Author Topic: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century  (Read 521 times)

Offline Buffnut453

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I recently discovered that one of my Great (x4) uncles was convicted of murder in Chester in 1810 and sentenced to be hanged, with his body given for dissection and public display for 2 days. 

From what I've been able to uncover, he was probably hanged just outside the New Gaol, south of Bedward Row.  Given the proximity of the Chester General Infirmary, I'm guessing his body would have been dissected there. 

I also note a nearby graveyard, just east of the New Gaol, in a later map (circa 1872) and I'm wondering if that might have been used for burials related to the Infirmary and perhaps the nearby fever hospital?  The graveyard location, near where Nicholas Street intersects St.Martin's Way, still shows as a green area on GoogleEarth.

The following map chip shows the locations mentioned above.  However, the relatively late date (1872) makes me wonder how much had changed in the area since my relative was executed in 1810. 

I'd welcome any thoughts on whether I'm on the right track with this analysis.  Any help or pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Online Ruskie

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #1 on: Saturday 26 December 20 13:17 GMT (UK) »
Not that it helps, but this map dates to 1805 - you can see there has been quite a lot of change over the decades:

https://picclick.com.au/Chester-England-United-Kingdom-1805-decorative-engraved-city-124080182575.html#&gid=1&pid=1

I don't know the answer to your question, but your theory sounds plausible though there may be other scenarios. I presume you have already checked newspapers of the time in case they give further details?

Offline Buffnut453

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #2 on: Saturday 26 December 20 13:35 GMT (UK) »
Hi Ruskie,

Thanks for the response and the additional map.  Although there are changes in the area, many details remain the same. 

The Infirmary is clearly identifiable, and the area of the the New Gaol is shown as a blank space between the Infirmary and the Linen Hall.  The New Gaol opened in 1808 so it's perhaps unsurprising that it isn't shown in a map of 1805. 

The graveyard area also shows as a blank space in the 1805 map.

I agree there may be other scenarios to the one I've outlined.  That's the real purpose behind my question. 

Most of the details I've uncovered came from local newspapers.  I'm just wondering if anyone is aware of studies on the disposal of dissection cadavers in Chester.  I know other cities have performed archaeological digs on infirmary waste dumps and found all sorts of human remains. 


Offline bearkat

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #3 on: Saturday 26 December 20 14:12 GMT (UK) »
You might find something of interest on this website

https://www.criminalcorpses.com

Middx - VAUS, ROBERTS, EVERSFIELD, INMAN, STAR, HOLBECK, WYATT, BICKFORD, SMITH, REDWOOD
Hants - SMALL, HAMMERTON, GRIST, FRYER, TRODD, DAGWELL, PARKER, WOODFORD, CROUTEAR, BECK, BENDELL, KEEPING, HARDING, BULL
Kent - BAYLY, BORER, MITCHELL, PLANE, VERNON, FARRANCE, CHAPMAN, MEDHURST, LOMAX, WYATT, IDEN
Devon - TOPE, BICKFORD, FOSTER
YKS - QUIRK, McGUIRE, BENN
Nott/Derbs - SLACK
Herts - BARNES
L'pool- PLUMBE
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Offline Ray T

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #4 on: Saturday 26 December 20 14:17 GMT (UK) »
The “graveyard” now appears to be within the curtilage of the Queen’s School which itself sits on the site of the prison. You can visit the green space on Google Earth - theres a photo sphere point right in the middle of it which will give you a panoramic view.

My firet port of call would be the Cheshire Archives, which are less than half a mile down the road.

Offline Buffnut453

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #5 on: Saturday 26 December 20 15:41 GMT (UK) »
You might find something of interest on this website

https://www.criminalcorpses.com

Thanks bearkat.  It certainly provides some additional general background info on the practice of dissection.  Unfortunately, it seems processes varied greatly by region, and so I need to dig into the the parties involved in the practice in Chester.

I think it's hard for us, with our modern sensibilities, to comprehend the spectacle of public executions and then, worse, public display of a dissected corpse. 

Offline Buffnut453

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #6 on: Saturday 26 December 20 17:27 GMT (UK) »
The “graveyard” now appears to be within the curtilage of the Queen’s School which itself sits on the site of the prison. You can visit the green space on Google Earth - theres a photo sphere point right in the middle of it which will give you a panoramic view.

My firet port of call would be the Cheshire Archives, which are less than half a mile down the road.

Appreciate the pointer, Ray T, but for some reason I can't see the photo sphere. 

Wish I could get to the Cheshire Archives. Unfortunately, that's a bit hard at the moment and, since I don't live in the UK, I expect it will be some considerable time before I can visit in-person, regardless of the COVID situation. 

I did take a quick browse around the Cheshire Archive's online records without much joy.  Even the list of prisoners in Chester gaols fails to mention my relative.  I'll see if I can find a "contact us" link in hopes someone on the receiving end might have some ideas for where to look. 

Offline hanes teulu

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #7 on: Saturday 26 December 20 18:49 GMT (UK) »
If the murder relates to a lady from Lymm, and the offender pleading his innocence -
Manchester Mercury, 8 May 1810

"... was taken in a cart, from the Castle, and about ten minutes past two o'clock was launched into eternity from the drop at the back of the new gaol, in that city."

Public viewing was allowed after dissection. 
S. Wales, Somerset, Devon - Oxenham

Aberavon - Hopkin/s, Jenkins, Thomas
St. Brides/Wick - Jenkins
Llanblethian -  Price
Abergwynfi -  Han(d)ford
Pontardawe -  Lewis.

Offline Buffnut453

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Re: Chester General Infirmary and the Fate of Executed Convicts, Early 19th Century
« Reply #8 on: Saturday 26 December 20 18:53 GMT (UK) »
If the murder relates to a lady from Lymm, and the offender pleading his innocence -
Manchester Mercury, 8 May 1810

"... was taken in a cart, from the Castle, and about ten minutes past two o'clock was launched into eternity from the drop at the back of the new gaol, in that city."

Public viewing was allowed after dissection.

Hi hanes teulu,

Yes, that's the one.  I have all the newspaper reports of the arrest, trial, conviction and execution.  I'm just wondering where the dissection took place and what happened to the body afterwards.  Each region seemed to have different rules for how such sentences would be carried out. 

I realize I'm asking a really obscure question, and it's more for personal interest than anything else.  However, the medical organization that performed the dissection had to do something with the body because they couldn't keep it all indefinitely.