1769: Three Spitalfields weavers, well located

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From Tyburn Tree: Its History and Annals:

The manufacture of silk fabrics was highly protected, but protection did not bring prosperity to the workers. The condition of the weavers of Bethnal Green and Spitalfields was deplorable, leading to constant disturbances. The destruction of looms, and the cutting of woven silk capital offences became frequent.

On December 20 three men were executed at Tyburn for destroying silk-looms. Their execution had been preceded on the 6th by that of two others, hanged at Bethnal Green for cutting woven silk. In connection with this execution at Bethnal Green a grave question arose. The sentence passed on the condemned men was that they should be taken from the prison to the usual place of execution, but the Recorder‘s warrant for the execution directed they should be hanged at the most convenient place near Bethnal Green church. The variation of place was directed by the King. A long correspondence ensued between the Sheriffs and the Secretary of State. The point raised was whether the King had power thus to vary the sentence. The condemned men were respited in order that the opinion of the judges might be taken. It was unanimous that the King had the power of fixing the place of execution, and the men were executed at Bethnal Green, as directed. There was great apprehension of tumult, and not without cause, for in the Gentleman’s Magazine we read: “The mob on this occasion behaved outrageously, insulted the Sheriffs, pulled up the gallows, broke the windows, destroyed the furniture, and committed other outrages in the house of Lewis Chauvette, Esq., in Spitalfields.” The mob dispersed only on being threatened with military execution.

It was observed that when the Recorder next passed sentence of death, he omitted direction as to the place of execution.

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1717: Five at Tyburn

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The Ordinary of Newgate His Account of The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn on Friday the 20th of December, 1717.

The melancholy Papers relating to the Criminals executed in this County, having, the Session before this, receiv’d a happy Interruption, through an extraordinary Accident, which then happen’d, and is well known to the Publick; They now come out again, to give an Account of such of the Malefactors, lately condemn’d, as are the sad Subject of them.

At the general Sessions held at Justice-hall in the Old-bailey, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of December, 1717; Eleven Persons, viz. Nine Men, and Two Women, that were Try’d for, and Convicted of, several Capital Crimes, receiv’d Sentence of Death: But the Two Women’s Judgment being respited for their Pregnancy, and Four of the Men repriev’d by His Majesty‘s most gracious Mercy (which I hope they will take due Care to improve) Five of them only are now order’d for Execution.

While they lay under this deplorable State of Condemnation, I constantly visited them, and had them, twice every day, brought up to the Chapel in Newgate; where I pray’d with them, read, and expounded the Word of God to them, and instructed them in those Points of Religion, which were most proper for them both to know and to practise; endeavouring to make them sensible, and to repent, of their past Sins and Follies, and to pray for that Grace, by the Divine Power whereof they might be happily rescued from under the Slavery of Sin and Satan, and admitted into the Glorious Liberty of the Children of GOD. This was the Drift and Purpose of my daily Admonitions to them, both in publick and private. And,

On the Lord’s Day, the 8th instant, I preach’d to those Condemn’d Persons, and many others there present, both in the Forenoon and Afternoon, upon Luke 21. 27. being part of the Gospel appointed for that Day, and the Words these: And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a Cloud, with Power and great Glory.

From this Text and Context, first explain’d in general, and illustrated by parallel Places, I shew’d in particular,

  1. The Certainty of Christ’s Coming to Judge the World. And,
  2. The Uncertainty of the Time when He shall come.

    To which I added,

  3. ult. The weighty Consideration of the nearer or more visibly approaching Judgment, which is privately pass’d on the Soul of every Man at his Death, and will be publickly confirm’d (and extended to his Body also) at the Last Day, when Christ shall come, attended with Myriads of Angels, to raise the Dead.

Again, on the last Lord’s Day, the 15th instant, I preach’d likewise to the Condemn’d, &c. and my Text was Numb. 35. 31. Moreover ye shall not take Satisfaction for the Life of a Murderer, which is guilty of Death: But he shall be surely put to Death.

After a general Explanation of these Words, I shew’d from them in particular,

  1. The heinous Nature of the Crime of Murder; the irreparable Evil of it, and what has a near Relation to it, and may well be comprehended under it.
  2. The Severe Punishment due to it.
  3. & lastly, The great Necessity of that Man’s sincere and hearty Repentance, who is Guilty of this, or of any other Sin whatsoever, according to the Degree thereof.

Having enlarg’d upon all those Points, I concluded every Sermon I then preach’d to the Condemn’d with proper Admonitions to them: And here shew’d them particularly, That any wicked Act wilfully committed, whereof the Consequence might be the shedding of Blood, was Murder in the Sight of God; and that (according to the Apostle’s Conclusion) Whosoever hateth his Brother is a Murderer; adding these peremptory Words, Ye know, that no Murderer has Eternal Life abiding in him, 1 Joh. 3. 15.

From which Consideration, I endeavour’d to make them sensible of the absolute Necessity there was for them (and accordingly exhorted them) to search their own Heart to the bottom, that they might find out their Sins (the Cause of their Troubles and Fears) and so truly repent of all they had done amiss, and of whatever Mischief their Crimes might have further been attended with, in this World; as to prevent their dismal and dreadful Effects in the World to come.

To these Exhortations they seem’d very attentive; and in my private Examinations of them, they gave me the respective Accounts following.

1. Thomas Bingley, convicted upon 3 Indictments, for assaulting, wounding and robbing, on the King’s Highway near Acton, these 3 Persons, viz. 1st, Silvester Proud; 2dly, Jonathan Chapman; and, 3dly, John Blackwell, on the 11th of November last: On which Day, at the very same Time and Place all these Facts were committed by him, with the Assistance of two others hereafter nam’d. He said, he was 25 Years of age, born at Doncaster in Yorkshire: That while he liv’d with his Father (a Malster and Distiller ) he serv’d him in his Business: But upon a Difference happening between his said Father and him, about a Twelvemonth ago, he then came up to London, where he had not been long, before he was listed in the first Regiment of Guards, under the Command of Colonel Townshend. He freely confest the Facts he now stood condemn’d for; but said he had done no such things before, and that those (which were his first) would be also his last, were he to live never so long. When I told him of his Barbarity to the Person of Mr. Proud, whom he violently assaulted, being not contented only to rob him, but using him most cruelly, even to his endeavouring the taking away of his Life: He answer’d, That in his Heat and Haste (being under Fear) he knew not well what he did, but now considering what he had done, he was very sorry, and begg’d his Pardon for it, thanking God, that the Wounds he had given him, proved not Mortal. Here he said, That though he never was a Robber before, yet he had been otherwise a very bad Young-man, he having liv’d a loose Life, and been very extravagant, a great Spendthrift, and withal a most undutiful Son, who had given his Father a great deal of trouble: All which he now was very much griev’d at, being sensible of the Evil and Misery his Follies had justly brought upon him in this World, and of the greater Punishment he deserv’d to undergo in the next: And therefore earnestly pray’d to God for Mercy, and his Father, and all others he had offended, for Pardon; and wish’d all Young-men might take Warning by him, and be more dutiful to God and their Parents, than himself had been; and so avoid such a sad and untimely End, as this he was now come to. When Yesterday the Death-Warrant was come down, and he found by it, that there was no hope at all for him to live much longer in this World, he then (upon my exhorting him to make a full Confession of his Sins, and clear his Conscience) own’d (though he had deny’d it before) that within these 4 or 5 Months he had committed several (but no great) Robberies on the Highway, sometimes about Paddington, and at other times in and about Whitechappel, as also in other Places further from London; and, That once he had begg’d a Furlow of his Officer, under pretence of seeing his Friends in the Country for a few Days; but it was upon no such occasion; his only Design being then to have more Time and Opportunity to do Mischief (as he did) to honest Men: Which wicked Course of Life is now a great trouble to his Soul, who heartily wish’d he had not been so wicked. He implor’d again and again God’s Mercy and their Pardon whom he had any ways injur’d: And that was all the Satisfaction he could make.

