1763: John Brannon, Joseph Jervis, Charles Riley, and Mary Robinson

Add comment December 28th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1763, four thieves hanged at Tyburn to great public indifference.

They were of such scanty account that one is hard-pressed to find a newspaper report of the executions; even the Ordinary of Newgate didn’t bother to publish on them until weeks later, when he could combine them with a pair of February hangings. (Perhaps because, as he notes in his account, three of the four were Catholic and so gave the Anglican minister short shrift on the confessional front.)

Two of the men — and also one prosecutor, the victim Peter Manchester, who was robbed of his prize money — appear to have been recently from royal service in the just-concluded Seven Years’ War: early avatars of the crime wave that would engulf London as demobilized soldiers and seamen swamped its labor market.

six persons were capitally convicted and received sentence of death, for the several crimes in their indictments set forth, viz.

John Brannon, John Edinburgh, Joseph Jervis, Charles Reiley [Riley -ed.], Mary Robinson, and Mary Williams.

And on or about Friday the 16th of December the report of the said malefactors being made to his Majesty, by Mr. Recorder, two of them were respited, namely, John Edinburgh, for horse-stealing; and Mary Williams, for being concerned with Charles Reily and Mary Robinson in the robbery of Peter Manchester; and the remaining four ordered for execution on Wednesday December the 28th, and were accordingly executed.

1. John Brannon was indicted, for that he, on the King’s highway, on Thomas Worley did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person one pair of silver shoe-buckles, value 10s. his property; and Jane Blake, otherwise Buckley, spinster, for receiving the same, well knowing them to have been stolen, October 17.

The prisoner Brannon was one of five in a desperate gang, who attacked the prosecutor Worley, and another, John Paget, in Church-lane, White-chapel, about 12 at night. Having searched them and found no money on them, they took a pair of silver buckles from each, and a handkerchief from Paget: Mean time Esq. Gore’s chariot passing by, they fired two pistols at it, because the coachman would not stop. Brannon was positively sworn to, as one of the two first that came up to the prosecutor, and held a pistol to him while he was robbed. He was detected and taken the next day by means of Jane Blake offering the buckles to a pawn-broker, Mr. Samuel Spencer, who stopped them, secured her, and sent constables to search her lodgings, where they took Brannon, found the other pair of buckles and the handkerchief before mentioned, and also a pair of horse pistols loaded.

His behaviour after sentence was in general such as became his unhappy condition; but being under the influence and direction of the church of Rome, he gave no account to me of his accomplices, or any other fact: Nor did he pretend to deny this, either at his trial or afterwards, as indeed there was no room for it. He appeared to be about thirty years of age, was born in Dublin, was by trade a Carver, and had served six years in the Royal Navy.

2. Joseph Jervis was indicted, for that he, on the 14th day of November, about the hour of two in the night, on the same day, the dwelling house of Joseph Hill did break and enter, and steal one silver spoon, value 1s. the property of the said Joseph in his dwelling.

This convict lived in King-street, Spitalfields; but how he supported himself there, whether by any honest labour, doth not appear either by his own confession, or the evidence of several witnesses for him, who gave only a negative character, that they never heard any ill of him. And supposing he had practised this wicked scheme of breaking into houses, and plundering them in the hour of deep sleep undiscovered for a time, ’tis hard to imagine how they could hear any ill of him, however criminal. As to the present fact, he had prowled away as far as Kingsland, a mile or two, at midnight, to perpetrate it. But here, luckily for the publick safety, he was mistaken in his mark, and fell upon a house well inhabited by a master Carpenter and his workmen: The former, awakened by the noise of wrenching open the frame of a cellar window, alarmed two or three of his men, who came upon him, and with some difficulty seized and secured him; in effecting of which, by means of his resisting and endeavouring to escape in the dark, he had received two unlucky strokes, one with a pistol and another with a hanger, both on the head; by which he was wounded, and made more deaf and stupid than he was before, for he laboured under both those defects during the time between sentence and execution. After he was apprehended, he was found to be furnished with a tinder-box, a dark-lantern, a candle, and an iron bar flatted at one end. A silver spoon was also found upon him, the property of Mr. Hill, the prosecutor.

