Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 22 March 2023), Ordinary of Newgate's Account, July 1752 (OA17520702).

Ordinary's Account, 2nd July 1752.

THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE'S ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, OF THOMAS WILFORD , For the Murder of his WIFE , Who was executed at TYBURN On Thursday the Second of JULY, 1752,

BEING THE First EXECUTION in the MAYORALTY OF THE Rt. Honourable Robert Alsop, Esq ; LORD-MAYOR of the CITY of LONDON.

NUMBER VI. for the said YEAR.


Printed for, and sold by T. PARKER, in Jewin-street, and C. CORBETT, over-against St. Dunstan's Church, in Fleet-street, the only authorised Printers of the Dying Speeches.


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THE ORDINARY of NEWGATES ACCOUNT of the Behaviour, Confession, &c.

BY Virtue of the King's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Jail-Delivery of Newgate, held before the Rt. Hon. ROBERT ALSOP , Esq ; Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Lord Chief Baron PARKER, Sir MICHAEL FOSTER , Knt . Sir THOMAS BIRCH , Knt . RICHARD ADAMS , Esq ; Recorder , and other his Majesty's Justices of Oyer and Terminer for the City of London, and Justices of Jail-Delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City, and County of Middlesex, on Thursday the 25th, Friday the 26th, Saturday the 27th, Monday the 29th, and Tuesday the 30th of June, in the 26th Year of his Majesty's Reign, Thomas Wilford was capitally convicted, and received Sentence of Death immediately upon Conviction, according to the Direction of the late Act of Parliament, for better preventing the horrid Crime of Murder.

By this Act, made in the twenty-fifth Year of his present Majesty's Reign, it is enacted, That whereas the horrid Crime of Murder has of late been more frequently perpetrated than formerly, and particularly in and near the Metropolis of this Kingdom, contrary to the known Humanity and natural Genius of the British Nation: And whereas it is thereby become necessary that some further Terror and peculiar Mark of Infamy be added to the Punishment of Death, now by Law inflicted on such as shall be guilty of the said heinous Offence; that, from and after the first Day of Easter Term, in the Year of our Lord 1752, all Personswho shall be found guilty of wilful Murder, be executed according to Law, on the Day next but one after Sentence pass'd, unless the same shall happen on the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday; and in that Case, on the Monday following.

And also, that the Body of such Murderer, so convicted, shall, if such Conviction and Execution shall be in the County of Middlesex, or within the City of London, or the Liberties thereof, be immediately conveyed by the Sheriff or Sheriffs, his or their Deputy or Deputies, and his or their Officers, to the Hall of the Surgeons Company, or such other Place as the said Company shall appoint for this Purpose, and be delivered to such Person as the said Company shall depute or appoint; who shall give to the Sheriff or Sheriffs, his or their Deputy or Deputies, a Receipt for the same; and the Body so delivered to the said Company of Surgeons shall be dissected and anatomized by the said Surgeons, or such Persons as they shall appoint for that Purpose: And in Case such Conviction or Execution shall happen to be in any other County, or other Place in Great-Britain, then the Judge, or Justice of Assize, or other proper Judge, shall award the Sentence to be put in Execution the next Day but one after such Conviction, and the Body of such Murderer shall in like Manner be delivered by the Sheriff, or his Deputy, and his Officers, to such Surgeon, as such Judge, or Justice, shall direct, for the Purpose aforesaid.

It is likewise further enacted, that Sentence shall be pronounced in open Court, immediately after the Conviction of such Murderer, and before the Court shall proceed to any other Business, unless the Court shall see reasonable Cause for postponing the same; in which Sentence shall be expressed, not only the usual Judgment of Death, but also the Time appointed for the Execution thereof, and the Marks of Infamy hereby directed for such Offenders, in order to impress a just Horror in the Mind of such Offender, and on the Minds of such as shall be present, of the heinous Crime of Murder.

