The ending of public executions in the 19th century.


Public punishments such as whippings, the stocks, the pillory, but particularly executions, were always very popular with the general public and were normally well attended events.  In the days before newspapers and when few of the populace could read, they also served a practical purpose of allowing the inhabitants of a town to see justice done and hopefully be deterred from committing crime.  In some cases, judges would order the execution to be carried out at the scene of the crime for this reason. See the case of Sarah Malcolm for an example.


Up to the end of the 18th century, executions were very much a spectator sport for all classes of society, the wealthy as well as the poor. Seats in Mother Procter’s Pews, open galleries like modern grandstands at a football stadium, which gave a good view of the proceedings at London’s Tyburn were much sought after and very expensive.  Two shillings (10p) was a lot of money in the 1700’s.  There was a house overlooking Tyburn, with iron balconies, from which the Sheriffs of the City of London and Under Sheriff of Middlesex watched the executions with their invited guests.  After the move to Newgate at the end of 1783, these events still attracted huge numbers of spectators and the better off would rent roof tops and rooms in houses opposite the Debtor’s Door to get the best view.


Where the criminal was unusual, the execution could be guaranteed to draw huge crowds.  Such was the case with 39 year old Henry Fauntleroy who was the managing partner at Marsh, Sibbald & Co, a failing Marylebone bank, who had been convicted at the Old Bailey on the 30th of October 1824 of large scale forgery.  Fauntleroy was convicted of trying to defraud the Bank of England of £5000 in 3% annuities, belonging to a Mr. Francis Young.  His case got wide coverage in the newspapers of the day due to his social status and his alleged immoral behaviour.  Fauntleroy confessed to the crime and claimed his motive was to try to prop up the bank.  It was claimed by others that the motive was to support his lavish life style and many girlfriends.  It is thought that the crime for which he suffered was just one of many similar offences that had netted him a huge sum of money over several years.

There was considerable effort made to secure a reprieve and unusually further legal argument prior to his execution, but to no avail.  This hanging of a “gentleman” at Newgate, just after 8 o’clock on Tuesday, the 30th of November 1824, was a major event to be watched by an estimated 100,000 people.  It was reported that just three minutes elapsed between Fauntleroy leaving his cell and being suspended.  He writhed on the rope for a moment before James Foxen, the hangman, pulled down on his legs, so ending his suffering. A broadside was produced giving an “Account of the Execution & Dying Behaviour” of Fauntleroy, whilst another purported to be his “Sorrowful Lamentation” and a third was an account of his trial.  Two more gave details of the execution, such was the interest in the case.


Ordinary people would walk for miles to watch an execution and by the 1850’s, special trains were laid on to take them to the county town, as happened at Stafford on Saturday, the 14th of June 1856 for the hanging of William Palmer.  In many counties, executions were held on market days to enable the largest number of people to see them and school parties would be made to attend as a moral lesson, something which is certainly recorded as happening at Lancaster Castle.  Public houses and gin shops always did a very brisk trade on a hanging day.  In many counties, executions were carried out around noon to give the local people time to get there.  Such was the case at Bury St. Edmunds when William Corder was executed (see below). Thus, many were more or less inebriated before the proceedings began, still a recipe for rowdiness and bad behaviour.


By the 19th century, newspapers had become more widely available and would carry detailed accounts of trials and executions.  There was also a flourishing trade in execution broadsides which were normally single sheets of paper with the details of the crime, trial and punishment of the criminal, often including the "last true confession" and lament of the condemned person.  They generally had a stylised woodcut picture of the execution scene, modified as required to suit the sex and number of prisoners. The only problem with them is that as they were usually printed before the execution, they could not accurately describe an event that hadn’t yet happened and indeed may not actually happen at all, as it was not unknown for the criminal to be reprieved after the broadside had gone to print.  One wonders how much of the other verbiage they contained was pure speculation and invention on the part of the printers, particularly the always popular “last true confession”.  However, the public lapped them up.  It is reported that some 2,500,000 broadsides were printed for the execution of Maria and Frederick Manning. Here is a picture of one from Scotland, dated December 1821, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.  It is interesting to see the writer’s attitude to the public hanging of a woman by this time.  Margaret Shuttleworth had murdered her husband but was not treated to the execration that she would have been a few decades earlier. If the broadside is to be believed, there seemed to be considerable public sympathy for her.  It is worth noting the almost theatrical nature of the proceedings, with a psalm being sung, prayers offered on the gallows and a speech being made by Margaret herself.  

