Gloucester, Barrack Square,
Gloucester, is now a category B adult local
prison and young offender remand centre. It was originally built as the CountyGaol in 1782 at a cost of £34,873and substantially rebuilt
in 1840, giving it a capacity of 350 prisoners each in a separate cell.300 men and 50 women could be accommodated by
this time and there were also separate cells for debtors of both sexes. The
original single large wing still holds those remanded or recently convicted. A
wing for young offenders was added in 1971 and a new gatehouse, administration,
visits and stores blocks were built in 1987.
Executions at Gloucester.
Prior to 1792 executions had taken
place at the nearby village
and the condemned were conveyed to the gallows in carts, sitting on their own coffins. After this date hangings were carried out using a
“New Drop” style gallows erected on the roof of the prison gatehouse and
continued on the new gatehouse roof when it was built in 1826.
Between 1792 and 1864, 102 prisoners were hanged in public, comprising 94 men
and eight women.There were no
executions at all between 1839, when William Davis was hanged on the 20th of
April for the murder of John Butt and July 1864.The next and last public execution at Gloucester
was carried out on the
27th of August 1864 when 55 year old Lewis Gough
was to die for the murder of Mary Curtis.
A further 17 people (16 men
and one woman) were hanged within the prison between 1872 and 1939.
The first private hanging took place on
8th of January 1872 when 20 year old Frederick
Jones was put to death by William Calcraft for the murder of his girlfriend, Emily
Gardner, on a raised scaffold in the prison yard. (This was the same gallows as
had previously been used on the roof). There were steps the prisoner had to
climb to reach the four foot high platform.For the triple hanging of Edward Butt, Mary Ann Barry and Edwin Bailey
in 1874, Robert Anderson, the hangman, asked for a pit to be dug to allow the
gallows platform to be level with the yard, as shown below.It is thought that this arrangement, pictured
below, persisted until 1912.
“To comply with modern prison
arrangements” a new execution chamber was built on the end wall of A Wing in
1912. It had with two folding doors between it and the condemned cell. It was
of slightly different design to that in many prisons, with the end wall of the
wing separating the condemned cell from the gallows.This was used for six hangings, including
that of Herbert Armstrong in 1922. The last hanging here was in 1939 but the execution
chamber was not dismantled until 1966, after abolition of the death
penalty.Its outline can still be seen
on the end wall of A Wing.
Photo showing how execution
chamber was built onto end of A Wing.
of A Wing.
The condemned cell was last one on left, on the middle landing.
The execution chamber was built onto end wall, left of window.
showing arrangement of the execution chamber.
The first hangings at the prison took
place on Saturday
the 14th of April 1792 when Londoner, Charles Rachford and Irish born John Hughes were executed for
highway robbery.The had robbed John Elliott in the parish of Westbury-upon-Trym on 24th November 1791, taking his watch with a silver
case (valued at £3), a steel hook (valued at 2d), a steel watch chain (valued
at 6d), a silver seal (valued at 1/-) and 10 copper halfpennies.They were also sentenced to death for the
highway robbery of Thomas Probert in the same parish
on 25th November 1791, robbing him of a clasp-knife
(valued at 3d), a horse whip (valued at 2d) and three copper halfpennies.
On Saturday, the 13 of April 1793,
John Evans became, at 70, the oldest man to be hanged at Gloucester.He had been convicted of breaking into the dwelling house of Sarah Jones
in the parish of Newent on the
15th November 1792; and stealing 1 gold guinea and 9/- in money (£1.50 in decimal money).
1794 saw the first executions for
murder at the prison. Hannah Limbrick, aged 26, was
hanged on Friday the 22nd of August for the murder of Deborah Limbrick, by striking her on the head with a hatchet, in
the parish of Westbury on 14th of February 1794, fracturing her jaw and giving
her mortal wounds of which she died on 16th February.The following day 24 year old Hannah Webley suffered for the murder of her male bastard, whom it
was alleged that she had killed by striking his head against a bed post,
shortly after he was born in the parish of Berkeley on 2nd June
1794.She denied her guilt to the end.
During the period 1792 – 1799, there were a
total of 21 executions, 19 men and the two women mentioned above.The men were executed for such crimes as
sheep stealing, horse theft and burglary.
Only one was to die for murder.This was
on Monday the 18th of March 1799 when William Jewell was hanged
for the murder of John Ayliffe whom he had severely
assaulted in the parish of Eastington on the
1st of October 1799, causing his death two days later.