And after Sentence is pronounced, it shall be in the Power of any such Judge, or Justice, to appoint the Body of any such Criminal to be hung in Chains; but that in no Case whatsoever, the Body of any Murderer shall be suffered to be buried, unless after such Body shall have been dissected and anatomized.

And from and after such Conviction, and Judgment given thereupon, the Jailor, or Keeper, to whom such Criminal shall be delivered for safe Custody, shall confine such Prisoner to some Cell, or other proper and safe Place within the Prison, separate and apart from the other Prisoners; and no Person whatsoever, except the Jailor, or Keeper, or his Servants, shall have Access to such Prisoner, without Licence first obtained for that Purpose.

It is also further enacted, that after Sentence passed as aforesaid, and until the Execution thereof, such Offender shall be fed with Bread and Water only, and with no other Food or Liquor whatsoever.

All which Directions and Regulations, ordained in the aforesaid Act, were punctually observed in the Case ofthe unhappy Criminal, Thomas Wilford, of whom we shall proceed to give an Account, after taking Notice, that by the afore-mentioned Law it is made Felony, without Benefit of Clergy, for any Person who shall rescue, or attempt to rescue, or set at Liberty, any Person who shall be committed for, or found guilty of Murder. And whoever shall, by Force, rescue, or attempt to rescue the Body of such Offender, from the Company of Surgeons, their Officers, or Servants, or from the House of any Surgeon, shall be liable to be transported to some of his Majesty's Colonies in America, for the Term of seven Years.

The Behaviour of this unfortunate Youth ever since Conviction, and indeed before, has been such as shewed that he had a deep Sense of the great Wickedness he had been guilty of, and of the Danger of his Soul's Safety in a future State, having so grievously transgressed against the Commandments of the Lord his God.

Being thus convicted, as aforesaid, the last Day of the Sessions, Mr. Recorder proceeded to pronounce Sentence in a most solemn Manner, as the aforesaid Act of Parliament directs; viz. That he must be executed on the second Day after Conviction; which was done accordingly on the second Day of this Instant, at the common Place of Execution.

Thomas Wilford was just arrived to the seventeenth Year of his Age, being born in Bishopsgate-Street. His Parents were not in Circumstances to bring him up, and give him Education of themselves; and being born only with one Hand, he was not fit to follow any Trade, so they procured him to be taken Care of in the Workhouse, belonging to Fulham Parish, and sent him thither when he was about six Years of Age. He was admitted there in Right of his Grandfather, he says, who served his Time at Fulham, as did also his Father to his Grandfather. And no other legal Settlement having been gained by either of them any where else, was, upon proper Application made, with Respect to his Parents Inability to support him, sent there, as the Law directs, to be provided for.

Being admitted there, he was put to School, and as he grew to be stronger, and able to be useful in some Sort, he was put to fetch Water for the Use of the Workhouse, and was used to run of Errands for the House, and for Gentlemen, and others about the Town. By these Means he was kept from Idleness, and got some Pence now and then, and always bore the Character of a quiet, inoffensive, honest Lad, till his Acquaintance with the Woman whom he murdered, when he began to err from the strait Paths, which before he had been taught to walk in.

About six Months ago, he says, the deceased Woman, Sarah Williams , his Wife , was taken into the said Workhouse, being passed thither from the Parish of St. Giles's in the Fields; to which Parish she was obliged to apply for Relief, having contracted the foul Disease, by the vicious Course of Life which she then followed, being one of the lewdest Women in that Quarter of the Town, tho' very young. It was in the said Workhouse that the unhappy Sufferer, Thomas Wilford, renewed his

