Saturday morning saw Nottingham much busier than normal. Traders were out and about as usual setting up their stalls in the Market Square in front of the Exchange. They were joined briefly by huge crowds who had come to witness the last day of the assizes trial. Though space inside the County Hall was limited the curious and the interested were not deterred. Soon the crowd in the square thinned as the masses made their way via Bridlesmith Gate and thence onto High Pavement. The street outside Shire Hall was filled with a large and unruly crowd from the early hours. The numerous witnesses and officials had the greatest difficulty gaining access via a flight of stone steps. Only the most determined were permitted inside to watch the trials; those with connections and those with silver coins gained easy entry. Some of the people were allowed into the spectators gallery which ran around three sides of the court room on a balustraded balcony on the first floor. There was also ground floor seating area at the very back of the court which curved around the back wall. The best viewing position was on the balcony and at the two front ends where those looking down could see clearly into the dock and would therefore have a clear of the prisoners. A good number of ladies occupied positions there. The rear seats and rear balcony afforded a good view of the court and most people within but would only see the backs of any prisoners in the dock. The spectators included all manner of people and many from beyond Nottingham. Most of those sitting or standing were well attired and there was an unusually large number of ladies present; this was not the usual crowd who witnessed the assizes trials.
The spectators watched with interest as the court slowly filled up. First to arrive were the court officials including the clerk, who took their positions in front of and around the largest table in the courtroom. The counsels for defence and prosecution arrived and took up their seats in the benches to the right and nearest to High Pavement. The jury of twelve men filed in slowly and sat in benches opposite to the two counsels. To their immediate left was a small seating area separated from the jury by a low metal grill. This was reserved for newspaper men and it too was soon occupied. The spectators inside turned as one as the sound of keys and chains jangling announced the arrival of prisoners. They did not enter the court from doors under the balcony. They had been brought up from cells below and after climbing a spiral staircase made their way to a small flight of steps which brought them almost up to the dock. The leading turnkey opened a low wooden door into the dock and then took two prisoners, assisted by the second turnkey. After removing some chains both turnkeys left the courtroom and descended down the steps. All eyes were now focussed on the dock as both prisoners blinked quickly, their eyes temporarily blinded by the light flooding into the court room. There were windows on all sides of the court room, high up near a glass roof. The prisoners were not used to this as their cells were dark and gloomy and it was some time before they could focus. One prisoner seemed very interested in his surroundings, looking at all around him. A good number of the spectators knew Saville by sight and pointed him out to those that did not. At precisely eight o’clock the excited chattering in the court room was instantly dispelled when a door banging signalled the entrance of Lord Chief Justice Denham. All those present in the court room stood as one as the Judge made his way to a large chair built into a canopied wooden awning which was set at the highest level of any seats in the room. Signalling with his hand for all to sit, the assize trials entered the final session.
Only two prisoners remained to be tried; William Saville for murder and Joseph Roys for a criminal assault. A new jury had been sworn in consisting of men from Ollerton, Walseby, Collingham, Bilsthrorpe and Rutland and were mostly farmers or landowners. None had been involved with the previous Coroners Inquisition. Mr Wildman and Mr Mellor would be conducting the case for the prosecution and Mr Mellor the defence. Both prisoners were arraigned at the same time to make their pleas. Saville was charged with the murder of Ann Saville and three other indictments; having murdered Harriet, Mary and Thomas. In a firm and composed tone Savilled pleaded not guilty. Joseph Roys , 32 a labourer was charged with feloniously assaulting Louise Brammar on 28th May in the parish of Cottam, and then and there and against her will, feloniously ravishing her. He pleaded not guilty. Saville was now set back in the dock as the trial of Joseph Roys commenced. His trial lasted nearly four hours. The jury found him guilty and Lord Chief Justice Denham sentenced him to serve in a penal colony for life, reminding the prisoner that in former times the sentence would have been death. The spectators were barely interested in this first trial, they were all anxious to hear the proceedings against Saville. As Roys was taken down to the cells below, to await his transfer to a prison hulk on the Thames, Saville was brought to the front of the dock. At almost twenty minutes to twelve, his trial finally began. He appeared very attentive but calm, collected and firm, not showing the least indication of sensitive feelings. He was respectably attired in a black coat and waist coat and dark trousers.
The indictment charged that Saville aged 29, on 24th May at a certain wood in Colwick did kill and murder Ann Saville his wife by cutting her throat. There were three other indictments charging the prisoner with the murder of three children. Mr Wildman for the prosection took to his feet and walking to the front of the court addressed the jury as he stated the circumstances of the case. He remarked that it required very serious consideration. It had been much talked and written about out of doors but he begged the jury would not allow anything they had heard prejudice their minds. Learned counsel then called for the first witness, Absalom Barnett, master of the Nottingham Union Workhouse. There were forty witnesses in total to be examined. The witnesses all had to enter through a door below the balcony then cross the court to one of two stands known as boxes. The one being used was nearest the seats occupied by learned counsel and which gave the jury the best view. Each witness in turn was sworn in with the aid of one of the bibles on the large centre table. The first witness explained how Ann Saville had entered the workhouse in early January with four children and left on 20th May with three children. The defence counsel cross examined this witness asking first about her condition when she first entered. Absalom Barnett replied. “ She was in a very filthy condition when she came in and was suffering from a disease of the skin.”. Mr Flowers pressed Mr Barnett to explain if there was anything wrong with her hands and Barnett replied. “ I did not notice anything wrong with her hands except that which resulted from the disease.”
