A grizzly tale ... the Execution of Edward AMOR & John GOODMAN at Devizes, Wiltshire
EXTRACT FROM THE TIMES PUBLISHED SATURDAY 24TH APRIL 1824
EXECUTION OF EDWARD AMOR AND JOHN GOODMAN, AT DEVIZES
[From the Devizes Gazette]
On Tuesday last these two unfortunate men, convicted of robbing and brutally assaulting Mr. Thomas ALEXANDER, of Allcannings, were executed in front of the Penitentiary, near this town. The number of people assembled to witness the awful scene, we should think, amounted to from 20 to 30,000; indeed, it appeared as if the whole county had poured forth its contents. Long before the hour appointed, the large yard before the prison, and the adjoining road, for a long space, were entirely filled. Being the first execution that has taken place in this neighbourhood, its occurring on Easter Tuesday, and Devizes Green Fair being held on that day, all tended to increase the number of spectators.
Within a few minutes after 12 the unhappy creatures were relieved of their irons; and shortly afterwards they were brought from their cells, preceded by Mr. BUSH, (the Under Sheriff), Mr. DOWDING (the Governor of the county gaol), Mr. COCKS (the Governor of the Penitentiary), and the Rev. Mr. MAYO (the Chaplain); the latter gentleman very impressively reading parts of the funeral service as he proceeded to the place of execution. AMOR, on entering the prison-yard, gave a vacant stare around him, and then fixed his eyes intently on the ground. This poor fellow, we understand, was extremely illiterate; and his countenance would indicate that he was equally devoid of feeling as of understanding; but, although very strongly built, his legs, as he walked, appeared to sink under him, and on the drop they could scarcely support him. GOODMAN’s countenance, on the contrary, betrayed an intensity of feeling; yet he walked firm and erect. We occasionally saw a tear trickle down his cheek, but he struggled hard to suppress it. This man had been a sergeant in the 3d, or Prince of Wales’s, Dragoon Guards; and, to the last, showed the entire mien of a soldier. He had been in various battles during the Peninsular war, and lost an eye in Egypt; in consequence of which he obtained his discharge in November, 1818, after being in the army 19 years and seven days; having entered at the early age of 20. He received a pension of 15d a day; and as a proof of his good character while in the army, he was entitled to the benefit of a fund, called St. George’s Fund, to which all the non-commissioned officers, drummers, and privates, contribute, and which is divided amongst those discharged from the regiment without ever having been disgraced. GOODMAN also kept an evening school at Allcannings, and had formerly worked at the trade of a sawyer. Up to the period of committing the crime for which he was to suffer, he bore the character of an honest man, but was sadly addicted to drinking.
The Rev. Chaplain now, with a solemnity that we are incapable of describing, thus addressed GOODMAN and AMOR:- “John GOODMAN and Edward AMOR, I now require of you, and each of you, as you will in a few moments have to answer at the dreadful bar of the Almighty, are you guilty of the crime of which you have been charged, or are you not guilty?” GOODMAN immediately replied, in a voice that could be heard throughout the immense crowd, “Not guilty!” AMOR faintly said, “I say so too” – on which GOODMAN urged him to speak out. He then said in a louder tone, “I say so too – Not Guilty, Gentlemen, Sir” (as if confused). GOODMAN afterwards addressed the spectators in the following words: Good people, before I leave this world I wish to say a few words to you. I shall not tell a lie, nor do I wish to smother the truth, but for the last time I declare that I never beat Mr. Thomas Alexander, nor did I rob him, on the 24th of December; nor do I know who did.” He then with uplifted eyes, repeated in a firm voice, the Lord’s prayer after the rev. chaplain; he also joined fervently in other prayers; and even when the cap was over his face, we could perceive the motion of his lips. AMOR, too, prayed that God would be merciful to him. The chaplain proceeded reading the burial service, and as he uttered the words, “In the midst of life we are in death,” the fatal signal was given, and their earthly career was in an instant closed for ever!
The bodies, after hanging an hour, were cut down, and in the evening delivered to their friends.
Extracts from Allcannings Parish Registers
Baptism 30 Dec 1779 John GOODMAN son of Stephen & Ann GOODMAN
Burial 23 Apr 1824 John GOODMAN aged 44