Acquaintance with her, they having been Neighbours Children, and intimate from their Youth: They immediately, upon this second Meeting, conceived a strong Fancy for each other, and delighted much in being in each others Company, for which they found frequent Opportunities. This Intimacy increasing every Day, about a Month ago, he says, they agreed to take each others Word for a while, 'till an Opportunity presented that they might marry. And their Intimacy was now grown such, that he could no longer withstand her frequent Solicitations to Matrimony; his own Passions inclined him to it, and the Day was fixed. At length the fatal Day, as it proved to them both, was come, when they resolved to leave the Workhouse, and to go and be married, and set themselves out in the World. This unhappy Youth had, during the eleven Years of his being in the Workhouse, saved up twelve Shillings, out of the several Half-pence and Pence which he had got by his Labour. And going to acquaint the Overseers with his and the deceased Sarah Williams's Intentions of leaving the House, and entering into Matrimony, they, in order to encourage this young Couple, and understanding that the Woman had been used to deal in Fruit, Fish, &c. advanced 40 s. with which Wilford and the Deceased purpoposed to buy Things in the Markets, and to go about the Streets to sell again, and turn a Penny for an honest Livelihood. Accordingly they set out for London, and came into Dyot-street, St. Giles's, on the 20th of May last, where they took Lodgings, went to the Fleet, and were there made to believe they were Man and Wife. So they lived together for four Days, as the Landlord of the House they lodged at reported upon the Trial, in Agreement and Harmony; 'till the unlucky Night came, that she went Abroad, and staid longer than his Patience and Fondness could well bear with.

They were at the Fleet on the Wednesday, and on the Sunday Evening about eight o'Clock his new Wife took it into her Head to go Abroad, and staid 'till past the Hour of twelve. After she came Home, they sat for some Time in the Landlord's Room below Stairs before they went up to their own Lodging, in order to go to Bed; during which Time no outward Marks of Dissatisfaction appeared, and if any then subsisted, they were at present disguised.

They took their Leave, and went up Stairs together; when, having fastened the Door, he began to enquire where she had been. She answered him not to his Satisfaction, but only said she had been in the Park. As she gave him no Particulars, his Jealousy kindled, and Words arose; which still growing upon them, their Tempers were become almost implacable. They sat down each in a Chair at a Distance from each other, still provoking one the other with reproachful Words. His Passion was thus so irritated, that he took a small clasp Knife in his Hand, and resolved to destroy her. He went towards her, and she rising from her Seat, met him, and there was a Struggle between them, he says, for a little while. At length he threw her down, upon which she struggled, and cried out; but he kept her down with his Stump-Arm,and with the other (which, if it had pleased God, he had better have been without) having a Knife in his Hand, he cut her, as she lay on the Floor, on the left Side of the Neck, and continued cutting 'till she moved no more; which, he says, was a considerable Time: He can't pretend to say how long; but it was so long, as 'till he had cut more than half round the Circumference of her Neck.

When he had done this horrid Deed, and found she moved no more, he threw the Knife into the Window of the Room, and, opening the Door, was going down Stairs; not, he says, to make an Escape, but with Design to tell the Landlord what he had done. But the Woman who lay in the next Room, hearing him, called out, Who's there? to which he answered, 'Tis I: I have murdered my poor Wife, whom I loved as dearly as my Life. The Woman ran down Stairs into the Landlord's Bed-room to acquaint him with the sad Story; and Wilford was there almost as soon as she. He did not in the least endeavour to screen what he had done, but said, he had murdered her whom he best loved in the World, and was willing to die for it. The Landlord fetched a Constable, who, taking him immediately into Custody, carried him the next Morning to Justice Fielding, who committed him to Newgate. Ever since he has been confined he has kept himself retired, as well as the Nature of the Place would admit, from all Company, and spent his Time continually in reading such good Books as were put in his Hands, to teach him, and give him a thorough Insight into the horrid and detestable Nature of his Crime.

