1728: Five at Tyburn

Add comment March 27th, 2018 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate (in this case, James Guthrie) furnishes us the following “ACCOUNT, Of the Behaviour, Confession, and dying Words of the Malefactors who were Executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday the 27th of this Instant March, 1728.”:


***N. B. Whereas in the last Dying Speech of the Malefactors, who were executed on Monday the 12th of February last, several literal Mistakes and other gross Errors, which perverted the Sense, escap’d Correction, through the Hast of the Press: The Readers are hereby desir’d to excuse the same, and may be assur’d that effectual Care shall be taken to prevent the like for the future, by printing the Dying Speeches correctly.

AT the King’s Commission of Oyer and Terminer, and Jail Delivery of Newgate, held (before the Right Honourable Sir EDWARD BECHER, Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Honourable Mr. Baron Comyns; the Hon. Mr. Justice Probyn; the Hon. Mr. Baron Thompson, Recorder of the City of London; and John Raby, Esq, Serjeant at Law; and others his Majesty’s Justices of Jail Delivery, and Oyer and Terminer aforesaid: Together with several of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said City of London and County of Middlesex) at Justice-Hall, in the Old-Baily, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, being the 28th and 29th of February, and the 1st, 2d, 4th, and 5th of March, 1728. in the first Year of his Majesty’s Reign.

Six Men, viz Benjamin Branch, Martin Bellamy, William Shann, John Potter, James Stagles, alias Howard, and Richard Kelme; and two Women, viz. Margaret Wallis, alias Staineus, and Margaret Murphy, were found guilty of capital Offences by the Jury, and received Sentence of Death.

While under Sentence, they having been for the most part young People of lewd and dissolute Lives, and consequently ignorant of Religion, both in Speculation and Practice, were instructed in those Principles, which are necessary to be known by us, both as Men and Christians. I shew’d them, that Nature itself teacheth us, that unto God the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, Worship, Reverence, and Homage is due from all his Creatures, and that Man who (as the Heathens, who were only led by the light of Nature, acknowledged) was form’d after the divine Image, and substituted Lord of this inferior Orb, was in a more especial Manner bound, in Token of his dependance, to give all due Obedience, by dedicating himself to the Service of God, his Creator and special Benefactor. But if they fell short in complying with the first Principles of natural Religion, which is insufficient for Salvation; how much greater must their Guilt be, who being descended of Christian Parents, and living in the midst of so great Light, had despised those glorious Revelations, which were intended to elevate and perfect our depraved Nature? That Theft and Robbery were destructive of all human Society, and reduc’d Man, who is made after the Image of God, who is the God of Order, into the State of savage Animals and Birds of Prey. Besides, that the Commission of the Sin of Theft and Robbery was attended with innumerable other, the worst of Sins; such as a tendency to Murder, and commonly a continued Practice of Lying, Drinking, Whoring, and many such like Vices; and it is evident, that those who give themselves up to this wicked Course of Life, are the vilest Wretches, and abandon’d to every thing which is good. I instructed them in the Nature of the Christian Sacraments, both of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, how they are Seals of the Gospel-Covenant, and Pledges of all those Blessings procur’d to us by the Sufferings and Death of our Lord Jesus; and that the Lord’s Supper was a proper Provision to strengthen our Faith, in order to prepare us for a new State of Life, and that never-ending Eternity, upon which they were to enter.

While these and the like Exhortations were us’d, John Potter, James Stagles, Richard Kelme, Margaret Murphy, and Margaret Wallis, alias Staineus, were apparently devout and serious; Benjamin Branch, and Martin Bellamy comply’d with the Worship, by making regular Responses, but were seldom attentive to the Exhortations, and were otherways guilty of carrying themselves most undecently at Prayers and other Times, especially for Men in their miserable and dangerous Circumstances; for which I reprov’d them sharply and frequently; but they were the most obstinate and obdurate Criminals I ever saw. William Shann never came to Chapel but once, having been afflicted with sickness, and afterwards with swelling in his Legs and Feet, so that he could not walk; but as I frequently visited him in the Cell, he still declar’d himself very Penitent, and readily comply’d with Prayers and Exhortations.

Upon Thursday, the 21st, of March, the Report of these eight Malefactors under Sentence of Death, was made to His Majesty in Council. When William Shan, for Felony and Burglary, in breaking the House of Richard Wright of Coleman-street, and taking thence 30 Guineas, 10 l. in Silver, 8 Moiders, 2 broad Pieces, and one half broad Piece, on the 8th of December last, the Property of Richard Wright aforesaid. And Richard Kelme of St. John Hackney, for stealing a Brown Gelding, value 7 l. the Property of Mr. Yellowly; a Mare, val, 7 l. the Goods of Mr. Sanders; a Bridle, Saddle, and Saddle-cloth, the Property of John Laurence, out of the Stable of the said John Laurence, receiv’d His Majesty’s most Gracious Reprieve. The remaining Six, viz. Benjamin Branch, Martin Bellamy, John Potter, James Stagles, alias Howard, Margaret Murphew, and Margaret Wallis, alias Stainens, were ordered for Execution.

