19th Century Executions.Part 1

The Surrey Gaol and Session House. As we can see above, there was a gibbet over the main gate of the prison where the condemned were hanged on Sundays in front of large crowds. These spectacles continued until 1874
Epsom & Ewell Local & Family History Centre
Charles Dickens
The first recorded instance of drawn and quartering was in 1241 (William Marise) and the last, May 1, 1820, when John Brunt, William Davidson, James Ings, Arthur Thistlewood and Richard Tidd were hung and beheaded, the government commuting the other traditional components of the sentence.
The forgery of Bank of England Banknotes was not uncommon in the early 19th Century as the simple design of the Banknotes was such that imitation was relatively easy as can perhaps be seen from the following illustration of a £2 note of the time.
The Swing Riots were a widespread uprising by agricultural workers; it began with the destruction of threshing machines in the Elham Valley area of East Kent in the summer of 1830, and by early December had spread throughout the whole of southern England and East Anglia
The first threshing machine was invented in 1784. By 1830, its use was spreading through the country and the machines had reached Kent and the Isle of Thanet. Their use meant that fewer men would be needed and there would be less income for the labourers.
Rioters during the unrest of November 1830, which affected several rural communities throughout Hampshire.
Life in the early nineteenth century was cheap. Death could be more profitable.
A Knight of the Road


On the 4th April 1801 a multiple execution saw five men standing on the scaffold. These executions were taking place at the Surrey County Gaol in Horsemonger Lane. At this time the Gaol was better known as the ‘New Gaol.’ The Surrey border in the north eastern part of the County bordered with the city of London. In 1889 this part of Surrey became part of the City of London.

The new Gaol became famous for the hanging of felons on the roof of the gaol. This then gave the general public an excellent view of these hangings. Going to a public hanging was a big social event and was discussed days before the actual event. On this day hundreds of people turned up to watch the sad end of five human beings.

Those men being hanged were Thomas Hazard, John Sims, both convicted for highway robbery which was an automatic hanging offence. Then there was William Brown who had been convicted of a number of burglaries. Standing next in line was Joseph Carvill who had been convicted of stealing 58 sheep from a farm at Cuddington. The fifth man in the line was Jimmy Day who was a well known local thief. He had been arrested as he broke into a dwelling house in Rose Street, Covent Garden. Soon after his arrest his home was searched and four rolls of calico were recovered. This had been stolen by Day the previous March. Strangely, it was for this particular raid that Day was being hanged.

The crowd fell silent as the five men met their ends.

Charles Dickens account of a public hanging

Dickens’ letter to The Times Nov. 13, 1849

I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger Lane this morning. I went there with the intention of observing the crowd gathered to behold it, and I had excellent opportunities of doing so, at intervals all through the night, and continuously from day-break until after the spectacle was over… I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun. The horrors of the gibbet and of the crime which brought the wretched murderers to it faded in my mind before the atrocious bearing, looks, and language of the assembled spectators. When I came upon the scene at midnight, the shrillness of the cries and howls that were raised from time to time, denoting that they came from a concourse of boys and girls already assembled in the best places, made my blood run cold. As the night went on, screeching, and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies on negro melodies, with substitutions of ‘Mrs. Manning’ for ‘Susannah’, and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned, thieves, low prosti-tutes, ruffians, and vagabonds of every kind, flocked on to the ground, with every variety of offensive and foul behaviour. Fightings, faintings, whistlings, imitations of Punch, brutal jokes, tumultuous demonstrations of indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by the police, with their dresses disordered, gave a new zest to the general entertainment. When the sun rose brightly, as it did, it gilded thousands upon thousands of upturned faces, so inexpressibly odious in their brutal mirth or callousness, that a man had cause to feel ashamed of the shape he wore, and to shrink from himself, as fashioned in the image of the Devil. When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgement, no more restraint in any of the previous obscenities, than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world, and there were no belief among men but that they perished like the beasts.


On the 17th August 1801 another four men were hung for a variety of offences. One of these four men was William Harrison, a convicted rapist.

It appears that Harrison was one of a number of soldiers serving with the 18th Light Dragoons, based at Guildford, Surrey. He had been tried for committing a burglary at the Black Lion pub. During this burglary a servant was raped. As in April vast crowds gathered to watch these four men die for their crimes. 

Two years later in 1803 a most ghastly execution took place at the gaol.

A special commission was held in which Edward Despard, a fifty year old Colonel, John Francis, an army private and twenty three year old John Wood, also an army private, aged twenty three years. Thomas Broughton, a carpenter who was twenty six years old and Arthur Graham who was fifty three years old. Were all convicted of High Treason and they were all executed on the 21st February 1803.

However, in passing sentence Lord Ellenborough having told them to stand up straight said that they were to be ‘drawn’ at the place of execution in hurdle, where they would be hanged, but not before they were dead. They were to be ‘drawn’ whilst still unconscious. They were then to be cut down and their bowels torn from their bodies and burned before their eyes. They were then to be decapitated and their bodies cut into quarters. Three other men, Thomas Newman, Daniel Tyndale and William Lander were also convicted with the other men but later reprieved.


