Author Topic: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath & Gaol  (Read 13114 times)

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Offline Pete

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Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath & Gaol
« on: April 21, 2012, 16:08:52 pm »
Very much a list but I hope to add more information, if anyone has more information please message it to me to be edited in
John Weekes Murder (execution by pain forte et dur ie pressing)
In 1735 John Weeks of Fittleworth was accused of the murder of Elizabeth Symonds near to Petworth. Weeks declined to offer a plea and, according to the law, the courts had no jurisdiction over him. Weeks was found guilty of 'standing mute through malice' and was sentenced to the peine forte et dure to persuade him to enter a plea. This should have taken place within a prison cell but instead it was carried out in full public view in the gaol grounds. Weeks was laid down with a board over him, a prison door according to some reports. Onto the door was piled 100 weights, then another 100 then a third. Weeks appeared to be dying and another 50 weights were added. Finally the 16 stone gaoler laid on the board and Weeks passed away

1737  March/April
Alexander Screwens Horse theft
1737 August
Edward Daw Housebreaking
1738 March or April
Thomas Smith Housebreaking
1740 April
John Whatman Burglary
Robert Knowlden Burglary
Lawrence Holliday Murder of Thomas Avann  with a hammer  Hanged in chains near murder spot on Fairlight Common
1741 April
Richard Allen Burglary
 James Harrison Housebreaking
Thomas Marlen Housebreaking
Philip Dean Highway robbery
1742 August
Edward Farrier  Highway robbery
 James Morphey Highway robbery
 James Horley Horse theft
William Rapley Horse & sheep theft ??/April
John Vinall Horse theft
John Wharton Horse theft
John Mills Murder of Richard Hawkins (Hanged in chains on Slindon Common)
Henry Shearman Murder of William Galley ( Hanged in chains at Rake)
John Brown Highway robbery
 Robert Fuller Highway robbery
Lawrence Kent (Kemp) Stole in dwelling house
Thomas Kent (Kemp) Stole in dwelling house
1749 April
Hugh MacCullam Murder of Richard Hall
Edmund Richards Murder of William Galley ( Hanged in chains on Hambrook Common)
George Chapman Aiding and abetting murder

All 1749 executions for Smuggling except April 1st
1750 April
Thomas Carey Aiding and abetting murder  
William England Robbed dwelling house  
John Jeffrey Highway robbery
1750 August
 Patrick Maccony Stole in dwelling house
Isaac Adrian Aiding and abetting murder
Patrick Tobin Highway robbery
1751 April
Elizabeth Lewes Murder of her male bastard
1751 August
John Daw Burglary
1752 April
Thomas Prestwood Burglary
John Heath Highway robbery
7/8/1752  (Both Broadbridge Heath)
Ann Whale Petty Treason murder of her husband James by poison (Burned at the Stake )
Sarah Pledge Aiding and abetting above murder (Hanged)
Newly married to James Whale and about 20 year old Ann conspired with Sarah to kill her husband. The reason was Ann's £80 inheritance which James would have had control of. The first poisoning attempt using roasted spiders in beer failed . Using the rat poison arsenic succeeded. Ann had bought the poison from a shop where she was not known. Both confessed the crime. On Friday 7th of August 1752 at 3:30 in the afternoon the hangman, 'Jack Ketch', despatched Sarah Pledge. Some two hours later Ann Whale was chained to the stake, strangled and burned to death. An immense crowd was reported to have watched both deaths. The executions were in this order to prevent Sarah inheriting Ann's estate. Sarah Pledges body was taken away to Storrington where it was dissected by Dr Dennet Junior, the first recorded case in Sussex

