Provincial Hangings

Saturday, 21 March 1719   On Wednesday last . . . near 100 prisoners were carried from the Marshalsea in Southwark, to be try’d at Guilford Assizes for the County of Surry, among which are eight highwaymen, and a good number of house-breakers, and other notorious offenders, whose tryals will be printed by J. Read, Printer of this Paper: This being the greatest assizes that has been known for many years in Surrey. (Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)

27 March 1722   At the Assizes lately held at Gloucester, 10 malefactors received sentence of death, whereof 7 were for burglary; also John Coopey, a baker, for poisoning a servant maid he had got with child, by giving her a cake mix’d with arsenick; James Woodward for the highway; and William Stanmore for horse stealing. (Daily Post)

     Yarmouth, June 10, 1736.
THE case of Elizabeth Tompson, who was executed here yesterday, is like to make a great noise, whether she be innocent or guilty; for, in short, her conduct and way of life ever since she was fifteen, is so notoriously wicked, and her bad actions so many, that it requires a longer time than I have at present to set forth. The vile way in which her mother prostituted her, and the many enormities she committed after that prostitution, are to well known in this part; but the grand particulars against her are her own behaviour, whilst she, in her mother’s name, kept the Bird in Hand. The house was one intire scene of all extravagance and vice, swearing, whoing, drinking, cheating, and all the vilest debauchery, tending to corrupt the morals of youth, were practised there. Seldom less than 7 or 8 loose women attended there, to prostitute themselves on all occasions. The house was seldom cold, and at all times there was a fresh supply, and nothing a libertine could desire was wanting there, till the Dutchman was murdered. Her behaviour, on her examination by the Coroner, was insolent, and tho’ confronted by circumstantial evidences, as the blood on the floor, curtains and bed, yet she braved all the evidences, and it was with some difficulty the Coroner could be brought to commit her to gaol. Her beahviour in gaol was of a piece with that abroad, all insolence and threats; nothing but oaths and execrations proceeded from her; but her behaviour at her trial, between trial and execution, out-did even herself. After sentence she denied being guilty of any one sin whatever, but rashness of speech and swearing; and this she persisted in, till she was fully convinced the warrant was signed for her execution, and then, tho’ very late, she said she was guilty of all crimes whatever, but murder, in which she persisted to the last. At the gallows she was exhorted, in the strongest and most pathetick terms, by Dr Macro and the other Ministers then attending her, to make a confession of her crime; but all would not do, she stood it out with the boldness of the most abandon’d wretch. She declared aloud, like a Fury, she pardoned some; but being asked if all, she hesitated and made no answer. She then said, she hoped her ignominious death would be no reproach upon her mother, for that she was as good and honest a woman as any one who was at her execution (which every one, at least all that knew her, were convinced was false). The Psalm was then sung, but she would not join in it; the clergy left her, the Gaoler tied her arms fast, and the Executioner put the halter about her neck; but he putting it a little too far before, she called to the Gaoler, and said, Am I to be butcher’d to death! and as he put the halter right, then she parayed by herself; the cap was pulled over her face, and immediately she called out, Let me jump, let me jump, and thereupon the cart drove away; and as the cart was going, she called out, stop, but too late; for she took a Sally, and fell into Eternity. How can we judge of this unhappy wretch? It is impossible to determine; for her life and conversation have been so very bad, that most people believe her guilty; but time, the discoverer of all things, must make the truth appear. (Daily Gazetteer, 22 June 1736)

27 August 1736
Salisbury. Wednesday August 18. William Turner, a lad about 13 years of age, servant to Mr Thorpe the late Jail Keeper, was found hanged in the cellar with both his hands resting on a barrel and his feet on the floor; notwithstanding which he was dead. — A Malefactor being executed here the day before, ’tis thought he did it only out of curiosity to try how it was. (Daily Gazetteer)

