Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's; William Marlow; Government Art Collection

Murder in Lambeth, 1778

Richard Pendleton, a fisherman or waterman living in the parish of St Mary’s at Lambeth on the banks of the Thames, was a cruel man and often rained down blows upon his poor wife Elizabeth’s head. Eventually, after his frequent rages and ill treatment of her, she saw her own opportunity for revenge.

Her husband had returned home drunk, and he tumbled into their bed where he fell asleep. Waiting a while to be sure that he was senseless, Elizabeth then took up her needle and some thread, and proceeded to sew him securely into one of the blankets on the bed. When Richard awoke, he found his arms and legs were so confined that he was incapable of movement. Even more worryingly, Elizabeth stood over him with the hearth brush in her hands.

And so, in return for all the cruel punishments she had endured, Elizabeth began to beat him unmercifully until her husband begged for forgiveness, in the humblest of terms. Upon obtaining his promise never to ill-treat her again Elizabeth ceased and, taking up her scissors, she cut him free from the blanket.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library
Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

There the matter should have ended, Elizabeth had taken her revenge and was satisfied with her husband’s apology and his oath not to strike her again. But Elizabeth had fatally underestimated Richard Pendleton’s rage.

Elizabeth too was fond of a drink and on the 1st July 1778, Richard Pendleton returned home to find his wife tipsy and no supper ready for him. Shouting “blast your eyes, you b___ch, I’ll murder you!” he punched her several times on her head and she fell to the floor: one source asserts that he then beat his wife’s head against the stone floor, another that he gave her prone body a kick. Leaving her lying on the flagstones, he went out, presumably looking for his supper, whilst a woman who lived in the house carried Elizabeth to bed, where she lay senseless.

Pendleton returned home and slept in the bed next to his wife; in the morning he got up and went to work, as usual, leaving Elizabeth lying, still senseless, in their bed. She was still there when some of her neighbours found her later that day, close to death.

Elizabeth Pendleton died in her house on the 2nd July 1778. She was buried three days later in the grounds of St Mary’s church at Lambeth. An inquest found that she had died of a contusion of the brain, caused by her husband’s blows to her head.

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's; William Marlow; Government Art Collection
Lambeth Palace and St Mary’s Church with St Paul’s; William Marlow; Government Art Collection

Richard Pendleton stood trial for her murder, and was found guilty: on the 3rd August 1778, at the gallows on Gangley Common near Guildford, he hung for his crime. Before he swung he was sullen and obdurate, but the Reverend Mr Dyer ‘expostulated with him in the most servent Terms, which brought him to some sense of his future State’. He then addressed the crowd assembled to watch him die, advising them to avoid drunkenness and the heat of passion.

His sentence had stipulated that he should be anatomized after his death, and so his body was carried to the surgeons at Guildford in order to be dissected.

Sources used:

Capital Punishment UK website

British Executions website

Derby Mercury, 31st July 1778 and 7th August 1778

Northampton Mercury, 10th August 1778

Stamford Mercury, 6th August 1778

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 6th August 1778

 

St George's, Hanover Square by T. Malton, 1787

Reverend William Dodd – ‘The Macaroni Parson’

One of our books, ‘A Georgian Heroine‘ has taken us on many circuitous journeys and along the way we have come across some fascinating characters including a link to Freemasonry in the 1780s. One of our main characters, Richard Heaviside, was closely involved in Freemasonry in London and belonged to the same Lodges as this gentleman – The Reverend William Dodd (1729 – 1777).  Brother Dodd was initiated into the St Alban’s Lodge No. 29 in 1775.

Dodd led an extravagant life spending far more than he was earning and as such gained the nickname ‘The Macaroni Parson’ due to his extravagant taste in clothes. Born in Bourne, Lincolnshire he attended Cambridge, after which he moved to London and married the daughter of a domestic servant which left him in a precarious financial position.  He was a well-respected man and known for his charitable work,  Among other things he instituted an unmarried mothers home ( The Magdalen ) for ‘reclaiming young women who had swerved from the path of virtue’; The Humane Society ( for the recovery of persons apparently drowned )  and the Society for the Relief of Poor Debtors.

William Dodd by John Russell, 1769. © National Portrait Gallery, London
William Dodd by John Russell, 1769. © National Portrait Gallery, London

There was, however, another, more sinister side to his character and in 1774 he decided it was time to improve his financial situation and attempted to gain the lucrative position of rector of St Georges, Hanover Square. In order to attempt to secure this post, he tried to bribe the wife of the Lord Chancellor, Lady Apsley, by offering her £3,000. The letter offering this bribe was traced back to him and he was dismissed from his existing post. He then decided that life wasn’t so good in England so disappeared to Geneva and France until the dust settled. He finally decided it was safe to return two years later.

In February of 1777, Dodd forged a bond for £4,200 in the name of his former pupil, The Earl of Chesterfield to help clear his debts. The bond was accepted in good faith by the bankers who lent him money on the strength of it. It was only later that the banker realized it was a forgery. Dodd confessed immediately and pleaded for time to rectify this.  This was to no avail – off to prison he went. He was later tried and sentenced to death, despite Samuel Johnson writing papers defending him and a petition signed by 23,000 people.

He was publicly hanged at Tyburn on 27th June 1777. The story, however, didn’t end there.

Dr Dodd and Joseph Harris at the place of execution. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Dr Dodd and Joseph Harris at the place of execution. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

As was usual practice for the time, those who could afford it would pay for the executioner to steady the body from swaying while suspended from the gibbet – and to cut the body down pretty quickly.  Then the body would be placed in a coach and rushed to an undertaker nearby.  There a surgeon and a hot bath would be waiting in an attempt to revive the body.  It didn’t always work, but it was better than nothing.

The executioner kept his part of the bargain and Dodd hoped to be resurrected by Dr John Hunter.  Hunter knew that death by hanging prisoners died a slow death from asphyxiation rather than a broken neck and he believed that if the body arrived with him soon after the hanging that he could revive the prisoner. Ironically, Dodd’s was so popular, and the crowd so incensed at his death, that they mobbed the coach, with his body still in it and held it up for two hours, making any attempt at resuscitation impossible.

Dodd was apparently taken for burial at Cowley, Middlesex. Having checked the parish records there is no entry recording his burial.  Rumours continued for several years that Hunter had in fact succeeded in bringing him back to life. Claims were made by people that they had actually met Dodd well after his supposed death – in France and in Scotland. Did he come back from the dead? Who knows, we can but speculate.

Even more ironic, is the fact that Dodd had written a sermon a few years previously titled “The frequency of Capital Punishment inconsistent with Justice, sound policy and religion”, in which he attacked the haphazard application of the death penalty.

The writer Wendy Moore has written a book that tells the whole story, The Knife Man.