On the 23rd of March
William Townley who had been convicted of burglary, was hanged a few minutes before a reprieve arrived
for him. The sentencing judge had moved on to his next appointment at Hereford
Assizes but had been told some favourable things about Townley
and decided to reprieve him.However the
letter was sent to Mr. Wilton, under-sheriff of Herefordshire, rather than the
under-sheriff of Gloucestershire.When
he received the letter and realised the gravity of the situation he sent a
rider to Gloucester, some 34 miles away.By the time this man arrived Townley had been hanging for 20 minutes and it was too late
to save him.
At 69 years old, Dinah Riddiford, is probably the oldest
woman to have been hanged in England
in the 19th or 20th centuries.She was
executed for stealing bacon, butter, and other articles, alongside 22 year old
John Williams on the 7th of September 1816.Theirs were the only executions carried out
as a result of the August Assize at which 17 death sentences were passed.All the others had their death sentences
commuted – generally to transportation overseas.Dinah’s son and co-defendant, Luke was one of
the fortunate ones
16 year old John Baker, from Wotton under Edge, became the youngest male to be hanged,
when he was executed alongside two other young men on September the 1st 1821.
John Baker had been convicted of burglary and 20 year old John Badcock and 28 year old Joseph Ford had been convicted of
The Lent Assizes of 1828 resulted in
another teenager, 19 year old Joseph Ray, from Bristol
being hanged on the
28th of April 1828 for burglary, alongside four
other young men.
Charlotte Long, aged 33, of North
became the last woman in England
to suffer for arson when she was hanged on the 31st of August 1833,
alongside her co-defendant, 27 year old Thomas Gaskins.Arson was a crime for which women frequently
were executed at this time.(The last
person to be hanged for arson in England was Daniel Case, three years
later to the day, at Ilchester in Somerset on the 31st of August 1836.)
21 year old Harriet Tarver of Chipping Campden was hanged on the 9th of April 1836 for
the murder of her husband, Thomas, by poison.She was the youngest woman to be executed at Gloucester
in the 19th century.It was claimed in a
broadside, sold at her execution, that she was repentant and hoped that her
“orphan child would take warning and shun vice and bad company”.These claims of repentance were very popular
in broadsides and may well have been pure invention.
After 1868 the law required that
executions be carried out inside the walls of the prison.However these early non-public executions
were by no means private and some 40 people were present in the prison yard on
the morning of Monday
the 12th of January 1874 to witness the execution of two
men and one woman.They were Charles
Edward Butt, Mary Ann Barry and Edwin Bailey.Curiously both the victims had died on the same day, the 17th of August 1873.
Edward Butt, aged 22, had shot and
killed 20 year old Amelia Selina Phipps out of
jealousy because she would not have a long term relationship with him.They were near neighbours on adjoining farms
at Arlingham.Amelia was friendly towards Edward but simply did not want him. They had
at least two violent quarrels and in the end he murdered her with a shotgun. He
was duly arrested and charged with the crime.He was tried at Gloucester Assizes on Christmas Eve 1873 and the jury
rejected his contention that the shooting had been an accident.
Mary Ann Barry (31) and Edwin Bailey
(32) were jointly convicted of the murder by poisoning of 10 month old Sarah
Jenkins.Sarah was born to
seventeen-year-old Mary Susan Jenkins (known as Susan) on the 23rd of October 1872
and Edwin Bailey was alleged to be the father.He denied this and Susan was forced to obtain a court order for
maintenance of Sarah, which he resented.
Mary Ann Barry was employed by Edwin
Bailey to clean his shop but there may well have been more in the relationship
than this.In the December of 1872, Ann
started to visit SusanJenkins and seemed to take to
the baby. She brought Sarah gifts and claimed that the ladies of the Dorcas Society (a Christian charity) had taken an interest
in the child. She encouraged Susan to give Sarah Steedman’s
Soothing Powders for teething. In August 1873 Susan Jenkins received a letter
apparently from the Dorcas Society with three packets
labelled “Steedman’s Soothing Powders”. On the 17th
of August, Susan gave one of the powders to little Sarah who quickly went into
convulsions and died. The remaining powders were analysed and found to be a rat
poison containing strychnine.