The Illustrated Police News, first published on the 20th of February 1864, was a very popular tabloid style publication in the later Victorian era, largely replacing the broadside and packed with prurient details of the latest murder cases and executions.  High quality drawings were included of the murder scene, the criminal and the execution. Sometimes there were also little tableau’s of the crime or the murderer’s supposed dreams prior to their hanging.


Photography had only just come into existence in the 1850’s, but it was not possible to print photographs in newspapers of the day.  In fact, I am not aware of any photograph of a British public execution.  To compensate for this lack of pictorial information, death masks were made of famous criminals after execution and put on display. William Corder, who was hanged on the 11th of August 1828 for the shooting of Maria Marten in the famous “Red Barn Murder,” had a cast taken of his head after death, which can be seen at the Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St. Edmunds, the town where the execution took place.  Photo here.  A book about his trial was bound in his own skin! This had been removed during his dissection and tanned. 

William Palmer’s death mask can still be seen at Shugborough Hall in the County Museum of Staffordshire.  The death mask of William Burke, who was executed in Edinburgh on 28 January 1829, clearly shows the indentation in the neck left by the noose.  The mask of Robert Smith, the last man publicly executed in Scotland, is preserved in the collection of a museum in Dumfries. A contemporary newspaper court reporter described Smith’s face thus, “his face indicates susceptibility to fits of extreme passion, it is not of the low criminal type”. 


Phrenology was very much in vogue in the 19th century although it was considered by many to be a pseudo-science.  The concept was that the shape of a person’s head and the lumps and bumps of their skull would give an insight into their personality.  Studying casts of the heads of executed murderers should tell us more about them.  It didn’t!


Madame Tussaud’s waxworks would buy the prisoner’s clothes from the hangman and other artefacts to display in many cases, to add reality to the wax figures.  The Chamber of Horrors was very popular with visitors, then as now, and new figures were put on display with amazing rapidity whilst there was still public interest in their case.  This practice continued well into the 20th century.


The move to abolish public executions.

Efforts to reduce the number of capital crimes and thus executions had been going on from the end of the 18th century and during the first 40 years of the 19th century had met with considerable success.  In the five years from 1828 – 1833, executions still averaged over one a week in England and Wales, although the distribution of them throughout the country was very uneven.  London and the Home Counties had the most whilst there were just two in the whole of Wales.

There was little mood in the country for outright abolition of capital punishment however.  So, as this was clearly unattainable, the next step of the anti-capital punishment lobby was to campaign for the ending of public executions, something strongly supported by the Quaker movement and influential people such as the authors Charles Dickens and William Thackeray as well as much of the press.  It seems that watching public executions had become unfashionable with the upper middle classes who no longer went to them.  A parallel can be drawn with smoking.  Growing up as child in the 1950’s and 60’s it seemed that everyone smoked - now it seems to be far less prevalent, especially among the more wealthy members of society.  The “great and the good” have never been happy about ordinary people enjoying overtly morbid pastimes such as watching a criminal strangling on the end of a rope! There is no doubt that both sexes did enjoy a "good hanging" and there was general disappointment expressed if the criminal died too easily, as William Palmer did.  Where the criminal was female, the proportion of women in the crowd was often reported to be higher.  One gets the impression that the campaign to abolish public executions had far more to do with the fact that the lower classes enjoyed them, than out of any consideration for the feelings and sufferings of the prisoner.

It was not unknown for public hangings to end in tragedy and not just for those being hanged.  Crushing injuries and fainting were quite common place as the crowd pressed forward to get a better view.  On Monday 24 February 1807, however, things were going to be very much worse.  Three murderers were to die at Newgate that morning, Owen Haggerty, John Holloway and Elizabeth Godfrey.  The two men had been convicted of killing John Cole Steele whilst Elizabeth Godfrey had fatally stabbed her neighbour Richard Prince.  The trio had been tried at the Old Bailey Sessions on 18 February 1807.  The execution proceeded quite normally with the drop falling at around 8.15 am. 

