Sunday 18th August saw Minister William Lindwood return to his chapel at Mansfield to deliver, as promised, his highly popular sermon about the recent events in Nottingham. The venue, also known as the Old Meeting House was packed and again hundreds had to be turned away. Lindwood was a notable opponent of hanging. The carnage and deaths following Saville’s execution afforded him a wonderful opportunity to lift his voice against the brutality of capital punishment. He began by describing the execution itself in what he called a “series of pictures”. This was extremely interesting for those who did not witness the matter themselves. He began by describing the scene in court and the final verdict. He then looked back over Saville’s early life, motherless and abandoned by his own father, “Guideless, morally blind, he moves forward, until his red-blood hand is raised to heaven.” The scene then shifts to Saville in his condemned cell, his last days and the fatal morn. The final few minutes of his life complete this picture, “All is over: a few convulsive movements and the once living breathing human being swings from the beam a corpse”
He next describes the baying mob who have come to watch and asks “Is there any indication of improved morality in this? No; executions do for Englishmen what amphitheatric carnage did for the warlike Romans: they steel the heart against the purer emotions of humanity.” The final picture he paints with words concerns the catastrophe which followed the execution, “ Far and near the human torrent pours: the wounded and killed lie huddled together in one hideous mass – the wail of death was the murder’s requiem”. Lindwood then closed his sermon by asking a series of questions, “ Do we need more such scenes to convince us that executions produce or exercise a brutal recklessness – an utter disregard of human life – and foster passions as demon-like as the spirit which perpetrates them? How long are these scenes to disgrace our soil?
The audience enjoyed the oratory and left for their homes with the sermon ringing in their ears.
To the south of Mansfield and eleven miles away, the wounded of Nottingham were making good recoveries. The various Nottingham newspapers had not reported all of the names of those who had received medical attention. The poor could not afford the services of a doctor or surgeon but many did not realise that in times of such emergency this would be provided free of charge. The most seriously injured were taken to the General Hospital, those who could walk could seek help from the Dispensary. Located in Broad Street and close to the House of Correction, the medical officer and surgeons here also made house visits. A number of the injured were admitted to the General Hospital on the Thursday. These included James Gamble of Bloomsgrove who received a severe injury upon his left side by being pressed against a window stone, near to Mr Higginbottoms; John Conroy of Tradesmans Mart, Lower Parliament Street, who was standing in the centre of the crowd opposite the County Tavern was severely crushed and had he remained a few minutes longer he would have been suffocated. Polly Smith aged 31 and a mother of five from Lees Yard, Narrow Marsh was completely unable to be walk after being stamped on at the foot of Garners Hill. Hannah Lacey aged 39 of New Radford whilst standing near to Mr Higginbottoms, was thrown down and trampled upon, she was severely crushed about her arms and upper part of her body. Just over a week after the tragedy all admitted to the hospital were making good recoveries. This included the two most serious cases after John Spink and both at one time considered to be In a “very dangerous “ state of health. These were William Piner of New Radford and William Brewer from New Lenton.
When first admitted most had breathing difficulties, were drifting in and out of consciousness and were described as “rendered insensible”.A few of the injured had actually been discharged and once home were finally able to talk about their ordeals. Emma Charles aged 15 explained how, whilst standing at the top of Garners Hill, she was carried down by the crowd. Three dead bodies lay upon her and a number of others upon them. She was sensible the whole of the time, she lay on her face, the three bodies lying upon her were on their faces. Her breath was stopped for some time and she was very much crushed. Francis Smith aged 65 of Broad Street, whilst standing near Garners Hill, was crushed up with her face and chest toward the wall. Her face and chest was very much injured. No further deaths were recorded. The death toll remained at 13 with 12 killed on the day and one dying of his injuries in the General Hospital. Thirty people had been treated at the Dispensary for slightly less serious injuries and nearly all of these came from Nottingham. The exceptions were John Thompson aged 14 of Beeston and Ann Eaton aged 43 of Sawley. After being dressed those treated at the Dispensary were able to go back to their own homes. Dr Taylor also attended a Mrs May of Pear Street, and Mary Britton of York Street at their residences, being much too injured to get to the Dispensary and a girl named Smith of Sneinton was also taken to the Dispensary terribly crushed. There were an estimated one hundred others who were injured but who did not seek medical attention . One such was Mary Ann Bonello aged 13, Lees Yard, Narrow Marsh was dreadfully bruised and taken up apparently lifeless and returned to her home. Only one person was taken to the Union Hospital, Joseph Whitehead a vagrant who had left the house in the morning and then was soon back in again. He was not dangerously hurt. In total 23 were admitted into the General Hospital one to the Union Workhouse Hospital and the Dispensary treated at least 33 people. The figure of another one hundred injured was very likely a serious under-estimate.
