A Terrible Murder

Eighteenth century Bristol had a reputation for punitive punishments, especially against people with unusual lifestyles, such as gays. But here’s one where it’s hard to feel sympathy for the criminals. This is from John Latimer’s Annals of Bristol for 1743:

“On the night of 27 October 1743 a order which created great local excitement was committed near Redland Court, on the road leading from Stoke’s Croft to Durham Down.. A farmer named Winter, of Charlton, and gone to Bristol Market that morning with some cattle, and 2 men, named Andrew Burnet and Henry Payne, who had been comrades in a cavalry regiment, anticipating that he would return with the price of the animals in his pocket, resolved on his murder and robbery. Through some circumstance the farmer remained in the city for the night but Richard Ruddle, coachmen to Sir Robert Cann, bart, of Stoke Bishop, who had also been in Bristol, was mistaken for winter by the 2 ruffians, who attacked him with such brutality that he died shortly afterwards. The only fruits of their crime were a watch and a few trifling articles. Some time elapsed before a clue to the murderers could be obtained. at length one day a man entered the show of a watchmaker in Castle Street, produced the missing watch, and requested the tradesman (said to have been the maker of the article) to repair it. Being questioned, he stated that he adjust bought it fro 2 men in a public house; and whilst he was being take by a constable in question, eh recognised Burnet and Payne in Stoke’s Croft, and assisted in their arrest. The murderers were tried at the ensuing country assizes, and sentenced to be hanged and gibbetted on Durham Down. As an additional punishment, it is presumed,  they were first taken to Cirencester, to witness the execution of another murderer condemned at the same assizes. On the 22 March, 1744, they were convened through the city to the place where the time was committed, and their sentence was afterwards carried out,… “in the presence of the most numerous assembly of all ranks that never were seen together on such an occasion.” They were hung in chains at what is now called Sea Walls, so that their bodies might be seen from passing vessels. In the following April their bodies were removed by (it was supposed) by a party of Irishmen but were fond among the rocks and replaced.

What a wonderful way to be welcomed to Bristol after a long voyage: a grim sight on the Downs.

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