Enter the murky world of Surrey's executions

Grim reading: The book looks at many public executions around the area

Grim reading: The book looks at many public executions around the area

First published in News
Last updated
Surrey Comet: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter

Sheep thieves, murderers, forgers and rapists were hanged in front of cheering crowds as a spectacle across Surrey in the early 19th century.

The people of Kingston and Richmond watched on as mass public executions at gaols were served up to criminals of the Bloody Code era before Wandsworth Prison even opened its doors in 1851.

A book titled Surrey Executions by Martin Baggoley has listed all the known executions - those in public and later private, our doorsteps.

As early as 1801 records show soldier William Harrison of the 18th Light Dragoons, based in Guildford at the time, was hanged for burgling the Black Lion pub in Kingston where servant Sarah Berry was also raped.

The following year Stephen Stillwell was hung for murdering his wife Mary Ann at the Jolly Gardens inn they owned together in Mortlake.

A neighbour had heard Stillwell shout "come, get up, your time is expired" followed by loud stamping before he appeared blood-soaked on the street and exclaimed "I have my liberty".

Reports at the time also told of Stillwell, who refused to go into his own inn for a pint with a friend because he said his wife made him miserable.

A jury convicted Stillwell of murder and a judge ordered his body to be dissected after he was hanged.

Historian Julian McCarthy, who is a Kingston tour guide, said: "Kingston does have a bloody history. Most of the bloodiness was earlier in the century. Women were burned to death for murdering their husbands but men were hanged."

He added public executions in Market Place were often crimes for Catholics or thieves who may have stolen from churches. Other executions took place on Kingston Hill.

A teenager wore an elegant black silk dress for her execution on April 5, 1813.

Thousands watched on as Sarah Fletcher, 19, faced the rope for murdering her bastard child in Wandsworth - she had used a garter to strangle him.

In 1816, Richard Russell confessed murdering his father in Thames Ditton to the keeper of Kingston House of Correction as he waited to be tried.

The victim had met his son for a drink but the meeting ended with him suffering savage blows to the head with a hammer before he was finished off with a knife to the throat.

Russell stole two £10 notes, £2, seven gold guineas and a half guinea before enjoying half a pint of rum at the Coach and Horses in Kingston with his takings.

But upon hearing the news of the murder, landlord of the pub Thomas Hampton, was able to recall the stranger and managed to find the bloodstained note he had paid with, which would later be enough evidence to hang him.

More than a decade later a Christmas day burglary at the Teddington Lock-house in 1828, ended with three out of four culprits being hanged.

Four men had forced their way in brandishing pistols and threatened the keeper before making off with 20 shillings and a copper medallion.

Kingston’s constable Cooke made the four arrests after a passerby in Kingston noticed a child with the stolen copper medallion.

One of the men involved managed to save himself by giving evidence against the other three - but it could also have also ended rather grisly for William Young who was jeered and struck with objects by a mob on Kingston Bridge that shouted: "Throw him over the bridge."

Author Mr Baggoley warned in his introduction: "In researching the book, I have examined official archive, where available I have read original trial transcripts, and I have also referred to contemporary newspaper accounts.

"Unfortunately, complete records from the early years of the 19th century have not survived intact in all cases and there are conflicting accounts of the crimes, the sentences passed and the names of those executed."

He said where stories did not add up he had referred to the register of deaths in the county gaol to put together his complete list of those hanged in the 19th century.

Comments (3)

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7:21pm Sun 17 Aug 14

richmondcomments says...

First published January 2011.
Must be a quiet weekend in the newsroom for the Chief Reporter...
First published January 2011. Must be a quiet weekend in the newsroom for the Chief Reporter... richmondcomments
  • Score: 2

10:04pm Sun 17 Aug 14

Concerned_Resident says...

The book is old for sure, but I thought there was some interesting local history teased out in the article :)
The book is old for sure, but I thought there was some interesting local history teased out in the article :) Concerned_Resident
  • Score: 0

7:42pm Mon 18 Aug 14

richmondcomments says...

Concerned_Resident wrote:
The book is old for sure, but I thought there was some interesting local history teased out in the article :)
Yes - but that's called a Book Review - NOT a news story!
[quote][p][bold]Concerned_Resident[/bold] wrote: The book is old for sure, but I thought there was some interesting local history teased out in the article :)[/p][/quote]Yes - but that's called a Book Review - NOT a news story! richmondcomments
  • Score: 1

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