Capital Punishment in the 1700's

In the 1700's there were still over 200 crimes that could carry Capital Punishment.

By the end of the 1700's pressure was growing for a change and by 1837 only 4 main offences still carried Capital Punishment.

The pages on this website about crime in the 1600's show records of people who were hung for simple thefts.

Whilst this did still happen the courts seem to have been more realistic for their times and most people who were hung were found guilty of  charges that were considered more serious in their day although of course nowadays we would still consider then undeserving of a death sentence.

Bearing in mind the rural nature of Essex and the powers of the landowners thefts of livestock and horses were still likely to attract a death sentence.

An example of capital punishment was in August 1780 when Samuel Parker and John Fox went to Stow Maries and burgled the house of Mr Howard.

They were quickly caught and taken before Essex Assizes on 11 August 1781. They were sentenced to death by hanging.

The sentence was carried out publicly at Chelmsford Prison on 17 August 1781. Image of hanging at Bury St Edmunds Prison in 1828 courtesy of wikepedia

Capital Punishment is a useful site for those interested in this subject as it provides the background to the death sentence in the UK and lists those people executed in Essex from 1735 to 1792.

The number of highway robbery sentences indicates what a lawless period this must have been to live through for travellers

The 24 murders include 4 mothers who murdered their infant children, usually illegitimate at birth.

Although 255 people are listed as hung in this period of 57 years it still represents less than 5 people per year.

Those statistics show the reasons why people were executed in the 1700's.

Number of people



Highway Robbery






Horse Theft


Sheep Theft




Unlawfully at Large


Receiving, Smuggling, Bestiality, Arson, Theft, Forgery, Theft from Church, Procuring Foreign Troops.


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