Article MT202

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

No. 27: Norfolk printings of murder and execution (2) Robert Walker1

Following on from the survey of a cache of material in the Millenium library, Norwich issued by Norfolk printers and the involvement of Robert Walker in Norwich as printer of some of the same, we now turn to emphasise Walker's particular contribution, a score of issues ranging in date from 1822 to 1851, an unusual concentration amongst printers (up with Hodges but somewhat short of Disley who issued over forty such pieces).  We can add one execution ballad printed by Walker as it is found in the Bodleian collection; and, as in the previous piece in the series on Norfolk printers, can compare and contrast ballads from other printers on some of those cases covered by Walker.

The first piece to consider under the Walker imprint is entitled The Trial, Confession And Execution Of W.  Hardiment … for the killing of a Mr Baker in 1822.  It consists of a prose account and a set of stanzas, the prose account opening thus:

The trial of the above unhappy man excited an uncommon degree of interest among all classes of people …
The general phraseology here (one should mark the term 'unhappy' since it recurs in several prose accounts) and in the text of prose passages considered below is familiar from other cases studied in the course of this series, paralleling the conventions of expression, sometimes using the same word or words found in sets of stanzas where they occur.  The early date here allows a degree of precedent in Norfolk although Robert Lane's piece on Pycraft precedes it (1819) and Lane and Walker share the form of presentation.  Who influenced or copied whom is not clear although Lane was the older man. 

In the Walker printing Hardiment's own account of events is given although the sentiments are described in the piece as 'very improbable'.  In consequence 'the awful sentence of the law was passed upon him' in front of 'a vast concourse of spectators'.  We learn of the state of mind of the culprit - from an external viewpoint, that is: how that the 'unhappy man' had wandered from one county to another since the murder, 'a wretched vagabond' - 'unhappy' appearing alongside 'wretched' as standard description - and of a 'goading conscience forever tormenting him': also a regular comment in murder and execution balladry, perhaps mostly used in hope and, implicitly, in condemnatory connection.2

Eventually, during Hardiment's final hours:

The pressure of the crowd on the Castle Hill, was astonishing, during the execution, and every evenue (sic) to the spot was filled with people from the City and County to witness the awful spectacle, all waiting with breathless expectation till the platform fell, and the soul of the unhappy criminal was launched into eternity.
There follows a quite brief 'Copy Of Verses' offered from the viewpoint of the prisoner:
Now from my dark and dismal cell,
Where sorrow only deigns to dwell …
There are several 'dark' and dismal cells' to be encountered in such literature such as in Upcroft's piece on Rush and that of Tawell the Quaker, both already having been discussed on this site. 

The Walker piece continues with Hardiment warning his friends to 'reflect upon your ways'.  He himself must die 'on the fatal tree'.  There is a sustained appeal to God for mercy and then:

When all the train of Adam's race
Are summoned to appear,
To meet their Saviour face to face,
O God may I be there.
All three elements just considered - the warning, the imagery of the tree and an appeal to God - can be found regularly elsewhere in execution balladry as has been pointed out in previous articles.  The crime itself here is not considered.  The lines, in fact, are in the same mould as some found in the wider stock of Norfolk printers as discussed already on this site, incapable of independent standing and relying on the prose account for gap-filling. 

We would not know from the Walker piece of the complications in this case.  One account, in the Norfolk Chronicle, tells us that the murder in question took place at Wells (Next-the-Sea) on October 11th 1817 and that two men, Hardiment and a John Johnson had been involved.  Hardiment, it appears, had absconded and Walker's piece takes up the story after he had been retaken.  Finally, we find that Hardiment's body was given to surgeons for dissection - recalling other varied instances of what happened to bodies in such cases.  Our concern is, of course, with the Walker piece on Hardiment but the prospect of other material as yet undiscovered such as might cover the fate of Johnson is an intriguing one.  A report in the Norfolk Chronicle notes Johnson's execution - an 'unhappy victim'.  A second account, though, from Charles Mackie in his Norfolk Annals - a valuable compilation gleaned from newspapers - indicates that the trial involved Hardiment and one Benjamin Neal and that the Bill against Neal was thrown out during the Spring Assize of 1818.  This was not the information given in the Norfolk Chronicle and no resolution of the details has yet been possible.  What we do have here is a clear case of a printer leaving out certain details either as a matter of choice or because he was not in full possession of all the facts and this is a procedure that crops up on several occasions in Norfolk (and elsewhere, of course).3

The second Millenium library piece from Walker is a short prose account of the hanging of four 'unhappy' men at Newgate 'pursuant to their sentences' on November 26th 1823.  There are brief biographical details - John Smith, who pleaded guilty, leaving a wife and child; John Crisp 'connected with a lawless gang at the east end of the town'; Edward Hogan 'quite a youth, a journeyman baker' (but also, evidently, a previous murderer anyway); and James Scott, who had stabbed his wife with a pair of scissors.  An equally brief account of the hangings is given, the only comment of any difference to most proceedings being the observation that:

For the first time, the ceremony of knocking off the irons was rendered unnecessary, the culprits never having since their conviction … been in irons'.
Clearly, the piece was meant as news and could well have come from an agency such as a newspaper account or a report sent or brought from London.  A Times report for November 27th 1823, for instance, used very similar terms to describe the men when they were hanged - Smith deserving a better fate because he was a man of 'respectability' and left a wife and child, Crisp as a member of a 'lawless gang', Scott stabbing his wife with 'some scissors'.  A final sentence in this report ends exactly as Walker's piece did - all the men struggled very little.4

Walker's third piece (in date order), The Defence & Execution of J.  Thurtell …, is, like the previous piece discussed, not concerned with a local murderer but with one who 'Suffered' at Hertford on 9th January 1824 for the murder of a Mr Weare.  This was a prominent enough case both at the time and in subsequent commentary.  Detail here has been mostly assembled from various websites (but see the reference to Hugh Anderson below).  Thurtell was a gambler and held a grudge against William Weare, a solicitor and fellow-gambler.  At the house of yet another gambler, William Probert, at Radlett in Hertfordshire, Thurtell proposed a weekend's gambling and on the way there with Weare tried to shoot the latter, then used a penknife on Weare's neck and, finally, jabbed the pistol barrel so hard that it entered Weare's skull.  Joseph Hunt, an actor friend, helped dispose of the body; but it was found; and Thurtell and Hunt were taken into custody.  In the end, Hunt was transported.  Thurtell was hanged on a newly built 'drop' (surrounded by javelin men) and his body was sent to the College of Surgeons in London for dissection.

Pitts printed a confession (Thurtell had, apparently, confessed to the prison chaplain) and a description of the execution that appeared later in Hindley's Curiosities of Street Literature.  Catnach, it seems, also printed a piece that was his most successful in selling terms before being overtaken by sales of his Corder material in 1828.  According to Hugh Anderson, Pigott of Clerkenwell also printed a ballad on Thurtell's execution, not, so far, located.

Mr Anderson included The True And Sorrowful Lamentation Of John Thurtell in his Farewell to Judges and Juries but gives no details of provenance.  The ballad seems to include most of the details given above and referred to Hunt 'one of my vile companions' as having showed 'them' where Weare's body had been thrown.  Thurtell would now 'advance to the fatal tree' and he warns 'all ye wild and thoughtless young men' against 'the awful story' of his own life.  The piece, in single ballad form, complements the Walker printing as discussed below.5

One line in it is worth mentioning since it may explain why Walker took on the case, other than through widespread publicity, because 'I was' declares Thurtell 'brought up in Norwich city'.  He had indeed been born there in 1794, the son of the then Mayor of Norwich.

The Walker form, like that concerning the forgers above, is that of a prose piece only (there is no header block nor any stanzas) that first of all gives verbatim John Thurtell's account of his state of mind: effectively a plea proclaiming innocence in the face of numerous calumnies - 'the late slanders' - exercised, in particular, he claimed, by the press.  It was the practice at the time for the accused to try to defend himself after the prosecution case had been put and without benefit of cross-examination by the prisoner of the prosecution.

The jury, in this instance, was praised by Thurtell for its obvious integrity; Thurtell's upbringing under the eye of a 'kind, affectionate, and, above all, a religious mother' was recalled (numerous such mothers appear in murder and execution balladry - some below); Thurtell's work serving his monarch alluded to.

