special thanks to Michael Stern for his help with this article.
convey the impression that large numbers of children were hanged for minor
crimes such as theft during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the surviving
records, e.g. the Ordinary’s Reports from Newgate, do not support this.
However, the laws of the time did not accept the concept that children and
teenagers did not know the difference between right and wrong and the age of
criminal responsibility was just seven years. There was also a strong
presumption against those who committed murder for gain, murder by poisoning or
brutal murders, especially of their children or their superiors. Mandatory
death sentences had to be passed on 7 -13 year olds convicted of felonies but
equally routinely commuted.Girls were
typically hanged only for the most serious crimes whereas teenage boys were
executed for a wide range of felonies.
the youngest child executed in England
was John Dean who was convicted of arson at the Abingdon Assizes on the 23rd of February 1629.His age is given in “The Annals of Windsor”
as between eight and nine years and he had set fire to two houses in Windsor.It would appear that the judge, Mr. Justice Whitelock, found evidence of malice, revenge and cunning
and therefore did not recommend a reprieve for the boy.
Alice Glaston, aged 11, who was one of three prisoners hanged on 13 April 1546
is almost certainly the youngest girl to have been executed.Her burial is recorded by Sir Thomas Botelar, a vicar and former Abbot of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. He
says she was interred in the ParishChurch there, before the
door of the Lady's Chapel.The crimes committed by these three was not specified.
It has been suggested that the youngest children ever
hanged in Britain were Michael Hamond and his sister,
Ann, whose ages were given as 7 and 11 respectively in "The History of
Lynn" written by William Richards and published in 1812 (page 888). In
other accounts they were referred to as “the boy and the girl” as they were
both small. Research into parish baptism records by Michael Stern reveals that
these two were almost certainly 17 and 20 years old respectively which is much more likely, as there are no other recorded instances
of small children being executed at this time.They were allegedly hanged outside the South Gate of (Kings) Lynn on Wednesday, the 28th of September 1709 for an
unspecified felony. It was reported that there was violent thunder and
lightning after the execution and that their hangman, Anthony Smyth, died
within a fortnight of it.
records often did not give the age of defendants sentenced to death and in some
cases the only guide to their age is how old they told the Ordinary they
thought they were.Registration of
births was not required prior to 1837.Executions of teenagers were not reported in early newspapers, where
they existed, so it is not easy to trace all of the executions of juveniles in
the 18th century. Here are some reliable examples, rather than a conclusive
list. Please also look at the Tyburn records for
On Monday 12th of March 1716 William Jennings (also given as Jenkins and Atkins)
was hanged at Tyburn for housebreaking.His age was reported as just 12 in a newspaper of the time, but there is
no Ordinary’s report to corroborate this.
Sixteen year old Thomas Smith was hanged at Tyburn on Wednesday, the 25th of April 1716
together with William King who was 18, also for housebreaking. Edward Elton was
hanged there the following year for the same offence.
teenagers were hanged at Tyburn on Monday, the 20th of May 1717. They were 18 year old Martha
Pillah (also Pillow) who had been convicted of
stealing in a shop, 17 year old Thomas Price and 18 year old Joseph Cornbach for housebreaking and 17 year old Christopher Ward
old James Booty suffered at Tyburn on Monday, the 21st of May 1722 for the rape of a five year
18th March 1738, sixteen year old Mary Grote (also given as Troke
and Groke) was tied a hurdle and drawn along in a
procession behind a cart containing two men, John Boyd and James Warwick, to
Gallows Hill on the outskirts of Winchester in Hampshire. Here she was held
until the two men had been hanged before being led to a large wooden stake
nearby. She was chained to this and bundles of faggots placed round her.
The executioner would have endeavoured to strangle her with a rope noose before
igniting the fire and reducing the hopefully unconscious girl to ashes.
