The Hanging of Sam Quennell

Horsemonger Lane Gaol

22 year old Sam Quennell was hanged by the neck on Monday, 5th January, 1846 at Horsemonger’s Lane Gaol in Newington, County of Surrey. Samuel had been convicted in the Old Bailey for fatally shooting Daniel Fitzgerald in the chest shortly after he knocked off work at William Quennell’s building business on the evening of 27th November, 1845.

Between 1800-1877, 131 people were hanged in England, comprising 127 men and four women. 118 of the executions took place between 1800 and 1836, after which there was a rapid decline in executions across the country. After 1836, only murder and attempted murder attracted the death penalty and the late 1830’s and early 1840’s saw very few executions. As Samuel’s conviction was for ‘wilful murder’, transportation to Australia was out of the question.

Samuel Quennell was a half brother of my maternal great, great, great grandfather William Quennell. They ‘shared’ the same father but had different mothers. William Quennell was a master builder and bricklayer who managed a business employing up to 10 men at 42-44 Lower Kennington Lane, Lambeth. William employed both murderer and victim. According to the evidence presented at the Old Bailey, William had warned Samuel that work through the coming winter might not be available at his business and suggested he look out for and take up, other employment opportunities. Samuel blamed Daniel Fitzgerald for bad mouthing him to their employer. William’s wife, Julia Line, challenged Samuel about this alleged behaviour. 5 days later Samuel purchased a small pistol, 4oz. of leaden bullets and a pennyworth of the best gunpowder. He shot and killed Daniel in a public place, did not resist arrest and gave no explanation for his actions. Daniel uttered “I am a dead man” as he fell to the cobblestones in Peacock Street. He was removed to a room in the nearby Peacock Inn where he died shortly thereafter while being examined by an ‘apothecary’, Dr. Popham. Daniel Fitzgerald left a wife and 5 young children. William Quennell was immediately notified about what had happened and rushed to the Peacock Inn but was unable to ‘get through the crowd’ to the room where the body was.

Evidence was given at both the Coroner’s inquest and his trial by William and Julia Quennell that Samuel’s mood and behaviour had deteriorated since his return to their employ after a few years working on a collier boat. He was described as sullen, dejected and melancholy without apparent cause in the weeks prior to the shooting. William Quennell also describes in some detail the ‘insanity’ apparent in his father, brother and sister Sarah. This talk of unsound mind is naturally of great interest to me both as a mental health professional and as a family member! Would Samuel have been acquitted on the grounds of insanity by a modern judicial system? Could he have instead been treated at Bedlam, an institution not more than a stone’s throw from the Gaol where he was hanged? Which fate was worse?

At the time of Sam’s execution it was commonplace for large crowds to attend hangings as a source of entertainment. The Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act of 1868 transferred all executions inside prison walls and ended the era of execution as a public spectacle. The following sample of jolly doggerel (from a 1899 edition of Punch) describes preparations for, and attitudes to, the event:

Horsemonger Lane Gaol crowd 1849

Horsemonger Lane Gaol crowd 1849

 We was havin a kevarten wen BILL, he says, says he,
“To-morrow is the hanging-match; let us go and see.”
I was game for anything: off we set that night;
Ha! the jolly time we spent until the morning light.

Neath the timbers whereupon the conwicts wos to die,-
(And ugly black the gallows looked atween us and the sky)-
More than thirty thousand on us shouted, yelled, and sung,
Chaffin about murder, and going to be hung.

Each public-house was all alight, the place just like a fair;
Ranting, roaring, rollicking, larking everywhere,
Boosing and carousing we passed the night away,
And ho! to hear us curse and swear, waiting for the day.

At last the morning sunbeams slowly did appear,
And then, ha, ha! how rum we looked, with bloodshot eyes and blear:
But there was two good hours at least afore the hanging yet,
So still we drained the early purl, and swigged the heavy wet.

Thicker hacked the crowd apace, louder grew the glee,
There was little kids a dancin, and fightin for a spree;
But the rarest fun for me and BILL, and all our jolly pals,
Was the squeakin and squallin and faintin of the gals.

