Tuesday, 28 June 2016

28th June 1816: The prosecution solicitor, H. R. Evans, writes a report about the Ely executions

Dear Sir

The awful Business is over! The five unhappy wretches behaved with the greatest penitence and submission—acknowledging the Justice of their Sentence, and cautioning their neighbours against the said Effects of Riot under misrule—They have left a paper behind them to that Effect which you shall have a Copy of as soon as I can procure it from Sir H. B. Dudley, to whom it was delivered by the person (a dissenting minister) who drew it up. Sir H. B. Dudley has anticipated my Intentions of writing an account for the Public which he has sent off by this Days post to Lord Sidmouth—

Nothing could exceed the Solemnity, and the silence of the Scene. I was attended by 200 of the Principal Inhabitants on Horseback & by another Hundred on foot. Not a Soldier was present at the Execution or formed any part of the Cavalcade. They had paraded the Town in the morning and then retired from Public View—Genl. Byng was in his plain Cloaths—The Concourse was prodigious—but most orderly—Scarcely a word was heard—we had a Drop made which answered our fullest Expectations, and the unhappy men were launched into Eternity without the horrible pause attending the usual mode of Execution here from a Cart—Every thing that could produce Effect was done. But most of all the Anguish the heart rending cries – the loud mournings and prayers for mercy—and the solemn Appeals of the Prisoners to the populace, contributed to the awful Solemnity of the Scene and which can never be forgotten; while not a murmur was heard against the Justice of the Sentence—The Town is full of Strangers who form themselves into Groupes, and talk over the Business with a Solemnity of Voice and manner, that convinces me that the Impression is indelible – may this necessary but dreadful Act of Justice prove to be a most merciful measure and put a Stop for ever to the Practices that rendered it unavoidable—

The Prisoners had nothing to communicate as to the Authors of the Riot, or the property Stolen, They were too busily employed themselves to know any thing about others—and the Pilfering that took place after the Entering of the houses were committed by women & Children—part of the money taken from Dennis is what he received of Mr. Edwards—Harley said he died the Death he Expected—South confessed, that his Case could not have been pardoned—Crow denied any Intention of murdering Mr. Martin; but he was checked by Dennis who said "yes, yes, he would have been murdered had he been found." meaning by this, that he saw the temper of the mob and which he declared, he Endeavoured to restrain;—and he added that he gave Mr. Martin warning to keep out of the way—Beamiss acknowledged his general Guilt but denied the words imputed to him by Tansley, "make the old fellow lug out." and at the gallows he called out "I forgive Mr. Tansley, tho’ he swore falsely against me." The Drop fell as he was pronouncing these words, Dennis and he were the most awakened, South was the most violent in his Gesticulations. But all were resigned.—

I am &c.
H. R. Evans

Ely. 28 June 1816

This document can be found at HO 42/151.

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