trials and executions of capital felons attracted intense contemporary
interest. This is part of a broadsheet relating to the canal boat
men who famously murdered Christina Collins, a passenger. On either
side of the depiction of the crime are printed the following verses:
“Good Christian people pray attend
Whilst I relate to you,
Concerning of a murder foul,
It is, alas! too true.
A helpless female much beloved,
Was travelling to her home.
Three boatmen seized her as she sat,
The water was her home.
A letter she had just received,
From her beloved friend,
It was her husband you shall hear,
That did for her then send.
Upon the water she did go,
It was the nearest way
But sad to tell she never more,
Did see the light of day.
James Owen soon did her affright,
The wretched woman cry’d
Dobel he said ‘tis all in vain,
All help it is deny’d.
Ellis he then assisted them,
They bruised her body sore,
Their hearts did never once relent,
Till life it was no more.
It was on the 17th day of June,
This murder it was done,
They did complete the awful deed,
Before the rising sun.
Loud was her shrieks, but all was vain,
She all her strength did try,
To save her life she struggled long,
But now she was to die.
Her voice grew faint, life’s ebbing stream
Did flow upon the boat,
The glassy eye convinced them all,
That they the deed had wrought.
They threw the body overboard
To hide the crime they’d done,
But Providence did so ordain,
The body should be found.
In Staffordshire these monsters was,
In Rugeley you shall hear.
They now in prison lie condemn’d
Their sentence is past here.
Christina Collins lost her life,
By their most ruthless hands,
May God prepair them all in time,
To meet at his right hand.
There were 107 executions at Stafford gaol between
1793 and 1914 , and the offences included, horse-stealing, forgery
and bestiality. The last person to be hung for a crime other than
murder was 19-year-old-John Reynolds for assault and battery in
To find out what life was like for those who
stayed in gaol rather than being led to the gallows, click on Bitter