William Calcraft was Sam’s executioner. His career, from 1829-1974, was the longest of all English hangmen. Calcraft carried out approximately 450 executions, including 34 women. He received a retainer of one guinea a week and a further guinea for each hanging. In addition to these earnings, he was allowed to keep the clothes and personal effects of the condemned which he could sell afterwards to such as Madame Tussauds for dressing the latest waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors. The rope which had been used at a hanging of a particularly notable criminal could also be sold for good money – up to 5 shillings or 25p an inch. (Hence the expression “money for old rope”). Calcraft claims to have invented the leather waist belt with wrist straps for pinioning the prisoners arms and one of the nooses he used is still on display at Lancaster Castle. Calcraft used the then common practice of the ‘short drop’ which often resulted in the prisoner strangling to death. The ‘long drop’ method of hanging, which resulted in an instant death by dislocation of the neck, was not developed until about the 1860s.

Transcription of the Old Bailey Trial Of Samuel Quennell

SAMUEL QUENNELL was indicted for the wilful murder of Daniel Fitzgerald. He was also charged on the Coroner’s inquisition with the like offence.

MESSRS. BODKIN and CLARK conducted the Prosecution

OWEN MCCARTHY: I reside at No. 6, Queen Street, Walworth. I have been in the employ of Mr. William Quennell, a builder, in Lower Kennington-lane—I was in his employ on Thursday, the 27th of Nov.—I had been in his employ before, and came again that morning at nine o’clock—I had been away about nine or ten days—I knew the deceased Daniel Fitzgerald—he worked in the employ of Mr. Quennell that day—I left work that day about five o’clock, a little under or over—that is the usual hour to leave work at that time of the year—when I left I came straight down Kennington-lane from the yard—the deceased was with me—we left the yard together—we crossed the high-road by Newington Butts, and turned into Peacock-street—I went four or five yards down that street, and then saw the prisoner coming towards me—I had known the prisoner, I believe, for six or seven weeks before—he had been in Mr. Quennell’s employ—I left him at work there when I was off work for the nine or ten days—this Thursday was the first time I had returned to work there—I saw the prisoner coming towards me on the same side of the way—the street is not very broad—there is room enough for three or four persons, but there is no carriage-way at one end of it—we were at the narrow end—a carriage could not go through that end—I was walking at that end of it—that was the end at which we entered it and we were still in that part when we met the prisoner—I saw him coming towards me, and as quick as anything ever was done, my sight was taken off all at once when he came close up to us—he came so near as that we could shake hands with one another—I had no idea of his doing anything—I saw him walking with his two hands down before him, and my sight was taken away all at once by the flash of a pistol—nobody else was near at that time—I heard the report of the pistol at the same time I saw the flash—I thought it was through my own head at the time—as soon as I could get my eyesight I saw Fitzgerald, with his hand to his breast, going down, and he said, “I am a dead man”—the prisoner walked away at a fair walk towards the open street, to the road which we had just crossed—he did not turn and walk back, but passed us, and walked right ahead into Newington Butts—I followed him—when he got into the road he turned off to the left—he kept at a sharp walk until I hallooed out after him, when I came into the open street, and then he made off—he went in a sharp manner of walking all the time till I hallooed out, “Stop him! the man is dead”—he then began to run—I heard nothing said to him at the time—several people ran after him, saying, “Stop thief!” and “Stop!” and so on—I saw him stopped—I then went to his brother William Quennell’s house, and afterwards to the station—I do not know whether the prisoner and deceased were intimate—I had seen the prisoner at twelve o’clock that day about twenty-five yards from the place where the deed happened—I was at the Peacock public-house on the Saturday evening, when an inquest was held on the body—I identified it as the body of Fitzgerald.

Cross-examined by MR. CLARKSON:

Q. You only knew the prisoner for six or seven weeks before?

A. Yes, that is all I knew of him—I had not had much intimacy with him—he did not appear to be in a wild excited state when I met him in this place—he appeared to have rather a black look, or something of that kind.

