Chapter 6-10. January 1869 — Confession and Execution

Saturday 16th January 1869 — Gun Barrel

Brown cooperated with the police, and disclosed the location of the missing gun barrel. The place was searched, and the barrel was duly found.

Monday 18th January 1869 — Execution

Brown was executed in the interior of Lewes gaol.

Wednesday 20th January 1869 — Newspaper report

The following is a verbatim account of the Brighton Guardian newspaper’s coverage of “The Execution of Martin Brown”:

The most solemn act of the law has been performed. Martin Brown, who was convicted at the late Sussex Assizes, before Mr Baron Channell, of the wilful murder of an old man named David Baldey, on the 9th of October, was executed in the interior of Lewes gaol on Monday morning. The trial of the suspect having taken place so recently, the circumstance of the murder must be still fresh on the public mind. It is, therefore, unnecessary to enter upon them at length. At the same time, a brief outline of the case may be looked for. The old man, Baldey, was a farm labourer about sixty years old, and for some time previous to his death had been in the employ of a farmer named Hodson, at Kingston. Deceased lived in a lonely cottage on Newmarket Hill, between Kingston and Rottingdean, about a mile and a half from his master’s house. Two of his sons also worked for Mr Hodson, and on every alternate Friday it was the custom of the father to take the wages of all three. Brown, who had also occasionally been in the employment of Mr Hodson, had lodged at the house of the deceased, and was therefore well acquainted with his habits. It was arranged, when Baldey left his house on the morning of his death, that on his return in the evening he and his wife should go to Brighton. Deceased received his money, about £3 15s, and left Kingston, calling, whilst in that village, at the house of a person named Crocker. This was the last time he was seen alive, except by the person who murdered him. Although he did not return home that evening no enquiry was then made for him, it being thought he had gone to Lewes about a bad leg from which he was suffering, and was staying with a friend. Early next morning William Tuppen, a farm labourer of Kingston, was going to his work when he found the body of the murdered man,
inasmuch as it was his father, and not Baldey, that Brown, according to his confession, intended to kill. On finding the body, Tuppen touched it and found it was dead, and then turned back. Having met two of the deceased sons, who were going to their work, and a young man named Hollands, they all went to the body and a further examination of it was made. There were blood and bruises on the face, marks of powder on the clothes, and three bullets in the body. The pockets, too, had been rifled, only a halfpenny and a few pieces of paper being found in them. Circumstances led to the opinion that the murderer must have lain concealed in some brushwood near the spot where the body was found and as soon as Baldey passed discharged the contents of the gun into his back. The statement of the culprit, although not detailed on this point, still tends to confirm this belief. Parts of a gun found near the deceased, and other parts found in Newmarket plantation, fitted each other. Though minute and careful search was made, one part of the gun could not be found; but the culprit, as will be seen in his confession, since the trial disclosed where he had hidden it. The place was searched on Saturday, and the missing piece discovered. It was proved at the trial that the gun had belonged to Brown, and also that the bullets found in the body of deceased and others discovered in Brown’s box corresponded. Immediately after the murder Brown absconded and went to Maidstone, where he enlisted in the Horse Artillery, under the name of Reuben Harvey. He was there apprehended by Superintendent Crowhurst, of the Brighton police, and charged with the murder of Baldey. He denied the charge, but the statements he made as to his whereabouts on the night of the murder were unsatisfactory and even contrary. Such are the principal facts of the case. The only motive for the deed seemed to be to rob the old man of the paltry sum he had with him at the time of his death. It had not been attempted to be shown that there had been any ill-feeling, any jealousy, between Baldey and Brown; indeed, as the culprit has himself said, he had “never a ’mis’ word with him.” Although Brown was no novice in crime, – he having been several times convicted of various offences, – it seemed difficult to believe that even he would wilfully take the life of a fellow labourer for the purpose of possession of his small and hard-earned wages. As one does not like to think too badly of human nature, where it is possible to avoid doing so, it may almost be said to be a relief to learn that the actual motive for the crime, – though that seems hardly sufficient to account for it, – was other than supposed. In fact, it was urged by the prisoner’s counsel that there had been no robbery at all. The murder it was further suggested, might have been committed by gamekeepers; or that the gun had been taken from Brown by someone who had afterwards shot the old man. It will be seen that the evidence although purely circumstantial, was strong and conclusive. Brown was found guilty and sentenced to death. He watched his trial with interest, though he displayed no emotion either during its progress or when sentence of death was passed upon him. Even in that trying moment his strength of nerve supported him and he left the dock denying his guilt.

