As Halloween approaches, we are thinking about the darker side of Norfolk’s history and some of the more macabre objects in our collection. These ceramic figures tell the story of one of the county’s most infamous murderers, James Blomfield Rush.
Rush was a tenant farmer, in arrears and unable to pay his debts. Fearing eviction from his home and land, he devised a plan to defraud and murder his landlord in an attempt to solve his financial problems. On 28 November 1848, Rush shot and killed Isaac Jermy and his son at their home at Stanfield Hall near Wymondham. The son’s wife and a servant were also wounded in the attack. Rush had planned to blame the murder on rival claimants to the estate and asked his mistress, Emily Sandford, to say he was on the farm at the time of the murder. However, the surviving women identified Rush, despite his attempted disguise of a wig and whiskers, and Sandford refused to lie and corroborate his alibi. Rush was tried and convicted for the double murder. On 21 April 1849, he was hanged outside Norwich Castle.
Like many executions at the time, the hanging was a public spectacle and attracted over 12,000 spectators.
These Staffordshire ceramic depictions of James Blomfield Rush and Emily Sandford were sold as souvenirs at the time of the hanging. You can see them in the Town and Country Life section of the museum, alongside tin-glazed pottery models of Potash Farm, the farm tenanted by Rush, and Stanfield Hall, the home of Isaac Jermy and scene of the murder.