Bailey and Barry were tried at Gloucester
assizes the day before Butt (on the
23rd of December 1873). The paper of the letter
purporting to come from the Dorcas Society was traced
to Bailey and the handwriting matched his. Both were found guilty and condemned
William Calcraft was not available for
this hanging, so instead the job was offered to Robert Anderson (Evans) from Carmarthen
in Wales.He suggested that the platform of the gallows
be mounted over a pit to make it level with prison yard and this was done (see
picture above). The platform was enclosed by a four foot high black calico
screen.The hanging took place at ,
the normal hour, and when the prisoners had been pinioned in their cells they
were led out in a procession, headed by the chaplain.Butt and Bailey were wearing suits and Mary
Barry a long dress.She was placed
between the men on the trap and they were allowed to kneel for prayers before
their legs were tied and the white caps placed over their heads, followed by
withdrew the bolt and the trap doors opened causing them to drop below the
level of the calico screen. The two men died almost without a struggle but Mary
Ann Barry suffered longer and Anderson
had to press down upon her shoulders to quicken her death.
A black flag was hoisted over the
prison in the normal way to show that the executions had been carried out and
after the formal inquest their bodies were buried in unmarked graves in the
execution yard.The chaplain revealed
that both Bailey and Barry had confessed their guilt to him and Anderson
said that Barry had whispered to him on the gallows that she had dreamt she
would die like this. Mary Ann became the last woman to suffer hanging by the
short drop method in Britain.Click here for a
detailed article on this case.
35 year old Edwin Smart became the next
to be hanged for the murder of Lucy Derrick on the 2nd of April 1879.Smart was discovered sitting next to her body
beside the road and was arrested after telling the person who found him that he
had cut her throat.Smart was tried at Worcester
and the only motive he could suggest for the murder was that he wanted to kill
a woman, any woman!He denied that he
even knew who his victim was.The
hanging took place on Monday the 12th of May on the same gallows although the
pit had been deepened to allow for the “long drop” pioneered by William
Marwood.However Smart did not seem to
die as easily as most of Marwood’s other victims, it took four minutes before
his body became still. Examination afterwards revealed signs of suffocation.
James Berry carried out Gloucester’s
next execution – that of Edward Hewitt on Tuesday the 15th of June 1886
for the murder of his wife Sarah.
was to visit Gloucester
17th of February 1887 he hanged 20 year old Edward
Pritchard who had been convicted of the murder of 14 year old Henry Allen who
he had robbed of his employers wages that Henry had
been sent to the bank to collect. Berry’s
other execution at Gloucester
was that of Enoch Wadley on Monday
the 28th of November 1887.27 year old Wadley had murdered Elizabeth
Evans – a girl of 18 who did not accept his romantic overtures.He had stabbed the poor girl some 40
times.There was evidence of mental
illness put forward at the first trial and the jury were unable to reach a
verdict so a second trial took place where a new jury rejected the insanity
argument and found Wadley guilty of the murder.
Nearly 12 years were to elapse before
the next hanging which was of Albert Manning on Thursday the 16th of March 1893.37 year old Manning had shot a Mrs. Flew, a
lady he had originally lodged with and later formed a relationship with.The motive for the killing was thought to be
jealousy over the disintegration of the relationship and her interest in another
man.The executioner was William
Billington, assisted by Thomas Scott.These two also carried out the next execution here, that of 45 year old
Frederick Wyndham on Thursday
the 21st of December 1893.Wyndham had murdered his father, James a
The next hanging took place on Wednesday the 9th of March 1904,
when 23 year old Sidney George Smith was hanged by William Billington for the
murder of his girlfriend, 21 year old Alice Woodman at Cheltenham.It was a very sad case. Sidney
and wanted to marry her but due to money problems couldn’t.Sidney
was deeply depressed by his financial troubles and at being given notice to
leave their home. He resolved to kill Alice and then himself but did not
succeed in his own suicide.
Gilbert Smith also cut a woman’s throat
– this time his estranged wife’s Rosabella and was
hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint and Albert Lumb on Tuesday the 26th of November
1912. This was to be the first hanging in
the newly constructed execution suite at the end of “A” Wing.
One of the most famous cases to reach
its conclusion on Gloucester’s
gallows was that of 52 year old Herbert Rowse
Armstrong who was hanged on Wednesday
the 31st of May 1922.Armstrong was a solicitor at Hay on Wye in Herefordshire
and was convicted of poisoning his wife Katherine (aged 47) with arsenic on the 22nd of February 1921
at their home and also of the attempted
murder of a fellow solicitor, Oswald Martin, in 1921. Katherine’s body was
found to have 3.5 grains of arsenic present and a box of chocolates Armstrong
had sent to Oswald Martin contained 2.12 grains found. (2
grains being generally the lethal dose.)
