Frances Kidder became the last woman
to be hanged in public when she was executed by William Calcraft at Maidstone on the 2nd of April 1868 for the drowning of her
stepdaughter. After the passing of the Capital Punishment Amendment Act of
1868, all executions had to take place within the walls of county prisons. Priscilla Biggadyke becoming the first to suffer this fate, later
in that year.
Forty one women were hanged within the walls of British prisons up till 1955,
including three in Ireland,
two before independence and one afterwards. Twenty three of these executions
were carried out in the 19th century and 18 in the 20th century. There were two
double hangings (Flanagan and Higgins and Sach and Walters), five women were
hanged alongside male prisoners. The men were either co-defendants or
completely unrelated ones who had been condemned at the same Assize. The
remainder were all executed individually. Women, like men, were normally
executed in the prison of the county in which they were convicted. In London, five hangings
were carried out within Holloway women's prison after the closure of Newgate.
There were no female executions in Northern Ireland and only one in Scotland (Susan
Newell). Those hanged prior to 1875 when William Marwood took over from
Calcraft and Anderson, were given a short drop and typically died by
strangulation. Those who suffered after Edith Thompson in 1923 were made to
wear canvas underpants.
Where the name of the woman is hyperlinked below, there is a full article on
her case, where a prison name is hyperlinked, there is a short article about
her under that prison's history.
Margaret hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Strangeways
prison in Manchester
on Wednesday, the 12th
of January, 1949.
Margaret "Bill" Allen was a 42 year old "butch"
lesbian who battered elderly widow Nancy Ellen Chadwick to death with a
hammer. Mrs. Chadwick had been her neighbour and had irritated her in
various ways. She readily confessed to the police and was convicted after
a short trial. This was the first female execution in England
for 12 years.
Ansell, Mary Ann
hanged by James Billington at St. Albans
on Wednesday, the 19th
of July, 1899.
Mary Ansell came from a family with a history of mental illness and was
convicted of poisoning her sister, Caroline (who was a patient in Leavesden Asylum), with a cake laced with phosphorus
so that she could claim £11 life insurance. She was 22 at the time of her
death and confessed to her crime in the condemned cell.
Barry, Mary Ann
hanged at Gloucester
by Robert Anderson (Evans) on Monday, the 12th of January, 1874.
Thirty one year old Mary Ann Barry was executed alongside her partner in
crime, 32 year old Edwin Bailey, for the poisoning murder of his
illegitimate one year old child, Sarah, whom they considered a nuisance.
With them on the gallows, set up in the quadrangle of Gloucester Gaol, was
Edward Butt, who had shot his girlfriend. Mary became the last woman in England to
suffer short drop hanging and reportedly struggled for some three minutes
on the rope and had to be forced down into the pit by Anderson.The two men became still almost
hanged by James Berry at Walton prison Liverpool on Monday, the 14th of March, 1887. Thirty one year old
Elizabeth Berry poisoned her 11 year old daughter for £10 life insurance.
It was an unusual coincidence that the executioner and the criminal had
the same surname and had also actually met previously when they danced
together at a police ball.
Priscilla, was hanged at
on Monday, the 28th of
December, 1868, at Lincoln
by Thomas Askern for poisoning her husband with arsenic. It was alleged
that she killed him because he discovered she was having an affair with
one of their lodgers. Thirty five year old Priscilla was the first woman
to be executed in private in Britain. She ascended the
steps to the platform where she said "Surely all my troubles are
over" and "Shame on you, you are not going to hang me." But
Askern did, in his usual clumsy way and she reportedly died hard.
Mary Ann was executed by James Berry at Strangeways
on Monday, the 9th of
August, 1886, becoming the first woman to be hanged there.
Thirty eight year old Mary Ann Britland was convicted of poisoning Mary
Dixon, with whose husband she had been having an affair. She had also
previously poisoned her own husband, Thomas and daughter, Elizabeth.
hanged by Tom Pierrepoint at Exeter
on Thursday the 15th of
Charlotte Bryant (33) was convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic.
She was having an affair with their lodger and it seemed a simple way to remove
her husband from the scene. Whilst awaiting execution, her previously
black hair turned completely white.
hanged by Tom Pierrepoint at Strangeways prison Manchester on Thursday, the 24th of June, 1926.
Louie Calvert, also 33, had criminal tendencies and was known to the
She battered and strangled her landlady, Mrs. Lily Waterhouse, who had
confronted her over things that had gone missing from the house and had
reported Louie to the police.
In the condemned cell, she also admitted to the murder of a previous
employer - John Frobisher - in 1922. She was the first woman to be hanged
at Stangeways since Mary Ann Britland in 1886.