2. Joseph Sherrier, condemn’d with the ‘foresaid Tho. Bingley, for being concern’d with him in the 3 Facts above specified, He said, he was 22 Years of age, born at Alresford in the County of Suffolk, and a Lock-Smith by Trade: That since his coming up to London, which was in May last, he work’d with a Smith near Drury-lane, when he had time to work, he being in the same Service, and in the same Regiment and Company with Bingley, who (he said) was the Man that put him upon these Facts, which he would never have thought to commit, had he not been enticed thereto; adding, That when he saw the said Bingley had so barbarously (as he had) cut the poor Man’s Head in diverse places, he cry’d to him, Why have you done that? And he further told me, he was very sorry to
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see it, and if he could, would have prevented it; but standing then at some distance, he could not. At first he said, this was the only time he ever engag’d in such wicked Facts as these were, which the said Bingley induced him to, and that were he to live never so long in this World, he would not be guilty of the like, or any other Crimes; but afterwards he confess’d, That about June or July last, Bingley perswaded him to go upon the Highway; and, That within that time he had committed several small Robberies with him, for which (to his great Grief) he could now make no Satisfaction, but thank’d God he had never shed Blood. He seem’d to be very Sensible and Penitent.

3. Edward Motte, alias Popham (the former being his right Name) condemn’d with the two former, viz. Thomas Bingley and Joseph Sherrier, for being an Assistant to them in the Facts before mention’d. He said, he was 21 Years of age, born at Boxted in Suffolk: That he was a Blacksmith by Trade, and wrought at it ever since he came up to London, when his Service in His Majesty’s Foot-Guards (in which, and in the same Company, he was with Bingley and Sherrier) permitted it. He own’d his Guilt of the Facts he stood condemn’d for, and said, That Bingley had brought him into the commission of them; and, that he had no hand in the Personal Hurt that Mr. Proud receiv’d, and wish’d he could have hinder’d Bingley from doing a thing of that nature; for himself abhorr’d such Cruelties: Neither would he, of his own accord, have gone in this manner upon the Highway; but the said Bingloy forced him to it. He acknowledg’d his Crime was great, in complying with that wicked Man’s Solicitations; and said, this was the first time he had offended the Law; but when the Death-Warrant was come, he acknowledg’d, That within these five months past he had been engag’d with the said Bingley and Sherrier in some Robberies on the Highway, he could not tell how many; yet hoped, that tho’ he was to suffer by it in this World, yet he should find Mercy in the next, for he heartily repented.

4. James Dickenson, alias Robinson (the former his right Name) condemn’d for breaking open the House of Mr. Thomas Bevis, and stealing thence Linnen to the value of 30 s. on the 31st of October last. He said, he was about 26 Years of age, born in Goodmans-Fields, in the Parish of St. Mary White-Chapel, and by his Occupation a Packthread-Spinner, by which he could maintain himself and Family well enough; but not being contented with that honest way of living, he fell into that which prov’d at last his Shame and Ruin. At first (indeed) he stifly deny’d the Fact he stood condemn’d for; alledging this common and worn-out Excuse, That the stoln Goods found on him, were given him by an unknown Hand, to carry to a certain Place: But at last he confess’d himself Guilty. And he also acknowledg’d (upon my putting him in mind of it) That he had formerly committed other ill Facts, and was once burnt in the Hand, and sent to the Bridewell in Clerkenwell, there to be kept at hard Labour for a Twelve-month; and yet (as it prov’d) this Correction did not cure him of his Thievish Distemper; who own’d, That he had committed several ill Facts, which were never found out, and which he cannot now to any purpose discover, nor make any Satisfaction for. He was a poor ignorant Person, who knew nothing of Religion, could not read at all, nor so much as say the Lord’s Prayer.