Nonetheless, according to the Walker piece, after a half-hour retirement the jury returned to pronounce Thurtell guilty.  'Mr Justice Park' gave out the sentence of death.  There follows a lengthy description of Thurtell's cell and his manner of carrying himself in it: tears, contrition, 'fervid and impassioned', a gradual firming up of his bearing - all impressing his attendants.  At the same time, there is no admittance of guilt.  This is underlined in the final paragraphs - actually set in smaller type - but first, 'As the hour for the Execution approached, vast quanties (sic) of vehicles of all descriptions were in requisition.  The equestrians were unusually numerous …'  The procession to the scaffold took its normal form with the Under Sheriff and the governor of the gaol - both of whom Thurtell had thanked for their kindness - in attendance and Thurtell 'was launched from his mortal state into eternity'.  Then - and contradicting expectations - the report does add that 'It is said he persisted to the end to refuse any confession'.  One should not overlook the distancing implied in the phrase 'It is said'.  We have come across this feature before.  We note the phrase 'as we may see' in Murder of Mr O'Connor (bv the Mannings in 1849), 'as we hear ' in Lamentation of John Jones (1870), 'as we may hear' in Horrid Murder…of Thomas Briggs by Franz Muller (1873) and 'so we hear' in connection with the murder of Eliza Bloor by John Pointon (1878).  More explicitly still, in the Dixblanc case:

What horrid crimes to us are mentioned
In the papers from time to time …
As far as has been ascertained, the procession from the prisoner's cell to the scaffold usually involved only the particular prison's officials such as governor, chaplain and, of course, the hangman.  Inevitably, then, what passed between prisoner and chaplain or other officials must have emerged just before or after any execution, given out to the press or whosomever.  Walker appears to have been inaccurate in his printing since the general opinion was that Thurtell, as noted above, did make a confession - Pitts was sure enough of it.  The Norfolk Chronicle reports certainly included a 'Dying Declaration' although it does not, in its detail, amount to a confession. 

There is also a description in the Norfolk Chronicle of Thurtell's body as it lay in the prison chapel.  Further, we find the following account of events:

…The first who entered the town were chiefly the Yeomanry of the county, who came in their own vehicles, or rode their own horses.  The London folk began to arrive about eight o'clock - These consisted principally of the class of men known as “The Fancy.” We were shocked at the want of common feelings of humanity which they exhibited in their conversation.  About nine o'clock “the country people” began to flock into town, including a large proportion of females, principally young ones too…
We see how even at this relatively early stage in the century there is implied doubt as to the efficacy of the public spectacle and we are, by now (that is, in terms of its appearance in various newspaper reports and printings), used to criticism of a female presence - not that this made any difference as the century wore on despite regular iteration.  Remembering that the execution took place in Hertford, close enough to London for relative ease of access, it is not either too surprising that “The Fancy” came to watch: hardly that different to the assembly of notables always present at Tyburn during an earlier epoch even if later, during our period of focus, perhaps, public admonition had begun to grow.6

Clearly Walker - and other printers - did not concern themselves unduly with any possible debate.  Theirs was a singular enough task.  And so, in a manner associated with the Hardiment piece, certain details were not considered - nothing is said of the fate of Hunt, for instance; nor of Probert who, whilst escaping prosecution in the Weare case, was convicted of horse stealing a year later and hanged on June 20th 1825 outside Newgate.

The fourth Robert Walker piece to be considered is very much in the Norfolk mode as described when the wider Millenium library cache was considered and whose prevalence was noted: that of header block, prose account and some brief stanzas - and one might bear in mind that it may have been Walker himself who to a substantial degree promulgated this form locally.  The header, for instance, is that already described previously - a hanging figure on a gallows set between two large gateways and backed by the outline of a castle, unmistakeably that of Norwich; with a crowd in the foreground, backs to the reader and distinguished by headgear - one finds the same header on several Walker pieces (as is being revealed) but also, as reminder, on William Upcroft's Daines piece (1839), on the piece, without imprint, concerned with William Flack's murder of Maria Steggles (1853) and on Gifford's Thompson piece (1854).  Importantly, this Norfolk header is not found in execution balladry from elsewhere nor, in Norfolk, before Walker's contributions.

The Walker piece is entitled A Correct Account Of the Trial, execution, Life, Character & behaviour … of the 'unfortunate Man', Richard Knockolds (or Nockolds as he is described in newspaper reports), hanged in 18317: not for murder but for arson, on the premises of a Mr Ducker, amid 'the most heartrending scene'.  At first glance, then, one might think that the piece accurately reflects the discontent and ambiguity of conscience surrounding the deaths of those engaged in agricultural agitation that was reaching a height at the time.  But a closer inspection reveals a hard attitude in the account:

The crime was of a nature the most diabolical!  and the frequent occurrence of which have (sic) lately rendered it one of the most terrible and alarming subjects of anxiety that ever occurred in a civilized Country!  - The evidence against the prisoner was the most clear and satisfactory ever produced in a court of Justice …
And the condemnation gets more intense in a series of remarks, one of which points out the seeming disparity between the idea of an agricultural labourer who might have an interest in destroying machinery and barns and Knockolds, a weaver, apparently content with his wife and family, travelling some miles to indulge in what is described as pleasurable activity (of the same sort); and then the remarks appear almost as expletives.  As Knockolds bids farewell to his family:
what were the feelings of the poor disconsolate mother and her unhappy children on entering the cell of her husband!  How did they shudder, at the clank of the chains that fettered their poor Father's limbs!  What tears of anguish!  trickled down the cheeks of the innocent offspring …
So the piece continues:
Who could at such a scene as this refuse a tear, to the heart struck Criminal, and his sorrowing Family, a weeping Mother!  left to struggle through the world with her helpless Offspring!  their only Protector!  Friend!  and parent!
The piece is quite extraordinary in this kind of outburst and one might add that there being no doubt about the blame, the appeal to the observer's senses for some kind of sympathetic response is itself unrestrained.  There is certainly a degree of titillation involved.

Finally, the piece says, as Knockolds was hanged, a 'universal Shudder' ran through the crowd, accompanied by prayers for mercy.

We should pause yet again to note how detail has been left out in a similar way to that on the Hardiment case above, for along with Knockolds, three other men, Josiah Davison, David Davison and Robert Hunt, were also indicted.  No serious evidence was offered against Hunt and David Davison and they were acquitted.  Josiah Davison was considered to have been an accessory and a verdict of Guilty was bestowed.  However, this was accompanied by a recommendation for mercy and there is no evidence that he was hanged.  More and more we see how ballad-printers honed in on events with a particular eye and with a frequent airiness where actuality was concerned.

The stanzas that follow the prose account in this Walker piece cannot but be something of a let-down in intensity, running as they do along well-worn paths:

FAREWELL, dear friends, the day is come, the dreadful hour draws nigh,
This morning is my fatal doom, upon a tree I die …
The subject also bids farewell to 'his wife and parents too, and children dear'….  'The drop's drawn out - the tolling bell, it seems to say, “Prepare to Die”'.  And then, 'Dear Countrymen, a warning take' and 'amend' your lives whilst Knockolds will look for mercy 'through God's own blessed son' (the same trilogy of elements as discussed above in connection with Hardiment).

Nothing quite as spattered with so many exclamation marks appears in other Walker pieces although, as will be seen, the tendency towards emotional outburst is visible, not least in a further piece from Walker concerned with the case of James Clarke, who was, like Knockolds, hanged for arson.  This kind of highblown presentation may signify a particular hand at work: that of a hack or even of Robert Walker himself.  One pauses to remark that Walker was much associated with Samuel Lane at this time, a maker of verse whose life and work will be examined in a separate article.  Indeed, Samuel Lane's stanzas can be found in numbers of printings from our old friend Robert Lane and from Walker.  Was Samuel Lane, perhaps, involved in the production of the piece under consideration?  Or was it J Parkerson (Jun.), another of Walker's hacks?  If it is not possible to say, the prospect is clear enough, although in Lane's case, he does not seem to have suffered a rush of blood in his political squibs.  There are other named writers to be found in a range of ballads, especially amongst the same sorts of election pieces as those put out by Samuel Lane and collected together in the Colman volumes in the Millenium library.

The Clarke printing of 1835 has a very similar title to that of the Knockolds piece - The Trial and Execution, Life, Character and Behaviour …; and virtually the same header block - the hanged figure, though, is entirely black whilst in the Knockolds piece a line or two (that comes out white) is etched on the body; but details of the crowd and castle backgrounds are identical.  The man, like Knockolds and others, is introduced as being 'unfortunate'.  Then, without quite the pitch of emotion as can be found in the Knockolds piece, a version of events is given that was reconstructed from witness statements under cross-examination.  The physical location of James Clarke's crime is described: first a 'Cottage', then the 'premises' (actually a stack) of one Bambridge, Clarke 'standing against the Stack with a light!', where he took a sheaf from the stack, lighted it and the stack burst into flame.

Oddly, the witnesses under cross-examination, though positive as to Clarke's identity, had not thought to give this information when first questioned.  Thus Clarke escaped and took ship for Sunderland before he was taken and brought back to Norwich Castle.

