British Executions

William Alcock

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 9 Mar 1733

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Who first abandoned, and then murdered, his wife. Executed at Northampton, March 9, 1733.

   This unnatural and cruel man was an inhabitant of the town of Bourn, in Lincolnshire. He had been married only two years, when he left his wife, who was afflicted with the palsy, giving out that the cause of absence was in consequence of having found her in bed with another man. He travelled to Colchester, married again, and set-up his business, that of a miller, in, which he was successful. He employed a man of the name of Peck, as his assistant, but upon some words arising between them, Alcock discharged him, without suffering him to complete the job he had in hand. Peck replied, "I'll do as good a job for you; for I have heard you have a wife in Lincolnshire, and I'll travel the kingdom over, till I find her, and send her to you." Upon this he instantly set out, and bent his course in order to fulfil his threat. He enquired at every town he came to in Lincolnshire, until he actually found Mrs. Alcock. In effecting this, he spent nearly two years; and to defray his expenses, he occasionally stopped for a few days to work: and when his wages were expended in his travels, he worked again; thus persevering until he had accomplished his determined purpose. The parish officers of Bourn, who had the maintenance of the deserted woman to provide, received Peck's information, and despatched two of the parishioners to Colchester, with whom Alcock entered into a compromise, on the following conditions: to pay down twenty pounds, and within a month thirty pounds more; and to fetch away his wife from Bourn. He accordingly arrived there on the 22d of August, 1732, on a good horse, and a new pillion for his wife to ride on behind him. He, however, tried every means to induce the officers to keep her, offering a yearly sum sufficient for that purpose, and observed that, "she was so disagreeable to him, that he would rather be hanged, than take her again."

   Finding his offers all rejected, he set off with her on the 24th, and on the next day the body of the unfortunate woman was discovered in a ditch under a willow-tree, near Pilsgate, in the parish of Barnack, in Northamptonshire, and about eight miles from Bourn. It appeared that she had been strangled with a short cord, which but just met about her neck; and the pillion was found a little distance from her body. The murderer immediately proceeded to Colchester; and on the 28th was apprehended by officers from Bourn, and the next day fully committed to gaol.

   Though convicted on the clearest evidence, yet this obdurate man, even to the last moment of his existence, denied the justice of his sentence; and his behaviour, daring the short interval allowed prisoners to make their peace with God, evinced the most shocking depravity. He constantly refused the consolations of devotion, and paid no attention to the warnings of a clergyman, who at length desisted from farther exhortations, On the morning of his execution, he drank to intoxication; yet, on coming out of the prison, he sent for a pint of wine; which being refused him by the sheriff, he would not get into the cart which waited to convey him to execution, until the money given for that purpose was returned to him. On the road to the gallows he sung part of the old song of Robin Hood, adding to each verse, the chorus of derry down, &c. At intervals he swore, kicked, and spurned, at any person who touched the cart. When tied up to the fatal tree, he kicked off his shoes, to avoid a well known proverb; and being told by a person in the cart with him, and who wished, thus late, to reclaim him, that he had much better read and repent, than thus vilely swear and sing, he struck the book out of this humane man's hands, damned the spectators, and called for wine. During the singing of psalms, and reading of prayers, this monster was employed in talking and nodding to his acquaintance; telling some to remember him; others to drink to his good journey; and with his last words, he inveighed against the injustice of his case.

   He was hanged at Northampton, amid the groans and detestation of many thousand spectators