Benjamin Branch, of St. Andrew’s Holbourn, was Indicted for Assaulting Jane Marshal on the Highway, putting her in Fear, and taking from her two Guineas, two half Guineas, and 3 s. and 6 d, in Silver, 2 Pocket-pieces, value 5 s. a bunch of Keys, and 2 silk Handkerchiefs, on the 27th of Jan. last.

Benjamin Branch, 27 years of Age, descended of honest Parents, who gave him good Education at School, in Reading and Writing, and instructed him in the Christian Religion: When of Age, they put him to an Employment, at which he might have liv’d well; but being of a loose Temper, and not willing to confine himself to constant Business, he Associated himself with the worst of Company, and commenc’d Thief and Street-Robber in an extraordinary Manner, surpassing most of his Accomplices in those unlawful and wicked Practices. He confess’d, that he had committed many Street-Robberies, and particularly that for which he was Convicted, that he met with a deserved Punishment, having Sin’d against much Light and Knowledge, and the Convictions of his own Conscience: For his Father (as he said) bred him to his own Business of a Goldsmith and a Lapidary , and put him in a way of living Creditably in the World, but shaking off all fear of God and Regard to Man, and joining himself to a Band of Thieves and Robbers, he became one of the most Noted about Town in that way. He always attended publick Prayers in Chapel, and made Responses regularly, but with too much Indifferency, and for the most part was attentive to the Exortations, only sometimes he spoke to his Friends, and some who were next him. And upon the second Sunday before his Death, he and Bellamy, as I began to speak upon Death, which I judg’d a proper Subject and Discourse for their Case; went out of their Place to talk with Strangers; this giving offence to the Auditory, I desir’d them to return and compose themselves, and hear the Word of the Lord with Reverence and Attention; they were so rude as to cry out, expressing themselves in a very undiscreet Manner, before a good number of People, a Behaviour unbecoming any Person, but especially Men in their deplorable Circumstances. I reproved them sharply, and told ‘em, that however they might slight the Ordinances dispens’d by Man, yet that God the righteous Judge, who was ready to take Vengeance upon his Adversaries, would shortly bring them to a terrible Account for so notorious Contempt of his Word, if they did not repent. I have not observ’d two so very audacious Sinners, when so near their latter End. When the Report was made, Branch became more serious and civil, acknowledging himself to have been one of the greatest of Sinners, most unthankful to God and Man, for the great Blessings he had receiv’d, and for misimproving the Talents where with God had endow’d him; adding, that his sometimes laughing and speaking proceeded not from any Contempt of God’s Word and Ordinances, but from his Youth and want of Consideration. He declar’d himself penitent for all his Sins, particularly, his great Vices of Covetousness, Robbery, Whoredom, and their Attendants, which had brought him to a shameful and untimely Death; that he died in Peace with all the World, and in the Faith of being sav’d only through the Merits of Jesus Christ.

Martin Bellamy, of St. Katherine Cree Church, was indicted for Felony and Burglary, in breaking the House of Giles Holliday, on the 5th of February last in the Night time, and taking thence 12 Pounds of sewing silk, Value 10 l. and 20 pair of worsted stockings, Value 5 l. the Property of Giles Holloday aforesaid.

Martin Bellamy, born of honest Parents, who gave him good Education, instructing him in Christian Principles, and the Knowledge of other things proper to fit him for Business in the World. He was about 28 Years of Age, by Trade a Taylor, in which Art he was very skillful, and might have liv’d in Credit and an honest manner, but giving loose Reins to his irregular Passions, he addicted himself to all manner of Wickedness. About 4 Years ago, he married and liv’d only 5 Weeks with his Wife, for being taken up for some Fraud or Theft, he was put into Clerkenwell Bridewell, whether (as he said) his Wife’s Brother-in-Law coming to him, desir’d to know, where his Prosecutor liv’d, upon Pretence of making Matters easie, but the said Brother went to the Gentleman and advis’d him to prosecute Bellamy; upon which he resenting this suppos’d Injury, took up an irreconcileable Prejudice against his Wife and all her Relations, never cohabiting with her any more. About this time, he betook himself to his old Companion a young Woman, whom he call’d Amey Fowler, who pass’d for his Wife above the space of six Years, bare him several Children and liv’d in good Friendship with him. Her he commended, though (it seems) he could by no means agree with his true Wife, because she disapprov’d of his naughty Courses. He said also, that Amey Fowler was altogether ignorant of and had no Concern in his Robberies, he having deserted her Company also, when he follow’d that extravagant manner of Life. This he desir’d to be publish’d, because the World blam’d her for his Misfortunes, as advising him to undertake his villainous Attempts. He gave Account of a great many Robberies and Burglaries he had committed; such as, his obliging the Watchman in Thames-street to throw his Lanthorn and Staff into the River, and holding a Pistol to his Breast, till three other Thieves robb’d a Tea-shop to the Value of 20 l. in Goods. In East-Cheap he robb’d a Shoemaker’s Shop, and knock’d the Watchman down with a bag of Shoes, which he was forc’d to leave out of hast to make his Escape. In Coleman-street he robb’d a Stocking Shop of Goods to the Value of 70 l. He robb’d a Gentleman near St. Botolph’s Aldersgate of a silver Watch with a Case, but left him 6 s. in Money, and cut the Band of his Breeches, to prevent his pursuing him. For a little Premium to support himself in Prison, he put some upon a way of recovering part of their Goods. Some Years ago, upon a false Pretence, he got 10 Guineas from one in Smithfield, in the Name of the late Jonathan Wild, but made his Peace with Jonathan, by giving him 5 l. and gave his Bond for Payment of the Money at the Baptist-head Tavern, but this is still unpaid. Many such Accounts he told of himself, but with such an air of Indifference and Boldness, as shew’d him to be no way penitent for his Crimes, but to take Delight in recounting his Villainies, and thus glorying in his Shame. Altho’ he outwardly comply’d with Prayers, yet at other Times he behav’d himself with such Audacity, sometimes falling out into violent fits of Passion and Swearing; so that he seem’d to have been Craz’d and out of his Senses, not allowing himself time seriously to think upon his latter End, and improving his few remaining Moments, in working out his Souls Salvation with Fear and Trembling: Till some time after the Dead-Warrant came out, he began to Cry and Lament his unhappy Fate; his Conscience then beginning to Awake, because of the most irregular Life he had Led, and the terrible Account he had to make. I frequently and sharply Reprov’d him for his Miscarriages, and for his former vicious Life, having giving himself wholly up to work Wickedness. I represented to him the dangerous Condition he was in, what a terrible Thing it was to fall into the Hands of the living God, of a Just and Sin-revenging God; For who can abide with ever lasting Burnings? And that without holiness no Man can see the Lord. He acknowledg’d himself one of the greatest of Sinners; beg’d God and Man Pardon for the many Offences of his Life, declar’d himself Penitent for all his Sins; that he believ’d in Christ, through whose Merits he hop’d to be Saved; and that he Died in Peace with all the World. Branch and Bellamy own’d themselves much oblig’d to two worthy Divines, who visited them three or four Days before they Died.

