The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM TOWNLEY


Convicted of Burglary, and executed at Gloucester, 23rd of March, 1811, a Few Minutes before a Reprieve arrived

   WILLIAM TOWNLEY had received sentence of death at Gloucester, for burglary, and was left for execution. A short time after the departure of the judge towards Hereford, the next assize town, he was informed of some circumstances favourable to the case of the prisoner, and, in consequence thereof, he granted a reprieve. By a fatal mistake this reprieve was directed by the clerk to Mr Wilton, under-sheriff of Herefordshire, in place of Gloucestershire, and put into the post office at Hereford. There it remained until the letters were delivered next morning, time enough for it to have reached Gloucester. When Messrs Bird and Woolaston, the under-sheriffs for Herefordshire, opened the packet, seeing its import of life or death, they dispatched Mr Bennet of the hotel with it, upon a fleet horse, to the place of its destination, thirty-four miles away; but, melancholy to relate, he arrived at the spot of execution twenty minutes too late; the culprit having been hanging on the gallows that time, and dead.

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