Trial and execution of two boatmen

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Description:An incomplete broadsheet detailing the trial and execution of James Owen and George Thomas, who were convicted at Stafford Assizes for the murder of Christina Collins.

In 1838 Robert Collins, an out of work ostler, and his wife Christina went to Liverpool to find work. Finding none Robert moved on to London. he sent for Christina who set out on 15 June 1839 by narrow boat for Preston Brook where she would join a Pickford & Co boat bound for London. Her dead body was found at Brindley Bank, near Rugeley at 5am on 17 June 1839.

A third man, William Ellis, was also sentenced to death, but on appeal was given a last minute reprieve and was sentenced to be transported to Australia.

The public hanging outside Stafford Gaol on Saturday April 11th 1840 was said to have been attended by nearly 10,000 people. The engraving shows the portable gallows which was wheeled out of the Gaol gatehouse into Gaol Road to enable the public to view the hanging.

This notorious case is also known as 'The Bloody Steps Murder', and formed the basis for one of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse novels, 'The Wench is Dead'.

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Donor ref:97.050.0017 (37/17733)

Source: Staffordshire Museum Service

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