This is from a book of old newspaper articles, News from the English Countryside 1750-1850. I’m tempted to put about half of them on the blog; there are some really great windows to our past, from a trial at Maidstone, Kent in July 1769:
“On wednesday came on the trial of Susannah Lott, for the murder of her husband, John Lott, of Hythe [Kent], after a long hearing she was found guilty and condemned o be drawn upon a hurdle on Friday, 21st, to the usual place of execution and there to be burnt ’till she was dead. At the same time Benjamin buss, convicted also of the murder of the said John Lott, was condemned to be hanged and his body ot be afterwards delivered to the surgeon, to be dissected and anatomised. The behaviour of Mrs Lott, during her confinement, had been serious, decent and resign’d. She was convicted principally on her own declaration, and the confession she sign’d soon after her husband was poisoned. she was much affected during the whole of her trial particularly at the time of her child being brought into court to be suckled, which was twice repeated in the course of the trial, in order, it was supposed, to excite the compassion of the jury; and at the time of her receiving sentence so great was the agonise she seemed to suffer, she drew tears from almost every body present, since when, with becoming fortitude and composure, she had borne her fate, and prepared herself for execution.
Benjamin Buss behaved with an insolent indifference, till the verdict was found against him, when he instantly changed colour, and in the utmost agony, falling down on his knees. begg’d the mercy of the court.
3 days later the following was in The Kentish Gazette:
On Friday last, a few minutes before 12 o’clock at noon, Susannah Lott and Benjamin Buss were taken from the gaol in order to be executed …Buss, dressed in black, was carried in a waggon drawn by 4 horses and attended by 2 or 3 sheriffs officers. Mrs Lott, dressed in a suit of morning she had for her husband immediately followed on a hurdle drawn by 4 horses. In this manner they proceeded till they came to the place of execution, when Buss, after joining in prayer with the Clergyman, was hanged on a gallows about 100 yards fro the place where Mrs Lott was to be executed. When he had hung about 15 minutes, the officers then proceeded to execute sentence on Mrs Lott, who was particularly desirous that he should suffer before her.
A post abut 7 feet high was fixed on the ground; it had a peg near the top, to which Mrs Lott, standing on a stool was fastened by the neck. when the stool was taken away, she hung about 1/4 of an hour, till she was quite dead; a chain wa then turned round her body, and properly fastened by staples to the post, when a large quantity of faggots being placed round her, and set on fire, the body was consumed to ashes. The man did not betray any remarkable concern for his approaching end. It is computed there were 5,000 persons attending. ”
They were treated differently as a wife murdering a husband was deemed as treason, and also shameful, hence the hurdle rather than waggon she was carried in. I am intrigued as to the story here as there is no mention of how these two met, how or why they did the murder. Were they lovers? Was the baby that of Buss? if so, why was this scandalous element not included? There is another, more worrying side to this – a lot of women get post-natal depression, clearly not recognised back then, but though she was not reprieved, she does not seem to have behaved like a criminal. Even if she had managed to get a reprieve, this would not have a happy ending, as if she had no means of support, she would have seen out her days in the poor house; I can’t imagine a man being trusting enough to marry her.