Archive for March 18th, 2009

1789: Catherine Murphy, Britain’s last burning at the stake

4 comments March 18th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1789, Catherine Murphy was led past the hanging bodies of her husband and their other male codefendants at Newgate Prison, secured to a stake, and put to the last burning at the stake in English history.

The convicted coiners — counterfeiting rated as high treason at the time — were the last heirs to gender-specific execution methods before the Treason Act of 1790 gave coin-shaving ladies equal access to the halter.

Though Murphy thereby earned an unenviable historical footnote, the de facto practice on the scaffold had long since been changed to spare lawmen the spectacle of a woman roasting to death. Murphy, in fact, was killed by hanging — and the “burning” part of the sentence only imposed upon her corpse. (This, however, was still more than enough: NIMBYing prison neighbors appalled by the stench of burning flesh had lent their support to the Treason Act’s reforms.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Pelf,Public Executions,Treason,Women

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