Our blog today is a grisly one as we relate the story of two barbarous murders in eighteenth-century Lincolnshire.
Mr Rands, the Lincoln post-master had cause to have some words with his servant who was thrown into jail by his master owing to a considerable debt. Later set free after paying £5, the servant left in high dudgeon, swearing he would be revenged upon his master.
On the 2nd January 1732/3 a traveller was stopped by two men near Ancaster and robbed of a small sum of money and his horse. He was, it turns out, extremely lucky that this was all he lost. Two hours later the two men met with William Wright, an 18 or 19-year old youth from Market Rasen. He was travelling in his chaise from Ancaster where he had spent the day with a friend, and had a second horse tethered behind. Wright recognised the post-master’s servant and, as the two men were both upon the one poor horse, offered the man a ride on his spare horse. They parted company at an inn, after a disagreement, but the men knew where William Wright was heading and lay in wait for him. At Faldingworth near to Market Rasen, at around five o’clock in the evening darkness, the two men murdered young William although he put up a brave fight. His throat was cut and his head almost severed, and his body was then put back into his chaise and one report said that some flesh was cut from his leg and ‘tied’ upon his face. The murderous pair left, having rifled the corpse’s pockets and taking the two horses with them, leaving the gruesome discovery to be made by a milkmaid. It was assumed that Wright had been murdered to silence his tongue and prevent discovery of his assailants.
A day later the young post-boy, a lad named Thomas Gardner (or Gardiner) who hailed from the village of Nettleham to the north of the city and who was around the same age as William Wright, was found murdered upon the road from Lincoln to Grimsby. Both his throat and that of his horse had been cut from ear to ear and his post bag had been stolen. Reputedly he was made the to blow his horn, before his tormentors told him that he had just sounded his ‘death peal’. Again, his murder was to silence him, but was it also, as it turned out, from hatred of his employer, Mr Rands the post-master.
Suspicion immediately fell upon the post-master’s former servant, Isaac Hallam, and his description, and that of his accomplice, was circulated along with a reward of £40 for any information leading to the capture of the murderer of William Wright.
One of the Persons supposed to have committed the said Murder, is a slender bodied Man with a thin Face, wearing a light-coloured natural Wig, and a white straight-bodied Coat, with carved or chequer’d Buttons on it, with a blue wide Riding Coat lined with yellow, and Brass Buttons; he rode upon a block lean Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisked Tail. And another of the Persons supposed also to have been concerned in the said Murther, is pale-fac’d and marked with the Small-Pox; he had on a straight bodied grey double-breasted Coat with black Buttons, and a light-colour’d Riding Coat, and a light-coloured natural Wig, and rode on a brownish Bay strong Punch Horse, about Fourteen Hands high, with a wisk’d Tail. They also took from the Deceased, and carried off, a strong dark brown Punch Gelding, full aged, trots well, and paces also, and has a small star on the Forehead, and no other white about him; he is about Fourteen Hands and a half high, and as a long whole Tail, if not altered.
It was not many days before the keepers of Salisbury gaol realised that one of two men who had lately been committed there appeared to be the sought after fugitive. Isaac Hallam, together with his brother Thomas, had committed a robbery near to the city of Salisbury, although it seems their victim, in this instance, was allowed to escape with his life.
The two brothers did not deny the charges laid at their door and, loaded with irons, were brought back to Lincoln for trial in a coach and six from Salisbury by way of London. On the 19th February they lay at the George in St Martins at Stamford on their journey to Lincoln. Isaac showed some concern for his acquaintance William Wright who, he said, had behaved ‘so bravely’, but Thomas seemed not to care less and neither brother showed a jot of remorse for the poor young post-boy although Thomas declared he had only held Gardner’s hand while Isaac cut the boy’s throat. They had intended their list of victims to be longer, set on murdering all those whom they stole from, and on their hit-list was Mr Benjamin West (or Wells), the son of the Lincoln Carrier, a Mr Harvey and, top of their list, Mr Rands the post-master. If they had managed to murder him the two brothers would, they said, ‘have died with Pleasure’. On their entrance to Lincoln, crowds had started to gather from the Bar Gate and along the two-mile route to the Castle, and the brothers were met with jeers, hisses, shouting and, in sorrow for poor murdered Thomas Gardner, post-boys blowing their horns.
The trial was a short one as both Isaac and Thomas Hallam admitted their guilt, not only to the murders but to some sixty-three other robberies, and both men were sentenced to be executed and hung in chains. Before the sentence was passed, they were asked if they had anyone to speak on their behalf and Isaac had the nerve to call on his former employer, Mr Rands. They also asked for a fortnight’s stay of execution but this was, quite rightly, denied them. They left the court, but not before telling the judge that they ‘they hoped to meet with a more favourable judge in the other world, and valued not what man could do to them’.
On the 16th March 1732/3, at nine o’clock in the morning, the two convicted murderers were taken to the gibbet which lay around a mile outside Lincoln. There Isaac was hung and his body placed in the irons while his brother watched on – one report said that Thomas fainted at the sight. Thomas Hallam was then taken to Faldingworth Gate, eight miles further on, to the site of William Wright’s murder where he suffered the same fate as his brother.
Thomas Gardner was buried in his home village of Nettleham. The burial register reads:
Tho: Gardiner a post boy found murdered near Langworth Street was Buryed the 6th Day of Jany – 1732.
Local legend says that no grass grows around his grave. William Wright was buried at Market Rasen.
NB: Many sources say erroneously that the brothers were arrested at Shrewsbury and not at Salisbury, and most give the date of their execution as the 20th March – however, the Stamford Mercury of Thursday, March 22nd 1732/3 clearly states their demise as ‘Friday last’.
Stamford Mercury, 11th and 25th January 1732/3, 1st and 22nd February 1732/3 and 22nd March 1732/3
Derby Mercury, 18th January 1732/3 and 1st and 15th March 1732/3
Daily Journal, 12th March 1732/3
The London Gazette 13-16th January 1732/3
Ipswich Journal, 10th March 1732/3
Lincolnshire Villains: Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates by Douglas Wynn, 2012
Header image: A Distant View of Lincoln Cathedral; Peter de Wint; National Galleries of Scotland