Ann Nailor, capital punishment, dailyprompt, dailyprompt-1895, eighteenth century, ghosts of the underground, hanging, haunted tube station, old bailey, poverty, screaming spectre, workhouse
The ‘Screaming Spectre’ is one of the most famous hauntings in London. Hundreds of passengers and London Underground employees alike have claimed to have heard a terrifying scream whilst waiting for the last train out of Farringdon Station. Rarely seen, usually only heard, the cry has occasionally led some intrepid soul to go searching for the source of the noise, convinced it is the sound of someone in severe distress, only for them to return confused and empty handed.
The ghost, is believed to be that of a young girl named Ann Nailor, who was murdered, her remains left near the site which later became Farringdon Station.
From the Workhouse to the Sweatshop
Ann Nailor was only thirteen when she was killed in 1758. At the time of her death she was apprenticed out to a millinery in Bruton Street, Berkeley Square, London, along with four other girls; her sister Mary (8), Philadephia Dowley (10), Sarah (Sall) Hinchman (12) and Ann Paul (age unknown). The millinery was owned by Sarah Metyard, a widow with one daughter, Sarah Morgan Metyard, who would have been either 18 or 19 at the time.
Forced to work long hours in a small room, sewing ‘mitts and purses’, poorly fed and only allowed out a couple of days a month, it is pretty obvious the value their mistress placed on her apprentices. They needed to work hard, if they didn’t, they were punished. Ann couldn’t sew as well as the others, she had suffered from a herpetic infection ‘whitlow’ which had led to a finger being amputated. This lack of productivity was reflected in her treatment. She was beaten more often than the others and not given food as regularly. As she became weaker, she was even less able to work and so was punished again. Thus, the vicious cycle continued until reaching breaking point she tried to get away.
Source unknown: 18th century milliners shop.
A Slow, Lingering Death
Ann had tried once before to escape from the Metyards. The second time she only made it as far as the doorstep when she was stopped by the milkman, Mr Brown. She begged him to let her go, pleading that if she stayed, she would be starved to death since she had had “no victuals for so long a time”. Reassuring her that she would not starve, he stood by as Sarah Morgan pulled her inside. Ann was dragged by the neck upstairs where she was held down by the mother on a bed and severely beaten with a broom handle by the daughter. She was then taken up another flight of stairs where she was attached to a door by a string tied around her waist. For three days she was left in this position, unable to sit or lie down. Each evening she was cut down and allowed to return to her room to sleep, on the last day she was so weak that she crawled up the stairs on her hands and knees. According to the other apprentices throughout this time Ann was given neither food or water, was unable to speak and could only groan in agony.
At the end of the third day, one of the girls noticed that Ann was bent over double, no longer moving. Starved, dehydrated, exhausted and badly beaten (who knows what injuries she had sustained), her poor, frail body had finally given up. Death in the end would have been a merciful relief; her pain and suffering were at least at an end, even if her story was not yet finished.
Source: By anonymous illustrators of the Newgate Calendar. Public Domain, via Wikipedia.
Scared the girls called for help. Initially the daughter refused to accept that Ann was dead. Taking her shoe, she beat Ann on her backside and hand, insisting that she would make the girl move. When she could not, she called for her mother to come up and take a look. The mother on arriving cut the string and laid Ann’s dead body over her lap. She then sent one of the apprentices, Sall, to fetch some drops, insisting that Ann was just in a fit and was perfectly fine. This was the last time the girls saw her.
According to both the apprentices at the trial, the Metyards began to act strangely sending them to wash in the kitchen or dining room, instead of in the garret as normal, the door of which was kept securely locked. As to Ann they were told that she was very sick and that they were not to disturb her. Despite putting on a show, taking up plates of food and demonstrating concern for her well-being the Metyards were perfectly aware that they could not keep up the charade indefinitely. At dinner a couple of days after Ann’s death, Sarah Metyard pretended to hear a noise and sent Sall to fetch Ann and bring her down to eat. Sall returned frightened, saying that the garret door was open and Ann had gone. Sarah Metyard just remarked that the girl had obviously run away again and with her history, few would have questioned it.
Despite the evidence, the girls were not convinced. For one thing, Ann had left without her shoes.
The Evidence Hidden
Whilst the Metyards were pretending everything was dandy, Ann’s cold body had lain in a garret room for two days before being moved to a second room. On the fourth day, it was unceremoniously dumped in a box, where it remained for two months.
By the beginning of December, the stench of the rotting corpse had become too much and fearful of discovery, they realised that the body needed to be removed from the premises. The first plan was to burn it but that idea was soon abandoned over fears that the smell of burning flesh would arouse suspicion and on a practical note it would have taken far too long. A decision was made to cut the body up into pieces and dump it. The mother aided by her daughter cut the arms and legs from the body. The trunk and head were stuffed into one bag and the limbs in another. An exception was made for the hand with the amputated finger which was burnt on the fire. Possibly the mother was frightened that the disfigured hand would make identifying the remains easier. On 5 December, Sarah Metyard carried the sacks to the sewer in Chick Lane, over 1.5 miles away. Unfortunately for her, the sewer was overflowing with mud and water and so she just left them in the gully-hole. Afterwards, her nerves shattered, she stopped at a public house near Temple-bar. Mr Inch, the landlord, knew Sarah Metyard well and enquired about the stink (of what would have been a mixture of rotting flesh, bodily fluids and guts) with which she was perfuming the place. Sarah Metyard denied all knowledge of any smell and quickly left the public house after just one drink.
A Gruesome Discovery
Late at night, not long after the body had been left, it was found by a constable and two watchmen whilst on their rounds. The pungent smell which Sarah Metyard had claimed to be oblivious to, had attracted their attention. Examining the bags briefly they ascertained it contained body parts and immediately went to report their find to Thomas Lovegrove, the Overseer of the Parish of St Andrew, Holborn. Despite the lateness of the night (it was about midnight), he ordered the men to get ‘a shell’ from the workhouse and go and gather up the body parts. The head and trunk were found first and then the limbs but despite making a thorough search of the area they could not locate the hands. They then took the remains to the workhouse where they were left until the next day when Lovegrove sent for the coroner, Mr Umfreville. The coroner asked for the body parts to be washed and laid out on a board, ready for examination. The body was identified as having belonged to a young female but the coroner mistakenly assumed that it had been dissected by surgeons and as such declined to summon a jury. The body was sent for burial.
That would have been the end of the story but for the fear and guilt which gnawed at the murderers and which eventually was their undoing.
The Murderers Condemn Themselves
During the years which followed, the mother became increasingly paranoid. She initially refused to let her daughter go out to service, afraid she would reveal their terrible secret.
After two years the daughter did get her wish. A tenant, Mr Richard Rooker, took pity on the daughter and offered her work as a servant at his house in Hill Street. Sarah Morgan gratefully accepted. Despite no longer living under the same roof, the mother’s behaviour worsened and she would regularly turn up at Rooker’s residence, causing a scene and accusing her daughter of being Rooker’s whore. Her aggressive behaviour continued even when the household moved out of London.
Matters came to a head one day when Rooker heard a scream come from the kitchen and found Sarah Morgan badly beaten, a knife discarded on the floor and the mother’s hands around her daughter’s throat. The mother and daughter began to trade insults. The mother called Rooker names and the daughter in turn called her the ‘Chick-lane ghost’ .
This last comment disturbed Rooker and played on his mind. Eventually he confronted Sarah Morgan and she revealed everything to him. Rooker convinced of her innocence, persuaded her to turn her mother in. Rooker sent a letter to the Parish in Tottenham High Cross and finally, Sarah Metyard was arrested for the murder of Ann Nailor. Unfortunately for Rooker he had been wrong, the mother exacted the ultimate revenge and her daughter was eventually taken in for questioning and charged.
On 14 July 1762, the trial for the murder of Ann Nailor was held at the Old Bailey.
Source: William Hogarth The Bench. Fitzwilliam Museum.
The feeling of animosity between the mother and daughter was such that they had to be housed in different areas of the prison, so it is not surprising that at their trial, they turned against each other. The mother throughout repeatedly asserted that Ann had not died under her roof (with the exception of one odd statement later denied, given to the Newgate Ordinary, that the girl had been killed by a falling bed post). She claimed that the girl was of a sickly constitution but had always been treated well and that she had run away, possibly with the milk boy, of whom Ann was fond of.
The daughter insisted that it had been all her mother’s doing adding that her only crime had been to conceal the murder, which she had done out of a false sense of loyalty. She stated that she had treated Ann kindly and had begged her mother to give the girl food. She told the jury that she had warned her mother that if Ann was not cut down from the string she would die and that Ann had still been alive, albeit very weak, when she had been laid on the bed. She also testified that it was only later that her mother had called her up and told her that Ann was dead.
The evidence against the pair was overwhelming and they were swiftly convicted. Sarah Morgan made one last futile attempt to save herself, “she pleaded her belly”. A panel of matrons were summoned to examine her, they found her not to be pregnant and the sentence of hanging was upheld.
Justice for Ann and Mary Nailor
Sadly, it had not only been Ann who had suffered but also her younger sister. Mary had been convinced that her sister had been murdered and freely expressed her views. This signed her death warrant. The child was killed, the body ‘secreted away’. Even without the physical proof, the jury found the Metyards guilty and they were duly charged with a second murder. Her body was never found.
On the morning of the 19 July, the women were taken to the execution site at Tyburn. The daughter continued to protest her innocence, accusing her mother of various other nefarious deeds whilst the mother lay insensible in the cart. Sarah Metyard had been wailing that she was unable to eat, maybe she was trying to starve herself before the hanging. Somehow fitting in the circumstances.
Source: William Hogarth – Scanned from The genius of William Hogarth or Hogarth’s Graphical Works, Public Domain via Wikimedia.
A Fair Sentence?
In my opinion the guilt of the mother is indisputable, however, I am less convinced when it comes to the daughter.
It is hard to ignore the fact that Sarah Morgan Metyard, like the apprentices had suffered at the hands of her mother. According to her confession taken the morning of her execution, she listed a number of grievances against her mother. She stated that from the age of eleven, she had been raised in a “scene of wickedness” being forced to steal pewter from the scullery at St James Palace and on one occasion being sent to beg money from her friends on the pretence that she had been abandoned . Although the only other witness was not in a state to refute these claims, it seems strange that she would have been lying, it was not as if she was going to be granted a reprieve and even if they were true it did not excuse what had happened to Ann. Maybe she was trying to gain sympathy but she appears to have been eager to receive the holy sacrament, so why risk her soul?
She also denied hitting Ann, despite the witnesses’ evidence to the contrary, stating that she had never treated the apprentices badly, even on occasion being beaten because of her defence of them. She claimed that when her mother was away from the house, she had often unlocked the garret to let the girls out and had even given them a key to lock themselves back in so her mother would never know. She added that on times she had given the girls “a halfpenny roll; and sometimes a halfpenny; and sometimes other victuals unknown to the mother”. This later assertion was confirmed by Sarah Hinchman.
She also mentioned how she had begged her mother to give the dead girl a decent burial but was ignored, her mother stating that if they did, they would both be arrested as it was obvious to anyone who looked at the body that the girl had been starved.
Source: William Hogarth Rakes Progress detail.
After the murder, the daughter was continuously abused by the mother, confiding in Rooker her desperation and her wish to kill herself if she could not escape her mother’s clutches. In the end she must have been thankful for the lifeline handed to her by Rooker. Did Rooker exploit an already vulnerable girl? Considering, that she most probably was in a relationship with him (otherwise why else would a man have subjected himself and his reputation to such abuse if she was just a servant), maybe, but for a short time he did save her. She always denied that she was sexually involved with him or any man. This then makes her claim that she was pregnant seem ridiculous. Her excuse was that she thought she would get a brief respite and hadn’t realised they would examine her. Yes, this could prove she was a liar or an idiot or equally a desperate young woman clutching at straws.
In my opinion, although Sarah Morgan was culpable and deserved punishment for not having reported the crime, I do not believe the death sentence was warranted. The girl was clearly mistreated both physically and emotionally. Yes, she had beaten Ann, which is inexcusable but possibly she did so out of fear of her mother turning her anger on her. She had obviously been threatened into keeping her mouth shut and forced to assist her mother in cutting up the body. Having to live this type of life must have been hell for the girl, so, for me, Sarah Morgan Metyard was in many ways just as much a victim as Ann and Mary Nailor.
As to the otherworldly scream heard in Farringdon Station, if it does belong to Ann Nailor, then the ghost has wandered as the station is not directly over the area where her body was found and if not, then it makes you wonder what other gruesome discovery has yet to be found.
Source: Tennessee State Library and Archive
Baldwin, W & Knapp, A, The Newgate Calendar Comprising Interesting Memoirs of the Most Notorious Characters who have been Convicted of Outrages of the Laws of England, Volume II, 1825
Mind the Ghost, https://www.jack-the-ripper-tour.com/generalnews/mind-the-ghosts/
Ghosts on the London Underground, https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2009/10/30/ghosts-on-the-london-underground/
All Aboard Ghost Express: London’s 11 Haunted Underground Train Stations Revealed, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3296617/All-aboard-ghost-express-London-s-11-haunted-underground-train-stations-revealed.htm
Old Bailey Proceedings Punishment Summary, https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=s17620714-1-person427&div=s1762071
Sarah Metyard, Sarah Morgan Metyard, Killing>murder, 14th July 1762, Old Bailey Proceedings Online, http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/printjsp?div=t17620714-30
Ordinary’s Account, 19th July 1762: The Ordinary of Newgate’s account of the behaviour, confession, and dying words of Sarah Metyard, and Sarah, Morgan Metyard, her daughter who were executed at Tyburn, on Monday, July 18, 1762, for the murder of Ann Nailor, https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/print.jsp?div=OA17620719
 Sarah Metyard, Sarah Morgan Metyard, Killing>murder, 14th July 1762  Ibid  Ibid  The Newgate Calendar  Ibid  Sarah Metyard, Sarah Morgan Metyard, Killing>murder, 14th July 1762  Ibid  Ibid  Mind the Ghost, https://www.jack-the-ripper-tour.com/generalnews/mind-the-ghosts/  The Newgate Calendar  Sarah Metyard, Sarah Morgan Metyard, Killing>murder, 14th July 1762  Ordinary's Account, 19th July 1762  Ibid  Old Bailey Proceedings Punishment Summary  Ordinary's Account, 19th July 1762  Sarah Metyard, Sarah Morgan Metyard, Killing>murder, 14th July 1762  Ibid  Ordinary's Account, 19th July 1762  Ghosts on the London Underground, https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2009/10/30/ghosts-on-the-london-underground/