Ada, hanged at Newgate prison in London
by James Billington on Tuesday,
the 6th of March, 1900.
Twenty four year old Ada Chard-Williams was convicted of drowning a small
child whom she had "adopted" for a few pounds. She was suspected
of killing other children and was another "baby farmer."She was the last woman to hang at
Newgate, subsequent female executions in London taking place at the newly
converted women's prison at Holloway.
Styllou, hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at London's Holloway
women's prison on Monday,
the 13th of December, 1954.
Styllou Christofi, 53, was a Greek woman who brutally murdered her German
born daughter-in-law, Hella, by battering her
and then strangling her. Afterwards, she tried to burn her body. It is
thought that she had also committed another murder in Cyprus.
She asked for a Maltese Cross to be put on the
wall of the execution chamber and this wish was granted - it remained
there until the room was dismantled in 1967. Coincidentally, the murder
was committed in the same street where a few months later Ruth Ellis was
to commit hers - SouthHillPark,
Camden in London.
Catherine. Fifty five year old Catherine Churchill was hanged by William
Marwood at Taunton
on Monday, the 26th of
May, 1879 for the murder of her husband, 82 year old Samuel
Mary Ann, hanged by William Calcraft, assisted by Robert Anderson, at Durham on Monday, the 24th of March, 1873.
Forty year old Mary Ann Cotton was Britain's first female serial
killer and until recently held the record for the greatest number of
murders - all by poisoning with arsenic. Although only convicted of the
murder of her stepson, she is suspected of 14-15 murders. 21 people who
had been close to her had died in the preceding
Cotton was pregnant with her seventh child at the time of arrest and trial
and the execution had to be delayed until after she had given birth, as
was the usual custom. However, because of her pregnancy, there was a
petition for her reprieve. This was denied and she was hanged in the
prison yard. Newspaper reporters who witnessed the execution reported that
she struggled hard for about three minutes after the trap fell.
Mary. 40 year old Mary Daly was hanged by William Billington at Tullamore prison in Ireland on Friday, the 9th of January, 1903
for the murder of her husband John. Her co-accused, Joseph Taylor, was
executed two days earlier.
Elizabeth, hanged by James Billington at Newgate prison
on Wednesday, the 10th
of June, 1896.
Amelia Dyer (57) was hanged for the murder of 4-month old Doris Marmon, a
baby who had been entrusted to her care, having received £10 to look after
This particular form of murder was known at the time as "Baby
Farming" and it is thought that Dyer had murdered 6 or more other
babies for money. Each baby had been strangled with white tape, which as
she told the police, "was how you could tell it was one of
hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Holloway prison, North
London on Wednesday,
the 13th of July, 1955.
Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be executed in Britain -
for the murder of her boyfriend David Blakely, who had refused to see her
over the Easter of 1955.
She lay in wait for him outside the Magdala pub
and when he came out, shot him 5 times with a revolver. She was arrested
immediately by an off-duty policeman and equally quickly convicted by an
Old Bailey jury. Her execution caused a great deal of public controversy
at the time.
Catherine. 55 year old Flanagan was hanged at Kirkdale prison, Liverpool by Bartholomew Binns, side by side with
her sister, Margaret Higgins (see below) on Monday, the 3rd of March,
1884. Binns was assisted by Samuel Heath as it was a double execution.
Margaret, Monday, the 3rd of March, 1884.
Flanagan and Higgins were both convicted of the poisoning of 44 year old Higgin's husband, Thomas, for his life insurance. He
was not their only victim (there were at least three) and they were not
the only female poisoners operating in this area of Liverpool
in the 1880's. As was usual at the time, the Crown simply prosecuted one
capital case at a time and did not go for anymore if the first resulted in
a guilty verdict and death sentence.
King, Jessie. King,
aged 27, was hanged by James Berry at Calton prison Edinburgh on Monday,
the 11th of March, 1889 for the murder, by strangling, of Alexander Gunn,
one of two children in her care whom she murdered and buried in her
cellar. She was a baby farmer and was thought to have murdered a third
child who’s body was not recovered.
Mary, hanged by James Berry at Lincoln
on Monday, the 26th of
Mary Lefley, aged 44, poisoned her husband,
William, with arsenic and had to be dragged to the gallows screaming
"Murder, Murder" and struggling with the warders.
Ethel Lillie, hanged by Tom Pierrepoint at Hull prison on Wednesday, the
19th of December, 1934.
Forty three year old Ethel Major poisoned her husband, Arthur, with
strychnine and her ghost is said to still haunt the prison.