The execution of three murderers, one of whom was female, was quite an unusual event and had attracted a larger than usual crowd.  As they surged back and forth, there were cries of “murder, murder” as people began to be trampled and crushed.  The worst affected area was Green Arbour Lane, nearly opposite the gallows.  As was normal at hangings, there were various street vendors selling refreshments.  One pie seller had his basket of pies perched on a stool which was overturned in the melee causing more people to fall and be trampled.  A 12 year old boy, by the name of Harrington, who had gone to watch the execution with his father, died here, although his father survived and was taken to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.  A woman who was nursing a baby passed it over the heads of the crowd enabling it to be rescued.  Sadly, she was trampled to death a few moments later.  In another part of the crowd, a cart collapsed under the weight of spectators and several of its occupants died. 

The authorities were powerless to help the injured and dying because they simply could not reach them.  It was only after the gallows was drawn back into Newgate that the area could be cleared to reveal the full extent of the tragedy. No less than 27 bodies were discovered at the scene and there were a further 70 people requiring hospital treatment.  A temporary mortuary was set up at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital to enable relatives and friends to identify their loved ones.  An inquest opened the following day which concluded on the Friday with a verdict "That several persons came by their death from compression and suffocation."  It is unclear whether the authorities took any actions to prevent a recurrence of this tragedy but no similar problems were subsequently reported.


It has often been stated that public executions actually encouraged crime, particularly offences such as pick pocketing, then known as privately stealing from a person.  It seems reasonable to believe this as when individuals are concentrating on the drama unfolding on the gallows above, they are off their guard and thus easy prey.  Prison chaplains claimed that many of those subsequently hanged turned out to have previously witnessed one or more executions.  Clearly they did not have the deterrent effect that had originally been hoped for. 


Victorian England was full of hypocrisy and whilst there might be publicly expressed disgust in the press at the behaviour of spectators at executions, privately people loved every prurient detail.  Executions had several obvious advantages to the individual’s conscience, they were a perfectly legal form of sadistic and voyeuristic entertainment, as the victims were criminals after all and one could justify taking the family to watch the hanging because one was going to see justice done. It was also a good moral lesson for the kids!


Progressively, attitudes to public hangings were changing between 1800 and 1868.  At the beginning of the century, hangings were attended by all classes of society.  By the end of the period, it was no longer fashionable to be seen at these events.  Whether the propaganda of the abolishionists was having the desired effect on the middle and upper classes is unclear, or whether it was the Victorian notions of morality that had come to fore and people had become embarrassed to admit to going to watch a hanging. 

There were exceptions to this though, such as the execution of 23 year old Swiss born valet, Francois Benjamin Courvoisier, at Newgate on 6 July 1840.  He had murdered Lord William Russell and his execution was attended by members of the nobility. The author and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray attended Courvoisier’s hanging and spent some hours prior to it in observing what he described as a good natured crowd.  There were many young people of both sexes present and he formed the opinion that some of the teenage girls were prostitutes.  Charles Dickens was also there and had hired a spot with a good view of the gallows. Thackeray and Dickens were born within a year of each other, in 1811 and 1812 respectively.
The crowd’s excitement rose as the hour of execution arrived and there were the usual shouts of “hats off” when Courvoisier was brought out.  Thackeray records in “Going to see a man hanged” that he could not bring himself to look upon the final scene and that he had flashbacks of the execution for two weeks afterwards, such was the impression it had made on him.  This was to be the sole hanging at Newgate in 1840.  Several broadsides were printed in this case outlining the trial, confession and execution.  Forty years earlier it was possible to watch multiple hangings here, for instance, on the 5th of June 1800, seven men were to share the drop with a further three the following month.  By the 1840’s, they had become rare events and therefore probably of far greater public interest. 


Charles Dickens seemed to enjoy watching executions and had attended a guillotining in Rome on Saturday, the 8th of March 1846.  Again, he railed against the behaviour of the crowd but it did not stop him going to witness such spectacles himself.

The most famous execution at Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Surrey was that of Maria and Frederick Manning who were hanged there on the morning of Tuesday, the 13th of November 1849.  Click here for a detailed account of this case.  Their execution which took place on the flat roof of the prison gatehouse was attended by a huge crowd, estimated at between 30 and 50,000 people.  It was reported that some of the wealthier women present, used opera glasses to get a better view of the proceedings.  There was considerable comment on what Maria wore, a fashionable black satin dress and veil.  Black satin apparently went out of fashion and stayed that way for the next thirty years!
They were hanged side by side a little after 9 o’clock by William Calcraft.  The execution passed off without incident but led to angry outbursts in the Times newspaper from Charles Dickens deploring the behaviour of the crowd.  In one letter to the paper he wrote, "I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger Lane this morning. I believe that the a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the crowd collected at that execution this morning."  "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 than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world."

