(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)
On this day in 1831, Edward Hogsden (some reports call him “Hodgson”) was executed for rape in Surrey, England.
He’d committed the crime on July 27, less than a month earlier; the victim was his own seventeen-year-old daughter, Harriet. The story is told in Martin Baggoley’s book Surrey Executions: A Complete List of those Hanged in the County during the Nineteenth Century.
Hogsden’s mother had died, and on the night before the attack that brought him to the gallows Hogsden kept a dolorous vigil at the cemetery to keep body-snatchers from violating her grave. Harriet’s mother, as per her usual routine, got up and left for work at 4:00 a.m.; both she and her husband were employed by a local farmer.
Two hours later, Harriet awoke as her father was returning home. At the time, she was lying in bed with her baby — “the offspring, as the girl swore, of a former forced connexion with her unnatural parent.” (The Newgate Calendar*) A few minutes after he arrived, Edward crawled into Harriet’s bed, demanding sex. She begged him to leave her alone and said she could not stand to bear another of his children.
But Edward was without mercy. He raped her, threatening to kill her if she made any noise, and as he left her to go to work he told her that as far as he was concerned both she and the baby could drown.
It was the last straw for Harriet: she had her sister summon their mother and finally confided in her about the abuse she’d been enduring for much of her life. Horrified, Harriet’s mother summoned the magistrate, who had Hogsden arrested.
“I admit I had connection with her,” Hogsden told the authorities, “but she was always agreeable.”
At his trial, Hogsden maintained that Harriet wasn’t his biological child; that their shocking relationship had always been consensual; and that, come on, who’d be in an incestuous mood after passing the whole night contemplating mom’s bones? He charged that his daughter was revenging herself after papa Hogsden caught her in bed with another man and threw him out of the house.
“Nevertheless,” notes Baggoley,
he acknowledged he had been having sex with her since she was nine years old. Clearly nobody believed his account, or that Harriet was not his natural daughter, or that she had willingly agreed to comply with his demands that day or in the past.
The Newgate Calendar concluded,
We shall abstain from adding any further account of the life of this diabolical ruffian, exhibiting as its circumstances do a degree of sinfulness and crime not exceeded by any of those bloodthirsty murderers whose offences it is our duty to describe.
Nothing further is known of the fate of Harriet Hogsden, or her baby.
* Displaying its customarily cavalier regard for detail, the Newgate Calendar pegs the hanging to August 21, which was a Sunday in 1831. The correct date is August 22.