postle. The examination was strictly private; the prisoner, when brought up, did not appear at all depressed in spirits.
Mr. Nichols, the surgeon, Inspectors Thompson, Amiss, and Minns, constables Osborne and Mortar, gave similar evidence to that which they had given before the Coroner at Wymondham, in an open court. Constable Putter gave evidence as to a quantity of straw that was found littered from Mr. Rush's house for three furlongs, towards Mr. Colman's farm, as it to prevent any impressions of footsteps being made. The straw was laid down in a straight line from Rush's house, to the green sward in a direction towards the hall.
On Friday, December 8th, the prisoner was again brought up for re-examination, at the castle. The magistrates present were, the Hon. and Rev. R. Wilson, W. R. Cann, Esq., and the Rev. E. Postle. The witnesses examined were a young woman, named Morley, who lived at Potash farm before the murders were perpetrated, Mr. Boughen, Mr. Tunaley, surgeon, of Wymondham, Mr. Colman, of Stanfield farm, and constable Osborne, of the city police. The latter only, gave evidence of importance. He was cross-examined by the prisoner at great length but his testimony was not shaken. The prisoner appeared very anxious to ascertain who were the policemen that entered the house when he was apprehended, what they said, and what he said at the time. He adhered to his original defence, that he was at home from six till nine o'clock on the evening of the murders, with the exception of less than ten minutes. He did not question the constable's evidence on that point. During the examination he frequently interrupted the Rev. magistrate who put the questions, and took notes at the close. He was again remanded.
On Wednesday and Thursday, December 13th and 14th, the final examinations of the prisoner were held in the castle, before the Hon. and Rev. R. Wilson, the Rev. E. Postle, Sir J. P. Boileau, Bart., and W. R. Cann, Esq. A number of witnesses were examined, and the prisoner cross-examined them all at great length. While Emily Sandford was under examination, on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, he behaved in so violent a manner, that the magistrates, on both occasions, ordered him to be taken out of the room.
On Thursday, about half-past three o'clock, the representatives of the press were admitted into the room, to hear the depositions read.
The depositions of thirty-two witnesses, and all the documents, were read in succession, after which the prisoner was committed, for the wilful murder of Isaac Jermy, and his son, Isaac Jermy Jermy. The prisoner complained of the manner in which the examinations had been conducted. He also complained, that keys and papers, which he had applied for, had been refused. He wished to know when he could have a copy of the depositions. He was informed, that they would be furnished to him in a reasonable time.
On Thursday, the 21st December, Rush was taken by Habeas Corpus, to Stanfield Hall, where an important additional deposition was made by Eliza Chastney, at the conclusion of which he was brought again to the castle. Emily Sandford was detained by the want of sureties, as well as from her own desire, in Wymondham Bridewell.
Commenced on Thursday, March 29th, 1849, before Mr. Baron Rolfe. It continued six days, and created an extraordinary interest throughout the entire country. The Visiting Magistrates of the Castle made every preparation for it and all the arrangements for those who wished to be present, and for the representatives of the London and local journals, were as complete as circumstances would admit. Shortly after eight o'clock, the Magistrates and others, who had obtained tickets, were admitted. The court was soon crowded in every part, and all looked forward with interest to the approaching business of the day. The table was covered with drawings, plans, and models. Plans of the country, with ground plans of the hall and Potash farm-house, were exhibited for the use of the judge and jury. Models of Stanfield hall and Potash farm-house were on the tables, and they enabled the jury to understand the different localities better than any oral description could possibly have done.
Mr. Baron Rolfe entered the Court precisely at nine o'clock, and a solemn silence immediately prevailed, when the prisoner Rush was called. He entered the dock, dressed in black, apparently in good health, and looking well When arraigned on the indictment, charging him with the Wilful Murder of Isaac Jermy, Esq., he pleaded Not Guilty.
Mr. Serjeant Byles stated the case for the prosecution, and then called a number of witnesses. Having, in the preceding part of this narrative, stated all the facts as proved in evidence, it is unnecessary here to give that evidence at length. The documents, which were found in the secret place in Rush's house, were produced, and several of them were proved to be forgeries, which, if carried into effect after Mr Jermy's death, would have placed the prisoner in a very advantageous position, with respect to the farms he occupied, and rid him of all his heavy liabilities. A powerful motive for the commission of the murders, was therefore apparent.
The servants at the hall, who had seen the disguised armed man in the building, all deposed that they believed the prisoner to be the man, as they had known him before, and as they had recognised him by his height, form, walk, and gait. Eliza Chastney, who had been severely wounded by the assassin, was brought into court on a couch, attended by medical men. She stated her firm belief that Rush was the man; she had seen him several times in the hall. When he fired at her, she saw the whole form of his head and shoulders, and she knew no one else, having a similar appearance, in the habit of coming to the hall.
Emily Sandford entered the box apparently in a very weak state. Her appearance indicated that she had moved in a respectable sphere of life; and her then pitiable situation evidently excited the commiseration of the court. She was examined at great length and she stated, with great clearness, all that had passed between Rush and her, and other parties, in reference to the documents produced. She also gave a full account of the prisoner's conduct on the evening of Nov. 28th, before he went out, and after he returned home, as related in the former part of this narrative.