The hanging of William Bousfield outside Newgate on the 31st of March 1856 did not go well.  Twenty nine year old Bousfield had killed his wife, Sarah and their three children with a cut throat razor which he then turned on himself sometime in the night of the Saturday or Sunday, the 2nd or 3rd of February.  Finding that he hadn’t been able to commit suicide he went to Bow Street police station and gave himself up at, telling a startled PC Fudge that he had murdered his wife.  An investigation of their home revealed the dead children.  Bousfield was tried at the Old Bailey a month later, on the 3rd of March and was quickly convicted.  On the eve of his execution, Sunday the 30th of March, he attempted suicide by throwing himself on the fire in the condemned cell sustaining facial burns before he could be removed by warders.  His face was bandaged up and he had to be carried to the scaffold the following morning for his appointment with Calcraft.  The drop fell as usual but somehow managed to get his feet back onto the side of the platform and had to be pushed down again by one of the warders, as Calcraft had gone from the gallows as a threat had been made to kill him the previous day.  He was called back to find that Bousfield had again got his feet back onto the platform and in the end had to jump down and hang on Bousfield’s legs to complete the execution.  Hardly a dignified ending and not one that went down well with spectators.

Another famous author to be, Thomas Hardy, was just 16 when he first went to watch a hanging and was able to secure a good vantage point in a tree close to the gallows.

The criminal was Elizabeth Martha Brown(e) who was to die for the murder of her husband, John.  She was hanged by Calcraft outside Dorchester Gaol at 9 o'clock on a rainy Saturday morning, the 9th of August 1856, before 3 - 4,000 spectators.  If this does not sound a large number, it is worth noting that at the 1801 census, the population of Dorchester stood at 2,402 and had only risen to 9,000 by the end of the century.  Elizabeth Brown behaved with courage and dignity at the end and although 45 years old, was still a good looking woman.  Hardy recalled "what a fine figure she showed against the sky as she hung in the misty rain, and how the tight black silk gown set off her shape as she wheeled half round and back”.  It made an impression on him that lasted until old age, he still wrote about the event in his 80’s. It was to provide the inspiration for his novel, “Tess of the D'Urbervilles,” first published in 1891.  It seems possible that Hardy found something erotic about the execution and particularly her writhing body in the tight dress and facial features partially visible through rain soaked hood.  This execution caused a leading article in the Dorset County Chronicle advocating the abolition of the death penalty.  She was the last woman to be publicly executed at Dorchester and only three more men were to suffer here in public prior to 1868.  A detailed account of this case is here.


1864 was an unusually busy year for hangings at Newgate.  Firstly, there were the five ”Flowery Land Pirates” on the 22nd of February, followed by John Devine on the 2nd of May and 23 year old Charles Bricknell on the 1st of August.  But the case that was to make the headlines and capture the public’s interest was Britain's first railway murder which occurred on the 9th of July 1864.  There was considerable concern about the safety of train travel at this time. 
The person convicted of the crime was a German tailor called Franz Muller, a man in his early 20’s.  Sixty nine year old banker, Mr. Thomas Briggs, was travelling from Fenchurch Street station by the North London Railway train to Hackney on that Saturday evening after dining with relatives.  Two clerks travelling home got into a first class carriage at Hackney and noticed that it was empty and that there was blood on the window and floor.  They alerted the guard and a search of the compartment revealed a blood stained hat, a bag and a walking cane.  In the meantime, a body had been discovered on the tracks.  At this point, Mr. Briggs was still alive although unconscious and was taken to a nearby pub for attention.  Sadly, he never recovered consciousness.  He was identified and it was found that his gold pocket watch and chain were missing, but strangely there was quite an amount of money still on him.