Since his condemnation Brown was visited in gaol several times by his relatives. His father, step mother, accompanied by his brother and brother’s wife, saw him for the last time on Saturday. The interviews were, of course, most distressing and painful. Whilst in gaol he conducted himself with great respect towards the Governor, the Chaplain, and all with whom he was brought into contact. Until last Wednesday, he was however, very reserved, though the Chaplain, the Rev. F. Duke, had been in constant attendance upon him. On that day he was visited by the Rev. R. Burnet, the late Chaplain, who knew him from his having been at Lewes on three former occasions. What passed between Mr Burnet and the condemned man is not known, but from the time of Mr Burnet’s departure Brown became very communicative; indeed to use the words of one of the prison officials, it seemed as if “a heavy cloud had been removed from him.” He was quite an altered man. On the evening of Wednesday, he made a verbal confession of his guilt to Captain Helby, the Governor, and the Chaplain; but by his own desire it was not made public until after his execution. During his incarceration he ate and drank well, took daily exercise, and his health was good.

There was one circumstance, or rather coincidence, of the murder of Baldey which it may be well to allude to at this stage. When the murder was discovered the excitement attending it was greatly and painfully increased by the fact that an excavation, large enough to hold the body of a man if doubled up, was found on the edge of the plantation where the stock of the gun had been thrown. A pitching hammer and a large bag was found in the hole. There was a general impression that the murderer had prepared this hole for the reception of the body of his victim, but that from some circumstance, – probably from the deed having been committed half a mile from the spot, – he had been unable to carry out his intention. It seems, however, that this belief is without foundation, and that the existence of the hole, though remarkable, is nothing more than a coincidence. Brown denies all knowledge of it. The mystery attaching to it will probably remain unsolved. It has since been suggested that it had been dug by poachers or thieves for the purpose of secreting nets or plunder. The supposition is, at any rate, tenable.

We now come to matters more immediately preceding the execution. The culprit attended divine service twice on Sunday, and past the rest of the day in reading and prayer. No “condemned sermon”, as it is called, was preached; but the Chaplain gave a discourse specially directed to Brown, – in such terms, however, that the prisoners could hardly be aware of its application. The culprit retired to rest about eleven o’clock on Sunday night. He was rather uneasy at times during the night; but, on the whole, he slept very fairly. He was called as he had requested, at a quarter past five, and rose. He read until seven o’clock, when he ate a hearty breakfast of mutton chops and tea. After he had finished breakfast and until the hour of his execution the time was passed with the Chaplain.

