Mary Ann Barry was hanged at
Gloucester by Robert Anderson (Evans) on Monday, the 12th of January,
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 immediately.
Mary Anne Berry
Edwin Bailey, a 32-year-old shoe
shop manager had a history of philandering, alcoholism and petty theft
and in 1872, his wife left him over his behaviour. One of Bailey's
conquests was eighteen-year-old servant Mary Susan Jenkins who lived
with her mother in Stapleton and, in October 1872, Mary gave birth to
his daughter, Sarah.
Bailey refused to acknowledge the
child's paternity and Mary found it necessary to appeal to the courts
for maintenance. The affiliaton order required that Bailey pay five
shillings per week for the maintenance of his daughter.
Mary Anne Berry (or Barry) was
thirty-one years old and worked for Bailey in his shop at Clifton,
Bristol. She became Bailey's common-law wife after her husband had
been sent to prison.
Shortly after Christmas 1872 Mary
Anne paid a visit to the Jenkins family. The visits became a regular
occurrence over the next six months. It was obvious that the Jenkins
family were extremely poor and Mary Anne told Mary's mother that she
should expect to hear from the Dorcus Society, a charitable
organisation that she had contacted.
In August 1873 a package arrived,
purportedly from the charity, containing a few stamps and some
teething powders for the child. On the 17th August Mrs Jenkins gave
the baby one of the powders and the child promptly died in Mary's
arms. When the other two powders were analyzed they were found to
The pair were quickly apprehended
and tried in December 1873. A handwriting expert gave evidence that
the letter accompanying the powders had been written by Bailey and the
jury quickly found them guilty. They were hanged at Gloucester Prison
on 12th January 1874 by Robert Evans, who was plying his craft under
the name of Anderson as Calcraft's deputy.
Mary Anne Barry – the last short drop female hanging
1868 the law required that executions be carried out within prisons,
early non-public executions were by no means private and some forty to
fifty people were present in the prison yard at Gloucester 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 Anne Barry
and Edwin Bailey. Curiously both their victims had died on the same
day, Sunday the 17th of August 1873.
aged twenty two, had shot and killed twenty 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, a fact
that he seemed unable to accept. They had at least two violent
quarrels and in the end he blasted her with a shotgun. He was duly
arrested and charged with the crime, coming
to trial at Gloucester Assizes on Christmas Eve 1873. The jury
rejected his contention that the shooting had been an accident.
Barry, aged thirty one, was employed by Edwin Bailey who was a year
older than her, to clean his shop but there may well have been more to
the relationship than this. Edwin owned a shoe shop in the Clifton
area of Bristol and was a married man with a disabled wife who lived
in London. He was known as a bit of a menace to young girls and some
of the local servant girls would not go into his shop to take
old Mary Susan Jenkins (known as Susan) worked as a servant in Clifton
and had accused Edwin of sexually assaulting her in his shop, although
she did not report the matter to the police. Strangely she continued
to visit the shop after this incident and had some sort of
relationship with Edwin, as a result of which she became pregnant.
She gave birth to a baby daughter named Sarah on the 23rd of October
1872. Edwin denied paternity and Susan was forced to obtain a court
order for maintenance, which he resented. The court fixed a sum of
five shillings a week (25p) and it was paid over to the local
constable, Constable Critchley in
Stapleton. Susan took the baby to live with her parents in Stapleton
just on the outskirts of Bristol. She returned to work in Clifton in
December 1872, leaving her mother in charge of Sarah.
December of 1872, Mary Anne, just going by the name of Ann, started to
visit Susan’s mother and seemed to take to the baby.
Susan met Ann
for the first time in the early New Year of 1873. Mary Anne brought
Sarah little gifts and claimed that the ladies of the
Dorcas Society, a Christian charity, had
taken an interest in the child. The visits continued and in May Susan
asked Ann if the Dorcas Society had
forgotten about her as she had heard nothing from them.
