And now the good and the bad….(although that can be debatable.)
An unacknowledged Founding Father who may have changed history
Captain Bartholomew Gosnold(1571 – 1607)
Although the memorial stone and epitaph is largely self-explanatory there is a lot more to Gosnold’s story. The explorer and colonist isn’t buried here. Instead he is reputed to lie in Jamestown, Virginia. This was the colony that he helped found and, where. according to Presevation Virgina he is regarded as being …’the prime mover of the colonisation of Virginia.’
Gosnold was originally a Suffolk man who studied law at Middle Temple after graduating from Cambridge. He made an influential marriage and had seven children. But the sea and adventure were in his blood and he sailed with Sir Walter Raleigh whom he was soon to outstrip.
In 1602 Gosnold. on the ship Concord. made his first attempt to found a colony in Southern New England. Along the way they named Cape Cod after the large number of the fish they found there and then he continued to sail on along the coast to a place with an abundance of wild grapes. He called the place Martha’s Vineyard because of the grapes and also in memory of his infant daughter who had died in 1598. However the colony was abandoned when its settlers decided to return to England.
There was big money and fame to be made from exploring and colonising in the 17th century. These were usually private ventures and so profit driven. But for Gosnold and his ambitions there was only one snag; Raleigh held the patent for Virginia. But Queen Elizabeth I, who was on the throne at the time, was very interested in revenue and Raleigh’s star was descending. He’d already lost £40k on the Roanoke disaster which was a huge sum at the time. Soon Gosnold held an exclusive charter for a Virginia charter to settle there and this eventually became what is now Jamestown.
Sadly Gosnold wasn’t destined to enjoy his acheivements for long. He died, aged only 36, on 22 August 1607 as the result of a 3 week illness after only 4 months after landing in the New World. The burial was an honourable one ‘with many volleys of small shot’ fired over his coffin.
He was one of the prime movers in Virginia’s colonisation and it has since been speculated that without him it might have been Spain that ended up colonising the Atlantic coast. Elizabeth I’s successor, James 1, was extremely keen to maintain peace with Spain in the 1600’s and Spain was equally enthusiastic to explore the New World. Without Gosnold who knows what might have happened?
For centuries the location of Gosnold’s grave was unknown. But, in 2002, a body was excavated in Jamestown which has been presumed to be his. Preservation Virginia revealed that it appeared to be a person of high status as a captain’s staff had been placed in the coffin with the body and the coffin had an unusual gabled lid. DNA was taken and compared with that from a distant descendant of Gosnold’s interred in a Suffolk church but the tests were inconclusive.
I note that his wife is recorded on this memorial plaque so either she didn’t go with him or returned after his death.
And the bad…..or unfortunate…….
This epitaph is meant to be a cautionary tale for the passer-by. The inscription tells Sarah Lloyd’s sad story and again the mason has earned his money if he was paid by the letter. It’s almost like reading a penny dreadful written in stone.
Pause at this Humble Stone
The fall of unguarded Youth
By the allurements of vice
and the treacherous snares
on the 23d of April 1800
in the 22d Year of her Age
Suffered a Just but ignominous
for admitting her abandoned seducer
into the Dwelling House of her Minstrefs
in the Night of 3rd Oct
and becoming the Instrument
in his Hands of the crimes
of Robbery and Houseburning
These were her last Words
May my example be a
warning to Thousands.
This seemed to tell all of Sarah Lloyd’s story but did it? I did further research and found that there was more to it than the epitaph states. I am indebted to Naomi Clifford’s excellent blog post for this.
The facts are that Sarah Lloyd was employed as a maidservant for Mrs Syer at her house in Hadleigh near Ipswich and had begun an illicit relationship with Joseph Clarke, a local man. On the night of the burglary, she let him into Mrs Syer’s house while Mrs Syer and her live-in companion slept. The pair then stole various items from the house including a watch and 10 guineas in cash. They also managed to steal Mrs Syer’s pockets, which were small bags, from their hiding place under her pillow. These contained cash and jewellery worth 40s (£2.00). According to the court transcript, Clarke then set fire to the curtains in one of the rooms although other accounts state that they started a fire in a stairwell. Both of them then fled the scene, hoping to have covered up their crime, but unluckily for them neighbours managed to quickly put out the fire and the house was saved. Clarke advised Sarah to leave him out of it and, instead, to say that two other men had been involved.
They lay low until Sarah was recognised as she ran across a field and she was eventually arrested by the local constable. She confessed and the stolen goods were recovered from her family home. The cash was never found and soon Clarke was also arrested.
However, according to the account of the trial Clarke was found not guilty and acquitted whereas, Sarah, although found not guilty of the burglary was found guilty of stealing. The strongest penalty was awarded. This seemed harsh to say the least. According to Naomi Clifford when Sarah appeared at the local Assizes on 20 March 1800 all she said in her defence was:
‘ It was not me, my lord, but Clarke that did it.’
Here is a link to a contemporary account of the trial: (However, be warned that it’s in 16th century phrasing where the ‘s’ has been replaced by a long ‘f’ which renders, for example, ‘passing’ as ‘paffing’.
The charges against Clarke were dropped which may have been because he hadn’t confessed to his part in the crime whereas Lloyd had. Also it was only her word that placed him at the scene as there was no other evidence.
The Assizes judge, Judge Grose, made several remarks which condemned Sarah:
‘A servant robbing a mistress is a very heinous crime; but your crime is greatly heightened; your mistress placed implicit confidence in your; you slept near her, in the same room, and you ought to have protected her… and though this crime was bad, yet it was innocence, compared with what followed: you were not content with robbing her mistress, but you conspired to set her house on fire, thereby adding to your crime death and destruction not only to the unfortunate Lady, but to all those whose houses were near by. I have to announce to you that your last hour is approaching; and for the great and aggravated offence that you have committed, the law dooms you to die.’
There was a further twist to the case in that Sarah told the Rev Hay Drummond, the local vicar, when he visited her, that Clarke had seduced her and regularly visited for sex. She’d regarded him as her husband and on the night of the crime she had revealed that she was pregnant and he’d promised to marry her. Rev Drummond felt that she’d been used and immediately set about organising a petition together with Capel Lofft, a lawyer and magistrate. to try to obtain a Royal Pardon. Lofft moved in influential circles but the Home Secretary, the Duke of Portland refused any clemency as he considered that Sarah should be made an example as her alleged final words on the epitaph state. Although I think it more likely that she might have said ‘How did Joseph Clarke get off with not guilty?’
The pregnancy wasn’t mentioned again and she was executed on 22 April 1800 after it had been delayed for 14 days by the attempts to obtain a Royal Pardon. Sarah was buried in the abbey churchyard that evening with a crowd of 1000 people in attendance. Mrs Lloyd. Sarah’s mother, had tried to commit suicide when she had heard that the execution was to proceed.
Although Sarah’s age is started as 22 on the epitaph she was unaware of her true age and was illiterate.
The epitaph also seems to have commented on Sarah;s morality although her ‘abandoned seducer’ isn’t named.However, her case has been seen as being part of a slow movement of change with capital punishment. The first decades of the 1800’s brought significant reductions in the numbers of crimes punishable by death with other less harsh methods of punishment. Sarah Lloyd was one of 7 women hanged in 1800. There were 6 in England and I in Ireland. Only 3 more were to hang for stealing in a dwelling house and it ceased to be a capital offence after August 1834.
©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.
Further reading and references: