The Last Speech and Confession of Sarah Elestone

These fragments come from the last speech and confession of Sarah Elestone who was burned to death for killing her husband in 1678.

‘In Three-Faulken-Court, over against St. Margarets-hill, in Southwark, lately lived one Sarah Elestone, the late Wife of Thomas Elestone, a Felt-maker: a man very laborious in his calling, aged about forty years, and his Wife forty-six years old.  They lived many years very contentedly, she assisting him in his calling in what she was able, till such time as falling into the acquaintance of some lewd women, she was drawn to commit that filthy sin of drunkenness, which after a little practising of it, she became harden’d in it, and learn’d to swear by her Maker and to prophain the Lords Day, and hate good men.  Such an alteration there was perceived in her, that several of her Husbands acquaintance desired him to do all that he could to reclaim her, telling him also that it was his duty, to which he answered That he hoped God would turn her from these evil courses, but he for his part could do no good with her, for she was so obstinate, that the more he said to her the worse she was.  So that seeing he could not prevail by fair means, he sought some other way, as keeping her bare of money, but then she ran him in debt, and took up money at the Tally-shops, he having notice of it, told them if they trusted her any more he would not pay them: upon which she resolved of another way, which was to sell her goods, which she did by degrees, till they had scarce a Chair to sit on, or a bed to lye on.  This so perplexed her Husband, that he resolved to beat her out of this wicked course, and to that end did sometimes chastize her with blows, which she was not wanting to repay. So much was their fury sometimes, that their neighbours hath been forced to part them at all hours in the night.

In this like manner they lived for some years, which so troubled and disturbed the patience of the man; that oft he hath been heard to wish himself dead, or that he had been buried alive that day he was married to her, and she wicked and graceless soul would many times in cold blood threaten him, that at one time or other she would kill him; which proved to be too true, for she having been out with her Gossips, and having got a cup too much as it was thought, comes and finds her husband at work. She demands some money of him, and withall tells him That if he will not give her some presently she would be the Death of him. He seeing her in that condition, took her and thrust her down stairs, and shuts the door, and to work again.  Within a little time after when he thought her heat was over, he goes down in his shift as he was at work, intending to drink. She meets him at the stairs foot, and with one side of a pair of sheers gave him a mortal wound on the breast, of which he immediately dyed, upon which she presently fled. Her Husband being quickly found, Hue and Cry was made after her, and that night about twelve a clock she was taken by the Old-street Watch, to whom she confessed the fact, she had her Tryal at the Marshalses at the Assizes, beginning on the 22 day of March, last past, where she was condemned by Law to be burn’d to ashes for this horrid and bloody crime.

After sentence was past, she begged some time to sit and prepare her self, which was granted, as also to two other Malefactors. During her imprisonment she hath had several Ministers to visit her who laid open the haniousness of her sins, especially that of Murther.  She for the most part seemed but little concerned, many times talking of other things when they prayed for her, but a day or two before her Execution it pleased God to awaken her and to discover her sins unto her, and the need she stood in of an interest in the Lord Jesus. Which made her the willinger to dye, finding that it was according both to the Law of God and Man: and hoping that the Lord Jesus would have mercy on her poor sinful Soul. Now she loved good men, good discourse, and often cryed out what should she do to be saved: when she came to the place of Execution and beheld the Fagots, she cryed, O Lord for Jesus sake let this be my last burning. O that God would give me an assurance of the pardon of my sins, and blot out the black lines of my sins with the Red lines of Christs blood. Her last words were to exhort all good people to fear God, to keep the Sabbath-day, to refrain idle company, to have a care how they take the Name of the Lord in vain.  Thus with a few Ejaculatory Prayers, she concluded with that saying Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.  Having thus said, the Executioner doing his Office, stopped the Atropos of her Speech, and her body was consumed to ashes in the Flames.’

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