British Executions

Thomas Skeffington

Age: 20

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 15 Nov 1899

Crime Location: Dalston Lane, Dalston, London

Execution Place: Newgate

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Thomas Skeffington was convicted of the murder of 27-year-old Florence Wells and sentenced to death.

He stabbed her with a penknife in Dalston Lane near Dalston Junction Station on the night of Monday 2 October 1899.

Thomas Skeffington had been a barman.

Florence Wells had been a married woman whose husband was undergoing a term of 18 months' imprisonment. She made the acquaintance of Thomas Skeffington whilst he was employed as a barman at a public house in Hoxton.

Thomas Skeffington subsequently left his situation, and, after living with Florence Wells for some time, was desirous of breaking off the intimacy, but had difficulty in doing that. It was heard that Florence Wells kept following Thomas Skeffington to his various situations.

On the night of 3 October 1899 he met Florence Wells by  appointment, and then, without any provocation, he deliberately stabbed her twice in the neck with a formidable knife. He later admitted that he had bought the knife for the express purpose of committing the crime.

Florence Wells's Friend

A friend of Florence Wells said that she had known Florence Wells for five or six years, although she was not friends with her all that time. She said that in 1898 Florence Wells's husband was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment at which time Florence Wells had been working at a cocoa factory but after some short time she became an unfortunate.

She said that Florence Wells stayed with her as a friend up to a week before her death at 56 Herbert Street, but that the week before her death she stayed with Thomas Skeffington at Graham Street, noting that she left on the Sunday to meet him.

She said that she saw her frequently and that she came back on the day of her death.

She said that they frequently called at the Royal Standard and that ten or twelve months earlier Thomas Skeffington had been employed there as a barman and that it was there that Thomas Skeffington and Florence Wells met.

She said that they became intimate and continued to see each other until the murder and that Thomas Skeffington used to give Florence Wells money from time to time.

She said that she last saw them together either on the Friday or Saturday night before the murder, 29 or 30 September 1899.

She said that she saw Florence Wells on 2 October 1899 at about 4pm or 5pm, but said that she wouldn't come indoors and that she later left her at a public house and that she later came into her room  at about 6.45pm or 6.50pm and washed and dressed herself. She said that she later left her in her room at about 7pm at which time she had had a few drinks, but wouldn't describe her very much the worse for drink, noting that she was able to dress herself.

She said that she never saw her again.

She said that Florence Wells had a brown coat and a white sailors hat and that she sometimes wore a fur boa, but didn't know if she had it that night.

She said that Florence Wells and Thomas Skeffington's friendship lasted to the end and that as far as she knew he was always a good friend to her, and that she had always seen them as good friends and had never known them to have any serious quarrels, although they might have had a little tiff. She noted that she often saw them have drinks together.

Wardrobe Dealer

A wardrobe dealer who knew both Florence Wells and Thomas Skeffington gave evidence. She said that she had lived at 12 Chapel Street in Islington at the time, but had had to move on account of the case to Lambether Road.

She said that she had known Florence Wells for thirteen years and had been introduced to Thomas Skeffington by her five or six months earlier, Florence Wells saying, 'This is my sweetheart'.

She said that on 30 September 1899 that she had been in Dalston Lane between 10pm and 11pm when she met Florence Wells. She said that Florence Wells then went across the street to speak to someone, three people, and that she went to 46 Graham Road where she stayed the night as she had lost her train. She said that both Florence Wells and Thomas Skeffington were there and that she spent the next day, Sunday, with them.

She said that later in the evening on the Sunday that she went out for a walk and then went back to Graham Road where she spent the night in the same room as Florence Wells and Thomas Skeffington.

She said that on the Monday Thomas Skeffington went out first and that she and Florence Wells later went out and met him in the Tyssen Arms at 27 Dalston Lane where they had some drinks together. She said that she paid for the first drinks, Thomas Skeffington paid for the second round of drinks and Florence Wells paid for the third.

She said that about 11am, Thomas Skeffington sent Florence Wells to pledge a coat and waistcoat for 7/-, but she only got 6/- which she brought back, paying her 2/-, taking 1/6 herself and Thomas Skeffington keeping the rest.

She said that Thomas Skeffington then said that he was going to the docks to get a job on a P&O boater and that Florence Wells asked if he would have another drink and they went to the Star public house and then to a tavern in Mildmay Park, which they later left between 2pm and 3pm. She said that Thomas Skeffington then said, 'I'll be going', and that Florence Wells asked him what time she should see him and he replied, 'Seven', but then suggested making if half past as that would be better, noting that she believed he said the same place.

