Ann Moore: The Fasting Woman of Tutbury

Oct 18, 2022 0 comments

Ann Moore was in her late 40s when she became famous as the ‘fasting woman’ of Tutbury. She claimed that she had not eaten any solid food for five years and had not drunk any liquid for nearly four years. She also testified that had she no desire for either food or drink. Moore’s story appeared in many newspapers around England and in books and medical journals. Her house in the village of Tutbury in Staffordshire became a site of pilgrimage, attracting immense numbers of visitors who came to see the miracle with their own eyes.

Ann Moore: The Fasting Woman of Tutbury

Ann Moore. Photo: Wikimedia

Ann Moore was born in Rosliston, Derbyshire, in 1761. Her father was a day labourer and her mother was a midwife. In 1788, when Moore was 27, she tricked a farm servant name James Moore into marrying her by falsely claiming that she was pregnant with his child. When Mr. Moore discovered the deception, he deserted her soon after the marriage. After the separation, Ann went to work as a housekeeper for a widowed farmer in Aston, near Tutbury, where she had two illegitimate children by her employer. Around 1800, Ann left Aston and made her way to Tutbury where she found employment as a cotton beater. At one point, she was so poor that she was forced to survive on the minimum amount of food necessary to support a human being.

Ann Moore’s poverty gained her a local reputation. Tutbury’s residents were astonished to learn that she was surviving on so little food, and Ann herself claimed to have underwent several long stretches of fasting. According to her own accounts, Ann began suffering from stomach cramps and hysterical fits in March 1807, and she became increasingly confined to her bed. By May 1807, she became incapable of eating. It was reported that she attempted to swallow a piece of biscuit, but the effort gave her great pain and she began vomiting blood. The last food she ever took was a few blackcurrants on 17 July 1807, and in August she gradually diminished her liquids.

As Ann Moore’s fame spread, some began to doubt her. To satisfy public interest, Ann agreed herself to be watched. In September 1808, Ann Moore was removed from her home to the house of the local grocer, a Mr. Jackson, where all Tutbury inhabitants were invited to watch her and ensure that she ate no food and drank no liquids. Moore was watched for a period of sixteen days, in shifts of four hours undertaken by many prominent persons of the district, including doctors. One of her observers, Joseph Sharpless, described her as “the most emaciated creature that ever existed.”

“There is no appearance of any entrails in the abdomen, or lower belly; all the parts appear to be drawn up and lost under the breast bone and ribs,” Sharpless continues. “The spine may, without much pain to the woman, be easily felt by pressing your hand upon the abdomen. The aorta, or great artery which rises immediately out of the left ventricle of the heart, may be pressed towards the spine, and by holding the integuments across it, with the thumb and finger, its pulsation and circumference may be easily perceived.”

Also Read: Sarah Jacob: The Girl Who Starved to Death to Prove Herself

Robert Taylor and John Allen, two local doctors, wrote about Moore’s case in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal in November and December 1808, openly supporting her case. Taylor wrote:

The watches have been faithfully kept, and (whatever may have wrought the difference if it exists) she says she thinks she is better and stronger than she has been these six months, and is certainly improved in health since her removal; her pulse has kept the standard of health, with daily exacerbations. She sleeps well, and enjoys a remarkable serene and happy mind. Her voice is strong, and holds out the full female exercise of the faculty. Her muscular power is such, that she can conveniently raise and support herself in bed. Thus, Gentlemen, the watch sitting at the time that I write this is now the 16th day that she has been under the strictest scrutiny; and the thirteenth day that she has abstained from all fluids. She is now better in health than when the examination was instituted; and as far as from corroborating testimony of this evidence her veracity must be admitted, the 14th month that she has subsisted altogether without ailment.

Upon publication of this testimony by a doctor of repute, Ann’s publicity increased and for the next four years, she attracted crowds of visitors to Tutbury, many of whom donated substantially to support her.

In January 1813, Alexander Henderson, physician to the Westminster General Dispensary, wrote in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal a critical examination of Ann Moore’s case, exposing the inconsistencies and absurdities of the woman's statements. He also noted the curious parallel between the case and that of Anna M. Kinker, a girl of Osnabrück, who practiced a similar imposture in Germany in 1800.

