On 3rd December 1825 Edward Cockerell went into my ancestor's shop at about eight o'clock in the evening and asked to look at some rings from the window. He chose a ring and a brooch. In order to pay for them he initially offered a five guinea note issued in Pontefract, but the shopkeeper, William Foster who had worked for William Haskins for six years, told him that he could only accept a note payable in London. Edward then produced a £5 note and, at the same time, added other items to his purchase which brought the total due to three pounds 4 shillings. The goods were wrapped and the shopkeeper, being highly suspicious that the note might be a forgery, asked Edward to put his name and address on the back. The shopkeeper, on the pretense of going to get some change, found a Constable and they confronted Edward about the two notes in the shop. Edward was then taken into custody. Shortly afterwards he admitted the address he had written on the note was false and, as if to make matters worse, offered the Constable 5 shillings if he would let him go.
Unsurprisingly the case went to trial - five weeks later. It seems Edward wasn't legally represented.
You can read full details of the proceedings on The Old Bailey website http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?ref=t18260112-28.
At The Old Bailey on 12th January 1826, EDWARD COCKERELL was found guilty and sentenced to death.
I had thought that the sentence of death was a fait accompli but it appears, in those days, that it was not unusual for sentences to be reduced after appeals for clemency. I therefore searched and found some interesting newspaper articles following his conviction. I have transcribed these and quote from them in purple.
Just five weeks after the Trial, The Sussex Advertiser on Monday 20th February 1826, reported that the Recorder of London on Thursday, made a Report to The King in Council of the prisoners lying under sentence of death in Newgate, namely :
- Housebreaking : John Lowe 36, Samuel Roberts 29, Thomas Winter Preston 17, Henry Thomas Reading 17
- Stealing in a dwelling house 40 shillings and upwards : Thomas Gismore 41, William Johnson 21, Jane McEvoy 25, John Welch 18, Thomas Johnson 13, Mark Brooker 18, Cornelius Brisnahan 27, James Edwards 25, John Williams 25, William Dunn 25
- Burglary : Michael Davis 20, Fred Thelwall 22, James Pinkett 18
- Being at large in this country before the expiration of the term for which they had been sentenced to be transported : William Williams 39, James Hawkins 24, Abraham Davis 26
- Coining : James Smith 27, James Hawkins 23
- Burglary : John Jones 22, William Hunt 14, William Nicholson 19, John Henley 21, George Wright 20
- Highway robbery : William Burke 18, Susan Barnett 32
- Horse stealing : William Groves, alias Cufftree Brooker 51
- Stealing in a dwelling house 40 shillings and upwards : George Coxhead 20, Joseph Dolphin 39, Edmund Waller 59, Ann Conroy 26, William Kay 31, John Myatt Shaw 30, Charles Pratt 32
- Forging a promissory note : Edward Cockerell 29
It seems that just two of the 38 sentenced to death would actually suffer that fate and the others would either face transportation or serve time in prison for their crimes. Edward was one of the two unlucky one's who would be hanged as an example and deterrent to others.
The King in this case was George IV who had been Prince Regent to his mentally ill father and reigned from 1820 to 1830.
Just a week later on Wednesday 1st March, The Hereford Journal reported under a sub heading “Executions”:
After passing through the different passages of the prison towards the room where the prisoners are brought to the Sherriff’s, you arrive at a yard immediately contiguous to it. In this yard was Cockerell walking about, smiling, and talking, with perfect ease and composure, to Mr Barrett, the Clerk of the Papers of Newgate.
The Sheriffs being in the room, in a few minutes Mr Barrett intimated to him that the time was arrived when they must part – he, with an air of great politeness, took him by the hand, repeatedly bowed, and, with a nimble step, walked into the room, went up to the Sheriffs, and shook hands with them in the same manner, without displaying any feeling for his situation or being impressed with the slightest degree of fear. He then went up to the officers who pinion the culprits, and placing his wrists in a parallel direction, he said, “that’s the way, I think.” The officer was about to place his hands flat together, when he said , “Oh, no, I must have use of my hands. I have a gift in this” (his right hand). His wrists being placed in the usual way, he said, “Oh, I suppose I can open my hand – yes.” He then said, “tye (sic) them tight; I suppose they sometime struggle in dying.” The Reverend Mr Cotton came up to him, and spoke to him; he replied to him, “I am perfectly prepared. I wish every one’s mind was as easy as mine."
