Photograph taken from Diary Of A Doctor (Edited Alastair Johnson).
Hanging On The Town Moor
Residents of Jesmond and Gosforth are probably aware of the executions by hanging that were carried out on the Town Moor. The last female to be hung on the Town Moor was Jane Jameson. On March 5, 1829, Jane was sentenced to death for the murder of her mother, Margaret Jameson. Margaet Jameson was an inmate of the Keelmen’s Hospital where the attack occurred, she died from her injury a few days later. The following Saturday her daughter Jane Jameson was executed for her murder on the Town Moor. After the execution, Jane’s body was taken to the surgeons’ hall. It was exhibited to the public until 6 pm that evening. The following Monday the body was dissected in the first of a series of anatomical lectures that lasted several days. A full account of the execution was published in the local newspaper.
Jane Jameson was found guilty of murdering her mother by stabbing her in the heart with a red hot poker. Evidence given at the trial stated that she had also “destroyed ” her two illegitimate children. It was also reported that in a drunken fit, she had attempted to cut her father’s throat. The following description of her appeared in Sykes remarkable Events.
“She hawked fish and other commodities and was a most disgusting and abandoned female, of most masculine appearance, generally in a state of half nudity. She perhaps never was so decently dressed as when upon her trial, having on at that time a black gown, black hat and green shawl.”
Jane Jameson was the first woman to hang in Newcastle for 71 years. Newspaper reports state that crowds of 20,000 spectators lined the streets to watch the morbid procession that accompanied the prisoner to the gallows on the Town Moor. Jane had to sit on top of her coffin in a cart. At 9 am the procession moved off from Newcastle Borough Gaol in Carliol Square with the cart travelling behind the town sergeants who were on horseback, and the town marshall. The cart was guarded on each side by 8 “free porters” with javelins and 10 constables with staves. The mourning coach came behind with the Rev R Green, the prison chaplain, and Mr Scott, who was the clerk at St Andrews Church. Jane was executed at precisely 10 am and cut down at 10:55.
Murder Act of 1751
A quick look at The Murder Act of 1751, it might help us to understand the series of seemingly macabre events that followed the execution of Jane Jameson. The Act stipulated that to prevent the crime of murder “some further terror and peculiar mark of infamy be added to the punishment.” Also, “in no case whatsoever shall the body of any murderer be suffered to be buried”, and that the guilty party should be executed two days after sentencing.
Thomas Giordani Wright was a doctor who lived and practised in Newcastle at the time of the Jameson execution. Thomas kept a diary which has been published as a book, Diary Of A Doctor. Thomas was in Newcastle on the day of the execution, and the procession passed right by his window, he made the following comment.
“The procession passed along this street and within sight of my window but I had not the curiosity to join the assembled thousands who crowded to the scene of her existence. The body will I suppose be exposed to public gaze for a few days when she will be anatomised by Mr Fife.”
Thomas attended the lecture by Mr Fife, which was timetabled on Monday noon at the Surgeons Hall. The lecture was free to those in the medical profession. However, there was a charge made for non professionals. Tickets were available at 10s 6d for the whole course or 2s 6d for a single lecture. A donation to the Eye Infirmary was made from these funds. In his diary Thomas estimated that the audience was “about 50 of whom one third were non professionals.”
People who were convicted at the County Assizes were executed at Westgate in Newcastle. Those who were convicted at the City Assizes were executed on the Town Moor and at Fair Moor, Morpeth.
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This story has been well documented. Naomi Clifford has written a wonderfully detailed post on her website entitled The Cost Of Executing Jane Jameson.
The Diary of Thomas G wright was discovered in 1985. It was donated to the City of Newcastle Upon Tyne by the Nanaimo Historical Society. The manuscript of the Thomas Giordani Wright Diary is held by the Tyne and Wear Archives. The book Diary Of A Doctor was published in 1998 by City of Newcastle Education and Libraries Directorate with transcript and commentary by Alistair Johnson.