She had a colour as fresh as a rose

These fragments come from a strange and troubling late 17th century account of a young girl who was dug up from her grave and put on public view by her father. Whether the exhumation took place to confirm the allegedly abusive behaviour of her employers, or whether her father had decided to exploit her death for financial gain, is a mystery.

There was a person who lived in Newgate-Street, a Servant, whose name was Grace Ashburne, a Hartfordshire woman, bound an apprentice to the wife of one Mr. Beachcroft, a Taylor, who now lives in Kings-head Alley in Newgate-Street. The wife of the person aforementioned was to instruct her in her art and trade of a Hood and Scarfe maker, which she did for a considerable time, although by relation of the neighbourhood, with many dry rubs and blows (which might possibly hasten her untimely End). This person, [Grace] was buryed on Christmas Eve last, and was heard by several neighbors most lamentably to groan and cry out in her grave, to the great astonishment of the neighbourhood; who upon complaint occasioned her to be taken out of her grave, after she had been buried four days.

Upon first taking out of the grave, several credible persons affirm that she was not only warm, but breathed, to the great astonishment of the beholders. Upon which her father (who is now a prisoner in the Fleet) caused her to be taken where some hundreds of spectators have been to view the dead corpse, amongst the multitude I myself was one.  She had a colour as fresh as a rose, nay more fresh than can possibly be conceived, yet on her arms she hath several bruises, and a scar on her head, which was reported to have been given her by her unkind master (through her mistresses perswasion) some months before her death.

Having been exposed to publick view for several hours, at a penny a piece, at a Smiths shop in the Long Walk near Christs Church Hospital, she was once more carried to her last home (the Grave).  A jury sat on her, who found the case so foul, that through some means they were contented to defer their evidence, or bring in their Verdict, until the Twenty Third of January.

In the time of this maids servitude she was much abused. Both master and mistriss were very harsh to her, as themselves cannot disown, unless they will contradict the whole neighbourhood. But to conclude, for certain the poor wench is dead, and her master is living, and her unkind dame too, who each of them live in one house in Newgate Street, in Kings head Alley, where any person may be informed of the truth of this relation.  For a truth, this I dare affirm, the poor girl was abused, and many times hath in the hearing of several, wished her self rather to be buryed alive, than to live under such hard and severe usage, and now her prayers have taken effect, let the world judge.

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