The preparations being ended, he walked to the other side of the room, and was told that he had better sit, to which he said, “No, I thank you, I had rather not,” with perfect ease. The few moments that passed while Jones was undergoing the same ordeal, he spent in conversing with Mr Baker. The Reverend Ordinary intimating that they were ready, he said, “Go on, sir; I’ll follow you.” He then shook hands with various officers, which he also did on going along the passages; and at one places stepped several paces out of his way to shake hands with a person through the grating.
"The New Drop" at Newgate Prison were gallows on wheels and was brought out specially for each hanging by a team of horses and positioned in front of The Debtors’ Door. It was a large box like structure with two uprights supporting two parallel beams from which a maximum of a dozen criminals could be hanged at once. The prisoners stood on a platform, 10 feet long by 8 feet wide, released by moving a lever or "pin" acting on a drawbar under the drop, causing them to fall roughly to knee level.
On the eve of a hanging, the gallows was brought out by a team of horses and placed in front of the Debtor's Door of Newgate. Large crowds gathered around it and it was guarded by soldiers with pikes. Wealthy people could pay as much as £10 for a seat in a window overlooking the gallows at the hanging of a notorious criminal. At around 7.30 a.m, the condemned prisoners were led from their cells into the Press Yard where the Sheriff and the Ordinary (prison chaplain) would meet them. The hangman and his assistant bound their wrists in front of them with cord and also placed a cord round their body and arms at the elbows. The bell of St. Sepulchre’s church began tolling at 7.45 a.m. The prisoners were led across the Yard to the Lodge and then out through the Debtor's Door where they climbed the steps up to the platform. There would be shouts of "hats off" in the crowd. This was not out of respect for those about to die, but rather because the people further back demanded those at the front remove their hats so as not to obscure their view.
Once assembled on the drop, the hangman would put the nooses round their necks while they prayed with the Ordinary and when they had finished he placed the white hoods over them. Female prisoners would have their dress bound around their legs for the sake of decency but the men's legs were left free. When the prayers had finished, the Under Sheriff gave the signal and the executioner moved the lever which was connected to a drawbar under the trap and caused it to fall with a loud crash, the prisoners dropping 12-18 inches and usually writhing and struggling for some seconds before relaxing and becoming still. If their bodies continued to struggle, the executioner unseen by the crowd within the box below the drop, would grasp their legs and swing on them so adding his weight to theirs and thus ending their sufferings sooner. The dangling bodies were left to hang for an hour.
Source : An excellent website about all aspects of Capital Punishment in the UK called www.capitalpunishmentuk.org
Edward Cockerell arrived in the lobby, at the foot of the drop, after Jones had gone up, Mr Baker intimated that he would walk up with him; after a moment’s thought he said, “Mr Baker, I am very much obliged to you for all your attentions to me, and to others, but it is my particular wish that no one should go up with me. I want no one. I wish you well, sir, and happy, and also your children and Mrs Baker.”
Mr Harris, the principal turnkey, then came forward. He shook hands with him, and said, “Good bye – thank you for all your kindness – pray remember me to your brother.” He ascended the steps, looked round, and bowed to the multitude on each side. He then put a sovereign into the hand of the executioner, and on having the cap put on (as we understood him) wished not to have his eyes covered.
All the sad preparatory offices being ended, at a quarter past eight the drop fell, and launched the two miserable beings into eternity. Cockerel struggled for some minutes in the most agonizing way, verifying his own supposition. Ever since his condemnation he refused all religious consolation.”
“On Sunday, during the time Dr Cotton (the Ordinary) was engaged in preaching the condemned sermon at Newgate, Edward Cockerell ......... amused himself by writing the following lines on a form in the condemned pew :-
No strumpet exercise her trade;
No parson preach eternal truth,
Without their labours amply paid.”