He had the artifice to plead on his trial, that he was non compos, out of his mind, and knew not what he did. But being reminded by the Court that his situation was very serious, and no proof of this assertion being offered, it was urged no farther. After conviction and sentence passed, he still appeared to be very hard of hearing and dull of apprehension; so that it was a difficult task to instruct and prepare him, whether this was real or partly affected. He said he was born at Hertford, where he learned to read and write, and then was brought up to the trade of dressing flour, which he afterwards followed for several years in London, in or near Houndsditch; he was now about forty-five years of age.

After he had been daily visited, assisted with prayers, and the plainest instructions, he was now and then questioned what progress he had made in his preparation for an awful change; but could give very little satisfaction in that matter, only said, he would trust to Providence; meaning, that he would give no farther account of his past life, nor confess any other facts; tho’ he did not pretend to deny he was guilty of any other.

When he found himself included in the Death-warrant, it did not much affect him, as he seemed to expect it. Endeavours were renewed to prepare him for the holy communion; but with no better success; he pleaded he had lost his memory, as well as his apprehension; and that what he read or heard made little impression, and was quickly gone from him; so that he seemed incapable of celebrating that sacred act of remembrance. However, there seemed to be a greater want of disposition than capacity. To arouse and quicken him, therefore, to a sense of his duty in this respect, he was permitted to be present, and very near, at the administration of the communion in the chapel, the day before he suffered; so as that he could hear and see all that was spoken, or done, without admitting him to partake of it. Several intelligent good neighbours were present now, and on other occasions, who took opportunities to speak familiarly to him before and after service, in order to bring him to a better disposition. But neither did these means kindle in him that desire, which we hoped. He still continued in a languid indifference. As he could still read, and as his last evening was now come, a brief but excellent little tract on spiritual communion was put into his hands, to assist and raise his thoughts this last night of his life. He returned it to me the next morning, and said he had read it. Being asked whether he understood it, and applied it to himself? he replied, he did, as well as God gave him leave; his usual answer to such questions.

3, 4. Charles Reiley, labourer, and Mary Robinson, and Mary Williams, spinsters, were indicted for that they, in the dwelling house of Francis Talbot, near the King’s high-way, on the body of Peter Manchester did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person four guineas and one half-guinea, his property, against his will, October 18.

The prosecutor, Peter Manchester, was a sailor, come to town about a week, and had received five guineas prize money the very day of this robbery. Passing along Salt-petre Bank, he was forced into this house by Williams and Robinson, shut in, and his purse violently taken from him by these two women, assisted by Charles Reiley. He was also beaten by the women, while Reily threatened to cut off his hand, if he did not let go the purse to him; by which means Reily got it, containing four guineas and a half, and he and Robinson ran off with it. The prosecutor pursued, but missed them; he then applied to two of his shipmates and a constable to assist him. By help of these, and others, the two women were found out, and apprehended the same night. Robinson being searched, had two guineas and a quarter found concealed upon her. The two guineas she confessed before the Justice next day to be the property of the prosecutor, and that they were given to her by Charles Reily, one for herself, and one for Mary Williams, to reward them for their trouble; and that he kept two guineas and a half, the remainder of the money. But luckily for Williams she had not fingered the guinea; which circumstance, together with her not being able to follow Reily, to get her share from him, seem to be the distinguishing considerations, which might turn the scale for a respite to one of these three, rather in her favour. As for Reily he was caught in the very trap for such creatures of prey. The prosecutor being at Hicks’s-hall next day, to prefer a bill of indictment against them, had intelligence that Reily was then drinking at Newgate, only as a voluntary visiter, went directly and found him there; and tho’ he fled, and had a long run for it, from thence to St. Dunstan’s church, he was there taken, detained in the cage at St. John’s, Wapping, examined, and committed, having confessed the fact, but said it was the first.

Being all three convicted the 10th of December, they came up to chapel the 11th, being Sunday morning, tho’ they professed all to be of the church of Rome. Yet Reily, to my surprize, joined in the service, made his responses, read his part in the Psalms and the Liturgy very distinct and intelligible, as if well acquainted with it. On questioning him, after divine service, he let me know, that he was brought up in an hospital for children on a Protestant foundation in a great city, where he received a common share of good learning and the principles of Christianity, but was now determined to die in the faith of the church of Rome; for which he could give no better reason, than that his father died in that persuasion. Endeavours were used to reason him out of this very groundless and weak resolution, and proper books put into his hands for that purpose, particularly a Protestant Catechism and a New Testament, both which he soon after returned, without suffering them to make any good impression upon him. As to the fact for which he was convicted, he said, he was not in the house when the fray began but, having his lodging there, came in, in the midst of it, and so was drawn in.

