Hanged at Execution Dock 1735 - 1830

 

The High Court of Admiralty had jurisdiction over civilian crimes committed at sea and directly offshore and was established by Edward III circa 1360. It tried cases of murder, piracy and prizes (ships and goods captured at sea) and was presided over by one admiral by the early 15th century. It had a Marshall and court officers and sat at the Old Bailey.

By the 16th century it had responsibility for trying all crimes that were committed at sea or along the English coast outside the borders of individual counties, involving English merchant ship’s crews but not Royal Naval seamen.  It functioned as a criminal court up to 1834 when this role was transferred to the Central Criminal Court, however it continued to try cases involving shipping, collisions, and salvage. The Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875 saw the High Court of Admiralty merged with the other courts of England into the High Court of Justice.

 

In its role as a criminal court it dealt with capital cases such as murder at sea, mutiny and piracy and those sentenced to death by it were hanged at Execution Dock (rather than Tyburn). This was located between Wapping Old Stairs (off Wapping High Street) and Wapping Dock Stairs in east London.  The gallows was erected on the foreshore at low tide and executions were timed to fit in with low tide. For instance that of Captain John Sutherland was postponed from Monday to Thursday, June the 29th, 1809 because of the tides.

 

Condemned prisoners were brought from Marshalsea Prison in Southwark, across London Bridge, and past the Tower of London to Execution Dock. Some prisoners were housed in Newgate prison and they went via Cornhill, Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road to Wapping.  The procession to the gallows was led by the Marshal on horseback (or his deputy) carrying a silver oar, representing the authority of the Admiralty. The prisoner travelled in a cart with a chaplain and the hangman (normally the civilian executioner who officiated at Tyburn and Newgate).  Crowds lined the shoreline or hired boats moored in the Thames to get a better view of the proceedings.  Hangings were carried out in the same way as on land and in later times a “New Drop” gallows was used. After execution the body(s) were chained to a stake at the low water mark and left there until three high tides had washed over them. Somewhere between 1786 and 1814, this practice ceased. In particularly serious cases of piracy the court could order gibbeting after execution in which case the body was covered in pitch and gibbeted lower down the Thames on the Isle of Dogs or Bugsby's Hole or Reach near Blackwall, as a deterrent to passing merchant sailors.  (Gibbeting ceased in 1834 for civil and nautical crimes).  In cases of murder, after 1752, the court would order dissection (the same as for civilian murders). The criminal was taken down from the gallows when the tide had come in far enough for the water to touch his feet before being removed and sent to Surgeon’s Hall.  Just as in the procession to Tyburn, those prisoners going to Execution Dock were allowed to stop for a drink and the landlord of The Turk's Head pub supplied them with a quart of ale.

 

Between 1735 and 1830 there were 78 confirmed executions and 5 probable ones, as detailed below.

 

Year & no. of executions

Name

Crime

Execution date

1735 - 1 execution

Thomas Williams

Murder of James Beard

Fr.  14 March

 

 

 

1737 - 4 executions

Richard Coyle

Murder of Benjamin Hartley

Mo.  14 March

 

Edward Johnson

Murder of Benjamin Hartley

Mo.  14 March

 

Nicholas Williams

Mutiny on "Dove"

Mo.  14 March

 

Lawrence Sennett

Mutiny on "Dove"

Mo.  14 March

 

 

 

 

1738 - 2 executions

John Richardson

Murder of Benjamin Hartley

Sa.  28 January

 

James Buchanan

Murder of Michael Smith

W.  20 December

 

 

 

 

1743 - 1 execution

Thomas Rounce

High Treason

W.  19 January

 

 

 

 

1744 - 1 execution +

Andrew Miller

Murder of James Nelson

M  21 February

 

 

 

 

1752 - 1 execution

Captain James Lowry

Murder of Kenneth Hossack

W.  25 March

 

 

 

 

1754 - 1 confirmed

John Lancey

Destroyed the "Nightingale"

Fr.  7 June

and 1 possible execution

Thomas Powe

Aided and abetted above

Unknown

 

 

 

 

1759 - 4 executions

Joseph Halsey

Murder of John Edwards

W.  14 March

 

Nicholas Wingfield

Piracy

W.  28 March

 

Thomas Hide

Piracy

W.  28 March

 

William Lawrence

Piracy

W.  19 December

 

 

 

 

1760 - 1 execution

John Tune

Piracy

Mo.  8 December

 

 

 

1762 - 2 executions

Thomas Smith

Mutiny on the "King"

Mo.  10 May

 

Robert Main 

Piracy

Mo.  10 May

 

 

 

 

1767 - 1 execution

John Winne

Murder of a negro sailor

Tu. 10 March

 

 

 

 

1769 - 6 confirmed executions

Thomas Ailesbury

Piracy

W.  29 November

plus 2 possible where

Samuel Ailsbury 

Piracy

W.  29 November

no reprieve traced

James Hide

Piracy

W.  29 November

 

William Geary

Piracy

W.  29 November

 

William Wenham

Piracy

W.  29 November

 

