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In Victorian times, gloves were an fashion featurefashion. Since white was the preferred colour, both formen's and women's gloves and the fabrics used were delicate and could not be washed ( kid leather and silk were the favourites), people had to keep on buying gloves if their wardrobe was to look fresh and fashionable. It was the custom too, to give away a new pair of gloves to each mourner at a funeral. The women of North Devon played an important part in this trade by becoming outworkers in their own homes. There were two major glove factories in the area - one in Great Torrington and one in Pilton just north of Barnstaple but both functioned in the same way:

The sytem worked like this: gloves were cut out in a factory; women outworkers were organised into small teams by location; one woman was put in charge of the team; she travelled in on a weekly basis to collect payment for the previous week's work and the next assignment of gloves to stitch up; when she got home, she paid the workers and distributed the next week's work to the women  who hand stitched the gloves together except for the thumbs which were always added at the factory as it was considered to be a more skilled job which should be carried out under supervision. It worked well as a system but it had a downside - the women carrying the money home each week could be easy prey to thieves.

 

According to Harvey's own confession, he had been thinking about carrying out a murder for some time. He actually identified some potential victims in advance and tells us he first thought of killing a young glover called Lang who regularly carried what Harvey considered a substantial sum of money back to Putford from the factory. On the day appointed for her death, however, she did not appear and he then made a plan to kill a Mary Allen instead but she failed to turn up at the usual time. The first person he did see was Mary Richards. He struck her three times with a hammer he had brought with him  as she walked towards him then dragged her into a field where he planned to leave her for dead. As he turned to leave, he noticed that the poor creature was trying to crawl on her knees to escape so he went back and struck her several more blows until he was satisfied she was dead. In court he denied that he had violated her though the medical evidence against hin was strong. He said that the injuries found upon her person must have been accidently produced when he was searching her body for the money - an answer which was totally refuted by a doctor. She had been carrying some groceries in her basket - he carried these into Cross Hill Wood and took some curants and saffron which he gave to his wife to make a cake.

 

To the Rev. J. T. Barr at Great Torrington, Harvey wrote:

"If you would do me a kindness, go and visit my poor wife. She is staying with a friend at Buckland Brewer. She has been to see me yesterday  for the last time in this world"

The Rev. Barr was a good man and several collections were taken up in the area and enough money was raised to send Mrs Harvey and their child to America where they could, and did, start a new life.

 

Harvey had spent the days after his trial writing his own account of what had happened - something he had hoped to sell for publication to provide for his little family but there were no takers.

 

 

 

 
 
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