23 September 1736
On Thursday last Thomas James was executed at Gloucester for returning from transportation: He was about 28 years of age, born he knew not where, and very illiterate. ...
     At the place of execution he appeared very obstinate and inflexible, and could not be prevail’d on by any importunities of the Under-Sheriff and Ordinary, to make a confession of his crimes. After he was turn’d off, several persons having wens in their necks, made application to the Sheriff to receive the stroking or laying on of the dying man’s hands, with the agonizing sweats appearing thereon, in order to reduce the swelling; and after bearing his hands on their necks whilst he hung, they seemed so well satisfied with the apprehensions of a cure, or some comfortable relief by this means, that at their departure they severally returned thanks to the Sheriff. (Daily Gazetteer)

5 October 1736
Two notorious horse-stealers, viz. Thomas Ellington and William Groves, who lately received sentence of death at Reading, but had the good luck to be reprieved in order for transportation, and being shortly to be shipp’d off at Bristol for the Plantations in America, have thought it convenient to equip themselves with a little money before their departure; to that purpose, they have wrote circular letters to many persons in different counties, to let them know, on the payment of five shillings for every horse, where they are to be met with, who by that means have had them again, except several whose horses are so remote in distant counties, they have not thought it worth while to see after them; ...
     Those fellows confess they followed their business so industriously, that they have stolen forty horses in a fortnight, in company with one Thomas Jones, who they call their Master, and well known by the name of the Old Quaker; he affected the manner, dress and stile of the people of that profession, by which hypocrisy, the unwary, the more readily bought his stolen horses; but what is the most remarkable of him, he turn’d evidence against his two servants Ellington and Groves, on their being all three apprehended in Berkshire; and as they received sentence of death, he was discharged; but immediately following his old trade, he was again apprehended and committed to Chelmsfort Goal in Essex, and executed there the 18th of Aug. last. (Daily Gazetteer)


29 March 1737
Norwich, March
26. On Monday last, between twelve and one, James Blade alias John Johnson, John Painter alias Hall, and William Wright, were executed on a gallows set up for them on the Castle-Hill: They all went drest in their shrouds, with the burial-caps stitched under their chins, and without shoes and stockings; but surely three such stupid and indolent wretches hardly ever swung out of the world together before.

     John Blade, alias John Johnson, alias Black Jack of the West, was about 41 years of age, born in the City of York; his father was a ship carpenter, and would have brought him up to that business, but he always had a greater inclination to travel, which he continued, till he fell into a gang of smugglers, amongst whom he found he lived well, and spent a great deal of money; when that trade failed, he took the highway, deer-stealing, and other wicked practices. Last Sunday he acknowledged a robbery he committed about 4 years since, at Stanfield High-Green, near Mileham, at the sign of the King’s-Head, kept by one Joseph Juliers, from whom he took in money and goods to the value of 20l. and would have murdered the people, if he had not been persuaded from it by a man he hired to be his accomplice. After that he kept fairs in Norfolk, with the unlawful game of Pricking at the Girdle, or Old Hat, also the Thimble and Balls, and a new invented game called, The Black Joak, one of the greatest cheats that ever was invented. He acknowledged the fact for which he died, to the minister the morning before the execution, but would say nothing at the gallows.
     John Painter was about 35 years old, born at Wiversham near Downham, of very poor, but honest parents, who died before he was 4 years old, and by the said parish was put out to nurse, and when fit for business, was put to a warrener, and served three years; after which he rented a warren at Brand, and lived with his wife and children several years, till he got into a gang of smugglers, and served them as a servant; one night he hid a parcel of tea in a blacksmith’s shop, and going for it in the morning, to his great surprize the people were up, who secured him, for which he was sent to Bury Gaol. He denied the robbing of Mr. Lome, and said the worst thing he ever did, was the stealing of rabbits, two or three dozen in a night, from other warrens that lay near him. He confessed the buying one of the horses that was stole from Watton, tho’ Black Jack said he was concerned in stealing them. He was a terror to the country poeople where he lived, who said he had ben guilty of a great many robberies to their knowledge. He died a very hardened creature.
     William Wright was born at Silem, in the county of Suffolk. All he said was, that his brother was with him when he committed the robbery he suffer’d for, which was the cutting off a woman’s pocket in the King’s highway near Dickelburgh, above six years since, adn received part of the money, which was one guinea, six shillings and six-pence, and was the only robbery he ever committed, except the stealing about a bushel of wheat out of a barn. He was a poor, stupid creature, and said nothing at the place of execution.
     After they were cut down, Painter was buried in St Michael’s at Thorn Church-Yard, but Black Jack and Wright were delivered to the Surgeons, who, I hear, are now picking their bones, in order to their being anatomiz’d. (Daily Gazetteer)