5. John Monstieurs, condemn’d for the Murder of John Henrick Rule, on the 17th of October last. He said, he was 27 Years of age, of good Parentage, and born at Enwegen in Gelder-land: That he had been brought up in the Business of Merchandizing ; and the chief Commodities he commonly dealt in, were Wines and Brandy, which he bought in the Low-Countries, and imported into England. The Religion he profess’d was that he call’d the Roman Catholick . As to the Fact he was Try’d and Condemn’d for, he at first stifly deny’d it, and would fain have perswaded me, that he was perfectly ignorant and innocent of it; and that he was a Person of a good Life and good Reputation in his own Country. Upon which, I told him, That tho’ I could not charge him with other Crimes (as having no knowledge of him before) yet this, for which he now stood condemn’d, was so evident, and so fully prov’d upon him, that I wonder’d he durst deny it; considering (too) that such a Denial could not clear him before God, nor before Men, neither would be of any the least avail to him as to his present State in this World, but should greatly aggravate his Sins and Condemnation in the Sight of God, and make him infinitely the worse as to his future State in the other World. Being inform’d that some time ago he intended to have marry’d a Dutch-woman, a Protestant; and that one of the Conditions of the Contract to be made between them, was; That he should leave the Church of Rome, and embrace the Protestant Religion; I ask’d him, Whether it was so: To which he reply’d, It was. Then asking him further, Whether he was still in the same mind; that is, Whether he would now (as to this Change) do for the good of his Soul what he promis’d to perform for his Love’s sake, and would be a Protestant whether he liv’d or died? He answer’d at first, That he would; but sometime after this, said, That as he suppos’d both Religions were good, and he was to die so soon that now he had neither time, nor indeed any proper or free Disposition of mind (under his present distraction and disquietude) to attend to any Instruction relating to those Points or Principles, wherein they differ’d the one from the other, and considering also that he was born in the Roman Communion: So he thought it not fit to renounce it, and embrace another; which (for ought he knew) he might have done, were he to have liv’d longer in this World; for he was inclinable enough, from the Instructions he had receiv’d of me, since his Confinement in Newgate (both before and after his Condemnation) to believe, That of the two, the Protestant Religion was the better. He so far agreed with me, that he profess’d, He rely’d on the alone Merits of Jesus Christ for the Pardon of his Sins; and, that he look’d upon Him as the only Mediator between God and Man, and hoped to be sav’d by Him. Here (after some further Instructions to set him forward in the right way) I press’d him to a free Confession, as of all his Sins in general, so particularly of this enormous Crime of Murder, which had brought him to this shameful and untimely Death. Whereupon he (tho’ he had positively deny’d it before) now own’d, that He was Guilty of it; but said, That the Deceased having first began a Quarrel with him, they both (by consent) went out together, to decide the Difference by dnt of Sword: This he alledging for his Pretence as a legal (or at least allowable) Way, to ask and receive Satisfaction for Affronts and Injuries given; was presently shewn his great Mistake herein, and his indispensable Duty and Interest to repent. Besides, I old him, That if that was a Duel, I greatly suspected him to be the Aggressor; but indeed could not think other, but that this Murder was by him committed without Provocation, and with all the Aggravation of Baseness and Barbarity imaginable. To which he said little or nothing but this, I am now to satisfie the Law for it, and pray God to have Mercy on my Soul. Then I went on, exhorting him to Repentance; and such a Repentance too, as might be proportionable to his high Crime, crying with David, Ps. 51. 12. Deliver me from Blood-guiltiness, O God! &c. Before I parted at that time, when I had a long private Conference with him (which was the next day after I had preach’d (chiefly) against Murder) and I found he was something mov’d, and seem’d to relent, I desir’d him for God’s sake, and for his Soul’s sake, to tell me what Crimes of that nature, or what other heinous Sins, he had committed before, either in his own Country or any where else. To which he reply’d, that he had formerly fought several Duels with Officers and other Gentlemen, wounding some of ’em, but never kill’d any; and that, as to other Matters, he had liv’d like other young Gentlemen, not so well (he must needs confess) as he should have done; for which he implor’d God’s Mercy and Pardon. Being not fully satisfied with his Confession, I further desir’d him to declare freely and ingenuously, what was the true Cause of his committing that Murder. To which he giving no Answer, his Silence put me upon asking him this plain Question, which I press’d him to answer positively one way or other, viz. Whether he did not kill the Deceased with an intent of having his Money and other his Goods? Whereto he made this only Reply, Sure enough; and would say no more, nor express that Sorrow he should have had for the great Evil he had done, and the Guilt he thus had contracted by his Commission of such an inhumane and bloody Fact. I endeavour’d all I could to make him throughly sensible of his Sin and Misery. How affected he was with what I said, and what were his inward Thoughts, I know not: But his outward Appearance discover’d his not being much concern’d. And this hard Temper I was afraid would continue with him to the time of his Death; but thro’ God’s great Mercy it did not; for at the nearer approach of that King of Terrors I found that what had been laid before him to bring him to Repentance, began to make some impression on, and mollify, his obdurate Heart. Then he exprest his Grief for all his Sins, and particularly the heinous Crime that had brought this severe (but condign) Punishment upon him; and he fully confest, That he was Guilty of wilful Murther: That the Person he kill’d had not in the least provok’d nor challeng’d him to it; and, That out of a covetous, malicious, and cruel Heart he did it; thinking to find with the Deceased a great deal of Gold, Money, &c. but he was disappointed therein, for he found but little of that about him. The manner of his committing that barbarous Murther (which he said none but himself knew any thing of, or was concern’d in) was by a Hammer he carry’d in his Pocket for that wicked Purpose, and with which he struck him in divers places on the Head, and other Parts. When he had made an end of this his Confession, I represented to him the horrible nature of that Fact, and the greatness of his Guilt; earnestly exhorting him duly to consider it, and take it to Heart, to the end he might so repent of it, as to obtain God’s Pardon for it; without which he must be eternally miserable.

With such Exhortations as I thought most proper to move him, I endeavour’d to reclaim him out of his dangerous State. And this I did till he was carry’d to the Tree; where I attended him, and the rest of the Dying Criminals, for the last time; and after the usual Performance of my Ministerial Office to their Souls, I left them. When I was withdrawn from them, and they had desir’d the Standers-by to take Warning by them, and pray for their departing Souls, they apply’d themselves to their private Devotion, for which they had some Time allotted them: Then the Cart drew away; and they were turn’d off; while each of them was earnestly calling upon God for the Pardon of his Sins, and the Salvation of his Soul, in these and the like Ejaculations: Lord! have Mercy upon me! Lord, save me! Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit!

This is all the Account here to be given of these Malefactors, by me,

PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary.
London, Friday, Dec. 20. 1717.

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1531: John Tewkesbury, Thomas More’s unwilling guest

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The honor posterity pays to Sir Thomas More‘s valor for his own eventual martyrdom has always been attenuated by More’s own keenness to visit that martyrdom on others. Six men were put to death as Protestant heretics during the Catholic More’s 30 months as Lord Chancellor and several of them — including John Tewkesbury, who burned at Smithfield five days before the sad Christmas of 1531 — were even held and tortured by More himself, at his personal estate.

More, famous for subjecting his own flesh to the hairshirt, was not ashamed to have his porter’s house outfitted as a personal torture chamber complete with his own set of stocks. When another wrongthinker, George Constantine, managed to break out of More’s cage and flee to the continent, the future saint joked in the Apology how humanely that showed Constantine was treated, that he proved “strong enough to break the stocks, nor waxen so lame of his legs with lying but that he was light enough to leap the walls.” LOL!

Others like Tewkesbury were not so robust after More got through with them.

This leather merchant had found his way to reform ideas after coming into possession of a contraband Tyndale English Bible, and was also found in possession of Tyndale’s subversive Parable of the Wicked Mammon.

“If Paul were now alive, and would defend his own learning, he should be tried through fire; not through fire of the judgment of scripture, (for that light men now utterly refuse,) but by the pope’s law, and with fire of fagots,” Tyndale thunders in Wicked Mammon.

Tewkesbury failed his first trial by fagot: after repelling the personal interrogation of Bishop Cuthberg Tunstall,* Tewkesbury

was sent from the Lollards’ tower to my lord chancellor’s, called sir Thomas More, to Chelsea, with all his articles; to see whether he might accuse others. There he lay in the porter’s lodge, hand, foot, and head in the stocks, six days without release: then was he carried to Jesu’s tree, in his [More’s] privy garden, where he was whipped, and also twisted in the brows with small ropes, so that the blood started out of his eyes … after this, he was sent to be racked in the Tower, till he was almost lame, and there he promised to recant. (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Recanting entailed public penitence meant to underscore the consequences of backsliding: carrying to St. Paul’s Cross a fagot of the sort that would be lit under the feet of a repeat heretic.