The recent abolition of public executions has done away with the chief staple in accounts of such matters. It has, too, marked a new area in the carrying out of the extreme penalty of the law. The crowds of roughs, the coarse language and blasphemy, the disorderly conduct and ribald jests, all of which were to be seen or heard at public executions, are, and happily so, things of the past. An execution, though now a brief and simple matter, is rendered still more solemn and impressive by its privacy. At the same time that the change we adverted to has left to the reporter but little to describe, it has thrown upon him the duty, however unwelcome and painful, as the representative of the public, of being present and witnessing the carrying out of the law. In the present case that duty may be said to have begun on Sunday, for as there is no train to Lewes sufficiently early to admit of getting there by the time fixed for the execution, it was necessary, unless the journey were made by road, to go on the previous evening. As private executions are yet quite new, and this was the first that has been taken place in Lewes gaol, the public may be interested to learn how it was carried out. We will endeavour to describe what took place. Hurriedly despatching an early breakfast, a corps of reporters, belonging chiefly to the local press, made their way along the streets of Lewes to the County Gaol. It was as yet comparatively early in the morning; and the dull heavy atmosphere made it seem still earlier than it actually was. The air was cold and sharp; and these matters considered, and the prospect of what must be seen shortly, made the walk anything but pleasant. The “chief town” of Sussex is a quaint old fashioned place and at the gayest of time is not ever lively. At the time of this particular morning it seemed about as dead and dismal as possible. The inhabitants had hardly yet begun to move about and few were seen on the way to the gaol. Those, however, who were about seemed to have a suspicion of the business of those going in the direction of the gaol. Outside the building only about half a dozen persons had assembled. In a few minutes the gaol was reached, and the orders of admission have been duly examined the writer and his comfrères were received by the Governor. It was then about half-past seven. A room had been set apart for the accommodation of the reporters, and after waiting there a short time they were conducted to the yard in which the execution was to take place. This was at the north-east portion of the building, and is used for exercising the prisoners. It is the same in which Leigh was executed, nearly three years ago. The marks in the wall caused by the erection of the scaffold at that time are plainly visible. The structure used on the present occasion had been brought from Horsham, and was the same as “did duty” for Leigh. It is of the ordinary kind; the upright and cross posts, &c., are painted black and the bottom part was
draped in a material of the same colour. It is lower than the prison walls, so that nothing could be seen of it from without. There were eleven representatives of the Press and about a score of warders present, the former ranging themselves in front of the drop, and the latter being scattered about the yard. At a quarter to eight a black flag was hoisted over the entrance to the prison, and a few minutes afterwards the gaol bell began to toll for the then living man. The process of pinioning was conducted privately; the reporters not being allowed, or at any rate not being invited, to be present. Precisely at eight o’clock the procession emerged from the main building and made its way to the small exercise yard. The Governor of the gaol led the way, and was followed by the Under-Sherriff (Mr Bull). Calcraft [the executioner, Britain’s most famous of the time] being next, and followed by Mr R. Turner, surgeon, and Dr Croskey. Brown walked quietly and with a firm step. Those who stood nearest him could remark the death-like paleness of his face; but there was no exhibition of fear or of faltering; neither was there any attempt at bravado. His demeanour was that of a man calmly yet firmly resigned to his fate. The self-possession and control he exhibited at his trial he maintained till the end; his coolness never forsook him, and the trying scene of the last moments of his life was borne with a determination and resolution which deserve even a higher name. He was dressed in the clothes he wore at his trial, – corduroy trousers, a white slop, and a dark jacket. As he passed quietly along the court yard he looked young, very young for such a death; – and his face, it might fairly be called a handsome one, had even an honest look. Having ascended the scaffold, he gave one look around, and allowed himself to be placed by Calcraft beneath the beam. From leaving the cell till the moment when the drop fell the Chaplain read impressively portions of the Burial Service of the English church. Calcraft affixed the rope to the culprit’s neck, threw it over the beam, and drew the cap over his eyes methodically and expeditiously; and seemingly with utter unconcern. When the cap was drawn Brown asked “Aint I to see any more?” to which Calcraft replied “No.” He then said “Good-bye” and shook hands with his executioner. Calcraft descended the scaffold, drew the belt, the body fell heavily, and one human soul was “blotted out” of existence. There was no struggling, – all was over immediately, – death seemed instantaneous. The Chaplain, who had kept his eyes fixed on the ground from entering the yard, was evidently much affected; and the lips of more than warder had been noticed to quiver. This is not the place or the time to moralise upon the teachings or influence of the scaffold. We make no attempt to do so. Those who uphold capital punishment usually say that it teaches a deep “lesson”. Doubtless it does, though opinions differ as to its nature and usefulness. But whatever that “lesson” may be, it must, now that executions are no longer public, be received chiefly through the columns of the Press. We have endeavoured to discharge our task, – a thankless and an unpleasant one; – we must leave it to the reader to say what “lesson” he has derived from what we have recorded.

