1703: Newcastle woman commits suicide by scissors

Elizabeth Sharper was an old woman living in Sidgate, Newcastle. In her younger years she committed fornication with a married man, carrying and delivering his child.

Despite getting on with life and being “well respected by her neighbours”, Elizabeth was deeply affected by her earlier transgressions. In her late 70s she fell into a “deep despair”, apparently caused by remorse and grief over the loss of her illegitimate child decades before. She confessed to “bearing a bastard” and told others that the child was snatched from her at birth and probably murdered.

In the summer of 1703, Elizabeth took her life in a particularly horrific fashion. According to local records she:

“..ripped up her belly with a pair of scissors and pulled her bowels out with her hand… her puddings came out and lay on each side of her… A surgeon put them in their place again and sewed up her belly.”

Elizabeth survived for several days with her “reason and senses” intact, though she was undoubtedly in agony. She was buried in the graveyard of St Andrew’s in August 1703.

Source: Register of Burials, St Andrew’s Church, Newcastle, 1703. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.