The Ashbury Tragedy


Simmons, Printer, Okehampton (1827)

Devon Record Office - ref. 3858Z-0/Z/1

Transcribed by Rosemary Williams

In 1827 Sarah and Edward Glass were murdered by Thomas Friend, a long-time servant of the family.

Sarah's mother, a widow, had gone out visiting and her daughter and Edward had agreed to meet up with her on her way home. On her return, the young people were not at the arranged spot and neither were they at home. The long-time servant, Thomas Friend, had also disappeared. Mrs. Glass spent an anxious night but they did not come home and in the morning their bodies were discovered on the moor. The rest was as in the ballad. Thomas had some significant savings put by, so it sounds as if it really was a crime of thwarted passion.

The burials of Sarah and Edward Glass are published in the DFSH Northlew burials 1813-1837. They were held on the 22nd March 1827 and the note says 'BEAWORTHY MURDERED ASHBUR'.


My name is FRIEND of ASHBURY,
And wretched is my lot;
For loving of Miss SARAH GLASS,
Has brought me to the drop.

I often did entreat this Maid,
To join our hearts and hands,
Her answer was, I'll never wed
My Mother's servant man.

In Eighteen hundred and twenty-seven,
On March the nineteenth day;
A wicked thought came in my head,
To take her life away.

Her Mother being gone fom home,
Upon that awful day;
Miss Sarah and her Nephew went,
To meet her on the way.

It being very dark that night,
The Lantern they took down;
I took the night and laid in wait,
It was on Wadham Down.

And when they came into the place
Where I in ambush lay;
My butcher's knife was in my hand,
To take their life away.

I quickly hasten'd from the spot,
And caught this lovely maid,
Because you will not be my wife,
I'll murder you I said.

She fell upon her bending knees,
For mercy she did cry,
My God! O spare my life she said,
I'm not prepar'd to die.

Unto her cries, I would not list,
And then I cut her throat,
And laid her bleeding on the ground,
'Twill never be forgot.

Her Nephew, the young Edward Glass,
He felt some great alarm,
When Satan whisper'd, murder him,
Tho' he had done no harm.

The boy ran from the bloody scene,
I followed with my knife,
And then I likewise cut his throat,
And took his tender life.

All night they lay upon the ground,
Still in their bloody gore,
And I, back to a furze brake went,
Not far from Wadland Moor.

Ealy next morning they were found,
Most shocking for to see,
As they lay murder'd on the ground,
By such a wretch as me.

I lay conceal'd three days and nights,
And bitterly did cry,
For murdering her, I lov'd so well,
And wishing I could die.

I thought upon their burying day,
I'd give my body up,
At the Assizes to be tried,
And drink death's bitter cup.

The next day, they committed me
To Gaol with irons bound
The news of this my dreadful crime,
Soon spread the country round.

On Thursday after was the day,
I to the Judge was brought,
To hear his awful solemn sound,
I shudder'd at the thought.

Sentence of death on me was pass'd
I nothing had to say,
My body for dissection too,
Upon that awful day.

So now my time it is so short,
With sorrow I deplore,
Where will my guilty spirit dwell,
When time shall be no more.

The fatal morning now is come,
The last that I shall greet,
For I must leave this earthly stage,
The eternal Judge to meet.

O may he pardon all my sins,
Forgive one what is past;
For my repentance now is o'er,
And this day is my last.

So then they led me from my cell,
My hands behind me bound,
The Chaplain for me did pray,
And thousands standing round.

The Lord have mercy on my soul,
I have nothing more to say;
And instantly the drop did fall,
And I was launch'd away.
This Thomas Friend, their servant man,
Of temper not severe,
And in their service, he had liv'd
For nearly eleven years.

Some money too, I find he sav'd,
'Twas hundreds, two or three,
For loving of this charming maid,
Has prov'd his misery.

Miss Sarah Glass, I understand
Was aged twenty-eight;
Her brother's son was thirteen years,
Both fell by Satan's bait.

Now view this man throughout his life,
Here on this earthly stage,
And see the awful sudden change,
That fourteen days have made.

So to conclude, let no man boast,
Nor on this man d[eride]
For Satan soon will spread his net,
If God's not on our side.