Q. Were his eyes glaring, and was he in a wild excited state?

A. No such thing—I had no idea of such a thing, and I never noticed—he had the corner of a black look, like a black look, or something of that sort—he did not seem to have any pleasant countenance at that time—he appeared to have an unpleasant countenance as I thought—I do not say it was wild; it seemed dark to me, rather darker than he is now—I could not see anything at all like confusion about him—I dare say he knew what he was about—I had no idea of such a thing, or I perhaps should have been more aware of it.

WILLIAM HENRY CUTTING: I am clerk to my father, Charles Cutting messenger of Bankruptcy. On Thursday, the 27th of Nov., about five o’clock in the afternoon, I was in the neighbourhood of Peacock-street, about thirty or forty yards from the corner of Peacock-street—I turned down Lower Kennington-lane, which nearly faces Peacock-street—it is in an oblique direction—you can see it—I was at the corner of the lane, just at the junction of the two roads—I had been walking along that side of the road, and when I got near the corner I heard an explosion of fire arms from behind me, which was in the direction of Peacock-street—I looked, and perceived a man running down Kennington-lane—he was followed by several others calling out to stop him—I stood on one side till the man who was being pursued came up to me, and as he passed me I seized him by the collar—it was the prisoner—some of the others who were pursuing him came up, and one of them attempted to take him by the collar also—that was done rather roughly, and the prisoner said, “One is enough,” or “That is enough,” I do not exactly know which—he said, “Take me to the station-house”—I went with him to the station—I saw him searched—before he was searched, the officer asked him if he had any knife, or scissors, or pistol—he said no he had not—they were about to search him, when he put his hand in his right hand trowsers pocket and drew out a pistol—the inspector or a policeman seized his hand—I saw something in his hand, and the pistol was taken from him—I noticed that it had been recently discharged—the cock was down and a portion of the exploded cap on it.

Cross-examined by MR. HUDDLESTON.

Q. Did you know the prisoner before?

A. No—he might have been between 50 or 100 yards off when I first saw him—it is impossible for me to say at that distance whether he seemed excited—he was not excited when I caught hold of him—he was warm with the exertion of running—he stopped when I caught hold of him—he was not excited at all—he said he wanted to go to the station-house-nobody was with me when I caught hold of him.

HENRY MARTIN ALLUM:  I am a barge-builder, and live at No. 4, Agnes-street, Waterloo-road. On Thursday, the 27th of Nov., I was in Kennington-lane about five o’clock in the evening, near Newington-road—I saw the prisoner—he was running towards me from the Newington end—he was in Kennington-lane when I first saw him—immediately after he passed me I saw Mr. Cutting stop him—I took hold of him immediately after Mr. Cutting did.

HARRIET DENYER:  I was in Peacock-street about five o’clock the day this happened, at the narrow part, near Newington Butts-road—I heard the report of a pistol, and saw a man fall—I afterwards went with a light, and saw it was Fitzgerald—I knew him by sight before, but did not know it was him till I got a light—I went to the place where he fell about two minutes afterwards—they brought a light out from some house, and I saw it was Fitzgerald—directly I heard the report of the pistol a man passed by me and almost knocked me down—I was on the left hand side of the way—he turned round by the pump towards the Kennington-road—I knew the man by sight—it was the prisoner—I knew his person before—he was walking when he passed me—I lost sight of him when he got to the pump—he continued to walk while I saw him.

WILLIAM HORNER POPHAM:  I am a surgeon, and live at No. 5, Queen’s Head Row, Newington. On the Thursday afternoon about five o’clock I was near the Peacock public-house—I heard an explosion, which appeared to be of fire arms—in consequence of information I received, I went into the top of the Peacock public-house—I saw the deceased there, supported by two men—he was on the ground—he was very much exhausted—I found a wound on the left side of his breast—he survived a very short time after I entered—I do not know that it was above a minute—it was a gun-shot wound—I made a post mortem examination on the Saturday—I found the bullet had passed through the heart and entered the lung—it had gone completely through to the other side—that was the cause of death.

Samuel Quennel Murder Map

Samuel Quennel Murder Map

The Scene: P = Police Station. 44 = William Quennell’s business and home at 42-44 Lower Kennington Lane (immediately next door to the Police Station! Red Circle = Peacock St. where the shooting occurred. Orange Circle = where Samuel was apprehended. Horsemonger Lane Gaol is approximately 200 metres north of Peacock St.