Louisa (Louise) Josephine, hanged at London's Newgate prison by James
Billington on Tuesday,
the 9th of January, 1900.
Thirty six year old Louisa Masset killed her
four year old son, Manfred, and dumped his naked body in the ladies’
toilet at Dalston Junction railway station in London. The reason
for the murder is that Manfred was a hindrance to her relationship with
her boyfriend, so she took him to the station and battered him and
suffocated him to death. Hers was the first British execution of the 20th
Louisa, hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Strangeways on Friday, the 18th of September,
Louisa Merrifield, 44, poisoned her employer, Mrs. Sarah Ann Rickets for
whom she worked as housekeeper, to obtain her bungallow which had been
left to Louisa under her newly changed will. She used a phosphorus based
rat poison called Rodine and was tried with her
husband, Alfred, who was acquitted.
Sheil, Margaret was executed with
her brother Lawrence at Tullamore in Ireland on
Friday the 27th of May
1870 for the murder by shooting of 30 year old Patrick Dunne
over a land dispute.It appears
that this was the culmination of a long running feud between the two
families.Lawrence had served a prison sentence
for an earlier assault on Dunne and upon his release Margaret was reputed
to have said “If no one will shoot the scoundrel I’ll do it myself!” The
pair ambushed Dunne on his way home from the pub at Philipstown,
CountyOffaly, where she shot him and then
cut his throat. These were the first hangings in Ireland
carried out within the prison walls.
hanged by John Ellis at Duke
Street prison, Glasgow on Wednesday, the 10th of October, 1923.
Susan Newell, aged 30, strangled newspaper boy John Johnston who would not
give her an evening paper without the money. Having killed the boy, she
wheeled his body through the streets on a handcart accompanied by her
eight year old daughter, Janet, whose evidence helped to convict her.
She was the first woman to hang in Scotland since Jessie King in
1889 and on the gallows, refused the traditional white hood.
Mary Eleanor, hanged by James Berry at Newgate on Monday, the 23rd of December, 1890.
Twenty four year old Mary Pearcey was hanged for the murders of Mrs.
Phoebe Hogg and her daughter (also Phoebe). She had cut Mrs. Hogg's throat
and smothered the 18-month old child. She was having an affair with
Phoebe's husband, Frank Hogg.
Her father, Thomas Wheeler, had also been hanged for murder some 10 years
32 year old Pearson was hanged by William Marwood at DurhamCastle
on Monday, the 2nd of
Pearson was one of three unrelated murderers who suffered at Durham on that
August day. She had poisoned her uncle, James Watson, with rat poison
administered in his medicine.
hanged by William Billington and Henry Pierrepoint at Holloway prison
together with Annie Walters (see below) on Tuesday, the 3rd of February,
Twenty nine year old Amelia Sach was another "baby farmer" and
she and Walters became the first women to hang at Holloway which had
become London's women's prison. Previously, female executions were carried
out at Newgate.
hanged at Newgate prison by William Marwood on Monday, the 29th of June, 1874.
Forty eight year old Stewart was executed for the murder of her infant
grandson, the only grandmother to be executed for this crime. She was the
first British woman to be hanged using the “long drop” method.
hanged by John Billington and John Ellis at Armley jailLeeds on Tuesday, the 29th of December, 1903.
Emily Swann, 42, went to the gallows with her 30-year old lover John
Gallagher for the murder of Swann's husband, William.
Hooded and noosed on the trap doors, Emily said "Good morning
John" to which he replied "Good morning love."Emily replied "Goodbye, God bless
you" before the drop fell ending any more conversation.
Louisa Jane, hanged by William Marwood at Maidstone on Tuesday, the 2nd of January, 1883.
Louisa Jane Taylor, 37, was executed for the poisoning, using a lead salt,
of 82-year old Mrs. Tregellis at Plumstead. Her motive may have been money but equally
may have been the sadistic pleasure of watching someone
die slowly from lead poisoning.
Jessie, hanged by John Ellis at Holloway prison on Tuesday, the 9th of January, 1923.
Edith Thompson aged 28 and her lover Frederick Bywaters were hanged in
separate prisons at
on this day for the murder, by stabbing, of Edith's husband, Percy.
Her execution caused considerable public disquiet as many doubted her
guilt and the meaning of the various love letters that passed between her
She had to be carried to the gallows and it was reported that her
underwear was covered in blood after the hanging. John Ellis committed
suicide in 1932 and like everyone else present had been deeply affected by
The bodies of Edith Thompson and Stylou
Christofi were reburied in an unmarked pauper's grave in Brookwood, Surrey when Holloway was rebuilt in 1970.
hanged by William Marwood at Exeter
on Monday, the 11th of
August, 1879. Forty year old Annie was executed for the murder
of 6-month old Reginald Hyde.She may have been a baby farmer.
