British Executions

Sarah Thomas

Age: 17

Sex: female

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 20 Apr 1849

Crime Location:

Execution Place: Bristol

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Calcraft


1849 saw Bristol's final public hanging at the New Gaol.

Servant girl Sarah Harriet Thomas, 17, had been found guilty of killing her elderly employer Miss Elizabeth Jefferies - bludgeoning her to death in her own bed.

Throughout her trial she had not appeared to treat the court proceedings seriously, but records state that when the Judge put on his black cap and passed sentence she collapsed and broke down completely.

William Calcraft, the longest-serving executioner in England was contracted to carry out the sentence, but even he was greatly affected by her youth and good looks.

On the day of her execution she was dragged screaming to the gallows where she continued to sob, scream and plead for her life right up to the final moment.

So great and moving was the awful scene that even the prison governor was so overcome that he fainted.

A crime reporter E. Austin who
attended the execution reported:

"Ribald jests were bandied about; and, after waiting to see the corpse cut down, the crowd dispersed, and the harvest of the taverns in the neighborhood commenced."

However, a great many of the crowd felt repulsed by what they had seen and many carried the memory of that grisly day for years afterwards.