When the prisoner commenced his cross-examination of this witness, there was profound silence in the court, all present being anxious to know how he would treat the unfortunate female who had given such important evidence against him. It was, altogether, the most solemn scene we ever beheld. Every one evidently felt, that at this stage of the proceedings, the conduct of the prisoner would determine his fate. He appeared to be under the influence of strong emotion; so much so, as, at times; to stifle his utterance, and he was frequently on the verge of bursting into tears; yet he mastered his feelings, and put his questions mildly, and in an assumed beseeching and affectionate manner, evidently trying to rouse any affection that the witness might have left for him. She looked very pale, and much distressed; and pity was depicted on the countenances of all beholders. She gave her answers in a low tone, scarcely audible, and sometimes weeping; it was with the greatest difficulty that she could be heard at a few yards distance. Nearly all the questions put by the prisoner were quite irrelevant to her evidence in chief; but not all the blandishments and frequent adjurations of the questioner could elicit answers to suit his purpose. At length, he began to put questions which roused the indignation of the witness, as well as of the audience, and expressions of reprobation were uttered, from seat to seat, throughout the Court.
Mr. T. Jarrold, of the firm of Messrs. Jarrold and Sons, Booksellers, of Norwich, stated that the prisoner had occasionally dealt at their shop. The witness believed that the covers, found in the hall, had been on one of a set of account books made at their establishment, two books of the same set having been found at Potash. Another witness, who knew Rush's handwriting well, stated his belief that the writing on the covers, though disguised, was the writing of the prisoner.
Several witnesses deposed, that he had on certain occasions used angry and threatening expressions towards the late Mr. Jermy, to the effect that it would not be long before he would serve Mr. Jermy with "an ejectment for the other world," and that he would "do for him." The constables deposed to certain expressions used by Rush, after he was apprehended. He said, he had no doubt he should be suspected, because he and Mr. Jermy had lived on such bad terms. He and Mr. Jermy had been more friendly, but the young one had been his greatest enemy.
John Larner and Thomas Jermy were called, and sworn; but no questions were asked them, either by the counsel for the prosecution, or the defence.
Richard Read, of Thames Street, London, gave an account of the transactions between him, Thomas Jermy, John Lamer, and Rush, as already narrated. Many other witnesses were called, whose evidence was not material. The prisoner cross-examined them all at great length, but did not shake their evidence in the least. His only object seemed to be, to prolong the inquiry, and to gain time. He insisted on nearly all the depositions, taken before the Magistrates, being read. This was done accordingly, and it greatly strengthened the case against him; as facts were stated in the depositions, which were not stated in the evidence at the trial. The variations were of very little consequence.
On the fifth day, it was generally known that the prisoner would commence his defence; and as the hour of nine drew near, the prevailing interest reached its height. The Court presented an appearance such as was never before witnessed, and probably never will again.
The prisoner after some preliminaries commenced his address and spoke on that day, and the following 14 hours, without making any impression whatever in his favour. His address was full of repetitions, and every thing really material might have been said in a quarter of the time. He affirmed that he was innocent; but admitted that he knew something was about to take place at the hall before the night of the murders. He stated that parties had consulted him as to the expediency of taking forcible possession of the hall, as had been done some years since. He advised them not to do so, but still he apprehended that something would be done; he did not however fear that anything serious would take place. He left his house about 8 or half-past 8 on the night of the murders, and he went to the boundary of his own lands. When he got to the fence leading to the hall he waited a few minutes, and thought he would go back as he felt ill, but at that moment he distinctly heard the report of a gun, or pistol, in a direct line for the hall. He then heard two more, and was struck with amazement; as the party had always said, if they took fire-arms, it would only be to intimidate, as they would not load them. He then heard the bell ring violently, and he hastened back to Potash as quickly as he could, and he went through the garden into the house. Having given his account of himself on that night, he proceeded to comment on the remarks of the learned Counsel and on the evidence; endeavouring to show contradictions and inconsistencies, which he contended went to invalidate the whole. He complained of the conduct of the Magistrates, and abused the police, and other witnesses. He continued a rambling and wearisome address till 8 o'clock at night, when the Court adjourned. On the sixth day, the prisoner resumed his defence; and he proceeded in the same rambling incoherent manner, reading extracts from the evidence, and remarking on supposed contradictions and inconsistencies. He produced no impression whatever in his favour.
When he had finished, he called Mr. George Waugh, a solicitor, of London; Mr. Arthur Walker Hyde, an accountant; Maria Blanchflower, nursery maid, at Stanfield Hall: and Solomon Savory, a lad employed on Potash farm. These witnesses stated nothing contradictory to the evidence previously given.
Mr. Serjeant Byles then replied, and read over the most material parts of the evidence.
The Learned Judge summed up in a clear and lucid manner, reading the evidence and commenting as he proceeded; showing that the case for the prosecution was very strong, while the defence was extremely weak, and implied a guilty knowledge of the fact.