On Thursday the 25th ult. the first Day of the Sessions, he was called down before the Court, and pleaded Guilty, but was then set aside to another Day. On Tuesday the 30th ult. he was again called down, and arraigned for the Murder of his Wife; to which he again pleaded Guilty: But the Court advising him to consider what he meant by such a Plea, that Conviction must necessarily ensue, his Resolution failed him, and, as he afterwards told me, he changed his Plea to Not guilty, that the whole iniquitous Transaction might be exposed to the World, and that he might be put to as much Ignominy and Shame here as possibly might be: And he stood the Trial under the utmost apparent Horrors and Tremblings, not so much arising from the Thoughts of what he should suffer in Consequence of it, but from a Fear how he might appear at the Bar of the last great Tribunal. He did not in the least endeavour to palliate or excuse this wicked Deed, aggravated with the Circumstance of taking her off in the Midst of her Wickedness, but by his Silence and Tears consented to the Truth of the Evidence and Charge laid against him. His Behaviour herein seemed to move every compassionate Breast to pity his miserable Condition; and since the Fact was so flagrant as to admit of no other Verdict from the Jury, than that he was guilty of the Murder, Sentence was passed upon him, agreeable to the late Act of Parliament, in a most pathetick Manner, in Words to this Effect; viz. That he must go from the Bar to thePlace from whence he came, and from thence to the Place of Execution, on the second Day after, there to be hanged by the Neck till he was dead, his Body not to be buried, but dissected and anatomized.

After Sentence he was taken from the Bar weeping, and in great Agonies, lamenting his sad Fate, and carried up to his Cell; where he was kept as the Act of Parliament further directed, upon Bread and Water, close locked up, without having any Body admitted to see him; nor was ever let out, but to Prayers, till the Day he suffered.

He continued to confess the Fact in all its horrid and barbarous Circumstances, and said, he longed to die for it, forfeiting his Life willingly, to make what Satisfaction he could here; and hoping that his penitent Tears, flowing from Remorse of Conscience, together with his sincere Prayers to God for Forgiveness, might render him an Object of divine Compassion, when he came to appear before the great Judge of himself and all Mankind.

Murder, of all Crimes under the Sun, he said, he was sensible was a most horrid and barbarous Cruelty, detested by all good Men, and most abominate in the Sight of God: And he said that his, above all, was the worst of Murders, committed upon one, whom it was then his Duty to do all that lay in his Power to serve. But Jealousy, the worst of Madness, assisted by the Raging of strong Drink, prompted him to do an Act, for which he could suffer ten Thousand Deaths here, were it possible, if his Remorse, and Sorrow for it, might but at length procure him Pardon for such a Piece of most atrocious Barbarity hereafter; and God might be propitious to him, thro' his Promises in Christ Jesus, to penitent Sinners; and he hoped for it no otherwise, than as his Repentance might appear in the Sight of God to be hearty and sincere.

Thus, under these Circumstances and Considerations, he earnestly desired to receive the Sacrament, which he accordingly did on the Morning before he went out to he executed.

As the Crime for which this unhappy Wretch suffered, that of Murder, is one of the most heinous, and lately become frequent in and about this great City, it may not be amiss in this Place to expatiate on the Nature of this horrid Guilt, and the dreadful Consequences attending it both in this World and the next.

IT is very remarkable, that though many Crimes escape Punishment, by the Criminal's either evading or getting out of the Reach of Justice, yet the Divine Vengeance constantly pursues, and generally overtakes the detestable and unnatural Crime of Murder, however privily committed, or in whatsoever Manner sought to be concealed. And such great and particular Abhorrence has God always manifested against this dreadful Sin, that long before the Promulgation of the Law of Moses, even so early as the Time when Noah and his Sons quitted the Ark to replenish the Earth, it was expressly declared to them, as a special Injunction from the Almighty himself, enforced by a Delivery from his own Mouth, that at the Hand of Man, atthe Hand of every Man's Brother, will be require the Life of Man. And whose sheddeth Man's Blood, by Man shall his Blood be shed; for in the Image of God made he Man. Gen. ix. 5, 6. And moreover, when the Law was given, it was expressly anounced by Moses, that the Murderer should surely be put to Death. And that the Revengers of Blood should stay the Murderer, when he met with him he should slay him. Numb. xxv. 18, 19.

