Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 April 2019
In February 1829, Harriet Farrell, aged seventeen, found herself on trial in the Old Bailey (the central criminal court of London), charged with “the willful murder of her bastard child.” Harriet was a servant, in the household of Jonathan Cook, a “trunk-maker.” Cook’s wife had asked her repeatedly if she was in the “family way”; but Harriet had always denied it. She denied giving birth, too; but the Cooks were suspicious, and they found the body of a baby in the privy. At this point, Harriet ended up in the hands of the law, charged with murder. But when she was tried in the Old Bailey, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. They did find Harriet guilty of a lesser crime, concealing the birth of a child, and she was sentenced to a year in prison.