Clarke's life-history is then surveyed - his mother a poor widow, his own disposition to keep 'low company', the crime as now addressed.  'Happily' the man now 'began to feel sincere penitence and deep remorse for his conduct' - he evidently having no personal quarrel with Mr Bambridge.  His friends found him in a state of wishing that he had shunned 'those distinctive paths that have brought me to this untimely end'.  Then the particular piece does exhibit some of the fulsomeness of the Knockolds printing with exclamation marks around Clark's end before 'a vast concourse of Spectators' (a characteristic newspaper description as seen in the previous piece in this series and in newspaper accounts of executions from across the country) and, fervently:

a Final judgement from that Throne of Grace where the merits of a redeeming Saviour will we sincerely pray plead the cause of the hapless sinner!
The accompanying stanzas are more extensive than those in the Knockolds piece but move along lines familiar enough from much other execution balladry except that the first stanza indicates that execution had already taken place:
Ah!  you that see this wretched sufferer's end!
To the warning voice of these few lines attend;
Ah you that heard his last sad dying groans,
The judgement of almighty God must own.
There follow three stanzas emphasising the dreadful waste of 'The blessed Grain that God so bounteous sent', how 'this unhappy wretch' set out to deprive the 'starving labourer poor', how 'sinful' this was.  Did he expect that there would be no 'avenging rod'?  Why did he not listen to those who warned him 'to shun' his fate (how, one might just ask, did these people know what he was up to?).  The piece continues:
What agony thy relatives must feel,
Thy mother's anguish, no tongue on earth can tell…
- the latter phrase a frequent journalistic trick of vaguery.  And this, in turn, is followed by another such sleight of hand - who is the 'I' in the following lines?
Ah!  still I hear the platform's awful drop,
Ah!  could my wishes they sad fate have stop'd;
I would at that sad moment still have sav'd
Thy wretched youth from an untimely grave …
but too late, although there is some ambiguity in the final stanza in contrast with the opening lines: to whit, where the lines read 'Thy final sentence is still to come'.  There is then a plea for 'more mercy' to be found in Heaven than was given to 'thy wretched crime on earth'.  Overall, in expression and content, the stanzas do not stray outside convention and contain that streak of religiose commentary found in other printings both from Walker and in Norfolk more generally (not always, of course) whilst remaining somewhat vague as to actuality.

We can remark one or two points of interest in a Norfolk Chronicle report - first, that Clarke's body was actually 'taken away by friends in a cart', a variant on procedure already described and, no doubt, encouraged by fear of dissection. 

Second, Clarke:

… attributed his first seduction into bad company and idle habits to poaching, and poaching to the want of regular employment …
enough of an observation on current events to perceive in it a smidgin of sympathy, unlike the condemnation of Knockolds.

Third - perhaps the reference is somewhat gratuitous but what an opportunity the particular tale might have given to a ballad-maker - an old man known as a cake-seller was thought to have said that he would take Clarke's place on the scaffold for five shillings and, afterwards, went home and did hang himself.  One can only think that the printer had not cognisance of these particulars, perhaps even refused the same, and that, indeed, his piece was put out before the Norfolk Chronicle report.  Similarly, when the Judge sentenced Clarke to death, giving out the words, 'and may God have mercy on your soul', Clarke allegedly replied, 'Yes, or there is not much mercy on earth'.  Again, the printer did not take this up.  If nothing else this suggests that Walker did not necessarily rely entirely on newspaper reports for his material but may well have secured information either in person or through an unknown intermediary.8

The lacunae as noted above seem to be characteristic of printings so far discussed.  As was noted above in connection with Hardiment printers selected material and they did it not only without total regard to either accuracy or importance in 'historical' terms but, it seems, somewhat randomly.  The only valid pattern seems to be an absence of pattern.  And, whilst one sees a dependence on ballad convention, this absence of pattern is a factor in the visibility of an individual slant at times.

Thus, in the case of Catherine Frary (given elsewhere as 'Frarey') and Frances Billings in 1835, Walker certainly employs convention but, in two different pieces, perhaps widens the scope of hyperbole.9  A prose piece entitled 3 Dreadful Murders By Poison offers 'A full and true account of the dreadful and shocking Murder committed last week at BURNHAM MARKET … on Mary, the wife of PETER TAYLOR, a journeyman shoemaker of that place …', this suggesting breaking news and not attempting to pre-empt events.  Predictably, the piece claims that the murder was one of 'the most distressing and harrowing…ever remembered in the County of Norfolk' and that it 'produced a surprising degree of excitement in that town and neighbourhood' (my italics).  The word 'surprising' is subject to a degree of scepticism since the same excitement can be found noted in the piece on Hardiment above, an example of convention in reporting - 'unhappy ' and 'wretched' being prominent also - just as there was convention in ballad-printing.  In this case we might just suspect that this was an attempt to absolve the printer from any commercial gloating

Mary Taylor, it turns out, was poisoned by arsenic as was a child living in the same place.  One recalls several other instances of poisoning through arsenic such as those involving John Tawell, Sarah Dazley, John Pycraft, John Stratford, Catherine Foster and Charles Daines, the first two discussed in 2005 on this site and the others featuring in the previous piece in this series10, and whilst, initially, the means of administering the poison were not known:

It being remembered … in the neighbourhood, that there had been an intimacy between the husband of the deceased and Fanny Billing (sic), a married woman living at the next door, and she being of a loose character, other enquiries were made.
Eventually two local magistrates convened a special enquiry and traces of arsenic were found in the Taylor household 'mixed with some flour in a poke from which the deceased had eaten' (the Norfolk Chronicle has this as 'gruel').  Surprise was expressed that the husband had not been similarly affected as his wife had been and he and 'Billing' (sic) were taken into custody.  Dramatically, 'As Billing was about to be removed by the Constables' another woman 'by the name of Frary' adjoined her to keep her mouth shut whereupon she also was taken into custody.  The bodies of the husband and child were then disinterred and arsenic found.  The piece then described how Taylor and his wife always seemed to have led steady and industrious lives - so many about to be hanged have their past lives, usually in report relatively unblemished, brought to light.  Finally, in a journalistic extra (as it were):
Well might SOLOMON say of a loose woman - “he that goeth after her is as an Ox going to the slaughter, or a fool to the correction of the stocks: he goeth after her straitway 'til a dart strike through his liver, - as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.”
A second piece on the same case, in appearance like other Walker pieces described before the one immediately above - header block, prose account and accompanying stanzas - considered The Trial and Execution, Of Francis Billings, aged 46, & Catherine Frarey, aged 40 … (we note how 'Billing' has now become 'Billings', once more raising questions about Walker's accuracy in reportage at times).  In the familiar header block this time there is a representation of two bodies suspended.  The prose account declares that the two women had been executed at Castle Hill on 10th August.  The case, as similarly noted in the cases of both Hardiment and Clarke above, had 'excited' a great 'degree of interest'.  Naturally, then, 'The cruel and diabolical nature of their Guilt inspired such universal horror and detestation, that Country People from the parts where these Culprits dwelt flocked in numbers to witness their trial'.

Francis Billings, the mother of no less than fourteen children, nine of whom were still alive, is described first as 'unhappy'; both women as 'wretched'; and when the Guilty sentence was pronounced 'the Paleness of Death overspread the countenance of both Prisoners and they were with difficulty kept from falling'.  Relatives and spectators alike uttered 'Shrieks of Horror' as the 'miserable' women were taken out of court.

Again, we find a certain journalistic liberty in some fulsome outbursts from both women (although they are not quite liberally sprinkled with exclamation marks as was the Knockolds piece described above).  Francis Billings, apparently 'always infinitely fond of her children' exclaimed:

Oh my dear, dear, children, tis for you I shall feel, as for myself I have merited my Fate, but to be torn from you by an ignominious Death, to part from all my dear children, to end my Life on the Scaffold, tear my very heartstrings asunder, Oh wretched Mother, & is this to be the last time, I shall fold you to my miserable bosom, what cruel Fate could tempt me to commit the horrid Deed that have brought me to this dreadful End! 
One suspects the printer's or hack's hand rather than that of Francis Billings at work here; and Catherine Frarey's utterances invite the same suspicion, she - supposedly - having been in a perpetual state of distraction and, therefore, perhaps unlikely to have spoken at such length and with such relative cohesion:
Oh my Murdered Husband!  Soon shall I appear at the Bar where thou wilt confront me with the diabolical act of thy cruel murder.  Oh!  then wilt thou reproach me with thine untimely death.  My Judges were merciful and gave me time to prepare for death, but I wretched woman shew no mercy to thee, but sent thee to an untimely Grace, without allowing thee one hour to lake thy peace with God; but soon shall me writhing and suffering frame be expos'd to the Gaze of the multitude who will witness without regret the miserable Death of so wretched a Murderer as myself: And Oh, may my awful End be a warning to all who see and read of me.
Even after these outbursts, rather similar in character to those attending the Knockolds and Clarke cases, the piece continues to employ the same sort of phraseology - 'the unhappy Women', the 'Guilty Souls', the 'unfortunate women', 'unhappy Culprits'…Of course spiritual assistance was afforded them.  Of course 'an universal feeling of commiseration pervaded the breasts of the Spectators', some 10,000 of them.  The women, at the moment of execution, were 'with great difficulty' kept from fainting.  Then at the 'Fatal Drop' which 'after a few moments spent in prayer fell' the 'wretched Culprits were Launched into Eternity!!!'.