John Tewkesbury carrying his fagot in penance. Illustration from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

It seems, however, that Tewkesbury’s courage, once sapped by More’s persecution, was soon reinvigorated by the same. Foxe claims that he took heart from the example of Richard Bayfield, arrested at Easter for smuggling Tyndale Bibles into England from the Low Countries and returned to his heresies, fagot or no.

And here More’s vigorous escapee George Constantine enters the narrative in earnest, for before Constantine slipped More’s shackles the Lord Chancellor wrung from him the names of several Protestants, including Tewkesbury’s. Our repeat heretic was again imprisoned at More’s servants’ quarters where he received his sentence —

Imprimis, That he confessed that he was baptized, and intended to keep the catholic faith.

Secondly, That he affirmeth, that the abjuration oath and subscription that he made before Cuthbert, late bishop of London, was done by compulsion.

Thirdly, That he had the books of the Obedience of a Christian Man, and of The Wicked Mammon, in his custody, and hath read them since his abjuration.

Fourthly, That he affirmeth that he suffered the two faggots that were embroidered on his sleeve, to be taken from him, for that he deserved not to wear them.

Fifthly, He saith, that faith only justifieth, which lacketh not charity.

Sixthly, He saith, that Christ is a sufficient Mediator for us, and therefore no prayer is to be made unto saints. Whereupon they laid unto him this verse of the anthem: ‘Hail Queen our advocate,’ &c.; to which he answered, that he knew none other advocate but Christ alone.

Seventhly, He affirmeth that there is no purgatory after this life, but that Christ our Saviour is a sufficient purgation for us.

Eighthly, He affirmeth, that the souls of the faithful, departing this life, rest with Christ.

Ninthly, He affirmeth, that a priest, by receiving of orders, receiveth more grace, if his faith be increased; or else not.

Tenthly, and last of all, he believeth that the sacrament of the flesh and blood of Christ is not the very body of Christ, in flesh and blood, as it was born of the Virgin Mary.

Whereupon the bishop’s chancellor asked the said Tewkesbury, if he could show any cause why he should not be taken for a heretic, falling into his heresy again, and receive the punishment of a heretic. Whereunto he answered that he had wrong before, and if he be condemned now, he reckoneth that he hath wrong again.

“For which thynges and dyvers other horryble heresyes, he was delyvered at laste unto the secular handes and burned, as there was never wretche I wene better worthy,” More concluded with a satisfied dusting of hands. (Source)

* Tunstall submitted to Henry VIII’s authority over the Church of England and navigated the frightening Tudor years keeping his head down in preference to having it lopped off — although when he died in 1559 at age 85, it was while in prison for refusing to swear the Oath of Supremacy to Queen Elizabeth.

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1689: William Davis, the Golden Farmer

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From the Newgate Calendar:

The Golden Farmer was so called from his occupation and from paying people, if it was any considerable sum, always in gold; but his real name was William Davis, born at Wrexham, in Denbighshire, in North Wales, from whence he removed, in his younger years, to Salisbury, in Gloucestershire, where he married the daughter of a wealthy innkeeper, by whom he had eighteen children, and followed the farmer’s business to the day of his death, to shroud his robbing on the highway, which irregular practice he had followed for forty-two years without any suspicion among his neighbours.

He generally robbed alone, and one day, meeting three or four stage-coaches going to Salisbury, he stopped one of them which was full of gentlewomen, one of whom was a Quaker. All of them satisfied the Golden Farmer’s desire excepting this precisian, with whom he had a long argument to no purpose, for upon her solemn vow and affirmation she told him she had no money, nor anything valuable about her; whereupon, fearing he should lose the booty of the other coaches, he told her he would go and see what they had to afford him, and he would wait on her again. So having robbed the other three coaches he returned, according to his word, and the Quaker persisting still in her old tone of having nothing for him it put the Golden Farmer into a rage, and taking hold of her shoulder, shaking her as a mastiff does a bull, he cried: “You canting bitch! if you dally with me at this rate, you’ll certainly provoke my spirit to be damnably rude with you. You see these good women here were so tender-hearted as to be charitable to me, and you, you whining whore, are so covetous as to lose your life for the sake of mammon. Come, come, you hollow-hearted bitch, unpin your purse-string quickly, or else I shall send you out of the land of the living.”

Now the poor Quaker, being frightened out of her wits at the bullying expressions of the wicked one, gave him a purse of guineas, a gold watch and a diamond ring, and they parted then as good friends as if they had never fallen out at all.

Another time this desperado, meeting with the Duchess of Albemarle in her coach, riding over Salisbury Plain, was put to his trumps before he could assault her Grace, by reason he had a long engagement with a postilion, a coachman and two footmen before he could proceed in his robbery; but having wounded them all, by the discharging of several pistols, he then approached to his prey, whom he found more refractory than his female Quaker had been, which made him very saucy, and more eager for fear of any passengers coming by in the meanwhile; but still her Grace would not part with anything.

Whereupon by main violence he pulled three diamond rings off her fingers, and snatched a rich gold watch from her side, crying to her at the same time, because he saw her face painted: “You bitch incarnate, you had rather read over your face in the glass every moment, and blot out pale to put in red, than give an honest man, as I am, a small matter to support him on his lawful occasions on the road,” and then rode away as fast as he could, without searching her Grace for any money, because he perceived another person of quality’s coach making towards them, with a good retinue of servants belonging to it.

Not long after this exploit, the Golden Farmer meeting with Sir Thomas Day, a Justice of Peace living at Bristol, on the road betwixt Gloucester and Worcester, they fell into discourse together, and riding along he told Sir Thomas, whom he knew, though the other did not know him, how he was like to have been robbed but a little before by a couple of highwaymen; but as good luck would have it, his horse having better heels than theirs, he got clear of them, or else, if they had robbed him of his money, which was about forty pounds, they would certainly have undone him for ever. “Truly,” quoth Sir Thomas Day,” that would have been very hard; but nevertheless, as you would have been robbed between sun and sun, the county, upon your suing it, would have been obliged to have made your loss good again.”

But not long after this chatting together, coming to a convenient place, the Golden Farmer, shooting Sir Thomas’s man’s horse under him, and obliging him to retire some distance from it, that he might not make use of the pistols that were in his holsters, presented a pistol to Sir Thomas’s breast, and demanded his money of him. Quoth Sir Thomas: “I thought, sir, that you had been an honest man.” The Golden Farmer replied: “You see your Worship’s mistaken, and had you had any guts in your brains you might have perceived by my face that my countenance was the very picture of mere necessity; therefore deliver presently, for I am in haste.” Then, Sir Thomas Day giving the Golden Farmer what money he had, which was about sixty pounds in gold and silver, he humbly thanked his Worship, and told him, that what he had parted with was not lost, because he was robbed betwixt sun and sun, therefore the county, as he told him, must pay it again.