There is one subject on which we deem it just to add a word. The representatives of the Press were not permitted to see the body of Brown as it hung after execution. As representing the public, and as the Legislature have enacted that they shall be allowed to be present to see that the capital sentence is carried out, it seems only right that they should be permitted to do what in this instance was refused. In other matters and for some of the facts contained in the above report, we are indebted to the courtesy and communication of the Governor of the gaol.

The following is the written confession of Martin Brown, and which was placed in the hands of the reporters for publication:-

MARTIN BROWN’S OWN CONFESSION,
JANUARY THE 11TH, 1869

Dark and gloomy was the knight of Friday, October the 9, 1868. It is true it was dark and glomey, and it did croespond (correspond) with what was going on that knight, i am verry sorry to say, on New market Hill. For three three weeks I had pland this hoful deade (awful deed) witch I hav don. On Friday knight the 9 I loaded my gun and whent out for to do murder, but not the poor old man. I i did not know that the old man was coming down that knigh, for i had not seen him for 2 weeks before i never had a mis word with him. Por old man, i hope he is in Heaven, whear i hop to meet him soon. i hope that the Lord has had petty on, and forgive him of all his sin. My the Lord bless him with all my hart, for i am verry sorry for what i have done to him, and the Lord Bless the houle of is family and comfort them and bring them up to fowlow him and obay him in all things, and to replenish them with thy grace of thy holy spirit, that they may alway incline to thy will and walk in thy way; endue them with plenteously with heavenly power, grant them in helth and stregth long to live, strengthen them so that they may overcome all the deavels temptations, so that after this life they may be fit for the next world which is to come, and it is where i hope to be soon and thire I hope to meat my Dear mother and sister witch has been dead many year my por mother as about 18 years my sister not so long by a great deal, and may i meet all in heaven heather sooner or later, but may i meet my por mother and sister soon for my time is short; now i now give up all earthly things and thought and ways, for i have but a few more days to live in this wide and wicked world, see the late past 2 and 20 years of my life, i have live in sin all my life unto now. I hope i hante to late now; i will have a good try to Better myself now while i have time for repentance; i have time i know; and i will confess my sins before the Lorde now while he is near, i will empty myself now before the Lorde while he is nie, for now it is time, the best time, for all to seak God. if i had my time over again now i woo not louse a day, no not one hour in the way i have let houndreds of days and months, but nit one more in that way, not one hour so no moor. so now i open out the truth of the oful deade which i have don to por old Balday on new market hill on Friday knight the 9 of Oct. 1868. i took my gun out under my harm and went to new mark hill whear i thought of meating tuppen the shepard on the hill and when i saw old Baldy coming along on the hill i thought it was he that is Tuppen but but i caled out to him hou (who) is that, and he turned around for to lok Back to se hou it was that caled out to him, and i did not know that it was the old man then, but i up with my gun and shot him in the Back, then i rushed up to him and struck im on the head with my gun, and it fell in pieces in my hand. I then sarched him, i found he had got no watch on him, i then no it was old Baldy. I took up the stock of my gun and the Barl in my an, and run away like a while (wild) man. I knew not where to go or what to do with myself. i where like a mad man. i was whild mad. I throwed the stock of the gun into the plation (plantation) near new market hill. i then whent on to the new market plantion or late new market arch, and on the left hand coming down i put the gun Barl onder some grass whitch is there now on the rite an side going up out of the main roade this will be found and piece of stock with it, some 20 yards up the side of the railroad fencing, close under the grass on the rite an side jest throw the arch.

