Upon being removed from the dock and entering the room below, Saville placed his hand to his neck to intimate he was to be hanged and made a squeaking noise in bravado. He would not be returning to his old cell. The two turnkeys led him to a larger cell much nearer the courtyard. It was more than twice the width of his old cell, had two wooden beds and even had a small fireplace. The cell was fronted by bars so this cell also afforded more light; Saville had entered the condemned cell and would spend his final days here. Saville would not be allowed to be on his own at any time now and the second bed was intended for one of the turnkeys. The High Sheriff was completely responsible for the execution arrangements and the prisoner must not be allowed to cheat justice and escape the rope by killing himself.
After being silent for nearly an hour he said “ The time will soon come now; well I will show them that I can stand it without flinching. I shall not be afraid of death; I will die like a man. If they think I shall be frightened they are mistaken; I will stand it as well as anybody did”. Amongst other things he stated that eight witnesses had not told the truth. He forgave them and hoped God would forgive them. He claimed the evidence of both Freeman and Lynch was very wrong, in particular not one third of Freeman’s evidence was true. He talked about Elizabeth Tate and said that he would like to see her. “She had been the unconscious cause of the whole” he lamented. His mind appeared much at ease during the first few days. He was asked for whom the lock of hair belonged, found in his trunk. “Lucy Ann”, he replied who was his youngest child and had died in the workhouse. He claimed he had been told that Mrs Brownsword wanted it and he requested it to be given to her.
Soon after condemnation he was pressed to make a confession. He refused claiming they only wanted a tale to talk about in the street. He said he did not mean to make any confession at all as that should be between himself and god. He continued in this vein until Friday. On that morning his conduct was strange; he was restless and agitated. He was asked by an attendant what was wrong? He replied “ Oh my head is so full of trouble”. He then wept and then broke into a strange idiotic laugh.” I was just thinking what a while it is since I saw a knife and fork”. He looked wild during the day. At night he complained he could not sleep. When he attempted to sleep he said he felt as if he were perpetually falling into some dark abyss. He sat ruminating for an hour, then told his attendants that his present position reminded him of a dream he had had two years previously. He had at that time dreamed for two or three nights that he would be hanged. He fancied himself to be on the scaffold just waiting to be hurtled into eternity when he heard a noise like the tolling of a passing bell which invariably awoke him. ”And now” he added “I shall soon experience it in reality”. He grew more reserved towards Friday afternoon but listened to readings from religious books. The reader was occasionally disturbed by Saville laughing hysterically. On being asked the cause of his laughing he replied “ Oh my head, it is so full of trouble. I have been unlucky through life and I am coming to an unlucky end”. From this period there was a marked change in Saville’s condition. He became more serious and seemed anxious to ease his mind and regain his firmness.
On the Saturday morning he remained in bed until nearly dinnertime, he had slept little the previous night having been troubled by dreams. At eleven o’clock he suddenly jumped from his bed in a wild and agitated manner. He explained he had been dreaming his room was full of people and they were all trying to get him. He lay down on his bed again but suddenly started up, throwing his arms about wildly in the air. “Oh take him off, take him off”. In some kind of imaginary struggle, Saville threw himself to the ground, dashing his head as he did so. At this point the attendants rang a bell to summon aid. Saville continued in a hysterical fit for an hour. He explained his agony, saying the Devil was pressing forward from the crowd that surrounded him, about to plunge a huge fork into him. Mr Attenborough, the Gaol surgeon was called for. He calmed Saville with an administration of brandy and placed hot bricks to his feet. During the remainder of the day he seemed very low and dispirited. The Chaplain told him that confession and repentance alone would lead to salvation At last Savilles reserved and proud spirit gave way and the Clerk to the Magistrates was sent for. Saville’s statement was taken down in writing.
“I intended to drown my wife and family and myself in Colwick Weir but walked on into the wood instead. I took off my coat and lay it down for my wife and child to sit on. I told my wife I needed to ease myself and went off to the close above, climbing over the stile and went against the wall. I heard the little boy crying and returned to find my wife and children had gone further into the wood. I heard her calling, “Mary, come here my dear and I will give you a bit more of this candied lemon.” Then I heard her call Harriet and heard my little boy cry and call “Mother!” I went down and saw her holding the little boy with his body betwixt her knees and her left hand upon his forehead and I saw her draw the razor across his throat. I called her a bitch and brute and said to her, “I’ll serve you the same now.” I pushed her backwards, took the razor from her and cut her throat.”
Saville’s confession was taken down by Magistrate Thomas Nixon who added;
Taken before me at the County Gaol 4th of August 1844, signed Thomas Nixon. Thomas Nixon added his full signature and Saville his mark, a long elongated x between the words William and Saville. The confession was witnessed by visiting magistrates and Saville’s brother in law.
