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Old 16-04-21, 09:04   #1
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Oh Crap! Sarah 17, Screamed Her Way to The Gallows...

Crowds Looked on as Killer Sarah Screamed Her Way to The Gallows

The 17-year-old's public execution was the last one at Bristol UK New Gaol

BBC News, 16 APR 2021.

On a day in 1849 servant girl Sarah Harriet Thomas was dragged screaming to the gallows and hung.

It turned out that, as spectators dispersed to local pubs after the grisly occasion, it would be the last public hanging at Bristol's New Gaol they would see.

Hapless Sarah, aged just 17, was found guilty of bludgeoning her elderly employer Elizabeth Jefferies to death in her bed.

At her trial she did not appear to take proceedings seriously.

But court records confirm that, after a guilty verdict was returned, the judge put on his black cap - meaning the death sentence - and she broke down.

The longest serving executioner in England, William Calcraft, was tasked to carry out the sentence.

It is said even he was greatly affected by her youth and good looks.

Sarah Thomas was dragged screaming to meet her death at the top of the prison gatehouse.

'The awful scene caused the prison governor to faint'

On execution day she was dragged screaming to the gallows where she continued to sob, scream and plead for her life right up to the end.

The awful scene caused the prison governor, overcome with emotion, to faint.

Crime reporter E. Austin wrote: "Ribald jests were bandied about; and, after waiting to see the corpse cut down, the crowd dispersed, and the harvest of the taverns in the neighbourhood commenced."

It is said a great many of the crowd felt repulsed by what they had seen and many carried the memory of that grisly day for years afterwards.

Conditions within the Gaol had deteriorated, with damage caused by the Reform Riots still not repaired.

In 1872 the Home Office wrote to Bristol Corporation complaining that the prison was unfit for purpose.

The fabric of the buildings had degenerated to such an extent that even redeveloping it was out of the question.

The Corporation bought an area of land at Horfield Gardens in preparation for building a new prison - in those days each city had to pay and run its own prisons.

Despite leading the way in prison design and practices the gaol was closed in April 1883.

Its successor, HMP Bristol at Horfield, opened in 1884 and is still used today.

In 1895 the prison was sold to The Great Western Railway for 22,000.

It was then used as a coal yard and, with the exception of the granite gatehouse, most of its walls and buildings were demolished.

Although accorded Grade 2 Listed Building Status, the New Gaol stands on private land.

With the regeneration of Bristol's waterfront and historic docklands its future could still be far from settled.
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