James Stagles, alias Howard, of St. Dunstan’s Stepney, was Indicted for Assaulting John House on the Highway, putting him in Fear, and taking from him two Pocket Pieces, val. 6 d. 6 s. in Silver, and some Half-pence, on the 6th, of February last.

James Stagles alias Howard, 43 years of Age, (as he said) descended of honest Parents, who gave him good Education, and instructed him in Principles of Christianity. When of Age, he was not put out to any Employment, but served Gentlemen, and married a Woman in Yarmouth, with whom he got a good Portion, which he prodigally squander’d and lavish’d away. He Travel’d over great part of the World, Italy, France, the Holy-land, and several other Countries, attending his Masters, and could speak some Foreign Languages; and when he came home (as he said) he was worth some thousand of Pounds, which he spent in his foolish Rambles; he purchas’d a Place for himself, which he lost because of his Miscarriages. Being out of Business, and not knowing what to do, and wanting Grace and good Manners, he took himself to the Highway, for two or three Years past; during which time, he was not Inferior to any of his Profession in doing Mischief. He had formerly made himself an Evidence against one George Noble, who was Executed at St. Edmund’s-Bury, who deny’d the Fact of which he was Convicted, at his last Hour.

Upon a Letter from an unknown Hand at the desire of Noble’s Widow, I ask’d, if Noble was guilty according to his Evidence? He answer’d, that it was known he was Guilty, and that his Wife need not enquire into that Affair, knowing the Truth thereof. As to the Robbery of which he was convicted, he denied that he took the Money from the Gentleman, but that it was handed to him by another Person, who is a creditable Man, but whom he did not incline to discover, thinking he should not have been Convicted, and after Conviction it being to no Purpose, he did not judge it proper to ruin a poor Family. He confess’d himself to have been a most wicked and profligate Fellow, and that he had met with a deserved Punishment for his Crimes. Although (as he said) when he was abroad, he was sollicited to alter his Profession, as to Religion, which indeed I believe was, what he least minded, yet he was still of the Communion of this Church, in which he was Baptized. He declar’d himself sincerely penitent, having always behav’d himself very devoutly at Prayers, but that sometimes he spoke to Branch, that he believ’d in Jesus Christ his only Saviour, and died in Peace with all the World.

Margaret Murphey, of St. Martins in the Fields, was indicted for privately and feloniously stealing out of the House of John Cordes, a Silver Salver, val. 5 l. a Silver Tea-pot, val. 5 l. on the 15th of January last, the Property of Peter Casteels.