During the delivery of this charge, his Lordship was repeatedly interrupted by the prisoner, who attempted to correct him, and to give different versions of the evidence. His Lordship in the most patient manner waited to bear the prisoner's observations, and requested the jury to give them the degree of weight they deserved; and sometimes, in very minute points, allowed the prisoner's corrections.
The Jury having been requested to consider their verdict, retired. During their absence there was the most intense excitement as to the result. A general buzz ensued in consequence of the earnest conversation that was going on, but it was speedily silenced, by a call of the officers -" Make way for the jury." Not more than five minutes had elapsed, and there was a breathless silence as the jury took their places and to the question of the Clerk of the arraigns, "Do you find James Blomfield Rush guilty or not guilty of the murder of Isaac Jermy?" the Foreman pronounced, - whilst the most breathless excitement pervaded the Court - the fatal word "GUILTY."
His Lordship then put on the black cap, amid profound silence in the Court; and in the most solemn and impressive manner, his voice frequently faltering with emotion, he pronounced the
"James Blomfield Rush after a trial, unusually protracted in length, you have been found guilty of the crime of wilful murder - a crime, the highest which one human being can perpetrate on another; the deepest crime under any circumstnices of extenuation, but in this case, I regret to say, there is everything which can make it of a still deeper dye; and to make the guilt of it of the most horrible character. It appears, from letters written by yourself that to the father of the unfortunate victim of your malice, you felt that you owed a debt of deep gratitude. You commenced a system of fraud by endeavouring to cheat your landlord, and you followed that up by making the unfortunate girl whom you had seduced, the tool whereby you could commit a forgery; and having done that, you terminated your guilty career by the murder of the son and grandson of your friend and benefactor. It unfortunately happens, that great guilt is sometimes, in imagination at least, too nearly connected with something of heroism, something to dazzle the mind. But fortunately, in your case, there is everything to make vice as loathsome as it is horrible. There is no one that has witnessed your conduct during the trial, and heard the evidence disclosed against you, that will not feel with me, what I say when I tell you that you must quit this world by an ignominious death, an object of unmitigated abhorrence to every one. I shrink not from making this statement, not for the purpose of creating animosity, but for the purpose of pointing out the situation in which you really stand. To society it must be a matter of the most perfect indifference what may be your conduct during the few remaining days of life that yet remain to you. No concealment of the truth, in which you may still continue to persist, will cast the slightest doubt on the propriety of the verdict that the jury have returned; and no confession you can make will add even a tapers light to the broad glare of day-light that has been disclosed against you. As far, therefore, as society is concerned, the conduct you pursue during the few remaining days of life is a matter of perfect indifference; but to yourself it may be all important. I can only conjure you, by every consideration of interest, no less than of duty, that you employ the short space of time that yet remains to you in this world, in endeavouring, by penitence and prayer, as far as may be, to reconcile yourself to that offended God, before whom you are shortly to appear. In the mysterious dispensations of Divine Providence, not only is much evil permitted, but much guilt is frequently permitted also to go unpunished It is, perhaps, presumptuous, therefore, to attempt to trace the finger of God in the development of every particular guilt and crime; but one does delight sometimes in making such investigations; and in this case I cannot but remark, that if you had performed your promise to that unfortunate girl to make her your wife, the policy of the law, that seals the lips of a wife in any proceeding against her husband, might have prevented the appearance of a material witness against you." [The prisoner here interposing, said, "I did not make any promise."] His Lordship continued: You have been convicted upon evidence so clear, that observations or comments are perfectly unnecessary. Having thus charged you as to the small portion of life that can alone interest you - for all human interest is at an end - I will only add my earnest hope that the only social right that still remains, entire seclusion, may be guaranteed to you; and that neither morbid sensibility to guilt, nor the eager curiosity of the world to pry into the murderer's cell, may be permitted to raise a factitious interest about that in which you are alone concerned. It remains only that I pronounce the awful sentence of the law upon you; and it is, that you be taken back to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you are dead, and that after death your body be buried within the precincts of the gaol and may the Almighty have mercy upon your soul."
The sentence of death was listened to with most profound attention, and seemed to make a deep impression upon the crowded assembly in the Court. The prisoner himself, during the delivery of it, stood as if he were stupified; not with the air of indifference, but in a state of apparent stupor. When the learned Judge had finished, the prisoner remained motionless for half-a-minute, and then the gaoler of the castle touched him with his hand, to remove him. He then seemed to recover his consciousness; and with a sort of demoniacal smile on his countenance, he uttered a few words, in a joking manner. He was removed with the greatest precaution that no communication, of any kind, should take place between him and any party in the Court.
The learned Judge then retired, and the Court, after this remarkable trial, was quickly cleared.
The convicted murderer, for several days after he was confined to his cell, manifested the utmost indifference to his awful situation. He even imagined that he could persuade those by whom he was more immediately surrounded, that he was innocent. The members of his family made no application to see him, but hundreds of persons came from the most distant parts of the county, to catch the slightest glimpse of the criminal in his cell. They were not allowed, however, to gratify their curiosity.
Ref: Bayne, A. D. 1849. The Stanfield Tragedy. Jarrold & Sons, London.