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Executions at Durham, 1732-1909

Supplied by Alistair Mills

From a cutting from an unidentified newspaper. Italicised sections were illegible in the cutting and have been reconstructed from alternative sources:- (i) (names, dates and crimes) Local Records - Vol 2 by John Sykes, 1866, T. Fordyce, Newcastle; (ii) (former place of execution) Durham Millennium - A Thousand Years of Durham City, by David Simpson, 1995, The Northern Echo.

An index of criminals and victims follows the listing.


The following list of executions in Durham since the year 1732 may be of interest:-

  • 1732 - August 23, John Graham and James Graham for murder.

  • 1757 - August 8, William Hugh, for murder.

  • 1768 - John Steads, for robbery.

  • 1770 - September 18, Robert Hazlett, for robbery on Gateshead Fell, where he stopped and robbed the Newcastle and Durham mail. He was hung in chains on Gateshead Fell.

  • 1776 - August 15, Joseph Humphreys, for housebreaking.

  • 1781 - August 20, John Cully, for robbery.

  • 1781 - November 20, Margaret Tinkler, for recommending certain means to kill an infant, which purpose was effected, together with that of its mother.

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  • 1783 - August 18, Robert Story, for the murder of Thomas Idle.

  • 1785 - July 25, John Winship, for the murder of his maidservant.

  • 1785 - August 1, William Hamilton and Isabella Hamilton, his wife, for housebreaking; Thomas Elliot, for horsestealing; and Duncan Wright, for housebreaking.

  • 1786 - August 21, Francis Blenkinsopp and Morley Howitt, for housebreaking.

  • 1799 - July 22, Mary Nicholson, for poisoning her mistress, Elizabeth Atkinson, at Little Stainton, in 1798. The rope broke after she was thrown off, and another rope had to be procured. An hour elapsed before this could be done, and in the interval she recovered her faculties and conversed with her relatives until the resumption of the execution, when she was launched into eternity amidst a scene of painful excitement amongst the spectators.

  • 1802 - August 23, John Carleton, for attempted murder by firing a loaded pistol at Thomas Greenwell, grocer, Gateshead, who was defending his warehouse, into which Carleton and his accomplices were attempting to break.

  • 1803 - August 13, John Moses, for stealing draperygoods from the shop of Benjamin Jackson at Barnardcastle.

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  • 1805 - August 13, Benjamin Metcalfe, for the murder of his son-in-law.

  • 1816 - August 17, John Greig, for the murder of Elizabeth Stonehouse. This prisoner was the first culprit hanged on the drop before the new courthouse, the other executions having usually taken place at Dryburn, near .....................

  • 1819 - April 12, George Atcheson, aged 68 years, for a rape on the body of Isabella Ramshaw, a child under 10 years.

  • 1819 - August 15, John King, for the murder of John Hamilton, in a cabin at the colliery staith at Newbottle.

  • 1822 - March 18, Henry Anderson, a pitman, for rape on Sarah Armstrong, at Old Pensher.

  • 1822 - August 9, Robert Peat, aged 50, of Ravensworth, near Richmond, for poisoning a relative, named Robert Peat, at Darlington, whose will he had stolen.

  • 1831 - February 28, Thomas Clarke, for the murder of his fellow servant, Mary Ann Westhorpe, at Pittington Hallgarth Mill, on Saturday, August 8, 1830.

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  • 1832 - August 3, William Jopling, for the murder of Nicholas Fairless. The body was gibbetted on Jarrow Slake on August 6, and at night on the was stolen and secretly disposed of by some persons unknown.

  • 1839 - August 16, Jacob Frederick Ehlert, Prussian sailor, for the murder of the master of his vessel, John Frederick Berckholtz, at Sunderland.

  • 1848 - March 25, William Thompson, for the murder of John Shirley, head whipper-in to the Duke of Cleveland, near Barnardcastle, on the 2nd February.

  • 1859 - August 11, John Shafto Wilthew, for the murder of his wife, Dorothy, at Hebburn. Justice Keating judge; Askern executioner.

  • 1860 - December 11, Thomas Smith, for the murder of Thos. Batey, at Winlaton; and Milner Lockey, for the murder of Thomas Harrison, at Urpeth. Justice Keating judge; Askern executioner.

  • 1862 - December 23, John Cox, for the murder of Dorothy Halliday, at Broadmires, near Plawsworth. Justice Keating judge; Askern executioner.

  • 1865 - March 16, Matthew Atkinson, for wife-murder, at the Spen, near Winlaton. Rope broke; hanged half-an-hour later. Justice Mellor judge; Askern executioner.
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  • 1869 - March 22, John Dolan, for the murder of Hugh Ward, at Sunderland; and John M'Conville, for the murder of Philip Trainer, at Darlington. This was the first execution in private in Durham. Justice Lush judge; Calcraft, executioner.

  • 1873 - January 13, Hugh Slane and John Hayes, for the murder of Joseph Wain, at Spennymoor. Justice Denman judge; Calcraft, executioner.