He was bred up to the sea from a lad, served his time in the Merchants service, in the New York trade; and between six and seven years since, entered into the King’s service, a volunteer, at Cork, in which he has continued ever since, till discharged about six months before from the Orford of 70 guns, in which he had been at the taking of the Havanna, from whence he came home in her; and had also a share in two Spanish prizes, the St. Jago and St. Charles, taken by the Orford in company with the Temeraire and the Alarm, a little before the peace extended thither. After he was a prisoner in Newgate, he was told that a dividend of 3l. 17s. a man was paid the 26th of October, which he did not receive, and believed he had much more due to him. In the same ship, he said, he was at the taking of Cape Breton and Quebeck, for both which he received some prize money. — He was about 30 years of age.

4. Mary Robinson was much about the same age of thirty, and had passed thro’ various scenes, in her way, which was none of the best. She had been at the cities of Bath and Bristol for five years, to which she came from Dublin, where she was born. She had left her husband there, having sold his goods and quitted him, because, as she said, he had used her ill. While she was under sentence, she owned she had been a wicked sinner in all respects, except the crime of Murder.

The Morning of EXECUTION, Dec. 28.

OF the four convicts, there being only Jervis who adhered to the church of England, he went up and attended to the duties of the chapel, as well as his imperfect state of sensibility and attention would permit. He was sincere and sensible enough to acknowledge the justice of his sentence; and also owned expressly that this was not his first offence of this nature; but would give no particulars of time, place, or persons. For, either he could not be convinced it was his duty, or else he could not be persuaded to comply with it; still persisting to say, that his memory was so bad he could not recollect any fact, or he did not see what use or satisfaction it could give the world, or any injured person, to confess it. To set this in a strong light before him, a plain case was put; Suppose you had been robbed, would it not give you satisfaction to know who did it? And what is become of him? Whether living or dead? Whether hardened and going on still in his wickedness, or penitent and reformed, at least past the power of offending any more. Would it not be a great ease and benefit to you to put an end to your doubts and suspicions? Would it not be the same to innocent persons, who might be suspected, to be cleared of those doubts and suspicions? Surely it might, to the saving of their character, their liberty, and their livelihood. Reason and justice, no less than our rational religion and our excellent church, join in requiring this mark of sincere repentance from dying criminals: And let those who teach, or think, or act otherwise, see to it.

There is the more reason to speak thus freely, because this duty is too often made a stumbling-block to several unhappy persons under sentence, whose preparation is obstructed, and rendered more difficult, by the contrary poisonous principles sown in the prison by some disguised enemy; tho’ it must be owned there is no need of this, while the native pride and corruption of the human heart, unmortified, are sufficient to harden it against this duty, and every act of self-abasement.

In a word, I could form no apology in my own mind for this criminal not complying with this duty, but his defect of apprehension and memory before-mentioned.

We used the Litany, and other proper acts of devotion in the chapel, in which he joined tolerably well for the most part. After which he was directed to meditate on proper subjects, or read in the way to the place. When he went down from the chapel, which was about twenty minutes before nine, he was asked, Are you resigned? He answered in the affirmative. Do you find peace and hope in your breast, on a sure foundation? He replied faintly in the same manner.

The other three convicts of the church of Rome, were kept ready in their cells, not in the Press-Yard, or Little hall, as usual, for what reason, as I did not enquire, so I did not learn. But all were detained about an hour later than usual, till after ten, on account, as it was said, of some necessary part of the apparatus not being provided in time.

After the Sheriff was set off in his chariot, preceded by proper officers on horseback, then followed the first cart with Charles Reily and Mary Robinson; and in the second were John Brannon and Joseph Jervis. In a little more than an hour they arrived at the place, where they read and repeated their prayers very earnestly, with an audible voice; the last offices of prayer were performed for Jervis, while the others were exercised in their own devotions. They were all greatly affected, the woman wept and bewailed herself much, till the cart being driven away, they all resigned their lives.