Now although the Heathens had not any Knowledge of the Law, or Light of the Gospel to walk by, but were as the Apostle St. Paul says, a Law unto themselves, yet such was their Detestation of this horrid Crime, and so true a Notion had they of its being punished by Divine Power, that when they saw the Viper hanging on the Apostle's Hand, they said among themselves, No doubt but this Man is a Murderer, whom though he bath escaped the Sea, yet Vengeance suffereth not to live. Acts xxviii. 4. And indeed, very few Instances can be met with, either in Sacred or Prophane History, of any who have been guilty of this Crime, escaping the Punishment of the Law inflicted by all Nations thereon, or evading with their utmost Artifices, the Pursuit of Divine Justice.

Many are the Incitements that Satan makes use of, to induce unhappy Mortals to the Perpetration of this abominable Crime; but few or none are more productive of this Evil than Jealousy, of which Thomas Wilford is an unhappy Instance. For neither the Fear of God, the Dictates of Humanity, the Laws of Society, nor even Love itself, could prevent his making his unfortunate Wife a Victim to the Rage of that Passion. - But in what aggravating Circumstances of Horror must that Man remain in, who gave the first Occasion for exciting such a devouring Flame in Wilford's Bosom? Certainly, if he has any Conciousness, he cannot forbear thinking himself nearly as much guilty of the Woman's Blood, as tho' he had been accessary to the very Fact. Neither can he be thoroughly certified, that both their Lives will not be laid to his Charge hereafter.

That Wilford loved his Wife, whether or not she conceived the same for him, is beyond Dispute; he declaring it to his last Moment, and readily giving his Life for an Atonement, if such could be made, for having taken away her's. And tho' that infernal Fiend Jealousy so overcame his Reason, as not to permit him enjoying that Happiness with his Wife in this World that he expected, yet his Love was so ardent as to make him desire no longer to survive her, than what was sufficient to manifest his deep Contrition for the Sin he had committed, and make Satisfaction to the Law, that he had so unhappily pulled down on his own Head. The disastrous and untimely End of this young Couple, whose Bridal Bed may properly be said to have been hung with the Curtains of Death, ought to be a lasting Warning to all wicked, profligate and debauched Men, how they ever attempt to violate the State of Matrimony, or give Occasion for Jealousy to a Husband, either by Word or Action. It should likewise afford aCaution to all Persons how they mispend the Sabbath in Rioting and Drink. For had not the Blood of Wilford been inflamed by strong Liquors, it is very probable he could never have had the Inhumanity to perpetrate such a barbarous Act, and in so cruel a Manner.

Had he had any Regard to the Duties required on the Sabbath, and attended Divine Service at the Parish-Church where he lived, it is very likely God would have assisted him with Grace sufficient to withstand that Temptation of the Devil which he after fell into that Night, and was not able to resist. Or when Church was over, had he spent his Time (as he could read) in perusing some godly Book, instead of rambling in the Fields, and resorting to Drinking-Houses, it is very probable his Mind would thereby have been settled in such a State of Composure, as to be able to withstand any Provocation from his Wife, without resenting it in that diabolical Manner which he made Use of.

Certainly it cannot fail being a Matter of great Concern to every rationable Creature, that has the least Sense of his Duty, to see the Fields and Alehouses crowded with such Numbers of People on the Sabbath Day, while the Churches are left more than half empty: And we cannot forbear admiring the great Mercy of God, in preserving so many of those unthinking and undevour Creatures, who neglect and contemn his Worship, from falling into the like Temptation and Sin, as the unhappy young Fellow of whom I am writing.

Sabbath-breaking, and the Company of lewd Women, have been generally acknowledged by most of those unhappy Creatures that have come to the Gallows, as the principal Causes of bringing them thither: And it is no Wonder to see God give those up to their own Lusts, which induces them to every Vice, who deny paying him any Respect as their Creator, Protector, and Redeemer. Certainly it might be thought, that the six Days of the Week afford sufficient Leisure and Opportunity, even for the most laborious, to indulge themselves in Recreation, Diversion, or Amusement, without trespassing upon their Maker, by a wrong Application of the seventh, which he has so peculiarly enjoined to be devoted to his Service. And as even the best Morals are not able to secure us from falling, without the Assistance of divine Grace, so the Neglect of the Duty of publick Prayer, and joining with the Church to implore that inestimable Blessing, on the Day particularly set apart for such Purpose, amy be looked upon as the chief Occasion of the many Vices they fall into. And as this Age is acknowledged to be much more immoral and wicked than the last, the Profanation of the Sabbath being become almost general, amongst all Ranks and Degrees of People, so it need not occasion any Wonder, that Murders and other Acts of Violence, are more frequently committed than formerly.