With Saville turned off and buried and no further deaths to report, news and interest now had a new focus. The reasons for the great loss of life had been established and a letter had been sent to the Home Secretary. Where the masses had followed news of Saville with great interest, now a different audience started debating a subject closer to their hearts. The richer and more educated populace of Nottingham including politicians, merchants, bankers and doctors, had long had concerns about holding public executions in High Pavement. It was tradition for public executions to take place at Gallows Hill, a mound in one corner of the Forest near Mansfield Road. The condemned would be taken out in carts from either County Hall or The House of Correction, driven up to the gallows. A noose would be put around their necks and as the cart moved away they would be turned off. The Forest was a large open space, almost the complete opposite of the narrow street that was High Pavement. There was something very special about High Pavement; it was seen as the principal street in Nottingham. Located on a sandstone rise, a hill in the oldest part of Nottingham, roomy houses here were the residences of well-to-do manufacturers and professional men. Those on the south side had gardens at the back, or spacious court-yards. From these, it was possible to watch the people in Narrow Marsh below and see the meadows beyond leading down to the River Trent. The principal street attracted the principal residents and these included Christopher Swann County Coroner and Mr. Higginbottom, a Doctor who had been part of the medical party examining the corpses at Parr’s barn. The recent outrage at Savilles execution had proved too much. Windows had been broken and ever doors were broken down due to the pressure of the crowd. This correspondence now started appearing in the Nottingham papers and it started the debate anew.
On August 9th the Mercury had printed an article from a correspondent concerning the first use of County Hall for execution in 1817. The magistrates at that time determined on altering the place of execution as in the event of any execution taking place on the Forest or Gallow Hill, a rescue was talked of and dreaded. The first person who was hanged in front of the County Prison was Daniel Diggle, a reputed frame-breaker, who broke into the home of a person named Kelly, who resided in Aspley Lane and who resolutely defended his frame from being broken. Diggle, not finding the offence so easily accomplished as it was in many instances, resorted to his pistol, and fired twice at Kelly; he was apprehended and suffered the highest penalty of the law in front of the County Prison, where this days calamity has always been feared and often predicted, from the narrowness of the street, which is totally inadequate to accommodate the immense crowds which always assemble on these melancholy occasions. The place is nearly opposite the residence of the late John Fellows Esq, who dreading the evil consequences of accidents that might arise from a large assemblage closely hemmed in so small a place, consulted with Lord Rancliffe on the subject who applied to Lord Sidmouth to prevent the adopting such a confined spot for the use of a place of execution but Lord Sidmouth declined to interfere; it has since then generally been used for that purpose, but the appalling event of this day will surely act as a motive for the constituted authorities, in the event of another occasion occurring, to provide some situation better suited to the purpose, and where there will be room sufficient to prevent a repetition of the distressing and awful loss if life which has this day taken place. In short, the authorities were most concerned about the security of the event at the time of the Luddite riots.
In the next edition of the Mercury on August 16th, the debate continued with a letter supplied by a gentleman resident of High Pavement and dating from 1832 and addressed to the High Sheriff.
“We the undersigned inhabitants of the town of Nottingham, beg leave respectfully to solicit your serious consideration to the prayer of this petition.
“We have learnt with the deepest regret that it is intended to execute the unhappy men now under sentence of death in front of the County Hall, situated on the High Pavement of this town. We therefore earnestly entreat you to consider the terrific effect which such a spectacle must have on persons dwelling in the immediate vicinity and also what is not less to be regarded in the execution of public justice, the deterioration in value of property of individuals, by subjecting it to the inconvenience and disgust which must necessarily rise from it.”
“Such has been the precaution and feeling with the official authorities throughout the kingdom, to avoid shocking the delicacy and composure of innocent and sensitive minds, that they have studiously selected places for scenes of public and ignominious death, of as much seclusion as the nature of such a public act and the law of the land would admit of – places where those for whose example they are made may freely resort but where they are not forced on the attention of others on whom the scene of terror cannot but create consequences the most injurious and sensations the most revolting
For these reasons, Sir, we most respectfully and most earnestly entreat, that this appalling tragedy may not be enacted in the principal through narrow street of our town, but that you will be pleased, with the permission of the town authorities, to remove it to the House of Correction, where a complete apparatus for carrying the dreadful sentence of the law unto execution has been judiciously and humanely constructed, and where from its open situation, and from other circumstances, all necessary publicity is afforded for such deeds, and where none are compelled to witness or to know of their transaction.
By complying with the prayer of this petition, both you Sir and the Royal authorities will consult in a manner truly desirable the moral feelings of your petitioners, and of the inhabitants at large, and moreover at the same time, spare us the double disgust of having within our walls two places of execution.
Signed G. Wilkins D D, Vicar of St Marys and fifteen others
To this letter the High Sheriff replied,
In reply to your application respecting the place of execution of the six unfortunate men, now in the County Gaol, I can assure you it is my anxious desire to consider your wishes and interests, but I hope you will also have the candour to look at the situation in which I am placed on this disagreeable occasion; I must keep in view the attainment of the object without interruption or attempt at rescue; also the probability of disturbing public peace, which I am bound to think would be endangered by removing prisoners the distance of the Forest for execution &c. I yesterday wrote to the Secretary of State making to his Lordship the above statement, at the same time proposing could I obtain permission of the Mayor and Magistrates of the Town for the use of the Drop of the House of Correction, that the exit of these unhappy individuals should take place there, providing his Lordship would authorise it – it being as you well know, our of the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of the County.[i] / [ii] / [iii]
TO be continued…. COPYRIGHT@ Mike Sheridan 2014 All rights reserved
[i] Nottingham Mercury August 9 1844
[ii] Nottingham Mercury August 16 1844
[iii] Recollections of Old Nottingham By Mrs A Gilbert