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1763: Gabriela Silang

1 comment September 20th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1763, the mestiza Philippines national hero Maria Josefa Gabriela Carino Silang was captured and summarily hanged — along with a number of the soldiers she had led against the Spanish.


Monument to Gabriela Silang in Makati City, Philippines. (cc) image from Jun Acullador.

Gabriela took primary leadership of a 2,000-strong rebel army after its co-leader, her husband Diego, was assassinated by his enemies in May 1763.

Said enemies were the Spanish colonial authorities, whom Diego and his helpmate Gabriela had raised revolt against and with an army wielding homemade muskets and blowguns, driven from the capital of Ilocos Sur. It was Great Britain’s occupation of the Philippines during the Seven Years War that opened the opportunity for the rebellion: the British even appointed Diego Silang governor of the province his army was in the process of conquering. They just didn’t actually help him.

Spain’s assault on the rebels, once organized, was sufficiently overwhelming to drive Gabriela Silang out of the city of Vigan, and then to repel her counterattack — the occasion for her capture and her death.

Gabriela Silang is memorialized in a number of monuments and place names in the Philippines; the women’s organization GABRIELA also engineered its acronym to pay tribute to her.

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1763: Elizabeth Morton, bad with kids

1 comment April 8th, 2012 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1763, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Morton was hanged on Gallows Hill, Nottingham for the murder of her employer’s two-year-old daughter.

Elizabeth, a servant girl employed by the farmer John Oliver and his family in the parish of Walkeringham, was caught after attempting to kill one of the Olivers’ other children. Loretta Loach describes Elizabeth’s crime in her book The Devil’s Children: A History of Childhood and Murder:

In August 1762, Mrs. Oliver found one of her children under some straw in a barn, “struggling in the agonies of death, the blood gushing from its mouth, nose and eyes.” The child recovered and accused Elizabeth. The servant was immediately suspected of having strangled the family’s two-year-old daughter Mary, who had been found dead in her cradle months earlier.

Elizabeth confessed to the crime, but said she had been incited to commit it by a gentleman in black who came to bed with her and told her she must murder two of her master’s children. She could not feel easy, she said, until she had done as he directed. Despite the fact that the report in the Annual Register suggested she was an “idiot” (which would have been grounds for a pardon), she was executed…

After she was hanged, her body was dissected and then buried in a village near her home.

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1763: Ann Beddingfield and Richard Ringe, two sides of a triangle

1 comment April 8th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1763, another century’s dumb criminals paid another century’s penalty for their timeless crime of lust.

Lovers have trod this path to Calvary since time immemorial, in every age and place.

In the present instance, 19-year-old Ringe had no sooner joined the Beddingfield house than “his mistress became so enamoured of him that her husband was the object of her contempt. Her behaviour to Ringe was such that he could not long doubt of her favourable inclinations; nor had he virtue to resist the temptation.”

So, naturally, “blinded by her passion,” the adulterous Beddingfield put the farmhand to work on a murder plot, without much bothering to conceal it from the other servants. A maid ratted them out … “but postponed the doing so till she had received the wages for her quarter’s service.”

Not every crime can have the stuff of immortality about it.

They were placed on one sledge on the morning of their execution, and conveyed to a place near Ipswich, called Rushmore, where Ringe made a pathetic address to the surrounding multitude, advising young people to be warned, by his fate, to avoid the delusions of wicked women, and to consider chastity as a virtue.

After the fervent exercise of devotion he was turned off, while the body of Mrs Beddingfield, who had been first strangled at a stake, was burning to ashes, agreeable to the practice respecting women who are convicted of the murder of their husbands.

Part of the Themed Set: Selections from the Newgate Calendar.

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1763: Hannah Dagoe, violently

4 comments May 4th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1763, Hannah Dagoe did it her way in “an extraordinary and unprecedented scene” at Tyburn.

