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Cheshire's Execution Files

Derek Yarwood

By dusty decree, the county judges sent ‘em down . . . and the city sheriffs strung ‘em up.
From Norman times to the late 19th century, Cheshire had its own unique way of disposing of the criminals condemned at its assizes. For more than 500 years the county’s rulers simply handed the miscreants over to the Chester city fathers who, due to an obscure medieval tradition, were duty bound to execute them.
Ever since the Emperor Vespasian’s Second Legion encamped beside the River Dee, Chester has always been a magnet for visitors. Its once-thriving port and, in more recent years, its importance as a tourist, commercial and administrative centre have maintained its popular attraction. Today, people come from all over the world to discover its Roman origins, to admire its half-timbered buildings and to stroll along the city walls and the famous Rows shopping arcades.
Up until 1866, however, there was a less savoury—though, it seems, equally compelling—reason why people in their thousands flocked to Chester. They came to gawp at public hangings.
In this new true-crime anthology, former journalist Derek Yarwood tells the story of Cheshire’s unique place in the history of capital punishment through a fascinating collection of 18th and 19th century cases. Authenticated by original court documents wherever possible, the crimes, trials and executions detailed here, while all sensational events in their own right, also bear witness to the public’s unfading enthusiasm for watching a fellow creature being strangled to death on the gallows.




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