Servant Torturer

5 min read
Servant Torturer

Elizabeth Brownrigg was born in 1720 in London, England, and married off to James Brownrigg as a teenager. In their early years of marriage the couple had 16 children, but as was quite common back then only 3 of them survived past infancy. James, a plumber and Elizabeth, a midwife, both became well respected members of their professions and by the 1760’s were quite well off.

Around 1766 Elizabeth was appointed ‘overseer of women and children’ by St Dunstan’s Parish and, as result, was given several female children as apprentices from London Foundling Hospital, a place for abandoned children. It was standard practice for the Hospital to give older children to prominent families to be trained and apprenticed in domestic duties, manual labour and midwifery so they could have some form of stable career in their adult lives. Sadly, most of these children were simply used as slave labour and many of them were abused, but none as badly as those in the care of the Brownriggs.

Elizabeth was a harsh, cruel mistress who physically and mentally abused her apprentices for the slightest of infractions of the rules. One of her favourite methods of torture was to handcuff or tie the girls to overhead pipes in her kitchen, strip them naked and beat them savagely and excessively with swatches, broom handles, bull whips and anything else of the sort she could find. When she grew tired from exhaustion she would throw ice cold water on them before cutting them down. The girls would be left bruised, bleeding, with broken bones and covered in open wounds. They were never offered any form of medial assistance and were left to tend their own wounds. When the pipes finally broke from being used this way, Elizabeth immediately had James install heavy duty hooks in the timber beams.

Mary Jones was the first of Elizabeth servants and after months of torturous beatings, vile verbal abuse and being used as a slave she escaped in the early hours of the morning and sought refuge at the foundling hospital. After examination of her numerous savage wounds by doctors at the hospital, James was cautioned to keep his wife’s abusive tendencies in check, but no other action was taken. Mary Jones was not returned to the Brownrigg household, but by this stage Elizabeth already had two other girls in her care and for these two, the escape of Mary Jones only escalated the violence against them.

Elizabeth’s two other servants, Mary Clifford and Mary Mitchell, became the subjects of what were now almost daily beatings, even if they did nothing wrong, Elizabeth simply seemed to enjoy hurting them. Mary Mitchell managed to escape one night but only made it a short distance before being found by one of Elizabeth’s sons and forced to return, where she was savagely beaten for running away. Despite Mary Mitchell being the one causing trouble, Elizabeth had taken a particular liking to abusing Mary Clifford.Servant Torturer

Clifford was kept naked for days on end and forced to sleep on a door mat inside a coalhole. Near starvation caused her to attempt to steal food from the pantry, when she was caught she was chained to the yard door by a chain pulled tight around her neck and beaten for lengthy periods, repeatedly for an entire day and night. She was made to sleep with her hands tied behind her back and the chain still around her neck. On several occasions, Elizabeth became so angry with Mary Clifford that she would grab the girl savagely by the cheeks and force the skin down until blood rushed from her eyes.

By June 1967 the two tortured Marys were both sick and suffering with serious infection from untreated wounds. They were being beaten so often that their bodies had no time to begin healing and they were too dirty and malnourished to have any chance of healing well anyway. Mary Clifford complained of their inhuman treatment to a French lady who was lodging in the house and as a result Elizabeth flew into a rage and cut Mary’s tongue in two places with scissors.

Elizabeth’s neighbours had started to become very suspicious, with the constant moaning and sobbing coming from the Brownrigg house and had reported her to the hospital, pleading them to investigate. Visits to the Brownrigg home from legal representatives of the hospital were met with hostility and Elizabeth acquired her own lawyer. Eventually the girls were discovered in the Brownrigg home and Elizabeth, her husband James and their son were arrested. Mary Clifford died just a few days after being found by constables. Elizabeth plead guilty and was prosecuted for the murder of Mary Clifford. On September 14th 1967 Elizabeth Brownrigg was hung, her body was then transported to surgeons hill, where it was dissected and her skeleton hung up.


Jody Allen
About Author

Jody Allen

Jody Allen is the founder of Stay at Home Mum. Jody is a five-time published author with Penguin Random House and is the current Suzuki Queensland Amb...Read Moreassador. Read Less

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