THOMAS WILLIAM CARTER: I am an inspector of police—on this Thursday I was on duty at the station at Kennington-lane—the prisoner was brought in by Cutting and Allum—after the charge was taken, I asked him if he had got a pistol, knife, or anything about him—he said he had not—I desired him to be searched—when they commenced searching him, he put his hand in his right hand trowsers pocket, and was about to pull out something—I seized that hand, and pulled out a pistol, which I produce—I examined it, and on the nipple was part of a percussion cap—I found on him a two-foot rule and a piece of cord—I afterwards searched his lodging, in Frederick-place, Newington Butts; that is something less than twenty yards from where this occurred—a box was pointed out to me by the landlady at his—the landlord is here—on the top of the contents of that box I found eleven bullets in a piece of paper—the box contained wearing apparel—on the mantel-shelf in the room I found eleven percussion caps, some shot, and a small quantity of powder, each in separate papers.

JOHN WILSON. The prisoner lodged at my house when this occurred—I pointed out to the policeman a box in my house—it was the prisoner’s.

WILLIAM QUENNELL:  I am a master builder in Kennington-lane—I knew the deceased—his name was Daniel Fitzgerald—he was a workman of mine, and had been in my employ seven or eight years—the prisoner is my half-brother, we are by the same father—I think he is about twenty-two years of age—I am not certain—he has been employed by me as a labourer, and to make himself generally useful—he has been so employed about five months—before that he had been to sea—I cannot say at what age he went to sea—some two or three weeks before this matter happened I told him to look out for work elsewhere, as I thought we should be slack of work—I told him if anything offered to take it, as he might be out of work in the winter for some time-last day he did work for me was on the Wednesday before this happened the 19th, seven days before it happened—Saturday is my day of payment—he came to me on Saturday, the 22nd, to be paid, between seven and eight o’clock, very soon after seven, I think—I paid him 8s.—I will not be certain whether he had drawn 1s. previously but that was what he had to receive—I do not know whether I paid him 7s. or 8s.

Q. Did any conversation pass between you as to his leaving your service?

A. Yes, the conversation was between him and my wife—my wife was in the room when he came in—she began the conversation—she said, “How came you to speak so unkind against William? to say those things against William which you have said, after he has been so kind to you?”—I will not be certain to his exact words, but he seemed as though he had not said anything—he appeared surprised—he wanted to know what it was he had been saying—she told him Daniel Fitzgerald had told her that he said one day that he was a great mind to come and give me a knock of the head, and that he also told him if he had got money, he would set up in business against me next door—he did not deny having said something, but not so much as what Daniel had said—he said, “I did not say so much as Dan has said”—he said, “From the time I came, he urged me on to say things against William, when we have been drinking together,” and he said he should not have said what he had, had it not been for him inducing him to say it—he said it was all Fitzgerald’s fault—I cannot recollect anything further—some gentleman came in to settle a bill with me, and that stopped the conversation, and he wished us good night—this was between seven and eight o’clock—I cannot be positive whether this conversation was before or after I had paid him the 8s.—I think the conversation was going on as I put the money down—I told him again that evening about his looking for work elsewhere—Fitzgerald and he appeared to live on very good terms—they were more familiar than I wished them to be.

Cross-examined by MR. CLARKSON.

Q. How long is it since the prisoner went to sea?

A. I cannot exactly say—I might say four years, but I am not certain—he returned sometime sine Christmas last—his mother then lived in Brandon-street, Lock’s-fields—he was in the habit of calling upon me every time he came from sea—he was on board a collier—up to the time when he returned from the last voyage, he always conducted himself quietly and properly—I always respected him, for he was a very steady young man—I noticed nothing extraordinary about him up to the time he returned from his last voyage—I have observed latterly that his conduct has very much changed—some members of my family have been unfortunate in the state of their minds—my father was subject to occasional fits of insanity—the prisoner had a brother who died about two years ago, or rather better, a brother by the same mother.