The stanzas that follow could even be said to be superfluous except that there are one or two convolutions of sentiment and warning:

AH you that these poor Wretches end (sic) behold,
One hour ago in health!  now Dead and Cold!
Their vicious passions brought them to their end,
And to the warning of their fate attend.
What anguish must Billings feel since nine of her children watched her fate … and of:
Two of them smiling Babes of tender years,
Who not as yet have thought of worldly cares …
'Who can their tender wants so well supply' as their 'wretched ' mother.
The other wretch that suffered by her side,
The woman Frarey deep in Guilt was dy'd;
Or else she had never mixed the fatal Dose,
That in the Grave her Husband's life did close …
In her case, too, it was because she wished 'to live in Sin'.

The bodies in yet another slight variation in practice were now laid out for dissection 'and Public Shew', an awful warning - may it be a lesson 'To shun the Paths of Vice and Misery' and may both women 'to Christ's redeeming arms ascend'.

Walker certainly seems to know how to fully exploit his material in broadside language and almost reaches the heights (depths, perhaps) of the Knockolds piece.

We turn now to the murder of Hannah Manfield11 on which William Upcroft based a piece, described in the previous article in this series.  Walker's printing, entitled The Trial and Execution Of the Two unhappy Men who were executed on the Castle Hill, at Norwich … in 1837 - that is, John Smith (Day) and George Timms - follows a by now familiar pattern.  There is the usual header block, this time with two suspended figures with Norwich Castle in the background and, in the foreground, a crowd with backs towards the reader.  A prose account follows that asserts first off that it contains 'a true copy of the confession made by Smith, since his condemnation' and then 'a full account' of the murder that Smith insisted should be made public 'as a warning to others'. 

There is a description of the trial scene where 'every one was anxious to see the inhuman Monsters'.  So far, 'Monsters' is not a word that has featured in Walker pieces as it had been in several other murder ballads discussed on this site in previous articles, but Walker, as we are learning to expect, sometimes changed the exact form and here extended his range of vocabulary as when he referred to the 'Brutality' of - note - 'three Powerful young men, through cruel wantonness!' (my italics), 'Brutality', again, not so far a word found frequently in Walker text and the number 'three' contradicting the naming of Smith and Timms alone.  And 'monsters' is used once more in the piece as description of the men.  A third man is later named - one 'Varnham' (we know that he was acquitted).  There follows some discussion of the victim's name that does not advance the narrative element and then the comment that:

The behaviour of the prisoners when on Trial by no means shew any particular feeling of the awful situation in which their crimes had placed them.
And, when sentenced 'on the following morning':
They seemed entirely unmoved at the awful and solemn manner in which the Learned Judge pronounced the awful sentence of the Law …
Further, 'His Lordship was shocked at their hardihood'; though, back in their cells, they evidently came to reflect on their 'approaching fate' through the ministrations of a 'Pious and humane Clergyman' and Smith 'was induced to make' his confession.  This amounts to a recapitulation of the murder at the end of which Smith asked:
And if the reader of the last words of mine can give a prayer for the souls of three such wretched Murderers oh may that prayer be heard at the mercy seat of Christ's everlasting Kingdom!!
There is then a brief description of the morning of the execution.

The accompanying stanzas, offering an enveloping religious sentiment, have, in a way that we have discovered previously, no obvious relationship to the crime.  They begin:

All you that now these wretched men behold,
Pray for God's mercy on the Murders' soul;
You see them writhing on the fatal Drop,
God's judgement to their crimes has put a stop.
There are references to the 'Final Doom!  At that dread Throne', to the 'Lord of hosts' as the 'Sole Judge', to 'the great Decree of God' and human laws demanding 'Blood for Blood'.  However, trust in the Saviour will be rewarded with 'Salvation'.  Finally:
…may their awful Fate a warning be,
To all, that this most dreadful sight shall see;
Shun loose Companions; sin and guilt avoid,
See what a wretched Death these Culprits died.
One other point of interest about this case has been uncovered, a small detail to add to those adduced in articles discussing the singing and selling of ballads.  Mackie, in his Norfolk Annals offers the following comment:
A full description of the supposed execution, and of the behaviour of the men on the gallows, with a copy of their confessions and their “last dying words,” was hawked about the streets of the city.12
Following on: Charles Daines' crime in 183913 involved the death of his child and of a neighbour, Elizabeth Mills, that resulted from his attempt to murder his own wife.  Like the Manfield murder, Daines' crime can be found described in a printing from William Upcroft as described in the previous article in this series, differing from that of Walker in some aspects of phraseology but employing exactly the same header, the familiar offering of a hanging figure in front of Norwich Castle and a crowd facing the scaffold.  The very regularity with which Walker employed this header underlines the suggestion, already made, that it was he who first introduced this block. 

The first thing revealed in the prose account, brief in comparison with other Walker prose accounts, was that Daines had made a full confession and we learn through this that he had made two previous attempts on the life of Elizabeth Mills and his child 'on two former Occasions' through the agency of arsenic poisoning - disguised within 'Fried Potatoes' and 'Pea Soup'.  The account concludes as follows:

The concourse of People present to witness his lamentable end, was immense, his struggles were short, and the unhappy criminal was soon launched into ETERNITY!!!
At least these terms accord with those familiar elsewhere in murder balladry; but there is none of the elaborate language of other Walker pieces as surveyed in this article.

The attendant stanzas are comparatively substantial and we might expect that they could elaborate on the case a little.  They begin in a familiar fashion: not literally as a 'Come-all-ye' but with images found widely in balladry - in 'As I walked out' style - and, more specifically, pre-echoing, say, lines associated with the 1851 Drory case as discussed on this site previously14:

As I walked down by Chelmsford Jail,
    I heard as youth in sorrow sigh,
In anguish he did sore bewail,
    Saying, I am condemned to die…
Here, in the Daines case, we find:
As I walked down by Norwich gaol,
    I heard a man thus sore bewail;
To fetters bound I here do lie,
    For Murder I'm condemned to die.
We can see how convention continues down through the years.

And Daines records how he had lived in Hempnall and how he had taken to drink 'Which quickly drove me to ruin's brink' (it really is noteworthy how many times our four favourite 'reasons' for murder crop up); indeed until:

My love did turn to hatred dread,
    And I wished my wife and children dead.
In a touch typical of balladry - journalistic infiltration that is, in a way, inconsequential except for drawing out possible tension in the narrative - 'Daines' then recounts how he was refused arsenic at a shop but persisted until he 'bought Nux Vomies', re-emphasising that he intended to kill his children:
O in the morning I arose,
    And quickly did put on my clothes;
I did light the fire and the kettle fill,
    The poisonous mixture to distil.

My loving wife soon did follow me,
    And wondered I had made the tea;
I then went out though not at ease,
    And had my breakfast of bread and cheese.
It is obviously hard to maintain a seriousness in the face of such bathos and the actuality of the murder is somewhat lost in this welter of seeming triviality. 

Daines' neighbours then tell him that his wife was dying, whereupon:

I quickly went with a troubled mind,
    And there my children dear did find
Breathing their last; and my poor dear wife,
    Almost ready to part with life.
It is hardly necessary to remark the sudden affection for his family.

The rest is quickly told: the appearance of the constable - 'You are my prisoner!'; the trial - although 'On the first indictment I did get clear' for his wife did not appear against him; but then when she did give evidence, the knowledge that 'I had not long to live'; and the sentencing - 'You must be hanged 'till you are dead.'

As was often the case in balladry the piece is ended there but we have already learned from the prose account and from information given immediately under the header that Daines was executed, on April 27th 1839.  This is confirmed in newspaper reports and lists of executions.

The piece is not really in the same mode as those from Walker previously examined and there is no accounting why unless a different hand was at work at the compositioning.  In other Walker printings (found in the Colman collection), if another hand is at work it is usually evident - the names of Samuel Lane and P.  Parkerson (Junior) have already been noticed; and their individual contributions do not really match the tone of Walker's execution ballads.  If the two were careful enough to change their style, or if Walker employed another hack or, indeed, wrote his own material, we are not yet the wiser.  In respect of the latter possibility, we recall Upcroft's own verses discussed in the previous piece in this series. 

