Hereford City Library
Transcription of newspaper article
The last hanging in Longtown
A gallows in Longtown is reputed to have stood on the embankment surrounding the bailey of Longtown Castle, on the northwest side of the road which cuts through the bailey. The last hanging to occur there was not the execution but the public display of the body of William Jones, who had previously been hanged in Hereford. The Hereford Journal gave an account of the trial for murder at Hereford assizes and the subsequent execution of William Jones and his accomplice Susannah Rugg.
Reputed site of the gallows
Hereford Journal, April 7 1790
On Thursday last an inquisition was held at Clodock in this county on the body of Ann Jones who died, suddenly on the Saturday proceeding, with strong suspicion of being poisoned. The body was accordingly opened, and a large quantity of white arsenic found in the stomach, which evidently occasioned her death. The jury returned a verdict, that she ‘Died by Poison’ and the husband, who assisted in the operation of opening the body without expressing the smallest concern or surprise was, from a number of concurring circumstances, committed to Gaol by warrant from the Coroner, on a violent suspicion of having administered the arsenic.
Hereford Journal, July 28 1790
On Friday morning next the Assizes for this county and city begin in the Town Hall, when twenty two prisoners are to take their trials for various offences…
Hereford Journal, August 4 1790
On Saturday last the trials of prisoners ended in the Town Hall…[including inter alia] William Jones otherwise Watkins, and Susannah Rugg, for administering arsenic to the wife of the former, and thereby occasioning her death…
The evidence against William Jones and Susannah Rugg (which, as in similar cases could only be circumstantial) was clear and decisive of the prisoners’ guilt. Previous however to their trial, and at its commencement, they appeared to have the greatest confidence of acquittal, which left them as the development of the shocking transaction took place. Amongst other providential circumstances, which generally tend to the detection and punishment of guilt in this heinous degree, however secretly or cunningly contrived, the following was peculiarly striking in the present case. On examining the body of the unfortunate woman, a quantity of both yellow and white arsenic was found in her stomach; and the Apothecary of whom the poison was proved to be purchased by the prisoners, positively swore that at the time of selling it, he particularly noticed that the division of his arsenic between each colour, had accidentally moved from its place, and occasioned a mixture of the yellow and white in the quantity sold.
The behaviour of the prisoners, after condemnation, was perfectly penitent and resigned:- They acknowledged the justice of their fate; that the powder was bought, with the knowledge and concurrence of each, for the express purpose of destroying the wife of Jones, and that it was administered in a bason [sic] of Broth by the husband. He also added, that the reports, and the evidence, of his having meditated or occasioned the death of any other person, were notably untrue:- and she, in her last moments, cautioned the spectators to be particularly careful what connections they formed in early life.
They were executed on Monday, opposite the Gaol, in St Owen’s Street, and by the forfeit of their lives, and sincerity of their contrition, it is hoped have made such expiation as may procure them that mercy above, which in justice and policy, could not be extended to them here! All the prisoners, confined in the Gaol, were very properly brought out to witness the execution: and the strange opinion that the touch of a dying criminal’s hand, will cure a wen [boil or cyst] in the neck, was put to the proof by several women assembled for that purpose.
William Jones (otherwise Watkins) was 27 years of age and born at Clodock in this county. He had led a very dissolute life; and has left 2 young children, to whom previous to his trial he made over property to the amount of about £40 per ann. His body was yesterday hung in chains on Longtown’s Green, near to the place where he committed the crime for which he suffered.
Susannah Rugg was a beautiful girl only 18 years of age, and born in Monmouth, where she had been a common prostitute for some time. She had lately co-habited with Jones and they (probably) intended to marry after removing the obstruction to their wishes; for which purpose Jones returned home, and pretending reconciliation with his wife, effected the horrible design. Her body underwent some of the first forms in dissection, and afterwards was interred.
The fate of this unfortunate girl naturally excited much compassion:- her wretched mode of life, supposed not to have been adopted or pursued by her own inclination; the influence which Jones may naturally be supposed to have had on her conduct; - her sex – her personal beauty – the unthinkingness of youth - and the frailty of us all – could not fail of being highly interesting in her favour; and though justice might make the sacrifice necessary, humanity may be permitted to shed a tear for the victim!