Margaret Murphey, 30 Years of Age, born in Ireland, of honest Parents. Her Father dying when she was very young, she got little Education, and if she was put to School, what Instructions were given her were quite obliterated, by Reason of her perverse and wicked Nature. She married a Husband in her own Country, and came over to London 9 Years ago, where she kept House for some time, and as one who liv’d near her, told me, maintaining a good Character among the Neighbours. But (as she told me) her Husband was a very naughty Fellow, and made all away in a most profuse and extravagant Manner, which made her rack her Wit what Course to take, and falling in with ill-dispos’d People, they brought her into Acquaintance of some of Jonathan Wild’s Gangs, which prov’d her Ruin. She voluntarily appear’d as Evidence against Jonathan Wild, who was convicted upon her Evidence chiefly; and upon the desire of one, being ask’d, if the Evidence she gave against Jonathan was True as she deliver’d it? She answer’d, that it was, and several Persons knew it to be so, and that there was no Force put upon her in that Affair, she appearing of her own accord. She own’d herself to have been a very great Sinner, to have liv’d a most irregular and debauch’d Life, to have been concern’d in a great Number of Robberies and Felonies, having for some Years past liv’d upon what unlawful Purchase she could make that way, and to have met with a most deserved Punishment for the Villainies she had committed. As to the Crime of which she was convicted, she said, that she never saw the Silver Tea pot which was sworn against her, and she only got the Salver from another Woman to sell, who never told her what way she came by it; to make this appear probable, she said, that she did not know Mr. Casteels in Long-Acre, having never heard of him, nor his House. But that it was her great Misfortune to be under so bad a Character, because of her Acquaintance with the late Jonathan Wild, and her appearing as Evidence against him, which made her Name still more infamously Famous. I desir’d her to submit to the Will of God, since Providence had justly brought her under severe Afflictions, and the Lash of an ignominious Death for her reprobate and unaccountable Life. She acknowledg’d the Justice of her Sentence according to the Laws of the Land, declaring that she believ’d in Jesus Christ her only Saviour; that she repented of all her Sins; dying in the Romish Communion, and in Peace with all Mankind.

Margaret Wallis, alias Staining, was Indicted for breaking the House of Henry Clark of Islington, on the 3d, of February last, in the Night-time, and taken thence 12 Pewter-plates, a Napkin, 5 Handkerchiefs, 4 Aprons, a black and white Silk-hood, a Mob, 3 holland Shirts, 2 pair of Stockings, a Top-knot, a Wrapper, 2 Gowns, six holland Shifts, a Petticoat, a Fann, a pair of Lace-Ruffles, and a Remnant of brocaded Silk.

Margaret Wallis, alias Staining, 21 years of Age, of mean Parents in the Country, who gave her no Education. She always serv’d Honestly (as she said) except in the particular instance of this Robery for which she died. She was a very ignorant Creature. I instructed her in the first Principles of Christianity, and with difficulty brought her to a little Knowledge. Altho’ she was Sick most of the time she was under Sentence, excepting two or three times, she always attended in Chapel, and to appearance, with abundance of Devotion and Seriousness. She own’d herself guilty of the Robbery of which she was Convicted, and that her Sentence was just according to Law. She declar’d, that she was truly Penitent for her many Sirs, that she believ’d to be Saved thro’ the Merits of Jesus Christ, and Died in Peace with all Mankind.

At the Place of Execution.

THEY all behav’d with very great Seriousness and Devotion, to appearance. James Stagles, alias Howard, desir’d me to write down to the Country, and give a near Relation of his an Account of his deplorable Fate, to communicate the same to the rest of his Friends. Mrs. Murphey declar’d, that she knew nothing of Mr. Casteels nor his House, who swore himself Proprietor of the stollen Plate for which she died; that she knew of no more then a Salver, which was given her by another Woman to dispose off, and this she knew to be stollen, but from whence she could not tell. As for the Tea-pot, she never heard of it. She said also, that she knew nothing of his Grace the Duke of Montague’s rich Hangings, and that the Woman, nam’d Sullivane, swore falsely against her, for which she freely forgave her, and prayed God to forgive her. They all adher’d to their former Confessions, and went of the Stage, crying out, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.

Just as the Prisoners were bringing out of Newgate, to go to the Place of Execution, a Reprieve came for John Potter, before-mention’d.

At the Place of Execution, Martin Bellamy read a Paper to the Auditors, wherein he lamented the Follies of a mispent Life, &c. the Copy whereof is as follows,

Gentlemen,

I Am brought here to suffer an ignominious Death, for my having willfully transgressed against the known Laws of God and my Country. I fear there are too many here present, who come to be Witnesses of my untimely End, rather out of Curiosity than from a sincere Intention to take Warning by my unhappy Fate. You see me here in the very Prime of my Youth, cut off like an untimely Flower in a rigorous Season, thro’ my having been too much addicted to a voluptious and irregular Course of Life, which has been the Occasion of my committing those Crimes for which I am now to suffer. As the Laws of God, as well as Men, call upon me to lay down my Life as justly forfeited, by my manifold Transgressions. I acknowledge the Justice of my Sentence, and I patiently submit to the same, without any Rancour, Ill will, or Malice, against any Person what soever, hoping, thro’ the Merits of Christ Jesus (who laid down his Life for Sinners, and who on the Cross pronounc’d a Pardon for the repenting Thief under the Agonies of Death) to be with him admitted to partake of that Glorious Resurrection and Immortality, he has been so graciously pleased to promise to the sincere Penitent. I earnestly exhort and beg of all here present, to think seriously of Eternity, a long and endless Eternity, in which we are to be rewarded, or punish’d, according to our good or evil Actions in this World, that you will all take Warning by me, and refrain from all wilfull Transgressions and Offences; let a religious Disposition prevail upon you, and use your utmost Endeavours to forsake and flee from Sin, the Mercies of God are great, and he can save, even at the last Moment of Life; yet do not therefore presume to much, least you provoke him to cast you off in his Anger, and become fearfull Examples of his Wrath and Indignation. Let me prevail upon you to forget and forgive me all the Offences and Injuries I have either committed, or promoted, in Action, Advice, or Example, and intreat your Prayers for me, that the Lord would in Mercy look down upon me in the last Moments of my Life.

