200 Years of Fascinating Old Crime Documents Archived at Cambridge

Cambridge University has acquired several years of old crime documents from the cathedral city of Ely.

The Guardian first reported these documents which feature a wide variety of crimes, both serious and silly, between 1557 to 1775. These reports offer an interesting insight into how the world worked back in the day.

One of the more serious crimes documented was Margaret Cotte, who was accused of killing a woman named Martha Johnson by witchcraft without any real evidence. Her report claims that she was “being seduced by diabolical instigation out of premeditated malice she did certain wickednesses and diabolical magical arts”.

Another more serious case revolved around Cecilia Samuel, who was found guilty of drowning her newborn baby. Despite pleading her innocence, Samuel was eventually sentenced to a hanging.

As of right now, the archives are not yet available online, but a complete catalog will be ready by September 2020. Archivist Sian Collins asked people to be prepared for something truly interesting:


“This project enables us to hear the voices of people from all backgrounds whose names come tumbling out of the records. Many of these people, long dead and forgotten, and for whom there is no other surviving record, will now have a small piece of their story told.”



Featured Image Via The Independent