Q. Had that brother conducted himself like other persons, or was he eccentric and strange?

A. From what I heard, but I did not see it—I believe it—he had also a sister named Sarah—I knew her—I was acquainted with her up to the time of her death, which I think was more than twelve months ago—I had seen her the same month she died—she was affected with something in her head—she complained to me and to my wife several times of strange feelings in her head—at times she appeared to be lost and unconscious—I had seen the brother who died, but never to observe anything to speak of myself—I heard reports of his conduct, but had not observed it myself—I was away from home when my father died—I was sent for to come—he had met with an accident—he was thrown out of a chaise—he had several falls, and always fell upon the head—he was subject to fits of insanity—I was present on one occasion in the room with him, and he said, “Shut them drawers, or the little devils will be out upon you”—there were some drawers there—he appeared at the moment to be under the delusion that something was coming out of the drawers—that must have been twenty-three or twenty-four years ago—it was before he met with the falls—the prisoner’s mother is between fifty and sixty years of age, a little better than fifty I should say, but having been so little at home I knew very little of the family—I have noticed since the prisoner’s return from sea, that his conduct and character has changed—I had no intention of discharging him—I had desired him, if an opportunity offered for employment, to take it, because I expected to be slack in the winter.

Q. Had any supposed representation made by Fitzgerald to you, made you tell him that?

A. No, nor did I tell him it was on account of anything Fitzgerald had told me that I intended to discharge him—I did not know that Fitzgerald had told my wife anything, till after I had told the prisoner if work offered to take it—when I saw him on the Saturday neither I or my wife conveyed to him in any way that it was in consequence of what Fitzgerald had said that I wished him to find employment elsewhere—Fitzgerald and he always appeared to be on good terms, and too intimate, according to my wish—I do not mean improperly intimate, but with regard to drink—I have known instances in which my attention has been called to the mode of conduct and behaviour of the prisoner—I first observed the change three or four weeks before this happened—that was before Fitzgerald had communicated anything to my wife.

Q. What was the observation you made of him three or four weeks before this happened?

A. I asked him and told him to do things, and he has answered me in a very indifferent sort of manner—I could not help noticing it, and my wife at the time made a remark—he used to answer me in a way he had not been in the habit of doing—when I asked him to do anything or sent him anywhere, he would do it in a way as if he did not wish to do it—he used to answer very short, and looked very unpleasant about different things, quite different to what he was in the habit of doing—when I first took him to work he seemed to be very glad he had got work, and very willing to do anything I asked him—I had not given him any cause for his change in conduct and behaviour to me—whenever I saw him do what I thought not right, I used to find fault, and desire him not to do it, and then be turned in a sort of surly way—my wife observed his manner towards me, and said “I don’t know what is the matter with Sam, but he don’t seem to do things in a very pleasant way”—I have seen him sit down, and look very sorrowful, when I have passed him, but I did not take particular notice—I was not aware of any reason why he should look sorrowful—I have not made any other observations on his conduct to induce me to suppose him not like other men—I heard of his setting his bed he was sleeping on, on fire—I think I heard of it after this happened, but it happened soon after he came from tea—my father was never placed under any restraint—he was taken care of at home—it was known in the family that he was subject to these attacks.

Q. Did it appear to you, from anything the prisoner said at the time your wife spoke to him about Fitzgerald, that he was harbouring or entertaining any feeling of resentment towards Fitzgerald?

A. No—I gave him no reason to suppose that my object, in recommending him to find employment elsewhere, had any reference to what Fitzgerald had said—I have never seen him turn out into fits of extravagant passion without any apparent cause—I have only heard of it—it was about three or four weeks before this matter happening that I first observed his conduct to change, and that change was in consequence of no reason—if I saw him doing what was not right I used to tell him of it—I do not think I ever stated that I thought his mind was going—I had no such idea before this happened.

The Old Bailey courtroom

The Old Bailey courtroom

BODKIN: Q. What is your own age?