Edward Pinnell

Murder of Alex Henderson

W.  29 November

 

Mark Chatfield

Piracy

Unknown

 

Robert Webb

Piracy

Unknown

 

 

 

 

1772 - 2 executions

David Ferguson

Murder of Peter Thomas

Th. 3 January

 

John Shoales

Stole ship

W.  11 December

 

 

 

 

1775 - 1 probable execution

Thomas Sawyer

Murder of William Barbet

Eo  14/11/75

 

 

 

 

1781 - 4 executions

William Townsend

Murder and piracy

Sa.  17 November

 

James Sweetman

Serving on a French Privateer

Tu.  4 December

 

Matt Knight

Serving on a French Privateer

Tu.  4 December

 

William Paine

Serving on a French Privateer

Tu.  4 December

 

 

 

 

1784 - 2 executions

Samuel Harris

Murder of John M'Neir

Sa.  13 November

"

John North

Murder of John M'Neir

Sa.  13 November

 

 

 

 

1786 - 2 executions

George Combes

Murder of William Allen

Mo.  23 January

 

William Hines

Piracy

W/Th. 15/16 Feb.

 

 

 

1787 - 5 executions

Henry Parsons

Mutiny on the "Ranger"

Mo.  14 January

 

George Steward

Mutiny on the "Ranger"

Mo.  14 January

 

Thomas Johnson

Piracy against "La Pourvoyeuse"

Mo.  14 January

 

John Ross

Piracy against "La Pourvoyeuse"

Mo.  14 January

 

John Thompson

Piracy against "La Pourvoyeuse"

Mo.  14 January

 

All 5 sentenced to be hanged in chains after execution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1790 - 5 executions

Thomas Brett

Stole off the "Dutch Hoy"

Mo.  4 January

(tried in 1789)

John Williams 

Mutiny on the "Gregson"

Mo.  4 January

 

Hugh Wilson 

Mutiny on the "Gregson"

Mo.  4 January

 

John Clark

Stole off the "Lands End"

Mo.  4 January

 

Edward Hobbins

Stole off the "Lands End"

Mo.  4 January

 

 

 

 

1792 - 3 executions

George Hindmarsh

Murder of Samuel Cowie

Fr.  6 July

 

Charles Berry  

Mutiny on the "Fawy"

Fr.  6 July

 

John Slacke 

Mutiny on the "Fawy"

Fr.  6 July

 

Berry & Slacke hanged in chains at Blackwall Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

1796 - 3 executions

Francis Cole

Murder of William Little

Th. 28 January

 

Michael Blanche

Murder of William Little

Th. 28 January

 

George Colley

Murder of William Little

Th. 28 January

 

 

 

 

1798 - 1 probable execution

George Jay

Serving the French

Eo  M  5/3/98

 

 

 

 

1799 - 1 execution

Jean Prevost

Murder of James Wilcox

Mo.  23 December

 

 

 

 

1800 - 1 execution +

James Wilson

High Treason

Eo 09/07/1800.

1 probable one (Wilson)

Thomas Potter (25)

Murder

Th. 18 December

 

 

 

 

1802 - 1 execution

William Codlin  (45)

Destroying the "Adventure"

Sa. 27 November

 

 

 

 

1806 - 1 execution

Andrew Akow  (36)

Murder on the high seas

Fr. 18 July.

 

 

 

 

1809 - 1 execution

Capt. John Sutherland  (46)

Murder at sea of Richard Wilson

Th. 29 June

 

 

(his 13 year old cabin boy)

 

 

 

 

 

1812 - 2 executions

Charles Palm

Mutiny & murder at sea

Mo. 21 December

 

Samuel Tilling

Murder on the high seas

"

 

 

 

 

1813 - 2 executions

James Bruce

Murder on the high seas

Mo. 4 January

 

Moses Wiltshire

High Treason (open hostility)

Fr.  30 July

 

 

 

 

1814 - 6 executions

Martin Hogan

Murder

Mo. 24 January

 

Panjang

Murder on the high seas

Th. 15 December

 

Moodie  (14)

Murder on the high seas

"

 

Sootoe

Murder on the high seas

"

 

Cadern

Murder on the high seas

"

 

Munoo

Murder on the high seas

"

 

 

 

 

1816 - 4 executions

John Gillam

Murder

Tu. 30 January

 

William Brockman (40)

Murder

"

 

Robert Smith

Murder at sea

Th. 21 November

 

Charles Furney

Murder at sea

"

 

 

 

 

1817 - 4 executions

John Pierie

Piracy

Tu. 7 January

 

Jonas Norburgh

Piracy

"

 

Daniel Brace

Piracy

"

 

William Hastings

Piracy

"

 

 

 

 

1820 - 1 execution

John Pater

Murder at sea

Tu. 1 February

 

 

 

 

1830 - 2 executions

William Watts

Piracy

Th.  9 December

 

George Davis

Piracy

"

Eo = execution ordered for the specified day.  It cannot be confirmed that it was carried out.

 

Back to Contents Page