1679: Four at Tyburn

Add comment March 7th, 2019 Headsman

One of the oldest extant publications of the Newgate Ordinary gives us

THE Behaviour, last Speeches, Confessions, AND EXECUTION Of the Prisoners that Suffered at TYBURN On Fryday the 7th of March 1678/9

VIZ.

Thomas Coxe, and Charles Smith, Who were drawn thither on a Hurdle, for TREASON.

Mary Augur,For Murther.

AND

Anne Atkins, For a Burglary, her Husband being hang’d for the like Offence but the very last Sessions before.

With a true Account of their Carriage, and Discourses to Mr. Ordinary and others, both in Prison and at the place of Execution.

AT the last Sessions there were in all Nine persons received sentence of Death; Three men and Six women. (Not Six men and Three women, as a false and surreptitious Pamphlet, printed with the Letters D.M. did lately mention; which also said, there was Fourteen to be Transported: and several other notorious Untruths almost in every Line.) Of these unhappy Criminals one was respited for the present from Execution, being found by a Jury of Matrons to be quick with Childe: three other women and one man, the nature of whose Offences and Conversation had rendred them fitter Objects of Royal Mercy, obtain’d the favour of his Majesties gratious Reprieve after Judgment.

The other Four came now to suffer; their Names and Crimes being as follows.

Thomas Coxe and Charles Smith, each of them found guilty of Treason on several Indictments, both for Coyning and Counterfeiting, and also for Clipping of Money.

Mary Augur, for Murthering her Bastard Child; and Anne Atkins, for a Burglary, whose Husband, for the like Offence, was Executed, but the very last Sessions, and she then turn’d out of Newgate on the account of her Poverty, having several Children; but was no sooner at liberty, but she sell to her told wickedness; and ’tis believ’d seduc’d a person, now Condemn’d with her, but Reprieved, into this Burglary, for which she suffered. So difficult it is for people, when they are once come to make a Trade of sin, to forsake, it though they have the saddest and most near related Warnings in the world to reclaim them.

Coxe, in the hearing of the Ordinary, prayed very pathetically for himself; and being askt concerning what hopes he had of a future happy Estate, he declared, That the fear of Death was much abated, and as he trusted on a sound and firm foundation, because his sorrow for sin was more for offending God, and grieving his Holy Spirit, than for the dread either of that momentary Punishment he was justly to suffer here, or even for the fear of Hell and wrath to come. Adding, that if he were to live, he resolv’d and hopes in God’s strength that he should never run into such Extravagances as he had formerly been guilty of. For he did not onely freely acknowledge the Crime for which he was Condemned, but said, there was scarce any Immorality or Sin (except Murther) which in the debauch’d Course of his Life he had not stain’d and polluted his Soul with.

The Ordinary urg’d, that his Coyning counterfeit Money, was not onely a great Crime against the Kings Majesty, but an abuse to the whole Nation, especially the poor, whose wants could not be supplyed if they offered such bad Money in buying; so that the ill influence and consequences of his sin in this kind, would survive when he was dead, and the fraud he had knowingly put upon others, must needs in the loss or deceit, circulate to the prejudice of many innocent people. He replyed, that for that very consideration, his penitent grief was so much the greater; and being told, that he could not repent sincerely, if he made not restitution to his power, to such whom he had defrauded, He professed he would do all he could possibly on that account. by making distribution as far as able to the poor, because he knew not whom he had wronged in particular, nor now to send to any such. He expressed much grief, that he had omitted to observe the Lords day, and that he went not to the publick Worship, as also, that he neglected to pray Morning and Evening, for which remisness, he conceived the Lord justly left him to the temptations of bad Company, and in particular to be acquainted with a person, who drew him to the crime of Coyning, which he closed with, on a lwed principle, not being content with an honest Trade, viz. a Gun-smith , which he well subsisted by, being a single Man, but made hast to snatch at unlawful gain, that he might be at higher expences to gratifie his Lusts, which he the rather acknowledged, that it might be a warning to all others.

Smith, the other Coyner of false Money, was well educated, and it grieved him that he had not answered those good Instructions which his Parents gave him. He was put forth in Apprentiship to a Chandler , after he came to his own disposal, he lost the government of himself, for he profan’d the Lords day, which he said was occasioned by neglecting to repair to Gods publick Service, because he thought out of the pride of his heart, that his cloaths were not fine enough, so natural it is for one sin to beget another.

He bewail’d himself as a great sinner, and in particular very much lamented the Crime for which he was Condemned, which he said he ingaged in, out of a covetous disposition, but made not so much gain by it as some others; and that he had a resolution to desist from that wicked practise, not because it answered not his expectation of profit, but rather for the regret and trouble which he had in his Conscience concerning proceeding in it. He said that bad acquaintance first inticed him into it, and that he was justly by God left to the temptation, since he had neglected daily to guard himself by Prayer. He wisht had took the meanest lawful imployments, rather than so hainously transgresed against the Kings Majesty, and the Law of the Nation. But the Lord he said was righteous, in discovering his Crime, because he had lived securely in committing other sins; for had he not been apprehended as he was, there was provided for him an honest and creditable imployment. But (said he) the Lord in just in cutting me off in the prime of my years, that I might not proceed in a course of Iniquity; and if his Divine Majesty shall be gratiously pleased to sanctifie this stroke of death on my body, to bring me thereby to Repentance, I shall not dread to drink of that bitter cup, as believing the Lord will order it to my eternal happiness. He praid for himself very well in the Ordinaries hearing, and being questioned what hopes he had of Salvation, and on what foundation the same were grounded, he made such judicious answers, in a distinct difference of true Faith and Repentance from the false, as the Ordinary was well satisfied with the same, and doth verily believe, that his endeavours with him were blessed, to bring him as a Convert to God.