A. Thirty-nine last 0—my father has been dead twenty years last Nov.—I left home, I think, four or five years before he died, when I was fourteen or fifteen years old—I was not apprenticed—I went to work where I could find it—I was at work at the West India Docks at the time of my father’s death—he lived in Cumberland Row, Walworth Road—I cannot say how old I was when the observation occurred about the drawers—it was just before I left home—my father was ill at the time, and in bed—I do not know who was in the room besides me—I think the prisoner’s mother was there, in and out—I believe she is still living—I do not know whether any medical man was attending my father at the time—I left home just about that time—after I left I was in the habit of going there about once in a month, or two months—my father was never taken from his house as insane, or anything of that kind—I never knew him to have I strait-waistcoat on, or any doctor to attend him, as insane—he was a builder—he carried on his business until the time of his death—he had a large job at Winchmore-hill, at Alderman Waithman’s house—that was going on at the time of his death—he sometimes employed fifty men—he was attentive to his business, and managed it very well—my sister Sarah died better than twelve years ago—I do not think she was above eleven or twelve years old when she died—I cannot say how long before her death I heard her complain of her head—it might have been within a month—she very often came to our house—I then lived in Albion-place, Walworth Road, and she lived in Kennington-lane, with her mother—she used to come to see me down to the time of her death, sometimes two or three times a week, and very often on Sunday—she generally came alone.

Q. With respect to the prisoner himself, did you ever see anything at all to induce you for a moment to believe him a person otherwise than of sound mind?

A. I always thought him sound up to three or four weeks before this happened—I thought his behaviour then was not like a man in his proper senses, as he had nothing to complain of—I believe I made that observation to my wife, but I will not swear anything—I should not like to do it—I do not swear positively that it was so, but I made a remark.

Q. Before the death of Fitzgerald, had you seen anything in the prisoner’s conduct to induce you to believe him of unsound mind?

A. Well, I would not swear about it, but I made that remark at the time that he did not behave as a man in his proper senses—I would not swear that I did see anything to denote him of unsound mind before this event—he is a person of sullen temper at all times—Fitzgerald had been in my service seven or eight years—he did the same kind of work as the prisoner—I did not give the same intimation to Fitzgerald that he was getting slack, and he had better look out for work—I always kept him on—I bought the premises where he had worked many years, and I always kept him whatever work I had.

COURT: Q.  Can you tell whether your brother knew you did not intend to discharge Fitzgerald?

A. Yes, from the time I had him in my employment, and from my always keeping him on—when I discharged others I did not discharge him—the other men did the same work as the prisoner and Fitzgerald.

JULIA QUENNELL: I am the wife of the last witness—I remember the prisoner coming on Saturday night, the 22nd of Nov., to be paid his wages—I had a conversation with the prisoner about something that he had said—that was in the presence of my husband—after I had told him what had been said, I observed that he seemed very much dejected and hurt—I told him what Fitzgerald had told me he had said—Fitzgerald had told me that which I repeated to the prisoner on the Friday morning, the day before.

Cross-examined by MR. CLARKSON.

Q. You say he appeared very much dejected when you told him what Fitzgerald had said, had the prisoner appeared to you to be very much dejected and hurt before that time?

A. He had—I had noticed it for six months before, but for three weeks before that period I could not get a proper answer from him—I had known him occasionally on the intervals when he returned from his voyages.

Q. Had he always before that time, when he returned on the last occasion, appeared lively and in good spirits, and comfortable in himself?

A. He was at times, but at other times he would sit for hours, and I could not get a proper answer from him—he would at times appear to be dejected and melancholy without a cause—he would sit, and I should have the greatest difficulty in getting him to speak—I have noticed him sit down with his eyes on the ground, and I have spoken to him and tried to cheer him, but he always appeared lost to himself.

COURT: Q. Lost in thought?

A. Yes.

CLARKSON: Q. Lost to himself you say?

A. Yes—there was no cause that I was aware of why he should change in that way—for the last’ three weeks he would appear when I asked him a question not to give me a proper answer—I had not affronted or offended him, or done anything to vex him in any way—it is four weeks on Monday that he was doing a little thing for me, and that was the only time I have seen him cheerful for months, and then he was joking me about making a good plum pudding for Christmas—I am sure my husband was always kind and attentive to him, and so was I—I was always glad to see him—he had no misfortune or calamity that I was aware of to account for his being in that state.

