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Execution of Edward Cockerell (1797 – 1826)

At The Old Bailey on 12th January 1826, EDWARD COCKERELL was sentenced to death for trying to pass a forged bank note to a shop owned by my great great great grandfather, WILLIAM HASKINS, who was a jeweller in Regent Street. This is the story of the days leading up to his execution.

You can read details of the proceedings on The Old Bailey website

I had thought that the sentence of death was a fait accompli but it appears that, in those days, it was not unusual for sentences to be reduced after appeals for clemency. I therefore searched and found some interesting newspaper articles following his conviction.

Just five weeks after the Trial, The Sussex Advertiser on Monday 20th February 1826, reported that

“The Recorder of London on Thursday, made a Report to The King in Council of the prisoners lying under sentence of death in Newgate, namely :

Housebreaking : John Lowe 36, Samuel Roberts 29, Thomas Winter Preston 17, Henry Thomas Reading 17

Stealing in a dwelling house 40s and upwards : Thomas Gismore 41, William Johnson 21, Jane McEvoy 25, John Welch 18, Thomas Johnson 13, Mark Brooker 18, Cornelius Brisnahan 27, James Edwards 25, John Williams 25, William Dunn 25

Burglary : Michael Davis 20, Fred Thelwall 22, James Pinkett 18

Being at large in this country before the expiration of the term for which they had been sentenced to be transported : William Williams 39, James Hawkins 24, Abraham Davis 26

Coining : James Smith 27, James Hawkins 23

Burglary : John Jones 22, William Hunt 14, William Nicholson 19, John Henley 21, George Wright 20

Highway robbery : William Burke 18, Susan Barnett 32

Horse stealing : William Groves, alias Cufftree Brooker 51

Stealing in a dwelling house 40s and upwards : George Coxhead 20, Joseph Dolphin 39, Edmund Waller 59, Ann Conroy 26, William Kay 31, John Myatt Shaw 30, Charles Pratt 32

Forging a promissory note : Edward Cockerell 29

His Majesty was graciously pleased to respite, during his royal pleasure, all the above named convicts, excepting John Jones and Edward Cockerell, upon whom the law is left to take its course, and they are ordered for execution on Tuesday next.”

The King in this case was George IV who had been Prince Regent to his mentally ill father and reigned from 1820 to 1830.

Two days later on Wednesday 22nd February, The Bury & Norwich Post, reported :

“On Wednesday, at one o’clock, the King arrived at his Palace in Pall Mall, in his travelling carriage, escorted by a party of the 8th Hussars, from the Royal Lodge, in Windsor Park; soon after which his Majesty proceeded to hold a Court ….. The Recorder of London was afterwards introduced, and made his report of the convicts capitally convicted at the Old Bailey, at the December and January Sessions, when his Majesty was graciously pleased to respite, during pleasure, all the convicts excepting John Jones, aged 22, for burglary, and Edward Cockerell, aged 29, for forging a promissory note, who are ordered for execution on Tuesday next. The Court broke up at a little after five, and his Majesty returned to Windsor.”

Just a week later (mis-spelling Edward Cockerell’s name throughout) on Wednesday 1st March, The Hereford Journal reported under a sub heading “Executions”:

“Tuesday morning John Jones, aged 22, and Edward Cockerel, aged 29, underwent the sentence of the law – the former for burglary – and the later for forgery on the Bristol Bank, at the front of Newgate. Jones conducted himself with great propriety – Cockerel’s conduct was similarly hardy.

After passing through the different passages of the prison towards the room where the prisoners are brought to the Sherriff’s, you arrive at a yard immediately contiguous to it. In this yard was Cockerel walking about, smiling, and talking, with perfect ease and composure, to Mr Barrett, the Clerk of the Papers of Newgate.

The Sherriff’s being in the room, in a few minutes Mr Barrett intimated to him that the time was arrived when they must part – he, with an air of great politeness, took him by the hand, repeatedly bowed, and, with a nimble step, walked into the room, went up to the Sherriff’s, and shook hands with them in the same manner, without displaying any feeling for his situation or being impressed with the slightest degree of fear. He then went up to the officers who pinion the culprits, and placing his wrists in a parallel direction, he said, “that’s the way, I think.” The officer was about to place his hands flat together, when he said , “Oh, no, I must have use of my hands. I have a gift in this” (his right hand). His wrists being placed in the usual way, he said, “Oh, I suppose I can open my hand – yes.” He then said, “tye (sit) them tight; I suppose they sometime struggle in dying.” The Reverend Mr Cotton came up to him, and spoke to him; he replied to him, “I am perfectly prepared. I wish every one’s mind was as easy as mine.”

The preparations being ended, he walked to the other side of the room, and was told that he had better sit, to which he said, “No, I thank you, I had rather not,” with perfect ease. The few moments that passed while Jones was undergoing the same ordeal, he spent in conversing with Mr Baker. The Reverend Ordinary intimating that they were ready, he said, “Go on, sir; I’ll follow you.” He then shook hands with various officers, which he also did on going along the passages; and at one places stepped several paces out of his way to shake hands with a person through the grating.

Arrived in the lobby, at the foot of the drop, after Jones had gone up, Mr Baker intimated that he would walk up with him; after a moment’s thought he said, “Mr Baker, I am very much obliged to you for all your attentions to me, and to others, but it is my particular wish that no one should go up with me. I want no one. I wish you well, sir, and happy, and also your children and Mrs Baker.”

Mr Harris, the principal turnkey, then came forward. He shook hands with him, and said, “Good bye – thank you for all your kindness – pray remember me to your brother.” He ascended the steps, looked round, and bowed to the multitude on each side. He then put a sovereign into the hand of the executioner, and on having the cap put on (as we understood him) wished not to have his eyes covered.

All the sad preparatory offices being ended, at a quarter past eight the drop fell, and launched the two miserable beings into eternity. Cockerel struggled for some minutes in the most agonizing way, verifying his own supposition. Ever since his condemnation he refused all religious consolation.”

A few days later, The Northampton Mercury on 24th February repeated the above and added at the end of the Article :

“On Sunday, during the time Dr Cotton (the Ordinary) was engaged in preaching the condemned sermon, at Newgate, Edward Cockerell (convicted of forgery), and who was executed on Tuesday morning with John Jones (convicted of burglary), actually amused himself by writing the following lines on a form in the condemned pew :-

No doctor will extract one tooth,

No strumpet exercise her trade;

No parson preach eternal truth,

Without their labours amply paid.”


Note : There is an excellent website about all aspects of Capital Punishment in the UK called

Linked toWilliam Haskins

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