British Executions

Joseph William Noble

Age: 50

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 24 Mar 1908

Crime Location: Co-Operative Store, Windy Nook

Execution Place: Durham

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


Joseph William Noble was convicted for the murder of John Patterson 33 and sentenced to death.

He shot him at the Co-Operative store, Windy Nook on 1 November 1907 during a burglary.

Joseph Noble was a blacksmith and lived in Stone Street in Windy Nook.

The Co-Operative store had for some time prior to 31 October 1907 suffered from thefts of meat and other articles and extra guards had been put out. On the night of 1 November 1907 there were three Committee men, including John Patterson and an apprentice on the premises to keep watch.

Shortly after 4am they noticed that the gas lamp in Howard Street had been lowered. They then saw the door being unlocked and a man with a blackened face wearing a slouch hat and false whiskers enter. They said that he had a dark lantern in one hand and was carrying a stick.

They watched him go through the shop and when he returned one of the Committee men caught him by the right arm and John Patterson caught him by the left arm whilst the third Committee man took hold of his collar. The apprentice then turned on a strong gas lamp in the shop and there was then a violent struggle.

During the struggle one of the Committee men seized a butcher's steel and hit the burglar two or three times on the head.

John Patterson then said 'For God's sake don’t hit him like that' and the man that they were beating then said 'You are using me damned badly'. He then pulled out a revolver and deliberately shot John Patterson through the head and one of the other Committee men in the hip. The Committee men and the apprentice then got out through the door and held it shut but the burglar then escaped through a broken window round the corner in Union Street and escaped although during his escape one of the Committee men managed to hit him two more times with a felling hammer on the leg and on the chest as he slid out of the window feet first and face upwards.

After the burglar escaped the Committee men found a skeleton key that had been left in the door.

The two Committee men and the apprentice knew Joseph Noble well and suspected that the burglar had been him but at the time the didn't name him because they were afraid of him.

However, from something that one of the Committee men had said the police went to the works in Gateshead where Joseph Noble worked on 4 November 1907 and found that he had three recent scars on his head corresponding with the butcher's steel that one of the Committee men had hit him with but Joseph Noble said that he had received the injuries when some bars had fallen on him while he was at work. He was also found to have a wound on his leg and a bruise on his chest corresponding to the blows that the Committee man had made as the burglar had been climbing out of the window, however, Joseph Noble also accounted for those by other accidents at work.

When Joseph Noble's house was searched they found a dark lantern and belt, a burglar's jemmy, a morgan rattler (life preserver), a painter's lamp (brazier), a bundle of hazel sticks, a box of cartridges and a large quantity of other property all in a locked upstairs room. It was found that some of the cartridges corresponded with the bullets that had been taken from John Patterson and the other Committee man that had been shot.

The police also found numerous keys including skeleton keys in the room and in another room they found a safe the key for which was found in Joseph Noble's pocket. When they looked in the safe they found a bunch of keys, some of which were skeleton keys and it was found that some of the keys fitted various locks at the stores.

The police also found a coat in a poss tub full of water and when they examined it they found that it had grease marks corresponding with the fat of pigs that had been hanging in the shop. They also found a vest with two small blood stains on the front and a pair of trousers that were torn at the seat as if by glass.

It was later proved that Joseph Noble had obtained the dark lantern in October 1907 from a London firm. It was one of their special patterns and the people that had sold it to him said that when he had enquired about their lanterns he had asked them what oil would give a good light with little smoke, stating that he wanted it for catching sparrows and feeding his poultry at night.

Amongst the items found at his house were a large quantity of goods that had been stolen from the stores amounting to about 114 parcels of new goods including boots, drapery, dress material, mustard and soap. However, the items themselves were not presented in court as they were thought to be inadmissible and also contained parcels of goods that were not identified as having come from the stores and that were thought to have been the proceeds of other similar burglaries.

The police report states that it was evident that Joseph Noble, under the guise of a respectable artizan, was a professional burglar.

Joseph Noble claimed in court that he was the victim of mistaken identity.

The judge asked the jury to decide whether the man that had entered the stores was Joseph Noble and whether if so whether in shooting John Patterson he had been acting in self defence.

He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

When the judge asked him if he had any remarks to make Joseph Noble said 'If you want any more remarks, I might say you can break my neck, but I don't think you'll break my heart'.

see National Archives - HO 144/874/163030

see Penny Illustrated Paper - Saturday 09 November 1907