Q. Are there any other remarks that—you have made upon his conduct during the last three or four weeks before this happened, that you can mention, that has struck you?

A. I think there are—he appeared to be sullen, and retiring to himself without any cause.

Q. Did it appear to you at that time that his mind was in any way deranged or disordered?

A. Well, I could not tell what to make of him, and I said as much to my husband—I have heard my husband talk of his father—I knew the prisoner’s brother who died about two years ago—I was never aware myself of anything respecting the state of his mind—I have been told of it—for the last six months I have observed that the prisoner was in a strange way, but for the last three weeks particularly so—his temper was not always sullen and morose; at times he was cheerful, and without any provocation, at other times he would be quite depressed.

BODKIN: Q. How long have you known him?

A. Eighteen years—he has been to sea on board a collier—he always came to see us when he returned.

Q. When he came on those occasions did he give you an account of his voyages and what had happened to him?

A. Only that he did not like the sea—I cannot tell whether that subject was always brought up—I do not suppose it was every time—he said so when he came home from his last voyage—they leave off work at five o’clock at this time of year at my husband’s place—they come in the morning, go away at a certain time to dinner, and return—I think the prisoner was chiefly regular to the hours stated—I heard no complaint of his not coming regularly.

Q. He appeared to attend to his work, and did it very properly?

A. I do not know, there were some complaints sometimes, but not with me—I have heard Mr. Quennell say he was very sullen, and he did not know what to make of him—the change which I have observed in his manner for the last three or four weeks, consisted in his not giving a proper answer to questions which I put to him—that is the change I speak of—sometimes he would not answer at all, and sometimes he would merely say, “Very well,” in a gruff surly manner—I have seldom had occasion to direct him to do anything, but any little thing I might say to him, he would be so at times—if I asked him to do any little thing, such as fetching an errand, or any little thing like that, on some of those occasions he would say, “Very well,” in a gruff surly manner—he did the thing I requested him to do—sometimes he would answer me contrary to what I said—there was one instance of that in particular which I noticed—I asked him whether he would do such a thing, to shake a carpet I think it was, and he said he could not then, and then he went and did it—that is what I mean by a contrary answer—I do not remember any other occasion on which he gave me contrary answers—the instance about the carpet must have been, I think, three weeks before this matter happened.

Q. Was that one of the things that induced you to consider him changed?

A. Well, I cannot say that in particular, it was his manner altogether—he became more sullen—there was a great deal of sullenness about him—he said nothing about going to sea again—he did not appear to me to be dissatisfied with his position—he never talked to me about going to sea again—he said nothing to me about Fitzgerald remaining.

JAMES SPARKES: I am a plane-maker, residing at 34 Tiverton-street, Newington. On Saturday evening, the 22nd Nov. I was at the shop of Mrs. Tubbs, a general-dealer, in New-cut, Lambeth, and as near eight o’clock as possible the prisoner came up to the shop—he took a pistol in his hand and examined it—I was inside the shop, and he was on the outside—there was a gas-lamp in the shop, shining on him—it is an open-fronted shop, with goods hanging up in front—after he had examined the pistol for a minute or two, he pulled the trigger, and the cock broke—he was obliged to pay 2s. for the damage he had done to the pistol—he afterwards came into the shop, and walked up to the desk where the shopman was, and I walked up to the desk too—he bought another pistol, for which he paid 5s. and took it away—I did not examine it—it was like the one produced.

WILLIAM WELLING: I am an oilman, living at No. 1, Amelia-place, Walworth. I am acquainted with the prisoner—he has been a customer of mine for some time—he came to my shop on Thursday, the 27th of Nov. last, about four o’clock in the afternoon—I cannot say the time to ten minutes—he came for 1d. worth of gunpowder—he asked for the best—I did not weigh it—I screwed it up in a piece of paper, and he took it away.

