England: Last Public Execution

In 1864 the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, brought in an act, which would see an end to public hangings, with the last ones taking place in 1868.

On Thursday 2nd April 1868, 25 year-old Frances Fiddler was the last woman to be hung in a public execution, which took place in front of Maidstone Prison.

Her crime which carried the death sentence was that she wilfully murdered Louisa Kiddler-Staples her 12 year-old step-daughter by drowning her in a foot of water, by holding the child’s head under.

Fiddler died a hard death, according to reports, as she struggled some two to three minutes before her body went limp.  A sight witnessed by the 2,000 people who had attended her hanging, watching her life being extinguished.

On Tuesday 26th May 1868 Michael Barrett was the last man to be hanged by Public Execution on English soil.

Barrett’s crime was that on the 13th December 1867, he did intentionally attempt to free fellow Fenian (Irish Republican) one Richard O’Sullivan Burke, by blowing a hole, in the prison wall at the Clerkenwell House of Detention in London.  His act caused the death of seven people, and injured many more.

Six people were arrested for this crime, the first Irish bombing on English soil.  Barrett was the only one convicted on 6th April 1868 at the Old Bailey.  He was hanged on 26th May 1868, in front of a large crowd that turned out to watch.

On the 29th May 1868, the Capital Punishment Act, ended the practice of public executions, and from that day forth executions would take place within the prison grounds.

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