Mary had been convicted of the Petty Treason murder, by poisoning, of her
mistress, Justine Turner.
old William Duell was hanged, along with four others,
at Tyburn on the 24th of
November 1740. He had been convicted of raping and murdering Sarah
Griffin and was to be anatomised after execution. He was taken to
Surgeon’s Hall for this but signs of life were discovered and he was revived
and later had his sentence commuted to transportation.
year old Catharine Connor went to the gallows at Tyburn on Monday the 31st December 1750 for
publishing a false, forged and counterfeit Will, purporting to be the Will of
Michael Canty, a sailor in the Navy, on October the
29th of that year. She told the court that she could neither read nor
write and that the forgery was made by a Mr. Dunn, although she was present at
the time. Catherine was one of fifteen prisoners to hang that day.
Morton, aged fifteen, was hanged at Gallows Hill, Nottingham
on the 8th of April 1763
for the murder of the two year old child of her employer, John Oliver.
Susannah Underwood was hanged at Gloucester on Friday the 19th of April
1776 for setting fire to a barn and a hay stack at Longhope on 31st
January 1776.The Hereford
Journal newspaper criticised the bad manners of the 15 year old girl for
refusing to shake hands with her master at her execution, but did not criticise
the authorities for hanging her.
On Saturday the 16th of September 1786,
seventeen year old Susannah Minton suffered for arson at Hereford before a large number of
onlookers. She had been convicted of “voluntarily and maliciously setting
fire to and burning a barn, the property of Paul Gwatkin,
in the parish of Kilpeck on the 11th of November 1785.” She
had been tried at the Lent Assizes but was respited to the Summer Assizes,
possibly because she had claimed that she was pregnant.
Sarah Shenston, an eighteen year old, was hanged at Moor Heath on
the outskirts of Shrewsbury
in Shropshire on Thursday, the 22nd of March 1792. She
suffered for the murder of her illegitimate male child whose throat she had cut
immediately after birth, on the
30th of September 1791.
Dorset Lent Assizes in Dorchester in March
1794, fifteen year old Elizabeth Marsh was convicted of the murder of her
grandfather, John Nevil. In accordance with the
provisions of the Murder Act of July 1752 she was required to be hanged two
days later, which would have been a Sunday, a day on which executions were not
permitted. As was normal the judge in her case delayed sentencing her to
the end of the Assize on thus giving her an extra day of life. Elizabeth would have been
kept in chains and only allowed bread and water between sentence and execution.
She was hanged on Monday the 17th of March and was the first person to be
executed outside the new CountyGaol in Dorchester.
Her body was afterwards given to local surgeons for dissection.
Nineteenth century - public hangings. Children,
like adults, continued to be sentenced to death for a very large number of
felonies up to 1838 although it was normal for younger children to have their
sentences commuted for the less serious crimes as there was increasing public
disquiet about hanging children. There is little actual evidence of anyone
under 14 years old being hanged in the 19th century, despite what you might
read in some books to the contrary. As stated earlier, executions were
decreasing rapidly, both for adults and young offenders after 1838, as the
number of capital crimes reduced and public attitudes changed.
following are confirmed cases of the execution of young people in the 19th
century, but cannot be considered definitive as the ages of prisoners were
still not always recorded:
year old Sarah Lloyd
was executed at Bury St. Edmunds on the 23rd of April 1800 for stealing in the dwelling house
of her mistress, Sarah Syer, at Hadleigh
on 3rd October 1799.
She and her boyfriend had stolen some jewellery and also started a fire in the
aged sixteen was found guilty of the murder of Charles Proctor, aged sixteen months,
by feeding him a spoonful of arsenic at Royston in Hertfordshire. She expiated
her crime on the “New Drop” gallows outside Hertford prison on Thursday the 31st of July 1800,
watched by a large crowd.
Duffield, aged 17,was hanged at the Bowling Green, Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire
on the 6th of April 1801
for the murder of 11 year old Anne Morgan. Duffield was afterwards hanged in
chains at Tavernspite. He was the last juvenile to
suffer this fate in the 19th century.His execution and gibbeting cost Pembrokeshire £20 7s & 4d.
year old Mary Morgan was hanged at Presteigne in Radnorshire in 1805 for the
murder of her illegitimate child. She had become pregnant after being seduced
by a member of the local gentry in Presteigne and then abandoned by him. She
was found guilty of the killing and sentenced to death on Thursday, the 11th of
April, her execution taking place two days later on Saturday the 13th, as was
required by law at the time, with her body to be dissected afterwards. There
are two memorial stones to her in the churchyard at Presteigne.