The next witnesses called were first Robert then Mary Sutton who repeated their testimonies from the inquest explaining how they knew Saville. Elizabeth Tait was called next and explained how she had known the prisoner for just ten weeks and explained the events of the Monday and Tuesday evening close to the murders. When Willam Sutton was called to give evidence, he talked about the prisoner having three razors. Next came more witnesses who had given evidence at the Inquest including John Bamford, Samuel and Lucy Wardle and whose depositions were now read out again. So far there were no new witnesses to excite the court. That was about to change. Mr H M Wood Surveyor was called and as he entered court he seemed to be carrying something rolled up in his hand.
The surveyor produced a map of the roads from Wardle’s house to the Colwick Wood; the plan also exhibited the several places mentioned by the different witnesses. This map was admirably correct and of great service, enabling the court to understand the evidence more fully.
Next came more witnesses who had also given testimony at the inquest including Mary Miller, Anne Freer, John Brown the milkman and John Barker the boatman. The next witness called was new and John Allwood explained what he saw as he travelled from Colwick to Nottingham, noting the prisoner, his wife and children at the bend leading down to Colwick. Matthew Salmon Stanley also gave testimony again telling the court that at 12 o’clock on the day he had seen a man on the bridle road between the footpath and the road to Carlton. There was a woman and three children with him, walking towards Carlton. Young George Matthewson told the court about a man running after him in the wood, running a dozen yards then suddenly turning back. Hannah Boot, William Savidge and Mrs Bell next gave testimony then a new and very young witness was taken to the box. Alfred Young had claimed he had heard screams when walking close to the spinney. He was put into the box but seemed not to understand what he was there for nor understand the oath and a quick decision was taken that he should not be examined and he was removed from court. The next two witnesses were new and the newspaper men carefully recorded every word spoken as did the court recorder . Edward Beckson was called. A framework knitter, he knew the road from Colwick to Carlton as it wound around his house. The witness explained at two minutes past twelve on Tuesday 21st May he was in his garden and he saw a man coming down a close at the end of the witnesses house and he observed him closely. Pointing to the prisoner in the dock he called out “He is there!”. James Bowman, a journeyman to the previous witness testified seeing the prisoner pass his master’s house. The next two witnesses were responsible for the discovery of the bodies, and first John Swinscoe and then parish constable William Parr gave testimony.
The next witness called was Robert Davison, a surgeon at the Nottingham dispensary, who jointly carried out an examination of the bodies at Colwick in Parr’s barn. He began by trying to explain that the wounds on Ann Saville could not have been self-inflicted.
“Such a wound would cause instant death and was certainly not made by the woman herself. Suppose it had been; it would not be likely that she would retain the razor! Death would have been so sudden that it would have been impossible for her hand to have escaped the gush of blood. A person standing behind and inflicting the wound from left to right might escape the blood because the deepest part of the wound was on the left side”
Defence Counsel Mr Flowers was not happy with this witness and wanted to cross-examine the surgeon who had presented testimony at the inquest. He enquired of the court whether Mr Sandford Tatham Davison, brother of the last witness, would be put in the box, as he considered his evidence was of the utmost consequence to the prisoner. The counsel for the crown stated it was possible Mr Davison would not be able to appear as he had recently met with an accident, although he ( Mr Mellor) expected he would have been there. Upon inquiry it appeared that Mr Sandford Tatham Davison had been seen in Nottingham only the previous day and the learned judge directed that he be sent for immediately. In the meantime two further witnesses were called. John Calthrop Williams ,physician, supported the evidence given by Robert Davison. Thomas Nixon, a well known Nottingham Magistrate was next to be called. He explained how for many years he had himself been a surgeon in the guards. Having heard the description of the wounds, he was decidedly of the opinion that death would be instantaneous, and that a person receiving such a wound would not be able to stir except in falling. There was a stir in court as the next witness was called. It was Sandford Tatham Davison and he hobbled across the courtroom aided by a walking stick and tracked step by step by both defence counsel and the newspaper men.He was allowed to sit down rather than stand to deliver testimony. He explained how he made a post mortem examination of the dead body and described the wounds exactly as his brother had done.
“Suppose the woman had done it herself. She could not have moved four yards on her back round a tree. “
Defence counsel now seized his moment and cross-examined the witness.He asked if anyone receiving such a wound might struggle for a short distance? The witness replied
“A person might struggle sideways that distance after receiving such a wound. It would not be instantaneous death but nearly so. The nerve called the par vagum was severed, but still a few seconds might elapse before death ensues.”
The learned counsel Flowers then read out to court a passage from MrDavison’s evidence before the coroner.
“I cannot form a decisive opinion as to whether the wound was inflicted by herself or by some other person: It is possible she might have done it herself.”
Mr Davison then replied that what had been read was his opinion. The Judge Lord Denman then added to the debate by stating;
“If she had inflicted the wound herself the hand could not have been free from blood.”
Mr Flowers was not yet finished with the witness. He boldly asked him if the woman could have killed the children first then herself? Mr Davison replied;
“It was impossible. Suppose she had done it herself? She would have had to struggle from the spot where the children were found to where the body lay.”