Strongly protesting her Innocence, she was executed on Kennington
Common, 2nd of April, 1759, for the Murder of her Aunt
THIS unhappy girl was the daughter of a farmer near
Leeds, in Yorkshire, and was sent to reside with her aunt, Mrs Walker,
of Rotherhithe, who was a widow lady. With this aunt she lived two
years, comporting herself in the most decent manner, and regularly
attending the duties of religion.
A lady, named Toucher, having spent the evening
with Mrs Walker, Mary Edmondson lighted her across the street on her
way home, and soon after her return a woman who cried oysters through
the street observed that the door was open and heard the girl cry out
"Help! Murder! They have killed my aunt!" Edmondson now ran to the
house of Mrs Odell, wringing her hands and bewailing the misfortune,
and, the neighbours being by this time alarmed, some gentlemen went
from a public-house, where they had spent the evening, determined to
inquire into the affair. They found Mrs Walker, with her throat cut,
lying on her right side, and her head near a table, which was covered
with linen. One of the gentlemen, named Holloway, said: "This is very
strange; I know not what to make of it: let us examine the girl."
Her account of the matter was that four men had
entered at the back door, one of whom put his arms round her aunt's
neck, and another, who was a tall man, dressed in black, swore that he
would kill her if she spoke a single word.
Mr Holloway, observing that the girl's arm was cut,
asked her how it had happened; to which she replied that one of the
men, in attempting to get out, had jammed it with the door. But
Holloway, judging from all appearances that no men had been in the
house, said he did not believe her, but supposed she was the murderer
of her aunt.
On this charge she fell into a fit and, being
removed to a neighbour's house, was bled by a surgeon, and continued
there till the following day, when the coroner's inquest sat on the
body, and brought in a verdict of wilful murder; whereupon she was
committed to prison, on the coroner's warrant.
Mrs Walker's executors, anxious to discover the
truth, caused the house to be diligently searched, and found that a
variety of things, which Mary Edmondson had said were stolen, were not
missing; nor could they discover that anything was lost. Mrs Walker's
watch and some other articles which she said had been carried off by
the murderers were found under the floor of the necessary-house.
Being committed to the New Jail, Southwark, she
remained there till the next assizes for Surrey, when she was tried at
Kingston, and convicted on evidence which, though acknowledged to be
circumstantial, was such as, in the general opinion, admitted little
doubt of her guilt.
She made a defence indeed; but there was not enough
of probability in it to have any weight.
Being condemned on Saturday, to be executed on the
Monday following, she was lodged in the prison at Kingston, whence she
wrote to her parents, most solemnly avowing her innocence, She
likewise begged that the minister of the parish would preach a sermon
on the occasion of her death. She asserted her innocence on the
Sunday, when she was visited by a clergyman and several other people;
yet was her behaviour devout, and apparently sincere.
Being taken out of prison on the Monday morning,
she got into a post-chaise with the keeper, and, arriving at the
Peacock, in Kennington Lane, about nine o'clock, there drank a glass
of wine; and then, being put into a cart, was conveyed to the place of
execution, where she behaved devoutly, and made the following address
to the surrounding multitude:--
"It is now too late to trifle either with God or
man. I solemnly declare that I am innocent of the crime laid to my
charge. I am very easy in my mind, as I suffer with as much pleasure
as if I was going to sleep. I freely forgive my prosecutors, and
earnestly beg your prayers for my departing soul."
After execution her body was conveyed to St
Thomas's Hospital, Southwark, and there dissected, agreeably to the
laws respecting murderers.
The Newgate Calendar - Exclassics.com
EDMONDSON, Mary (England)
was the daughter of a farmer who lived near Leeds, Yorkshire, but had
gone to live with her widowed aunt, Mrs Walker, at Rotherham. There
Mary lived a decorous way of life and, being a religiously minded
young lady, went to the local church regularly. What she was alleged
to have done later was totally out of character – if, as some
believed, she was indeed guilty of the horrendous crime.
seemed that a lady teacher named Toucher had been spending the evening
with Mrs Walker, and Mary escorted her across the darkened street
afterwards. Some time later a woman who sold oysters and had been
crying her wares in the locality, saw that the house door was open and
heard Mary call out: ‘Help! Murder! They have killed my aunt!’ Other
neighbours, hearing the commotion, ran to help, as did some men who
had been drinking in a nearby tavern. On entering the house they were
shocked to find Mrs Walker lying on the floor, her head covered with a
piece of linen. On removing that, it became horribly apparent that her
throat had been cut.
apparently almost incoherent, explained that four men had entered the
house through the back door and that one of them put his hands round
her aunt’s neck. Another man, tall and dressed in black, she said,
swore that he would kill her if she spoke a single word.
then one of the neighbours noticed that one of Mary’s arms was cut,
and on being asked about the wound, Mary said that one of the men,
when leaving, jammed her arm in the door.
sounded so much beyond belief that another neighbour shook his head
and accused the girl of committing the murder herself. At his words,
Mary fell into a fit and, being carried to a nearby house, was blooded
by a surgeon. She remained there until the next day when a coroner’s
inquest took place; the verdict being wilful murder, Mary was
forthwith committed to prison.
Investigating her statement that the four mysterious men had entered
the house to steal valuables, the police searched every room, only to
find a watch and other items alleged to have been stolen, hidden
beneath the floorboards in the privy. Mary was held in Kingston Prison
until her trial, at which, damned by such evidence, any convincing
defence was out of the question.
April 1759, only two days after being convicted, she was taken by
carriage to the Peacock Inn on Kennington Lane.
glass of wine there, she was put in a cart and driven to Kennington
Common, the public execution site for the county of Surrey. Near St
Mark’s Church stood the scaffold (where, only a few years earlier,
some of the Jacobite rebels had been hanged, drawn and quartered).
There, ignoring her continued assertions of innocence, the hangman,
probably Thomas Turlis, deftly hooded and noosed her. To somewhat
muted cheers from the crowd, he operated the drop, and after she had
hanged for some time, her body was cut down and taken to St Thomas’
Hospital, Southwark, and there dissected ‘in accordance with the laws
order to control certain ‘stews’ (brothels) in Southwark, London, in
1162, it was ordained by parliament that:
stew holder [brothel keeper] or his wife should prevent any single
woman [prostitute] from coming and going freely at all times, whenever
no more for the woman’s chamber in the week [rental] than fourteen
keep his doors open [for clients] upon the holidays [holy days].
single woman to be kept against her will that would leave her sin
[change her way of life].
holder to receive any woman of religion [nuns, etc.] or any man’s
single woman to take any money to lie with any man, unless she lies
with him all night till the morrow.
to be drawn or enticed into any stew-house.
constables, bailiff and others, every week, to search every
True Stories of Female Executions by Geoffrey Abbott