Samuel Shefford Highway robbery
1754 September
John Millet (Mills) Horse theft
John Noyse Aiding and abetting murder
John Weak Aiding and abetting murder
Thomas Ansell Aiding and abetting murder
John Bulbeck Forgery
Sarah Young Murder of her male bastard
John Ney Highway robbery
John Upperton Highway robbery ( Hanged in chains at Burpham)
William Stemp Highway robbery
 Ambrose Cannon Aid and abet murder
 Richard Bridger Housebreaking
Thomas Jarrett Horse theft
5 August Ann Cruttendon Petty Treason-Murder of her husband, Joseph ( Burned at the stake)
Richard Tomkins At large
William Garrett Murder of his wife, Elizabeth
Joseph Soane Highway robbery
Nicholas Vinall Rape of Martha Thomas (child)
Zachariah Smith Burglary
Thomas Jones & Burglary
Robert Parsons Burglary
John Beach Housebreaking
William Darby (30) Housebreaking
Joseph Varnfield (24) Burglary
Benjamin Kennard Stole in dwelling house
John Carpenter Cattle theft
William Edwards Highway robbery
 Joseph Clark Housebreaking
William Hartley Housebreaking
James Wells Horse theft
 Francis Fowler Burglary
James Wilder (21) Highway robbery
Richard Scipio Bristow Robbed dwelling house
Charles Roberts Highway robbery
William Still Horse theft
James Winn Horse theft
Richard Grazemark Murder of Jemima Marten
Richard Grazemark was convicted of murdering his daughter, also of incest with her and of attempted suicide. Following his hanging, Grazemark's corpse was handed over to local surgeons Price & Sopay who carried out the dissection in public - from the first incision to the boiling of the bones. Some of his skin was even passed to local tanners and made into the soles of footwear for some Horsham residents
Cooper Goodsiff Horse theft
George Summer Burglary (Goods to the value of £12)
John Saunders Accessory to burglary (Receiving stolen goods from Summer)
Philip Davy Highway robbery
William Brook Horse theft
James West & Horse theft
Thomas Smith Horse theft
Edward Howell  Highway robbery
James Rook Highway robbery (both hanged afterwards in chains at Peterdene Lane, near Shoreham, )Mail robbery, theft of 2 horses. Howell asked that if gibbeted it be high enough so he could see the Prince’s Cricket Ground in Brighton. Rooks mother used to visit the Gibbet & collect her son’s bones and bury them in Shoreham Church yard
William Sanson Riot
William Sykes Riot
William Midwinter Highway robbery
William Midwinter Highway robbery
Robert Drewitt Highway robbery
William Drewitt Highway robbery ( Both hanged in chains on North Heath Common, near Midhurst.)Mail robbery , the last to be gibbeted in Sussex, the bodies hung for some 3 years before the cage collapsed22/7/1799
Elizabeth Lavender (19) Murder of her male bastard
 John Cullen  Rape Miriam Bennett
Patrick O'Shea as above
Michael Donellan  as above
Irish soldiers from Horsham Barracks
 John Card  Horse theft
 William Card  Horse theft
Theft of 2 racehorses from Sir Ferdinand Poole
 Thomas Kennedy Burglary
Ann Davis (Gordon) Murder of her child
 Josiah Groombridge Sheep theft
 William Boon Sheep theft
William Wilson  Burglary
 William Langley Horse theft
James Gibbs Cutting & maiming
Edward Broadbent Murder Sgt. Watson
Daniel Hartford Horse theft
Sussex Bonfire - a way of life, not just for Nov 5th

Offline Pete

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2012, 16:09:59 pm »
Very much a list but I hope to add more information, if anyone has more information please message it to me to be edited in

Henry Durrant Highway robbery
 James Tilley  Burglary
David Barnett Burglary
George Daw Murder Thomas Sawyer
Daniel Levey Murder
William Burt Murder infant son
Thomas Bufford 25 Arson
 George Wren Arson
William Goodsell 22 Arson
Richard Shepherd 33 Burglary
 John Sparsholt 19  Sodomy (Last Public hanging at Horsham)
John Lawrence  Police Superintendent Solomon  (Last at Horsham)

Sussex Bonfire - a way of life, not just for Nov 5th

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2012, 18:04:56 pm »
John Sparsholt 19  Sodomy (Last Public hanging at Horsham) 06/04/1844

Curiously, buggery (aka sodomy) remained a capital offence until 1861 and a crime until 1967.