Thomas Nixon then conferred with the other magistrates and decided news of the confession must be sent immediately to the home of Lord Justice Denham. A copy was quickly made and the letter was despatched in an evening coach to London. Thomas Nixon made it clear he did not think it would make any difference to the sentence but it was his duty to communicate the details of Saville’s confession. Saville could yet be reprieved if a Queen’s messenger arrived before the sentence was carried out.
The High Sheriff had delegated the task of organising the execution to the Under –Sheriff and he had responsibility for appoint the hangman. At the same time as Saville was making his confession Samuel Heywood was leaving his Leicestershire home in Appleby Magna and making his way to Nottingham. He carried the tools of his trade in a sack on his back; it contained two coils of rope, a sharp knife and a black hood. He had some bread and cheese wrapped up in a handkerchief to sustain him. Samuel was hangman for Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. He had hanged three men in Derby in 1843, Bonsall, Hulme and Bland. He was no stranger to Nottingham having despatched three men for murder in 1822. In 1820 he had also hanged Thomas Wilcox. He travelled on foot, occasionally being lucky enough to be provided with a lift on a passing wagon or trap. He slept in any convenient barn or even under a hedge. He did have a particular custom when sleeping however.
They say he walked to all of his executions, walked for two to three days at a time and always slept with his feet pointing towards where he needed to be.
By Tuesday afternoon he was nearing Nottingham and passed through the village of Ruddington. He climbed one last large hill then sat down to rest at the top. Below him lay Nottingham, meadows leading down to the River Trent and the bridge he must soon cross. He picked out four clear landmarks; Nottingham Castle , two churches with spires and a church with a tower. He knew his destination was close to the church of St Marys, the one with the tower.Pointing his feet at this church he lay back to enjoy one final nap before completing his journey. By early evening he had arrived at Shire Hall and was shown to his accommodation, a conveniently empty cell. He lay down in the bed and enjoyed a restful sleep.
From Sunday to Tuesday Saville continued in a self- satisfied state of mind and he listened very attentively to readings of scriptures. On the Tuesday he was cheerful and spoke of his coming execution without any fear. “ I hope I shall be in as good spirits tomorrow morning as I am now”. On Tuesday evening he prayed for about one hour and went to sleep at ten o’clock. At two on the morning of the execution he awoke exclaiming “The time is near. This is the last hour, after this night¸ that we shall have the pleasure of seeing one another in this world, but I hope we shall meet again in the next”. The conversation continued for about one hour. Someone said it was hard for him to be charged with the commission of four murders if he only committed one. If he had, he hoped he would explain the matter before he was hanged. Saville replied “ I will not for they would not believe me, the mob would only hoot me”. He went back to sleep at three o’clock and slept for one hour. When he awoke he was asked what clothes he would like to suffer in? He replied “White trousers, black waistcoat and lapelled coat.”. He said he would like to give his best black surtout to his brother in law. By mistake the turnkey returned with his surtout and black trousers. Saville was offended by this stating that “I would rather be hanged without a coat than have that surtout on”. At five o’clock he dressed himself in the clothes requested with the exception of white trousers as black ones seemed more suited to the occasion. He then went out into the yard to wash himself and stayed there until ten past six. He paced up and down until called by the Chaplain. He spoke with the Chaplain until seven o’clock and then sent for the attendants who had been with him. He said that if he had used any expression about his dress or anything else which did not please them he hoped they would forgive him. He then shook hands with them. He then ate a hearty breakfast, received the sacrament and prepared for the procession to the place of execution .At precisely seven thirty the procession from the jail to the grand jury room commenced, headed by the under-sheriff. Saville seemed very calm but his brow was slightly wrinkled and he moved at a funereal pace. The Chaplain walked behind him. Upon reaching the grand jury room the Chaplain commenced reading the prescribed service in which Saville seemed to join. The Chaplain, with his voice trembling, read the prayers whilst all present knelt in solemn silence. Not a word was uttered during the entire service but an occasional yell from the street outside broke into the stillness within. During the service Saville seemed to be engaged in prayers and occasional tears might be observed stealing down his cheek, which he wiped away with his hand or prison cap. During the interval between the two portions of the service Saville had irons placed on his legs and the hangman commenced his duties by taking the prisoners stock, baring his neck and bosom and adjusting the rope. The process of pinioning was his next course of duty – he strapped the prisoners arms tightly behind him. The second portion of the service was read. Saville requested permission to shake hands with the turnkeys, having done so he said he was ready. Before proceeding from the grand jury room he was asked whether his persisted in the statements he had made in his confession. He replied he did. He acknowledged the justice of his sentence and seemed impatient to have the matter concluded. He made a particular request that he would not be long on the drop as he was afraid of being hooted. His confession had delayed the sentence for a few days but no Queens messenger had arrived to save him. The time was just before eight o’clock on the morning of 7th August 1844.[i] / [ii]
To be continued