One Mr. Hart, a young gentleman of Enfield, who had a good estate, but was not overburdened with wit, and therefore could sooner change a piece of gold than a piece of sense, riding one day over Finchley Common, where the Golden Farmer had been hunting about four or five hours for a prey, he rides up to him and, giving the gentleman a slap with the flat of his drawn hanger over his shoulders, quoth he: “A plague on you! How slow you are, to make a man wait on you all this morning. Come, deliver what you have, and be poxed to you, and go to hell for orders!” The gentleman, who was wont to find a more agreeable entertainment betwixt his mistress and his snuff-box, being surprised at the rustical sort of greeting, began to make several sorts of excuses, and say he had no money about him; but his antagonist, not believing him, made bold to search his pockets himself, and finding in them above a hundred guineas, besides a gold watch, he gave him two or three slaps over the shoulder again with his hanger; and at the same time bade him not give his mind to lying any more, when an honest gentleman desired a small boon of him.

Another time this notorious robber had paid his landlord above forty pounds for rent, who going home with it, the goodly tenant, disguising himself, met the grave old gentleman, and bidding him stand, quoth he: “Come, Mr. Gravity from head to foot, but from neither head nor foot to the heart, deliver what you have in a trice.” The old man, fetching a deep sigh, to the hazard of losing several buttons of his waistcoat, said that he had not above two shillings about him; therefore he thought he was more of a gentleman than to take a small matter from a poor man. Quoth the Golden Farmer: “I have not the faith to believe you; for you seem by your mien and habit to be a man of better circumstance than you pretend; therefore open your budget or else I shall fall foul about your house.” “Dear sir,” replied his landlord, “you cannot be so barbarous to an old man. What! Have you no religion, pity or com- passion in you? Have you no conscience? Have you no respect for your own body and soul, which must be certainly in a miserable condition, if you follow unlawful courses?”

“Damn you!” said the tenant to him, “don’t talk of age and barbarity to me; for I show neither pity nor compassion to any. Damn you, don’t talk of conscience to me! I have no more of that dull commodity than you have; nor do I allow my soul and body to be governed by religion, but interest; therefore, deliver what you have, before this pistol makes you repent your obstinacy.” So, delivering his money to the Golden Farmer, he received it without giving the landlord any receipt for it, as his landlord had him.

Not long after committing this robbery, overtaking an old grazier at Putney Heath, in a very ordinary attire, but yet very rich, he takes half-a-score guineas out of his pocket, and giving them to the old man he said there were three or four persons behind them who looked very suspicious, therefore he desired the favour of him to put that gold into his pocket; for in case they were highwaymen, his indifferent apparel would make them believe he had no such charge about him. The old grazier, looking upon his intentions to be honest, quoth: “I have fifty guineas tied up in the fore-lappet of my shirt, and I’ll put it to that for security.” So riding along, both of them check by jowl, for above half-a- mile, and the coast being clear, the Golden Farmer said to the old man: “I believe there’s nobody will take the pains of robbing you or me today; therefore, I think I had as good take the trouble of robbing you myself; so instead of delivering your purse, pray give me the lappet of your shirt.” The old grazier was horridly startled at these words, and began to beseech him not to be so cruel in robbing a poor old man. “Prithee,” quoth the Golden Farmer, “don’t tell me of cruelty; for who can be more cruel than men of your age, whose pride it is to teach their servants their duties with as much cruelty as some people teach their dogs to fetch and carry?” So being obliged to cut off the lappet of the old man’s shirt himself, for he would not, he rode away to seek out another booty.

Another time this bold robber, lying at an inn in Uxbridge, happened into company with one Squire Broughton, a barrister of the Middle Temple, which he understanding, pretended to him that he was going up to London to advise with a lawyer about some business; wherefore, he should be much obliged to him if he could recommend him to a good one. Counsellor Broughton, thinking he might be a good client, bespoke him for himself. Then, the Golden Farmer telling his business was about several of his neighbours’ cattle breaking into his grounds and doing a great deal of mischief, the barrister told him that was very actionable, as being damage feasant. “Damage feasant,” said the Golden Farmer; “what’s that, pray, sir?” He told him that it was an action brought against persons when their cattle broke through hedges, or other fences, into other people’s grounds, and did them damage. Next morning, as they both were riding toward London, says the Golden Farmer to the barrister: “If I may be so bold as to ask you, sir, what is that you call ‘trover’ and ‘conversion’?” He told him it signified in our common law an action which a man has against another that, having found any of his goods, refuses to deliver them upon demand, and perhaps converts them to his own use also.

The Golden Farmer being now at a place convenient for his purpose — “Very well, sir,” says he, “and so, if I should find any money about you, and convert it to my use, why then that is only actionable, I find.” “That’s a robbery,” said the barrister, “which requires no less satisfaction than a man’s life.” “A robbery!” replied the Golden Farmer. “Why then, I must e’en commit one for once and not use it; therefore deliver your money, or else behold this pistol shall prevent you from ever reading Coke upon Littleton any more.” The barrister, strangely surprised at his client’s rough behaviour, asked him if he thought there was neither heaven nor hell, that he could be guilty of such wicked actions. Quoth the Golden Farmer: “Why, you son of a whore, thy impudence is very great, to talk of heaven or hell to me, when you think there’s no way to heaven but through Westminster Hall. Come, come, down with your rhino this minute; for I have other guess customers to mind, than to wait on you all day.” The barrister was very loath to part with his money, still insisting on the injustice of the action, saying it was against law and conscience to rob any man. However the Golden Farmer, heeding not his pleading, swore he was not to be guided by law and conscience any more than any of his profession, whose law is always furnished with a commission to arraign their consciences; but upon judgment given they usually had the knack of setting it at large. So putting a pistol to the barrister’s breast, he quickly delivered his money, amounting to about thirty guineas, and eleven broad-pieces of gold, besides some silver, and a gold watch.

Thus the Golden Farmer, having run a long course in wickedness, was at last discovered in Salisbury Court; but as he was running along, a butcher, endeavouring to stop him, was shot dead by him with a pistol; being apprehended nevertheless, he was committed to Newgate, and shortly after executed, at the end of Salisbury Court, in Fleet Street, on Friday the 20th of December, 1689; and afterwards was hanged in chains, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, on Bagshot Heath.

This is quite a fine adventure and not unlike many of the Newgate Calendar chronicles we have featured here — especially its earliest subjects, from the 17th and early 18th century, where historicity shades easily into legend.

It is obvious that our Golden Farmer has a good deal of the legendary about him; as related by the Calendar, which would scarcely have been in a position to observe the various vignettes alleged, he is through his crimes little more than a cutout for voicing social resentments — utterly ignoring the remarkable Jekyll-and-Hyde feat hinted in the lead of maintaining a decades-long career on the road while passing as a respectable farmer.