As for Mary Augur, she was very weak in body, not able to come on the Lords day in the afternoon into the Chappel; but the Ordinary several times attended her in her Chamber, and gave her many serious Exhortations: but her condition Etc. very much obstructed the good effects he hoped for from such his pains, so that we can give little farther account of her.

The other Woman wept bitterly, and very often, and seemed to be penitent for her sins, not denying the Crime for which he suffered, but seemed to have been bred up in a loose course of life, and very ignorant of the Mysteries of Religion, but the Ordinary took considerable, pains to instruct her therein, and it is charitably hoped God might bless his endeavours towards her.

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Entry Filed under: Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution

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1887: Charles Smith

Add comment May 9th, 2017 Meaghan

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

On this date in 1887, 63-year-old Charles Smith was judicially hanged at Oxford Castle Prison by James Berry. He’d brutally murdered his wife in front of their children that February.

The Smith family were Gypsies: Charles, his wife Lucy, their 17-year-old daughter Oceana (known as Oshey) and their 11-year-old son Prince Albert. As Nicola Sly notes in her book Oxfordshire Murders,

The lifestyle of Gypsy families in 1887 was not one to be envied. The traveling people were at the mercy of the weather all year round, whether the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter. Forced to scratch a living any way they could, many supplemented their meager income with a little poaching or petty theft. Thus they were very rarely welcomed in any area and were always in fear of the local police who almost invariably moved them on wherever they tried to settle.

According to this account, Lucy had borne many children, but only four lived long. By the time of the murder, one of the children had died and one, a daughter named Elizabeth, had grown up and left home.

Charles’s siblings regularly got in trouble with the law, and at least one of his siblings was transported for sheep theft. He and Lucy, however, were somewhat more fortunate: Lucy possessed a valid peddler’s license. In the 1881 censuses, both had their occupations listed as “hawker.” Charles made baskets, skewers, roasting forks, meat stands and pegs which his wife sold.

Throughout their lives Charles and his family traveled around Oxfordshire, pitching a tent wherever they could find a place, and in February 1887, they were camped on public land near Headlington. They’d been there before and were friendly with some of the local residents, including a couple coincidentally also named Smith.

Charles was a violent man who regularly beat his wife and children; Oshey stated he beat his wife every day, and Prince Albert would later testify, “He has been knocking my mother about nearly all his life.”

At one point the domestic violence had gotten so bad that Lucy had gone so far as to take out a formal complaint against her husband for cruelty. She never followed up on it, though.

On the 18th of February, Kate and George Smith, who lived in a nearby cottage, visited the tent and noted Lucy was visibly bruised. They asked Charles why he’d beaten her and he wouldn’t give a reason, but said it was over something that happened thirty years before.

The visitors advised him to forgive and forget, but Charles acted surly and hostile for the rest of the day. Lucy was so frightened of him that for a long time she stayed outside the tent in the bitter cold, and only partially dressed, rather than go inside where her husband was. At bedtime she finally came in.

In the early hours of the next morning, Charles began shouting at his wife, waking the children. As Oshey and Prince Albert watched in horror, their father picked up a hammer and attacked Lucy, beating her on her head, back and legs until he was too tired to do it anymore. Then he laid down and went peacefully asleep.

Mortally wounded, Lucy crawled out of the tent to get some water from a nearby stream. She never returned, and eventually Oshey went out to check on her and found her dead.

When Charles realized what he’d done, he sank to his knees beside Lucy’s battered corpse and sobbed, crying, “My wench, my wench!”

Oshey and Prince Albert ran for help, going to the same neighbors who’d visited the night before. When Kate Smith answered the door, Oshey blurted, “My Mammy’s dead. He’s been and killed her with the hammer.”

Kate and George rushed to the scene of the crime. Charles had dragged Lucy’s body into the tent and lain it out on some straw. He told them Lucy had “fallen down” and died. George told everyone he was going to fetch a doctor, but instead he went to the police, returning with two constables. By then Charles had calmed down and said casually, “Good morning. I have got a dead ‘un this morning.”

One of the constables searched the tent and found the bloodstained hammer concealed under some straw. Charles, whose coat was also bloodstained, was placed under arrest for the willful murder of his wife. The autopsy showed she’d died of a fractured skull; Charles had hit her head with the hammer three or four times.

At the ensuing trial in April, Oshey was the star witness against her father, although Charles kept shouting that she was telling lies and was a “nasty, wicked wretch.” Prince Albert testified also, as did Kate and George Smith.

The defense argued that Charles had no intention of killing his wife and there was no motive, and so it was a case of manslaughter. However, the jury returned a verdict of murder.

After he was condemned to die, Charles turned to religion for solace, praying with the prison chaplain. Some of his relatives came to visit, although Oshey and Prince Albert stayed away. His eldest daughter Elizabeth made the strange observation that “when he was a drunkard there was not a kinder man living, that something or somebody turned him into a teetotaler, and from that time he had been a cruel wretch.”

While walking to the scaffold, Charles fainted on the trapdoor just before James Berry drew the bolt. The hanging went smoothly and it was judged he died quickly and painlessly.

As for the orphaned Oshey and Prince Albert, it was recorded that “through the noble hearted philanthropy, of Miss Skene, of this City, the girl Oceana has been placed in a Home in York, and boy the Prince Albert, through the same thoughtfulness, will also be brought up to acquire the means of earning an honest livelihood.”

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Murder,Other Voices,Racial and Ethnic Minorities

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