A “strong, lusty”* Irish woman, her crime of theft does not much enthrall us, but her behavior on the way to the gallows would have done many a condemned wretch proud:

On the road to Tyburn she showed little concern at her miserable state, and paid no attention to the exhortations of the Romish priest who attended her. When the cart, in which she was bound, was drawn under the gallows, she got her hands and arms loose, seized the executioner, struggled with him, and gave him so violent a blow on the breast that she nearly knocked him down. She dared him to hang her; and in order to revenge herself upon him, and cheat him of his dues,** she took off her hat, cloak and other parts of her dress, and disposed of them among the crowd. After much resistance he got the rope about her neck, which she had no sooner found accomplished than, pulling out a hand kerchief, she bound it round her head and over her face, and threw herself out of the cart, before the signal was given, with such violence that she broke her neck and died instantly.

(Updated with a fortuitous connection not noted in first passing.)

Somewhere amid that ample throng cheering on the unexpected fisticuffs under the scaffold was notable scribbler James Boswell, he of The Life of Johnson.

Boswell had come along to the spectacle to see another, less pugilistic victim of the hanging party, Paul Lewis, a respectable clergyman’s son and former Navy officer taken to highway robbery. (The third member of the doomed party was stockbroker and forger John Rice.) Boswell’s diary records the happenstance encounter with Lewis and Hannah “Deigo” that led him to Tyburn’s shadow.

TUESDAY 3 MAY.

I walked up to the Tower in order to see Mr. Wilkes† come out. But he was gone. I then thought I should see prisoners of one kind or other, so went to Newgate. I stepped into a sort of court before the cells. They are surely most dismal places. There are three rows of ’em, four in a row, all above each other. They have double iron windows, and within these, strong iron rails; and in these dark mansions are the unhappy criminals confined. I did not go in, but stood in the court, where were a number of strange blackguard beings with sad countenances, most of them being friends and acquaintances of those under sentence of death. Mr. Rice the broker was confined in another part of the house. In the cells were Paul Lewis for robbery and Hannah Diego for theft. I saw them pass by to chapel. The woman was a big unconcerned being. Paul, who had been in the sea-service and was called Captain, was a genteel, spirited young fellow. He was just a Macheath. He was dressed in a white coat and blue silk vest and silver, with his hair neatly queued and a silver-laced hat, smartly cocked. An acquaintance asked him how he was. He said, “Very well”; quite resigned. Poor fellow! I really took a great concern for him, and wished to relieve him. He walked firmly and with a good air, with his chains rattling upon him, to the chapel.

Erskine and I dined at the renowned Donaldson’s, where we were heartily entertained. All this afternoon I felt myself still more melancholy, Newgate being upon my mind like a black cloud. Poor Lewis was always coming across me. I felt myself dreary at night, and made my barber try to read me asleep with Hume’s History, of which he made very sad work. I lay in sad concern.

WEDNESDAY 4 MAY.

My curiosity to see the melancholy spectacle of the executions was so strong that I could not resist it, although I was sensible that I would suffer much from it. In my younger years I had read in the Lives of the Convicts so much about Tyburn that I had a sort of horrid eagerness to be there. I also wished to see the last behaviour of Paul Lewis, the handsome fellow whom I had seen the day before. Accordingly I took Captain Temple with me, and he and I got upon a scaffold very near the fatal tree, so that we could clearly see all the dismal scene. There was a most prodigious crowd of spectators. I was most terribly shocked, and thrown into a very deep melancholy.

The Macheath imagery, if not the melancholy, evidently stuck with the dutiful scribe, who found himself still minded of the Beggar’s Opera hero two weeks later while out on the pull.

I then sallied forth to the Piazzas in rich flow of animal spirits and burning with fierce desire. I met two very pretty little girls who asked me to take them with me. “My dear girls,” said I, “I am a poor fellow. I can give you no money. But if you choose to have a glass of wine and my company and let us be gay and obliging to each other without money, I am your man.” They agreed with great good humour. … We were shown into a good room and had a bottle of sherry before us in a minute. I surveyed my seraglio and found them both good subjects for amorous play. I toyed with them and drank about and sung “Youth’s the Season” and thought myself Captain Macheath; and then I solaced my existence with them, one after the other, according to their seniority. I was quite raised, as the phrase is: thought I was in a London tavern, the Shakespeare’s Head, enjoying high debauchery after my sober winter. I parted with my ladies politely and came home in a glow of spirits.

* London Evening Post, May 3-5 1763.

** The executioner was entitled to claim his clients’ clothing.

† Distantly related to namesake and Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

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