Outlaw biographies, a stock template for this period, often exist for the very purpose of satirizing such putative respectability. No surprise, the Golden Farmer excoriates a Whitman’s sampler of characters who might attract a scornful snort down at ye olde tavern: lawyers, landlords, nobles … even the elderly and a suspicious religious minority. In another version, we have an added episode that shows our man posterizing tricky wandering tinkerers.

One time overtaking a tinker on Blackheath, whom he knew to have seven or eight pounds about him, quoth he, “well overtaken, brother tinker, methinks you seem very devout; for your life is a continual pilgrimage, and in humility you almost go bare-foot, thereby making necessity a virtue.”

“Aye master,” replied the tinker. “Needs must when the devil drives, and had you no more than I, you might go without boots and shoes too.”

“That might be,” quoth the Golden Farmer, “and I suppose you march all over England with your bag and baggage?”

“Yes,” said the tinker, “I go a great deal of ground, but not so much as you ride.”

“Well,” quoth the Golden Farmer, “go where you will, it is my opinion your conversation is unreproveable, because thou art ever mending.”

“I wish,” replied the tinker, “that I could say as much by you.”

“Why, you dog of Egypt,” quoth the other, “you don’t think that I am like you in observing the statutes; and, therefore, had rather steal than beg in spite of whips or imprisonment.”

Said the tinker again, “I’ll have you to know that I take a great deal of pains for a livelihood.” “Yes,” replied the Golden Farmer, “I know thou art such a strong enemy to idleness, that mending one hole you make three, rather than want work.” “That’s as you say,” quoth the tinker, “however, sir, I wish you and I were farther asunder; for i’faith I don’t like your company.” “Nor I yours,” said the other, “for though thou art entertained in every place, yet you enter no farther than the door to avoid suspicion.”

“Indeed,” replied the tinker, “I have a great suspicion of you.” “Have you so,” replied the Golden Farmer, “why then it shall not be without a cause; come, open your wallet forthwith, and deliver that parcel of money that’s in it.”

Here their dialogue being on a conclusion, the tinker prayed heartily that he would not rob him; for if he did, he must be forced to beg his way home, from whence he was above a hundred miles. “I don’t care if you beg your way two hundred miles,” quoth the Golden Farmer, “for if a tinker escapes Tyburn and Banbury, it is his fate to die a beggar.” So taking money and wallet too from the tinker, he left him to his old custom of conversing still in open fields and low cottages.

A pub called the Golden Farmer and subsequently the Jolly Farmer — named in honor of this knight of field and road — stood in Surrey from the late 17th century until it closed in 1996.

Part of the Themed Set: The Creation of a Newgate Calendar legend.

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1879: Swift Runner, wendigo

1 comment December 20th, 2014 Headsman

The first legal hanging in Alberta, Canada, took place on this date in 1879. Generations later, it’s still remembered as one of the province’s worst, and strangest, crimes.

The hanged man was a native Cree known as Swift Runner (Ka-Ki-Si-Kutchin) — a tall and muscular character with “as ugly and evil-looking a face as I have ever seen,” in the words of an Anglo Fort Saskatchewan officer. Whatever his comeliness, Swift Runner was on good terms with the frontier authorities, who trusted him as a guide for the North West Mounted Police. That is, until the Cree’s violent whiskey benders unbalanced him so much that the police sent him back to his tribe … and then his tribe kicked him out, too.

He took to the wilderness to shift as he could with his family in the winter of 1878-79: a wife, mother, brother, and six children.

But only Swift Runner himself would return from that camp.

When police were alerted to the suspicious absence of Swift Runner’s party, the former guide himself escorted investigators to the scene.

One child had died of natural causes, and was buried there.

The eight other humans had been reduced to bones, strewn around the camp like the set of a slasher film.*

They had all been gobbled up by a wendigo.

The wendigo (various alternate spellings, such as windigo and witiko, are also available) is a frightful supernatural half-beast of Algonquin mythology, so ravenous it is said to devour its own lips — and human flesh too. For some quick nightmare fuel,* try an image search.

The revolting wendigo was mythically associated with cannibalism, so closely that humans who resort to anthropophagy could also be called wendigos. According to Swift Runner, the ferocious spirit entered into him and bid him slaughter and eat all his relations.

Swift Runner is the poster child for the “Wendigo Psychosis”, a mental disorder particular to the Northern Algonquin peoples. In the psychosis, diagnosed by the early 1900s but hotly disputed in psychological literature, people are said to have experienced themselves possessed by the wendigo and wracked by violent dreams and a compulsion to cannibalism. It’s importantly distinguished from famine cannibalism: though it was the wilderness during winter, Swift Runner had access to other food when he turned wendigo. The author of a 1916 report on the phenomenon said he had “known a few instances of this deplorable turn of mind, and not one instance could plead hunger, much less famine as an excuse of it.”**

The disorder, whatever it was, was nevertheless surely bound to the precariousness of life in the bush; wendigo cases vanish in the 20th century as grows afflicted populations’ contact with the encroaching sedentary civilization.

For Canadian authorities in 1879, however, there was no X-File case or philosophical puzzle: there was a man who had shot, bludgeoned, and/or throttled his whole family and snapped open long bones to suckle on their marrow.

But if the verdict and sentence were clear, the logistics were less so: hangings were virgin territory for the Fort Saskatchewan bugler put in charge of orchestrating the event. Swift Runner, by this time repentant, had to wait in the cold on the frigid morning of his hanging while the old pensioner hired to hang him retrieved the straps he’d forgotten, to pinion his man, and fixed the gallows trap. “I could kill myself with a tomahawk, and save the hangman further trouble,” Swift Runner joked

* In the Stephen King novel Pet Sematary (but not in its cinematic adaptation) the master adversary behind the reanimation of murderous household pets is a wendigo. For a classical horror-lit interpretation, Algernon Blackwood’s 1910 The Wendigo is freely available in the public domain.

** Cited by Robert A. Brightman in “On Windigo Psychosis,” Current Anthropology, February 1983.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Canada,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,The Supernatural

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1806: Hepburn Graham, HMS St. George rapist

2 comments December 20th, 2013 Headsman

Hepburn Graham, masters’ mate aboard the HMS St. George, was tried by Admiralty court-martial in early December on a charge of sodomy forwarded by the ship’s captain, Thomas Bertie.

We excerpt from the trial record via Gay Warriors: A Documentary History from the Ancient World to the Present:

George Parr, a boy of fourteen years of age belonging to His Majesty’s ship, St. George, called in and sworn:

Capain Bertie asked:

Q. Do you know the prisoner?

A. Yes

Q. Relate to the court what the prisoner was guilty of with you on the twenty-first of November last, the day after the St. George arrived in Torbay, and also n the twenty-seventh of November last.