teething and Ann recommended the use of
Steedman’s Soothing Powders. These were not something the
Jenkins family could afford, however. On the 13th of August 1873 Susan
Jenkins received a letter apparently from the
Cotham Dorcas Society, signed by
Jane Isabella Smith, and containing three packets labelled “Steedman’s
Soothing Powders”. On the 17th of August, Susan unsuspectingly gave
one of the powders to little Sarah who quickly went into convulsions
and died, her body rigid and arched. A doctor who arrived after the
baby’s death was shown the two remaining packets of powder and
examining the contents immediately became suspicious. The police were
called and Constable Critchley took charge
of the powders, the letter and envelope that they had come in. He had
had dealings with Edwin Bailey over the maintenance payments for Sarah
and noticed that the handwriting on the letter and envelope were just
A post mortem
was carried out on the baby, which concluded that she had been
poisoned by the contents of the packets. The packets were genuine but
their original contents had been removed and replaced by a rat poison
containing strychnine, a fact that was confirmed by the county
An inquest was
opened at the Volunteer Inn in Stapleton on the 18th of August and
adjourned until the 5th of September. Edwin was present at the second
hearing and heard Constable Critchley’s
evidence regarding the similarities of the handwriting. He was bound
over to be present at the next hearing scheduled for a week later but
did not show up for it.
police had been making enquiries about the woman “Ann” who had been
visiting the baby which led to the arrest of Mary Anne Barry at her
lodgings in Bristol on the 14th of September. Mary Anne was really
Anne Salmond but had taken her common law
husband’s name of Bailey. She made a statement to the police in
which she said that Edwin sent her on
errands including visiting the Jenkins to try and find out who Sarah’s
father really was, as he absolutely denied he was. Nothing she said
incriminated Edwin or helped her own position however.
Edwin had gone
to London to visit his wife, having made preparations to leave the
country immediately afterwards, but she persuaded him to stay and they
returned to Bristol where he was arrested at his shop.
Edwin and Mary
Anne were tried together before Mr. Justice Archibald at Gloucester
assizes on Tuesday the 23rd of December 1873, the day before Edward
Butt. Mr. Justice Archibald told the jury that “Edwin Bailey and Mary
Anne Barry are accused of causing the death of Sarah Jenkins by
poison, or rather I ought to tell you that the prisoner Bailey has
been committed as principal in the offence and Mary Anne Barry as an
accessory before the fact.”
The paper of
the letter purporting to come from the Dorcas
Society was traced to Edwin and the handwriting matched his according
to handwriting expert, Mr. Charles Chabot, who appeared for the
prosecution. No evidence was offered by the defence counsel. It took
the jury an hour to reach a verdict of guilty against both defendants
and they were accordingly condemned to death. The jury made a
recommendation to mercy for both of them. Presumably the trial judge
did not support this and did not make a similar recommendation to
Robert Lowe, the Home Secretary. Petitions for a reprieve were got up
locally but no reprieve was to be forthcoming and an execution date of
January the 12th was fixed.
Calcraft was not available for this hanging due to ill health, so
instead the job was offered to Robert Anderson (Evans) from Carmarthen
in Wales, by the Under Sheriff of Gloucestershire. Anderson suggested
that the platform of the gallows be mounted over a pit to make it
level with prison yard and this modification was done. The platform
was enclosed by a four foot high black calico screen.
took place at eight o’clock in the morning and when the prisoners had
been pinioned in their cells they were led out in a procession, headed
by the chaplain. Edward Butt and Edwin were wearing suits and Mary
Anne a long print dress. She was accompanied to the gallows by the
matron of Gloucester Gaol, whilst Edwin was accompanied by the
Governor, Captain H. K. Wilson. The rest of the party comprised the
deputy governor, the chaplain, the prison doctor and several warders.
condemned prisoners knelt on the platform and recited the Lords Prayer
with the chaplain before submitting to the final preparations. Mary
Anne was placed between the men on the trap, their legs were tied and
the white hoods placed over their heads, followed by the nooses. The
chaplain and the hangman shook hands with each prisoner and then
Anderson withdrew the bolt releasing the trap doors and causing the
prisoners 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 to show that the executions had been
carried out and after the formal inquest their bodies were buried
wearing the clothes they were hanged in, in unmarked graves in the
execution yard, with quick lime thrown into the coffins.
revealed that both Edwin and Mary Anne had confessed their guilt to
him and Anderson said that Mary Anne had whispered to him on the
gallows that she had dreamt she would die like this.
Barry became the last woman to suffer death by the short drop method
of hanging in Britain and the last woman to be executed at Gloucester
We are left
wondering what her motive was in helping with the baby’s murder and
whether she was trying to save Edwin, if indeed he was her lover,
although we have no clear evidence of that.