Offline John

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2012, 19:33:12 pm »
I knew it was still a crime in the 60's, but never realised it had ever been a capital offence. Blimey  :o
"You know, if you don’t read history, you’re a bloody idiot." - James Clavell

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2012, 20:42:23 pm »
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 reduced the penalty for buggery from death to life imprisonment. Thus in some prisons the effective sentence might have been described as 'be done by as you have done'!

I should have added that the 1967 legislation only decriminalised buggery. Not until the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 did buggery become, effectively, a lawful act (if consensual between partners aged sixteen and over). However bestiality remains a criminal offence although, curiously, there seems to be no precedent for bestial sodomy to be a crime. Maybe I should look more closely at law reports concerning acts in the more remote Welsh valleys!  

Offline daveSea

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2012, 16:40:58 pm »
Contemporary report of the Executions of John Cullen, Patrick Shee and Michael Dollen on 23rd August 1800


Offline daveSea

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2012, 11:52:01 am »
This is the report from The Times on 12th August 1800, of the trail of Cullen, Donellen and Shee, at Lewes  - its been mostly produced using an OCR program so may have some slight inaccuracies but nothing significant.

Lewes  Aug 9

The trials of John Cullen Patrick Shee and Michael Donellen, three soldiers belonging to 13th Regiment of foot, for ravishing  Miriam Bennnet, spinster, on the 3rd June last, at Westbourn, came on this morning before Mr. Justice Grose

Miriam Bennet stated that she would be 17 years of age next September. That on the3rd of June that, she went from Emsworth in Hampshire to meet her mistresses daughter, who was returning home from Thorney that between six and seven in the afternoon, as she was going along a foot-path through a field she saw a soldier coming behind her, and on looking at the prisoners at the Bar, she was sure Michael Donellen was the man, he passed her on the path, and went forward a good way, and then waited until she had passed him.

He then caught hold of her; and asked her if she would sit down. She said, she would not. He then said, by God I'll make you, and directly threw her down to the ground, and after much struggling  and resistance, effected his purpose, She saw the other prisoners close by; he was with her near a quarter of an hour; when she got from him, another of the soldiers threw her down again, that was the prisoner Cullen, who repeated similar acts of violence with those she had suffered from Donellen; and. that when he left her, she was attacked in the same way by Shee, the other pnisoner.

When permitted to get up, the saw the boat in which her young mistress was coming from the Isle of Thorney; she endeavoured to run towards it as it approached the beach; that the soldiers then left her and the party landed from the boat. On Mr. Lane coming up, she told him what had happened, and the men were immediately persued
On her cross examination; she said the she was never out of the footpath; that she screamed and said pray let me get up, and that she used the same entreaties to each of them.

John Suter corroborated very materially the evidence of the prosecutrix. He said he saw the whole transaction from his own window, at about 700 or 800 yards distance; that he heard no cries, as the wind set the contrary way  and as there were frequent affrays with the soldiers and bad girls, be was afraid to intermeddle, seeing the soldiers had their belts and side arms on, and that at that time he could not distinguish the prosecutrix, from the distance he was at.

Susannah Pennicut, a midwife, said. she lived at Chidham, 5 miles beyond Chichester, and 3 from Emsworth, that the girl's mother came to her the next day, and requested her to go and examine, her daughter; that she did go to the mother's house and that the mother, the girl, and herself, went up stairs together; that she. did search her, and found that the had been very much abused. The Judge said, that be did not exactly understand this term. She said it was noted in Scripture, and what she meant by it was, that she was convinced that the girl had been very violently treated by man, and that several bruises and marks of violence were visible.