Armstrong came to trial at Hereford
Assizes before Mr. Justice Darling on the 3rd of April 1922.The trial
lasted until the 13th and the prosecution was led by Ernest Pullock
and the defense by the famous Edward Curtis Bennett.At the trial it was alleged that Armstrong
had killed his wife for money, as a result of a new will, dated June 1920.It came out that he had bought a considerable
amount of weedkiller on the 4th of August 1920 and that it was arsenic based.Katherine was affected by repeated bouts of
stomach troubles from here on and also began to suffer from delusions for which
she was treated at BarnwoodHouseMental
Hospital over a
four month period from August 1920. She came out of hospital in January 1921
and was again affected by the stomach cramps and vomiting (typical symptoms of
arsenic poisoning).She died on the
22nd of February 1921 and was buried three weeks
later with the cause of death being stated as “heart disease arising from
nephritis and gastritis”.At this time
there was no direct suspicion of murder and Armstrong went off on holiday for a
month. Oswald Martin ran the other firm of solicitors in Hay
on Wye and was in a dispute with Armstrong over a conveyance for which
Armstrong was holding a deposit.
Martin received an unexpected gift of a
box of chocolates from Armstrong.These
were eaten after a dinner party at the Martin’s house and his sister in law,
Dorothy became violently ill as a result.Armstrong invited Martin to tea at his house to discuss finalisation of
the property deal and offered him a scone.Martin too, became very ill as a result and his doctor decided to take a urine sample which together with a sample of Martin’s vomit,
revealed traces of arsenic.
Armstrong was arrested at his office on the 20th of December and found to have
a quantity of arsenic about his person.He was initially charged with the attempted murder of Oswald Martin.
Katherine’s body was exhumed on the
2nd of January 1922 and found to contain arsenic
too.Accordingly, on the 9th of January,
Armstrong was charged with her murder.Armstrong appealed his conviction without success and was duly hanged at
on the morning of Wednesday
the 31st of May 1922 by John Ellis, assisted by
Edward Taylor.He did not confess to his
priest or his visitors. Armstrong was a small man of only 115 lbs. in weight so
Ellis gave him a drop of 8’ 8”.At the
last moment he spoke on the gallows “I am coming Kate” and with that Ellis
pulled the lever.
23 year old Herbert Burrows was a
probationary constable serving at Worcester
and was condemned for the murders of Ernest Laight,
his wife, Doris and their son Robert at the pub that Ernest ran, the Garibaldi
Inn in Wylds
Lane, Worcester.Burrows lived opposite the Garibaldi and had
stayed on after closing time on the night of Friday the 27th of November 1925.After the other drinkers had departed he shot
Mr. Laight and then his wife, when she came to
investigate.He apparently battered
Robert to death because he was afraid that his crying might be heard.He then took the takings from the till.Burrows asked a fellow officer the following
day if he had heard about the shooting at the Garibaldi.However at the particular time he asked the
question the police did not know that the Laights had
been shot.Fellow officers went to
Burrows’ lodgings where they found both the gun and the stolen money.Faced with this Burrows confessed.He came to trial at Worcester
27th of January 1926 and was quickly convicted.He was hanged on Wednesday the 17th of
February by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Robert Baxter.
There was to be a second execution in
1926, that of 45 year old Charles Houghton on Friday the 3rd of December.Houghton had been convicted of the murders of
two elderly sisters, Eleanor and Martha Drinkwater,
for whom he worked as a butler.They had
given him notice after 22 years working for them due to his drinking
problem.He shot them both on the 7th of September 1926.Thomas Pierrepoint was again the hangman,
assisted by Robert Wilson.
Yet another shooting led to the next
hanging – that of Arthur Franklin for the murder of Bessie Gladys Nott and the
attempted murder of her husband Henry on the 8th of May 1935.The Franklins and Notts
were neighbours and Arthur and Bessie had been having an affair, the break-up
of which that led to the killing.Franklin
was arrested at the scene and pleaded guilty at his trial on the 5th of June 1935.
He was hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Robert Wilson on Tuesday the 25th of June 1935.
The last hanging at Gloucester
was carried out on Wednesday the 7th of June when 41 year old Ralph Smith was
executed for the murder of Beatrice Baxter, his ex-girlfriend.He and Beatrice quarrelled over his attitude
to her seeing other men and the police had been called on at least one previous
occasion.He left her house after one
such quarrel but decided to try and get back with her.She told him that she was going out to meet
another man at a dance and this caused him to snap and cut her throat.He gave himself up later in the day and was
told that Beatrice had died from her wound and that he was charged with
murder.He was tried at the Old Bailey
3rd of May 1939 and found guilty.He was then returned to Gloucester
to await his appointment with Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint on Wednesday the 7th of June 1939.