On the 6th of May 1806, 15 year
old Peter Atkinson suffered at YorkCastle for cutting and
maiming Elizabeth Stockton.
year old Mary Chandler was hanged at LancasterCastle on the 9th of April 1808 for
stealing in a dwelling house.
Fletcher, aged 19, was hanged on the roof of Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Surrey on the
5th of April 1813 for child murder.
On the 22nd of March 1819, 16
year old Hannah Bocking became probably the youngest
girl to be executed in the 19th century when she was publicly hanged outside Derby’s Friar Gate Gaol
for the murder, by poisoning, of Jane Grant.
old Henry Lovell was hanged at Newgate on the 26th of November of the same year
for highway robbery.
teenage boys were executed together for highway robbery outside Newgate in
March 1821, James Reeves who was 17, Joseph Johnson 18 John Davis who was also
old William Thompson was hanged at Newgate for highway robbery on the 25th of September 1821
and 16 year old Benjamin Glover was hanged in Somerset on the 1st of May 1822 for stealing in a dwelling
old Giles East was executed at Surrey’s Horsemonger Lane
prison on the 20th of
January 1823 for raping a little girl.
Catherine Kinrade, aged 19, was hanged alongside her lover at
Castle Rushen on the Isle of Man
on the 18th of April 1823
for the murder of his wife.
old John Smith was hanged at Newgate on the 20th of June 1825 for a house burglary.His partner in crime, William Mills (age 22)
was condemned but reprieved.
Charles Melford, aged 17, suffered together with his 21 year old
brother, William, for housebreaking on the 12th of March 1828 at Newgate. Three days later
18 year old Moses Angel was hanged at Fisherton Anger
for the murder of Daniel Blake.
On the 13th of May 1828, 18
year old Russell Brown was hanged at Newgate for highway robbery.
Cook, aged 16, was hanged at Chelmsford's
Springfield Prison on the
27th of March 1829 for arson, having set fire to the premises of
William Green, the farmer for whom he worked as a cow hand.
old William Jennings became the last person to be hanged at Gallows Hill,
Appleby in Westmoreland when he was executed on the 23rd of March 1829 for the rape of Agnes Corothwaite.
30th of March Martin Slack went to the gallows at York for the murder of his bastard daughter.
A boy of
just nine was reputed to have been hanged at Chelmsford for arson on the 5th of August 1831, but it is
probable that William Jennings was actually 19.
Thomas Crowther, aged 18, was hanged outside Newgate for highway
robbery on the 22nd of July
17 year old
Thomas Turner suffered for the rape of nine year old Louise Blisset
at Worcester on
the 13th of August 1830.
old Thomas Slaughter was hanged at Worcester
on the 25th of March 1831,
for setting fire to a hayrick.
old John Any Bird Bell was executed on the 1st of August 1831 at Maidstone
for the murder of 13 year old Richard Taylor. John and his 11 year old brother,
James, killed Richard Taylor for the sum of nine shillings (45p) which he was
collecting from the Parish on behalf of his disabled father. They were tried on
Friday, the 29th of July and because the second day after sentence would have
been a Sunday, John was hanged on the Monday using the "New Drop"
scaffold, erected outside Maidstone prison. Bell was probably the
youngest person to be hanged in the 19th century. In 1833, a boy of nine was
sentenced to death at Maidstone Assizes for housebreaking but was reprieved
after public agitation.
Higgins, aged 19, was hanged at Coventry
for the murder of her uncle on the
11th of August 1831.
1832 saw year
olds hang in four days. Daniel Middleton was one of three men to die for
the rape of Sarah Kempster at Salisbury on the 20th, while James Addington suffered for arson at Bedford on the 24th.
16 year old
Sylvester Wilkes was executed at Dorchester on
the 30th of March 1833
Thomas Knapton, aged 17, was hanged at LincolnCastle
on the 26th of July for the rape of 19 year old Frances Elstone.
old William Marchant suffered at Newgate on the 8th of July 1839 for the
murder of Elisabeth Paynton.