JOHN MARNES: I am a gun-maker, and live at No. 31, Walworth-road. On Wednesday, the 26th of Nov., I sold a quarter of a pound of leaden bullets to a person—I cannot tell whether the prisoner is the person—I bare not the slightest recollection of his features, and the party who bought the bullets was in quite a different dress at that time—I saw the prisoner before the Magistrate—he was not then dressed as he is now—he was dressed very similar to the man who bought the bullets—the man who bought the bullets brought a pistol similar to this, just like this, in fact—the bullets I sold were adapted to fit the pistol which he produced—it was just between the lights, getting dusk—I do not know the time.

Mr. Clarkson addressed the jury for the prisoner. The learned counsel admitted that his client’s insanity was not so clearly proved as he could have wished, and therefore it was the province of the jury to say whether they thought he was in a sound state of mind at the time he committed the offence.

On 15th December the Lord Chief Justice Tindal summed up the evidence and the jury, after a short deliberation, returned the verdict of guilty. His Lordship then, in the usual form of words, pronounced the sentence of death, telling the prisoner that there was not the slightest hope of mercy for him in this world. The wretched man was then removed from the bar.

Horsemonger Lane Gaol

Horsemonger Lane Gaol

Immediately after his sentence was passed, Samuel was ‘delivered into the custody’ of Mr. Abbott of the Surrey County Sheriff’s Office and Mr. Keane, the Governor of Horsemonger Lane Gaol and taken to Newgate.  At 3 o’clock that afternoon he was transferred by cab to Horsemonger Lane Gaol. Samuel spent 3 weeks awaiting his fate. On the night prior to his execution he slept soundly and, at his request, was woken early. The Reverend Mr. Rowe arrived at 5am. and spent 2 hours ‘engaged in prayer with the prisoner’. At 7am Samuel had breakfast and then was allowed, again at his request, a half hour walk in the prison yard. At 9am he ‘partook of the sacrament’ in the prison chapel with Rev. Ordinary until the arrival of the Sheriff of Surrey at 9.45am and the hangman, William Calcraft at about the same time. The hangman ‘was introduced in the condemned cell’ where Samuel was ‘pinioned without murmur’. At 10am precisely the procession moved to the scaffold on the roof of the prison, immediately above the entrance gateway.

The prisoner walked up without the slightest assistance and, having first taken leave of the officials, placed himself in the proper position immediately below the cross-beam. The executioner then completed the necessary preparations and, the bolt having been withdrawn, the drop fell and the culprit died apparently without a struggle. There was a large crowd at the front of the gaol to witness the execution and several bare-faced robberies were committed immediately beneath the gallows. The body was cut down at eleven o’clock and within the course of the day it was buried within the precincts of the gaol.

Police Inspector Thomas Carter, in his evidence to the Coroner’s inquest which was held on the Saturday after Fitzgerald’s murder, elaborated on a detail which is barely mentioned in the Old Bailey trial. Inspector Carter recounts that as Samuel was searched at the station-house, Samuel put his own hand into his trousers pocket…

I immediately seized hold of his arms and pulled out the pistol produced and some pieces of lead rolled up, each of which was upwards of an ounce in weight. On Quennell was also found a piece of twisted worsted rope, upwards of two yards long.

At the trial this rope was described only as ‘a piece of cord’. I can’t help wondering why ‘learned counsel’  failed to ask Samuel what he intended to do with the 2 yards of rope found in his possession immediately after the murder. Samuel’s capacity or intention to harm himself was not evaluated at trial, despite an attempt to mount an ‘insanity’ defence. There were several descriptions of Samuel’s significantly depressed and agitated state of mind in the weeks prior to the murder. Julia Quennell is quoted by William at the inquest as saying:

“What is the matter with Sam, he appears so altered, and appears sorrowful and so different to what he used to be?”

Given these direct observations of Samuel’s mental state it seems reasonable to suppose that Samuel intended to hang himself with the rope found on his person sometime soon after shooting Daniel Fitzgerald.

Various newspaper reports commented on Samuel’s ‘composed state of mind’ throughout the trial, during his incarceration and his execution. He may have appreciated the irony of the State carrying out the punishment that he had intended to inflict on himself.

Broadside produced for Samuel Quennell's execution, 1846

Broadside produced for Samuel Quennell’s execution, 1846



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