The Upcroft prose account of the Daines affair, as reminder, is more fulsome in its condemnation and gives us more detail also.  In contrast to those from Walker the Upcroft stanzas are heavily religiose.  It is almost as if there had been a turnaround and that Upcroft had adopted the Walker manner as we have hitherto found it; or, perhaps, Upcroft had beaten Walker to the post in the printing issue stakes and Walker was content, therefore, to offer a gesture only: another puzzle in broadside printing amongst many.

Walker's account of the Trial and Execution, Life, Character, and Behaviour of John Randalsome …(1840) reverts somewhat though not entirely to type with the usual header block and then a substantial prose account followed by a short set of stanzas.15  The prose account begins with the familiar epithet, 'unfortunate man'.  Some of the details of the case are then given.  It appears that Randalsome had married a Mary Barnaby but that this was not known generally and she had continued to live at her father's house until the night of the murder, a night after which the couple were to have left to live with a sister of Mary's - in the same village.  Already, apparently, attempts had been made on Mary's life through the agency of arsenic 'in the water in a tea kettle' and her own father had been suspected.

Then a web of deceit emerges: Randalsome, enamoured of an Elizabeth Punchard in Ditchingham to the extent of promising to marry her after seducing her, his success in obtaining money from her, his continued clandestine visits to his wife who became pregnant, the realisation that he could not keep this from 'Bet Punchard' or the world at large, the attempt to murder his wife through poison and, then, violence.  He and his wife walked out as was their (secret) practice and Randalsome tried to drown her in a pond.  She cried 'Murder' and he beat her with a stake, causing her death.  Randalsome got his own family to say that he had been in bed at the time of the murder.  Eventually, at trial, he was sentenced to die.  Sometimes refusing to eat whilst in jail, 'He passed his time between hope an despair till the last morning arrived'.

Here, in Walker's account, is another of those Biblical interjections pointing a moral, a lengthy one in this case reminding us of other religiose material amongst Norfolk printers but, nevertheless, one that need not detain us.  Then, briefly, the execution is described.

The stanzas that follow, offered as if from the tongue of Randalsome himself, dwell entirely on his state of mind, making no reference to the events that led to his conviction for murder:

Tremendous sound, what do I hear!
O Lord receive my soul,
For I'm condemn'd and death is near,
Which puts an end to all.
He cannot utter what he feels, he wishes that he had been wise, that his crimes may be forgiven 'Before the gracious throne of heaven' and, finally:
The clock now strikes, the dismal bell,
It seems to sound my passing knell;
I know for me it soon will toll,
May God have mercy on my soul.
It could be argued that Walker is back to the form of pieces discussed earlier save that the prose account is not littered with exclamation marks.  The piece certainly provides a contrast with the one discussed immediately above.  Incidentally, no confession is mentioned.

But there are still one or two differences in the Walker piece as opposed to those in newspaper reports.  The first Norwich Mercury report gave the name of the murderer as 'Ringlesham', the second as 'Randlesham' and the third as 'Randlesome'.  Walker, we assume, came to the case when the debate over naming had been settled.  In Walker's piece there is no mention, as there is in newspapers, of any 'others' charged along with Randalsome.  The newspaper also indicated that Randalsome 'was unable to read, and very ignorant of divine and moral truths', these final details taken together throwing the tiniest new light on Randalsome's character.  One would not guess from the Walker piece that Randalsome was in any possible way a truly 'unfortunate' man.  To Walker it seems that this did not matter but, in accepting the status quo as regards the appropriateness of justice as it was meted out, that 'news' did.  Finally, according to the Norwich Mercury, Randalsome did not offer a confession and Walker does not mention one.

Our next Walker example, concerning the case of Charlotte Yaxley, has a slightly changed format yet again - in this case there is simply a short prose account of the murder of Mary Anne Karrington in 1841.16  The whole tone of the piece is that of a routine newspaper report, the sort found as preliminary to accounts of trial proceedings, themselves frequently set out verbatim and as such so used in murder balladry (although we know from the Norwich Mercury that certain details of the case, as in the Randalsome case above, are absent from Walker's printing).  What makes the piece more interesting still is that it appears in exactly the same terms in a printing from William Broadhurst as discussed in the previous article in this series.  The question was posed there and may be repeated: who filched from whom?  We know that the printers worked contemporaneously.  Broadhurst, at least, included some brief stanzas.  Is it possible even that Walker was once again anticipated in the timing of his issue? 

The question may also arise in connection with Walker's Trial, Execution, and Confession, of John Self … who murdered a Jemima Simpson in 1841 since William Broadhurst printed a piece on the same case - he, it should be said, called the man Benjamin Self but newspaper reports use Walker's designation of 'John' and it is as John that the man appears in lists of executions.17  Broadhurst, we have found, seems to have been a little careless in production.  Walker's piece here has his familiar header although details of headgear in the crowd are, as it were, shuffled.  A prose account offers a spread of detail, beginning with an encounter 'on a bank', an incipient assault, Jemima Simpson's declaration that she would tell her mother, and then a blow-by-blow description of Self's full assault - striking her with a spade, dragging her to a pond into which he threw her, her partial escape, his second attempt to drown her, this time putting his spade on her neck to keep her under.

The piece continues with a survey of John Self's life as 'a kind-hearted and industrious youth'.  This praise of previous behaviour occurs elsewhere - for instance, above by implication where Thurtell and Knockolds were concerned and then Taylor in the Frarey and Billings case in exactly the same terms.  Thurtell, we recall, was in the process of defending himself so his self-aggrandisement is understandable.  The others, in a sense, inhabit a printer's imagination as a way of dramatising events.  At length, the execution scene is described and 'thus ignominiously perished in the dawn of manhood, one who might have been the stay, comfort, and protector of his parent'.

Then Walker draws an extensive moral addressed to the 'Dear Reader' who must 'beware of sin' and, as in previous instances, Walker indulges in a flurry of exclamation marks:

Cursed is that peace that is maintained in a way of sin!  - Sin, O the work that sin hath made in the world!  this is the enemy that has brought in death, and hath robbed and enslaved men, that hath backed the Devil, that hath digged Hell; and sown dissension between man and his creator.
The account finishes with the purported words of Self in similar vein, addressing his parents whilst in his cell, trusting in the arms of his Saviour, urging his parents to bring up his brothers and sisters 'in the love and fear of the Lord'.  There are additions from an 'observer' ending with a description and an admonition:
The mother more dead than alive was conveyed from the prison, supported by her sorrowing husband - Thus reader you see the amount of misery inflicted by one living mortal - again, Beware of sin!
The accompanying stanzas (in italics as it happens, another unusual effect from Walker) continue in the same way:
Sinner stop!  I pray take heed
A lesson learn from this my wicked deed,
Which with shuddering frame I tell,
Whilst laying in my mournful cell.
He admits his guilt but 'humbly' craves the mercy of his Saviour.  'Satan', he declares, caused him to commit his 'dreadful deed' (one of our four favourite impelling motives in murder balladry).  Then, in an echo of other such balladry, notably in the Upcroft piece on Rush described in the previous article in this series:
A guilty conscience accuses me,
In frightful dreams I think I see,
My tortured victim writhing on the ground,
Whilst crimson gore poured from every
His victim is seen imploring the skies.  Self asks how he can meet his Saviour and once more wants pardon although 'Justly denied all mercy by my Judges here'.  'Think of John Self' he warns 'and happy live'.  Walker certainly gets the bit between his teeth at times.

The issue of conscience portrayed here is implicit in many other pieces in the wider spectrum of murder and execution material, both during and after Walker's times, as perpetrators are made to 'see' their victims and the state of their minds is supposedly made evident as they reflect and lament and repent.  Thus, in a piece on Edward Prince's murder of Emma Coppins (1859):

… the spirit of the murdered girl
    Torments him day and night
Of Cadwallader Jones, in 1877, 'What horrible torture his thoughts must have been …' - a rather more common after-remark from printers.  Gleeson Wilson in 1849 and Keene in 1852 are overwhelmed by the nature of their crimes as is Constance Kent in 1865: 'I am overburthened by grief and woe'.  Walker was clearly conversant with such manipulation of events and language.18

Unusually here - the piece has these one or two surprises - there is an illustration of Self dragging his victim by the heels on the brink of a pond, thus echoing detail given in the prose account.19

The header block on Execution & Confession Of John Jones for the Murder Of His Sweetheart (Jones was hanged in Nottingham in 1842; another uncommon venture outside Norfolk for Walker) offers a startling regression in printing terms to a relatively crude woodcut of a hanging figure, the gallows being flanked by a clergyman and a figure with what looks like a pike; and the merest suggestion of a line of figures at the bottom of the block in front of the gallows scene.  It may well have derived from a much older block, quite arbitrary in the gallery offered by Walker as so far found.  It nevertheless reminds us that executions during Walker's printing career were guarded by javelin men in the manner of executions down the ages.20

The bulk of the piece consists of a lengthy prose account of events and, at its foot, a purported confession.

