Hannah Halley – A horrible murder in Derby.


In the final case on infanticide we examine the case of Hannah Halley who like so many young women at the time found herself in a seemingly impossible situation. She murdered her new born infant because she could not keep her job and nurse a baby and without the job she could not afford to support the child.  Thirty one year old Hannah worked at the Darley cotton mill in Derbyshire and gave birth to the baby on Tuesday, the 14th of August 1821 at her lodgings in Brook Street, Derby


Earlier that day her landlady and a friend of the landlady had noticed that Hannah looked very unwell and she agreed that she felt ill.  She went up to her room where she gave birth a little later and the two women heard the cries of a new born baby and went up to offer assistance.  When they entered the room Hannah denied that she had given birth and was seen putting a jug under the bed which she had previously been trying to conceal under her clothes.  Hannah continued with the denial so one of the women threatened to get the local constable and left the room to do so, followed by Hannah.  The other woman was then able to recover the jug and was horrified to see the baby inside, dreadfully scalded but still alive.  It seems that Hannah had pushed it into the jug and poured boiling water over it.

The constable was sent for and arrested Hannah at the house and she was taken to Friar Gate Gaol to await trial for the murder.  Amazingly the poor little baby lived until the following Saturday.

It transpired that Hannah had had a child five years earlier so she did know that she was pregnant.  It is not known what became of this child. 


Hannah had to wait to come to trial until the following March when the next Derbyshire Assizes opened. Her case was heard before Mr. Justice Best on Friday the 22nd of that month.  She was charged with the wilful murder of her infant and evidence was given against her by the two women, the constable and a doctor.  A very clear case was presented to the jury proving not only the act but also the intent to kill, as evidenced by Hannah’s frequent denial of her pregnancy. Consequently they had no difficulty in reaching a guilty verdict. Mr. Justice Best sentenced Hannah to death and she was taken back to Friar Gate Gaol and lodged in the basement condemned cell for the last two days of her life.  Having been sentenced on a Friday and Sunday being a “Deis non” the execution was to take place on Monday the 26th of March 1822.

The gallows was erected on the pavement outside the main door in preparation.  As was normal Hannah received the support and ministrations of the prison chaplain over the weekend and spent much time in prayer with him.  It is recorded that she slept only fitfully and appeared almost prostrate with fear and grief.  However when the time came she seemed to find reserves of courage and climbed the steps of the gallows with a surprisingly firm step watched by a large crowd.  She submitted herself to the necessary preparations and prayed with the chaplain. When all was ready the drop fell and Hannah reportedly died with very little struggle.  Her body was afterwards sent for dissection in accordance with her sentence.


Hannah was the last woman to be executed at Derby and one of only two to be hanged outside Friar Gate Gaol.  Oddly both were called Hannah, the other being Hannah Bocking, three years earlier, who was one of the youngest girls hanged in the 19th century. 


Two other women had been hanged in Derby in the period 1735 - 1799.  They were Mary Dilke, for the murder of her bastard on the 1st of January 1754, Mary being executed on Saturday the 23rd of March 1754 and Ann Williamson who suffered on Friday the 1st of August 1755 for picking the pocket of George White at Ashbourne Fair.  These executions had been carried out at Nun’s Green which was Derby’s previous execution site.


Infanticide and the cases of Elizabeth Harrard  Sarah Jones – Infanticide in Monmouthshire  Ann Statham, Hannah Halley

Back to the Contents Page Female executions 1735 - 1799