At November’s meeting the guest speaker was Professor Richard Wilson who told the story of one of Norfolk’s most famous murders. The crime with its complicated history and characters could easily have been a work of fiction from novelists such as Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins but was in fact a true story that took place in 1848 at Stanfield Hall near Wymondham.
The next meeting of Diss U3A will take place on 6th December at Diss United Reformed Church at 10.30 and will take the form of an In-House Debate.
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For many years Stanfield Hall an 800 acre estate owned by the Jermy family had been fraught with problems concerning its direct line of title, early death, childless marriages and complicated wills were all part of Stanfield Hall’s history. In 1848 forged documents and debts were added to the mix which culminated one evening in the violent deaths of two members of the Jermy family being shot dead and several members of the household being wounded.
The chief suspect was the land agent and local tenant farmer James Rush who was in debt to the Jermys’ and being unable to repay his mortgage feared his land would be repossessed. Known in the area to be something of a hot-head and a trouble-maker Rush was quickly arrested and taken to Norwich.
His trial held in 1849 soon became a sensation fuelled by the fact that it was covered by the national newspapers and that Rush had made the decision to represent himself in court. Although no murder weapon was found at the time, much of the prosecution’s evidence came from staff at the Hall who had identified Rush and from his housekeeper who described his behaviour when he returned home later that same evening. Despite Rush’s attempts to persuade the jury of his innocence speaking for periods in excess of 10 hours at a time it took them only 10 minutes to find him guilty. When Rush was hanged at Norwich Castle two weeks later his execution attracted a crowd of over 20,000 many of whom had arrived from London in specially chartered trains.