Date Of Execution: 15 Mar 1824
Execution Place: unknown
An Account of the Execution of Margaret Henderson,
an Interesting Young Woman of Eighteen years of
age, who was Executed at tke New Drop, London,
on Monday the 15th March 1824,for the Cruel and
Barbarous Murder of her male Bastard Child, by
Cutting its Throat, concealing it in her Bed room,
and afterwards Throwing its Mangled Body into the
Fire, where it was discovered nearly Burnt to Ashes,
by her fellow Servant, and her Body given for Dis-
section ; together with a very Affecting Letter
written to her Mother the night before her Execu-
OF all Murders that of a mother shedding the blood of her own
child is the most shocking. It is a matter of horror to re-
flect how human nature can be so debased; yet has duty often
tortured our feelings, in recording such abominable cases. To en-
deavour to amend the heart, and to deter others from crime, is the
account of our chronology, the very end of punishments.
Margaret Henderson was a native of the city of Durham, de-
scended from parents of repute, who having educated her in a very
decent manner, she went to London, and entered the service of a
genteel family. In a short time after she became acquainted with a
young man, and became pregnant, and committed the horrid mur-
der for which she suffered death. This unfortunate sufferer was
only 18 Years of age, and wrote the following verses under sen-
tence of death, as a caution to all young women.
Young lovers all, where'er you be,
Draw near and listen awhile to me,
You'll pity me when you hear my tele,
I write these verses in the gaol.
In prison I am now confin'd,
With guilty heart and troubl'd mind,
For murder of the blackest dye,
My infant's blood for vengeance cry.
The sixth commandment I have broke,
O Lord, I fear thy vengeful stroke;
We're told in scripture not to do so,
Murder and adultery thou shall not do.
Margaret Henderson's mv name,
I'm brought to scandal, grief & shame.
By putting trust in a false young man,
Ne'er thinking be would me trepan.
We oft kept each others company,
His discourse at first well pleased me,
BUt shortly I did plainly see,
Twas only a design on me.
My sins are great I must confess,
From time to time I did transgress,
To this young man I soon became a prey,
nd now I rest none night or day.
On the 12th of February, an unlucky day,
My own flesh and blood, I did slay,
I cut its throat, the blood did flow,
Then on the fire I did it throw.
Before my God I shortly must appear,
Where I shall meet my baby dear,
Guilty at the bar I can only say,
Lord, have mercy en my sol I pray.
One night as in my cell I lay,
I thought there was a voice did say,
These blessed words eas'd my mind,
Seek mercy and thou'lt mercy find.
O when that dreadful day shall come,
When I on earth receive my doom,
Good people, do pray for me
That my Redeemer will set me free.
When I am brought to the fatal tree,
Young women take advice by me,
If by false men you deceiv'ed should be,
From the crime of murder God keep yon free
The Night before the Execution she wrote the following LETTER
to her mother.
Dear Mother, Twelve o'clock, Sunday night.
I am sorry we could not have the liberty of a little
more time by ourselves when you came to take leave of me ; if we
had, I should have thought of many more things to say you than I
did; but then, I fear it would have caused more grief at our parting.
I am greatly concerned at being obliged to leave you, and muck
more in such a manner as to leave room for the world to reflect
upon you on my account; but none save the ignorant will, but ra-
ther pity your misfortune, being fully satisfied of your innocence
in every respect relating to the crime for which I am in a few hours
to suffer the last awful punishment of the law.
After I parted with you, I received the holy sacrament comfortab-
ly which the minister was so good as to administer to me, and who
has also several times before taken great pains to instruct me, and
so has some other one of his accquaintance, by whose assistance,
and my on endeavours, I hope God will pardon all my sins for
Ghrist's sake, and admit me into his heavenly kingdom.
I hope I will willingly submit to my fate, and die in peace. This
is all the comfort I can give you in this world, who dying, remains
your affectonate daughter, M, HENDERSON.
Edinburgh, Printed, for James Degherty, Price One Penny.
This report begins: ' An Account of the Execution of Margaret Henderson, an Interesting Woman of Eighteen years of age, who was Executed at the New Drop, London, on Monday the 15th March, 1824, for the Cruel and Barbarous Murder of her male Bastard Child, by Cutting its Throat, Concealing it in her Bed-room and afterwards Throwing its Mangled Body into the Fire, where it was discovered nearly Burnt to Ashes, by her fellow Servant, and her Body given for Dissection; together with a very Affecting Letter written to her Mother the night before her Execution.' It was published by James Dogherty of Edinburgh in March 1824 and priced at one penny.
As well as the above account of Margaret Henderson's case, this broadside contains cautionary verses allegedly written by the condemned girl, and a letter to her mother written on the eve of her execution. It is unlikely that Margaret Henderson wrote the verses: although the reference to her 'genteel education' indicates she may have been literate, the verses follow a standard formula for moral lamentations that suggests the work of a practised author. The letter may be her own work, perhaps dictated to a churchman attending her.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.