On the 23rd March 1807, John Mycock was executed for the murder of Ann Pooley on Saturday 9th August 1806. After his execution his body was handed over to a local surgeon for dissection.

The trial opened on 20th March 1807 with Mycock and another man, John Pope both facing the charge of murdering Ann Pooley. She was an elderly recluse who lived frugally. Her sister, Sarah had last seen her towards the end of July when she took her 6 x Bank of England £2 notes. This money was the dividend paid on the stock market that Ann used to live on.

Her badly decomposed body was discovered on the 20th August. She was found lying on her back on the kitchen floor of her home. Her left leg was bent under her body. Her clothes had not been disturbed except for her pockets, which had been searched. Every room in the house had been searched. It appeared that entry to the house was gained by removing a number of bricks in the wall of the house near the wash room.

Thomas Griffin, a friend and corn porter reported his suspicions to the Police and Mycock and Pope were quickly arrested. Pope was quickly overcome with remorse and confessed everything incriminating Mycock for the murder. Pope readily agreed to give evidence against Mycock and in return was promised a ‘Free Pardon.’

Pope told the Police that they searched the house and found some gold and silver as well as the bank notes and some copper coins. The total value of their haul amounted to £90 which they divided equally

Having been just told of his fate by the Judge, Mycock replied ‘Thank you for that, I’m done snug enough.’ 


On the 4th April 1809 four men were executed, John Biggs and Samuel Wood for burglary, Henry Edwards, convicted of Highway Robbery and James Bartlett who had been found guilty of sodomy.

The hangman reported that as he placed the noose around Brigg’s neck, he said ‘I wish you had a better office.’ After Bartlett had been executed his body was handed over to his family and buried. In his will he left £1,500 to his daughters.


On the 10th April 1820 a triple hanging took place on the roof of the gaol when William Cain had been convicted of burglary while Henry Payne and James Woolwich were both convicted of sheep stealing.


On 10th January 1831 James Warner was hung for the offence of Arson which took place on 14th November 1830.

In late 1830 the countryside of south east England was in turmoil. There was widespread looting as agricultural workers were experiencing severe job shortages, reduced wages and increased prices for the staple foods. These workers attacked the wealthy farmers and destroyed their expensive mechanised machinery. These machines were destroying the workers jobs.

The clergy didn’t escape either and were attacked. They benefitted by taking a levy from the local harvests, this was a custom left over from the days of the tithes.

On the night of the 14th November the outbuildings of Mr. Simpson’s far were set alight and quickly burned furiously. Local people came to help and as a result some of the property was saved. A few days later a large haystack was set alight on a nearby farm. Once again neighbours helped to put out the fire and part of the haystack was saved. However, this was just a diversion as a much larger fire was started. Fortunately the fire brigade were quickly on the scene and the damage was restricted to a couple of stacks of corn.

Meanwhile the authorities were coming down hard on the offenders who were arrested. Some of them received the death sentence while others were reprieved. The records show that nine people were executed. Just one man was convicted of arson and hanged for the offence. However, there is little doubt that his own loose mouth was the main cause of his arrest, conviction and execution.

James Franks a farmer woke up at 4.30am on the 14th November to hear the sounds of a fire, looking from his window he saw his corn mill burning. He saw a man in the light of the flames and thought it looked a bit like James Warner.

Warner was seen drinking in a local pub and was duly arrested.

At his trial he pleaded ‘not guilty’ and called upon a witness. The Jury returned to court after a short while and convicted him of the arson.

During the morning of his execution he was in a state of collapse and had to be carried to the scaffold where he was duly hanged. 


On the 22nd August fifty year old Edward Hogsden was executed for the rape of his 17 year old daughter, Harriet on the 27th July 1831.

At 4am on the morning of the 27th July Harriet was in bed, her baby by her side, when she heard her mother leave the cottage to go to work. She worked for the local farmer, Mr. Hugget. About two hours later, Harriet woke again as her father returned home and went to bed. His mother had recently died and he had buried her in the churchyard the previous day. He had spent the night in the churchyard keeping a vigil on her grave. There was a huge problem with ‘body-snatchers’ at that time.

After a few minutes Harriet heard her father leave his bedroom and moments later he climbed into her bed, demanding to have sexual intercourse with her. She pointed to her bay by her side, of which her father was the baby’s father. She told him that if he made her pregnant again she would not survive. However, he totally ignored her and against her wishes, he raped her. After having intercourse he got up and dressed in readiness for work. He also worked on the farm for Mr. Huggett.

After Harriet was sure he had left for work she had now decided she couldn’t cop any longer with what was going on with her father. She sent her sister to fetch her mother to whom she revealed what was going on, she said ‘ this has been happening for several years.’

A local magistrate was told and immediately issued a warrant for her father’s arrest.

After his arrest the magistrate said ’have you anything to say?’ He replied’ she is no daughter of mine. I admit I had a connection with her, but she was always agreeable to it.’

At the trial, Hogsden described Harriet as an immoral girl and claimed several years earlier he had returned home and discovered her in bed with a packman. In answer to a question he admitted that he had been having sex with her since she was 9 years old.

The Jury took just a few minutes to find him guilty and he was duly sentenced to death.


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Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.


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