The same year, Legh Richmond, the well-known evangelical rector of Turvey, decided to conduct another watch. Moore reluctantly submitted herself to the second watch, but she protested vehemently when it was suggested that her bed be put upon a weighing machine to document every change in her weight. Ann Moore said:

If I should lose weight during the Watch, it will be ascribed to the waste of my body for want of food. And if I should gain weight, it will be said that I contrived to obtain food in spite of the vigilance of the watchers. Either way, I shall be condemned by those who put any confidence in the weighing, and therefore I will not consent to be weighed.

Nevertheless, a weighing machine was ordered, and the watch began on 21 April 1813.

The cottage where Moore was placed for the second watch had two rooms, one above the other with a staircase connecting the two. The lower room was occupied by a porter who guarded the door and carried messages between the watchers and the committee that oversaw the watch. The upper room was occupied by Moore. Before Moore was transferred into her new dwelling, every square inch of the floor, walls and ceiling was examined. Every unnecessary article of furniture was removed from the room, and what remained was rigidly scrutinized. Moore was provided with a new bed and bedding, and every part of her linen, and clothes were minutely checked. When all the gentlemen present were satisfied that no kind of food, either solid or liquid, could be secreted into the room, that the watch began. A rope barrier was placed across the chamber, within which the watchers alone occupied her station, and prevented all approach to the woman from the stairs and any part of the room.

Photo: Wikimedia

Moore’s condition deteriorated within the first twenty four hours. First, she caught a cold, which she blamed it on her new mattress stating that the chaff were not properly dried before filling. The committee insisted that great care was taken when drying the chaff, and her condition was caused by the draught coming into the room through the open window which Moore refused to close. By the fourth day, she became hoarse and high with fever. The weighing machine showed she was losing weight by more than a pound each day. Moore became visibly emaciated and very weak. Her face and arm developed a livid purplish hue. Her pulse became quick and too feeble to count. She often groaned with pain.

On April 30—the ninth day of the watch—her daughter was allowed to visit her. Upon entering the room and laying her eyes upon her mother, she exclaimed, “she is dying”, to which Moore replied, “yes, I‘m dying. It is all over. I’m going indeed.”

The watch was called off, but Moore continued to persist in her innocence. It was her daughter who finally spilled the beans. She confessed that after the rest of the family went to sleep, she would fill a teapot with milk and sugar and place the teapot on the shelf within her mother’s reach. Eventually, Moore confessed that she had long been practicing an “imposture” on the public. She then signed a declaration stating as much. It was witnessed on 4 May 1813 before Thomas Lister, one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace. Moore’s confession stated:

“I, Ann Moore, of Tutbury, humbly asking pardon of all persons whom I have attempted to deceive and impose upon, and above all with the most unfeigned sorrow and contrition imploring the Divine Mercy and Forgiveness of that God whom I have so greatly offended, do most solemnly declare, that I have occasionally taken sustenance for the last six years.

The committee came to the conclusion that tea, milk and sugar were probably her only support, and there was no proof of her taking any solid food for several years.

After the discovery of Moore’s imposter, she became so unpopular in Tutbury (she was hissed and booed whenever she appeared in public) that she was forced to leave the city. For sometime, Ann Moore and her daughter rambled about the countryside, before ending up in Macclesfield, a market town and civil parish in Cheshire, England. Two years later, they robbed a woman with whom they were lodged, and fled to Stockport, a large, major town in Greater Manchester, England. She was eventually apprehended, and committed, with her daughter to Chesterfield Castle. After serving their time they were supposedly released from custody. A friend of Moore’s arrived and together Moore, her daughter, and the friend left for Manchester never to be heard of again.

# Legh Richmond, A Statement of Facts, Relative to the Supposed Abstinence of Ann Moore, of Tutbury, Staffordshire, Internet Archive
# Joseph Sharpless, An account of the extraordinary abstinence of Ann Moor, of Tutbury, Staffordshire, Internet Archive
# A. Henderson, Observations on the Case of Ann Moore, Called the Fasting-Woman of Tutbury, Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal
# Geri Walton, Ann Moore: The Impostor and Fasting-Woman of Tutbury, Geri Walton


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