Dorothea, hanged by Tom and Albert Pierrepoint at Birmingham's Winson Green prison on Friday, the 16th of April, 1936.
Thirty six year old "nurse" Waddingham, as she called herself, used
morphine to poison one of her elderly patients, 89 year old Mrs. Louisa Baguley and her disabled daughter, Ada, the motive being gain.
Selina, hanged by William Marwood at Bodmin
on Thursday, the 15th
of August, 1878. SelinaWadge, aged 28, suffered for the murder of her
illegitimate son, a sadly not uncommon crime in those days.
Walber, Margaret. 53 year old
Margaret Walber was hanged at Liverpool’s Walton
prison by James Billington on Monday, the 2nd of April, 1894 for murdering
Annie, hanged at Mountjoy prison, Dublin by Tom Pierrepoint on Wednesday,
the 5th of August, 1925 for the murder of her husband, 60 year old Edward.
Thirty one year old Annie became the last woman to be executed in Ireland.
Her co-defendant, nephew and lover, 24 year old
Michael Talbot was executed at , Annie following him to the gallows 45 minutes
later.She had to be strapped to a
Fifty four year old Walters was hanged at
Holloway Tuesday, the
3rd of February, 1903 with Amelia Sach (see above). Theirs was
the last double female execution and the first and only double at
Margaret, hanged by William Calcraft at Horsemonger Lane Goal (County of Surrey) on Tuesday, the 11th of October, 1870.
Waters, 35, was another baby farmer convicted of murdering an infant named
John Walter Cowen.
Catherine, hanged by William Marwood at Surrey’s
prison on Tuesday, the
29th of July, 1879. She was the only woman ever hanged at
Thirty year old Kate Webster murdered her elderly employer, Mrs. Julia
Martha Thomas, with an axe. She then dismembered the body leaving parts in
various places around London
and throwing some into the Thames. The
severed head was never found. She sold Mrs. Thomas's furniture and
belongings and fled back to Ireland with the takings. She
finally confessed her guilt to the chaplain the night before she was
Mary. Thirty year old Williams was hanged by William Marwood at Liverpool’s Kirkdale prison, Liverpool
on Monday, the 31st of
August, 1874 for the murder of Nicholas Manning. With her on
the gallows was 22-year old Henry Flannigan, who had been convicted of
murdering his aunt.
also known as Leslie James was hanged by Henry and Tom Pierrepoint at Cardiff prison on Wednesday, the 14th of August,
1907. Willis, 44, was another baby farmer and was executed for
the murder of a one day old girl child by the surname of Treasure. She was
an attractive woman and her blaze of golden hair had a profound effect on
Henry Pierrepoint.She was the last woman to be hanged for
The youngest to be hanged was
Mary Ansell, aged 22, and the oldest was Elizabeth Dyer, aged 57.
In the 1900's and early part of the 20th century, divorce was a very difficult
business that left both parties damaged and stigmatised (particularly the
woman) and for some, murder of their abusive or unwanted partner was the easy
way out. It is noticeable how much rarer such a crime is today when divorce is
so much easier.
Infanticide (the murder of a newborn baby by its mother) ceased to be a capital
crime in 1922. In 1938, the law was further revised to make the murder of a
child of under one year old a non-capital offence. The government recognised
that women can be emotionally disturbed for a period after giving birth and may
suffer from post-natal depression.
In the 20th century, 145 women were sentenced to death in England and Wales,
but only 14 of these sentences were carried out, giving a reprieve rate of just
over 90%. (Louise Masset was sentenced in 1899 and
Susan Newell was executed in Scotland, where far fewer women were sentenced to
death. They are therefore excluded from this figure.) Including the two women
who were hanged in Ireland, a total of 18 women were executed in 20th century
The crimes committed by these
women break down as under. (chronological listing)
In 16 of these cases, gain would appear
to be the principal motive. Of these, eight were "baby farmers"
who were regarded as wholly despicable and got no public sympathy.
Seven were hanged for "love" related crimes.
Seven suffered for murdering their husbands and one for murdering her
Fourteen were poisoners - Poison has often been said to be the woman's method
of choice because its administration requires no physical strength. It has
always been thought that the Home Office had an un-written rule - that
poisoners and gun murderers were never reprieved.
Eight were executed for child murder (other than the baby farming cases).