The pocket watch was found by police at a jeweller’s shop in Cheapside, the owner, Mr. John Death, remembering that it had been brought in by a young man with a German accent.  The hat was also traced directly to its purchaser, Franz Muller.  The police went to Muller’s address and found that he had escaped on a ship bound for the USA.  Chief Inspector Richard Tanner and his sergeant, George Clarke, took a faster ship and arrived in New York two weeks before Muller got there.  Here he was arrested and after some negotiation with the American authorities, returned to Britain to stand trial at the Old Bailey on the 27th of October 1864. before Mr. Baron Martin.  The jury took just 15 minutes to find Muller guilty.  He was hanged outside Newgate on the 14th of November 1864 by William Calcraft.  The execution went smoothly and was attended by a huge multitude, whose behaviour was, as had now become the norm, condemned at least by the Times and the Sporting Times newspapers.


There was always the danger that public executions would make martyrs of the victims and this was to be the case in the hanging of three young Fenians at the New Bailey Prison in Salford on Saturday, the 23rd of November 1867.  William Allen, William Gould and Michael Larkin had been convicted by a Special Commission of the murder of police sergeant, Charles Brett, during a successful attempt to release two Fenian leaders, Thomas Kelly and Timothy Deasy from a prison van transporting them across Manchester on the 18th of September. 

Sergeant Brett was in reality shot by accident.  He was inside the van and his assailants demanded that he open the door, which he refused to do.  Instead, he looked through the keyhole to get a view of the situation just as one of them fired a bullet into the lock which passed though his head.  Although there seems adequate proof of this chain of events, it does not amount to manslaughter, in law, as the killing occurred as part of another serious crime.


On the eve of the execution, large crowds gathered just to see the gallows which had been erected on the Friday morning immediately outside a large gap that had been made in the prison wall.  The gallows had to be protected by police and 72nd Highland Regiment was on hand the following morning to ensure that there would be no rescue for the three condemned men.  In all, it is estimated that there were 2,500 police and soldiers on duty.  Calcraft officiated as usual and the three men became still soon after the drop fell.  It is interesting to note from a contemporary drawing of the scene how little the 8,000 or more spectators would have actually been able to see of the hanging bodies.  The front of the gallows had a fence up to about chest level and the area beneath the platform was draped in black cloth to hide their struggles from view.  Once the drop had fallen, all that would have remained visible would have been the hooded heads and shoulders of the three men.  This arrangement was quite typical for the time.

These executions provided the Fenian movement with the martyrs they sought and also brought them wide press coverage, mostly condemnatory.  The three became national heroes in Ireland and America and were dubbed the “Manchester Martyrs”.  There were huge funeral processions across Ireland for them, with an estimated 60,000 people attending the one in Dublin. 


In conclusion, it is fair to say that at best these public displays were a source of ribaldry, drunkenness and crime and at worst, the cause of serious loss of life. One tends to feel that Charles Dicken’s comments on the execution of the Mannings summed up the situation very well.


The last public executions and the legal changes that led to their abolition.

The decade from 1850 to 1859 had just 95 executions, the lowest 10 year total yet.  A further 115 men and 5 women were to die in public between the 1st of January 1860 and the 26th of May 1868.  Twelve men and one woman were hanged within prisons in the remainder of the decade, giving a total of 133 for the 10 years.


The Criminal Law Consolidation Act of 1861 reduced the number of capital crimes to four, murder, high treason, piracy and arson in a Royal Dockyard, (this was a separate offence, not high treason).  In reality, except for four executions for attempted murder, this act was more of a tidying up exercise as nobody else had been hanged for a crime other than for murder since 1837.

The 1864 Royal Commission on Capital Punishment sat for two years and concluded that there was no case for abolition of the death penalty but did recommend ending public executions. (Franz Muller, above, was hanged whilst the committee was sitting).

In the Spring of 1868, England and Scotland carried out their last public executions.  In Wales, the last one had been two years earlier when 18 year old Robert Coe was executed outside Cardiff prison on the 12th of April 1866 for the murder of John Davies.  Joseph Bell became the last person to die in full public in Scotland when he was hanged at Perth on the 22nd of March of that year.

