You are on page 1of 25

The Bloody

John Amy Bird Bell
• On 1st August, 1831, an illiterate
pauper was hanged by the neck
until dead
• Four thousand people came to see
him hang in Maidstone, Kent
• Afterwards his body was
dissected by surgeons

•He was 14 years old

“At the trial the
prisoner exhibited
the utmost
indifference to his
fate, and appeared
to entertain no fear
for the
The Sentence:

At half-past eleven o'clock on
Monday morning the wretched
malefactor ceased to exist, and
his body was given to the
surgeons of Rochester for
“He exhibited some
when he was
informed that a
part of the
sentence was
that his body
Bird had attacked and murdered
a 12 year old boy who was
collecting money for his
disabled father.

The victim had been stabbed in

the throat with a knife and
robbed of nine shillings.

Bird admitted he had planned

the crime with his brother.
Despite what you
may think, it was rare
for people as young
as this to be hanged
in 1831.

One hundred years

earlier, it was a different
matter altogether….
William Jennings, aged 15 year old Elizabeth
15 year old James
12, was hanged at
Booty (age also given as Morton was hanged at
Tyburn on Monday, the
12) suffered at Tyburn Nottingham on the 8th of
12th of March 1716, April 1763 for the
on Monday, the 21st of
having been convicted murder of two of her
May 1722 for the rape of
of housebreaking at
a 5 year old girl. employer’s children.
the February Sessions.

15 year old Elizabeth

Four juveniles were hanged at Tyburn on Monday,
the 20th of May 1717. They were 18 year old Marsh was convicted of
Martha Pillow who had been convicted of stealing the murder of her
in a shop, 17 year old Thomas Price and 18 year grandfather. She was
old Joseph Cornbach for housebreaking and 17 hanged in public on
Monday, the 17th of
year old Christopher Ward for burglary.
March, 1794.
Possibly the youngest children ever executed in Britain
were Michael Hammond and his sister, Ann, whose ages
were given as 7 and 11 respectively in a book published in
1907. Previously, no claims as to their precise ages had
been made, although they were referred to as being “under
age,” without specifying what this term actually meant, and
as “the Boy and the Girl” as they were both small.
They were reportedly hanged at (Kings) Lynn on
Wednesday, the 28th of September 1708 for theft. The local
press did not, however, consider the executions of two
children newsworthy! A painting of the two being taken in
the cart to the gallows appears in Paul Richard’s book
”King’s Lynn”.
It was reported that there was violent thunder and lightning
after the execution and that their hangman, Anthony Smyth,
died within a fortnight of it.
The Bloody Eighteenth Century?

Why was hanging the answer to

everything in the 1700s?
The Bloody Code
No. of crimes carrying the
death penalty
No of crimes carrying the death

1688 50

1765 160

1815 225
Some of the crimes carrying the death
penalty in the 1700s

•stealing horses or sheep

•destroying turnpike roads
•cutting down trees
•pick pocketing goods worth more than one shilling
•being out at night with a blackened face
•unmarried mother concealing a stillborn child
•stealing from a rabbit warren
evidence of
malice in a
"being in the
child aged 7–14
company of years of age"
Gypsies for
one month" "blacking the
face or using a
disguise whilst
committing a
• the attitudes of the
wealthy men who made
the law were
unsympathetic. They
felt that people who
committed crimes were
sinful, lazy or greedy
and deserved little Lord Chief Justice
Edward Law
• since the rich made
the laws they made
laws that protected
their interests. Any act
which threatened their
wealth, property or
sense of law and order
was criminalised and
made punishable by
Lord Chief Justice
William Murray
• the law was harsh
to act as a
deterrent. It was
thought that people
might not commit
crimes if they knew
that they could be
sentenced to death.
Was it effective?
3500 Death sentences
and executions,
2500 1701-1825

1500 Death Sentences



1701- 1726- 1751- 1776- 1801-
25 50 75 1800 1825

It is no coincidence that during the period 1776-1800 the

English ruling class were fearing a revolution like in France….
The End of the Bloody Code
• Sir Samuel Romilly speaking to the
House of Commons on capital
punishment in 1810, declared that

"..[there is] no country on

the face of the earth in
which there [have] been so
many different offences
according to law to be
punished with death as in
Whilst executions for
murder, burglary and
robbery were common,
the death sentences of
minor offenders were
often not carried out.
In 1808 Romilly had
the death penalty
removed from pick-
pocketing and other
trivial offences and
started reform that
continued over the
next 50 years.
(the public
display of
corpses) was
abolished in
1832 and
hanging in
chains was
abolished in
In 1861, the Criminal Law
Consolidation Act further reduced
the number of capital crimes to
•arson in royal dockyards
•piracy with violence
Public executions
were abolished in

From 1868 onwards, all

hangings in Britain took
place inside prison, on
gallows like this one at
HMP Wandsworth. cap it all off.......
Why did it come about? What actually happened?
• Fear of crime by the rich • The number of capital
• The rich set the laws sentences rose
• The laws protected their • But the number of
growing property executions in proportion
actually fell
• There were more poor
people • Apart from times of real
fear – French Revolution,
• The rich thought that industrial unrest
harsh punishments would
reduce crime • Juries were unwilling to
deliver guilty verdicts
• Transportation was a new
alternative to hanging
• Romilly ended the Bloody
Code in the 1820s.

You might also like