The prose account emphasised how the prisoner conducted himself 'in the most becoming and proper manner', full of desire to receive religious instruction, courteous to 'all the people in the jail'.  His calmness was noted more than once.  The piece describes the morning of the execution at some length as if from the point of view of an intimate observer to the extent of including reference to previous prisoners and to a letter received by Jones before the procession to the scaffold, the whole as if to create a setting for Jones' conduct.  The behaviour of the crowd is also noted - 'one moving mass of wedged and undulating bodies' that gave voice to its feelings as Jones was supported up the steps.  The moment of execution is described in drawn-out fashion.

Jones' confession begins in the third person before proceeding in the first person to recount his purported words - a resumé of his relationship with his sweetheart and his attempts to get her to leave off 'walking' with other young men until the time when 'I took my knife got behind her and did the deed'.  Then the confession reverts to independent comment with the point of the confession included almost as an afterthought:

He also confessed … that he was the murderer, as he was determined if he could not have her, no one else should.
Walker also followed another Nottingham case, this time in a piece entitled The Execution Of W Saville For The Wilful Murders Of his Wife and three Children … (1844) - apparently he cut their throats with a razor - and there is an astonishing codicil on copy adding that 'Twelve persons were Killed, and upwards of 1 Hundred Wounded'.21  The reasons do become clear but, firstly, there is a prolonged description of Saville's last hours during which he declared that he had already made a confession indicating that it was his wife who had cut the throats of their children whereupon he, in turn, had cut her throat.

The usual procession commenced, 'headed by the Under Sheriff'.  The prescribed service was read by a Chaplain 'with a voice trembling with emotion'.  The hangman's attentions were described, step by step.  Then Saville 'acknowledged the justice of his sentence' and at the moment of the drop 'there was not the least apparent fear or excitement about the culprit'.

The crowd's behaviour is given prolonged attention and no wonder.  There was a great deal of pushing, numbers of faintings, many cries, coarse language and, eventually, the crowd 'burst in the middle'.  Clothes were stripped in the crush and twelve fatalities occurred as well as numerous injuries:

The immense and fatal rush we have alluded to, was carried we believe principally by a gang of lawless scoundrels who were drawn together from the town and various parts of the county.
The activities of these 'scoundrels' included pickpocketting, exciting confusion and going for plunder.  The Mayor, from his window, tried to placate the crowd but the distress continued: 'Never before had such a sight been seen in Nottingham'.  The piece goes on to describe how 'medical gentlemen' tried their best to alleviate the obvious suffering and further details of specific incidents are given.

Clearly, these were extraordinary events.  Walker's survey would seem to have been drawn from local accounts - it is most unlikely that he or his hack(s) had been present - and Saville's hanging was a little overshadowed.  There are no additional stanzas to the piece: simply the extended prose account.  At the same time, the piece used a kind of touchstone in description, seen elsewhere in execution material, where the crowd's behaviour might be criticised, its dismissal of the supposed effects of the 'awful spectacle' of hanging emphasised, all this involving a certain level of what we might now call hypocrisy or self-delusion or at best journalistic opportunism.

The case of William Frost (1844) drew three pieces from Walker.22  Firstly, there is one with a short prose account and accompanying stanzas but no header block - The Full Particulars Of Most Inhuman Murder …, 'Murder' being writ extra large.  This recounts Frost's killing of his four children after sending his wife away on an errand and is full of familiar and relentless epithets.  Frost is described as a 'Monster', a 'wretched man', a 'cruel wretch', a 'wretched Murder' and a 'wretched monster'.  Of the youngest child, aged ten weeks, Frost:

had the heart to take this young and tender Babe and suffocated it in a Pot of water, and the other three he most Brutally Butchered by knocking their Brains out with a large Hammer.
The mixture of the means or murder is obviously emphasised and, as a mixture, might lead to a charge of sensationalism at the expense of accuracy in the reporting.

Nevertheless, if horror is the prerogative of the piece, this is compounded in a description of how a neighbour, a George Filby, called and how blood dripped through the ceiling onto his hat. 

Then Frost immediately admitted his crime and he was taken into custody, sent to Norwich for examination and 'directly committed on the Coroner's warrant' to Norwich Castle to await trial at the Assizes.

The stanzas in this case repeat the substance of the prose account, not, then, presenting some separate religiose comment; and open with well-worn lines:

Ah who can hear the dreadful Tale,
    That in Norfolk must be told,
A monster here a deed have done,
    That makes the Blood run cold…
One notes 'monster', not a usual epithet in Walker's work.  An earlier article on this site discusses the inclusion of the phrase 'Blood run cold'.23

Frost's children are described as 'Sweet smiling Babes'.  The drowning of the youngest in a pot of 'Brine' is recounted and then the death of the other children:

The eldest Girl a lovely child,
    Oh Father dear cried she,
When the wretch did lift the hammer up,
    Oh do not Murder me…
But with 'remorseless fury' he gave the 'Fatal Blow'; and did the same to his two other children.  Now, though, he is in his cell:
And Justice on the Murderer,
    For retribution calls.
The second Frost piece has yet another slight variation in presentation, this time beginning with a title, The Full and Particular Account Of The Horrible Murders At Whitwell, Norfolk arranged around three separate woodcuts, all seemingly inconsequential - a yeoman figure, rather ragged, flanked by two maids; a solitary man, wearing either pantaloons or cut-off trousers, in front of a cabin with a grazing animal in the background; and a mistress surrounded by three maids or two visitors and a maid in a dishevelled room.  All three have the mark of the eighteenth century or even earlier about their costumes even, perhaps, a hint of a colonial source or at least association in the second case where the conclusion of a reader (viewer) might be that the scene is a backwoods American one …  Whatever the case they have nothing in visual content to do with the murders at Whitwell.  In balladry in general this lack of connection is familiar enough.

The prose account that follows surveys events, giving the names and ages of the murdered children, Harriet (5), Charlotte (3), Eliza (18 months) and Louisa (10 weeks), describing the apprehension of Frost and then offering a substantial body of evidence from neighbours.  This was after the Jury had visited Frost's cottage and then returned to the Falgate public house to deliberate on the day after the murders.  The first witness, Sarah Allen, told how Mrs.  Frost had returned home and found her dead children and called aloud to Mrs.  Allen.  She, in turn, went into the house and found the bodies of the dead children and showed them to another friend, Elizabeth Yarham, 'just come into the house'.  Frost himself was 'setting by the fire'.  Other witnesses were called 'but stated nearly to the same effect'.

The Coroner, says the piece, read all the depositions over.

Finally, there is a confession from William Frost, not detailing the offence nor denying culpability but corroborating witness statements and, finally, admitting that 'I slayed my children'.  The Jury 'almost instantly returned a Verdict of Wilful Murder'.

A possible sequence of printing is visible for in the first piece described above the time of the murders was given as 'on Monday morning' and the 'Verdict' of the jury as being obtained 'after a very short deliberation'.  The second piece described the murders as having taken place 'On Monday morning last'; and the confession that would most likely have taken place in the condemned cell or, at least, whilst Frost was awaiting sentence, seems to add weight to the notion that the particular piece was issued after the first one above.

A third piece seems, more clearly, to have been printed later still: Trial Of William Frost (And Judges' Address) For The Barbarous Murders Of His Four Dear Children.  This piece, another prose account, includes the names and ages of the children and gives the date of the murders as 8th April.  The case, it declares 'created a degree of excitement' (as always, it seems in such accounts).  Frost, 'placed at the bar amid a dead silence':

sighed heavily when arraigned, but had a very sullen and steadfast expression of countenance.
When called on to plead he prevaricated saying that he light be guilty on the sight of the world but not in the sight of God and, further pressed - 'are you guilty or not guilty' - said the 'I do not understand that term'.  Evidently, this was ignored for the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder; whereupon Frost said that 'I shall not plead guilty of wilful murder' and this was evidently taken as a plea of 'not guilty'.

The subsequent deliberations turned not on Frost's actions but on his state of mind whilst carrying them out.  The case was reviewed (in the Walker piece) and then a witness, Robert Leaman, indicated that Frost had been in his employment for fourteen years, that he had heard that Frost was unwell, had visited, had given the prisoner medicine…Frost took time off…Leaman went to the house on the Monday and found the children dead.  His exchanges with Frost are given in the piece but do not offer strong clues as to Frost's possible state of mind.