John Smith Lane said, that on the 3rd of June, he was standing in a timber-yard at Emsworth and a sailor of a North Countryman belonging to Shields; came down from the top -gallant yard of a brig there and looked him full in the face and said, Sir, I have never seen seen such a villianous transaction as I witnessed before; that he immediately went with some other persons to the field pointed out by the sailor; that he saw the girl in the direction she was sent to meet her young mistress; and that he had told the ??? he would go to the girl , and if he found she had been ill-treated, he would throw up his hat, as a signal to persue the soldiers, who were then in the field. That when he came to her she seemed hurt and agitated , that he could not learn anything from; but that the soldiers, at this time endeavouring to escape, they persued them,    

The Soldiers drew their bayonets, but they pursued two of them, Donnellen  and Shee, and took them at their quarters, quite warm with running; that the village being quite alarmed, a guard was sent for to take them into custody; that Cullen was taken soon afterwards, and a;Court Martial was held, and they were punished. He also stated, that the field in which the offence was committed was in the County of Sussex.

The Prisoners, in their defence said, that the  prosecutrix was mistaken as to the man who first accosted her. Cullen said it was him, and not Donellen; that he walked with her, and had some conversation together as to the time of the regi¬ment's marching, and that the was perfectly willing to comply with his wishes and that if they bad done wrong, they had already been punished by a  Court Martial with 700 lashes; and offered to call the Gaoler to prove the condition their backs were in when they came the goal

Mr Lane then said, it was true the prisoners had been punished with 130 lashes each for unsoldierlike  behaviour, in drawing their bayonets upon him;  but that they  were not punished for the offence for which they were then trying.

The prosecutrix being the closely questioned by the Judge, said, the account Cullen had given was entirely false, and that she was quite positive as to the persons of all the prisoners.

The judge then summed up the evidence in the most clear and impartial manner; observing to the Jury,  that unless they were perfectly convinced of the guilt of the prisoners, they ought to give them the benefit of the doubt by acquitting them.
The Jury, after consulting together for some time, found all the prisoners Guilty.The Judge immediately passed sentence of death on them, and they are left for execution.


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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2012, 16:46:16 pm »
Where exactly is/was Horsham Heath or Common, which presumably was the traditional place of execution for the town?

Offline daveSea

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2012, 18:00:12 pm »
The common is still marked on some maps its sort of between Merryfield Drive and Rushmans Road with Greenway School in the middle of it. I would guess originally it was all the land north of the Guildford Road (A281) and West of Springfield Road/North Parade/Warnham Road B2237 starting just over the road from Horsham Park. It says it was enclosed in 1812 and largely built over the start of that building is presumably Nelson Road, Victory Road and Trafalgar Road

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2012, 18:07:16 pm »
Thank you, Davesea. On googling the subject of Horsham Common, I came across It would seem that all that is now left of Horsham Common is a small triangle of land adjacent to the Dog & Bacon public house on North Parade. It's probably too small for a decent, well attended hanging these days!

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2014, 14:00:21 pm »
I came across these snippets of information at when looking for something completely different. Apparently the last public execution on Horsham Heath took place on 19 August 1820. Thereafter executions remained public, but they were relocated to the County Gaol at Horsham, where the first such execution took place on 24 August 1822 and the last on 6 April 1844. However during the period in which Horsham Gaol was used for public executions, Lewes Prison came on stream. There the first public execution was on 16 December 1831 and the last on 10 April 1866. Thereafter executions continued to take place at Lewes Prison but in private. The first private execution there was on 18 January 1869 and the last on 28 July 1914. Does anyone know whether I'm correct in assuming that after 1914, those upon whom death sentences were imposed, at the various Sussex Assizes, were transferred to Wandsworth Prison for the sentence to be carried out?

Offline Longpockets

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2014, 16:40:48 pm »

Executions at Wandsworth.

Wandsworth took condemned prisoners from Surrey in the first instance but with the ending of executions at Lewes after 1914, also took those condemned in Sussex and later those from Kent when the execution facility at Maidstone was closed down .