Friday, 9 September 1748   We have the following particulars relating to the three malefactors who were executed last Thursday at Pennenden Heath near Maidstone, according to their late sentence at the Assizes at Rochester. – John Dodd the coiner was drawn on a sledge, the Hangman marching before him with a drawn sword in his hand. – William Potter for smuggling, since the last Act; and both seemed very penitent, acknowledging their punishment to be just, and begg'd to be forgiven as they forgave all the world. – Thomas Foreman had murder'd his fellow servant, and behaved very rudely the morning a little before he went into the car; and when he came on the Heath, he told the people that they need not be in a hurry, for there could be nothing done till his cart came, with several other flighty expressions, which did not become a person in his unhappy condition: But when the rope was put about his neck, he cry'd very much, and (he being very young himself) begg'd all young people to be very dutiful to their parents, for his not being so was the occasion of his coming to such a fatal end; and begg'd forgiveness of all whom he had offended, as he forgave every-body.
         Dodd was buried under the gallows; Foreman's friends took his body away in a cart, and carried him to Yalden for his interment. Potter's friends took his body, pack'd it up in a hop-pocket, laid him on a pillion behind a man on a horse, and carried him to Benenden, to bury him there. (General Advertiser)

Tuesday, 20 September 1748   Bristol, ... Last Wednesday Richard Biggs, for the murder of his wife, was executed on Odd-Down, about a mile from Bath, in sight of the house where he liv'd, and was afterwards hung in chains. A vast multitude of people attended his execution. During his confinement in Ilchester Goal, he behaved in a very sullen manner, regardless of death, but troubled at the thoughts of being hung in chains; for when the smith went to the Goal to measure him, in order to make his irons, he flew in a passion, and refus'd him. – The manner of murdering his wife appears very shocking, her head, breast, arms, legs, and thighs, were covered all over with bruises, and wounds; and her lower parts greatly swelled black; and after exercising this cruelty, he flung her dead body into the river near Bath. (General Advertiser)

22 September 1748   Newcastle ... On Saturday last Adam Graham of Lochmaben was executed at Kingmoor near Carlisle, for the murder of Christopher Haliday, of West-Water, near Langholm. He confessed many other crimes besides that he suffer'd for. He was afterwards hung in chains, and nails drove into the gibbet, to prevent his friends cutting it down, and carrying off his body. (General Advertiser)

27 September 1748   Bristol ... We have this to add, relating to the execution of Richard Biggs, last Wednesday se'nnight, that after he had been on the ladder a short time, the Hangman attempted to fix the rope about his neck; when on a sudden he came down, and threw himself upon the ground, where he lay in a helpless manner. As it would have been a difficult matter to have got him up the ladder again; so it was judged proper to tie the rope to one of the rungs; and he was put on a rose's back, and from thence dragg'd off. – As he hung very low, he could not easily be seen; which was a disappointment to, perhaps, twenty thousand spectators, that came a great many miles to see him suffer. – When dead, his body was put in irons, and fixed on the gibbet: His behaviour all along was very sullen. – He was about 32 years of age. (General Advertiser)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Provincial Hangings", 2 December 2003, updated 4 April 2007 <>

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