Jessica Wood


Deep in the bowels of our old bailey
sits a woman awaiting sight of a judge
with a carefully balanced black cap on his head.


Catherine Hayes, a woman of the average sort.
Disguised herself in frilly caps with bows,
and by binding herself in marriage
to the image of a normal life.


A liar and madwoman!
Ensnared poor John with threats
to her own life ‘I’ll cut my throat!’
she cried, if John refused to marry.


But John, to her displeasure, was a man of care-
protective of his money,
and desiring more,
was tricked.


Catherine got her husband bladdered
on mountains worth of wine,
then had her lodgers and lovers
chop off his head!



Then poor John being
quartered and thrown into pits,
was only discovered by the bobbing
of his head along the Thames.


Soldier to king and country,
befell by wench and wealth
much like Adam by his sweet apple
and temptress.


Jessica’s inspiration for the piece:


I wrote this piece in a similar style to the poems of the time, which were humorous and engaging to the audience; people who were entertained by tales of murder, violence and scandal, and whose opinions were probably heavily influenced by similar pieces of writing. I tried to get the tone of familiarity across with the phrases like ‘Old Bailey’ since the court was central to entertainment at the time and would also have been seen as an important place of justice, and other phrases like ‘mountains of wine’ a play on ‘mountain wine’ which was a common, strong wine in the eighteenth century. I followed the style and biases of the original poems by ignoring the testimony of Catherine and trying to structure the sentences into a similar phrasing.

The original case of Catherine Hayes can be found here


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