A. On the twenty-first of November last, Mr. Graham took me into his hammock. He got me on a stool and got hold of me, telling me I must be a good boy. He got hold of my hair, and pulled me into his hammock in his berth on the starboard side, forward on the lower gun deck. It was between eight and nine o’clock in the evening of the first watch. He told me to put down my trousers, and he put them down himself. He pulled his yard out, and put it into my backside. He kept doing backwards and forwards, and made my arse wet. I was laying on my side in his hammock when he committed the act, and immediately afterwards he said you may go to your hammock now, and told me I must not tell any one, and if I did he would get me flogged …

On the twenty-seventh of November at night, between eight and nine o’clock in the [illegible] watch, I was in his berth attending him as his servant. He told me I must be a good boy. He would make me a good boy. He got hold of me and pulled me into his hammock. I did not want to get into it and he kept hitting me on the head while I was in the hammock. I wanted to get out, and he kept hitting me and asked me to stay in and said if I did not, he would get me flogged, he would get me three dozen [lashes]. He had made me unbutton the buttons before, and he them pulled down my trousers and pulled out his yard and put it into my backside. It went into my backside. He kept moving backwards and forwards, and made my backside wet. He then told me to go to my hammock and get up in good time in the morning and I went away. On the following morning early, I was again in his berth. It was before breakfast, before the hammocks were up. He pulled a hole in my trousers behind with his fingers and told me he would get them mended. He then pulled his yard out, and put it through the hole of my trousers to my backside, but did not enter it, but kept moving backwards and forwards and made my arse wet.

Q. Did he ever make any more attempts than what you have related?

A. Yes, he has attempted it five times in all, but only entered me twice.

A second boy on the same ship gave similar testimony.

John Sky, a boy about fifteen years of age, belonging to the St. George, called in and sworn.

Captain Bertie asked:

Q. Relate to the court what the prisoner was guilty of with you on the twenty-ninth of November, last.

A. On the twenty-ninth of November last I was down between decks talking to one of the boys whose name is Taylor. Mr. Graham, the prisoner came to me and [illegible] me he wanted me in his berth. I went in and he told me he would give me a bed. He then took me round the deck and set me down on a stool [illegible] of him. He began kissing me and told me he must feel my cock. I told him to leave it alone. If he did not, I would sing out. He was at this time going to unbutton the flap of my trousers. Mr. Miller, a midshipman, came in and he asked Mr. Miller to take down a great coat that [illegible] on the gun to give him more light. He said it gave him light. Whilst Mr. Miller was taking down the coat, he took me by the arm and hoved me out of the berth. I told the boy, George Parr, if he did not complain, I would. He then said that he would complain, and I told him to mention my name. He did complain to the first lieutenant, and mentioned my name. I told Mr. Graham that I could not stand it, and would complain. About a fortnight before, Mr. Graham [illegible] me in his berth and had my trousers down and pulled out his private parts. He tried to get these into my backside, but could [illegible], but got them between my thighs. Before he had had his turn, someone came in and disturbed him. I told him I would go out of the berth, and he put me out of the berth. He never succeeded with me in what he wanted to do.

George Parr’s rape claim was vouched by the ship’s surgeon.

Mr. Hugh Hughes, surgeon of the St. George, called in and sworn:

Captain Bertie asked:

Q. On the twenty-ninth of November was the boy, George Parr, sent to you to undergo a certain examination?

A. Yes.

Request: Relate to the court the result of your examination.

A. About seven o’clock in the evening of the twenty-ninth of November I was sent for by Lieutenant Caulfield on the quarter deck, and when I appeared, he said that Captain Bertie desired that I should examine the two boys, Parr and Sky. I immediately took them down to the sick bay accompanied by my two assistants, and there examined them immediately and found the anus of George Parr inflamed and not excoriated at all. I also examined Sky, and found no appearance of inflamation in the anus, as in the former boy. In order to corroborate what I have now stated I requested both my assistants to examine them also and begged that they would give me their opinion, and it corresponded with my own.

The court asked:

Q. Did you ask the boy, Parr, what had occasioned this appearance in his anus?

A. I did. He answered that two nights before, the twenty-seventh, that Mr. Graham had connection with him and gave him an infinite deal of pain. I asked him whether the anus was very painful at the time he was examining. He said, no, not very painful just then.

Q. Was it your opinion that the apperance was occasioned by the insertion of an instrument similar to a man’s yard?

A. I could not ascertain that.

Q. Would such an insertion cause a similar appearance in your opinion?

A. I think it would.

Q. As a professional man, do you think that the crime of which the prisoner stands charged could be committed upon a boy so young as George Parr.

A. Yes, I do.

Q From your knowledge of instruments could you imagine that the crime could be committed with a passive obedience on the part of that boy?

A. I do think he must have been placed in a particular position and he must have been a passive instrument.

One of the surgeon’s assistants testified to like effect. At this point, the Graham gave a scanty defense, merely describing his service since 1793 without addressing the charges against him.

The court was cleared and agreed that the charge had been proved against the said Hepburn Graham, and did adjudge him to suffer death by being hanged by the neck onboard such ship of His Majesty and at such time as the commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, etc. or any three of them for the time being should direct.

The court was again opened, the prisoner brought, [illegible] audience admitted, and sentence passed accordingly.

Greentham
Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet

Just a few weeks before he’d been wetting the arse of boys on the St. George. Now, only King George III stood between Graham and the noose.

Admiralty, 16 Dec 1806.

Mr. Grenville has the honour to lay before your Majesty the minutes and sentence of a court martial held on Mr Hepburn Graham, master’s mate on board the St George for an unnatural crime.

Mr. Grenville humbly submits to your Majesty that the sentence of the court martial may be put into immediate execution.

This petition was transmitted simultaneously with a like appeal from a seaman condemned for a Caribbean mutiny. Mr. Grenville recommended a pardon for the mutineer, and recommended denying pardon for the sodomite; King George endorsed both recommendations.

The King’s reply, Windsor Castle, 17 Dec.

The King upon consideration of what is stated in Mr Grenville’s letter in regard to the case of Naiad Sware, consents to remit the sentence of death pronounced by the court martial. Under the circumstances which attend the crime of which Mr Hepburn Graham has been found guilty, his Majesty is under the painful necessity of directing that the sentence of death may be carried into immediate execution.

Accordingly, that same day the Admiralty issued a warrant to hang Hepburn Graham on the upcoming Saturday, December 20.

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1704: John Smith, peruke-maker and highwayman for a week

5 comments December 20th, 2012 Headsman

On his date in 1704, John Smith was hanged for a career in highway robbery that lasted all of one week and markedly wanted for subtlety.

Smith was talked into stealing a mare with a buddy. (In this enterprise, Smith leaned up against the actual Tyburn gallows while lying in wait. He was almost spooked straight by its tactile morbidity, until his friend prodded him, “What matters, it, Jack? It is but hanging, if thou shouldst come to that.”)