“Look down in Mercy, O God I beseech thee, upon me a miserable, lost, and undone Sinner; number not my Transgressions nor let my Iniquities rise up in Judgment against me; wash me and I shall be clean, purge me and shall be free from Offence. Tho’ my Sins be as Scarlet they shall be whiter than Snow, if thou pleasest but to receive me amongst those who are Redeem’d by the Merits of thy dear Son Christ Jesus And Oh! Blessed Jesus disown me not in my last Extremity, but number me amongst those whom thou hast redeem’d, that I may sing Praises to the most High, and extol thy Holy Name in the Courts of Heaven, for ever and ever more. Amen.”

This is all the Account given by me,

JAMES GUTHRIE, Minister at Newgate.

ADVERTISEMENT.

This Day is Publish’d,

The LIFE of Martin Bellamy, with an Account of all the several Robberies, Burglaries, Forgeries, and other Crimes by him Committed. Also the Method practised by Himself, and his Companion, in the Perpetration thereof. Necessary to be Perus’d by all Persons, in order to prevent their being Robb’d for the future. Dictated by himself in NEWGATE, and Publish’d at his Request, for the Benefit of the Publick. And his Speech to the Spectators at the Place of Execution. Printed and Sold by J. Applebee, in Black-Fryers, A. Dodd, at the Peacock without Temple-Bat, and E. utt, at the Royal Exchange. Price Six-Pence.

London: Printed by JOHN APPLEBEE, in Black-Fryers.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1634: John Bartendale survives hanging and burial

1 comment March 27th, 2017 Sabine Baring-Gould

(Thanks to Sabine Baring-Gould for (another) guest post. This report in Baring-Gould’s Yorkshire Oddities, Incidents and Strange Events glosses a rhyming Latin squib of Richard Brathwait‘s Drunken Barnaby’s Four Journeys to the North of England, several versions of which survive.)

JOHN BARTENDALE,
The Piper.

In the reign of King Charles I a strolling musician, a poor piper, named John Bartendale, was brought, in 1634, before the Assizes, and was convicted of felony.

He received sentence, and on March 27th was hung on the gallows, outside Micklegate Bar, York. There were no houses there at that time — it was open country. After he had remained swinging for three-quarters of an hour, and was to all appearance dead, he was cut down, and buried near the place of execution. The officers of justice had accomplished their work carelessly in both particulars, as it afterwards transpired, for he had been neither properly hung nor properly buried.

Earth has a peculiarly invigorating and restorative effect, as has been recently discovered; and patients suffering from debility are by some medical men now-a-days placed in earth baths with the most salutary effects. In the case of gangrened wounds a little earth has been found efficacious in promoting healthy action of the skin. John Bartendale was now to experience the advantages of an earth-bath.

That same day, in the afternoon, a gentleman, one of the Vavasours of Hazlewood, was riding by, when he observed the earth moving in a certain place. He ordered his servant to alight; he himself descended from his horse; and together they threw off the mould, and discovered the unfortunate piper alive. He opened his eyes, sat up, and asked where he was, and how he came there. Mr. Vavasour and his servant helped him out of his grave, and seated him on the side. The man was sent for water and other restoratives, and before long the news had spread about down Micklegate that the poor piper was come to life again. A swarm of wondering and sympathising people poured out to congratulate John the Piper on his resurrection, and to offer their assistance. A conveyance was obtained, and as soon as Bartendale was in a sufficient condition to be moved he was placed in it covered with Mr. Vavasour’s cloak, — for he had been stripped by the executioner before he was laid in the earth — and was removed again to York Castle.

It was rather hard that the poor fellow, after he had obtained his release, should have been returned to his prison; but there was no help for it. The resurrection of the piper was no secret; otherwise Mr. Vavasour would doubtless have removed him privately to a place of security till he was recovered, and then have sent him into another part of the country.

At the following Assizes, Bartendale was brought up again. It was a nice point of law whether the man could be sentenced to execution again after the Sheriff had signed his affidavit that the man had been hung till he was dead. Mr. Vavasour was naturally reluctant to supply the one link in the chain of evidence which established the identity of the prisoner with the piper who had been hung and buried for felony; he made earnest intercession that the poor fellow might be reprieved, popular sympathy was on his side, the judge was disposed to mercy, and Bartendale was accorded a full and free pardon; the judge remarking that the case was one in which the Almighty seemed to have interfered in mercy to frustrate the ends of human justice, and that therefore he was not disposed to reverse the decree of Providence according to the piper a prolongation of his days on earth.

Drunken Barnaby in his “Book of Travels” alludes to Bartendale, when he stops at York:

Here a piper apprehended,
Was found guilty and suspended;
Being led to t’fatal gallows,
Boys did cry, “Where is thy bellows?
Ever must thou cease thy tuning,”
Answered he, “For all your cunning,
You may fail in your prediction.”
Which did happen without fiction;
For cut down, and quick interred,
Earth rejected what was buried;
Half alive or dead he rises,
Got a pardon next Assizes,
And in York continued blowing —
Yet a sense of goodness showing.