Murray, aged 18 was hanged at Chester
on the 24th of April 1841
for the murders of Joseph & Mary Cooke.
old Joseph Wilkes was hanged at Stafford, also
for murder on the 2nd of April
Downing and Charles Powys, aged 19 & 17 respectively went to the gallows at
Stafford for murder on the 25th January 1845.
Foster was one of two teenage girls publicly hanged in the period from 1840 -
1868. She was just seventeen years old when she poisoned her husband,
John, to whom she had been married for only three weeks at Acton near Sudbury in Suffolk.
The hanging was carried out on Saturday
the 17th of April 1847 by William Calcraft on the New Drop gallows,
erected in the meadow outside Bury St. Edmunds Gaol. A crowd of some ten
thousand people had turned up to see it and Catherine made a speech from the
platform imploring other girls not to follow her example and to stick to her
four teenage executions out of a total of seventeen in England and Wales that
year. The first was 17 year old Thomas Malkin who was
hanged at YorkCastle
for the murder of Ester Hannan on the 6th of January 1849.
George Millen, also 17, was executed at Maidstone
on the 28th of March for the murder of 82 year old Mr. Law. James
Griffiths (18) suffered at Brecon on the 11th of April for killing Thomas
The fourth of this series of executions was to be the last of a teenage girl in
On the 20th of April 1849
18 year old Sarah Harriet Thomas suffered at Bristol for the murder of her mistress. She
was hysterical at the end and even Calcraft was noticeably upset by her
execution. Sarah was the last of nine teenage girls hanged between 1800 and
old William Flack was hanged at Ipswich on the 17th of August 1853 for
murdering Maria Steggles.
Munroe, also 18, was executed at Carlisle on the 13th of March 1855 for
the murder of Isaac Turner.
Edwards (18) was executed at Maidstone on the 20th of August 1857 for
killing his brother, Thomas.
year old Charles Normington was hanged at York on the 31st f
December 1859, for killing Richard Broughton.
On the 11th of April 1863,
Robert Burton, aged 18, was hanged at Maidstone
for killing 8 year old Thomas Houghton.
Robinson, also 18, suffered at Stafford on the 9th of January 1866. He
had murdered Harriet Seager.
Private hangings 1868 - 1899.
Eighteen 17-19 year old boys were hanged between 1868 and 1899, although no one
of a younger age.
The first private hanging in Britain
was that of 18 year old Thomas Wells, who was hanged by William Calcraft at
Maidstone Prison on the 13th
of August 1868 for shooting his boss, the station master, at Dover
Priory railway station. Wells was hanged in the former prison timber yard, out
of site of the cell blocks and nearby houses. Like so many of Calcraft's victims he died a slow and painful death.
Just under a month later the second private execution in England was
carried out when nineteen year old Alexander Mackay was hanged at Newgate on
the 8th of September for the murder of his employer.
William Mobbs, also nineteen, was hanged at Aylesbury on the 28th of March 1870 for
the murder of a nine year old boy.
On the 13th of August 1872,
nineteen year old Francis Bradford was one of three murderers to hang at Maidstone.
The 4th of January 1875 saw the execution
of seventeen year old Michael Mullen at Liverpool
for murder. Nineteen year old John Stanton was hanged at Stafford on 30th of March 1875 for killing his uncle.
year old John Swift was one of three young men to be hanged at Leicester Gaol
on the 27th of November
1877 for the murder of Joseph Tugby.
Abigail, aged nineteen, was hanged at NorwichCastle on the 22nd of May 1882 for
the murder of Mary Plunkett. Bernard Mullarky,
also nineteen, suffered at Liverpool on the
4th of December that year for killing Thomas Cruise.
10th of March 1884, seventeen year old Michael M'Lean
was hanged at Liverpool (Kirkdale) for the
murder of a Spanish sailor, Exequiel Rodriguez Nunuiez.
year-old Joseph Morley was executed at Chelmsford
on the 21st of November
1887, for the murder of a young married woman.
On the 2nd of January 1889 18
year old William Gower and 17 year old Charles Dobel
suffered at Maidstone for the murder of B. C.
Lawrence who was the time-keeper at Gower’s workplace.Dobel was the last
person under 18 at the time of the crime to suffer the death penalty.
old Richard Davis was hanged for the murder of his father at Crewe
on the 2nd of April 1890.