She said that she and Florence Wells then got on a tram and went to North Road and she waited while Florence Wells fetched a woman and that she then left Florence Wells and went with the woman for a cup of tea. She said that Florence Wells went to a public house and that they later sent a little girl after her and met her at 7pm when she came back to the woman's house. She said that Florence Wells then washed and got ready to meet Thomas Skeffington.

She said that she left Florence Wells at the woman's house, noting that she had been the worse for drink at the time and then left her, that being the last time she saw her alive.

She noted that she saw no signs of ill-will between them whatever.

She said that Thomas Skeffington had said that he had had nothing to eat since the Saturday and that he had said that he had been drinking so heavily that he could not eat. She said that on the Monday they had no breakfast and went straight to the public house, noting that he had said that he had had two drinks before they arrived and that he then had two more and that more drinks were had after the 6/- arrived, adding that Thomas Skeffington also told them that he had had another whilst they were away and that after that they had some more drink.


A cutler who lived in Balls Pond Road, about a minute from Dalston Lane, said that on Monday 2 October 1899 between 8pm and 8.30pm she sold a knife to a man although she could not identify him as Thomas Skeffington, but said that the man had been about his height. She said that the man said he wanted a shilling pocket knife and that she had shown him a smaller one than the one she sold him and that he had told her that he wanted a much heavier one and that she showed him the one that Thomas Skeffington later used to kill Florence Wells for 1/-.

She later identified the knife used as the one sold, saying that they had them made for them in Sheffield and that they bought them three boxes at a time and that they were quite a common knife.


A friend of Thomas Skeffington who had been a barman at the Royal Standard said that Thomas Skeffington left around March 1899. He said that they made the acquaintance of two women, one of them being Florence Wells and that there was then a friendship between Thomas Skeffington and Florence Wells. He said that when Thomas Skeffington left that he got letters from him.

He said that in July 1899 there was a flower show in Brenchley and that Thomas Skeffington came down and he had a conversation with him. He said that Thomas Skeffington had been at the Thatched House in Essex Road then and that he mentioned that Florence Wells kept bothering him and that at the station he told him that he had wished that it was him that was going up instead of himself.

He said that they had been very intimate friends and that Thomas Skeffington was very excitable when in drink but a bright and cheerful person when sober.

He said that he advised Thomas Skeffington that if he wanted to break the connection that he should go to the other end of town, noting that he was positive that Thomas Skeffington had been anxious to break off the connection and that he had thought it best and had told him so.

Woman at Mineral Water Works

A woman that worked in the Mineral Water Works said that on 2 October 1899 she was outside the Tyssen Arms between 9.30pm and 9.40pm when she saw a man and a woman come out. She said that the man had been dressed in a light suit and dark blue peaked cap and that they walked a few steps and that he then put his right arm round the woman’s throat and the woman then staggered and fell after which the man walked away.

She said that they appeared to have been quarrelling and talking in a loud tone, but that she could not hear what they said. She said that a boy then came and blew a police whistle and that when she was later fetched by the police at 2am she identified Thomas Skeffington by his clothes.


A clerk who lived at 70 Ridley Road in Dalston said that he had been in Dalston Lane on 2 October 1899 at about 9.30pm a few yards from the Tyssen Arms. He said that he saw a woman lying on the ground and first thought that she had been intoxicated but that he then saw a pool of blood on the pavement.

He said that a woman then said something and that in consequence he ran down Dalston Lane and overtook Thomas Skeffington who had been walking rather quickly off. He said that he looked at him and Thomas Skeffington said, 'I did it, I meant to do it, I did it with this, I am going to station, come with me'.

He said that he then accompanied Thomas Skeffington to the police station and that in the inspectors room Thomas Skeffington placed a knife on the counter. He said that he then told the inspector that a woman had been stabbed and was bleeding very much and that Thomas Skeffington said, 'I did it, I meant to do it, I stabbed her twice in the neck, I did it with this'.

He said that he thought that he had been sober by the way he spoke at the time. He later noted that he thought he was very cool considering the deed that he had done but noted that he looked white and pale.


Thomas Skeffington was tried at the Old Bailey on Saturday 28 October 1899 and convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Before he was sentenced he said that he was sorry for what he had done and that at the time he had first cohabited with Florence Wells that he had thought she had been single.

He was recommended to mercy on account of his youth and the fact that Florence Wells kept him in a career of dissatisfaction, however, there was no reprieve and he was executed at Newgate Gaol on 15 November 1899.

The Tyssen Arms has since been demolished.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/58/1, HO 144/279/A61419

see Penny Illustrated Paper - Saturday 14 October 1899

see Illustrated Police Budget - Saturday 14 October 1899, p13

see Western Times - Thursday 16 November 1899

see South Wales Daily News - Monday 30 October 1899

see Reynolds's Newspaper - Sunday 08 October 1899

see National Library of Scotland