After his wonderful deliverance the poor fellow turned hostler, and lived very honestly afterwards.

When asked to describe his sensations on being hung, he said that when he was turned off, flashes of fire seemed to dart before his eyes, and were succeeded by darkness and a state of insensibility.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Artists,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Executions Survived,Guest Writers,Hanged,Lucky to be Alive,Not Executed,Other Voices,Public Executions

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1894: Walter Smith

Add comment March 27th, 2016 Meaghan

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

On this date in 1894, Walter Smith was hanged at the Nottingham Gaol by executioner James Billington, for the murder of Liverpool nurse Catherine Cross.

Smith invited Cross to the lace factory where he worked so he could show her a piece of equipment he had designed. He was anxious to impress her and, while they were looking at the lace-making machine, he pulled out a gun, waved it around and shouted, seemingly in jest, “Your money or your life!” The gun went off; Catherine was hit. Smith shot her two more times, then fled the scene.

She survived for another few days, and told the police what had occurred.


Tough Sell: from the Derby Mercury, March 14, 1894

The shooter’s best defense angle was to claim an accident, citing an absence of motive, an argument that is more easily made when one has not pulled the trigger repeatedly … of the gun that one has only just bought the day before. Trial testimony indicated that Smith might have had a romantic interest in Cross and it was inferred that he killed her out of jealousy because she was already engaged to marry someone else, but the victim herself seemed perplexed as to what had occurred, and why.

Alison Bruce, writing of the case in her biography Billington: Victorian Executioner, says,

Smith’s trial lasted for three days; his defence that the gun had gone off accidentally was accepted for the first shot but unsurprisingly rejected for the following two.

Billington performed the execution without an assistant and death was instantaneous.

It had been twenty-six years since England’s last public execution, but interest in even the refraction of death’s spectacle was still sufficient at this point to jam the roads near Bagthorpe Jail (today, Nottingham Prison) with a reported 6,000 spectators whose only reward was to see the gaol hoist its black flag signifying completion of the deed.

From the Nottingham Evening Post‘s same-day coverage of the hanging:

The morning mists had not yet risen when the first portions of the crowd that assembled outside the gaol to witness the raising of the black flag took up their position near the entrance gates, but the sun was shining brightly, shining over as beautiful bit of landscape as is ot be found in the immediate neighbourhood of Nottingham. By slow degrees those mists lifted, and the scene without was fresh and cheerful, the songs of the birds adding to the charm … As time wore on the thoroughfares leading to the place became lively with people hurrying to the scene. At half-past seven crowds began to roll up in larger numbers. Some thousands had now arrived, and their general behaviour was not such as to call for very unfavourable comment. It is not too much to say that had the execution been a public one their numbers would have been multiplied a hundred or a thousand fold. It was a holiday morning. If they could not actually see the hanging they could at least witness te sign which assured them that he had paid the penalty of his crime. The elevated embankments at the four crossroads were thickly lined with sight-seers. From these coigns of vantage they could command a good view of the front of the gaol, on the top of which rested the flag-pole. Away in the distance knots of people foregathered, and hundreds climbed the stone wall in the road near the building in spite of the fact that the top had been freshly tarred to prevent mischief to quick hedges above … It was exactly at a quarter to eight when the prison bell first knelled the doom of the unhappy man, and there was an evident increase of excitement. As the last knell sounded the black flag was hoisted, signifying that the exxecution had taken place, and the crowd quickly dispersed.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Murder,Other Voices,Sex

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1889: Mark Francis and James Turney

Add comment March 27th, 2015 Headsman

LEBANON, Tenn., March 27. — Mack Francis and James Turney, negroes, were hanged at 12.23 this afternoon for the murder of Lew Martin last summer. They showed a great deal of bravado and confessed their guilt after ascending the scaffold. Francis struggled much, but Turney died instantly, his neck being broken. The execution was private, but a large number of people stood around the gallows.

Lew Martin was a half-witted, inoffensive negro. On the evening of the murder he went to church, having $7* in his possession. This he imprudently displayed, and the two men who were to-day hanged saw it. They planned the murder while sitting behind the church, and shot their victim as he was on his way home. In his confession Francis said:

We waited outside the door of the church till the crowd came out, and when Martin was about one hundred yards down the road we followed him. When we caught up with him he was walking with some of the people from the church and we fell back and waited till he got by himself. Then we caught up with him again and walked along, one of us on each side of him. Then Jim drew his pistol and shot him twice. Lew’s head fell forward and he said ‘Jim.’ Jim then turned to me and said threateningly, ‘Shoot; why don’t you shoot.’ I then shot twice, and hit Lew in the body, and Jim shot three more times, when Lew fell. We went through his pockets and found seven dollars, and Jim took four dollars and I took three. When we killed him we thought he had more money, but when we left the church I had no idea of killing him.

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 28, 1889.