Once Jack crossed the line, he couldn’t get enough.

The very next day he took the hot mare out for a spin and boosted three stagecoaches, and then hit three more stages the day after that. In all, in his short career, he raided nine stage-coaches, a hackney-cab, and the carriage of one Thomas Woodcock.

This last gentleman took his servant and stalked Smith to a forest hideout, where the inexperienced robber surrendered meekly, many of the proceeds of his spree being found still upon him.


Jack Smith’s impetuous turn to the road was still the more questionable given that he wasn’t a fringe-of-society type. The executioner who turned him off this date thinned the ranks of the artisans who crafted London society’s wigs … and just at the moment this industry was really taking off.

A fashion trend that jumped that channel from France — as did the sobriquet “peruke” for the most cumbersomely outlandish of the genre — wigs went wild under William and Mary and Queen Anne.

They multiplied for every rank, profession, and occasion, differentiated by a bewildering proliferation of colorful names. There’s the Allonge and the Grecian fly wig, the Rhinoceros and She-Dragon, the riding wig and the nightcap wig, the Jansenist, the Gregorian, the Adonis, the Corded Wolf’s-Paw, and even one called the Tyburn Scratch; wigs with long braided tails and others with practical bobbed cuts; modest affairs for scrappy apprentices on the come and ludicrous gigantic heaps of bedizened white curls for the louche nobility’s opera-box peacocking and the long plaited-tail “Ramillies” named after the battle the Duke of Marlborough won with this model on his dome. Even a proper thief needed a wig, and certainly the artifacts’ value was sufficient to endear them as a frequent object of hanging crimes.

FASHION in ev’ry thing bears sov’reign sway,
And Words and Perriwigs have both their day.
Each have their purlieus too, are modish each
In stated districts, Wigs as well as Speech.
The Tyburn Scratch, thick Club, and Temple Tye,
The Parson’s Feather-top, frizz’d broad and high!
The Coachman’s Cauliflow’r, built tiers on tiers!
Differ not more from Bags and Brigadiers,
Than great St. George’s, or St. James’s stiles,
From the broad dialect of Broad St. Giles.

The most recognizable legacy of the wig-craze is, of course, the ceremonial coiffure donned by judges and barristers in British courtrooms for centuries thereafter.

It was, indeed, right around the time of Smith’s hanging (circa 1705) that the preference of the rich and powerful for wig-wearing ensconced the accessory in the realm’s courtrooms, where they soon became utterly iconic. If John Smith could have just laid off the stickups, he might have met his judges as clients instead.

“Has not your Red hanging-individual a horsehair wig, squirrel-skins, and a plush-gown; whereby all mortals know that he is a JUDGE?” Carlyle remarked in the 1830s — by which time wigs were already passe outside the courtroom.

But as tradition sanctified their place at the bar, the judicial wig long outlived its parent trend and is only now, and only gradually and grudgingly, giving way.

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1961: Robert McGladdery, the last execution in Northern Ireland

Add comment December 20th, 2011 Headsman

Northern Ireland checks in today at a half-century death penalty-free, dating back to the hanging this date in 1961 of Robert McGladdery.

An agricultural laborer and “well known bad lad”, McGladdery followed a young woman named Pearl Gamble out of a dance hall one night and strangled and stabbed her. It became an open-and-shut case when the police tail surveilling him witnessed McGladdery tramping into some undergrowth where his bloody dance-hall clothes were stashed.

This was all the more remarkable because McGladdery knew he was being watched. In fact, the Daily Mail later got into hot water with the crown because it went and interviewed the suspect: that interview was published while McGladdery was still free, the day before he decided to pay his respects to the evidence that could hang him.*

The case is the subject of the BBC “dramatised documentary” Last Man Hanging, as well as a couple of books.

Books about Robert McGladdery

(Review of Orchid Blue.)

* See London Times, Feb. 18, 1962.

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1946: A triple execution in Washington, DC

Add comment December 20th, 2010 Headsman

“Death, administered in the law’s deliberate way, exacted a three-fold toll in the District [of Columbia]’s electric chair” on this date in 1946, announced the next day’s Washington Post.*

It was as many people as the nation’s capital had put to death in the previous four years combined. The clientele: three unconnected men, condemned for unconnected murders.

“Joseph Dunbar Medley, suave slayer of a Washington divorcee,” was the most (in)famous of the three. “The debonair man who blazed a trail of crime from the Middle West” had that April made a daring escape from District Jail — which was rather renowned for its escapability, but still, this was a guy on death row, and who was only a few weeks from his then-scheduled electrocution.

Medley and another condemned man, Earl McFarland, charmed their way into their guards’ confidence. During a card game played in one of the guards’ rooms, they imprisoned their jailers, nicked their clothes, and cut their way into a ventilation shaft and out to the roof.

Medley himself was captured hours later hiding in a sewer pipe on the Anacostia River, pithily remarking to reporters, “You can’t blame a guy for trying, and I’m going to try again.” (Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1946) If he did try again, he didn’t make it.

But the bloodhounds couldn’t pick up McFarland, whose manhunt made nationwide headlines for more than a week until he was finally tracked down in Knoxville, Tenn. (He was executed solo in July.)

While [Medley] waited [for three hours of last-second appeals to clear], the chair claimed two other slayers, both Negroes.

William Copeland, 38-year-old slayer of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Dora Johnson, walked into the chamber, jauntily smoking a cigar which he clenched in his teeth while he smiled. He helped guards adjust the straps and the leather face mask smothered his last smile …

Second to die was Julius Fisher, 32, convicted of beating to death Miss Catherine Reardon, librarian at the Washington Cathedral … bludgeoned to death with a piece of firewood and her body hidden in a sub-basement crypt. He strangled and struck her after she had complained about the way he had cleaned under her desk.

* Charles J. Yarbrough, “Death Hour Delayed by Futile Court Maneuver,” The Washington Post, Dec 21, 1946.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Electrocuted,Execution,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,USA,Washington DC

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1974: Mun Segwang, errant assassin

1 comment December 20th, 2009 Headsman

This morning in Seoul, Mun Segwang (various similar transliterations possible) was hanged for an assassination attempt four months earlier.

Mun, a Japanese-reared Korean who needed a translator for his subsequent trial, tried to gun down dictator Park Chung-hee at a Independence Day speech Aug. 15.

Mun missed Park, but he did kill two others: a high school student; and, Park’s wife Yuk Yeong-su, the seated white-clad figure in the middle of the assassination footage who can be seen beginning to crumple on stage as the camera pans away.

South Korea figured him as the agent of a North Korean/Communist plot, which conclusion Japan and the North rejected vehemently. (Trial evidence also indicated that he read The Day of the Jackal.)

Park got lucky this time, but the autocrat was successfully iced five years later by his own intelligence chief. (Guess what happened to him.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Japan,Korea,Murder,North Korea,Shot,South Korea

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