His 16 year old brother George was also convicted of the murder but reprieved
due to his age.
three nineteen year olds executed. They were William Williams who was hanged at
Exeter on the
28th of March for the murder of Emma Doidge. John
Hewitt who was hanged at Stafford on the 15th of August for killing William Masfen and George Mason who was executed at Winchester on
the 6th of December for the murder of Army Sgt. James Robinson.
a triple execution at Winchester
on the 21st of July 1896,
one of the prisoners being eighteen year old Private Samuel Smith who had
murdered Corporal Robert Payne.
teenager to hang in the nineteenth century was eighteen year old George Nunn at
Ipswich on the 21st of November 1899 for the murder of
Eliza Dixon, a married woman whom Nunn had attempted to rape.
The Children's Act of 1908 stipulated for the first time a minimum age for
execution of 16 years, however there is no record of
anyone under the age of 18 being hanged in the 20th century, although quite a
few 18/19 year old males were executed. The last juvenile to receive the death
sentence was 16 year old Harold Wilkins. He was condemned at Stafford
Assizes on November the
18th, 1932 for the sexually motivated murder of Ethel Corey, but
reprieved on the grounds of his age. The law was changed the following year by
the Children and Young Persons Act in 1933 which raised
the minimum age to 18 years.
year olds were hanged in the 20th
century. They were Henry Julius Jacoby on the 7th June 1922 at Pentonville, for the murder
of Alice White. Arthur Bishop on the 14th August 1925 also at Pentonville for
the murder of Francis Rix.
In 1941 it
was decided that persons of 18 but under 19 would normally be reprieved,
however Armin Kuehne aged 18 according to his
birth certificate (of which I have a copy) was hanged together with Emil Schmittendorf
(31) at Pentonville on Friday, the 16th of November for battering to death
Gerhardt Rettig in a P.o.W.
camp near Sheffield because they believed he
had betrayed them over an escape plan.
Francis Forsyth ,aged 18, became the last teenager to
be executed in England &
when he was hanged, together with 23 year old Norman Harris for the murder of
Allan Jee at Wandsworth on the 10th of November 1960.
The last teenage execution in Scotland took
place at Barlinnie Prison on the
29th of December 1960 when Anthony Miller, aged 19, was hanged for
the murder of John Crimin.
17 nineteen year old males were hanged for murder in England during the 20th century.
John Charles Parr on the 2nd October 1900 at Newgate.
Charles Ashton on the 22nd of December 1903 at Hull.
James Clarkson on the 29th March at Leeds.
Ferat Ben Ali on the 1st of August 1905 at
Jack Griffiths on the 27th February 1906 at Manchester.
George Newton on the 31st January 1911 at Chelmsford.
Edgar Bindon on the 25th March 1914 at Cardiff.
Jack Field on the 4th February 1921 at Wandsworth.
Charles Cowle on the 18th May 1932 at Manchester.
John Stockwell on the 14th November 1934 at Pentonville.
John Daymond on the 8th February 1939 at Durham.
Edward Anderson on the 31st July 1941 at Durham.
William Turner on the 24th March 1943 at Pentonville.
John Davidson on the 12th July 1944 at Liverpool.
Farrell on the 29th March
1949 at Birmingham
Mills on the 11th December
1951 at Lincoln
Derek Bentley on the 28th January 1953 at Wandsworth.
teenage girls were condemned to death during the 20th century, although all
were reprieved. 17 year old Eva Eastwood was convicted of murder and robbery in
December 1902. Susan Chalice, also 17 was convicted of the murder on an
infant child in July 1904. 18 year old Catherine Smith was sentenced in Scotland in
1911, also for the murder of an infant child and 18 year old Rosalind Downer
for the same offence in London
in 1918. Elizabeth Humphries, also 18, was convicted of child murder in
1933. 18 year old Elizabeth Marina Jones was convicted with her American
soldier boyfriend of a robbery murder in London
in 1945, for which he was hanged. In 1952 Edith Horsley, another 18 year
old, spent time in the condemned cell at Birmingham’s
Winson Green prison for murdering an infant.