* The equivalent of about $175 in 2014 dollars. (via)

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Pelf,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Tennessee,Theft,USA

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1878: The Brassell boys

Add comment March 27th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1878, Joe and Teek* Brassell were hanged in Cookeville, Tennessee.

These brothers (their eldest sibling Jim Brassell wisely bowed out of the scheme) and two other buddies got into the whiskey moonshine from the Brassells’ own home still, and decided to knock over a nearby lodging where two guests thought to be heavy with cash were staying.

So the quartet blacked up faces and turned clothes inside out by way of disguise and around midnight tromped up to the Allison Stand Inn wielding pistols.

“Don’t worry!” Russell Allison called to his guests, recognizing his onetime schoolmates. “It’s the Brassell boys!”

Great disguise.

Nothing daunted by their identities outed, the moonshine party invaded the log residence. A bedroom melee ensued, and in the course of it Teek Russell shot Russell Allison fatally in the gut; another shot only narrowly missed Mrs. Isbell, the wife of the tax collector W.J. Isbell whom the party was trying to target in the first place.** Isbell wasn’t there at all, and the whole band fled the house not a penny richer, but about to be wanted men.

The next day as Allison lay expiring from his painful wound, the Allison family rounded up its own posse and descended on the Brassell residence. Again, Teek gut-shot an Allison — Russell’s brother Joe — and killed him, too. But the rest of the posse detained the desperados and they were soon hailed to Cookeville Jail. The murder became extremely notorious in the area and the Brassells boys were easily condemned, albeit after nearly two years’ worth of legal continuances.†

We’ve liberally included these youths in our arsenic themed set. Of course, these young men worked their mayhem with firearms and not philters, but in a sense their case underscores the ubiquity of that poison for 19th century crime. Desperate to escape, even the brutally direct Brassell boys turned like dissatisfied housewives and furtive insurance adjusters to inheritance powder: in their case, they managed to have some smuggled to them in jail, which they planned to insinuate into some apples they would share with their guards while being moved between Nashville and Cookville.

As it transpired, the guards caught wind of this scheme and foiled it, along with several other jailbreak attempts. But that was the great thing about that innocuous dust: everywhere someone would profit from some other fellow dropping unexpectedly dead, the first thought was invariably arsenic!

Frustrated of this and all other exits from their grim condition, the Brassell boys at last had to face the hemp. It would be the only judicial hanging in the history of Putnam County, Tennessee, and it would not want for ceremony. The execution itself occurred on a Wednesday; on the Sabbath preceding, the local Sunday school’s curriculum included (pdf) a visit to the condemned cells, where prisoners and children sang “Let us cross over the river”.

On hanging-day itself, the boys were up early for press interviews in the jailhouse. Shortly after 11 a.m., they piled into a wagon, grabbed seats on their own coffins, and were taken under guard to the double gallows specially built for them on Billy Goat Hill. Their sister Amanda trailed the wagon, but after a farewell hug she complied with Joe and Teek’s request to leave without seeing them hang.

Amanda had plenty of time to comply. The hanging wasn’t until 1:30!

The Brassells passed their last two hours or so of life on the scaffold. As they sat under their hanging-nooses, a crowd of thousands — some estimates put it as high as 20,000; old folks in the early 20th century would still say that it was the largest crowd Cookeville had ever seen — imbibed a series of preachers and religious songs, the warnings of the condemned duo themselves, and a scene where their intended target Mr. Isbell climbed up on the platform himself and pressed the two for a confession. Joe admitted his guilt. Teek refused until the very end to do so.‡ To cap off the drama, the sheriff, hatchet in hand to chop the fatal rope, counted down the last five minutes.

It seems this whole event, from the murder to the hanging, still survives in Cookeville folklore. There’s a lengthy ballad about the Brassell boys’ crime and execution, available here (pdf). Also see this fantastically detailed web page about the crime, including a blurry restored photograph of the hanging, and this pdf roundup.

A fragment of the Brassell boys’ joint headstone can still be seen at a family plot adjacent to Upperman High School in the small town of Baxter, just outside Cookeville.

* Teek had “George Andrew” on his birth certificate.

** William Jefferson Isbell was a tax collector carrying his proceeds; he had fallen ill that day and had to stop elsewhere. The Isbells and Allisons were related through marriage.

† “Justice, when most severe to him who has offended, is always most mercifully to him who would offend,” the Supreme Court most severely ruled — admonishing the young men not to entertain any hope of reprieve. (Quoted in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 28, 1878)

‡ Teek’s obstinacy on claiming innocence when the evidence against him seemed so overwhelming led to some later speculation that he might have semi-willingly taken the rap for a different Brassell — maybe Jim, the one who supposedly bowed out of the raid, or maybe even Amanda.

Part of the Themed Set: Arsenic.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Pelf,Public Executions,Tennessee,USA

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1947: Hisakazu Tanaka, Hong Kong occupier

Add comment March 27th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1947, Hisakazu (or Hisaichi) Tanaka was shot by the Chinese Koumintang for war crimes committed during the Japanese occupation of China.

Tanaka headed the Japanese Twenty-Third Army from March 1943 through the end of the war; for the last year or so of that period, he was also the last governor of Japanese-occupied Hong Kong.