To put an entire Stop to such notorious Evil, is, perhaps, beyond the Power of human Skill; but the giving a Check thereunto, by stigmatizing the Offenders with the greatest Marks of Infamy, the making the Punishment of those convicted of Murder more remarkably exemplary than that for anyother Crime, in order to impress a due Horror thereof in the Minds of the People; and even denying such Malefactors the Privilege of Christian Burial, till after their Bodies have been diffected or anatomized, is certainly very meritorious in the Legislature: They have thereby shewn, they are willing to do all in their Power towards putting a Stop to this growing Evil, by extending the Laws to the utmost Stretch of Rigour that Humanity can allow; least that the Earth should again be filled with Violence, and the crying Sin of Murder provoke Almighty God to hasten the Dissolution of this World, as it is thought, by the learned, to have occasioned the Destruction of that which existed before the Flood; When God saw that the Wickedness of Man was great in the Earth, and that every Imagination of the Thoughts of his Heart was only Evil continually, it repented the Lord that he had made Man on the Earth, and it grieved him at his Heart. Gen. vi. 5, 6. So great was the Corruption of the Antidiluvian World. And as the present Age appears too manifestly encreasing in Vice and Impiety, have we not the greatest Reason to dread, that our Sins should occasion our great Creator to repent him of his long Forbearance, and thereby suddenly bring down that divine Vengeance on our Heads, which has been laid in Store for the Wicked, ever since the Foundation of the World.

Though the heinous Sin of Murder is of late become so very frequent in England, yet certainly this Crime is rather of foreign Importation than of British Growth. The Italians, the Spaniards, and several other Nations on the Continent, have, Time out of Mind, been remarkable for their Poisonings, and Butcheries, while the Honour of the English Nation remained unfullied with any such Vice, and shone, evidently distinguished from the rest, by the Splendour of the British Humanity, for which our Ancestors were as remarkably famous, as for the Prowess of their Arms. And it is generally observed, that all brave Men abhor Cruelty, even towards their most inveterate Enemies. But through whatever Inlet the terrible Sin of Murder has crept upon us, we hope, from the Virtue of our own Magistrates, and by a due Enforcement and Execution of the Laws in Being, particularly that before recited, to see it speedily eradicated from out of this Nation; and that every Individual will be brought to think of this Crime, with the utmost Horror and Detestation, as knowing it is expressly declared in holy Writ, that Murderers shall have their Part in the Lake which burneth with Fire and Brimstone; which is the second Death. Rev. xxi. 8. And this is no otherwise to be prevented, but by the most sincere, hearty, and unfeigned Repentance, which God, of his great Mercy, grant to all such as at present are, or hereafter shall be found guilty of this deep and deadly Sin.

At the Place of EXECUTION.

ON Thursday, the second Instant, about Eight o'Clock in the Morning, Thomas Wilford was carried in a Cart to Tyburn, amidst a numerous Multitude of Spectators.

His Behaviour all the Way, and at the Place of Execution, moved the Compassion of the Beholders. After a while spent in Prayer, which he attended to very devoutly, and joined in very fervently, he begged of all People to take Warning by his sad Fate, and to pray for his poor Soul, and then the Cart drew from under him, and he was turned off, calling on the Lord Jesus to receive his Soul. When he had hung till he was dead, his Body was cut down, and put into a Coach, which carried it to Surgeon's Hall in the Old-Bailey, where, 'tis said, it was dissected on Friday last.

This is all the Account given by me, JOHN TAYLOR , Ordinary of Newgate.