MARTIN BROWN

i then whent on into Lewes. i did not stop in Lewes that knight; i went home to Kingston and stayed thire till the next knight after. i went on to Tonbridge Wells and stayed there all that knight. the next morning i went on to maidstone and listed in the Royal horse Artillery thire. i was there 7 days, when a pleaseman came and took me and charged me with murder. Brought me to Lewes, and i was tryed and sent for trial. i layed 2 months before trial, and then i was tryed by the Judge and Jury and found guilty, and i have to bear the punishment myself which the Judge by his sentence passed on me. the sentence that judge passed on me is most just and i think that I deserves it all. and i hope that the Lord Jesus Christ will have merce on me and all the praying for me. And i know that he will forgive me if i only ask, which i have. and i know that Jesus is with me now, else i could not take it as i do. i do think with all my heart that i shall be saved through the bood of Jesus, the son of the living God, which did come down from heaven for to die for me. and for all that do believe in him. and i do with all my heart, and know that i shall be saved. i have confessed myself before him, for there is not one that knows what is in my heart, no not one, there is not in this world, all thou thay take it to lite, but me. the Lord with is grace give me more and moor power to stand, and partickler in that hour where it will be wanted most, and i do beleave with my hole heart that that he will forgive me all my past sins, for let them be as many as they may, the blood of Jesus can wash them all away, and knows he will, for i have told him all that i have done in in this world, and he has heard me and many moor that as bean praying for me since i have been condem in this lonely cell. now i am going my last junery, which is a long one, we all know that we must run that race either sooner or later, so i bed all good bye.

May the Lord Bless hall for me the good they have done to me.

i now am passing my last few days in riteing thease few lines to all around me now

Know ye who take this pen in hand
tis no light weapon to command
its point can like ithuriels spear
make all things what they are appear
or not less prompt to mar and blot
make all appear what they are not
write nothing then that will not bare
heavens open sunshine, earths free air
nor trace a fine you daire not meat
Before Gods righteous Judgement seat.

A PAYER.

our father which art in heaven, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the erth, or above the waters, above the heavens, or wheare ever (thought) are, bow down down thy hear to me and listen to me, and hear what i have to say to the, O Lord, O Lord healp me with this heavey loade of sin; healp me, o Lord, in my truble, for i ham a poor wicked siner, on the hard maine roade, satain tryes his hardest to leade me on, on Lord, but i trust that the Lord will smite him down and lead me in that narrow road which leads to that strate gates wheare i hop to enter in soon with the healp o Lord, and because with out the i can do nothing Lord so i trust in the Lord that I shall be saved through the prishous blood of Jesus Christ which died and sufered for siners which i am a siner Lord and i know though will save me though the prishous Blod of Jesus Christ wich died for me and all, o Lord save me now o Lord i know that thou canst make me clean with prishous Blood of Christ how (who) died for siners and i am ham one a wicked on o Lord save me through the mercies of thy only son Jesus Christ our on Jesus Christ our Lord A man.

M. BROWN the end

The following note to the confession was made by Mr Becket, the schoolmaster of the gaol, upon information supplied to him by the Chaplain; and it explains in some degree the animosity entertained by Brown towards Tuppen, a point which Brown had not mentioned in his confession:-

NOTE. – Martin Brown’s motive for wishing to kill Tuppen, the old shepherd of Kingston, as he mentioned to the Chaplain on several occasions, was that he had offended him 10 or 12 years ago, and when he was recently working at Kingston, had interfered with Brown for shooting rabbits. On one occasion when Brown’s real name transpired, Tuppen had said “You’re the biggest liar I know,” and Brown said, “I’ll be a match for you some day.” He had planned the murder of Tuppen for about three weeks before the 9th October.

Previous: Chapter 6-9. December 29, 1868 — The Trial — Day one

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Next: Chapter 6-11. January 18, 1869 — Inquest and Postscript

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