Captured in Canton at the end of the war, Tanaka was tried by the Allied occupiers for permitting the execution of a downed American airman on April 6, 1945. That unnamed airman had been tried in wartime Japan for targeting civilians during his bombing raid, a judgment that Tanaka’s tribunal vociferously disputed.

Though he drew a hanging sentence for that offense, it was not carried out: instead, the doomed general was handed over to the Chinese nationalists to answer for the depredations of his 23rd army.

No surprise, the outcome there was pretty much the same.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Hong Kong,Japan,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Shot,Soldiers,War Crimes

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2009: Two thieves in Riyadh

Add comment March 27th, 2010 Headsman

Two men were beheaded in Riyadh on this date in 2009 for bizarrely causing a man’s death in an unarmed purse-snatching.

An Interior Ministry statement says Faisal bin Fahd and Bandar bin Abdullah first stole the Chinese man’s laptop bag while he was walking. When the man tried to catch up with them, he fell and died after hitting his head on the pavement.


“Chop-Chop Square” in Riyadh, the site of public executions.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Saudi Arabia,Theft

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1836: Goliad Massacre

3 comments March 27th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1836 — Palm Sunday, as it happened — over 300 Anglo POWs fighting to separate Texas from Mexico were executed en masse outside Goliad’s fortress

Less widely celebrated than the Battle of the Alamo preceding it by a fortnight, the Battle of Coleto on March 19-20 had seen Mexican troops surround and capture another force of Texians at Goliad.

Unaware of a Mexican order issued the previous December to execute foreign prisoners,* the men under Col. J.W. Fannin — a dithering commander whose military competence didn’t quite equal his romantic aspirations — expected to be released in a matter of weeks. They were marched out this morning on some innocuous pretext and had bare moments to apprehend their impending fate before their guards mowed them down. (Fannin was individually shot apart from his troops.)

Nineteenth-century musketry was a mediocre tool for mass slaughter, especially when the targets were nearly as many as their executioners. A number of prisoners survived the volley and managed to escape the subsequent cavalry charge and bayoneting by leaping into a nearby river. A fortunate few others were intentionally preserved. This thorough site on the massacre** preserves several survivor accounts.

These memoirs also detail life in the unit and troop maneuvers that are certainly of interest; in these pages, of course, we are most drawn to the accounts of those who stared death in the face — like this (understandably melodramatic) description by Herman Ehrenberg:

Either life or death! Behind were the bayonets of the murderers, and before me was the sword of a coward that crossed my way to the saving stream. Determinedly I rushed upon him. Forward I must go, and — the coward took flight in characteristic Mexican gallantry. Now the path was open, near was the point of my escape.

Arriving at the other bank of the river, I looked around once more to where my comrades were dying, while the bullets of the still firing enemies whistled about me. The hellish exaltations of the enemy mixed with the cries of pain of my dying brothers sounded over to me. What feelings took possession of me here! I cast another look and a farewell greeting to my dead companions and turned to flee. I had to hasten if I did not wish to fall into the hands of the lancers who were now on this side of the river less than a half a mile below me.

Which makes an interesting stylistic contrast with the story of John C. Duval, similar in its events but strikingly low-key, even ironic:

Some one near me exclaimed “Boys! they are going to shoot us!” and at the same instant I heard the clicking of a musket locks all along the Mexican line. I turned to look, and as I did so, the Mexicans fired upon us, killing probably one hundred out of the one hundred and fifty men in the division. We were in the double file and I was in the rear rank. The man in front of me was shot dead, and in falling he knocked me down. I didn’t get up for a minute, and when I rose to my feet, I found that the whole Mexican line had charged over me, and were in hot pursuit of those who had not been shot and who were fleeing towards the river about five hundred yards distant. I followed on after them, for I knew that escape in any direction (all open prairie) would be impossible, and I had nearly reached the river before it became necessary to make my way through the Mexican line ahead. As I did so, one of the soldiers charged upon me with his bayonet (his gun I suppose being empty). As he drew his musket back to make a lunge at me, one of our men coming from another direction, ran between us, and the bayonet was driven through his body. The blow was given with such force, that in falling, the man probably wrenched or twisted the bayonet in such a way as to prevent the Mexican from withdrawing it immediately. I saw him put his foot upon the man, and make an ineffectual attempt to extricate the bayonet from his body, but one look satisfied me, as I was somewhat in a hurry just then, and I hastened to the bank of the river and plunged in. The river at that point was deep and swift, but not wide, and being a good swimmer, I soon gained the opposite bank, untouched by any of the bullets that were pattering in the water around my head.


The Texas state flower — the bluebonnet — blooms in front of the monument put up to the Goliad Massacre on its centennial. Creative Commons image from Matthew Lee High.

History buffs in the Goliad environs this weekend can catch the annual re-enactment of the Goliad Massacre this weekend at Presidio La Bahia.

* The order came from the top, but the general who captured Goliad had no stomach to carry it out. He asked for leniency … but received an emphatic confirmation of the execution order.

** Also see its unit rosters tracking the particular fates of most of Fannin’s men, and these biographies of the unit.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Executions Survived,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Mexico,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Texas,Wartime Executions

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