The last public hanging of a woman and also last public execution at Maidstone prison took place at midday on Thursday the 2nd of April 1868 when twenty five year old Frances Kidder suffered in front of the prison.  She had murdered Louisa Kidder-Staples, her 12 year old step-daughter. Frances had married William Kidder, who had Louisa and a younger child by his previous relationship and whom Frances deeply resented.  Only Louisa lived with them and Frances consistently abused her. On 24 August 1867, she had taken Louisa to visit her parents in New Romney and also took one of her own children with her.  Frances' parents went out and while they were away, Frances drowned Louisa in a ditch, having to hold the struggling child under as the water was only a foot deep.  She claimed afterwards that they had fallen into the ditch together when they were frightened by passing horses.  She came to trial on Thursday, 12th March 1868 at the Spring Assizes in Maidstone before Mr. Justice Byles. The prosecution brought in evidence of the abuses of Louisa and of previous threats to drown her. Frances maintained her story of the two of them being frightened by the horse and of Louisa falling into the water, from which she claimed she had tried to rescue her. This was rejected by the jury, after just 12 minutes deliberation. 
The execution was set for exactly three weeks later.  In the condemned cell she confessed to the prison chaplain.  Kidder had to be helped up the steps onto the gallows and held on the trapdoors by two warders where she prayed intently while Calcraft made the final preparations.  She struggled hard for two or three minutes after he released the trap and was described by the reporters, who witnessed her hanging, as having "died hard".  An estimated 2,000 people, a lot of them women, had come to watch her final agonies.  Click here for further details


The Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act received its third reading in parliament on the 11th of May 1868.  The following day Robert Smith was executed outside Dumfries prison but the authorities ensured that the public saw very little. This was the last nominally public hanging in Scotland.  Nineteen year old Smith had raped and strangled 9 year old Thomasina Scott in a wood near Annan.


England’s last fully public hanging was to be that of Michael Barrett at Newgate.  Twenty seven year old Barrett originated in Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, and was another member of the Fenians (Irish Republicans).  He was convicted of causing an explosion at the Clerkenwell House of Detention in London on the 13th of December 1867, in an attempt to free Richard O'Sullivan Burke, a Fenian Brotherhood member.  The bomb blew a huge hole in the prison wall, destroying and damaging several houses opposite the prison in Corporation Lane.  The blast killed seven innocent people and injured many more. This was one of the first Irish bombings on English soil. Six people were arrested but Barrett was the only one to be convicted at the Old Bailey on 6 April 1868 on one specimen charge of murder in respect of the death of Sarah Ann Hodgkinson who lived at No. 3a Corporation Lane, the house most severely damaged by the blast.  Poor Sarah had received a huge cut to her neck that extended from in front of her right ear to the cheek, her scalp was cut with glass and one of her major veins severed, causing death from haemorrhage and suffocation.  Unusually for the time, a government commission was set up to review the case prior to the execution, hence the abnormally long period between the trial and the hanging.  This concluded that Barrett had been correctly convicted and that his alibi defence of having been in Glasgow at the time was false.

Barrett was hanged by William Calcraft shortly after 8 am on Tuesday, the 26th of May 1868, dying without a struggle. It was reported in The Times newspaper that there were a great many members of the lower classes, including young women with children present at this execution and that the crowd stretched past St. Sepulchre’s Church and almost into Smithfield, such was the interest in it.  The Times celebrated the fact that this hanging would be the last such vulgar public display (their editorial opinion). 

Three days later, on the 29th of May, the Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act came into force ending public hanging as such, and requiring all future executions to be carried out within prisons.  It further required that the sheriff or under sheriff, the governor, the prison doctor and such other prison officers as were needed had to be present. 

The prison doctor was required to examine the prisoner after execution to verify that life was extinct and to sign a certificate to that effect to give to the sheriff.

The sheriff, and the governor and the prison chaplain were required to sign a declaration to the effect that judgment of death had been executed on the prisoner.
This Act allowed the governor of the prison and the sheriff of the county in which the execution took place the discretion to admit newspaper reporters and other witnesses, including the victim’s relatives to the hanging.


In the drafting of the Act, no thought had been given to the Channel Islands and so it was just over seven years later when Britain’s last public hanging took place.  On the 12th of August 1875, Joseph Philip Le Brun was executed by William Marwood at St Helier, Jersey for the murder of his sister, Nancy.  This was the only public execution by the measured drop ever seen in Britain.  The law in Jersey did not fall into line with England until 1907.  Their next and first private execution was that of Thomas Connan at St Helier on the 19th of February of that year for the murder of Pierre Le Guen.


There can be no doubt that the prison and police authorities were very pleased to see the end of public executions as they required considerable crowd control and seemed to encourage crime and bad behaviour.  There was also a large financial saving for individual county authorities as they no longer had to provide police and javelin men or meet the costs of erecting the gallows for each execution.


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