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Stamford. Elizabeth Pulley. Murder Most Foul

Chris Hunt 2022

On March 16th 1860 there occurred in High Street, St Martins, a murder most foul when Elizabeth Pulley, ‘spinster of that parish’ was murdered in her own home and valuables stolen by a near neighbour, Henry Corby.

Although first thought to be an unfortunate accident. Having failed to cover-up his crime by attempting to burn the body of the deceased, but when evidence was found that pointed towards his involvement and the body exhumed he was arrested and charged with her murder. Before he was committed to trial he took his own life in Stamford Gaol. This crime was not just of local interest, articles reporting the case appeared in local, regional and national newspapers. The Victorians loved to read about gruesome murders. The last public hanging did not place till eight years later. There must have been some who were disappointed that Henry Corby took his own life, which ironically he did by hanging in his prison cell.

Printed broadside ballads were a common sight being sold on the streets, on market days and at fairs. They were quickly printed on cheap paper whenever publishers saw a profit. The murder of Elizabeth Pulley was just such an opportunity as can be seen from the following transcribed document which was printed by Taylor, Printer, Brick Lane, Bethnal Green (London). Although undated the original dates from 1860. Although we can read it from a moral viewpoint, it could be suggested that it falls into a ballad sub-genre best described as Gallows Literature.




Who was Murdered, Robbed, and Burnt at Stamford


The cruelest murder e’re was pen’d,

Has in that place been found.

Elizabeth Pulley, a lady was,

To the poor was good and kind,

Who was robbed & murdered by a wretch

To a cinder burnt we find.

The gold rings from her finger,

The murderer took away,

The writing-desk and a bank-note,

With a hundred pounds they say.

The silver-plate and other things,

Both gold and silver coin,

He took from Lady Pulley,

Who was so good and kind.

The white-locks from off her head,

The murderer he must tear,

For amongst burnt clothing and other things,

Was found much human hair.

The carpenter that did her work,

Henry Corby, was his name.

And for that horrid murder

They took him for the same.

He must have had a heart of stone,

To do that dreadful deed,

For of all the murders that ere was done,

This is the worst, indeed.

To a cinder burnt the lady,

Oh, what a cruel one;

In the ashes was found her tooth,

Likewise her finger bone.

Oh, the deed was laid to Corby,

A carpenter by trade;

And since the murder has been done,

He many a debt has paid.

Two young men that was in his shop,

On a shelf, they by chance did see,

The writing-desk and the gold rings,

Which belonged to Mrs Pulley.

For Elizabeth and Thomas Pulley,

On the gold rings were their names,

Which those young men saw in the shop

And to the police they told the same.

For murder they took Corby,

And charged him with the crime,

And remanded he has been

At Stamford different times.

Upon the nineteenth day of April,

Just at the break of day,

Fast to a bar of the window,

Corby hung himself, they say.

And those that read these verses,

Cannot help to shed a tear,

For on a slate he had wrote these words,

Unto his wife and children dear.

From public-houses, my dear boy,

I pray you keep away,

And try to assist your mother,

Much as in your power lay.

Do try to help one another,

Through this wide world of care,

Farewell to you, my loving wife,

Adieu my children, dear.

Taylor, Printer, 93, Brick Lane, Bethnal Green

A print version can be downloaded HERE

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