However a Mr Crosse (presumably a doctor) had examined the prisoner and had concluded that he was of unsound mind.  Frost, he said, had avoided the subject of the murders but had instead dwelt on his own 'distressed' mind.

As the 'Learned Judge' put it, there was no doubt about the act but was Frost insane?

The Learned Judge further summed up the evidence at great length and with extreme minuteness.
This ought to be enough for us too.  The important point was that, accepting Frost's guilt, the jury did find him to have been insane.  Consequently, he was not hanged but sent to asylum in London.

A Walker piece on the Lucy Thorpe case of 1844 24 entitled A Full And Particular Account Of A Most Cruel Murder Committed On The Body Of A Male Infant By His Mother … is hardly that although the title alone - there is more, noting the place - offers a fairly complete summary.  But there follows but a brief prose account, much in the line of the first Frost report described above, referring initially to 'Wednesday last'.  In it, Lucy Thorpe, described as a 'single woman' with a 'little boy about 2 years old', apparently took rooms with a Mrs.  Roll.  The daughter of the house, Emily, sleeping with Lucy Thorpe, noticed a child's head under the bed and heard some crying.  Eventually the presence of the child was confirmed by Lucy Thorpe, but, after a 'gurgling' noise, nothing more was heard.  However, when the child was fully discovered it was found to be dead and a post mortem examination revealed that it had been strangled.  The jury at inquest, therefore, returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Lucy Thorpe.

That is all.  The piece must surely anticipate further enquiry but nothing from Walker (nor from other printers) has surfaced.  Lucy Thorpe was evidently hanged on 13th September 1844.  One pauses merely to remark the form of the Walker piece, in conjunction with the first on Frost and pieces on the Frarey and Billings case and on that of Charlotte Yaxley (there is one more such case, to be considered below), perhaps - as posited earlier in this article - indicating something of a regular procedure in Walker's output: short prose accounts that would appear to offer first thoughts or first 'news'.  But any sort of imposition of a pattern is dangerous, especially since we have seen how Walker varied the content of several of his pieces and because there may well be material as yet ungarnered that could alter the overall frameworks of presentation.  We are probably encountering printings that are a response to individual cases in individual manner, relatively spontaneous and probably motivated by the impact of each case, its notoriety and relish, its commercial potential.  This does, though, draw attention to the apparent absence in Walker output of printings dealing with the most prominent cases of Corder (1827), the Mannings and Rush (both 1849).  In this latter instance, it should be added, an entry in Bibliotheca Norfoliensis, does record that Walker published 'Full particulars of the trial of James Bloomfield Rush…' although no date is given and, so far, the piece has not been unearthed.25

And, as if it might throw out any calculation whatsoever, there comes the case of Samuel Yarham in 1846 and Walker's output of no less than five pieces.26  Trial of Samuel Yarham … takes the form of a prose account, a quite extensive one, and quite obviously depends on witness statements (the words right at the beginning are 'The first called was…').  We learn about the murder alright but because the context of statements is not the natural one of court proceedings some of the details could have been confusing unless accompanied by, say, newspaper accounts.  Thus, when William Johnstone, 'a policeman at Yarmouth' was passing 'Mrs.  Candler's house' and shop with one Waller he went in, upstairs, saw nothing and went out again before returning and finding 'Mrs.  Candler's' body 'with her throat cut'.  Johnstone 'left Waller there', went back to the station, returning with a 'Serjeant Williament' who then found a knife covered with blood.  They rang 'Mrs.  Candler's' bell, whereupon Yarham, previously undiscovered, put his head out of an upstairs window.

This does help to make sense of other following witness statements but as an opening to the piece hardly covers the initial circumstances. 

The bulk of the remainder of the piece is given up to confirmation of this or that aspect of the murder although 'Sarah Dick' said that she had gone 'to Mr Shipley's:

and on returning home I said to my daughter, let us see, the boys have been hiding something here.  I went down on my knee and began to poke the sand away and found a bag, which jinked as though there were coppers in it.
Her husband then came and took the bag, saying that it was 'the woman's money'.  More money was found in the same hole; all very well, but we have no idea from the piece how this piece of information began life.  Sarah Dick still turns out to be an important witness in that after the trial she identified Yarham as one who had previously told her how he had cut the dead woman's throat.

We then discover that more than one man was involved because Yarham further stated - to Sarah Dick - that, of Mrs.  Candler, 'no she could not live, she had been beaten so much by Royal and Mapes'.

There are more witness contributions and then a summing up from 'Mr Justice Maule' before the jury returned a verdict of 'GUILTY' and the Judge gave the death sentence.  The prisoner was, apparently, 'unmoved':

The greatest anxiety was manifested by the public to be present at the trial, and the Court was filled almost to suffocation.  There were many ladies on the Magistrate's bench.
This piece cannot have been but in the nature of reportage, the title alone suggesting it.  The witnesses come and go but it would need more investigation to fully understand their respective parts in procedure - from where and whence they came, for instance: not within our purlieu.

A second piece reverts to Walker type: Trial, Execution, & Confession Of Samuel Yarham …, the murderer's name printed large up and down either side of the usual Walker header block that itself is first in printed order of block, prose account and then accompanying stanzas.  The account begins thus:

SAMUEL YARHAM was placed at the bar at the Norwich Assizes, for the murder of Mrs.  Candler at Yarmouth, on the 18th of November, 1844.
At a stroke the sequence of Walker issue begins to emerge; and a certain sense made of what we encountered in Walker's first piece.

We learn that Yarham had access to 'Mrs.  Candler's' premises because his wife was servant to a shoemaker who lived there.  We also learn that three other men were apprehended with Yarham - namely, Royal, Mapes and Hall - but that each of the other men 'succeeded in proving an alibi and acquittal followed'.  Mrs.  Dick's evidence indicated that Yarham had confessed to her before absconding to Gloucestershire - we would never have known that it was there he was apprehended from the first piece surveyed above.  Yarham's conviction and sentence are then recorded:

The wretched man, who had listened to the trial with close attention and to the auful (sic) sentence of the Learned Judge without evincing any emotion, save a slight and occasional quivering of the lips and eyes, was then removed from the dock, while the shouts of the populace on the “hill” resounded in his ears.
We can only assume that the 'hill' in question was Castle Hill in Norwich, site of the public gallows.

Yarham's confession is given although it appears that it is in substance what he had told Mrs Dick - not, that is, a straightforward account from his own lips …  Thus, Royal and others are implicated but 'When he went home he cut her throat with the lard knife' (my italics).

The execution of 'the above unhappy malefactor' is described in brief.  There was a large assembly and 'the usual melancholy preparations'.  Yarham 'appeared quite calm & collected'.  The 'wretched culprit' was then 'launched into eternity'.

The stanzas begin in familiar fashion:

My hour is come, my glass is run, now by the law's decree,
On Saturday next condemn'd to die upon a fatal tree;
All for a cruel murder as all do understand,
Which has caused great sensation and horror thro' the land…
which immediately begs the question of when the stanzas were put together since they anticipate the drop as already described in the prose section.  However, the stanzas continue with Yarham admitting that he tried to cloak his crime and that when he considers his 'wicked life' then 'I shudder with dismay': and that:
The sacred laws of GOD and man I spurned with disdain,
Left no dishonest means untried, my purposes to gain…
He is now found out - but the picture that has emerged is of an habitual criminal whilst no such suggestion has been made hitherto.  The piece continues:
O could I for one moment a list'ning world address,
If in this world or that to come, the hope for happiness,
The ranks of factious traitors, as from destruction run,
Flee from those selfish counsels, which thousands has undone …
It is a kind of warning, not accompanied by direct appeals to God for mercy, but ending with the observation that Yarham dies 'by law's decree:
A wretched malefactor upon a fatal tree
an unusual recapitulation of terms found in the prose account.

The third Walker piece on the same case is The Full Confession of Samuel Yarham … and once again there is, in a sense, a hiatus, because, as the piece declares at the outset:

A contemporary has published a statement, in the form of a deposition, made before the mayor of Yarmouth, (William Henry Palmer, Esq) on the 25th day of October, 1845, by Mrs.  Dick, and who it will be remembered was a witness at the trial, and was the person who found the secreted money …
We do not, then, have Yarham's own words directly represented but the document is, all the same, given 'at length'.  It is not the most obviously coherent account but the essence is that Mrs Dick met with Yarham three weeks after the trial (what, one may ask, was he doing?) and something of a quarrel was touched on.  Evidently, all those concerned lived or habituated a particular area in Yarmouth.  Yarham declared that it had been Hall, Royal and Mapes who were most to blame…All four men, sure that she had money, had entered Mrs Candler's premises - a shop - and Mapes had asked for tobacco.  When Mrs Candler turned to get the tobacco, Mapes hit her, Hall suddenly appeared with a pair of pincers with which he too struck Mrs Candler and 'beat her about the head, and they left her lying till they had got all the money'.

