Unruly end to public hangings in county

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Thanks to Calum Kennedy who tells this story about a Portsea woman who lived in Orange Street, north of Cumberland Street.

Sarah Huntington and her husband Thomas lived at 41, a lodging house. They appeared to be happy and Sarah treated Thomas with great care.

On the night of October 23, 1818, they had supper with their landlady and seemed in good spirits when they went to bed.

During the night however Sarah was found in an agitated state exclaiming: ‘I am murdered and robbed.’

The landlady and a lodger went to Sarah’s bedroom and discovered Thomas’s cold, blood-soaked body.

Sarah claimed two men, disguised as chimney sweeps, had entered their bedroom and robbed and murdered Thomas with an axe.

Nobody believed Sarah, who often complained of giddiness and loss of memory and was afraid that one day she would ‘lose her senses’.

Sarah was charged that she did ‘feloniously, traitorously and wilfully of malice aforethought, kill and murder Thomas Huntington’. She always maintained her innocence but was convicted of murder on Friday, March 12, 1819.

The same day 15 other prisoners who had also been sentenced to death, were reprieved, but not Sarah. Maybe she was too old to be transported to the colonies or too feeble for prison work.

The following Monday she was drawn on a hurdle to Gallows’ Hill, Winchester, to be hanged. Because of the unruly behaviour of the 10,000 who gathered to watch, it was to be the last public hanging in Hampshire.