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Mr. William Marwood Off The Stage - By Arthur Lloyd

From The Entr'acte Annual 1882 p.26 and 27

Mr. William Marwood Off The Stage - By Arthur Lloyd 1882A few months ago I was on tour, and giving a concert at the Corn Exchange, Horncastle, Lincolnshire. I am generally in the neighbourhood of the pay-box when I travel with my concert party; and on the evening in question, as I was at my customary place, some little time after the doors opened, an elderly man, shortish rather, with iron-grey whiskers and moustache, accompanied by a short female, came up to me and presented a card, on which was printed "William Marwood, Executioner, Church Lane, Horncastle." Being a crown official, I of course passed him in free.

When I told the various members of my troup that among the audience was a no less distinguished individual than England's hangman, they no sooner came on stage than they began to use their eyes in a manner as enterprising as it was comic.

After the performance was over I found that he had waited to thank me for a most pleasant evening, and to say that he had been delighted with the whole entertainment; but more particularly with the drawing-room sketch in which Mrs. Lloyd and myself had appeared. He supplemented this politeness by inviting me over to the neighbouring hotel. We had a cigar and a drink together, and during our conversation I found him a most intelligent man. There was really nothing in his appearance either which indicated his profession, except, perhaps, a very firmly set lower jaw.

He talked with the greatest freedom concerning his sensational experiences, and told me how some of his best-known clients, such as Wainwright and Kate Webster, behaved during the little time he had the opportunity of knowing them. He also showed me his pinioning straps, assuring me that he always provided his own.

Mr. William Marwood Off The Stage - By Arthur Lloyd 1882Until this interview I had been under the impression that before he obtained his present appointment, Marwood had acted as an assistant to Calcraft; but he assured me that such was not the case. I asked him if he was professionally acquainted with his predecessor, and then he vouchsafed to me the information that he had seen him once, and that that solitary interview was not altogether of a pleasant nature. I rather pressed him on this point, and then he informed me that the occasion on which he had seen and spoken to Calcraft was once when he had been taken to the house of the latter by a mutual friend; that the old man was not over-rejoiced at the introduction, and was, in fact, anything but agreeable; told him that he did not believe in the "long-drop," nor in his (Marwood's) style of doing business generally. I asked my informant if he had ever given the old man any offense that would justify his surliness, and he replied that the cause, he thought, was this:-

It seems that when Marwood was announced as the successor of Calcraft he received a letter from the old man telling him that he had no right to take the appointment, as he (Calcraft) had promised the office to a gentleman, a friend of his, who was anxious to try his hand when Calcraft retired. This, I thought, very funny. I suppose, though, that hangmen have their little affairs of honour like other folks.

During my stay in Horncastle I got to know that Marwood had been doing duty as a hangman some time before his neighbours knew of the circumstance. And it would have been a secret for some time longer, but that a Horncastle man happened to be present at an execution which took place at some distant town, and, on seeing the operator, recognised his fellow-townsman. The news spread like wildfire at Horncastle, and when Marwood arrived home he found himself the object of a few attentions which were more demonstrative than nice. And for some time after, when he started for, or came back from, an execution, he was followed about by people who showed no displeasure by hooting him, and by beating tin kettles, pots, and pans. This grew to be a veritable nuisance, so bad that Marwood was compelled to write to the Home Secretary claiming protection. After he had done this the head of Horncastle police was communicated with, and since that time Marwood has been permitted to depart from, and return to this town without molestation; in fact, he walks about the place without attracting any special attention. I noticed that his fellow townsmen greeted him in an unmarked but friendly manner, and he appeared to be on good terms with everybody. He keeps a shoemaker's shop, and is comfortably off, owning several houses in Horncastle.

Text by Arthur Lloyd - From The Entr'acte Annual of 1882 p.26 and 27 - Courtesy Jennifer Carnell of The Sensation Press.

Henry Wainwright was hanged in 1875 for the murder of Harriet Lane in the storeroom of his shop at 215 Whitechapel Road in June 1874. See this site for more information.

Kate Webster was hanged for the murder of Mrs Julia Martha Thomas at No. 2 Vine Cottages, Park Road, Richmond. Kate said in her confession prior to her execution,: "We had an argument which ripened into a quarrel, and in the height of my anger and rage I threw her from the top of the stairs to the ground floor. She had a heavy fall. I felt that she was seriously injured and I became agitated at what had happened, lost all control of myself and to prevent her screaming or getting me into trouble, I caught her by the throat and in the struggle choked her." See this site for more information.

William Marwood of Horncastle Lincolnshire was born in 1820 and died in 1883. See this site for more information.

William Calcraft of Little Baddow, near Chelmsford, Essex was born in 1800 and died in 1879. See this site for more information.

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