Susanna Lalliment didn’t know how to spell her own name. She was said to be descended from French Huguenot refugees, but she seemed to speak English well enough.
The Lalliments were skilled lace makers in Nottingham. The lace business in Nottingham, however, was changing. New technology put many traditional craftsmen out of work.
Perhaps being descended from immigrants contributed to workforce mobility. Susannah and her father moved to London; and that’s where all the trouble started.
The usual story goes like this: To save her father, Susannah accepted the burden of guilt.[*]
The records from the Old Bailey paint another picture.
Susannah worked as a live-in housekeeper for the Newton family. Her father John Lalliment lived elsewhere. John would “seldom” visit his daughter, and when he did, he never went upstairs.
The Newtons accused Susannah of stealing a ten pound note from the room upstairs. They accused her of stealing it from a hidden box, which they claimed was locked. The Newtons never said how they thought Susan got the key, or why the said key would be lying around.
According to Mr. Newton, when the note went missing, on the night of May 1st, 1812, no one was in the house except his family members (the other Newtons) and Susannah Lalliment. So Miss Lalliment had to be the theif.
On the first of July 1812, two months after the alleged theft, Susannah and her father John Lalliment were put on trial for theft of the note.
Susannah denied that the note was locked in a box.
The Newton’s had lodgers, and Susannah claimed that she’d taken money from them too. “I often found money in the lodgers rooms. The last money I found was three shillings.” Susannah said “I told my mistress,” or her boss, Mrs. Newton. Mrs. Newton told Susannah to put the money on the drawers.
Susannah kept the money, because she thought the lodger was putting it there on purpose to “try” her. Susannah didn’t try to cover it up, however. She told the lodger that she took the money he left lying around.
Then, Susannah claimed, she thought that the ten pound bank note was also intentionally left out in the open to tempt her, so she took it.
From her past behavior, the owners claimed it was obvious that Susannah had taken the money, and not her father. Her father, after all, lived elsewhere, and he had never been to the room where the note was kept.
So why was her father, John Lalliment, on trial?
In those days, they didn’t have the same kind paper money the way we do today. The ten pound note was more like a cheque or a money order. So, when the bank note went missing, the owners put a stop on it.
Susannah apparently gave the note to her father, after he had given her a few shillings. She told him that she “found the note in the street.”
Susannah claimed to be illiterate, and her father John probably couldn’t read either.
John Lalliment recognized the bank note as money, but he probably didn’t know how bank notes worked. If he did, he’d know that it wasn’t a good idea to use notes that were left on the street..
So John Lalliment decided to buy “five and sixpense” worth of “calico”, and he used the ten pound bank note that his daughter gave him to pay for it.
Now, John may have asked Susannah to steal the note, but to pretend like she was completely innocent and took the blame for his crime is a stretch. All the evidence pointed to her.
Susannah did say “my father is quite innocent,” and my guess is, she was telling the truth.
I do think that the owners tempted her after they heard about her taking the money that the lodgers left on the floor.
However, all that was now irrelevant. The plaintiffs brought forward bankers, cloth sellers, and other witnesses, all who brought forward evidence against the Lalliments.
Susannah was found guilty, and condemned to death. Her father was found innocent, but he’d never see his daughter again.
Before she’d die, however, Susannah would meet an American “pirate,” Captain Rowland.
- Susannah’s trial at the Old Bailey online
- ([*]More references will be supplied at the story’s conclusion)