  • 1873 - March 24, Mary Ann Cotton, for poisoning her step-son, Charles Edward Cotton, at West Auckland. Justice Archibold, judge; Calcraft, executioner.

  • 1874 - January 5, Charles Dawson, for the murder of his paramour, Margaret Addison, at Darlington; Edward Gough, for the murder of James Partridge, at Sunnide, near Marley Hill; and William Thompson, for the murder of his wife, at Annfield Plain. Justice Honeyman, judge; Marwood, hangman.

  • 1874 - December 28, Hugh Daly, for the murder of Philip Burdey, at Dipton, near Medomsley. Baron Cleasby, judge; Marwood, executioner.

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  • 1875 - August 2, Elizabeth Pearson, for the murder of her uncle, W.Watson, at Staindrop; William McHugh, for the murder of Thomas Mooney, at Barnardcastle; and Michael Gilligan, for the murder of John Kilcran, at Darlington. Baron Huddlestone, judge; Marwood, executioner.

  • 1876 - July 6, John Williams, for the murder of his brother-in-law, John Wales, at Edmondsley. Justice Lush, judge; Marwood, hangman.

  • 1878 - July 30, Robert Vest, for the murder of John Wallace, in Sunderland Roads. Justice Baggalley, judge; Marwood, executioner.

  • 1880 - November 16, William Brownless, for the murder of his sweetheart, Elizabeth Holmes, at Evenwood, near Bishop Auckland, on 18th. August. Justice Field, judge; Marwood, executioner.

  • 1882 - May 16, Thomas Fury, alias Wright, alias Cutt, for the murder of Maria Fitzsimmons, an unfortunate, stabbing her in the breast in a house in Baines Lane, Sunderland, on the 20th. of February, 1869. Justice Williams, judge; Marwood, executioner.

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  • 1883 - August 6, James Burton, for the murder of Elizabeth Sharpe (whom he had married while he had a wife and family living), at Tunstall, Sunderland, 8th. May, 1883. Justice Hawkins, judge; Marwood, executioner.

  • 1883 - November 19, Peter Bray, for the murder of Thomas Pyle, on the Red Hills, Durham, 1st. April 1882. Justice Day, judge; Binns, executioner.

  • 1884 - May 27, Joseph Lowson, for the murder of Police-Sergeant Smith, at Butterknowle, 23rd. February, 1884. Justice Hawkins, judge; Berry executioner.

  • 1888 - Decemner 18, William Waddell, for the murder of his sweetheart, Jane Beadmore, at Birtley, 22nd. September, 1888. Baron Pollock, judge; Berry, executioner.

  • 1891 - December 22, John William Johnson, for the murder of Margaret Addison, at Hetton, on the 31st. October, 1891. Justice Wills, judge; Billington, executioner.

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  • 1898 - March 22, Charles Smith, for the murder of his wife, Mary Ann Smith, at Gateshead, on the 27th. December, 1897. Justice Lawrence, judge; Billington, executioner.

  • 1900 - December 12, John Bowes, wife murder at Seaham Harbour, on the 8th. September. Justice Grantham, judge; Billington, executioner.

  • 1901 - December 10, John George Thompson, murder of Maggie Ann Lieutaud, at Gateshead, in September. Justice Grantham, judge; William Billington, executioner.

  • 1902 - December 16th, Samuel Walton (31), miner, triple murder, at Middlestone Moor, on the 11th. September; and Thomas Nicholson (24), for murder of Mary Ina Stewart, aged seven, at Bill Quay, on the 16th. August. Justice Channell, judge; William and John Billington, executioners.

  • 1903 - December 8th, James Duffy (46), labourer, for the murder of his paramour, Ellen Newman, at Sunderland, on 6th. September. Justice Grantham, judge; William and John Billington, executioners.

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  • 1904 - August 2, George Breeze (21), miner, wilful murder of Margaret Jane Chisholm, at Seaham Harbour, in July. Justice Grantham, judge; executioner, Billington, assisted by Ellis.

  • 1908 - March 24, Joseph William Noble (48), blacksmith, murder of John Patterson, at Windy Nook, in Nov., 1907; and Robert Lawman (35), miner, murder of Amelia Bell Wood, at Bensham, in February. Justice Channell, judge; H.A. and T.W. Pierrepoint executioners.

  • 1908 - August 5th, Matthew James Dodds (43), joiner, murder of his wife, Mary Jane Dodds, at Hamsterley, in February, 1908. Justice Grantham, judge; H.A. and T.W. Pierrepoint executioners.

  • 1909 - February 23rd, Jeremiah O'Connor (52), shifter, wilful murder of Mary Donnelly, aged 10, at West Stanley, on 14th. December, 1908. Sentenced by Justice Lawrence; executioner, H. Pierrepoint.

  • 1909 - December 8, Abel Atherton (30), coal miner, wilful murder of Eliz Ann Patrick, at Chopwell, on 11th. August. Sentenced by Judge Walton; executioner, H. Pierrepoint.

Index of Criminals and Victims.