Many of the smaller prisons had very few executions and it was decided to construct purpose built execution suites in a few of the prisons serving larger population areas.  This works seems to have been largely undertaken during the First World War. By the second quarter of the 20th century the following prisons all had execution suites : Armley (Leeds), Bedford, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Dorchester, Durham, Gloucester, Winchester, Maidstone, Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Lincoln, London (Pentonville & Holloway), Oxford, Norwich, Shrewsbury, Swansea and Surrey (Wandsworth). Those prisons that did not have execution suites ceased to carry out hangings and all executions now took place at the prisons listed.

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2019, 13:06:58 pm »
Not surprisingly, the road to the site, where the executions were carried out on Horsham Heath, originally bore the name Gibbet's Road. Presumably to satisfy public sensibilities, it was renamed Giblet's Road. If I lived in that area of Horsham, I think that I would have preferred my road to have been named after a scaffold rather than chicken's entrails!

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2019, 13:46:23 pm »
Returning to John Sparsholt, and his execution after his conviction for the crime of sodomy, it would appear that the date of his execution I gave hitherto (i.e. 1844) is wrong. In Pete's post of  21 April 2012, I took the date of execution to be that which appears after his name (6 April 1844) whereas it should have been that which appears before his name and that of Richard Shepherd (22 August 1835).

On the Harvard University Library website is a pamphlet (, published by Richard Phillips & Co., printers of Brighton, which records that Richard Sheppard (sic) and John Sparshott (sic) were executed on Saturday 22 August 1835. Of the latter, the pamphlet says:

'John Sparshott, who was a young man about 19 years of age, residing at Midlavant (sic), also received sentence of Death at the above Assizes [the Sussex Summer Assizes]. The enormity of his crime, and the peculiar nature of the evidence produced against him, left no possible hope of his life being spared.'

The pamphlet is undated but the Harvard University Library attribute to it the date of 1835. The Times of 25 August 1835 also records John Sparshott having been hung the previous saturday after having been convicted, at the last assizes, of 'an abominable offence'.

Despite having been hanged for a crime of an 'abominable' nature, it appears that Sparshott was allowed to be buried on hallowed ground. It is recorded that his grave is in the chuchyard of St Nicholas, Mid Lavant.

Wikipedia says that Sparshott was the penultimate man to be executed for homosexuality in the UK. That seems to be not entirely true. He seems to have been the pre-penultimate man to die for such an offence. On 27 November 1835 both John Pratt and John Smith were hanged at Newgate Prison, London, having been convicted of jointly engaging in an act of sodomy on 29 August 1835 at Southwark. If you were a homosexual in 1835, it seems that John was not a fortunate forename to have!  

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Re: Sussex Executions- Horsham Heath
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2019, 19:18:21 pm »
Sussex Advertiser, 10 August 1835:

'John Sparshott, labourer, 19, was placed at the bar on a charge of a nature which the pen refuses to trace. The evidence wholly unfit to meet the public eye, was conclusive. The Jury unhesitatingly returned a verdict of Guilty.
The Learned Judge then passed sentence of death, remarking that in the whole course of his life he had never met with so shocking a case. His Lordship could hold out no hopes of mercy to the prisoner. The prisoner appeared indifferent to his awful fate.
The assizes terminated on Wednesday evening. The culprits Sheppard and Sparshott are left for execution.'

But Sparshott does not seem to have been the only person charged with a crime of this nature at the 1835 Sussex Assizes. The same edition of the Sussex Advertiser reported:

'Charles Elderton, labourer, 18, charged with a filthy misdemeanour, was found guilty. Eighteen Month's imprisonment.'

And the next day, 11 August 1835, the Brighton Patriot reported:

'John Shakall, aged 19, was convicted of an unnatural crime, and sentence of death was passed upon him.
Charles Elderton was convicted of a beastly offence, and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.'

Although one wonders whether Sparshott and Shakall were one and the same person.