Mapes went across the street 'to a girl or a woman'…there was noise of men drinking in the Swan … 'Then they all went to hide the money' … went home; and Yarham, hearing Mrs Candler moaning, became afraid and went back in and cut her throat with a 'lard' knife:

I told him then that he was the murderer himself, and he said no, it was Hall and Royal beat her so with the pincers that she could not have lived.
Eventually Waller, 'the policeman', arrived and after speaking he and Yarham want away together.  'I have not seen Yarham since to speak to'.  The piece is signed with the mark of Sarah Dick.

Obviously, the pieces as described more or less agree on the salient events and they can be confirmed by reading the local newspapers.  Walker, though, takes another step, printing The Lamentation Of Samuel Yarham that, by its nature, usually means that such a piece was composed after the particular murder has taken place:

Both old and young I pray attend,
    And listen unto me,
While unto you I do relate,
    A dreadful tragedy
That did take place in Yarmouth town;
The truth I will unfold,        (blood run cold.
A bare recital of the same will make your
A chorus, in cadence, echoes those found in several poaching songs:
Young men all mend your ways,
Lest like Yarham you may end your days.
This form looks to have been first promulgated in Young Henry the Poacher, dating from around 1828-1829.27

The piece continues:

One Harriet Candler, as we find,
    The truth to you I will tell;
In Yarmouth town she did reside
    By many known full well…
Only Yarham is mentioned by name in the piece, as he took Mrs Candler's life 'Upon that fatal night' (18th November 1845).  And certain things become slightly clearer:
The Jury heard the Evidence
    As you shall understand,
And Return's a verdict of Murder
    Against SAMUEL YARHAM.
And he was sent to Norwich gaol,
    As plainly will be seen,
But the men of law soon found a flaw,
    Which quickly set him free.
Yarham fled the scene although from his conscience he could not escape, '…God's all seeing eye' and, as we have already learned, he was apprehended in Gloucestershire.  So Yarham was returned to Norwich - and found guilty.  The piece, in a fashion found in several execution pieces, changes viewpoint:
Now in a dreary Prison,
    And in a dismal cell,
The sufferings I do undergo
    I am sure no tongue can tell;
The form of my murdered victim,
    I often think I see,
I am a guilty sinner,
    Good God look down on me.
And a warning is given to both old and young.

Walker's piece here adopts the form of many murder and execution printings from elsewhere in the country, though it is rare in his output in offering, simply, a ballad, unaccompanied by header or prose account. 

What is more, there is a further piece including Letters From Samuel Yarham To his Wife and Relatives, although it is not yet possible to say exactly when this piece appeared in the sequence described above.  A time is implied below suggesting that the letters were sent before Yarham's final hours.

The first letter is to Yarham's wife and is surprisingly coherent, given what we have adduced about Yarham's life: he does not appear to have been the most intellectual of men.  We should, of course, remind ourselves that such letters 'purport' to be in the criminal's own hand and it is just as possible that they were made up or that they were heavily influenced by others - such as clergymen who nearly always ministered during the criminal's last hours and were always present at the drop:

My dear Sarah, my heart bleeds within me when I think of the misery you are placed in, but I cannot help you, but if you put your trust in Him above He will protect you.
This is unremarkable enough … But:
Oh!  everlasting God thou knowest the secrets of all hearts, and knowest all things before they be, thou knowest they have borne false witness against me; & behold I must die, they have risen against me with lying lips and deceit upon their tongues, which thou O blessed Lord, knowest my innocence of, in whose presence I shall shortly have to appear to answer for the things done in the body; thou that searchest all hearts, and from nothing is hidden, have mercy upon me, and grant me they Salvation.
Samuel Yarham seems, at least, to have listened (and probably to have learned his catechism) but these are extreme sentiments in the context of the events and Yarham's behaviour.  He goes on to deny ever speaking to Mrs.  Dick 'in my life', nor to Royal 'for ten or twelve years'.  The piece ends with more lament and:
So I must conclude, with my kind love to you, wishing you health, wealth, and prosperity here below, and may the Almighty protect you wherever you be situated, and at last bring you to His Heavenly mansions above - where all will be joy, peace, and felicity, is the sincere prayer of your affectionate but unfortunate and innocent dying husband.
It is all very fulsome and one has certain reservations about credibility…To what extent might this have been Yarham or a clergyman - the 'Chaplain' mentioned below, for instance - fashioning the letter?

A second letter, dated 9th April 1846, sent to Yarham's father, is of 'similar import' to the other.  In it, Yarham declares that 'I have been spending my time in the best manner I am able, with the assistance of the Chaplain.' He hopes for pardon from the 'Divine Being'; but does not feel his mind as settled as he would have liked it to have been, presumably because:

As a dying man I am as innocent of the crime that I am about to suffer such an ignominious death, as a child unborn.
He bids farewell, giving his love to the family and friends and hoping that the Almighty 'will support you under affliction'.

Walker's piece, finally, produces a kind of trump card.  Yarham was allowed visitors and contrived to 'slip' papers into his wife's hand which she immediately yielded up to the authorities.  In one ('My dear Sarah'), Yarham states that he was minded to commit suicide and that Sarah, his wife, could perhaps get a private interview during which they might both die together.  Again he declared his innocence and in the midst of personal details insisted: 'Don't let anybody see this.  I am determined not to be hung'.  The letter ends in apparent confusion:

Don't let me persuade you.  If you will do this let me know the day and hour.  I know you are miserable, so am I.  do not (sic) deceive yourself, but I should recommend hanging: let me know.
It is quite a remarkable document, authentic or not (Yarham - perhaps - even contrived to use the colon effectively).28

We can, though, add details of one more Walker piece concerned with murder and hanging; in this instance from the Bodleian Allegro archive, thus suggesting - as has been hinted at above - that there could well be more Walker material resting somewhere.  The particular piece is entitled The Lamentation Of Henry Groom…and we recall William Broadhurst's two pieces on the same event (note the spelling of the victim's name below in comparison with Broadhurst's 'Ayton' and 'Heighton').29  Like the Yarham Lamentation described above this is simply a ballad alone (dispensing with prose accounts), dating from 1851, and once more suggesting that Walker kept an eye on developments elsewhere since the particular form of presentation is so rare in his stock.  The sentiments, though, can be found in many other such ballads:

Good people all pray give attention,
    Listen to my mournful tale,
And unto you I quick will mention,
    While close confined in Norwich Jail;
John Hayton was my friend and neighbour,
    Many years by me secure did dwell,
But being discharged for bad behaviour,
    I murdered him how sad to tell.
A chorus follows:
Pray God protect my wife and children,
    Good people do not on them frown;
My murdered victim seems to haunt me
    When I rise up or lay me down.
Immediately, then, we are confronted by a 'Come-all-ye', one of the more popular forms of presentation in broadside balladry as a whole.  Then, in quite colourful terms, Groom gives his own account of his state of mind:
My blood with horror seems to freeze,
    I cannot rest my aching head.
Like a bird caught in the fowler's net,
    Terror meets me everywhere;
In gloomy horror now I sat
    A victim in the tempter's snare.
It was 'Cruel revenge' urged him on and he robbed Hayton of watch and gold.  Again:
My blood with horror now is filled
    While I the dreadful tale unfold …
Within my sad and gloomy dungeon
    A full confession now I make …
He ambushed and shot Hayton and 'With murderous hands I did him kill'.  He thinks that he still hears Hayton's 'expiring cry'; he calls on God for mercy; he has caused his wife and children 'to lament' and, finally:
A public spectacle I'm doomed to be
    To end my days on the fatal tree,
Be warned by me each rank and station
    Mark well my fatal destiny.
It is unremarkable in its content and form but illustrates how thoroughly ingrained terms of ballad convention was in Walker's output.  It remains to see how much of this convention appears in Walker's other ballad issue - other, that is, than in murder and execution material (forthcoming).

There is no need to rehearse the majority of detail in ballad terms as described above.  Walker clearly uses an established pattern of vocabulary in his ballads; sometimes obviously misses out details of various cases that may well have altered the overall perspective in any one piece; presents small variants within convention, seemingly without pattern; but sustains particular forms - the brief prose account and the frequent appearance of the form of presentation of header block, prose account and following stanzas.  His is an important voice in Norfolk during the nineteenth century where murder and execution material is concerned.  It remains to see in forthcoming articles how important he might be in a more general survey of his life and work.

Roly Brown - 28.2.07
Oradour sur Vayres, France



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