One of the most notorious murders in Norfolk history took place at Stanfield Hall, near Wymondham. The Recorder of Norwich, Isaac Jermy, and his son were shot outside their home.
Their tenant, a debt-ridden farmer called James Blomfield Rush, was subsequently found guilty of the killing. A complicated story of land disputes, tangled relationships and personal animosity emerged. It gripped the attention not only of people in Norfolk, but nationally. The booming newspaper press had a field day with every titillating detail. Even the novelist Charles Dickens took an interest, visiting the scene of the double killing.
Rush was convicted after a trial the following April in Norwich. His hanging, outside the city’s castle, drew a crowd estimated at 20,000 strong. Many were brought in by train, the city’s new railway station having opened only a few years earlier. Police boarded trains from London at Attleborough, turning off known pickpockets intent on working the crowds.
James Rush stayed cool and composed to the end, even giving the hangman some advice on how to tie the knot. When he finally dropped, a reporter wrote: “The greatest silence prevailed, the solemn stillness only broken by the solitary shriek of a woman who had fainted in the crowd.” Rush’s actual motives and true character remain something of an enigma, one of the reasons his case gained such public attention.